Muscle Milk is a popular powdered protein supplement. Often, it’s favored by people you love working out, and the brand was a clear frontrunner in the protein powder market. Even now, it’s solid taste and comparatively lower price point have helped Muscle Milk retain that popularity.
Before taking any new supplement, however, you should understand the benefits and related, potential side effects — even if the product has been on the market for awhile. Here, we’ll break down everything you need to know about Muscle Milk and similar protein supplements.
What Is Muscle Milk?
Muscle Milk is a brand of powdered, ready-to-drink protein supplements. Although the product contains milk proteins, it’s not considered a dairy product. This became something of an issue in 2011 when the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to Muscle Milk’s manufacturer. Even though Muscle Milk says it doesn’t contain milk — and rightly so — it does contain whey and casein proteins, which are derived from milk and, therefore, can trigger related allergies.
More specifically, Muscle Milk contains a blend of two types of proteins. The whey proteins in the supplement offer immediate benefits because they are quickly metabolized by the body. Other proteins, called micellar caseins, provide longer-term fuel for the body because they metabolize more slowly than whey proteins.
While Muscle Milk’s products can be consumed on their own, the powder can be incorporated into drinks as well as other dishes. Take a glance at Muscle Milk’s recipes and you’ll find that the powder can serve as a meal replacement, healthy snack, or pre/post-workout boost of energy.
Aside from proteins, fat and carbohydrates are two of the body’s other sources of energy that produce greater stamina and strength for physical activity. To increase endurance without causing unwanted weight gain, Muscle Milk uses “lean lipids” derived from sunflower and canola oil. The product label also claims that “low-sugar, high fiber complex carbs” make up the carbohydrates in the supplement blend.
What Are the Benefits of Muscle Milk?
On its product page, Muscle Milk lists the benefits of its basic protein powder as follows: sustained energy, hunger satisfaction, and workout recovery. One of the most powerful ingredients in Muscle Milk is l-glutamine taurine. Taurine is an amino acid found in many healthy proteins.
Although more evidence is needed, recent studies suggest that taurine plays a role in increasing endurance and shortening recovery time after exercise. Older studies assert that taurine helps to decrease oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress is one factor that can make the process of building muscle more painful and taxing. Both qualities would support someone who wants to reach a muscle gain goal.
Moreover, all Muscle Milk ingredients are Certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) for Sport so athletes do not need to worry about ingesting banned substances. The NSF establishes and certifies standards for food safety for public health.
Although it is not one of the main benefits promoted by the brand, studies suggest that Muscle Milk can help with weight loss. Supplements with whey proteins have been proven to reduce the incidence of obesity and help patients lose weight. There have been studies to support the idea the eating a high protein diet increases satiety and helps to control weight.
Until 2013, CytoSport’s marketing included the phrase “healthy fats.” A lawsuit against CytoSport alleged that language was misleading on the basis that the company’s drinks contained as much fat as Krispy Kreme donuts. The company settled that class action lawsuit by paying $5,300,000.
What Do Experts Say About Muscle Milk?
Generally, medical professionals recommend products that have been studied clinically. Like other dietary supplements, Muscle Milk has never been clinically studied. Hence, few doctors and dietitians would offer public endorsements of the commercial supplement. Muscle Milk’s website makes the claim of collaboration with “sports scientists and other experts,” but there is no public listing of said experts.
Although there are no studies, Muscle Milk does abide by regulations set forth by the FDA, which oversees the safety of supplements — but not their effectiveness. In addition to ensuring that supplements contain authentic ingredients, the FDA will put a stopper on companies that make false claims. For example, the FDA cracked down on the manufacturers of Muscle Milk for label the product as “healthy” — something it cannot claim because of the amounts of sugar and fat it contains.
As noted above, Muscle Milk contains vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats. Those ingredients on their own have been known to improve muscle recovery, muscle mass, and endurance. However, there are no studies to prove that the exact blend of ingredients in Muscle Milk has any clearly proven impact on health or fitness. While there are few substantial expert endorsements of Muscle Milk, there are some explanations of the purported benefit of the ingredients.
In 2018, a study on the effectiveness of taking protein supplements, in any form, to increase performance in exercise concluded that a regular, protein-rich diet has a stronger impact than one based around protein supplements. However, it also notes a correlation between pre- and post-workout protein supplements and improved muscle performance and recovery.
Alternatives to Muscle Milk
Most of the studies on the effectiveness of the ingredients in Muscle Milk focus on proteins that come from a regular diet. Eggs, milk, hemp, brown rice, and peas are excellent natural sources of protein. Many consumers are attracted to Muscle Milk because of the quality of its ingredients.
However, Orgain, Ritual, and FairLife are all examples of solid competitors. Favoring quality, some of these top brands focus more on organic ingredients; Orgain, for example, not only boasts organic ingredients, but it’s also plant-based, which makes it perfect for vegan and vegetarian folks. For other customers, Muscle Milk’s big draw is its ability to serve as a meal replacement shake. While the brands mentioned above can be mixed into shakes, others, such as Ensure, offer pre-made shake options.
Risks & Side Effects Associated with Muscle Milk
The high protein levels in Muscle Milk may not be safe for people with kidney disease; kidneys are sensitive to excess proteins, so when there’s too much protein in the body, the kidneys filter it into waste. As such, kidneys that do not function well are not able to filter out high levels of protein properly.
Moreover, Muscle Milk contains artificial sweeteners that the Center for Science in the Public Interest encourages consumers to avoid. Acesulfame potassium and sucralose are the exact culprits in Muscle Milk, and studies have found that, over time, they can alter your intestines’ microbiome and lead to insulin resistance.
Undoubtedly, Muscle Milk can serve as a great source of necessary nutrients, especially if you’re looking to support an active, muscle-building exercise regimen. When used as directed for short periods of time, this supplement can be beneficial. When used more than directed or against medical advice, Muscle Milk can pose some health concerns.
- “FDA warns Muscle Milk makers about mislabeling” via The Seattle Times
- Muscle Milk’s Recipes
- “The Effect of Taurine on the Recovery from Eccentric Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage in Males” via U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “Role of taurine supplementation to prevent exercise-induced oxidative stress in healthy young men” via U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “Whey Protein Supplementation Improves Body Composition and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” via Journal of the American College of Nutrition
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- “Dietary Supplements” via U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)
- “FDA warns Muscle Milk makers for mislabeling” via Associated Press
- “Nutrition Tips : How Does Muscle Milk Work?” via eHow | YouTube
- “Significance of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in human health” via Clinical and Translational Medicine | U.S. Library of Medicine
- “Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training” via Frontiers in Nutrition | U.S. Library of Medicine
- “Kidney-friendly nutrition” via National Kidney Foundation
- “Chemical Cuisine” via Center for Science in the Public Interest
- “Sucralose, A Synthetic Organochlorine Sweetener: Overview of Biological Issues” via Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health (Part B, Critical Reviews) | U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “The artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium affects the gut microbiome and body weight gain in CD-1 mice” via PLOS One | U.S. National Library of Medicine