It is well recognized that milk is a great source of protein, calcium, and Vitamin D, potassium and other essential nutrients that can aid in bone growth, heart health, building muscle and warding off cancer. Recent research highlights some additional benefits of milk you may not be aware of.
In a recent paper published by researchers at Scotland’s Saint Andrews University, skim milk topped a list of common beverages when it came to providing oral hydration. Milk beat out water, sports drinks and oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte. Electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, contribute to better hydration. Calories in beverages result in slower gastric emptying and, therefore, slower release of urination, resulting in better hydration. The thirteen beverages tested, listed in order of hydration, were skim milk, oral rehydration solutions (like Pedialyte), full fat milk, orange juice, cola, diet cola, cold tea, tea, sports drinks, still water, sparkling water, lager and coffee. While coffee ranks lowest for hydration, adding milk to the coffee may counter some of coffee’s diuretic effects.
The reason why milk is so effective compared to water is because of its combination of sugar lactose, protein, and tiny fat percentage. These substances slow down the rate at which fluids are emptied from the stomach which provides longer-lasting hydration. Moreover, milk contains electrolytes like sodium and potassium which helps your body retain the fluids in your bloodstream for a longer period of time rather than quickly processing it into urine.
This information may be especially important for individuals who dehydrate rapidly, such as athletes and those doing strenuous labor. The body relies on hydration to fight infections, carry nutrients throughout the body and lubricate joints. It appears hydration should be added to the list of the superpowers of milk.
Chocolate milk also received a special notice for its role in helping high school athletes outperform peers who did not drink chocolate milk in a study done by the University of Texas at Austin. Researchers in that study highlighted chocolate milk’s carbohydrate to protein ratio compared to beverages such as sports drinks. The research was conducted in 2018 and published in the 2019 Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. It showed that, in strength tests, high school athletes drinking chocolate milk lifted 3.5% more than before the study while the adolescents drinking a commercial sports drink lifted 3.2% less than before.
Drinking chocolate milk within 30 minutes after a workout rehydrates, repairs and replenishes the body. The naturally occurring electrolytes and 90% water content rehydrate, while the 8 grams of protein helps repair muscles. The carbohydrate to protein ratio in chocolate milk was shown to be more beneficial than carbohydrate only sports drinks in improving athlete performance as part of a strength and speed training at a high school level. Previous studies all looked at adults, but never at before at high school athlete for whom nutrition is especially critical.
Chocolate milk contains carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, as well as water and electrolytes, which may be ideal for post-exercise recovery. The evidence regarding the efficacy of chocolate milk compared to either water or other “sport drinks” on post-exercise recovery markers was also reviewed by researchers in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition who conducted an analysis of twelve different studies on it effects. They concluded that “chocolate milk provides either similar or superior results when compared to placebo or other recovery drinks. Overall, the evidence is limited and high-quality clinical trials with more well-controlled methodology and larger sample sizes are warranted.”
So it seems we have even more reason to drink up.