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Milk - High Protein for Athletes

Caroline Kavanagh | November 30, 2022

Getting enough protein in your diet is important for everyone, but especially so for athletes. Along with helping you feel full, longer, this macronutrient helps build and repair muscles, cartilage and ligaments after training (in men as well as women). It also generates hair, skin, bones and other tissues as well as enzymes, hormones, and antibodies for your immune system. While milk may seem ordinary next to the vast array of commercial protein products on the supermarket shelves — *the science leans in milk’s favor. **It even rehydrates, as well as, if not better than isotonic sports drinks. Adding a high-protein milk can be a great addition to your nutrition plan. Outlined below are some milk options to check out if you are looking to "up your game!"

Regular Milk

One serving of regular cow’s milk contains 8 grams of protein and 12 grams of carbohydrates and contains all the essential amino acids (you need all essential amino acids for optimal muscle building) and 13 total essential nutrients.

Milk is also rich in vitamins and minerals, containing: calcium, Vitamin D (when fortified), Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B12, potassium, and phosphorus.

High-Protein Milk

There are a variety of high-protein milk options available in stores. Depending on your dietary preferences and tolerances, select the best fit for your needs.


Ultra-filtered milks, such as Fairlife (one of my favorites) or Organic Valley Ultra, are filtered to remove the lactose and concentrate both the protein and calcium content of the beverage. A cup of ultra-filtered milk has 13 grams of protein, which is 50% more than regular milk. If you are lactose-intolerant, ultra-filtered milk is a good high-protein milk option, as it is lactose free. Flavor wise, ultra-filtered milk might taste slightly sweeter than ordinary milk, which might surprise you given that it's suppose to be lower in sugar. This has to do with the way the lactose is broken down into glucose and galactose. Glucose and galactose are perceived as sweeter by your taste receptors than lactose. If you're used to drinking lactose-free milk, you might not notice a difference in sweetness. I'm drinking milk again due to the great taste and no stomach upset. YAH!


Lactose-free milk is made by treating regular cow’s milk with a lactase enzyme to removes the lactose. If you prefer purchasing a lactose-free milk, there are higher protein options available. Lactaid Protein Milk contains 13 grams of protein per cup as well as calcium and Vitamin D.

What About High-Protein Plant-Based Milks?

Soy protein drinks are a good alternative if you don’t drink dairy milk. Soy milk contains ~6 grams of soy protein per cup. Similar to cow’s milk, soy milk is a complete protein, containing all of the essential amino acids.

Some brands of plant-based milks offer higher protein varieties. Silk Original Protein is an almond and cashew milk blend that contains added pea protein. A one cup serving of this beverage provides 10 grams of protein, along with calcium and Vitamin D.

In general though, plant-based milks (almond, oat and coconut) tend to be low in protein. For example, a one-cup serving of unsweetened almond milk contains ~1 gram of protein. Get Milk!

InsideOut Human Performance - nutrition: * (Cockburn et al, 2012, Ferguson-Stegall et al, 2011; Josse, 2010; Elliot, 2006; Hartman et al, 2007; Wilkinson, 2007; Karp et al, 2006) **(Shireffs et al, 2007)


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