I was browsing Twitter the other day and noticed my pal Craig Ballantyne had posted this tweet…
I thought Craig was spot on with this…
I’m not a big milk drinker at all. I usually will have 8 oz of chocolate milk post-workout but other than that I stay away from it.
I’ve always said nutrition is not my specialty… I’m an expert when it comes to fat loss. I can tell you what to eat and what not to eat when it comes to losing fat and getting in shape, but the intricate details of specific foods is beyond my knowledge.
So I decided to reach out to my fellow bloggers, nutritionists and strength coaches to see their opinions on milk.
And as you’ll see, this might be the most controversial topic around…. Some say no milk at all, while others say only raw milk, and yet other coaches encourage their athletes to drink it. This is definitely a discussion worth reading…
The Truth About Milk
Here’s what everyone had to say…
Zach Even-Esh from Undergroundstrengthcoach.com
“I found Milk to be an awesome source of nutrition for myself and those under the age of 23 or so.
Once we reach our mid-20s the body develops allergens to many dairy products and it can sometimes have a negative effect, especially when trying to lean out and keep energy levels high.
But, for those looking to gain weight and muscle mass and have a tough time doing so, Milk is a very convenient source of nutrition and can be extremely effective in the aid of building muscle and gaining body mass when combined with a quality training regime.
I personally stay away from milk but for my younger athletes I have found it to be an excellent addition to their daily eating habits, as I found it to be for myself back when I was a teen.”
Read more from Zach at Underground Strength Coach
Jason Ferruggia from JasonFerruggia.com
” Cows milk is unfit for human consumption. It’s meant to feed baby cows, not adult humans. In fact humans are the only species that drinks the milk of another species.
To counter this argument I once heard someone say that if you put a bowl of cows milk in front of another animal they would drink it. This may be true, but obviously it’s a weak argument because this would never happen in nature. The fact is that a pig or a sheep would never wander over to a cow and suck on it’s udder.
According to Dr. Hiromi Shinya, author of The Enzyme Factor, and someone who has studied gastrointestinal health longer than I’ve been a alive, nothing is harder on the digestive system than milk. But I didn’t need to read that book to tell you that. Most adult humans are lactose intolerant to some degree. We have the ability to digest lactose as babies but lose it as we age.
Milk not only causes numerous digestive problems but it also causes excessive mucus production and decreases your immune system response. I have actually “cured” several people I know personally of asthma and other respiratory problems just by removing dairy from their diets.
On top of all that, dairy is an inflammatory food. This alone, would make it something I would avoid, as removing inflammatory foods from your diet can make a huge difference in your recovery ability and overall health.
Finally, from a physique perspective, lactose isn’t a great carb source and it’s well known amongst bodybuilders that milk bloats you and smooths out your abs. I assume nobody wants that.
And if I haven’t given you enough reasons to avoid milk let me finish by saying there is some evidence to suggest that milk may even lower your testosterone levels.”
You can read more from Jason at JasonFerruggia.com
Leigh Peele from LeighPeele.com
“Milk is a highly controversial topic. It roots fear and misunderstanding of how things work. Since I only have a few paragraphs, I will try to consolidate common issues raised.
Non-Organic Milk has hormones – While cows are given recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), they get it through injections. Their bodies (and ours) terminate this hormone in digestion. In short, if there were a remnant of rGBH in your milk, you would destroy it in the digestion process. If concerned select a hormone-free milk.
Dairy causes allergies – Dairy allergies are actually rare. Intolerance to lactose is not the same as allergies. When you are lactose intolerant, you do not produce enough enzymes to breakdown the sugar in dairy. This can vary in degrees for individuals and races. Taking an oral enzyme can relive this, it is not the case if an allergy. If an issue, use a Lactose-Free Milk.
Milk causes cancer or gives up antibiotic resistance – There are no studies to testify in any way milk causes cancer. The studies you often see referenced and discussed are epidemiology studies and have no cause/effect result. As to antibiotics, it has not been proven but if concerned you can drink hormone-free/antibiotic-free milks.
The fact is research has shown more positive associations to milk than negative. Milk has been shown to aid in fat loss, aid in satiation and increase ease of LBM growth. It is a cheap source of food and a perfect combination of fast and slow digesting protein. With all research and experts making claims, don’t take anyones word for it. If in doubt, look at the studies yourself.”
You can read more from Leigh at LeighPeele.com
Mike O’ Donnell from Fitnessspotlight.com
“Muscle magazines and supplement companies can be thanked for the recent hype of quick digesting (whey) protein powders in the last several decades.
This idea came from the fact that quick proteins could stimulate more protein synthesis (aka build more muscle).
This is true in one small sense and also highly misleading in another. Turns out that while you may be able to initially increase protein synthesis in the short-term (especially after a workout) with quick digesting proteins, you are not really going to increase whole body protein synthesis in the long run.
What this means is that in test groups using a fast digesting protein source (whey) and a slow digesting one (casein), over the long term 24hrs there is no advantage in whole body protein synthesis to using the quick digesting one.
While whey may initially elevate higher amino acid availability for protein synthesis, it will also increase amino acid oxidation. However a slow digesting protein will give the body the slow and steady release of amino acids it needs for protein synthesis without increasing amino acid oxidation.
So what does that all mean? It means that the strongmen from long ago knew what they were talking about when they would eat a couple meals a day and drink raw whole milk all other times.
Milk is the perfect source for the slower digesting proteins (casein) while also having plenty of essential amino acids as seen in whey. It’s no wonder nature made this the ultimate food for any infant species to grow on.
If you are wanting to gain muscle, whole milk is one of the best tools out there. So called “hardgainers” find that they can really start to make progress once they focus on eating enough in the first place. Milk (whole, never skim) is by far the easiest way to get in those extra calories, slow releasing amino acids, and the best post workout drink you will ever find!
So focus less about all the complicated supplement driven science promoting meal and nutrient timing, and just eat enough slow digesting foods daily in the first place. Whether your goal is weight loss or muscle gaining, the strategy is the same just with different calorie loads. Turns out that milk “does a body good” after all.”
Read more from Mike at Fitness Spotlight
Scott Bird From StraightToTheBar.com
“I don’t actually drink milk, or consume it at all. There are much better sources of the many positives associated with the stuff.
Personally, my diet is a slightly modified Paleo approach (more here : https://www.straighttothebar.com/v2/showthread.php?t=2310), and has been paying huge dividends in my training. It’s also brought on noticeable improvements in health; ranging from improved eyesight and hearing to improved short-term memory.
In short – I realize milk is enjoyed by many people, but I’d never recommend it.”
Read more from Scott at Straight To The Bar
Mark Sisson from MarksDailyApple.com
“I knew going in this was going to be a tricky one, because dairy, especially raw and/or fermented full-fat dairy, resides in a Primal gray area.
The literature, the evolutionary reasoning, and the anecdotal reports all unanimously point to sugar, cereal grains and legumes, processed foods, and industrial vegetable oils as being net negatives on the human metabolic spectrum, but dairy is somewhat different.
The widespread presence of lactose intolerants, who still make up a majority of the world’s inhabitants, is somewhat compelling evidence that maybe dairy isn’t the ideal food many assume it to be.
Worldwide, we see that most people aren’t adapted to lactose consumption after age four, when many of us lose the ability to properly digest lactose (actually gene expression for the enzymes involved in lactose digestion are down-regulated).
Nevertheless, it would appear that among many people, most of whom can trace ancestry back to herding cultures, some adaptation has taken place that allows them to continue to effectively digest lactose throughout their lives. I would never argue that a lactose intolerant person should drink milk; if it makes you feel like crap, don’t eat it!”
Read more from Mark at MarksDailyApple.com
Joe Hashey from Synergy Athletics
“I do advocate that my athletes drink milk with their meals in school and during the day. For one, its a great way to get protein in their diets, but it also gives them valuable calories. These kids need to eat! I’ll take milk over what a typical high school age athlete drinks any day.
A few months back I was exchanging emails with an old school lifter, Steve Jeck, and he was telling me about the classic 20 rep squat program. Basically you do 20 reps of squat and drink milk. Not too complicated, and it actually WORKED for lots of people to add muscle mass to their legs.
Studies have shown that chocolate milk is a good post-workout drink. As a matter of fact, Washington University used to give it to their football players in 2007 right after practice as a means to facilitate post-exercise carbohydrate replenishment. Of course, you need to moderate when you consume milk as it may make some people feel “bloated” so it is usually not recommended pre-workout or competition.”
Read more from Joe at Synergy Athletics
Scott Kustes from FitnessSpotlight.com
From a health perspective, my feelings on milk have changed quite a bit over the last five years. When I first got into this nutrition thing, it was via Dr. Cordain’s “The Paleo Diet,” and as we all know, dairy is forbidden. However, over the years, I’ve come to more of a middle-ground, merging stuff from Weston A. Price Foundation, Dr. Cordain, and numerous other people I’ve had the pleasure to interact with.
Basically, many, many cultures have thrived on raw milk. I think a lot of the problem is modern processing techniques of pasteurization and homogenization that change the bacterial content and the structure/size of the fats and proteins.
So here’s the low-down on milk for me. Raw milk is best. If you can get it from a farmer you trust, have at it. Whole milk is second best…you need the fat to absorb the vitamins and its a lot closer to “natural” than skim milk. Reduced-fat (1% & 2%) and skim milk are disasters – avoid them.
Obviously, this is only relevant if you are in the group of people that can actually digest milk properly. If you’re lactose-intolerant, you’re best off to avoid it, though as I understand it, some lactose-intolerant people do fine with raw milk or fermented dairy like kefir and yogurt.
As an aside, lots of people have turned to milk substitutes, particularly soy milk, in hopes of avoiding “dangerous animal products”. While the soy milk marketing campaigns are impressive, they are full of it. The only thing I’ll say about this is “DON’T DRINK SOY MILK!” Yes, it calls for all caps. Soy milk is a sub-par product, full of antinutrients and a horrible omega-6:omega-3 ratio.
Coconut milk is a great choice if you’re looking to get less dairy into your life (and it’s a great thing to have around even if you drink milk regularly cause it’s just awesome).
As far as athleticism, milk is great for building muscle. If you need calories, liquid calories are the easiest place to get them. Lots of people have success with a gallon of raw or whole milk every day, coupled with heavy lifting. It’s a tough combination to beat for adding mass.
You can read more from Scott at FitnessSpotlight.com
Rob Pilger from BoxingPerformance.com
“Depends on what type of milk. I’ve pulled this from Paul Chek’s How to eat, move, and be healthy book, and Sally Fallon’s Nourishing traditions book, both are must haves!
Milk that has been commercially produced and pasteurized and that has been through homogenization has little nutritional value as the pasteurization kills important enzymes as well as badly damaging and destroying amino acids and vitamins/minerals. This then puts unnecessary strain on the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes.
Want to read a book that will scare the shit out of you? Read Milk The Deadly Poison by Robert Cohen.
Homogenization increases the chances of incomplete protein digestion in the small intestine which can sensitize the immune system and lead to milk intolerance/allergy. Doesn’t sound like much fun does it? Don’t you just love the saying, Milk does the body good! Commercially produced milk also has hormones/antibiotics in it. Sounds pretty healthy huh?
Raw milk contains lactic acid producing bacteria that protects us against pathogens. All the aminos and vitamins/minerals are present in raw milk as well. Raw milk in time will turn pleasantly sour while pasteurized milk will putrefy. People who are also sensitive to dairy can often tolerate raw milk as the enzymes are still present. Great news and benefits! This milk does indeed do the body good.
If you can’t get access to raw milk get certified organic because although it’s still been pasteurized and homogenized the milk doesn’t contain hormones, antibiotics, or pesticide residue.
Keep in mind that the type of feed a cow eats influences the quality/quantity of protein and fats in the milk.
So milk does a body good huh?! It does if it’s raw milk.”
You can read more from Rob at BoxingPerformance.com
Antonio Valladares from HealthyUrbanKitchen.com
“You can find raw dairy if you do a little detective work. I don’t suggest you drink pasteurized milk. Get your protein from raw milk or real food.
If you want a protein powder, get a high-quality grass-fed, raw whey powder. You can try either cow or goat and see what works best for you.
Should you drink milk or not? I don’t, but some of my friends and respected colleagues do. We are not you though. Your body never lies. So pay attention to what it’s telling you.
Figure out what works best for you or get tested for dairy intolerance. If you don’t get tested, you can use an elimination diet and figure it out for yourself. Eliminate dairy for 6 weeks. Sound impossible? Consider that you may have an addiction. Notice what kind of results you see when dairy-free. After 6 weeks, drink a glass of milk one morning on an empty stomach (with no other food) and notice how your body responds. Keep a food journal and go from there.
We need a new paradigm for understanding dairy products, food and health in general. We need to go beyond one-dimensional, ‘muscle building’ nutrition or simply looking at food as ‘calories’ and adopt a holistic view of human beings that exist as an integral part of nature. Our health is dependent on the environment. Supporting sustainable, grass fed and organic farming maintains not only our health, but also supports our evolution as human beings.
Raw milk from pastured animals is the purest, healthiest form. It is nutrient dense with its own protective system alive with probiotics and immune-supporting factors. It destroys pathogens, enhances nutrient absorption, supports immune function and used by healthy people who are virtually disease-free.”
You can read more from Antonio at HealthyUrbanKitchen.com
Angie Schumacher from Fit Chick Express.com
” When it comes to milk, I have a hard time not being biased, but mostly due to the fact that I am lactose intolerant. But when I was young, we milked cows and drank milk right out of the cow pretty much! You can’t get a more “all natural” form of milk any other way that that! We raised the cows and knew what we were feeding them. Back then I would have definitely said that milk was very important to have in your diet.
But honestly, in today’s world, by the time you get your milk in the grocery store, you really have no idea what has been put in or taken out of that milk. Or even what the cows have been through that have given you that milk. I don’t necessarily tell my clients not to drink milk, but instead give them other alternatives, such as almond milk.
I do agree that milk has a lot of good things about it, such as high-quality protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, and B-12, calcium and other things, but you can get those same things from other foods. But just it seems that there are just as many bad things about milk, such as hormones or antibiotics that the cows have be given.
So my opinion on milk…I would say leave the milk out of your diet and find other ways to get those vitamins and high-quality proteins. I haven’t drank milk in years and I am the healthiest I have ever been!”
You can read more from Angie at FitchickExpress.com
Rusty Moore from FitnessBlackBook.com
“My opinion on milk? I used to drink a ton of it when I was trying to gain muscle in my late teens and 20’s. In the late 80’s a book called Super Squats by Randall J Strossen came out and made the old school approach of “squats and milk” popular again.
The goal was to take a weight you could normally squat 10 reps with, and aim for 20 reps. After 10 reps you just rest as long as it takes to get in another rep, followed by another, until you hit 20 reps. Then you were to do just a few basic heavy exercises.
Get this…the suggestion was to drink at least 2 quarts of milk per day! I did this routine for 6 months and worked up to 295 pounds in the squat for 20 reps and drank 2 quarts of milk each day. I gained a lot of mass…but didn’t look or feel good from this workout.
These days I don’t drink milk unless I am doing a short muscle gaining phase. If that is the case I will drink 1-2 glasses of non-fat milk mixed with Nestle Quick chocolate powder about 60 minutes after training. It is a low-tech, but pretty darn effective recovery drink.
Once I get closer to summer or a vacation I drop milk from my diet. I will have dairy in the form of cheese or yogurt, because it is easier on my stomach. So to make a long answer short…maybe just 6-8 weeks per year when I am doing some higher rep muscle building workouts.”
You can read more from Rusty at FitnessBlackBook.com
As you can see there are a ton of different opinions on milk.
Whether you choose to drink it or not, the information is out there, and I hope this post will help you make a decision.
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Great article, I wish you would throw your two cents in as well after hearing your colleagues’ opinions. What I got from this article is:
1)Try an elimination diet, record findings.
2)Introduce raw, grass-fed milk, record findings.
3)Repeat until you arrive at your own conclusion.
Dave, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I know I am notorious for telling people to “test and track”, but it really is the only way to find out what works for you. Truth be told, I use regular old chocolate milk more out of convenience than anything. I suppose that’s a lame excuse. . .
I believe that’s an awesome way to find what works for you AND to help people realize what you are saying works. They can see it for themselves instead of just having to trust you! This is how I stopped using dairy products. With new info I’m learning I may switch from soy milk to raw milk.
Does this apply to other dairy products such as yogurt? I eat about 1/2 cup of plain nonfat yogurt each day as a snack, with a little protein powder mixed in for flavor and a few almonds for some healthy fat. Would the same opinions about milk apply to yogurt since it is also dairy?
I believe it would. Try following Antonio’s advice of eliminating it for a while and then trying it on an empty stomach to see how it treats your body. That’s really the only way to know for sure.
Good info but too long
Thanks! I was pleasantly surprised by the number of excellent fitness pros and nutritionists who wanted to contribute to this article and was thrilled to include all of their opinions.
How did they know to contribute? I would have LOVED to do so.
Please count me in on your next collaboration.
Nice work Vic !
Eliminating dairy from your diet should not be difficult at all. I think if you don’t have allergies to dairy and you are fond of dairy then you should consume it. I personally do not do well with dairy so I rarely consume dairy products.
BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING that I wanted to mention was about the LAMEST argument that people come up with like the one mentioned by JASON in the article above:
“In fact humans are the only species that drinks the milk of another species.”
And so milk according to this “LOGIC” is unfit for consumption. This is the weakest and most unintellectual argument I have heard in a long long time. It is like saying we should domesticate animals , should not have farms where let the cows graze and then slaughter them for meat or should not have pastures to raise turkeys and chickens so that we can have healthy meat… JUST BECAUSE no OTHER SPECIES DOMESTICATES ANOTHER SPECIES!!!
Please come on !
We’re going to have to agree to disagree about the lameness of Jason’s reference to humans being the only species to drink the milk of another species. Excuse the former lawyer in me, but I’m not so sure your reference to domestication and raising animals with the express intent of eating them is an apples to apples comparison to Jason’s argument.
But let’s not dabble in the semantics. The important thing that I think we can all agree on is that if your body does not tolerate dairy well then you should not consume it. Many thanks for your comment, we are always open to intelligent debate at GymJunkies.
I apologize for the strong words but I still stick to my point of Jason’s argument being weak. I also believe like you said that if someone is not able to tolerate milk there is no need to drink it. This holds true for lots of foods. And I also believe that you can live a happy healthy life without consuming milk at all. But this does not mean that I must find some “argument” to justify it especially the one that Jason came up with.
Another counter argument to such arguments would be why do you cook food. No other species cook their food. Birds and animals they all eat their food raw then why don’t you also eat your meat raw. And trust me there are some people who have started doing so. Human’s health and eating pattern has evolved for a good reason. We can not compare ourselves to animals all the time ..why ?.. because we are humans. Some people do not do well with grains and majority of them could/should live without them too. But I know of so many countries where grain has been consumed for thousands of years and they have lived a healthy LONG life. e.g Indonesia, Southern India, Thailand, China, Japan etc. So if I don’t do well with grains then it does not mean I have to necessarily come up with an argument to not eat it.
I agree with your stance instead – If you can’t tolerate it then leave it. Simple as that.
Thanks again for your efforts and I love your website !
Thanks, Stefan. Now the whole cooking meat thing has me thinking. . . thanks for giving me some food for thought!
There are many things humans do that no other species does.
We care for our young for much longer periods of time than other animals do.
We also use animals as pets, which no other species does.
We also use ipods, check the weather channel and take things form nature, add vitamins and other stuff and package it up and drink it and call it a protein shake.
We are superior to animals, that doesnt mean we should exploit them, but we should honor them and care for them. Animals have been a critical part to human evolution from pets to animals we worshipped or honored as part of nature, used for clothing, tools & shelter or ate for sustenance.
The argument is typically used by vegans/vegetarians to justify their position and judge others who eat meat, but truthfully, some humans – not all – but some THRIVE on raw dairy products well into the old ages.
Many thanks for your input on this Antonio!
Yeah, I’m not a fan of the old human to animal comparison either. To coin your phrase vic, it’s not an ‘apple to apple’ analogy. A bit like comparing snails and elephants! All species are different.
I totally agree that if milk makes you ill in any way, dont drink it! That’s just common sense? Another human trait that animals don’t posess? 🙂
Great article Vic, enjoyed it, thanks
Always great to have you comment, Tusc. Thanks!
Wow – this is an awesome discussion. I’ve been following the milk debate for a while now but to have so many respected opinions all in one place is brilliant!
It’s great that there are differing views too but largely I think we can agree that milk from the carton is a no go!
Personally, I find I can digest milk just fine and I like the simple philosophy that as humans we should be happy eating whatever we find naturally on this planet. So in the case of milk, it’s raw milk straight from the cow. However, this isn’t always easy to obtain and I still think many would be scared to ‘risk’ it. I prefer to use coconut milk (with water to thin it out), home-made almond milk (it’s so expensive in the shops), or organic natural yoghurt which is the best of the bad milk options but I like the taste and hope that the extra fermentation overcomes some of the nastiness of super-market milk.
I’d say if it doesn’t upset your body and you like the taste, go for it!
Thanks, Luke. Lots of good milk alternatives you’ve mentioned.
I wish you had gotten the opinion of somebody who has had at least 800lbs on thier back and squated it. Most/All of the panel above is more focused on all around fitness and or conditioning/fat-loss. Even Zach no longer has a bodybuilder mentality.
I’d love to see (for example) Jim Wendler’s opinion.
As a powerlifter I have milk as a staple of my diet for a cheap source of protein and calories.
Good point, Joshua. Admittedly, 800lbs across my back would CRUSH me!
First, I’m a big milk fan. I believe it is a great source of nutrition. I am not lactose intolerant so I personally have no reason to avoid it.
I agree with what Antonio said. We may all be mammals but we differ in so many ways. I don’t even think it’s appropriate to compare modern day man with our prehistoric ancestors on many facets of life, especially fitness and nutrition.
As far as Jason’s quote- “To counter this argument I once heard someone say that if you put a bowl of cows milk in front of another animal they would drink it. This may be true, but obviously it’s a weak argument because this would never happen in nature. The fact is that a pig or a sheep would never wander over to a cow and suck on it’s udder.”
Watch Animal Planet. There is actual footage of different species adopting orphans of other species and allowing them to nurse.
If a lactating animal was killed in the wild you better believe those mammary glands would not be left for waste. It’s not just a matter of ‘Excuse me, I’m hungry, mind if I suck some milk from you?” It’s natural for animals to consume the most nutritious parts of prey’s carcasses. Full mammary glands would be toward the top of the list for lots of carnivores.
Interesting point, Aaron. And I agree with Antonio – Animal Planet rules!
Animal Planet rules !!!