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).  
Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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