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Dairy and whey protein for muscle recovery

Nutrition plays a key role in supporting muscle recovery during a high intensity training programme. Dairy products like milk, yoghurt, and cheese are known to help with weight loss, muscle recovery, and muscle repair after exercise, largely through the casein and whey proteins that naturally occur in milk.

Whey protein supports the recovery of muscles after strenuous exercise, and it also helps to build stronger muscles, ideally taken immediately, or within 30 minutes after exercise.

Whole milk and yoghurt contain the perfect natural balance of whey and casein proteins that are beneficial — both for muscle recovery after exercise and the repairing of damaged muscle cells, and of course; supporting healthy appetite control. As a post-exercise drink, 500 ml milk provides about 17 g of protein, of which 82% is casein (14 g) and 18% is whey (3 g).


Did you know? Milk and yoghurt provide the convenience of all the elements needed in a sports recovery drink; this includes fluid, protein, carbohydrates, and electrolytes.


For muscle recovery
Whey protein is a fast-digesting dairy protein that is rich in branched chain amino acids (BCAA) such as leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAA are valuable in repairing overworked muscles as the muscle cells rapidly absorb these nutrients to facilitate repair after exercise. A strenuous workout naturally causes muscle damage, which leads to the delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) 2–3 days after exercise. Taking whey protein can reduce muscle soreness and improve muscle recovery, especially when consumed immediately after exercise.

For muscle strength
Whey protein provides muscle cells with much needed branched chain amino acids that are required for muscle growth and increased muscle strength. An intensive training workout naturally causes muscle damage, which is in fact needed to stimulate muscle growth, provided the correct nutrients are present in muscle cells. Studies have shown how taking whey protein can promote muscle protein synthesis, which is required for building muscle tissue and increasing muscle strength.

How much to take, and when to take it

  • Most studies use a dose of 10–20 g whey protein pre- or post-exercise.
  • A whey protein supplement with 70%+ protein is ideal: two heaped scoops or tablespoons provide optimum levels. Mix this into water or cold milk.
  • Practical tip: I always keep my whey protein in my car or in my gym bag. This ensures that I take my whey protein after every run in order to maximise my recovery for the next running session.
  • Easiest shortcut: If you don’t have whey protein powder, get your whey from milk. If you exercise away from home, grab a 250 ml or 500 ml container of milk from a nearby supermarket. Or if you’re at home, a tall glass of milk from the fridge will do the job — it’s also a lot more cost-effective.
  • Tasty: If you have not acquired the taste of unflavoured whey protein (yes, it tastes a bit weird if you’re not used to it), mix two tablespoons of whey protein powder and one level teaspoon of Nomu Skinny Hot Chocolate into 200 ml water or milk.

Timing is vital; best results with whey protein seem to be achieved when it’s taken within 30 minutes after exercise. Interestingly, whey protein consumed before exercise has also been shown to decrease muscle damage during exercise.

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