MooScience: the science of milk



What to Look For in a Post Workout Drink

Recovery Nutrition Guidelines

What are your goals after working out? An ideal post workout drink:

  • Replenishes muscle and liver glycogen stores quickly
  • Adds protein to repair and build muscle
  • Restores the fluid and electrolytes that are lost in sweat
  • Supports the immune system
  • Reduces inflammation caused by workout damage to muscles and tissues
  • Helps regenerate and remodel damaged muscle and tissueRunner in orange shirt


Picture: Drinking milk products will help you reach your fitness goal!


Milk, yogurt, dairy and whey based drinks provide long lasting protein, replenish glycogen stores in muscles and liver, replace fluids and electrolytes, and contain natural components that support immune functioning and reduce inflammation.

One tasty dairy treat, chocolate milk, helped cyclists bike longer before becoming exhausted and do more total work when compared to the same volume of a carbohydrate drink (Karp et al. 2006). Likewise, Thomas et al. (2009) reported that cyclists who consumed chocolate milk after a glycogen depleting trial cycled longer than those who drank an equal volume of carbohydrate replacement drink or a fluid replacement drink. Participants who drunk the chocolate milk cycled 51% and 43% longer than those who drunk the carbohydrate replacement sports drink or the fluid replacement drink.


Workout Drinks Should Replenish Muscle and Liver Glycogen Stores Quickly

Working out uses up carbohydrate glycogen stores in your muscle and liver. Your body uses glycogen to help fuel physical activity. Replenishing those energy stores improves athletic performance. In addition, consuming a sports drink during or right after exercise accelerates glycogen synthesis.

Milk products contain the ideal mix of protein and carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores quickly. Carbohydrates are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. Glycogen is made of long strings of glucose molecules which the body can use as a quick source of energy. This energy source is depleted or used up when people exercise.

Whey protein combined with a carbohydrate, a combination found naturally in yogurt or milk, replenishes glycogen quickly. Milk proteins, such as whey, as well as branched chain amino acids (BCAA) found in milk proteins stimulate faster glycogen building (Morifuji et al. 2005).

Hall et al. (2013) found that consuming a drink containing both carbohydrate and protein lowers exercise stress in well trained male cyclists. Chugging a protein plus carbohydrate sports drink during cycling reduced heart rate, rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and muscle damage compared to a a similar carbohydrate drink.


Why does protein enhance carbohydrate storage?

Protein and/or bioactive peptides from proteins stimulate glycogen formation through several mechanisms:

  • A recent study in humans found that eating whey protein after exercise significantly increased the phosphorylation of Akt and mTOR in a dose-dependent manner (Kakigi et al. 2014). The Akt and mTOR signaling pathway contributes to hypertrophic muscle growth and helps reduce protein breakdown while promoting muscle synthesis.
  • When mice ate whey protein hydrolysates they stimulated glycogen synthase (GS), an enzyme that helps the body make glycogen from glucose (Kanda et al. 2012).
  • Another study found that branched chain amino acids in whey hydrolysates stimulate glucose uptake in skeletal muscles via the PI3-kinase and aPKC pathways (Morifuji et al. 2009).


Post Workout Drinks Should Help Repair Muscle by Adding Protein

Protein is needed to repair and build muscle. Your body requires the amino acids in proteins to build muscles. It cannot build or repair muscles using only carbohydrates or sugars.

Dairy products like yogurt, milk or whey contain the protein needed for building muscles. Consuming around 20 grams of whey or milk protein during or immediately after exercise stimulates muscle synthesis while inhibiting muscle breakdown (van Loon 2013). Drinking chocolate milk after running increases postexercise muscle protein fractional synthetic rate (FSR) and increased endurance compared to a carbohydrate drink (Lunn et al. 2012).


Workout Drinks Need to Restore All Important Electrolytes

An ideal sports recovery beverage, like yogurt or milk drinks, contains carbohydrates, proteins and electrolytes (Spaccarotella KJ, Andzel 2011). Milk and dairy products contain the ideal ratio of electrolytes to support fast recovery. Electrolytes naturally found in dairy include magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium and chloride. Many workout drinks only provide some of the electrolytes lost during a workout.


Post Workout Drinks Should Support Immune Function

Greenhouse windowWhile moderate exercise positively effects the immune system; intense work outs can slightly depress the immune system. Right now the International Society of Exercise and Immunology believe the evidence is inconclusive. However, they state that competitive or chronic exercise may increase susceptibility of respiratory infections (Walsh et al. 2011). As training intensifies, well-trained athletes have declines in T-cells and B-cells populations coupled with elevated stress hormones and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Some of these changes may reduce immunity. A good post workout drink should help combat these changes by supporting positive immune functioning.

Milk contains many immune components including immunoglobulins and antimicrobial proteins and peptides, such as lactoferrin, defensins, and cathelicidins. Defensins and cathelicidins are antimicrobial peptides which protect against a wide range of bacteria and are involved in wound repair and healing (Ganz 2003, Nizet and Gallo 2003, Méndez-Samperio 2013).


Sports Drinks Should Help Reduce Inflammation

Working out creates tears and rips in muscles that can lead to inflammation. A healthy diet can reduce inflammation within the body (Labonté et al. 2013).

Dairy consumption, in particular high fat dairy consumption, may reduce inflammation (Panagiotakos et al. 2010, Salas-Salvadó et al. 2008). People who consume more dairy servings have less markers of oxidative stress (Sofi et al. 2010, Stancliffe et al. 2011, Jones et al. 2013, Zemel et al. 2010).

Yogurt consumption decreased inflammation. African Americans who ate three 6-oz yogurts a day had significant reductions from baseline in inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) (−29%; P<0.01) and significant increases in beneficial adiponectin concentrations (+18%; P<0.05). People who had a similar but low dairy diet did not have those effects (Zemel and Sun 2008). Adiponectin is secreted from fat tissue and plays an important part in modulating glucose and lipid metabolism. High concentrations of adiponectin may help protect against metabolic disease and reduce inflammation (Chandran et al. 2003). Elevated concentrations of CRP occur during inflammation. Dairy inhibited the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and NADPH oxidase (which stimulates ROS production) (Zemel and Sun 2008).

Other factors found in dairy, such as lactoferrin, are also anti-inflammatory.


Workout Drinks should Accelerate Muscle Regeneration

Exercise breaks down muscle. During recovery this muscle is remodeled to become stronger. Compared to carbohydrates, whey protein accelerates muscle regeneration and recovery after exercise (Farup et al. 2014). Healthy human volunteers received either a whey plus carbohydrate drink or a carbohydrate drink after eccentric legs exercises. Muscle biopsies revealed that whey supplementation accelerated muscle satellite cell proliferation compared to the carbohydrate supplement (Farup et al. 2014). Satellite cells are vital for muscle remodeling and regeneration.

A whey and carbohydrate pre and post workout drink helped elite orienteering runners recover during a week long training session (13 exercise session) (Hansen et al 2014). This is a strenuous sport involving obstacles and puzzle solving. Orienteers navigate difficult terrain; speeding over boulders, fallen trees and marshes. They use a map and compass to complete a point to point course over untamed land in the shortest time possible.

Hansen et al. (2014) gave one group of 9 orienteer runners a whey protein drink (0.3 g kg-1) before exercise and a second whey carbohydrate drink (0.3 g protein kg-1 and 1 g carbohydrate kg-1) after exercise. A second group of 9 runners received energy and time matched carbohydrate drinks. Drinking whey protein before and after each exercise session improved performance and reduced markers of muscle damage over the week when compared to drinking a carbohydrate based drink.

Whey is also good for smaller furrier athletes. Whey supplementation in athletic male mice significantly improved exercise performance as measured by grip strength and endurance. Whey protein also improved body composition and biochemical assessments in mice (Chen et al. 2014).


Workout Drinks Should Increase Athletic Endurance.

Soluble milk proteins (SMP), such as whey, increased muscle endurance and reduced muscle fatigue in a study of 68 physically active men undergoing 10 months resistance training (Babault et al. 2014). Men consuming the fast absorbing SMP had more endurance and stamina than those consuming a slower absorbing protein, micellar casein. Soluble milk proteins found in whey include β-lactoglobulin, α-lactalbumin, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, serum albumin and other protein fractions.



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