muscle milk

Muscle Milk has become a ubiquitous nutritional supplement drink. It’s found not only in supplement stores, but is also available at most corner markets.

Its ingredients, according to its website, include calcium and sodium caseinate, milk protein isolate, maltodextrin, fructose, potassium citrate, and vitamin mineral blend, among others. But because you can’t pick “vitamin mineral blend” from a tree, many people are wary of Muscle Milk and wonder if it’s safe for them.

Natalie Stephens, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, acknowledges the food label on Muscle Milk products can be a bit of a tongue twister for the average person.

Did You Know?
  • Since Muscle Milk is marketed and sold as a nutritional supplement, there’s no recommended daily consumption.
  • While it contains no actual milk and is lactose-free, it does contains ingredients derived from milk that could activate milk-related allergies.

But are there any known ingredients in Muscle Milk that people should be concerned about?

“While there aren’t any ingredients that are outright harmful, this question really depends on the individual consumer,” she says. “People with chronic diseases like high blood pressure, kidney issues, or sensitivity to food dyes or sugar substitutes may want to read closely or even ask the advice of a qualified health professional before consuming.”

Felice Kosakavich, MS, RD, CDN, has a son who plays college basketball and uses Muscle Milk as his protein supplement of choice.

“With excessive weight training and practices he feels it is a good price, excellent taste, and meets his needs for additional protein,” she says. “He is comfortable using it and, after much research, feels it is reputable.”

Kosakavich says athletes like her son could benefit from Muscle Milk. “The composition of high-protein, low-carbohydrates will provide the extra protein needed pre and post workout for recovery,” she says.

But that doesn’t mean the supplement drink comes without concerns for specific people.

1. It’s Not “Healthy”

In 2013, CytoSport, Inc. — the maker of Muscle Milk — agreed to pay $5.3 million in a class action lawsuit about its marketing language using the word “healthy.”

Prior to the suit, Muscle Milk claimed to contain “healthy fats,” but the lawsuit alleged the drinks contained as much total and saturated fat as Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

CytoSport is now not allowed to use the word “healthy” on its labels until 2016, unless it contains less than half a gram of saturated fat per serving.

2. It May Trigger Allergies

In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to CytoSport, about their claim that Muscle Milk “contains no milk.” While Muscle Milk doesn’t contain actual milk, it does contain whey and casein proteins, which are derivatives of milk that may trigger an allergic reaction in some people. 

Kosakavich explains many people are unaware that the digestive symptoms they are experiencing are related to a food allergy.

Not Good for Older Adults
Natalie Stephens, RD, says Muscle Milk is not a healthy meal replacement for older adults, and recommends it only to healthy adults under the age of 50.

3. Tough on the Kidneys

People with kidney disorders should talk with their doctor before they take Muscle Milk or any other type of protein supplement. A 10-oz. bottle of Muscle Milk contains 18 grams of protein.

Some people with kidney disease need high-protein diets, while others need low-protein, Stephens says. “In both cases, it’s best to monitor potassium, sodium, and phosphorus intake — and there are a lot of sources of those nutrients in a single serving [of Muscle Milk],” she notes. 

Because excess protein is metabolized and flushed through the kidneys, Muscle Milk can overwork the kidneys of people with kidney insufficiency, Kosakavich says. 

“It is also very important to consume adequate and additional water to help flush the kidneys with additional protein intake,” she adds.  

The Takeaway 

If you have a chronic kidney condition or require prescription medication, use caution when drinking Muscle Milk. Kosakavich recommends speaking to your doctor or dietitian before trying it. “While it’s touted to be a source of nutrition for those missing nutrients in their diet, I’d continue to recommend seeking out advice from a registered dietitian to find ways to meet your needs with a whole-foods diet,” she says.