You Asked: Is Muscle Milk Good for You?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  82 comments   :  225,755 Views

Performance enhancing supplements have become big business. Many drinks, powders and bars promise a competitive edge through increased strength, development of an ultra lean body or increased recovery responses so you can work out harder and more effectively. We encourage all our readers to use care when selecting and taking any pre- or post-workout supplement and to only use them as pre- and post-workout snacks and not as meal replacements for dieting purposes. Recently a reader contacted us about a new type of supplement called Muscle Milk, wanting to know if it was different than other supplements and a good option for her and her husband. Here is what we learned.

Cytosport has created a line of supplements for athletes with the nutrition of human milk in mind. There are 32 different products designed to help active individuals get bigger and stronger as they strength train or run and bike further and faster to live better, healthier, leaner and livelier lives. Sounds like a pretty tall order for a nutritional supplement that is supposed to only provide you with a couple hundred calories and some vitamins and minerals pre- or post-workout.

Human milk has an ideal formulation to meet the rapid and steady growth and development requirements of infants. Muscle Milk has used the same philosophy and similar composition as a supplement to aid in lean muscle mass weight gain and repair. One of the biggest differences between Muscle Milk and other supplements is the amount and source of fat that is used because of the intention to mimic human milk compositions. Just as human milk contains small chains of fat that are easily absorbed and used as an energy source, so does Muscle Milk that derives 35% of its calories from fat. The "lean lipid" fats used are in the form of MCT (medium chain triglycerides), which serve as readily available energy sources for use by the body instead of being stored. Muscle Milk also includes long chain polyunsaturated fats from canola and sunflower oils, which can have an anti-inflammatory property from the omega-6 fatty acids, which are thought to help with post-workout recovery and repair.

Human milk is lower in protein than the milk of other mammals; however, the composition is ideal. Mother's milk consists of 60% whey protein and 40% casein protein, which provides an ideal balance for quick and easy digestion and utilization. Muscle Milk also provides a similiar composition in the form of micellar casein and whey protein isolate as well as other specific amino acids such as L-glutamine, taurine and lactoferrin which is believed to be involved specifically in muscle development. Muscle Milk does not contain creatine or creatine precursors like many of the other protein supplements. If you are diabetic, care is necessary with Muscle Milk or any other products containing L-glutamine.

The Bottom Line: Cytosport Muscle Milk is widely used by body builders and endurance athletes and has received very positive reviews. With a composition that is very close to that of human milk, it seems to be a unique supplement option. Muscle Milk contains a blend of 20 vitamins and minerals, balanced in carbohydrates, specific proteins and specialized fats that provide approximately 230 calories in a 14 oz ready-to-drink serving. Because of its special formulation, it has the nutritional balance closer to a small meal instead of a pre- or post-workout replacement supplement.

If you are an elite athlete training for a big competition looking for a quality supplement to augment your nutrition and assist with your increased nutrient needs, Muscle Milk might be something you would want to consider. However, if you walk several days a week for your cardio workout and do a little Pilates or yoga for strength training, this is probably not worth the calories or fat, and you would be better off drinking a glass of chocolate milk.

Have you tried Muscle Milk and if so, what did you think of it? Did you know that the goal was to mimic human milk?

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  • 32
    Never heard of it.
    Have no interest in it. - 7/31/2009   9:23:58 AM
    Slowly getting back into weight lifting after five or six years of no exercise, and being a new diabetic with it's challengers to overcome, I need all the help I can get to aid with muscle development. But with almost half of the fat calories are saturated (8g), I don't believe it would be a good choice for myself. - 7/31/2009   8:25:44 AM
  • 30
    When i get back into lifting for bodybuilding i will definitely try it. - 7/31/2009   7:02:50 AM
  • 29
    The final part of the article just lifted a burden off my shoulders. I am doing pilates 3 times a week and jogging 5k per day 3 times a week. I do not have to drink that supplement with the strange name and the many calories.

    Uhura - 7/31/2009   6:05:18 AM
  • 28
    Save your money. You could save up for a vacation getaway or a really nice bike with the money not spent on a $4. a day drink, be it Muscle Milk or Starbucks. - 7/31/2009   2:38:44 AM
    I tried it both as a powder awhile back when someone had it and didn't want it anymore and more recently in a ready-to-drink shake. I like the protein and nutrients I get out of it and the flavor is relatively decent for a nutritional supplement. The chocolate mix was good, especially when made into a smoothie. I think I'd go for the lower-calorie versions, or perhaps use the regular powder and use half the amount in a glass of milk if I were to buy it.

    I am not sure where I fall into the "elite athlete" vs. average active joe, since ballet is a high-energy, demanding activity, but I don't do it every day. I dance about 4xs per week for anywhere from one to three hours, depending on if we have rehearsal. But I am concerned about staying small, too, as a dancer, so I would probably go for the lower cal versions if I were to find some that I could actually afford. - 7/31/2009   1:50:56 AM
    I have used Muscle Milk for years as a supplement and meal replacement and am not an elite athlete. It is one of the best all around protein supplements out there and is widely available (even in convenience stores these days) in several formulas. Some are better tasting to me than others.

    There is now a 14 oz RTD formula with 220 calories, low in sugar, high in protein, does have artificial sweeteners. The banana creme in this formula is my favorite. They are sold in plastic bottles (not good) and are close to $4 everywhere I've bought them so that does limit my using them.

    You can still find an 11 oz 220 cal version or a lighter version (not sure of the calories) and they have a 100 cal Muscle Milk RTD in some of their flavors.

    Cytosport (I don't work for them) has other more hardcore bodybuilding proteins as well.

    The fat in Muscle Milk is healthy and not out of line in my opinion. For a meal replacement especially, it is appropriate.

    Fat is necessary to human nutrition. The fear of fat among nutritionists and dieters is (in my opinion) not warranted.

    But anyhow, I LOVE Muscle Milk. - 7/30/2009   11:12:25 PM
    Until recently, I drank Muscle Milk often, usually before or after a weight workout at the gym. Tastes great and has the nutritional contents i want. Lately I've been using a Protein bar because I bought two boxes of them. I was going to buy a bottle of Muscle Milk yesterday at Kroger after a workout, but when I learned they wanted $3.49 for it, I passed.

    I didn't know it was supposed to mimic milk - 7/30/2009   10:57:28 PM
  • 24
    I started working with a personal trainer twice a week. He wanted me to have some protein as soon as possible after our sessions. My son recommended Muscle Milk and I began using the light version. My after workout meal now consists of Muscle Milk with lots of ice and an apple . It tastes great!

    I did not know that Muscle Milk was trying to mimic human milk. That is an interesting bit of information. - 7/30/2009   9:46:39 PM
  • 23
    I heard about this a while back. My dad used Cytomax while mountain biking. I got some recently to try instead of Gatorade. Not a fan. As for Muscle Milk, I would never use it. - 7/30/2009   8:50:04 PM
  • 22
    This sounds good. I will check it out to see if it comes in lactaid. Having this milk with cereal 8oz would not hurt..I will also look at the protein.
    Thanks for this article. - 7/30/2009   8:20:51 PM
  • 21
    I love it! I 've tried the powdered chocolate. 1 scoop is actually pretty light & healthy if served with soy milk (yum). I've tried the pre-made Muscle Milk Light also and they are delicious but have a little more fat. Still great after a long hard workout! - 7/30/2009   6:47:53 PM
  • 20
    I also love Muscle Milk, I think they are an excellent source of protein. I use them when I'm not quite satisfied with just a salad for lunch, or as a post-workout snack. My boyfriend and I are on the South Beach diet and both avid runners. We both like the effects of a high protein shake like this without the massive carb load. I drink the new 100 calorie Muscle Milk's because I am on a diet but to me they are just as satisfying as the regular ones. - 7/30/2009   6:30:25 PM
    I love Muscle Milk and often use it as a meal substitute - especially on days when I can't get to the gym to work out. Less calories than a regular meal. My trainer recommended it to me. - 7/30/2009   5:49:39 PM
  • 18
    I am old school. I only take protein supplement when I don't get enough protein from my regular diet. If I eat enough, there's no need for supplement. I believe anyone wishes to build should seed proper nutrients from their meals first. I don't use any ergogenic aids and I can build my body just fine. If one doesn't eat and exercise properly, no matter what supplements he/she takes, it's not going to cut it. JMHO - 7/30/2009   5:42:47 PM
  • 17
    I first heard of it from a weight lifting friend/fanatic. That should have been enough to dissuade me for life, but I ran into it really cheap at the local bargain store and gave it a try. it was REALLY tasty and since I keep this type of beverage on hand for quick snacks or times when I am busy but don't want to skip a meal, it worked well. Unfortunately, they sold out, so I'm hoarding them - LOL - 7/30/2009   5:32:24 PM
  • 16
    While it may not be my place to disagree with our resident expert nutritionist, I'm not sure what Muscle Milk is supposed to be good for. As I couldn't find any literature sources on the Cytosport website, I took a quick trawl through the scientific literature. I'd like to post a "Devil's Advocate" post with my findings...

    I should start by saying that I'm a Short course (10k run - 40k bike - 5k run) duathlete by interest and a physiologist by training so I have more than a passing interest in the science behind the claims that some sports drink manufacturers make. I try to use science to make up for my distinct lack of talent both as a runner and a cyclist! I should also add that I have the sources that I cited as PDF files - if anyone is interested, SparkMail me your email address and I'll send them to you.

    So is Muscle Milk meant to be taken during exercise?
    It is well known that carb depletion is the major cause of fatigue during exercise, especially once that activity gets over one hour in duration. Kimber et al (2002) show that Ironman triathletes (IMNZ 1987) take in about 1g carb per kg of bodyweight per hour, and in fact 0.5-1g carb per kg bodyweight is what I've been recommended by my nutritionist. I'm ~85kg, so I'd need, say 42g carbs. Muscle Milk has 8g carbs per serving, of which 2g is sugars, which is what hard-working muscles need. Therefore I'd need 20+ servings. Not really feasible, methinks! Even if it's used as a Sports drink in a drink/gel combo, I'd need ~10. At 150 cals per serving, that's more than I'd burn on a 2hr run!

    Is Muscle Milk meant to be a recovery drink?
    There is a very good review by Millard-Stafford et al., (2008) which clearly demonstrates the need for carbs for the replenishment of muscle glycogen following intense exercise. In it there is a table showing that some combinations of carb:protein actually promote recovery following exercise. While this is balanced by lots of other studies showing that this is not true, let's assume that it is for now.

    Muscle Milk has 16g protein to 8g carbs, if you count fibre. Which I'm not sure you can. This is good, right? All that protein for muscle repair? Wait a minute. The studies that claim an improvement in recovery clearly have a carb:protein ratio of at least 2:1 (at least the ones I looked at did). Muscle Milk as a carb:protein ratio of 1:2. Chocolate Milk, the wonder recovery drink, has a carb:protein ratio of 3:1. While this ratio is not as important now (thanks SP_NANCY!), it is clear from the literature that a good recovery drink will have significantly more carbs than protein. Does Muscle Milk? Nope.

    Muscle Milk is a source of MCTs - they're good, right?
    Actually, while it turns out that while MCTs are readily used by the body, supplementing with MCTs has no effect on metabolism or exercise performance (reviewed by Jeukendrup and Aldred, 2004).

    Therefore, based on what I've read and what I know, I think it's a bit of a waste of time. Correct carbohydrate feeding during exercise (I am actually a huge fan of gels and sports drinks, but things like raisins are great too) with a good blend of easily digested carbs, electrolytes and fluid is more than adequate. After a bout of healthy exercise, a simple recovery meal or drink - I use a cup of 1% lactose free chocolate milk, or a turkey/chicken sandwich is plenty, whether you're training for an Ironman triathlon or training to run round the block. - 7/30/2009   4:29:42 PM
  • 15
    My teenager has been asking me to buy this for him. He is a football player and long boarder. I appreciate the information and it helped in my decision. - 7/30/2009   4:26:03 PM
  • 14
    I've seen it at the gym and had been curious about trying it. It's high in protein and low in carbs so it sounded ideal. I do 1-2 hours of cardio at least 5-6 times a week as well as strength train at the gym (several aerobics classes, treadmill, swimming and weight lifting) so it might be up my alley but I'm diabetic so I am concerned with something the article mentioned about this not being good for diabetics...but I'm not a nutritionist nor am I a scientist...I didn't understand the correlation between this product and it not being good for diabetics...I wish the article had explained this better. - 7/30/2009   4:08:58 PM
  • 13
    Now this is a coincidence that you're blogging about Muscle Milk. I'd first seen it at the gym. Then, I'd noticed it at the supermarket as well as the local corner store. It seems to be everywhere.

    Will I drink it ? I wanted to read the label, but found the print difficult to read. My personal feeling is that if I can't read the label, this isn't something I want to put into my body.

    As you've already noted, the calories are pretty high. For the same amount of calories, I could have a healthy meal.

    Nah, I'll pass on Muscle Milk.

    - 7/30/2009   3:30:45 PM
    I've used Muscle Milk for years. Great taste, I like the light, less fat and calories. I make a great smoothie in the morning with fresh fruit. - 7/30/2009   3:27:01 PM
  • 11
    I drink Muscle Milk Light after I work out at the gym. My trainer wanted me to have a protein drink after our sessions and they great tasting. I also like the Pure Protein Cookies and Cream shakes, but they come in a can and have the that can "after taste." - 7/30/2009   2:53:23 PM
    I drink the Muscle Milk Light Strawberry Creme but only after my weight training and cross training days. I still stick with Accelerade or Endurox R4 for my run recovery fueling source since 'real' milk gives me GI issues. Glad to see this is a good source.
    - 7/30/2009   2:36:55 PM
    I also think Muscle Milk is the best tasting protein shake I've tried! As I'm no longer training for a triathlon, I didn't need the extra calories, but I recently found Muscle Milk Light. At only 100 calories, 5g Carbs, 3g Fat and 15g of protein, it has become a great mid-day snack when I need more protein for the day! - 7/30/2009   2:17:52 PM
  • 8
    They have this at the gym I use, Planet Fitness. We tried this one night when a friend of mine unexpectedly 'hit the wall' during a strength training session.

    Knowing the liquid nutrients would get into his system faster than my protein bars and nuts I carry, I had him sip this.I had read the nutrition info on the back of the drinks they offered and the staff also suggested this one was the best for this purpose. Not only did he say it tasted good, but after 20 minutes of sipped and resting, he felt much better. This experience has only happened to him a few times in his life, and he never realized why or what to do beyond stopping to rest, he was amazed that he also didn't feel like he'd been hit by a truck later that day and into the next. He was a bit sore, but only as much as he normally is after an intense workout. Since I'd grown up dancing and spent my youth with an eating disorder, I've had to learn the hard way how to deal with that exact situation on my own.

    Of course, I insisted he complete his stretches, too, once he'd recovered enough to be able to, so that is part of it. But since then, I've decided to keep Muscle Milk as an option for when I just don't have the option for solid food.

    I wonder, for those times when the stomach simply won't accept solid food, because I still do have many of those days, would Muscle Milk replace a home made smoothie, too? I'm not talking on a regular basis, but for occasional use as a meal replacement? I mean, it's got to be better than skipping a meal, and my Doctor is currently having me reduce my milk and dairy intake due to IBS, to see if it helps. Which means chocolate milk as a meal is off my menu for the time being. :(

    - 7/30/2009   2:15:46 PM
  • 7
    I won't use it as it's full of dairy.
    Odd that a supplement that is made to be ideal for humans uses cow lactate, which is only ideal for calves. Hrm. - 7/30/2009   2:12:51 PM
  • 6
    I was traveling for work and needed a breakfast replacement. I am lactose intolerant so drinking milk form the gift shop was not an option. I usually have cereal or a bar, fruit and milk for my breakfast so when I travel this can be difficulty! I found Muscle Milk Light in the gift shop refrigerator next to the milk products. Since Muscle Milk was "Lactose Free" as noted on the packaging, I thought what the heck! I am so happy that I did try it. I saved me that entire week while I was away. I was using it as breakfast everyday I was away.

    I now keep it as a backup if I need a quick light snack before or after a workout. When I was seeing my trainer and we were working out early in the morning, I would keep a bottle with me for after the workout. It was great, so when I got home I was not famished and did not eat myself out of house and home. If I know I am going to not eat dinner until really late, I will typcially have a snack of cheese and fruit or muscle milk to keep me going between my lunch and my late dinner. This way I am not tempted to snack on unhealthy foods.

    I keep the drink on hand as a backup, but not as a mainstay in my diet. - 7/30/2009   1:30:26 PM
  • 5
    I have tried Muscle Milk. I didn't know the science behind it. I was looking for a high protein drink that taste good. It really taste great but it was a little expensive at my local supermarket. I don't think it is right for me after reading the article. - 7/30/2009   1:25:29 PM
  • NDREA22
    We can't get Muscle Milk in the UK - 7/30/2009   1:22:31 PM
  • 3
    No, I haven't tried Muscle Milk; I am a cardio walker; so I probably won't. I had no idea that Muscle Milk was designed to mimic human milk. Great informative blog. - 7/30/2009   1:13:25 PM
  • 2
    I started drinking Muscle Milk after being practically forced to taste it by my neighbor. It is, hands down, the best tasting "protein" shake out there and that alone is enough to get me to buy it. I also have steadily lost weight using it as a breakfast meal. The fat was higher for a shake, but still very low in terms of a meal. I'm going to drink it until they stop making it. - 7/30/2009   1:08:57 PM

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