Is Milk Good Before a Workout? (From a Physical Trainer)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: February 16, 2024
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As a certified personal trainer, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from my clients about whether they should drink milk before working out.

My dietitian and I teamed up to investigate the ingredients found in milk, their importance in the body, and whether one can take milk as a pre-workout.

Here is what I learned.

Quick Summary

  • Drinking milk before a workout can boost energy and endurance as it provides a steady supply of essential nutrients like protein and carbohydrates.
  • Milk is beneficial for lean muscle building and recovery, thanks to its significant amounts of protein, particularly whey protein, which promotes muscle growth and organ development.
  • A 2008 study in "Nutrition" found that individuals consuming milk and milk with glucose performed longer than those who only consumed water, highlighting milk's effectiveness in extending workout sessions.
  • In my experience, milk not only rehydrates the body but also provides essential vitamins and minerals like potassium and vitamin D, supporting overall health and fitness.

The Advantages of Drinking Milk Before Working Out

Holding a glass of milk close up image

Consuming milk before and during exercise may aid in extending workout sessions.

One of the articles from the ResearchGate website suggests that people who consumed milk and milk + glucose tended to perform longer than individuals who consumed water alone in 2008 research published in "Nutrition" [1].

In my personal training experience, I've noticed clients who drink milk before workouts tend to have more stamina than those who just stick to water.

Some of the advantages of drinking milk before working out include: 

  • Constant supply of energy levels that can fuel muscles.
  • It promotes lean muscle building and recuperation.
  • Milk contains significant amounts of protein, particularly whey protein, which promotes organ growth.
  • It alleviates tension by improving your mood.
  • Useful as a weight gain, as well as a fat-loss agent.
  • Reduces your risk of heart disease.
  • Rehydrates the system.
  • It is easily digested; hence no severe digestive issues.
  • It is high in potassium and vitamin D, which lowers the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
  • Fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir can boost your gut health.
  • Vitamin B12, present in milk, plays a crucial role in regulating your immune system.

Dairy foods may be good pre-workout if your gut can tolerate them, giving your muscles all the energy they need for exercise.

In addition to protein and carbohydrates, milk contains calcium, which is required for muscular contraction, and it's good for our bones, according to a study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website [2].

Related: Is Dairy Good or Bad for You?

The Best Time to Drink Milk

A woman with a milk mark on her mouth

Milk is an ideal pre-exercise and post-workout choice since it is hydrating, accessible, not excessively full, and easily obtainable.

It may also be taken during a workout to keep you over a long workout.

Overeating anything before a training session, on the other hand, might induce an upset stomach.

Hence, the best approach to discovering the ideal pre-exercise regimen is to begin with low amounts and evaluate your tolerance.

For example, I took a modest amount of dairy for 1-2 hours before exercising to enhance my stamina and endurance, and the effects were astounding.

Alternatively, you may discover it makes you sluggish, in which case alternative sources of carbs and protein might be preferable.

For an added energy boost and rehydration, try stacking milk with the following recommended Pre-Workout for Men and the best Pre-Workout for Women.

Milk Alternatives for a Sensitive Stomach

Soy milk wide view

While reduced-lactose dairy products allow people with lactose intolerance to consume low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, other consumers may choose to forgo dairy entirely before exercise.

Various dairy-free options have equal health benefits and are suitable for pre and post-workout supplements.

These are some examples:

  • Soy milk
  • Rice milk 
  • Protein smoothies made with peas 
  • Protein smoothies made from rice 
  • Protein shakes made from hemp 
  • Protein smoothies made from soy
  • Almond milk

Furthermore, many individuals with mild to moderate lactose intolerance have no trouble eating natural yogurt and matured cheese because a significant amount of lactose is digested during production [3].

When cow's milk is not acceptable, goat's milk is typically preferred. Some milk products are additionally processed with the enzyme lactase, which digests lactose [4].

Related: Things You Should Never Do Before A Workout

Dairy Health Benefits

A man drinking on a tumbler with milk

Dairies like soy milk give electrolytes and fluids to replenish depleted glycogen stores and carbohydrates to help increase muscle mass.

Milk is low in fiber and facilitates digestion like other high-fat foods.

According to research, the availability of sugars and sodium, which are abundant in milk, increases fluid absorption in the intestine.

Milk has a salt concentration comparable to commercially prepared protein shakes, making it a potential substitute [5].

If you're exercising for less than 60 minutes, there's no need to utilize a hydration supplement because water is enough, but milk may help you rehydrate during your session.

Milk has been shown in certain studies to increase sensations of fullness when consumed before prolonged training [6].

Milk is a rich source of two essential nutrients:

  1. Casein protein
  2. Carbohydrates

The casein is utilized in the body for the first 1 hour following an exercise for recuperation and nourishment [7].

Muscle tissue repairs and adapts after training to be even stronger than it was previously. This process is enhanced by eating high-quality protein foods for muscle growth before working out.

“Milk will act as a good source of energy before a workout. As milk contains Fat, Protein, Lactose & minerals, it's a good source of energy. Milk provides around 66 Kcal per 100 g of milk”

- Vivek Wankhade, Dairy Technologist

Several researchers have found that 0.3 grams of high-quality protein per kilogram of body weight are the best serving for enhancing improvements in muscular strength and performance following resistance training, high-intensity circuit training, and easy aerobic exercises for endurance [8].

The variance in body form and size among active adults amounts to a protein intake of 20-25 grams [9].

Milk protein is known to outperform other protein sources in terms of enhancing the synthesis of muscle proteins and replenishing depleted glycogen stores after resistance exercise. 

I used milk as a pre-workout for several months. I was more energized during my workouts, and the muscle mass I gained was just unexpected.

FAQs

How Long After Drinking Milk Can I Workout?

You can work out 2 to 3 hours after drinking milk.

Can Milk Make You Fat?

No, milk cannot make you fat. In fact, it can help with your weight loss goals.

Should I Drink Milk Before or After Workout?

You should drink milk both before and after your workout. Milk is rich in protein, making you feel full after your exercise.

Which Milk Is Best After Workout?

Chocolate milk is best after a workout. It contains an ideal ratio of nutrients like potassium, calcium, and magnesium, essential for refueling muscles after an intensive session.

How Does Milk Consumption Before a Workout Affect Hydration Levels?

Milk consumption before a workout affects your hydration levels by contributing positively to hydration due to its high water content and the presence of electrolytes like potassium. However, it's important to balance it with water intake, as milk alone may not be sufficient for intense hydration needs.

Does Drinking Milk Have Different Effects on Cardio vs. Strength Training Workouts?

Yes, drinking has different effects on cardio vs. strength training workouts. For strength training, its protein content aids in muscle recovery, while for cardio workouts, the carbohydrates in milk can provide a quick energy source.

What Are the Options for Lactose-Intolerant Individuals Regarding Pre-workout Milk Consumption?

Some options for lactose-intolerant individuals regarding pre-workout milk consumption are almond, soy, or oat milk. These alternatives provide similar benefits without the discomfort associated with lactose intolerance.

Is Milk an Effective Pre-Workout Drink for All Age Groups?

Yes, milk is an effective pre-workout drink for all age groups. However, the quantity and type of milk might vary based on age-related dietary needs and digestive tolerance.

What Are Some Cultural Practices Involving Milk Consumption Before Exercise?

Some cultural practices involving milk consumption before exercise are that milk is traditionally consumed before physical activities for its nutritional value and energy-boosting properties. These practices vary globally and are often rooted in historical beliefs about milk's health benefits.


References:

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307883254_Evaluation_of_whey_milk_and_delactosed_permeates_as_salt_substitutes
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3941822/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/casein-protein-is-highly-underrated 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852756/ 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6628334/
  6. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5524649
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4337919/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7318541/
  9. https://extension.psu.edu/lactose-in-cow-milk-and-digestion-in-humans
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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