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Milk for Hydration
by our Sports Scientist Stephen Morehen
During exercise, we lose fluid from our bodies by sweating as a way of maintaining a cool core temperature. Following exercise, it is key to replace these lost fluids through rehydration, otherwise the regulation of our core temperature may become compromised – not something we want! Hypohydration (meaning a state of under-hydration) can elicit nasty complications such as increased strain on the heart, increased skin and core temperatures and a reduced ability of the nervous system to stimulate muscle contraction. 
Hydration is a word which likely conjures up images of ice-cold water bottles or specialist sports drinks in flashy TV ads. One drink which you probably haven’t considered in your rehydration strategy is milk. (That’s right… good old cow’s milk) Few people are aware of this, but here are the facts.
Research from Griffith University in Australia  investigated the effectiveness of various beverages for rehydration following exercise, including cow’s milk. Participants in this study cycled until they had lost 2% of their body mass as sweat. Following the exercise, they drank one of four beverages over a period of one hour and fluid retention was measured for a further four hours. The results of the research report that fluid retention (a reliable marker of hydration status) when drinking cow’s milk was 40%, compared to only 16% when drinking a specialist isotonic sport drink!
Not only is milk great for rehydration, but it also elicits great fluid retention when consumed in a euhydrated state (that is, neither under or over-hydrated). Another piece of research, from Loughborough University this time , demonstrated that consumption of both skimmed and whole milk resulted in a lower urinary output (i.e. higher fluid retention and therefore greater hydration) compared to other drinks such as still water, coffee, lager, iced tea and even a sports drink.
So, you may be wondering: what makes milk so effective when it comes to hydrating? To answer this, we should take a look at what is in it. Cow’s milk contains sodium, carbohydrate (in the form of the sugar lactose) and protein, among other things. All three of these constituents have been shown to further improve hydration when they are added to rehydration drinks, and they occur naturally in situ with one another in cow’s milk – very handy!