We often get the question, “what about dairy?”. Humans are the only mammals to consume dairy past infancy, and until about 9,000 years ago, people did not consume non-human milk or dairy products. But, is that enough to convince you to lay off dairy? If not, we will discuss our primary reasons for not doing dairy and then talk about one reason you might actually want to drink milk.
- Dairy provokes an inflammatory response in the gut, which can adversely affect how you digest all your food. An irritated gut makes it difficult to digest food and can negate the positive gut-healing effects of the Paleo diet. Similar to what happens with gluten, cow's milk is implicated in a number of auto-immune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, and celiac disease.
- Dairy spikes insulin levels similar to consuming foods with a high glycemic load. Although milk has a low glycemic load, it actually has a quite high insulin spike. This is because it contains carbohydrates along with high levels of the amino acid leucine, which is known to produce an insulin spike in the body. When insulinotropic amino acids, such as leucine, are mixed with carbohydrates, there is a greater insulin response in the body than if you only consumed one or the other. Skim milk is actually the worst kind of dairy you can consume because there's no fat to slow down the absorption of amino acids and carbohydrates.
- Dairy has an acidifying effect on the body. Despite the fact that the US consumes more calcium than anyone else in the world, we have one of the highest incidences of osteoporosis and bone demineralization. This is because dairy, grains, and other processed foods, rob our bones of calcium. Bone health is substantially dependent on dietary acid/base balance. For more information, reference the calcium article that we e-mailed out to the Eat Real participants and that is posted here. The goal is to avoid a net acid load on your kidneys.
So, are there any benefits to drinking milk? We do like dairy consumption in one instance: when you have reached your desired leanness and want to gain mass, get stronger, and don’t mind putting on a little body fat in the process. What level of leanness are we talking about? Typically, we’re talking less than 10% body fat for males, and less than 16% body fat for females. We recommend leaning out first because dairy consumption contributes to increased insulin resistance for someone with too much body fat.
Consuming milk post-workout may help a lean athlete use the insulin spike in milk to shuttle nutrients to the muscles as quickly as possible while the body is highly insulin sensitive. How do you implement this? After leaning out, add milk in post-workout and see how you handle it. If you do okay with it, add a little more. If you can consume a gallon of (whole) milk a day (GOMAD) while consuming your typical Paleo diet, you will add 2400 calories to your diet. There is growth potential beyond the calories, though. Potent growth promoters like increased IGF, hGH, insulin, and testosterone come from drinking whole milk.
Mark Rippetoe, owner of Wichita Falls Athletic Club has seen fantastic results using the GOMAD diet. John Welbourn, creator of CrossFit Football, likes Paleo + dairy to combine the potent growth effects of dairy with the anti-inflammatory effects of the Paleo diet.
We don’t like dairy, but if you are looking to gain some mass and don’t mind a little gas, some potential acne, and all the negative effects discussed at the beginning of the article, you might want to give it a try.