Review: CytoSport's Muscle Milk Protein Supplement

Review: CytoSport’s Muscle Milk Protein Supplement

Anyone who’s serious about gaining muscle knows it takes high quality protein and extra calories. Most trainees try to consume 5–7 meals per day, but—in a busy world—this isn’t always easy to do. Thus, commercial meal replacements and weight gainers (like Muscle Milk) are marketed to fill in the gaps.

The problem is that most “first generation” weight gainers are designed for hyperactive 19 year–olds: they contain far too many calories from cheap, high–glycemic index carbohydrates for your average gym rat. They’ll help pack on the pounds all right, but— as Paul observes—they’re the kind that jiggle!

Enter Cytosport’s Muscle Milk®, which could be described as a “second generation” gainer. Muscle Milk supplies extra calories, but not nearly as many as traditional gainers; in addition, most of those extra calories come from “Lean Lipids™” rather than carbohydrates. Cytosport claims that Lean Lipids

“…are special fats that are easily mobilized for workout energy, enhance your body’s fat metabolism and promote protein synthesis, anti-inflammatory effects and mineral retention.”

Muscle Milk also supplies a solid amount of protein. Instead of relying solely on whey protein concentrates or isolates, however, Muscle Milk uses EvoPro™, a proprietary blend that’s

“…a complex ratio of proteins, peptides and amino acids designed to replicate the amazing benefits of mother’s milk for rapid tissue growth and repair.”

If that’s not enough, Muscle Milk comes in an assortment of flavors that would do Baskin Robbins proud; from “root beer float” to “dulce de leche.”

It’s yummy stuff, but will Muscle Milk really make you “grow muscle like never before” and “help you get leaner”?

When in doubt, it pays to read the fine print: in this case, the list of ingredients and nutritional info.

Muscle Milk® “Cookies and Creme” flavor:

EvoPro™(Micellar Alpha And Beta Caseins And Caseinates, Whey Concentrates Rich In Alpha-Lactalbumin, Whey Isolates, Whey Peptides, L-Glutamine, Taurine, Lactoferrin), Lean Lipids™(Trans Fat Free Lipid Complex Consisting Of Canola Oil, Sunflower And/Or Safflower Oil, MCT’s, L-Carnitine), Fructose, Maltodextrin, CytoVite I™ (Vitamin And Mineral Premix Consisting Of Vitamin A Acetate, Cholecalciferol, D-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbic Acid, Folate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Niacinamide, Pyridoxine HCL, Cyanocobalamin, Biotin, Pantothenic Acid, Di-Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Iodide, Potassium Chloride, Ferrous Fumarate, Magnesium Oxide, Copper Gluconate, Zinc Oxide, Chromium Nicotinate), Chocolate Cookie Pieces, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Soy Lecithin

Amount Per Serving: Calories 300 (Calories From Fat 110), Fat 12g (Saturated Fat 6g), Carbohydrate 16g (Sugars 4g), Protein 32g

Just like Mother used to make… 🙂

Then again, maybe not. Let’s start with EvoPro and that soft–focus comparison to mother’s milk.

This analogy is central to Cytosport’s marketing, but it just doesn’t hold up. Human milk is incredibly complex. Beyond the basic nutrients, it contains immunoglobulins, antimicrobial agents, hormones, cytokines/anti-inflammatory compounds, macrophages, digestive enzymes, and growth factors. These are the components largely responsible for the “amazing benefits” of mother’s milk, not the casein-whey fraction. In addition, EvoPro contains elements from bovine whey and casein that are not present in human milk, such as beta-lactoglobulin.

Thus, EvoPro’s resemblance to human milk is superficial, at best.

EvoPro is a casein-whey-amino acid blend, no more and no less. This isn’t a bad thing at all: casein has anti-catabolic activity, while whey proteins are high in essential amino acids. Both are high quality proteins that aspiring bodybuilders can benefit from. It has yet to be shown, however, that either is better for building muscle than—say—the protein in beef or eggs. The specific casein and whey proteins in mother’s milk are best for babies because they’re easy for immature digestive systems to handle—not because they’re uniquely anabolic.

It’s a similar story for the Lean Lipids blend, which consists of canola, sunflower/safflower oils and MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). Canola, sunflower and safflower oils are common cooking oils. Needless to state, there’s nothing particularly “lean” about them.

It’s true that medium chain triglycerides are more easily metabolized for energy than long-chain triglycerides (such as those in canola, sunflower and/or safflower oils), and they increase total energy expenditure when used to replace long chain triglycerides in short term dietary experiments. The effect, however, is not large: one experiment, for example, measured an average increase in daily energy expenditure of 63 kcal/day (Obesity Research 11:395-402 (2003)) in obese men—who were consuming considerably more MCT oil per day than Muscle Milk provides.

In other words, Lean Lipids aren’t really going to make you lean. In fairness, they aren’t going to make you fat either, unless you overindulge. With a gainer, the extra calories have to come from something, and while 12 g fat seems like a lot, it’s no more than what a small serving of almonds or vinaigrette salad dressing provides.*

Nonetheless, after you strip away the hype, Muscle Milk is still a decent product that tastes good and is undeniably convenient. While Muscle Milk possesses no unique anabolic properties, it’s a good source of high-quality protein and extra calories that can be used to supplement a muscle-building diet.

*There is also a “light” version of Muscle Milk® with only 6 g of fat, for those who don’t want the extra calories.

Muscle Milk is available at BodyBuilding.com,
our recommended online retailer!

Summary of Muscle Milk
  • Contains a solid amount of high-quality protein.
  • Tastes great.
  • Moderately low in carbs.
  • Good source of vitamins/minerals/fiber
  • “Lean Lipids” not particularly “lean.”

Author: elissa

Elissa is a former research associate with the University of California at Davis, and the author/co-author of over a dozen articles published in scientific journals. Currently a freelance writer and researcher, Elissa brings her multidisciplinary education and training to her writing on nutrition and supplements.

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