Researchers, bloggers and fitness experts have all proclaimed they’ve found the next big thing in exercise recovery -- milk. Their reasoning: Milk may be more effective for rehydration compared to alternatives, due to its nutrient content.
In fact, one recent study published in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism journal, suggested that milk was better than traditional sports drinks for post-exercise recovery. During the study, 15 male athletes participated in a series of cycling trials, and following each workout, they rehydrated with one of four drinks: a sports drink, cow’s milk, soy milk and a milk-based protein drink.
The researchers found that drinking a milk-based beverage helped the athletes retain a greater percentage of water. In other words, milk-based drinks helped draw water and electrolytes into the body. The only catch: Several participants struggled to drink milk following the trials – and a few even got sick from drinking it.
Should you start glugging milk after your workouts? Or is the milk-as-recovery-drink hype overblown? Here’s what science says:
Electrolytes Are the Key to Post-Workout Hydration
Sodium is a necessity in exercise recovery, because when we sweat we lose a lot of it. Thus, during post-workout, we need to replace fluids, as well as lost sodium and other electrolytes, to prevent dehydration. Therefore, an ideal recovery drink contains electrolytes. In fact, drinking plain water can contribute to dehydration, by creating an even greater electrolyte imbalance.
Unsurprisingly, all three milk-based drinks contained greater levels of sodium compared to the sports drink, which is one of the main reasons why milk was more effective in rehydration.
But fast rehydration requires more than sodium. The sodium must be balanced properly with sugar and other electrolytes.
Here’s why that’s important: When the right amount of sodium and glucose are present in the intestine, our bodies absorb water more rapidly. Therefore, an ideal ratio of electrolytes and sugars can help us rehydrate faster. Sports drinks contain a lot of sugar, but not enough sodium. The ratio isn’t formulated to maximize rehydration.
With milk, the ratio of calories, protein and sodium is better for athletes, the researchers concluded. But that doesn’t mean milk is a perfect hydration drink. True, it does have benefits following exercise, but following strenuous, prolonged exercise, milk might not contain enough sodium to truly maximize rehydration and replace lost electrolytes. Plus, milk can be difficult or impossible to drink, especially for those who are lactose intolerant.
What is clear: Electrolytes – or more specifically, a precise balance of electrolytes – are extremely important for post-workout recovery.
DripDrop is a doctor-formulated rehydration drink. It contains ratio of sodium, sugar and electrolytes designed to maximize rehydration for everyone – from athletes, to children and the elderly.