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What Is the Most Anabolic Food?

www.ironmanmagazine.comIf milk is so bad for you, why does the data say the opposite? I have a close friend—a physician no less—who hammers milk when he gets a chance. “If humans were meant to suck from the teats of a cow, then they were meant to drink milk.”

Well, granted, sucking from the teats of a cow is about as appealing as watching “The View,” but what about the actual science. Does milk help or hurt?

According to Dr. Kevin McGrady, “Milk has something for everybody all right—higher blood cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.” (

Dang. What a killjoy. So does that mean that avid exercisers like us should avoid the milky-white protein? Let’s look at the data.

For instance, we know that exercise-induced muscle damage leads to a drop in muscle performance and delayed-onset of muscle soreness. Can milk help? Scientists did such a study, in which they gave either 500 milliliters (16.9 ounces) of milk, 1,000 milliliters of milk or a placebo to three independent matched groups of eight men immediately following muscle-damaging exercise. They found that drinking 500 milliliters of milk limited decreases in isokinetic muscle performance and increases in creatine kinase, or CK.1 So there’s no need to drink 1,000 milliliters. Heck, that’s a lot of milk anyhow.

What about chocolate milk? It certainly tastes better. All that extra sugar must help with recovery, right?

In another study, male runners participated in two trials separated by one week and drank either chocolate milk or a nonnitrogenous isocaloric carbohydrate control beverage after a 45-minute run at 65 percent of peak oxygen uptake.

Results: Drinking chocolate milk after exercise resulted in a much higher rate of muscle protein synthesis than what occurred with the sugar-only beverage. Also, measures of damage were lower in the milk group—and most important, muscle endurance was greatest in those athletes!

The researchers concluded that “the effects of consumption of milk after endurance exercise…suggest unique benefits of milk compared with a [carbohydrate]-only beverage.”2

So, if you’re looking for a food that helps you recover from exercise, get milk.


Editor’s note: Jose Antonio, Ph.D., is the CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (; also check out his Web site,


1 Cockburn, E., et al. (2012). Effect of volume of milk consumed on the attenuation of exercise-induced muscle damage. Eur J Appl Physiol. Published online.

2 Lunn, W.R., et al. (2012). Chocolate milk and endurance exercise recovery: protein balance, glycogen, and performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 44:682-91.


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