“Does the product ‘Muscle Milk” help a person to build muscle?”
I was actually asked this question one time. Even though ‘Muscle Milk’ is nothing more than a protein drink , some people subconsciously associate the combined words ‘muscle’ and ‘milk’ in applying a kind of intrinsic quality to this stuff as a form of fast nutrition to help them build muscle. Great marketing, BTW… though I’ve heard the milk industry has cried “foul” since the product contains absolutely no milk. They have a point.
When someone asks me “does Muscle Milk build muscle”, I answer by simply pointing out:
“Muscle Milk is a protein product. We need protein for survival. We get it from food. We also need oxygen to stay alive. So asking if Muscle Milk builds muscle is sort of like asking if breathing builds better cardiovascular health.”
Of course, we can assume the person asking such a question has enough sense to know they need bodybuilding workouts as stimulation for building muscle. At least a youngster who asked just such a question about Muscle Milk in Yahoo Questions had that much sense:
I was wondering if I bought Muscle Milk and drank it after workouts will it make me really muscular? Or is it just a lie? I am really fat and I am 16 and trying to lose the extra baggage while gaining that extra muscle mass. Or will muscle milk make me stay fat even if I work out?
Let’s analyze the question. Being “really muscular” implies building substantial muscle and losing body fat so that the muscle is visible. Accomplishing this requires a series of workouts that break down muscle tissue, accompanied intermittently with rest periods between those workouts that recuperate the tissue. Recuperating that tissue does require adequate protein intake. Yet there remains no real evidence that guzzling this protein immediately after muscle building workouts accelerates or enhances recuperation in any way.
This is not to say that protein drinks don’t have their advantages. I use them myself for convenience during a busy day. But I don’t fall prey to the marketing rhetoric claiming the protein needs to hit my system as soon as possible after a workout. Common sense tells me that a roast beef sandwich eaten an hour before my workout will have protein hitting my blood stream about the same time as a scoop of whey protein 15-minutes post workout.
‘Does Muscle Milk Build Muscle?’ Analyzing the Protein within
So I’ve got a bottle of Muscle Milk sitting in front of me as I write this. I’ve purchased it so that I can give it a taste-swig and study the label closely. There’s no real temptation in me to guzzle it; the stuff feels cheap and watery and not really palatable. It might prove to be otherwise when I give it a gulp or two.
The first thing I find really funny about the label is that beneath the description: ‘Protein Nutrition Shake’, there’s a disclaimer of sorts: ‘Contains No Milk.’ But preceding that, right above the product name on a red banner, is the word ‘Genuine.’ “Yeah… (laughing)… it reads ‘Genuine Muscle Milk.’”
The thing I’m looking for in answering the “does muscle milk build muscle” question is the protein source. Cytosport, (the makers/marketers of this stuff) have ‘whey’ and ‘casein’ listed on the label. Not bad; those are good sources of protein. But they’ve only added twenty-five grams to each serving; an amount beneficial to a 120-pound woman but hardly worthy of this macro-nutrient’s contribution to a sixth of any two-hundred pound bodybuilder’s daily protein intake.
‘Does Muscle Milk Build Muscle?’ Analyzing the Carbs
Okay… so I finally took a taste-swig of this stuff and ended up gulping down the whole bottle – not because it was so tasty; more like I was hungry and about due for some protein anyway. It’s definitely a scant meal. Since I paid over four dollars for that little drink (at a convenience store), I could almost feel a dollar getting swallowed with each gulp I imbibed.
They’ve given it low carbohydrate content. That’s got its good side; most of us are over-carbed anyway. They’ve used maltodextrin as the carbohydrate source. This is just pure starch and a very common ingredient in bodybuilding supplements. I expected nothing else since they need a cheap and plentiful source with a long shelf life. However, I’d prefer hydrolyzed oat flour and brown rice as a source and a bit higher carbohydrate/calorie content; maybe in the 300 to 400 calories-per-serving range. This, along with 15 grams more protein, would make each serving a more respectable fast bodybuilding meal rather than an overly-priced mass market beverage aimed at the non-suspecting consumer who thinks muscle is built with a drink.
Muscle Milk and Muscle Building: A tastier, less costly, and higher quality alternative
For all you Muscle Milk aficionados, here’s an alternative that costs less, delivers more, and has a better flavor (in my opinion):
Buy a typical two-pound can of chocolate favored whey protein powder. This might cost you about twenty dollars at Walmart. Scoop out a three-quarter scoop into a cup and add just enough water that when you stir it, you end up with a syrupy viscosity. Then, scoop about a cup of low-fat cottage cheese into a bowl and pour the syrupy chocolate whey protein on top as if it’s an ice-cream sundae.
Now you’ve got a protein snack that contains twice the protein as Muscle Milk (50 grams). If you pick a nicely flavored whey protein powder (sucralose sweetened), it will have a flavor that blows away Muscle Milk. It will likely be more satiating than Muscle Milk because it’s a solid food rather than a watery drink. And… even better, it will cost you about one-third less money than even the best deal you can find on Muscle Milk.
BTW… this protein snack is a perfect combination of fast digesting protein (whey), and slow-absorbing protein (casein). I find it to be a great bodybuilding snack – especially if low sodium/low fat cottage cheese is used (healthier/less water retention).
As always, hit me with a comment and let me know what you think.