With the promotion of Veganism in Western societies, there is a rise of encouragement for decreasing the consumption of animal products. To get in touch with the latest trends, this has led many influencers to discourage drinking cow’s milk and downplaying the importance of the health benefits that come along with it that you won’t find in the alternatives (almond milk, silk milk, etc.)


Exercise Performance and Muscle Recovery

To date, there is a large body of research favoring the consumption of cow’s milk for performance and muscle function recovery in both resistance/high-intensity training and endurance training. Although there are a few conflicting studies that do not show beneficial effects, these controversies could be due to the heterogeneity of cow’s milk ingestion (e.g., amount and timing of cow’s milk), to the type of intervention. Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of studies show positive effects in what I will describe here.

Resistance/High-Intensity Exercise

For this type of training, researchers tested exercise performance through muscle strength related variables. Regarding these variables, cow’s milk was shown to attenuate losses in peak torque throughout the total work of sets with a maximal effort concentric knee flexion measurement using isokinetic dynamometry, countermovement jump, isometric quad contraction, and sprint tests.

For muscle function recovery, cow’s milk showed positive benefits with a lower increase in creatine kinase and myoglobin concentrations from baseline to 48 hours later compared to the placebo beverage group. Also, with intakes under 1,000mL, the increase of creatine kinase was even lower; being blunted around 500mL (16.9oz). By lowering the bolus to this amount, researchers also found that cow’s milk had positive effects on muscle soreness and tiredness in both sexes 72 hours post resistance exercise compared to an energy-matched carbohydrate solution.

Endurance Exercise

While showing less positive effects than the former category of exercise, cow’s milk still did not negatively affect performance. The main beneficial finding researchers discovered was that the consumption of low-fat cow’s milk taken 2 hours prior to endurance exercise improved performance in trained cyclist in a 20km timed trial with no heart rate differences when compared to the placebo group. There were no observed impacts on oxygen consumption, rate of perceived exertion, or volitional exhaustion with the consumption of cow’s milk


Cow’s milk consists of two different proteins; casein and whey. They are found between a 3:1 and a 80%:20% ratio (casein:whey). Milk also contains branched chain amino acids, sodium and potassium, along with a number of minerals. Because of milk’s makeup, it is almost a perfect drink after exercise. Cow’s milk has been shown to have positive benefits relating to muscle protein turnover and glycogen resynthesis in both the muscles and liver.

Muscle Protein Balance

Throughout the day, muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and muscle protein breakdown (MPB) fluctuate to determine your net protein balance. When you are at rest with no ingested protein in your system, your body is at a negative protein balance (high MPB). Then when you eat, the protein in the meal provides an anabolic stimulus with transient periods of positive protein balance (high MPS). When you exercise, you produce increases of MPS and MPB. During this exercise, you provide an anabolic stimulus to increase protein balance. However, if no protein is ingested, you remain in a negative protein balance. Therefore, protein surrounding a workout is optimal for your skeletal muscle in terms of benefitting from the training induced adaptations. Because one cup of cow’s milk only consists of 8g of protein and around 12g of carbs, this may not be enough for an optimal post-workout meal. Instead, milk could be used as a base with the addition of whey protein and a fast-digesting carb source. As discussed in one of my past articles on why a combination of whey protein with milk protein is optimal,

 Research has shown that slow digesting protein combined with fast digesting protein outperforms fast digesting protein alone. This is because the fast digesting protein releases a larger amount of amino acids quicker, but does not last as long. The slow digesting protein keeps a constant rate of amino acid release—much longer than the fast digesting proteins. This prevents protein breakdown. For the overall picture, fast digesting proteins are anabolic, while slow digesting proteins are anti-catabolic. So, when combining the large spike with a longer consistent release, it outperforms just a large spike.

Glycogen Resynthesis

During exercise, especially high-intensity or endurance, the demand needed from endogenous carbohydrates to sustain these intensities is very high. Therefore, muscle glycogen stores will be depleted and need to be refilled after exercise to guarantee sufficient levels that won’t impair future performances. This means dietary carbohydrates will be needed to refill glycogen stores. Milk has been shown to be equally beneficial as other carbohydrate-containing drinks in terms of muscle glycogen resynthesis. But because of the high demand for carbs athletes may need, the carbohydrate makeup of milk will be suboptimal. Therefore, using milk as a base can be an easy fix.

Especially if intensity and duration is high, liver glycogen will also be depleted and need to be refilled. For this, milk is beneficial because of the sugar found in it–lactose. Lactose is preferentially metabolized in the liver. In lactose, you can find one of the monosaccharides– galactose. Galactose has been shown to be more beneficial than glucose and fructose for liver glycogen resynthesis.

Cardiometabolic Health



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