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Dairy Groups Want You to Drink Milk After You Hit the Gym

An Australian dairy group is promoting research that claims chocolate milk is a more efficient beverage for replenishing fluids after exercise than ubiquitous neon-colored sports drinks.
Photo via Flickr user Liz West

Milk does a body good, they say—they being milk producers, of course.

They're not going to tell you about that possibly wonky Swedish study that connected high milk consumption with an early death, but they will remind you of the body of research that has demonstrated milk's effectiveness as a sports drink.

Yes. A tall, creamy glass of cow juice might be the best thing this side of Gatorade.

This isn't exactly a revelation. It's long been argued that milk, though it might not have a crisp and refreshing mouthfeel when you're red-faced and sopping with perspiration, is a formidable way of replenishing electrolytes lost during exercise. During the 2004 Summer Olympics, Wheaties-loving weed enthusiast Michael Phelps reportedly pounded Carnation Instant Breakfast between his races in order to refuel.

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In the US, the National Dairy Council has asserted that milk "may help reduce muscle damage and improve muscle recovery, which, in turn, may help the body perform better during its next workout." It can also "increase the body's ability to make new muscle and may help improve body composition over time, when it's enjoyed as a post-workout beverage," according to research cited by the Council.

Further, a a 2008 study published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition concluded that "[low]-fat milk has been shown to be as effective, if not more effective, than commercially available sports drinks as a rehydration beverage," which it maintains is safe for everyone who doesn't become wildly flatulent after consuming lactose.

New research out of Australia has cemented the White Stuff's place as a potential nectar of the muscley gods. In a recent study that sounds truly unpleasant for its participants, 15 men were instructed to ride stationary bikes while wearing "heavy clothing" in order to sweat out as much of their body weight as humanly possible. (This scene would likely have made for some serious Apatow-style comedic fodder.) After an hour, the sweating subjects had each lost roughly 2 percent of their body weight.

They then drank one of four beverages: full-cream dairy milk, So Good soy milk, Sustagen Sport liquid meal replacement, or Powerade sports drink (that blue stuff you used to pour over each other's heads after high school soccer games). Each man was weighed again three hours later, and the research team found that both dairy milk and soy milk actually exceeded Powerade in terms of their fluid-replenishing abilities.

It should be noted that the study was conducted on behalf of Dairy Australia for Food Standards Australia New Zealand, with the goal of granting permission for the dairy group to include their claims about milk's health benefits on product packaging. But DA also tracked down five academic papers that lauded chocolate milk as a pretty legit way to enhance a workout.

Naturally, chugging Quik day in and day out isn't going to do your body wonders if you're primarily using it to recline on the couch and binge on Netflix. But if you're hitting the treadmill for half your morning, you might not want to top off by chugging sports drinks, which are packed with all things sugary and artificial and neon. A glass of chocolate milk or organic soymilk, however, could hit the spot.