Dairy protein - your muscle partner

Dairy protein - your muscle partner

by Glenys Zucco, Accredited Practising Dietitian & Accredited Sports Dietician

Most people know that protein is important for muscle growth. But did you know not all proteins are created equal? In fact the protein type and the timing of protein intake are much more important than eating large quantities of it.

Protein explained

Protein is an essential nutrient that plays many important roles, such as repairing the body’s cells; building and repairing muscles; helping build and maintain bones; and helping control many metabolic processes.

Proteins are made up of chains of smaller chemicals called amino acids. But not all proteins are crated equally! A protein’s nutritional value or quality is judged by how many of the essential amino acids it provides and in what quantity.

Protein from animal sources, such as meat and milk, is high quality, because it contains all nine of the essential amino acids. Most vegetable protein (such as soy) is considered incomplete because it lacks one or more of the essential amino acids.

Milk protein

Cow’s milk protein is considered to have a high nutritional quality due to its amino acid composition. Milk contains about 3.5% protein made up of casein protein (80%) and whey protein (20%).

Whey is known as a "fast protein" because it's quickly broken down into amino acids and absorbed into the bloodstream, making it ideal to include after your workout. Whey protein has a high concentration of the branched chain amino acid – leucine. Leucine has been shown to specifically stimulate building of new muscle protein and consuming dairy protein has been shown to directly stimulate muscle building.  

Casein protein on the other hand is digested slowly. While this "slow" protein doesn't directly promote muscle formation, it can help prevent muscle breakdown which is important in overall muscle growth. Casein is ideal for providing your body with a steady supply of smaller amounts of protein for a longer period of time.

Muscle milk

A number of studies have now shown that consuming milk or milk proteins after resistance training promotes more muscle gain than other protein sources. For example a 2007 study compared how much muscle protein young men gained after completing a heavy weight workout followed by consumption of protein as either skim milk or a soy drink.  Men who drank two cups of skim milk after each of their workouts gained almost twice as much muscle in 10 weeks than those who drank a soy drink.2

And there’s good news for women as well.  A recent study showed that drinking two glasses of milk one hour after lifting weights helped women tone muscles and burn fat.3 Researchers from Canada’s McMaster University conducted a 12-week experiment, monitoring two groups of young women who previously did not do resistance-training exercise.

Every day, after their workout, one group drank 500ml of skim milk; the other group consumed a similar-looking but sugar-based energy drink. The women who drank milk gained more lean muscle and lost more fat than the other group.

For more information visit www.dairyaustralia.com.au/sport

1. National Dairy Council (2006) Emerging health benefits of dairy proteins. Dairy Council Digest. July/August, Vol. 77, No. 4.
2. Wilkinson et, al. (2007) Consumption of fluid skim milk promotes greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than does consumption of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy-protein beverage1 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 85, No. 4, 1031-1040.
3. Andrea R. Josse, Jason E. Tang, Mark A. Tarnopolsky, Stuart M. Phillips. ‘Body Composition and Strength Changes in Women with Milk and Resistance Exercise.’ Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2010; 42 (6): 1122-1130 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c854f6


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