Gain Mass

Your Complete Guide to Dairy

Nutritionists have argued the pros and cons of dairy products for years, but it's time to set the record straight: Bodybuilders should make dairy a part of their daily diets. Here's why, and how.



It's the progenitor of all other dairy products (and of our crucially important whey and casein proteins), and nothing tastes as good with cookies, but is there any real reason to drink milk? Absolutely. Here are four.

Muscle Booster

A 2006 study from the University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston) confirms that drinking about 1 cup of milk after a weight workout boosts protein synthesis—the mechanism responsible for muscle growth. Since the researchers didn't compare it to other forms of protein, such as pure whey, it's hard to say how well milk alone boosts muscle growth after training. That's why we recommend milk postworkout just to mix your whey in, or when it's your only option.

Milk also contains other compounds that boost muscle growth. Cow's milk contains everything that baby cows need to grow up big and strong, so it makes sense that those ingredients would also contribute to your mass. One such element is insulinlike growth factor-1 (IGF-1), an anabolic compound critical for stimulating muscle growth. A study published in 2004 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that subjects who drank milk had significantly higher IGF-1 levels than those who ate the same amount of protein in steak form.

Better Hydration

After a workout, what do you grab? A protein shake, sure. Maybe an energy drink? One of those fancy "functional" waters? Turns out you might want to consider drinking some milk, at least after a long workout on a hot day.

In a study published in the July 2007 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, subjects were dehydrated through exercise and then given one of the following: water, a sports drink, reduced-fat milk or reduced-fat milk with added sodium. Researchers found that the subjects who drank milk (either with or without the sodium boost) were better hydrated than those who drank water or a sports drink. Scientists hypothesize that the sodium and potassium naturally present in milk are responsible for rehydration.

While we don't advise using milk alone after workouts, you can mix your usual postworkout whey protein with fat-free milk (you don't want fat to interfere with protein absorption) after particularly long training sessions in the heat.

More Muscle-Building Rehydration

This isn't the only reason to drink milk after a workout. A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition had untrained subjects drink fat-free milk, a soy protein drink or a carbohydrate drink after training with weights. After 12 weeks, the milk group gained 40% more muscle than the soy group and 60% more than the carb-drink group. The milk drinkers also dropped an average of 2 pounds of bodyfat.

Go Organic

It's easy to get disenchanted with all the hoopla surrounding organic food. Ignore the hippies and the hype for a minute and think about this: In a study published back in 1999 in the Journal of Dairy Science, scientists found that cows that ate only grass produced milk containing 500% more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than cows that were fed a standard dairy farm diet (which consists primarily of grain). This is important because CLA is strongly linked with cancer prevention—and with boosting muscle gains and spot-reducing those pesky fat deposits on your abs.

A 2006 study by British scientists reported that organic milk had almost 70% more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk, which supported a similar study done in 2004 at the University of Aberdeen (UK). This is good news since omega-3s also help burn more fat and encourage muscle growth, as well as provide a host of health benefits. To be considered organic, milk must come from cows that are allowed access to pasture, which is why we recommend you spend a few extra dimes and go organic.

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