Whether you are a fitness junkie, a sports enthusiast, a beach goer or a traveling salesmen, dehydration hits us all pretty hard from time to time. Dehydration occurs when your body loses a lot more fluid than it's getting because of exposure to heat or exertion. Most people today regard energy drinks Gatorade and Powerade as the natural choice when it comes to fighting dehydration, but not surprisingly nature may have something better to offer - milk!
The idea of using milk for hydration may seem unconventional, but it's one that's probably been around for as long as we've had domesticated livestock. While electrolyte drinks remain the most popular choice, research confirms that milk is one of the best hydrating drinks after a workout or a day in the sun. This year, yet another study confirmed earlier findings that milk and milk alternatives may be better than even the best sports drinks for hydration.
AdvertisementWhen you exercise, you lose as much as a liter or two for every hour of exercise and an athlete can lose as much as three litres during a high intensity workout. As you get dehydrated however, it isn't just fluid that you lose but there is also a severe depletion in sodium levels and other electrolytes. This causes exhaustion, fatigue and can also result in muscle cramps.
Milk is believed to better than any sports drink or even water because it contains a high amount of protein and is also a good source of carbohydrate, calcium and electrolytes, including sodium.
A study conducted by researchers at McMaster University in Canada in 2011 clearly demonstrated that milk is a better way to rehydrate children than water, because it replaces sodium that is lost in sweat and it is also much better for fluid retention. Water, on the other hand, is not the best idea after a heavy workout because it results in a further reduction in sodium levels. Although the study was conducted in children, the findings are also relevant to adults as has been shown in other studies.
An earlier study, from 2007, published in the British Journal of Nutrition compared the effectiveness of skimmed milk as a rehydrating solution against several popular energy and oral rehydration drinks. The results of the study were just as revelatory as they showed that skimmed milk produced notable improvements in rehydration as compared to the other drinks.
Still more recently, a study conducted by researchers from Brazil, and published earlier this year in Food and Nutrition Sciences, supported the claims made by numerous studies over the past decade. They found that bovine low-fat milk worked as an excellent rehydration drink for individuals with an active lifestyle, including athletes who experience considerable fluid loss during workouts.
Hypohydration poses a significant health risk and can impair athletic performance, which is why it is absolutely essential to maintain fluid balance both before and during exercise. When it comes to carbohydrate electrolyte beverages, there really isn't much that's better than milk. The researchers in this particular study recommended low-fat bovine milk as a viable alternative to traditional energy drinks because of its nutritional composition. The natural presence of water as well as electrolytes like sodium and potassium in the milk promotes the rehydration process.
As pointed out by most of the researchers, drinking milk is not just one of the best ways to rehydrate your system, but also replenishes your energy levels. It is an excellent source of protein and energy and various essential minerals that are needed for optimal functioning of the human body. Keep in mind that when it comes to using milk as a rehydration solution, you should make it a point to use skimmed milk as the high fat content in whole milk can impede fluid replacement in the body.
Pegoretti, C. , Antunes, A. , Manchado-Gobatto, F. and Capitani, C. (2015) Milk: An Alternative Beverage for Hydration?. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 6, 547-554. doi: 10.4236/fns.2015.66057.
McMaster University. (2011, August 23). Milk better than water to rehydrate kids, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110817142849.htm
Susan M. Shirreffs, Phillip Watson and Ronald J. Maughan (2007). Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink. British Journal of Nutrition, 98, pp 173-180. doi:10.1017/S0007114507695543.