December 29, 2012

Milk - Good or Bad?

So chocolate milk has been a major part of my recovery diet for a long time. In fact, I was probably one of the leading milk drinkers in Canada. And the benefits of milk are scientifically proven - "according to one study". The Got Chocolate Milk folks say so. I found one too (1). That's definitely science - a little tiny bit. Most claims for milk show that it is equally as good as sport drinks as a recovery drink (1, 2, 3). So it seems clear, milk is a good sports drink. And it is real food, so you feel better about drinking milk than drinking a Coke for example.

But many of the papers note that milk isn't suitable for everyone. Here is my experience as an "everyday athlete". I have been having sore knees after hard rides for quite a while now. Yeah, I'm getting old and that seemed like a reasonable explanation, as sad as that might be. But on a whim, I thought I would search the web for foods that could lead to joint inflammation. Milk came up regularly as did other foods. But since I was such a milk pig (cow?), I decided to try eliminating it from my diet for a bit and see what happened.

Holy milk intolerance Batman! I felt noticeably better in a day and even better the day after. My knees felt numb - or maybe that's just what normal knees feel like? Practically instantaneous results and the dramatic improvement was totally unexpected. I have since been putting in hard consecutive rides and the knees still feel great. I also find I am sleeping better through the night, for whatever physiological reason. I don't think this is a placebo effect as I actually had no real belief that this would work. Of course if it continues - who cares? I generally consider food-phobes crackpots. Now I'm a crackpot too.

It would be easy for you to try this same experiment, particularly if you are feeling your joints are sore.

We are all different and have different allergies and intolorances to food and other things in our environment. Bottom line, don't believe something is good or bad because somebody tells you it is (assuming it is real food and not processed crap - processed crap is still crap). You need to find out what works and doesn't work for you. I've dropped milk from my diet completely. It was easy - I switched to almond milk and don't miss cow milk a bit. I still plan to experiment with cheese as cheese would be hard to give up.

I did briefly consider soy milk, but the word is it sucks. And it contains female hormone-like substances which I am quite certain I don't need. And may increase the risk of dementia which I can guarantee nobody needs. Soy scares me.

The almond milk was tasty off the get-go. And the health risks seem relatively few and minor compared to soy milk. I like the Silk unsweetened for my chocolate milk as it is creamy and has a distinct almond flavor - chocolate almonds anyone? And only 30 calories per glass versus the 100 in skim milk. I like the Earth's Own unsweetened version better for cereal - not as creamy, less almond flavour - doesn't overpower the cereal. 35 calories per glass. Both brands match milk for calcium, vitamin D, etc. exactly - as they are fortified. The other thing - I'm going to avoid going overboard with almond milk the way I think I may have with cow milk. Keep it to only a few glasses a day and make sure I drink other stuff like tea, water, and those nasty sports carbohydrate drinks.

Actually, I do miss ice cream and milkshakes too. Especially the chocolate variety.