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  • Aiveen Connolly

Milk as a Recovery Drink

Would you believe that milk is one of the best recovery drinks out there? In terms of replenishing glycogen stores, muscle protein synthesis and rehydrating the body, it is a perfect recovery drink.

Milk contains a mixture of high quality protein, carbohydrates, water and micronutrients

(especially sodium), which makes it a unique and suitable post exercise recovery drink in many exercise scenarios.

There has been a lot of research into milk as a recovery drink and many studies have shown consuming milk after resistance training results in muscle synthesis and promotes building muscle and muscle gains more effectively than a milk alternative like soy milk. Ingestion of milk post exercise has the potential to beneficially impact both acute (short term) recovery and chronic (long term) training adaptations.

Milk has huge beneficial effects on muscle protein synthesis (MPS) due to the whey content which is rich in leucine and other branched chain amino acids. Milk has also shown to be a very effective rehydration drink. Some studies show milk to be more hydrating post exercise, compared to sports drinks and even water. Consuming milk after training can help reduce symptoms of exercise induced muscle damage (e.g delayed onset of muscle soreness - DOMS).

Skimmed milk is a great option for promoting post exercise rehydration as it achieves a net balance of hydration during an athlete's recovery period compared to a regular sports drink or water. Milk, soya milk or a milk based supplement seem to hydrate athletes more effectively than sports drinks and following a workout from one study.

Chocolate milk as a recovery drink particularly after endurance exercise. It has become a very affordable recovery drink for many athletes. There is one study that looked at cyclists who consumed chocolate milk after their interval workout. They were able to recover faster and perform better than those who consumed a carbohydrate drink. Chocolate milk promotes better muscle recovery compared with commercial sports drinks like Lucozade or Powerade. Another study looked at football players who drank chocolate milk after their training session and they had less muscle damage and faster muscle recovery compared to those who consumed a sports drink which contains the same amount of calories. As well as promoting faster muscle recovery and a reduced muscle soreness, chocolate milk also results in greater lean body mass and reduced body fat compared with carbohydrate sports drinks.

If you are looking for a post exercise snack that contains around 20g of high quality protein, having 600ml of milk will provide the protein needed to maximize muscle adaptation. It contains high amounts of the branched chain amino acids, leucine, which will promote muscle building after exercise.

You can also make your own milkshake using 500ml of milk, yoghurt, and fresh fruits (bananas, strawberries, pears, mango, pineapple). This will give a brilliant mixture of protein, carbohydrates and micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) & antioxidants. Or if you don't have time to make your own milkshake, have a 500ml ready to drink milkshakes which contain around 20g of protein for convenient refuelling after exercise.


James LJ, Stevenson EJ, Rumbold PLS, Hulston CJ. Cow's milk as a post-exercise recovery

drink: implications for performance and health. Eur J Sport Sci. 2019 Feb;19(1):40-48. doi:

10.1080/17461391.2018.1534989. Epub 2018 Oct 31. PMID: 30379113

Bean, A,. 2017, Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition. [S.I]: Bloomsbury Sport


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