Nature's near-perfect recovery drink

Nature's near-perfect recovery drink

When you train many physiological changes occur; you deplete your muscle and liver glycogen (carbohydrate) stores, create small micro-tears in your muscle fibres, lose bodily fluids and electrolytes, and suppress your immune system. However, the training you complete also provides a stimulus for your body to adapt, to become fitter, faster, stronger, leaner, or more economical. What many athletes do not realise is the nutrients you consume post exercise are just as important as the training session you have completed. Consuming the correct nutrients allows you to take advantage of the exercise-induced stimulus and maximise your adaptation to your training session.

Most people opt for a protein shake post gym session, or a Lucozade after a run, but do these nutritional strategies maximise your adaptation? Are they going to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth and repair)? Or resynthesise your muscle glycogen stores? One natural, cost effective and easily accessible recovery drink is milk - lets take a look why.

Muscle Repair and Growth

Consuming protein post exercise initiates muscle protein synthesis, the process of repairing and growing muscle fibres. A large glass of milk (500ml) contains approximately 15 grams of protein, and has a combination of both whey (20%) and casein (80%). In addition to protein’s muscle repair and growth properties, it enhances insulin secretion and sensitivity, increasing the amount of glycogen (carbohydrate) resynthesis.

Muscle and Liver Glycogen (Carbohydrate) Resynthesis

Consuming approximately 1-1.5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight as soon as possible after exercise will help to replenish muscle and liver glycogen stores. Milk contains approximately 5 grams of carbohydrate per 100ml, although a large glass of milk won’t provide all of the carbohydrate needed, it will provide a significant amount. Combining milk with a carbohydrate snack, such as a banana, flapjack or dried fruit, after endurance or high-intensity training sessions will help you to refuel for subsequent training. Additionally, the carbohydrate found in milk will help offset the immune suppression caused by your training session.

Fluid Losses and Electrolytes

Milk is an extremely effective rehydration drink; it has a higher sodium concentration and promotes greater fluid retention than commercially available carbohydrate drinks, such as Lucozade and Powerade.  In addition to the carbohydrate, protein and electrolytes, milk also contains fat-soluble vitamins and several other minerals including potassium and magnesium.

The next time you finish a tough training session why not give milk a go? It is a natural and practical recovery strategy that can save you money in the long run!


About the Author

Mark holds a BSc (Honours) degree in Sport and Exercise Science and an MSc in Sport and Exercise Nutrition from Loughborough University. He is currently working as a Performance Nutritionist for the England and Wales Cricket Board with both the England Women’s Academy and Midlands Regional Disability Cricket squads. Additionally, Mark is a graduate member of the Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENr), an ISAK Level 1 Anthropometrist and a UK Anti-Doping advisor.