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Milk: The Best Muscle-Builder?

Milk Helps Build More Muscle After Exercise Than Soy, Carb Drinks, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 8, 2007 -- Drink milk after your weight training workouts, and you may gain more muscle and lose more body fat than if you drink a soy or carbohydrate drink, according to the results of a new study.

Researchers compared the effects of drinking nonfat milk, a soy protein drink, or a carbohydrate drink on building muscle and burning fat after completing weight lifting workouts.

All three groups gained muscle, but the milk drinkers got the best results, says researcher Stuart M. Phillips, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology and an exercise physiologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The study was funded by the National Dairy Council and published in the Aug. 1 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Study Details

Phillips and his colleagues recruited 56 healthy young men, average age 22, and assigned them to drink milk, a soy drink, or a carbohydrate drink immediately after their weight training exercises and then an hour later. "They drank 2 cups each time," Phillips tells WebMD.

The drinks were all vanilla-flavored, served in opaque containers, and had an identical number of calories --178 per serving. The milk and soy drinks were matched for protein, fat, and carb content. Each had 18 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fat, and 23 grams of carbohydrate.

Participants weight-trained five days a week for 12 weeks, and all the participants were novices. They had not done any weight training for the past eight months. The exercises were done on standard weight training machines, which worked out all the major muscle groups, with participants increasing repetitions as they gained strength. Each session lasted about one hour.

At the study start, the researchers measured each participant's body composition, noting the amount of lean mass and fat mass. They repeated the measurements at the end of the study.

The milk drinkers gained the most muscle. "The gains of muscle in the milk group were 8.8 pounds, vs. 6 pounds for the soy group, vs. 5.3 pounds for the control group [drinking the carbohydrate drink]," says Phillips. "The group that drank the milk gained 60% more muscle than the carbohydrate group and 40% more than the soy group," Phillips says.

Those who drank milk also had more strength gains than the other two groups in two kinds of individual exercises: knee extensions and hamstring curls.

The milk drinkers also lost more body fat. "They lost almost 2 pounds of body fat," he says. "The soy group barely changed in terms of body fat. It was about a third of a pound. In the control group (the carbohydrate drinkers) it was about a pound of body fat lost."

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