Cow milk - Is this the unlikely nutritional boost your fitness journey needed?

May 19 2016

Nothing is safe from the hipsters - not even milk.

While researching this article on milk nutrition, it became clear that cows’ milk has become a poor relation to fancy variations of the dairy drink.

Cafes in Australia are reportedly charging $14.50 for a cup of “camel milk cappuccino” and one brand is now bringing “pea milk” to the masses. As intriguing as it might be to read up on the health benefits of these exotic beverages, let’s not lose sight of all of the good things that old-fashioned cows’ milk can do for us.

Our resident trainers and nutrition experts, Carly Tierney and Eddy Diget, have explained why healthy milk products can give you an extra edge as you pursue your fitness goals.

Cow milk benefits

According to Eddy, if you were so inclined, you could live off cows’ milk and nothing else. It has pretty much everything you need to survive.

“Realistically, however, this would soon become a very boring regime,” he commented.

“Milk is an excellent source of protein, zinc and B vitamins. It also provides an abundance of calcium to strengthen bones.”

Regular cows’ milk contains magnesium - which you can learn more about in this post – and potassium. The latter is said to lower your risk of high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease.

Can milk help me to lose weight?

Cow Milk 1

The calories in milk come from three sources - carbohydrate, protein and fat - and, obviously, you can reduce your calorie intake by selecting a skimmed or semi-skimmed drink.

The exact number of calories in milk can vary between brands, but estimates the calorie content in half a pint of skimmed milk to be around the 90 mark. This rises to approximately 190 in whole milk.

It has been claimed in the past that drinking cows’ milk can help people to lose weight, but this is still very much a bone of contention.

In 2010, the Daily Express ran a story that suggested adults who drink around two glasses of milk a day would lose an average of 12lb in weight after two years. The NHS picked numerous holes in the research, concluding that while dairy products have significant health benefits, there isn’t enough evidence to show that they can aid weight loss.

It’s an issue that has also divided our experts.

Carly told us: [It is said] that calcium is thought to help break down fat more efficiently, leading to weight loss, although there is no hard evidence to suggest that dairy is a magic fat-loss food.

“While milk contains many nutrients, it also contains a relatively large amount of liquid calories which would be better spent on [solid food] when trying to lose weight. Alternative sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, bok choy, beans and canned salmon.”

Eddy, on the other hand, believes that those who discredit milk for having “too many calories” may need to reconsider.

“A pint of cows’ skimmed milk only contains about 0.6g of fat,” he added.

“Absorption of calcium is faster if taken by dairy products - milk and low-fat cheese - than by tablet, for example. Eating a tub of low-fat yoghurt and a matchbox-sized bit of cheese each day will fortify your calcium and other essential mineral intake.”


As you can see, the perceived benefits of adding milk to your diet in order to stimulate weight loss are highly debatable. It seems the most logical conclusion is to consume a sensible volume of milk as part of a healthy, balanced diet. As with anything, if you overdo it on the milk, you run the risk of piling on the pounds.

Can cows’ milk help me to build muscle?

Cow Milk 2Thankfully, milk’s muscle-building properties are more cut and dried.

Carly remarked: “Milk is deemed to be one of the best muscle-gaining foods ever. It's a high-quality protein source, made up of around 20% whey (the most popular ingredient in protein powders) and 80% casein. Skimmed milk is a good, cost-effective choice. It’s high in vitamins and minerals and tasty and convenient too.

“Milk also contains all eight essential amino acids, making it a complete protein, and can be amazing for recovery and repair. However, moderation is key and those wanting to get shredded might look for alternative, lower-carb protein sources.”

Of course, diet is only one part of the muscle-building battle - you need to do your part in the gym, too! Never fear, our guide to bicep curls will help you to get your form spot on.

Why are gym-goers drinking chocolate milk post-workout?

An emerging trend in gyms up and down the UK, it seems that everyone is drinking chocolate milk post-workout.

Is this another fad that will eventually die out? According to our experts, there is solid scientific reasoning behind the craze, and as such it could be a trend that lasts the pace.

Cow Milk 3So, is chocolate milk good for you?

Eddy commented: “Yes it does aid recovery, and the chocolate element can stave off cramp if you are prone to this. My wife got cramp, so I gave her a chocolate milk drink, and she has not suffered since!”

Carly added: “Chocolate milk has a good ratio of simple carbs and protein, making it a good post-workout product for some people. I'd suggest that endurance athletes such as runners and cyclists would benefit from consuming it following training as it helps to replenish energy lost during exercise.

“Fat-free chocolate milk has been shown to have virtually identical benefits to traditional carbohydrate sports drinks. Not only that, but it tastes great and is inexpensive.”

Carly was keen to stress that if you are hoping to lose weight, she wouldn’t advise drinking chocolate milk.

Is organic milk better for me?

Cow Milk 4NHS Choices recently published an article in response to a Guardian piece that had suggested that organic meat and milk could offer additional health benefits.

Interestingly, studies highlighted some differences in nutrient levels between organic milk and run-of-the-mill farmed milk. Most notably, there were more omega-3 fatty acids in the organic version, as well as greater iron and vitamin E content. Standard milk was found to have more iodine and selenium, which help to produce the thyroid hormone and protect against cell damage respectively.

However, the article stated that far more evidence is needed before it can be safely concluded that organic products carry more long-term health benefits than non-organic alternatives.

What are the best alternatives to cows’ milk?

Maybe you’re intolerant to cows’ milk, or perhaps you just want to try something different?

There are plenty of alternatives for you to consider. Some of these include:

Coconut milk: Rich in fibre and essential vitamins, coconut milk is lactose-free and is particularly popular among vegans.

Almond milk: A personal favourite of Carly’s, unsweetened almond milk is rich in vitamin E, which can boost your recovery after a heavy workout.

Soy milk: A fantastic protein source, soy milk has grown in popularity over the years. Vegetable proteins are said to cause reduced loss of calcium through the kidneys.

Rice milk: Another good dairy-free option, rice milk offers no shortage of vitamins. Be mindful of its higher carb content, though.

Are protein shakes a good idea?

Cow Milk 5If you are looking to build extra muscle, you’ve probably considered using protein supplements.

The effectiveness of protein shakes continues to divide opinion - especially between our two experts.

Although Eddy thinks protein shakes can be a good substitute for a missed meal, he feels that more natural protein-rich foods - such as milk, chicken and eggs - are a better option.

Carly, however, is an advocate of protein shakes and supplements, though she pointed out that not all brands are the same.

“Not all protein powders/shakes are created equally. My advice would be to do your research and always choose a high-quality product. Check the labels and ensure that the product you choose supports your personal fitness goals,” she continued.

“Protein powders are not just for post-workout either. I use mine to make protein pancakes (we’ve got some fantastic recipes here) and other delicious desserts. They are also great to grab as a snack if you're busy and on the go. I train a number of nurses and they always have one to hand during busy shifts when grabbing food just isn't practical.”

Eddy Diget’s post-workout recovery secret!

Cow Milk 6If you’re not familiar with Master Trainer Eddy Diget’s incredible story, you can catch up here.

As you’ll see, he’s an inspirational man, and if he has a health and fitness secret to share, it’s certainly worth listening!

He gave us his own recipe for a milk-based drink that he uses to aid his post-workout recovery.

You’ll need…

  • Three eggs (use one yolk only)
  • One pint of full-fat milk
  • EITHER one banana, one peach, six strawberries or four lychees - The taste of the drink takes on the flavour of the sweet fruit used. Do not use acidic fruits like apples or oranges, as it will curdle.
  • Half a teaspoon of clear honey
  • Optional - One large scoop of plain vanilla ice cream (to increase your carb intake)

Put all ingredients into a blender and mix.

This drink will fill three glasses - drink one glass every three to four hours, or as a replacement for a ‘protein meal’. Don’t drink the whole lot in one go!

Do NOT drink before a workout - about 30 minutes or so afterwards is fine. Let your body begin to relax, because if blood - the carrier of protein - is gushing around body, it may not be as effective.

Again, it’s worth pointing out that diet is only one part of your fitness journey - exercise is also crucial. Sign up for a free guest pass today and smash your health and fitness goals!


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