Should You Use Milk Or Dairy Products In Your Body-Recomposition Program?

By Tom Venuto On October 11, 2010 Under Holy Grail Body Transformation Content

In light of the ever-present criticism of milk and dairy products on the Internet – usually by alternative health types of websites (which mostly ‘scare-monger’ and seldom cite primary research), I thought it timely to write about the peer-reviewed studies that continue to emerge, confirming the benefits and quality of the dairy proteins, including whey.

In fact, a recent paper about protein/ Essential amino acids and resistance training was subtitled, “A case for whey.”

(Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Hulmi, et al. Nutr Metab. 2010; 7: 51)

I’m a few months behind on my research, but I just got done reading the full-text of this paper. Kind of a long and boring read except to science geeks, but you can get a good summary just by browsing the abstract. It says:

A growing body of evidence does, however, suggest that dairy protein, and whey in particular may:

1) stimulate the greatest rise in Muscle Protein Synthesis

2) result in greater muscle cross-sectional area when combined with chronic resistance training

3) at least in younger individuals, enhance exercise recovery.

Also, in agreement with the premise of nutrient timing laid out in my most recent publication (Holy grail body transformation), the conclusions of this research paper add to the body of work on nutrient timing, concluding by saying:

“Most (but not all) studies have shown that supplementation with whey alone or with carbohydrates immediately after and possibly before and during resistance exercise can enhance the muscle hypertrophy response to resistance training in healthy adults.”

Specifically, it has been suggested that protein intake immediately before and after exercise as opposed to the same intake more distant from the weight training bout may be more beneficial in promoting muscle growth.

More evidence that it’s not just WHAT you eat, it’s WHEN you eat (in particular, WHEN you eat relative to strength training).

In the position stand on Nutrient Timing for the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), it was suggested that this may be at least partially due to increased skeletal muscle circulation and thereby, nutrient transport during the post-workout window.

The benefits of a post-workout meal have  been well-known in the bodybuilding and sports nutrition field for years, but debate has continued about the best type and amount of protein for this important feeding opportunity.

Surprisingly to many people, dairy proteins keep coming up winners. In fact, numerous studies have suggested that good old milk is excellent for both post workout protein as well as re-hydration.

As bizarre as this may sound, there are even a couple papers suggesting that chocolate milk is as good a post-workout drink as those fancy and very expensive recovery drinks that the supplement companies have been hyping up.

By the way, whey protein seems to hog the spotlight, but there are two high quality proteins in milk – the other being casein.

After the original research on fast (whey) and slow (casein) proteins was released, it was believed that the faster protein – whey – would be the protein of choice for the post workout period because presumably, you want to get amino acids to your muscles quickly after training. Subsequent research showed that pure whey might actually be too fast (transient) and led some researchers to propose that a mix of whey and casein would be ideal.

Guess what milk has? A mix of whey and casein!

There may be a synergy between the two because whey provides an anabolic effect, while casein provides an anti-catabolic effect. Research by Kevin Tipton confirmed that either protein – whey or casein – can stimulate an anabolic response in muscle after exercise.

So, while many people have claimed good results with whey-based post workout drinks, it doesn’t appear fair to say that whey is the only protein that should be used in a post-workout meal.

Are dairy products perfect for everyone? No. Some people are vegetarian. Many people are lactose intolerant and cannot properly digest milk-based products, so this discussion is moot for them (unless they can handle a whey isolate or a product like lactaid helps).

Even some of the anti-milk sentiment you read on the internet about dairy products is not entirely without merit – some of which include complaints about treatment of the animals at dairy farms, the quality of what the animals are fed and what happens during the commercial processing of milk.

However, the idea that dairy products – and particularly the milk proteins whey and casein – are inherently “bad for you” is not only completely false, the opposite is true:

The research is virtually definitive on this point: dairy proteins like whey are high-quality muscle food, suitable for muscle gaining programs, fat loss programs and yes, even for body re-composition programs like The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program.

-Tom Venuto

More info (inner circle members only)
Is whey the Ultimate Muscle-Building, Health-Enhancing Protein Supplement?
Which Is The Superior Whey Protein Powder – Isolate or Concentrate?
Milk and chocolate milk: the new sports drinks or the latest gimmick?
Are dairy products fattening and unhealthy?


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  1. Why (Chocolate)milk is a good post workout choice
    October 11, 2010 5:39 AM
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43 Comments Add yours

  1. Mike
    October 11, 2010
    2:20 am

    Great research and article! I know this to be true for me. I achieved better muscle growth this summer just from drinking milk (fresh, unpasteurized) than I have from using whey isolates in past years!

    • jeff parker
      October 11, 2010
      12:39 pm

      Where do you get your fresh, unpasteurized milk from, Mike?

      I live overseas, in Barcelona, Spain, but am originally from Nashville, and have never seemed to have found the good raw stuff.

      I do think that’s an important distinction that Tom could make in his article/post, since the pasteurization process kills a lot of the good enzymes and vitamins present in milk.

      • Mike
        October 11, 2010
        5:17 pm


        I live in Knoxville and we buy our raw milk from an organic farm in East TN by the name of westwind farms. The laws in TN are tricky so you actually have to buy a “cowshare” to obtain it legally. I’m sure there’s something in Nashville that you could get. Try this link

        The stuff is awesome. I was lactose intolerant for more than a decade. After I began consuming organic raw milk from grass fed cows that disappeared!

        My family and I have been on this stuff going on four years now and no problems…screw the pasteurization police!

  2. Cath Timms
    October 11, 2010
    2:21 am

    Great article. I was inwardly groaning when I read the title, as it was a bit ambiguous and I was just finishing my milk coffee drink! I’ve always held that milk protein is good, particularly post workout.

  3. Raymond - ZenMyFitness
    October 11, 2010
    2:38 am

    Excellent I’ve heard similar things like this before but no real research to back it up.
    I support real foods over supplements anytime.
    Rather than using expensive protein powders I recently changed to pre/post workout meals of cottage cheese and homemade chocolate-skim milk drinks and find them not only satisfying, less expensive but my guess is would be more thermogenic than shakes but so far haven’t seen any draw backs.

  4. Clement
    October 11, 2010
    3:37 am

    Hey Tom, 

    I’m very intrigued by this study. I don’t care much for pre-workout nutrition and I expect I’ll get rapped for this – I often train in a semi-fasted state of 3h following a light meal (20% of daily calorie allotment) – but I do observe proper post-workout nutrition in the form of a large post-workout meal (60% of daily caloric allotment) within an hour of lifting. However, if I cannot get a post-workout meal in during that time, I often get myself 250ml of whole milk.

    I find it very disturbing that some people still continue to advocate that fat in post-workout meals are actually counter-intuitive. In my opinion, it is true that meals that are higher in simple sugars and have a faster rate of absorption do cause a marked increase in glycogen uptake into muscle cells following a lifting session. They do induce “the pump”. However, Martin Berkhan and Lyle McDonald have mentioned before, if I’m not wrong, that actual protein synthesis remains elevated for up to 24h following an intense resistance training session! This would mean that from a pure muscle-building standpoint, slowing absorption of food by including a bit of fat will not be counter-productive towards protein synthesis. In fact, protein simply cannot be synthesized at that fast a rate! This would also lend credence to your point that whey is simply absorbed too fast to be used and is wasted. People like Brian St. Pierre even recommend carbohydrates with a lower glycemic load after a resistance training session.

    Thanks for setting up this blog. I take an avid interest in nutrition and I’d like to get into the profession one day. I learn new things all the time from experts like you.

    • Tom Venuto
      October 11, 2010
      3:56 am

      Hi clement, well, on the pre-workout nutrition, i do know some folks who say their energy and intensity is fine training fasted. that’s not the case with me and many others, and the workout performance is one consideration. the other is the actual effect on results, and I for one will have to side with alan aragon on this one who said, “fasted resistance training = not optimal.” in my new program in fact i recommend “bracketing” the strength training sessions with both pre and post workout intake.

      re: the post workout fat, funny you mention that, in the paper i just read/quoted above (hulmi, lockwood, stout), they said, “addition of milk fat may offer a slightly positive effect on the post-exercise protein balance, according to at least one study that compared the effects of whole versus fat free milk” (citing Elliot 2006 MSSE 38)

      • Jacqueline
        October 17, 2010
        12:31 am

        So what about Greek yogurt? I have just recently gotten into liberte 0% fat greek yogurt. I have used it both pre and post workout. Where do you stand on this one?

  5. Carl Juneau
    October 11, 2010
    5:11 am

    Hi Tom,

    Great to hear you’re not part of the milk-is-awful crew.

    What I’d be curious to read about is a comparison of milk vs. egg protein on net protein balance post-workout. We know milk is great, but egg has been a staple for a long time, too.

    No research has looked into this yet, to my knowledge.


    Carl Juneau

    • Leah
      October 11, 2010
      5:47 am

      I’d be interested in this too..
      I use both!!
      I love to make a ‘smoothie’, with organic milk, raw egg, whey protein, raw honey and cinnamon.

  6. salahaldin
    October 11, 2010
    5:12 am

    nice fact it is well known that milk is important as essential source of calcium which is in turn important for muscle contraction and relaxation and it is highly recommended to drink 500ml daily.another point is to prevent osteoporosis of bones,especially in those over 50 years of a whole milk is essential for bone and muscle growth.

  7. Leah
    October 11, 2010
    5:44 am

    Check out Sally Fallons research on milk and fat..
    it’s backs up why milk .. AND FAT are especially great for bodies :D
    In particular ORGANIC milks and fats, as they were always supposed to be..
    She has a book called Eat Fat Lose Fat, and Traditional Nutrition, that, I believe are essential reading for people today, with all the Money-Makers out there, confusing us with their ‘supposed facts’ on the products they want us to buy!

    For testimony on her theories.. I’ve been eating dairy fat for years (organic) and my cholesterol has been perfect, and my weight stable at 51 k (164cm high)..
    my identical twin sister ate margarine, low fat diets.. and struggled with her weight, and super high cholesterol levels.

    I LOVE it when I see professionals like yourself advocating the use of good, real food!

    • Denis
      October 12, 2010
      9:56 pm

      In a regular physical, my doctor found I had slightly elevated cholesterol. As a vegetarian I know that cholesterol problems are almost always problems of animal food. I had upped my intake of cottage cheese, yogurt and milk to increase my protein. The doc scheduled me for another visit in three months. During that time, I knocked out the dairy to a large extent but not totally. My cholesterol turned out to be well within the low normal range. The doc was surprised but I was not.

    • Will
      October 12, 2010
      11:12 pm

      I’ve skim read Sally Fallon’s book and you’re right she does have some good points. I’ve actually found that I feel fantastic eating quite a bit more fat than what is recommended, (good fat like olive oil, avacados, unpastuerized cream and whole milk) and actually seem to burn fat better when eating higher fat!

    • LL
      February 27, 2011
      8:25 pm

      Sally Fallon’s book is actually called “Nourishing Traditions”.

  8. Cayce
    October 11, 2010
    6:04 am

    Hi Tom,

    Great article – thank you! Thought I’d “whey” in and ask about milk from grass-fed cows. Since it has about 3 times more conjugated linoleic acid, do you notice or know of better muscle building/fat burning with subjects taking grass-fed [non-homogenized] milk? Many anti-dairy folks like to think so!


  9. Reem
    October 11, 2010
    6:57 am

    There really is much confusion on dairy in terms of health and fitness. Great Article. Thanks !

  10. Max Italy
    October 11, 2010
    8:01 am

    Hi Tom,

    thanks for your clarifications about milk. Can I ask you to also clarify what is the best pre workout drink or even pre workout launch?

    A few suggest:

    • eat 2/3 hours before 100/300g of starchy carbs such as brown rise or brown pasta to get your muscles full of glycogen and your blood of glucose;

    • other suggest to eat just immediately before the workout a drink of whey proteins and carbs (20/30g of proteins mixed with 40/60g of carbs) without any fat, such as olive oil, in order to speed up the digestion and make both proteins and carbs immediately available;

    • others suggests, if your primary goal is to loose weight, to do no eat at all in order to have your body to use your body fat mixed with glycogen;

    I guess that might be a little bit confusing. Do you clearly understand what, when, how and how much to eat both pre and post workout in your brand new Body Transformation program?


    Greetings from Italy


  11. Jose
    October 11, 2010
    9:58 am

    I drink 3 litres of milk a day to maximise my hydration, and provide a glass of milk per hour for a steady absorbtion of carbs and protein. I have walked more than 160,000 kms (equal to 4 times around the world) since I turned 50 years of age.

    I am now almost 70, and I am stronger (and have more endurance) than any time in my life. People guess my age in 42 – 53 range, and I have not needed to go to a Doctor since 1955 for a sore throat.

    I often go for walks in the hills with 60-100 kgs in my back/chest packs for 90-100 minutes at a time.

    If milk was bad for my health, I would have died years ago, because I drink far more than the ordinary person does.

    Despite my big mileages, I have never had any injuries in my life, and am fully addicted to exercise. – and why not? It is obvious that large amounts of milk are keeping my bones and muscles super strong. I have low cholesterol, so I make up for this by eating extra olive oil.

    LACK OF EXERCISE is what is bad for your health, definitely not milk (unless you have lactose intolerance)..

    The food industry makes trillions of dollars out of processed food around the world, so it is clearly in their interest to be dishonest about food studies.

    When I was 12 years old, I was shown a film at school about how dangerous cigarette smoking was. Business men still sell cigarettes even though they kill millions of people all around the world each year. The tar levels are increased in third-world countries to get young people hooked.

    No such thing as integrity in selling food, cash rules everytime.

    Eggs are good for us, and it is very important to eat the yellow stuff as well as the white of the egg. Egg fat is good for us, if we are exercising anaerobically. I sometimes eat 6 complete eggs for breakfast and 6 more later in the day.

    I think it is silly to eat the egg white and chuck out the yellow – God put the white and yellow in the egg for a good reason.

  12. Lodewyk
    October 11, 2010
    12:48 pm

    Hi Tom

    Great information, thanks!

    You have really set the bar with this article series of yours. Good, well-balanced, research-based information is in short supply (unless one wants to wade through all the research oneself). Thanks for doing the “wading” for us and presenting it in an understandable, conscise and readable form.

    Keep up the great work!

    BTW, maybe you can consider touching on the subject of the timing of some general, well-established supplements like L-Glutamine, creatine, etc. I’m probably not the only one who has been confused by conflicting recommendations (before workouts, during, post-workout, at bedtime, 3 times a day ….)

    Kind regards


  13. Sarah J
    October 11, 2010
    1:43 pm

    Good article! I’m in the army and there is always chocolate milk on hand in the chow hall and when we are in training or working out the nutritionists here encourage us to drink it to help with ‘delayed onset muscle soreness” works great too and so much cheaper than some other recovery supplements like L-glutamine, creatine, etc.


  14. Ahmed Serag
    October 11, 2010
    2:43 pm

    Great article!

    In general dairy is great but I’m convinced raw milk’s the real muscle builder!

  15. Alan
    October 11, 2010
    2:45 pm

    Hello Tom,

    This is a great article indeed. I am severely Lactose Intolerant and although I like whey protein shakes, I don’t like the subsequent side effects. Actually, most of the time I feel weaker and more drained after a shake because of all the stomach issues I go through. This also happen with any dairy food, not just whey protein, of course.

    I was wondering, I found a milk substitute for my morning coffee (Coffee Mate) that has no lactose at all and for me, it tastes great. However, it doesn’t work too well as a shake.

    What options does a person with Lactose Intolerance have in terms of getting a protein supplement?



    • Tom Venuto
      October 12, 2010
      4:10 pm

      Use non-dairy whole food proteins: eggs, chicken, fish, shellfish, very lean beef, etc. Some people who are lactose intolerant can handle whey protein supplement/powder if it is a very pure isolate, because isolates have most of the lactose removed

  16. Ai McGrew-Sakamoto
    October 11, 2010
    2:49 pm

    I love milk! I drink whole milk all the time, and since I cannot purchase raw milk in stores and it was taking too long to drive two hours to drive to a local farm with less than three milking cows (legal), I’ve been buying raw goat’s milk. My weight is constantly the same (50k) at 160 cm, and I feel great. I eat raw eggs (free range pasture) and I’ve never gotten sick!

  17. Matt
    October 11, 2010
    3:37 pm

    What about almond milk? I like it, (and so does my daughter, who is even more sensitive to lactose than I). Does it contain whey, or some other type of protein? It would be great if it contained the beneficial ones you speak of, then I can have the best of both worlds (avoiding the dairy milk, but still getting the benefits of the protein post-workout).


  18. Jim
    October 11, 2010
    9:42 pm

    Thanks for posting this Tom! I only really got into working out a few months ago (I’m 20) and some of the nutritional stuff has been confusing. I’ve seen both sides of this milk argument on different websites and I didn’t know what to believe. It makes a lot more sense now, so thanks for clarifying!

  19. Bob
    October 12, 2010
    9:39 am

    Hi Tom,

    My doctor who treats me for hormone inbalance (to become less obese) has asked me to cut out all dairy products. I find it very difficult because I enjoy milk (no fat) and low fat yoghurt – and it’s a great protein source. He says milk has lots of growth hormone that will make me fat, because at my age I don’t grow taller.. I am confused. Of course I do work out (kettlebells and cardio) and I try to eat paleo style.

    All the best, Bob

  20. HannahMecoe
    October 12, 2010
    4:05 pm

    And if dairy products trigger your asthma?

    • Tom Venuto
      October 12, 2010
      4:07 pm

      Do the same thing people who are lactose intolerant do – DONT use them!
      Plenty of other great proteins out there too.

      • HannahMecoe
        October 12, 2010
        8:34 pm

        such as? (Please don’t say processed soy…)

        • HannahMecoe
          October 23, 2010
          1:09 pm

          ah well…. At least you didn’t say I should ask my doctor to increase my steroid dosage, as one self-professed expert did. Last time I started drinking milk again, I ended up in hospital on oxygen and prednisone. Not easy to exercise under those conditions.

  21. Gabriel
    October 12, 2010
    5:42 pm

    Every person is different, but intake of milk for calcium and bones strength and so on are a myth. You can also point at the extensive research by Walter C. Willett, chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Willett and his colleagues investigated the milk-drinking habits of 72,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, basically they found out that women who drank milk twice a day were as likely to suffer a bone break as women who drank it once a week, also Dr. Collin Campbell who study Asian countries where they consume far less dairy dietary calcium than Americans and have one-fifth the bone fracture rate of Americans. The series of nutritional research is called “The China Study” over 30 years of research Campbell says Animal protein, such as the protein in milk, makes blood and tissues more acidic, and to neutralize this acid, the body pulls calcium, which is a very effective base, from the bones. Because dairy products contain substantial amounts of animal protein, drinking milk actually robs the bones of calcium, he says. The more meat and milk Americans eat, he says, the more calcium they need to consume to process that protein.I’ll think twice on dairy products and stick to exploring other sources of protein mainly plant based protein and maintaining the bones healthy not just momentarily but for longevity too.

    • Tom Venuto
      October 12, 2010
      6:29 pm

      This post had nothing to do with calcium. it was about the quality of dairy proteins particularly whey, in the context of improving body composition (building muscle and losing fat) and nutrient timing, in which case the research is quite clear in its conclusions. Re: acidity – to say that eating animal proteins causes acidity and loss of calcium is an oversimplification would be an understatement. RE: the china study, if you cite a vegetarian biased source, we can hardly be surprised at the conclusions drawn, which btw, are hardly causally proven. Epiemiology can only show associations.

  22. Chris
    October 12, 2010
    6:36 pm

    Thanks for the article.

    I am wondering about Soy protein as compared to dairy or whey and it’s effects before or after workouts as I don’t drink milk.


  23. Mike Navin
    October 13, 2010
    6:22 pm

    Yup, been taking chocolate milk post workout for years and love it. Big times savings on the wallet based on the protein supplements that I had been taking in the past and the results are just as good (if not better).

  24. Gordon
    October 13, 2010
    9:10 pm

    The more you live the more you learn. I had the wrong conception about milk. (dairy products in general)

  25. Matt the Whey Protein Guy
    October 16, 2010
    4:39 pm

    Well as a former pro-athlete and nutritionist I’d say avoid milk at all costs because it’s pasteurized and homogenized which means it’s lost almost all of it’s natural benefits. Yet on the other hand, I do recommend whey protein which comes from the natural cheese process.

    Whey contains the optimal amount of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids (for building muscle) and Glutathione – the number one antioxidant in the world. However not all whey proteins are the same. I recently wrote an article over here on organic whey protein powder you should check out for some great tips and info.

  26. Ralph Thompson
    October 18, 2010
    6:07 am

    great post thanks

  27. Philip
    October 28, 2010
    7:54 pm

    I have an issue with dairy fat but am fine with lactose. I can really only handle fat free or 1% milk. I get confused when I read the packages of protein powders. If it says casein, does that mean the protein is extracted without the fat? And I have seen products that contain whey, casein, and milk protein. Isn’t that redundant because milk protein IS whey and casein?

    Currently I combine two powders post workout, one soy and one whey. My digestion does well with that, but is that a good post workout shake? I also I find I can’t stomach solid food for an hour after an intense workout, so feel I need a shake.

  28. Tpaul
    November 3, 2010
    6:45 pm

    Tom, great post! I’m actually writing a paper for an Exercise Science class I’m taking right now (I’m a college sophomore majoring in Exercise Science and Dietetics) focusing on the argument of whether or not dairy is viable for fat loss. Great read, and good info for me to use in my research! Thanks!

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