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Milk - fat-free, that is - does a body good

Published July 24. 2010 09:00AM

Score one for truth in advertising. Even if the gap between the truth and the ad spanned 19 years.

And the commercial lacked specifics.

The 1991 version of the "Milk, it does a body good" television commercials shows a well-built young man drinking milk and holding a remote. As he tells you that "Milk is sure helping me to get stronger," he plays a video clip of himself from when he started high school and two kids pushed him around, "just because I was smaller."

But then he explains that he has been working out, drinking milk, and developing muscles.

The next video clip shows him in his senior year encountering the two kids again in a school hallway. This time because of the muscles developed from the milk and the workouts they quickly step aside. The young man says, "It pays to be big on milk," and the commercial ends with the narrator proclaiming: "Milk, it does a body good."

If only the narrator would've begun with the word "fat-free" and the developing body would've been female.

That's because a study performed at McMaster University and partially funded by the Dairy Farmers of Canada shows that the consumption of fat-free milk as a recovery aid after weightlifting produced more muscle than the consumption of a carb-loaded energy drink in women subjects.

The result replicates earlier work done at McMaster with male subjects.

While Stu Phillips, a professor in McMaster's Department of Kinesiology and the conductor of both studies, admitted that the increase in muscle mass in the second study was not as great as he had hoped, most women will see that as a moot point. They'll focus on another finding, one that "surprised" Phillips: the amount of fat loss.

In fact, fat loss nearly equaled muscle gain, so the subjects' body composition along with the look of the bodies! improved dramatically over a 12-week period.

During this time the subjects did not follow any specific diet, but did fast for two hours before beginning a weightlifting workout supervised by a trainer. Immediately afterwards, the women drank 16.9 ounces of fat-free milk, waited an hour, and then consumed the same amount of fat-free milk again.

The comparison group drinking the carb-loaded energy drink followed the same pattern.

In the subsequent press release, Phillips is quoted as saying, "Our data shows that simple things like regular weightlifting exercise and milk consumption work to substantially improve women's body composition and health."

But what if you simply don't like the taste of fat-free milk? Or you're a male?

Research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine conference held only days after the McMaster study press release has the answer.

Drink fat-free chocolate milk or even low-fat chocolate milk after workouts.

A series of four studies found reason after reason why this is more productive besides being far more cost efficient than consuming a specially designed carbohydrate-based sport drink after exercise.

After moderately intense, intense, or long workouts, there inevitably is muscle breakdown. Sometimes it's because resistance training causes micro tears to the muscle fibers. Other times, it's because the intensity and duration of aerobic exercise forces your body to actually breakdown muscle for energy.

Either way, the damage needs to be undone as soon as possible.

Fat-free or low-fat chocolate milk, when compared to a carbohydrate-based sports drink, was shown to be far better at this. One study found this process, called skeletal muscle protein synthesis, was improved in the post-exercise muscle biopsies of eight moderately trained runners when they consumed 16 ounces of fat-free chocolate milk after exercise as opposed to a carb-based sports drink.

Another revelation was that when compared to a carbohydrate-based sports drink, the protein in fat-free or low-fat chocolate milk actually increases the amount of the carbs that get into the muscle cells after exercise.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, drinking fat-free or low-fat chocolate milk seems to improve exercise performance.

In another study, 10 trained male and female cyclists rode for 100 minutes with the last 10 being interval-based. Immediately afterwards and two hours later they were given one of three drinks: low-fat chocolate milk, a carb-based drink containing the same amount of calories, or a control drink.

At the four-hour mark, they rode again. This time they did a time trial just shy of 25 miles. Even after factoring in all sorts of variables, the times of the chocolate milk drinkers were significantly faster.

One final reason for consuming some sort of fat-free or low-fat milk product as a recovery drink not discussed at the conference deals with supplementation. Follow the recovery pattern used in the McMaster study and you also get 120 percent (based on a 2000-calorie diet) of the Daily Value of calcium, 100 percent of the DV of vitamin D, 96 percent of vitamin B1, 80 percent of phosphorus, 52 percent of B12, 44 percent of potassium, and 40 percent of vitamin A and B6.

As well as 64 percent of the DV of protein.

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