Muscle Milk: Good or Bad?

Muscle Milk, created by CytoSport, is a very popular supplement used by bodybuilders, physical fitness enthusiasts and even the average occasional gym goer.  Is this extremely popular product safe and effective or is it dangerous? A number of research studies have highlighted the potential benefits of this protein supplement but others have raised concerns about the safety of Muscle Milk when used on a regular basis.

Muscle Milk Benefits

There are numerous studies that show the potential benefits Muscle Milk may have. These include:

Full nutritional support

Each serving of Muscle Milk provides at least 33% of the daily recommended intake for many vitamins and minerals. This includes vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and B12, folic acid, biotin, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, pantothenic acid, zinc, copper, and chromium. This is on top of 32 grams of protein per serving. Muscle Milk is also rich in antioxidants that can reduce oxidative stress in the body, lowering the risk for cancer and certain other diseases in many individuals.

High in nitrogen

Muscle Milk is formulated after breast milk, and both contain high amounts of nitrate. In the body nitrate is turned into nitrite, which is then used to make nitric oxide. Higher nitric oxide levels provide better nervous system support, digestive health, increased immune system function, and better blood pressure regulation. The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston published research results in October 2010, in the Breastfeeding Medicine journal, which showed how important nitrates are for health and growth.

Good fats

Muscle Milk is very high in fat but much of these are the good fats and not the bad type. Medium chain triglycerides make up most of the fat in the product and these have a number of health and physical fitness benefits. MCTs are absorbed by the body faster and they provide fuel and energy, and they also contain fewer calories than what are found in long chain fatty acids. In addition, the medium chain fat may be perfect for preventing signs of aging as you get older, and they can increase endurance and energy during a workout. This type of fat has been shown to help prevent arteriosclerosis and increase fat burning. One study on fat oxidation with MCTs was performed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University and New York Obesity Research Center, St Luke’s/Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, New York. Another was conducted School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Medium chain triglycerides can be used as a quick fuel source during a workout because these fats are converted into energy rather than being stored as body fat.

Branched chain amino acids

Muscle Milk has branched chain amino acids, and these nutrients are required in order to build muscle tissue and promote cellular health. A recent study by Penn Med conducted by researcher Peter LeRoux shows that BCAAs may even speed up the healing process in individuals who have suffered head injuries like concussions. There is some speculation that these nutrients may also speed up muscle tissue healing as well, resulting in larger muscles and increased mass. So far, research has been limited to mice but there have been results seen which conclude that BCAAs can help improve the repair process in the body and promote better healing.

Promote an anabolic state

Many physical fitness supplements including Muscle Milk provide the nutrients needed to promote an anabolic state in the body. In many individuals, fat burning is sped up and muscle growth is accelerated. With the right effort, this can translate into bigger and more visible muscles.

Superior muscle gains

Muscle Milk contains a blend of both whey protein and casein protein and this combination has been scientifically shown to be superior when it comes to building muscle mass. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the conclusion reached by the scientific community was that the differing digestion rates for these two protein sources make them a better choice than products that have one protein source or those with multiple protein sources that all share the same digestion rate.

Weight gain

Because Muscle Milk is high in calories, this product can cause weight gain for those who may have difficulty gaining weight due to insufficient calories.

Muscle Milk Concerns and Drawbacks

Most healthy individuals who have no medical problems or pre existing conditions and who use Muscle Milk do not have any problems with this supplement product, but there are some concerns and drawbacks that consumers should be aware of before they decide to purchase it. Many of these concerns are based on scientific research and they include:

Possibly high in heavy metals

Independent testing and laboratory results obtained by Consumer Reports in 2010 show that more than one version of Muscle Milk may be a cause for concern because of high levels of several heavy metals. Consumer reports released the lab results and voiced concern about frequent use of Muscle Milk and exposure to several metals that could be dangerous and harm health. Many who use protein supplements and products like Muscle Milk do so on a regular basis in order to get the best possible results from their fitness and bodybuilding efforts. The lab testing in 2010 showed that the Vanilla version of Muscle Milk contained more than 12 micrograms of the metal lead when 3 servings were consumed, and the chocolate version has cadmium, lead, arsenic, and mercury, and that three of these metals were found in higher amounts than what was found in other supplements.


Glycocyamine is a compound that has raised some concerns in scientific and physical fitness circles, with many debating whether this compound is safe or dangerous. A number of studies have shown that the concerns voiced are valid but others question the reliability of the study methods and the validity of the results for humans. This compound contributes to raised homocysteine levels which can contribute to a number of medical problems and health conditions. In addition, a study has shown results that lead some to conclude that glycocyamine is a neurotoxin, but others disagree. The study in question is Activation of GABA(A) receptors by guanidinoacetate: a novel pathophysiological mechanism, performed by the Zentrum für Molekulare Neurobiologie Hamburg, Universität Hamburg, in Germany.

Higher levels of homocysteine

When homocysteine levels are high, this creates the risk of a number of medical problems and conditions. This amino acid is intermediary and it is formed in the body. The risk for arterial blood clots, stroke, cardiac events, inflammation, abnormal levels of blood lipids, and hypothyroidism are increased when the homocysteine levels are elevated.

More health risks and concerns with certain populations

Certain populations should not use Muscle Milk according to the product recommendations and medical experts. Pregnant or nursing women should avoid this supplement completely, and anyone with kidney impairment or other pre-existing conditions should always consult a physician before using any nutritional supplement. This includes diabetes and any previous cardiovascular events.

Potential kidney damage

Excessive protein intake can cause kidney damage or impaired kidney function. If dietary protein needs are being met through natural food choices then the large amount of protein provided by Muscle Milk may be excessive, resulting in kidney problems or other medical conditions.

Sodium pump inhibition

The enzyme responsible for sodium pump regulation may be inhibited by glycocyamine. The study cited for this claim against the use of Muscle Milk is the Intrastriatal administration of guanidinoacetate inhibits Na+, K+-ATPase and creatine kinase activities in rat striatum, by the Departamento de Bioquímica, ICBS, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.

Should You Use Muscle Milk

The amount of research on the pros and cons of Muscle Milk is still small and many studies have conclusions that can be viewed in different ways. Many of the studies performed are not used in human test subjects but are performed on animal test subjects and may involve in vitro studies. Many use this supplement without any adverse results but others have experienced problems. Only you can weigh the pros and cons of Muscle Milk and decide whether this supplement or a similar product is right for your current health status and physical fitness goals. The risks and benefits of Muscle Milk need to be carefully considered and evaluated before an informed decision can be made for either case.




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