What Should I Use in my Daily Protein Shake, Milk or Water?

We’ve talked about protein shake benefits for a swimmers diet, like when to drink them, the different types of protein, and how they can help with recovery. So a good question to ask is, what should you be mixing into your protein shake, milk or water? 

The first thing you should ask yourself is, what are you aiming to achieve? Do you want to get extra nutrition and calories or would you rather hydrate more? Is taste a possible concern?

Pro's of mixing your shake with milk:

Dairy Milk provides an added nutritional benefit and more calories.

Dairy milk offers high levels of protein and vitamins, and comes with differing fat contents thereby providing a variety of options to the consumer. It also provides a good blend of sugar and protein that your muscles need after a workout. It contains three of the four nutrients that USDA deems "under-consumed by most Americans"— calcium, vitamin D and potassium. In addition to these three, milk provides the right amount of other bone-building nutrients, specifically protein, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B12 and zinc. 

In a study published in the June edition of the journal ‘Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism,’ researchers found that participants who drank milk after training were able to train for longer in their next session than those who had sports drinks or water. Milk’s combination of carbohydrates and protein makes it an ideal sports drink for swimmers.

As we've mentioned before drinks containing carbohydrates and electrolytes, which milk naturally contains, can enhance your performance, particularly when you’ve been training for 45 minutes or longer.

There are many varieties of milk, which can make it difficult to decide which works the best for you.

Skim milk: is a lower-fat option, which is an easy way to save a few calories.

Whole Milk: is a higher calorie option but a good choice if you are looking to build muscle.

Pro's of Water:

Water helps with hydration without the added calories.

After hearing about the all of the health benefits of milk, who would want to add water to their protein shake? Don’t be too quick to dismiss water, it too has a host of nutritional benefits for athletes.

Mixing your protein shake with water, instead of milk or having a sports drink, can save on calories, which is great if you’re training for shorter periods. Athletes who are dehydrated show a considerable decrease in performance, as their bodies cannot transport energy as effectively making it difficult to perform at an optimal level.

Water is also easy to carry in your training bag, making it a great on-the-go alternative to milk. You can have your favorite protein powder and a bottle of water in your bag and make the perfect snack for a competitive swimmers diet.

Alternative: Soy milk

The combination of soy proteins and the fact that it is often fortified with iron and calcium makes it a good choice for lactose intolerant and vegetarian athletes. It has the highest protein content of non-dairy milks, and is cholesterol free and low in saturated fat. However since soy has risen in popularity consumers have to be more careful about the brands they choose as some manufacturers have taken mass production shortcuts, such as using genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides. Look for “Non-GMO” and “organic” labels on your soy products. Also beware of labels containing brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice as these dramatically increase the sugar content.

Alternative: Almond milk

Almond milk is great for athletes who are craving the consistency of cow's milk, but want a dairy-free alternative. Almond milk can also be vitamin-fortified, packed with vitamins A, D and E, and is a good source of riboflavin, a key ingredient that helps break down carbohydrates into fuel. But almond milk only has about 1 gram of protein per serving, significantly less than the 6-8 grams of protein per serving that cow’s milk or soy milk have.

August 11, 2015 by Michael Shead
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