Milk and sport

After a long session pounding the treadmill in the gym, what do you tend to reach for to refresh yourself? The chances are, it’s probably water or a sports drink. But a recent study reveals that you’d be better off pouring yourself a glass of milk.

There has been growing interest in the potential use of bovine milk as an exercise beverage, especially during recovery from resistance training and endurance sports. Based on current research, milk appears to be an effective post-resistance exercise beverage that results in favourable acute alterations in protein metabolism. Milk consumption acutely increases muscle protein synthesis, leading to an improved overall muscle protein balance.

Furthermore, when post-exercise milk consumption is combined with resistance training (12 weeks minimum), greater increases in muscle growth and lean mass have been observed. Although research with milk is limited, there is some evidence to suggest that milk may be an effective post-exercise beverage for endurance activities.

The ability of milk to effectively act as a rehydration beverage likely relates to the composition of milk. Milk naturally has high concentrations of electrolytes (133 mg sodium and 431 mg potassium in a 250ml serving) which aid in fluid retention when consumed. Another factor speculated to contribute to the ability of milk to be an effective post-exercise rehydration beverage is the rate at which it empties from the stomach. Milk releases very slowly into the small intestine, so it is absorbed much more gradually into the bloodstream, helping the body retain fluid for longer.

TableThere is data which suggests that fat free milk is as effective, if not more effective, than commercially available sports drinks at promoting recovery from strength and endurance exercise as a rehydration beverage. In a 2016 study by Maughan et al. it was found that skimmed milk rehydrated better following exercise than water and sports drinks, with only an oral rehydration solution performing better. Milk also has the added benefit of providing additional nutrients and vitamins that are not present in water or commercial sports drinks.

In conclusion, Milk represents a more nutrient dense beverage choice for individuals who partake in strength and endurance activities, compared to traditional sports drinks. Fat free milk is a safe and effective post-exercise beverage that has been shown to promote recovery from exercise and should be considered as a viable alternative to commercial sports drinks by lactose tolerant individuals.



Karp, J. R., Johnston, J. D., Tecklenburg, S. et al. (2006) Chocolate milk as a post-exercise recovery aid. International Journal of sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 16(1), 78-91

Lee, J. K., Maughan, R. J., Shirreffs, S. M. & Watson, P. (2008) Effects of milk ingestion on prolonged exercise capacity in young, healthy men. Nutrition 24(4), 340-7

Maughan et al. (2016) A randomized trial to assess the potential of different beverages to affect hydration status: development of a beverage hydration index. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 103(3), 717-732

Roy, B. D. (2008). Milk: the new sports drink? A Review. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition5, 15.

Shirreffs, S. M., Watson, P. & Maughan, R.J. (2007) Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink. British Journal of Nutrition 98(1), 173-80


Why are Olympians eating so much McDonald’s?

According to a report by Ryan Bort for Newsweek, athletes have been eating so much fast food that the chain’s Olympic Village location had to impose a 20-item order limit.

mcdonalds-625680McDonald’s is the official restaurant of the Rio Olympics. This means more than graphics of the Golden Arches and some Olympic-themed commercials dotting NBC’s 19 days of coverage. No, McDonald’s actually wants to make sure athletes are able to satisfy their Big Mac cravings while they are in Rio, a tradition that started in 1968 when the chain flew burgers to U.S. athletes competing in the Winter Games in Grenoble, France. Almost 50 years later, they’ve decided to go ahead and just open a McDonald’s in the Olympic Village, where athletes can eat free of charge.

To those of us at home, this may seem like a hollow promotional gesture. Nutritional science has come a long way since 1968, and it’s hard to believe the best athletes in the world would want anything to do with McDonald’s as they go for gold. Are we really supposed to believe they’re now going to ditch a healthy diet of grilled chicken and steamed vegetables for preservatives and empty calories, after they’ve come all this way?

Yes, apparently we are, because demand for McDonald’s among the world’s most finely tuned physical specimens has been so great that the Olympic Village location had to impose a cap on the number of items a single Olympian can order. That number is 20. If someone wants to order more, he or she can, but the restaurant is prioritizing orders of 20 items or less. This is really happening. What the hell is going on?

For one, there aren’t many other options. According to The Washington Post, the Olympic Village also contains a cafeteria and a casual dining restaurant, but neither is very popular among athletes. So they go to McDonald’s, where the line is so long that pictures of it—day and night—have been popping up on social media since the games began. At one point, according to the Post, it extended for the length of a football field.

If this is one of the only palatable food options, the long lines are understandable. There are nearly 18,000 athletes and coaches living in the Olympic Village this August. For a sizable queue to form, it doesn’t take many of them craving a Big Mac for breakfast. What’s astonishing is the quantity of food being ordered. Athletes routinely leave the location with dozens of burgers, nuggets and chicken sandwiches, which is why McDonald’s was forced to impose the item limit. 

mconalds-700969As an example; Sawan Serasinghe is not a weightlifter, he is a 65kg (10 stone 4 pound)  22-year-old badminton player who bats around a feathery ball with a racket that looks like a flyswatter. He was seen eating an entire table covered in 8,000 calories of junk food? “Now it’s time to eat some junk food after months of eating clean!” he wrote. OK.

Maybe, then, these athletes are just overindulging after they either win their medals or are eliminated from contention. After living with such a strict diet for the months and even years preceding the games, they’ve certainly earned it. But this isn’t necessarily the case. The Chinese basketball team has reportedly been feasting on Big Macs for just about every meal since arriving in Rio, and plenty of other athletes have made McDonald’s their go-to refueling post.

UsainBolt3Usain Bolt, recent winner of an unprecedented third consecutive 100-meter gold medal, was spotted brandishing some dipping sauce along with a 10-pack of chicken nuggets (and a six-pack of abs). Bolt famously claimed he ate 100 nuggets a day while competing in Beijing in 2008. That year he won three gold medals, setting the world record in each event.

Part of the reason Bolt downed so many nuggets in China was that Chinese food disagreed with him, and a similar reason might be behind why athletes have turned to the Golden Arches in Rio. McDonald’s is not foreign to anyone, regardless of country of origin, it is comfortable, the athletes know what they are getting. The casual dining restaurant in the Olympic Village serves Brazilian food, and the cafeteria probably features a multinational menu. Considering the countless stories about Rio’s polluted water, Zika and other problems athletes probably don’t want to think about when they’re eating, it’s hard to blame them for favouring something as familiar and safe McDonald’s over relatively dubious local fare. What’s worse than eating a few unhealthy meals? How about getting sick and not being able to compete at all?

Then again, maybe Olympians are just relishing the opportunity to live out childhood fantasies of eating as much free McDonald’s as they can stomach. After all, it’s an aspiration that probably predates any dreams of winning a gold medal for their country.

Images: Twitter/Instagram

How much water should we be drinking?

WaterHow much water should you drink each day? It’s a simple question with no easy answers. Studies have produced varying recommendations over the years, but in truth, your water needs depend on many factors, including your health, how active you are and where you live.

Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends an intake of 2.5 litres of water for men and 2.0 litres of water for women per day, via food and drink consumption. Of this, they suggest that 70-80% of the daily water intake should come from drinks, and the remaining 20-30% should come from food. For example, many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and spinach, are 90 percent or more water by weight.

The British Nutrition Foundation gives guidelines for the types of fluid to drink, and water is the only fluid which they recommend drinking “plenty” of as it contains no sugar, calories or additives.

In addition, beverages such as milk and juice are composed mostly of water. Even beer, wine and caffeinated beverages — such as coffee, tea or soda — can contribute, but these should not be a major portion of your daily total fluid intake.

Although uncommon, it is possible to drink too much water. When your kidneys are unable to excrete the excess water, the electrolyte content of the blood is diluted, resulting in low sodium levels in the blood, a condition called hyponatremia.

Mild dehydration has been shown to negatively affect physical performance, leading to reduced endurance which is key for athletic performance. The problem, however, is that an overhydrated athlete is at a performance disadvantage and at risk of exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH) – a potentially fatal condition. In general, though, drinking too much water is rare in healthy adults who eat an average diet.