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I was asked by an athlete on a long bus ride home: What has more protein? Whole Milk or Fat Free Milk (aka Skim milk in certain parts of the country)?
A quick Google search will tell you they are the same at 8 grams of protein per cup or 250ml of milk regardless of fat content.
One of the student athletes said Fat Free milk must have more because as you extract fat from the total milk volume, you have to replace it with more milk, thus it must be marginally more.
It turns out she was right. Pound for pound, or cup for cup, fat free milk has about 8.35 grams while whole milk at 3.5% milkfat has about 8 grams. 2% and 1% milk lies somewhere inbetween.
Saturated Fat – The Dr Evil from the 70’s
Decades ago, we have been brainwashed to decrease our saturated fat intake to reduce heart disease and other illnesses. However, studies have shown whole milk produces more lean body mass gains than fat free milk.
WTF? Eat fat, gain muscle?
It turns out to be true.
First, fats give you the satiety effect or the “feeling full” effect. That is why the Atkins diet is “successful” in losing weight. (Note how I put the word successful in quotes) Calorie per calorie, the Atkins diet has fat and protein to make the dieter feel full and prevent binges.
Second, a fatty meal will slow absorption compared to a diet with just carbs. Thus the protein in milk, both casein and whey, will be absorbed slower.
Of course, if you are looking at milk for a post recovery drink, then that’s a whole other issue because of the carbs. Coupled that with chocolate milk, and the whole high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) scare, and we have another long debate going on.
If you want the full scoop on protein, then I highly recommend the Protein Book by Lyle McDonald.
Further reading: Past articles include Is Milk the Ultimate Post Workout Recovery Drink? and Cereal and Milk, not Chocolate Milk Better for Recovery?.