Milk Protein Superior for Muscle Growth

How Milk Protein Improves Lean Mass

Finding the best protein to build muscle still remains a question for many trying to gain lean mass and lose fat.

The Research

Milk Based Protein
Milk Protein Superior for Improved Muscle Growth. Purestock/Getty Images

The American College of Sports Medicine's recent stand on optimal protein sources indicated milk-based protein is a superior choice. Numerous studies have backed up this statement with strong evidence that “milk-based protein after resistance exercise is effective in increasing muscle strength and favorable changes in body composition.” Further research on drinking whole and fat-free milk has also shown to promote greater lean mass gains and improved strength. In yet another study, only the milk-based protein consumers were able to lose fat. It appears nothing fancy or expensive is required to enhance our muscle and cut fat but a cold glass of milk.

Why Milk Protein is Best

Milk Protein
Milk Protein Benefits Aging Muscle. Pamplemousse/Getty Images

Milk-based or dairy protein appears to be superior largely due to its leucine content along with easily digested and absorbed branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Leucine is considered the primary amino acid in the BCAA makeup and responsible for muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth). Whey protein is also derived from milk and is the byproduct left over from cheese production. Being a milk-based protein, it’s also high in leucine and the common denominator for improved muscle development. The American Society for Nutrition conducted a study on 48 healthy men over 74 years of age and concluded whey protein effectively stimulated muscle protein. With age, there is a decline in skeletal muscle. The purpose of the study was to show consuming milk-based protein would stimulate muscle improvement. The findings were supportive of the research and indicated “this effect is attributed to a combination of whey's faster digestion and absorption kinetics and higher leucine content.”

Drinking Milk Found Effective

Milk Protein
Milk Promotes Muscle Growth in Young Female Athletes. Johner Images/Getty Images

Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise examined the effects of fat-free milk consumption on young athletic women. The purpose of the study was to determine if drinking milk after resistance training would increase lean mass and reduce fat. The research lasted for a 12-week period and the women consumed either fat-free milk or nutrient equivalent carbohydrate. Although lean mass increased in both groups, those who drank milk had greater muscle gains. Ironically, fat loss was only indicated in the milk group. Increased strength was reported in both groups but again, the women consuming milk realized the greatest improvement. The undeniable results show milk as “an effective drink to support favorable body composition changes in women with resistance training.” 

Milk Protein is Better than Soy

Milk Protein
Milk Protein Enhanced Muscle Growth in Young Men. Cultura RM/Corey Jenkins/Getty Images

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared drinking fat-free milk to consuming soy protein or nutrient equivalent carbohydrate. The purpose of the research was to prove the long-term effects of different protein sources on muscle growth. The study was conducted on 56 young healthy men who resistance trained 5-days per week. The participants consumed fat-free milk, fat-free soy protein or nutrient equivalent carbohydrate directly after their workouts. Lean mass gains were made in all groups, but the greatest increases occurred for the men drinking milk only. Greater bone density and fat loss were also better in the milk group. Research results indicated drinking milk post-workout promotes greater muscle hypertrophy (growth) with resistance training than the soy or nutrient equivalent carbohydrate.

Milk Protein is Superior

Milk Protein
Milk Protein Helps Premenopausal Women. skynesher/Getty Images

The American Society of Nutrition conducted a study examining the effects of varying levels of dairy, protein, reduced calories and combined with exercise on overall body composition. There were 90 female participants all premenopausal and overweight but otherwise healthy. They were separated into 3 groups and consumed adequate protein and low dairy (APLD), adequate protein and medium dairy (APMD), or high protein and high dairy (HPHD). The liquid dairy protein source was low-fat milk rich in leucine, the main amino acid responsible for muscle growth. Additionally, the women were required to perform aerobic exercise daily as part of the program and for a 16-week period. It was discovered high protein and dairy intake showed the best results. “We observed what we view as a highly beneficial profile of weight loss in the HPHD group: greater total fat and visceral fat losses, greater lean mass gains, and increases in strength despite identical body weight loss." They also contributed the HPHD group outcomes benefited from milk-based protein rich in branch-chained amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine. 

Conclusions and Takeaway

Milk Protein
Milk Protein Superior for Lean Mass and Fat Loss. MichaelSvoboda/Getty Images

Chronic studies like those above do show consuming milk-based protein after workouts as effective for increasing our muscle, losing fat and gaining strength. The wide variety of research from older men, premenopausal women, young female athletes and resistance trained men is remarkable. The results all favor one conclusion and support dairy proteins superior to others. However, further research is warranted to examine other high-quality protein sources like eggs, lean meats, and vegetable proteins. It’s important to gather comparable information on how other proteins affect muscle growth, fat loss, and body composition post workout. Additionally, it may be recommended to examine active individuals and athletes depending on protein supplementation as a practical way to meet their protein needs. Wrapping up, the science backed evidence conclusive in all above cases on whole food milk protein research strongly indicates significant improvement in muscle growth. Great news for milk drinkers!

Sources

Position Stand, Nutrition and Athletic Performance, 2016 by the American College of Sports Medicine, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Dietitians of Canada

Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Body composition and strength changes in women with milk and resistance exercise, Josse AR et al., 6/10

American Journal of Physiology, Stimulation of net muscle protein synthesis by whey protein ingestion before and after exercise, Kevin D. Tipton et al., 1/07

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Consumption of fat-free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters, Hartman JW et al., 8/07

National Institutes of Health, Journal of Nutrition, Increased consumption of dairy foods and protein during diet- and exercise-induced weight loss promotes fat mass loss and lean mass gain in overweight and obese premenopausal women, Josse AR et al., 7/20/11

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Whey protein stimulates postprandial muscle protein accretion more effectively than do casein and casein hydrolysate in older men, Bart Pennings et al., 2/15/11

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