Milk….To Consume Dairy Milk Or Not

Did you know there was a debate on milk?  I have chosen to not drink cow’s milk anymore and drink soy, almond and coconut milk only because of the switch to becoming a vegetarian.  Again, this was done to see how I felt and not because of an idea that cow’s milk was bad for me.  As it turns out there is a group that makes these claims.  Do I agree with them?  I have not formulated an opinion yet because I don’t think that I am an expert in this field and thus not qualified to do so.  I do know that I enjoy the taste of soy, almond and coconut milk and their sweetness.  I do know that if I was in a bind and wanted my favorite granola breakfast (muesli) and all I had was milk from a cow that I would use it.

All of the above being said, a licensed dietitian and foodie has tackled this topic.  The post was eye-opening and while it won’t make me change to drinking cow’s milk again, I will say I learned a lot.  I think for me that is the beauty of the blog world.  There are people out there that you can ask questions of and they will provide you with answers or better yet an opportunity to ask more questions.

The dietitian and foodie is Rae from Forays In The Kitchen.  You may remember Rae from the coffee post.  That post helped a lot of people learn the benefits and the best time to consume coffee when it comes to being an endurance athlete.  This milk post from Rae will help shed some light on the debate of whether or not to consume Dairy Milk or not.

After you are done reading this post from Rae please leave your questions and I will make sure that she gets them and has an opportunity to answer them in due time.


There’s a lot of debate surrounding cow’s milk. Some say don’t drink it, it’s ‘poison’ while others are strong proponents for weight and muscle maintenance.

Because this dispute causes a lot of confusion, today I’m going to take a closer look so that you may be able to walk away and make an informed decision for yourself. For the sake of post length, I’ll be focusing on the nutritional aspects of the fluid, not its production.


Added hormones. Though the link hasn’t been strongly established, there are theories that these extra hormones are the cause of girls maturing as well as help to promote hormone-regulated cancers such as breast prostate.

I do deem that yes, these theories may be the case. As an oncology dietitian I counsel my clients to avoid milk with added hormones. The good news is that there are plenty of brands out there that have no extra hormones – simply look at the label and choose wisely.


Myth: Low fat milk has less nutrients that Whole milk. False. Some people debate that milk is ‘bad’ for us because it’s full of saturated fat and cholesterol; however, this is only when you choose whole or 2% milk over 1% or skim. (FYI: 2% milk is a very close relative of whole in terms of amount of saturated fat).

Skim and low fat milk have just as much protein, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous as whole milk.


Cow’s milk and weight loss.
The Dairy industry has been all over this statement – is there any truth to it? I have to say that I’d been suspicious of such an overt declaration. That was until this past weekend at the 2011 SCAN conference when one expert presented on weight loss and showed us the very interesting milk-weight loss research.

It turns out that in several well-done studies, people who drank cow’s milk as part of a dietary change and exercise regimen lost the same amount of weightas those who followed the same exercise and dietary changes but without the addition of milk.

But here’s the clincher: The people who had milk had a higher level of lean body mass (muscle) and less fat mass compared to the other group (who had lost muscle mass and kept their fat mass relatively stable).

Bottom line: milk helped people gain more muscle and loss more fat mass than those who didn’t include milk in their dietary changes.

This is important because the increased muscle mass may help to keep your metabolism higher (you burn more calories) and therefore be helpful in keeping the weight OFF.

If you think that’s interesting – check this out.

Cow’s milk VS soy milk and muscle mass. These studies astounded me. My jaw literally dropped when this was presented. Studies show that people who drink milk post-exercise had greater muscle protein accretion (more muscle mass built) than those who drank soy milk which had the same amount of protein and calories.

[[Over 12 weeks of resistance training, subjects drinking cow’s milk as part of their post-exercise recovery gained an average of 1.5 kgs (3.3 pounds) more than those drinking soy beverages.]]

What?! Yes, that’s what I said! Cow’s milk = more muscle gain than Soy milk.

Here’s a little review on protein. But the interesting fact is that soy is one of the few vegetables that is a complete protein – meaning that it contains all the amino acids (including the essential ones) that are needed for your body to build proteins.

However these studies demonstrated that although soy contains all the essential amino acids (EAA), the amounts of these micronutrients fall much shorter than cow’s milk.

It’s the WHEY
in the milk that contains these EAAs as well as the higher amount of LEUCINE, and amino acid that has been shown to stimulate anabolism (build up/increase) of muscle tissues more than other aminos.

[[I can send you the ppt with these studies if you’re that intensely interested…]]


So what are the highlights of this Milk Nutrition discussion?

  1. Including 3 servings of dairy (1 cup milk, 6oz yogurt, 1oz cheese) along with a lower calorie diet and exercise program will help you build muscle mass (tone) and reduce fat mass. (Instead of just losing muscle mass and keeping fat mass the same when no dairy is included).
  2. Drinking milk (or using whey protein) as part of your post-exercise recovery will allow you to build much more muscle than if you were to drink soy milk.


What are your thoughts on these studies? I’ll tell you what, I’ve started making my oatmeal with milk instead of water so that I get more servings of dairy in! (But I’m also doing that for calcium).


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  1. Jesse N. says:

    It’s no surprise to me that people who drank cow’s milk after working out gained more muscle weight. The entire biological point for the existence of cow’s milk is to turn this small mammal (baby cow) into a large mammal (heifer).
    Jesse N. recently posted..Two Week IronmanMy Profile

    • Jesse N. says:

      After thinking some more about this, I came to the conclusion I would really like to see the milk study regarding muscle gain. I am interested to know if both groups consumed the same amount of protein after their resistance training, or if each group simply consumed “X servings” of cow or soy milk. Cow’s milk has more protein per serving (~double), which would naturally lend itself to greater muscle gain if equal quantities were consumed.

      Do you have the link to the original study? I always like to go to the source for scientific information.

      • Rachel says:

        Hi Jesse,

        We can send you the study information. Both groups drank the amounts of soy and cows milk that would provide the same amount of protein – they were isocaloric (same amount of calories) and isonitrogenic (Same amount of protein) to ensure that one group would not benefit from more of either.

        Therefore, the muscle building was not from having more protein or more calories, it was from the quality of the amino acids. SOy milk contains much lower amounts of the essential amino acids (the amino acids that your body can’t make, but can only get from food, to actually move forward with making proteins) – while in cows milk these essential amino acids are higher, allowing more protein to be built when cows milk is used.

        The same muscle building effect can be done with just using Whey Protein Powder as that is where these essential amino acids are concentrated in milk – they Whey.
        Rachel recently posted..Tofu for BeginnersMy Profile

  2. Johann says:

    Interesting. I’m a huge milk drinker and often use it as a recovery drink. I drink chocolate milk a lot but also normal cow’s milk. I don’t miss a day without drinking some cow’s milk. Best recovery drink by far!
    Johann recently posted..Foto FridayMy Profile

  3. Jon says:

    I have terrible skin. Cutting out milk has improved my skin a lot. However! I love whey protein and I have seen a difference in my recovery time when making fruit smoothies with 40G of vanilla whey protein. Ooorrr ,the vanilla whey makes the fruit protein taste so creamy!

    I heart whey!
    Jon recently posted..Dont CompareMy Profile

  4. I LOVE milk! I wrote a post on it a few weeks ago ( if you’re interested. As an endurance athlete, I’ve felt it’s definitely been worth upping it in my diet!

  5. Scott says:

    Like the timeless saying goes “Milk does the body good” I love milk, I drink it a couple times a day. Part of my daily life.

  6. Allison says:

    I just want to drink honeymilk all the time….seriously……

    I may need help….
    Allison recently posted..Rock and Roll Dallas Half Marathon Race ReportMy Profile

  7. katie says:

    you know, I really enjoy your posts like this – so informative and fascinating. well, maybe just fascinating to me, but i enjoy them. :)
    katie recently posted..the inches we need National Half- race reportMy Profile

  8. lindsay says:

    i am currently on a no-dairy test, but not for any of the reasons above. like jon i have bad skin and am seeing if going off-dairy helps since i have heard dairy is an inflammatory food. to be honest i hadn’t heard any of the above arguments before regarding dairy. well, i suppose i’ve heard the hormone issue some but never from anyone with a strong opinion. i am also reading “the china study” and it does not seem to be all that favorable towards dairy products so far.
    lindsay recently posted..cupcakes and marleneMy Profile

  9. Marlene says:

    I had no idea there was such debate. I am a dairy milk drinker myself and have never considered otherwise…I definitely enjoy learning about differing opinions/research on these topics. Thanks for compiling some great info!

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