What Is Ultra-Filtered Milk & Why Is The Fitness Community Into It?

Photographed by Nicolas Bloise.
Milk is more than just a bedfellow for your cereal. Many of us add small amounts to our coffees, omelettes, and smoothies. If you’re an athlete, you might drink straight-up chocolate milk after your workouts. Even if dairy isn't your thing or you’re lactose intolerant, milk and its alternatives are everywhere.
And scientists are making the drink smarter. "Ultra-filtered" milk could be the new 1%, and it’s popular among the body-builder and fitness community. This is because the cow’s milk is put through an intense filtration process that gives it 50 percent more protein, 50 percent less sugar, and no lactose. It’s pasteurised, and people say it tastes creamier than regular milk. As it stands, ultra-filtered milk is to dairy what Gal Gadot is to DC Comics movies. It’s taking something that’s already great (a cold glass of milk), and making it more accessible and better than before.
Organic Valley just launched a new organic option for ultra-filtered, which is made from pasture-raised cows. One of the first companies to really popularise the ultra-filtered thing was Coca Cola-owned fairlife.

How is it made?

Organic Valley specifically says they filter the milk to reduce lactose, a naturally occurring sugar in milk. This leaves a super concentrated protein-heavy formula.
“Every molecule and nutrient in milk is a different size,” explains Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, owner of BZ Nutrition. “The milk is going through a filtration process — it’s going through filter after filter, like on Instagram. This is pulling out different nutrients, and deconstructing milk to make it lactose free." Then they basically remake the milk with a lactase enzyme, calcium, and other good stuff.

Is it healthier than 1% or skim?

Zeitlin says that ultra-filtered is a good alternative to some milks, because there's less sugar. Because the drink is generally paired with more sugar-heavy foods, such as cereals, the lack of sugar can be helpful.
It also helps you up your protein intake in the morning. Zeitlin says many people tend to get the least amount of protein in the morning because many breakfast foods don’t include meat, tofu, or other sources. So, if you picked a scone over an omelette this morning, pairing your baked good with a glass of this milk is a good solution.
Meenakshi Trehan, the vice president of brand marketing and innovation at Organic Valley, told me that the company had mums in mind when they created the product. “Kids are super busy, running from school to activities, and protein helps to keep them going,” Trehan says.

Why is the fitness community into it?

It’s all about the protein. “Protein builds strong muscles, helps to boost cognition, and keeps you alert and focused,” Zeitlin says.
Many people like to drink chocolate milk after workouts for the recovery and muscle building properties, and this ultra-filtered drink takes the protein aspect to a new level.
“When we’re doing something post-training, recovering is about repairing our muscles, and breaking things down so that our body can rebuild to be leaner and stronger,” Zeitlin says. “We need protein for that.”
She notes that the reason chocolate milk itself is so popular is because the carbohydrates from the chocolate help the body absorb the protein more efficiently for muscle recovery. Despite the lower sugar count in this milk, you can still get the carbs through the chocolate, or pair the plain milk with a banana or apple for the carbohydrate benefits, she says.

What are the downsides?

It’s more expensive. If this milk isn’t in your price range, don’t sweat it. Zeitlin assures: “Straight up milk is still a healthy option.”

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