Now we know that the proper intake of the right nutrients at the right time and in the right amount plays a key role in improving sports performance and achieving post-activity recovery. Recovery strategies include reducing delayed muscle soreness (DOMS), restoring hydration, and repairing muscle damage. Protein intake plays an important role in repairing muscle damage. Whether the target is hypertrophy (growth of muscle volume) or repair of muscle damage during the recovery period, “positive muscle protein balance” must be achieved to get the result. Well, what does it mean a positive muscle protein balance?
Hypertrophy, which is defined as the enlargement of muscle volume or size, occurs when a positive muscle protein balance is achieved in the body, that is, when muscle protein synthesis is greater than muscle protein breakdown. Resistance exercise induce muscle hypertrophy by activating signaling pathways leading to increased protein synthesis. Even a single resistance exercise session acutely increases both protein synthesis and protein breakdown. However, protein synthesis must chronically exceed protein degradation for an observable hypertrophy. In short, although muscle protein synthesis is triggered by a single exercise session, this excess must be provided for weeks to induce muscle hypertrophy. So how does muscle protein synthesis surpass muscle breakdown? The answer is by consuming adequate amount of protein from the proper protein sources at the right time.
Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 types of amino acids in total, but these amino acids are arranged in very different combinations to form different proteins with different functions in the body. Nine of these 20 amino acids are called essential amino acids. Since these amino acids are not produced in our body, they must be taken from outside with food. Foods that contain most or all of the essential amino acids are called high-quality protein sources.
High-quality dietary proteins are effective in the repair and synthesis of skeletal muscle proteins. Studies conducted in this context have shown that milk-based proteins are superior to other tested proteins, largely due to their leucine content and the digestion and absorption kinetics of BCAA. Cow’s milk, on the other hand, is considered unique as a post-workout recovery drink, as it is almost isotonic, rich in high-quality dietary protein, contains carbohydrates, water, and various micronutrients. However, further studies are needed to observe the effects of other high-quality protein sources such as eggs, red meat, concentrated vegetable protein, etc on mTOR stimulation (mTOR mechanism will be explained in another paper) and muscle protein synthesis.
Effects of cow’s milk consumption following exercise:
- Increases muscle protein synthesis
- Reduces energy intake
- Increases rehydration
- Increases glycogen synthesis
- Reduces muscle damage and pain
- Increases training adaptations
- Improves body composition
- Speeds recovery
As a result, cow’s milk has a unique composition that makes it ideal as a post-workout recovery drink for many athletes. It is also a cheap and easy option for recovery after exercise. In addition, post-exercise consumption seems to cause positive changes in body composition by reducing energy intake.
- Alcantara JMA, Sanchez-Delgado G, Martinez-Tellez B, Labayen I, Ruiz JR. Impact of cow’s milk intake on exercise performance and recovery of muscle function: a systematic review. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2019 May 6;16(1):22.
- James LJ, Stevenson EJ, Rumbold PLS, Hulston CJ. Cow’s milk as a post-exercise recovery drink: implications for performance and health. Eur J Sport Sci. 2019 Feb;19(1):40-48.