Written by Dr Juan Carlos Cassano
Milk and Egg protein. It’s a bodybuilding staple since the Golden years of bodybuilding. If you’re an old timer in the Iron Game, then you would have been well versed on the benefits of Milk and Egg protein from the numerous ads that circulated in those nostalgic Muscle mags for decades during the golden era. You’ve seen the ads, with Draper, Arnold and Zane, drinking their protein shakes in the California sun with dozens of girls frolicking around them. The ads promised, big muscle, and fast! But were the promises made in these advertisements just fantasy? Rheo H Blair and Vince Gironda definitely didn’t think so! They were the original Bodybuilding Nutrition Gurus, and they pushed the consumption of Milk and Egg protein for decades, and influenced the supplement industry for years to come.
The Advent of Milk and Egg Protein
If you have watched enough of my YouTube channel, you will have learnt of the advent of Milk and Egg Protein. Gayelord Hauser was one of the first Nutritional Guru’s to ever influence the bodybuilding scene, and he was already preaching the nutritional benefits of Milk and Eggs as early as the 1940’s. Silver Era icon Steve Reeves was not just a bodybuilding pioneer, but was the first bodybuilder on record to ever create his own custom made protein drink, and it contained Milk and Egg protein. Prior to Rheo H Blair, he had already begun formulating his own special blend, understanding the benefits of these super foods. Soon after, Rheo H Blair followed, initially with his Johnson’s High-Protein Food which was a soy-based protein, but soon after switched to Milk and Egg protein based supplements called Blair’s Protein after discovering the anabolic effects and benefits of Milk and Egg. An entire generation of bodybuilders would soon be influenced and follow his nutritional teachings like the word of the gospel. Vince Gironda was also convinced about the anabolic effects of Milk and Egg protein. What were the effects? Muscles began sprouting left, right and centre!!
All the big names in bodybuilding like Weider and Hoffman quickly caught on and began selling their own protein powders. Success stories were printed as articles or advertisements on virtually every Muscle Mag issue. Many readers blamed steroids, but even the bodybuilders claimed that there was something special about Milk and Egg protein.
Modern Science Catches Up!
Since then of course, the protein fractions of Milk and Egg protein have been isolated, with science showcasing the benefits of each. This lead to the birth of Whey Protein isolates, Casein and many other protein based supplements. However, what about Milk and Egg protein? Has it now become obsolete? Not at all!
I find it amazing that every time I sit down and begin to research Vince Gironda’s theories on the medical databases, I am able to prove many if not most of the theories he suggested half a century ago! Medical science has been catching up to the theories postulated by the bodybuilding and nutritional pioneers of the Golden Era. Milk and Egg protein is no different. Let’s have a look at some of the studies that have surfaced and what they have to say about the anabolic properties of Milk and Egg and the proteins found within.
Milk and its Effect on Muscle Mass, Bone Density and Height
During the 1920s and right up to the 1940s, the first medical studies were performed which demonstrated the correlation between Milk consumption and growth rates in children (Mølgaard et al 2011). There appears to be a positive correlation between Milk consumption and height, which indicates that there must be some anabolic components in Milk (Mølgaard et al 2011). Further, several studies have attributed Milk consumption to increased bone density. For a long time however, it was unknown which components in milk where responsible for the anabolic effects (Mølgaard et al 2011).
It is interesting to note that since then, it has been discovered that cows milk has a much higher protein content than human breast milk (Michaelsen et al 2007), which could explain the anabolic effects of milk. However, this would lead one to theorise then that foods such as Meat, having a high protein content, would therefore have the greatest anabolic effect. But this is not necessarily the case. When comparing the anabolic effects of the consumption of Meat versus Milk in children, it was shown that Milk increased both insulin-like-growth factor-1 and insulin in two respective studies (Hoppe et al 2004; Hoppe et al 2005). You read right….both insulin growth factor-1 and insulin, which is the stuff most modern bodybuilders inject themselves with!! Of course since then, whey protein has been shown to stimulate insulin levels, and increase muscle mass (Pasiakos et al 2015). However, comparing whey with whole milk protein, it is obvious that the whole milk protein has a greater anabolic effect than just whey. It’s very important to emphasize this point. As nutritionists have continued to isolate the different fractions of protein, the fractions were discovered to have different effects on the body. But by isolating whey from whole milk, you lose the effect of insulin-growth factor-1, which is a powerful anabolic. Vince knew the anabolic effect of milk protein, and this is why he stood by it for decades. It worked then, and still works now!
The Anabolic Egg
Many a bodybuilder today will cringe at the thought of eating whole eggs, with scares of cholesterol creeping up the spines. Yes, the cholesterol debate goes on, but this being a blog focusing on the anabolic properties of Milk and Egg, I thought I would leave that debate for another day. Why did Rheo H Blair and Vince Gorinda rave on about the egg? Well, they believed it was the perfect food for bodybuilders. So much so that Vince would happily have you drinking 36 eggs a day!! You knew that was coming! Was Vince mad? Or was he right?
A fantastic and recent publication from 2017 proved a very important point, that will hopefully make you reconsider whether to ever throw out the yolk again! Van Vliet and colleagues demonstrated that the consumption of the whole egg promoted greater stimulation of postexercise muscle protein synthesis than by the consumption of the egg white alone (Van Vliet et al 2017). What can I say, I hate repeating myself, but Vince was right, again!
Having said this, many bodybuilders also swear by egg whites, and rightly so. Several publications have demonstrated the association between ingesting ovalbumin and elevated insulin growth factor-1, ie egg white protein (ovalbumin) can definitely be regarded as one of the anabolic inducing compounds in the humble egg.
The plethora of research that exists on the subject of Milk and Egg proteins is now exhaustive, and it would take me volumes to review in one single blog. I find it absolutely fascinating, because it serves to remind us of the incredible minds shared by both Rheo H Blair and Vince Gironda, and more importantly, it reminds us of the important nutritional lessons they were trying to teach us. Given the anabolic properties of both Milk and Egg protein recently demonstrated by modern science, it is no wonder that both came out and formulated their own versions of Milk and Egg protein during the Golden Years of bodybuilding, and stood by these products for decades. It is also no wonder that men like Larry Scott, Don Howorth, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane swore by these products.
So to answer the question….Is Milk and Egg protein obsolete? Absolutely NOT!! I would dare to say that these proteins are more complete and can induce a better anabolic response than pure whey protein alone, as nature designed them that way. Although this blog has only served as an introduction to the science of Milk and Egg protein, I do hope that it can serve you in your quest for physical, mental, spiritual and intellectual perfection!
Mølgaard et al 2011. Milk and Growth in Children: Effects of Whey and Casein. Nestle Nutr Workshop Ser Pediatr Program.67:67-78.
Miachelsen et al 2007. Whole cow’s milk: why, what and when? Nestle Nutr Workshop Ser Pediatr Program. 60:201-19.
Hoppe et al 2004. High intakes of milk, but not meat, increase s-insulin and insulin resistance in 8-year-old boys. Eur J Clin Nutr. 59:393-8.
Hoppe et al 2005. High intakes of skimmed milk, but not meat, increase serum IGF-1 and IGFBP-3 in eight-year-old boys. Eur J Clin Nutr.58:1121-6.
Pasiakos et al 2015. The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. Sports Med. 45(1): 111-31.
Van Vliet et al 2007. Consumption of whole eggs promotes greater stimulation of postexercise muscle protein synthesis than consumption of isonitrogenous amounts of egg whites in young men. Am J Clin Nutr. 106:1401-12.