I have written at 9 Kid Fitness about when to choose a sports drink over water after a workout, but how about milk as recovery drink alternative? According to physical therapist Alan Tyson, low-fat milk is a great after exercise drink that is just as good, if not better, than many sports recovery drinks. It actually provides additional nutrients that are not present in commercial sports drinks.
Bovine-based milk products represent a good source of protein, lipids, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Tyson says low-fat milk is a good recovery drink because it contains carbs (lactose) in amounts similar to many sports drinks. It also contains casein and whey proteins in a ratio of 3:1 which provides for slower digestion and absorption of these proteins, resulting in sustained elevations of blood amino concentrates. He says for athletes this is important because whey proteins contain a large proportion of branched chain amino acids and these play an integral role in muscle metabolism and protein synthesis.
I think that one of the reasons we don’t automatically think about milk for recovery is that most of us would not drink it before a workout. It would be about the last thing I would drink before a run, for instance. But after a workout? Why not! (I have to admit, I am not a milk drinker…so I don’t know if I could make the switch). Water is still the best immediate recovery drink to replenish fluids, however sports nutrition researchers are developing a growing interest in milk and its possible role as an exercise beverage for both resistance and endurance athletes, according to Tyson. One obvious reason for this is milk’s high concentration of electrolytes, which are lost from sweating during exercise. This high concentration of electrolytes aid in fluid recovery.
There is data showing that fat-free and low-fat milk is as effective, if not more so, than commercial sports drinks, and is certainly cheaper if you buy it by the gallon. I don’t normally drink milk as a beverage, only in cereal (or milkshakes), so I can’t really imagine switching to milk now as a recovery drink. However most of my kids drink milk, and for them it will be a good alternative. After their swim practices, my teenage boys like to make protein shakes with skim milk, and now I have even more reason to approve this recovery method!
How about you, would you use milk as a post recovery drink?