Milk is the unsung hero of any gym-goer’s fridge.
Kinda like Quincy Jones, the man behind Michael Jackson’s finest work. Or the guy who invented that “hide all posts” button on Facebook just before your friend started selling “detox tea”.
We all have that one friend who encourages us to ditch bodybuilding supplements and start chugging a pint of milk after the gym.
But do we listen?
Do we fuck.
We continue with whey, and the barrage of added extras we’ve combined it with over the years that leave us feeling like an undercover drugs mule while pulling our shaker from our locker.
After all, that friend usually also has a goatee, recommends eating raw beetroots, or “living like a caveman” (despite shopping at Tesco), so we drop this suggestion in the crazy bin.
But we shouldn’t.
Look, telling you that you can drink milk for protein pretty much violates every rule of muscle building magazines.
On those glossy pages, you’re told to spend your hard earned cash on every protein powder under the sun in your quest to look like that guy on the magazine cover (despite the fact that the main supplement he’s using is Vitamin S).
So please bear in mind that by saying “you could just drink milk for your protein” I’m leaving myself open to a sneak attack from a team of highly trained assassins with huge biceps.
But here’s the thing: I’m not saying you should replace whey with milk. I’m just saying it has certain situations where it is fucking brilliant (more on that in a moment).
Because milk is a great source of protein.
You see, the nutritional statistics for a 600ml serving of milk are:
- 20.4g protein
- 0.6g fat
- 30g carbohydrates
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may remember me telling you that 20 grams of protein has been shown to provide optimal results of muscle protein synthesis (even compared to 40g), and 30 grams of carbs will perform as capably as a 90g serving.
So what we have here is damn near perfect post-workout nutrition for a hard weights session.
The amount of fat you obtain via milk depends on the type of milk you are drinking (low fat, organic, skimmed, semi-skimmed, whole).
Which type of milk is best for muscle growth?
Well, it’s all good.
The example I used above is skimmed milk, as it’s the one most people stock their fridge with.
Although some people suggest that milk with higher fat intake offers a slight improvement in protein synthesis, these improvements are not significant enough to worry about and are down to the fact that full fat milk contains more saturated fat, which is good for regulating key hormones involved in the muscle building process. Instead, I’d suggest that it’s more important to simply find a milk that you enjoy, and that fits your macronutrient requirements more suitably (i.e. there is no point consuming full fat milk for a very small improvement in protein synthesis if you don’t like the taste and the product makes you go over your daily fat intake).
Besides, you could offset those small benefits by just getting more saturated fat from your food instead.
Bring on the bacon!
But despite it’s clear muscle building benefits, milk is often shunned as a protein source.
Before the supplement industry really took off, milk was among the easiest ways to pack more protein into your daily diet, and a firm favourite among strength athletes and bodybuilders.
Really, it still is an easy way to pack protein into your diet.
It’s just that fitness industry is geared around supplements.
Although, a fair few old-school trainers still use it over whey protein. Heck, back in my early days of training I received this tip from former WWE Superstar The Ultimate Warrior. Face paint and all.
What a fucking beast he was.
Warrior would regularly support his rigorous training regime with a gallon of cold white glory.
Milk Vs Whey
So is milk better than a whey protein supplement for building muscle?
To answer this questions, let’s compare milk vs whey.
I’ll use Myprotein Impact Whey as the supplement comparison today, but you could do this with any whey protein supplement, of course. See the product here.
Now, doing this presents a couple of surprises.
- Protein blends are great for muscle growth
In a recent article, I explained that you can experience slightly better muscle building results by using a protein supplement which gives you a blend of different protein sources (i.e. whey, egg, casein, soy, etc) instead of relying on one source (i.e. whey alone).
This is why I always advise you guys to stay away from ridiculously expensive whey protein isolates, which don’t perform as well as blends, despite costing more.
Like many supplements today, Myprotein Impact Whey is just straight-up whey protein and nothing else.
When it comes to protein sources, I’m a huge fan of casein.
You see, casein is fantastic for hitting your protein requirements while also curbing appetite between meals, thanks to the slower digestion speed versus whey.
This is great news for milk too, of course, given that milk is about 80% casein!
So while today’s piece aims to compare milk vs whey for muscle growth, I would always advise you to grab a protein supplement that combines whey with other sources of protein for a more complete experience, like this one.
- Milk is cheaper than whey… kind of
Whenever people present you with the idea of consuming milk instead of a whey protein supplement, 9 times out of 10 they cite “It’ll save you lots of money” as their main selling point for doing so.
In reality, milk generally is cheaper but the difference isn’t as big as proclaimed.
Likewise, anybody involved with a supplement company who claims that their product is cheaper than milk is lying about the price of milk in their local area.
The standard price of a 4 pint bottle of milk here in the UK is £1. I’ve heard supplement industry hacks boosting those numbers as high as £1.85 just to give their product the edge in a price comparison.
So I call BS on that.
As you’ll see below, whey has numerous benefits attached to it’s slightly higher overall price.
For instance, if we were to compare the pound-for-pound nutritional breakdown of the products today, we’d see that Myprotein Impact Whey gives you:
- 21g protein
- 1.9g fat
- 1g cabohydrates
It contains fewer carbohydrates than the milk (more on that in a second) but the main thing I want to look at right now is our protein per serving.
Myprotein Impact Whey costs around £0.28 per serving. (0.011p for every solid gram of protein)
If we head to Tesco and pick up some milk, it’d cost us around £0.26 per serving. (0.010p for every solid gram of protein)
Yep, per gram of protein, milk is about 9% cheaper than whey.
Let’s take this over a full month. If you are consuming two servings per day, then by the end of the month you’d have spent about £16.80 with whey, and about £15.60 with milk.
Of course, these numbers can change depending upon the supplement we use.
For example, PhD Diet Whey (a very popular supplement in the UK, despite it’s hefty price tag and mere 68% protein-per-serving) comes out at £0.49 per serving, while Pro Jym (just 69% protein-per-serving) fumbles home at £1.14 per serving. CytoSport Muscle Milk (only 45% protein-per-serving) arrives at £0.72 per serving. Then we have CNP Pro Whey (73% protein-per-serving) at £0.56 per serving, and the very respectable Whey Protein 80 by The Protein Works (79% protein-per-serving) comes in at £0.31 per serving, which is within touching distance of Myprotein’s stellar product.
So while milk is certainly useful as a post-workout shake, if you can find the right whey protein supplement you should notice that there isn’t too much difference price-wise at all.
- High carbohydrate content
Unless you are using a bullshit “mass gainer” that is loaded with sugar, it is fairly straightforward to locate a whey protein which contains about 80% protein-per-serving.
Notice that the products listed above which come in much more expensive than milk are generally products that also falter with their protein-per-serving ratio.
One of the reasons Myprotein Impact Whey fared so well above is it’s 87% protein-per-serving ratio.
It’s this convenience which makes whey the more sensible long-term choice for most fitness enthusiasts, as it enables you to hit your daily protein requirements without making too much of a dent in your carbohydrate or fat targets.
A high PPS ratio really drives down the cost for every gram of protein, and one of the reasons preventing milk from being the definitive protein source is that it only contains 40% protein-per-serving.
With every drink, you are packing away a lot of carbohydrates, all of which are in the form of fast-digesting, sugary carbs.
This is good after training, but becomes problematic if consumed at other times of the day.
There are two reasons for this.
First up, it’s a good idea to get the bulk of your carbohydrate intake from slow-release, complex carbs as this will keep you feeling more satisfied throughout the day, lowering your temptation to snack.
Secondly, consuming a lot of your carbs in liquid form is (from experience) a fucking nightmare.
It’s easy to go over your total daily calorie target this way.
That’s one of the reasons I advise my clients to look for whey protein shakes that have very low carbohydrate figures, because carbs are a whole lot more satisfying/fun to eat than drink.
- Extra Curricular Nutrition
The supplement market is littered with products that increase their cost-per-gram-of-protein by including unnecessary ingredients, such as creamers and fillers, which provide no nutritional values.
And the current trend is to throw in a selection of “fat burners”, which are then over-hyped on the packaging, and billed as some sort of miracle weight loss protein.
I encourage you to stay away from this side of the business.
One such product genre which does this is diet whey.
Sure, ingredients like green tea extract and taurine have their own set of benefits but the dosages in any diet whey are so small there’s no chance you are going to experience those benefits unless you are literally drip-feeding the stuff all day long.
Milk doesn’t get off the hook lightly here either.
Fitness professionals will often encourage you to opt for organic milk. Organic milk is more expensive than regular milk, and the reasoning behind this recommendation is because it’ll provide you with more Omega-3, CLA and vitamin E versus regular milk.
But, again, you’d need to be putting away mountainous levels of organic milk to consume any of the above ingredients in a high enough dosage to see the potential benefits from them.
So, unless you simply prefer the taste of organic milk, save your money.
Besides, research on CLA is sketchy at best, and given that you are a fitness enthusiast, you are probably already obtaining your Omega-3 and a good portion of daily vitamins through your existing diet and/or dedicated supplements which do those jobs perfectly fine already.
If I’m expected to give a “winner”, then I have to recommend you continue using whey protein over milk.
With the right supplement, you can reduce any price difference to a fractional amount, and the convenience of being able to hit your daily protein target without chopping into your carbs/fats too significantly has always been a big winner in my eyes.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course, because some whey protein manufacturers take the absolute piss. But on the whole, that’s the way to go.
However, we should not dismiss the muscle building benefits of milk.
Milk is indeed one of the best ways to get your post-workout nutrition if you have run out of whey! I see too many people skip their post-workout recovery shake when they could just have a drink of the cold white stuff.
If you really wanted to experiment with using milk for muscle growth, the smart way would be to substitute your post-workout shake for a 600ml serving of milk (as detailed above) and keep your whey protein for any other times of the day.
The 30 grams of carbohydrates will come in very handy after a hard training session, meaning you get all of the benefits and none of the potential drawbacks.
When tasked to do the job of a post-workout bodybuilding supplement, it’ll get it done. Because Facundo.
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