Nonfat milk is probably not at the top of most women’s lists as the go-to beverage after a tough strength training workout, but recent research shows that perhaps it should be.

Findings from researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario—published in the June issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise—showed that after a session of heavy, whole-body resistance training, fat-free milk was more effective in keeping women lean and strong than a carbohydrate-based energy drink. Drinking milk in the early postexercise period resulted in greater muscle mass accretion, more strength gains, more fat mass loss and a possible reduction in bone turnover, the researchers concluded. Their results echo those of a similar study conducted on men and further support the notion of favorable body composition changes in women with resistance training.

Over 12 weeks, study participants engaged in supervised strength training regimes 5 days per week. After exercising, one group of women drank 500 milliliters of fat-free white milk, and the other group was given a sugar-based energy drink that resembled milk. The two groups consumed their drinks 1 hour after each strength training workout.

Lean mass increased with training in both groups, but the milk-drinking group made a greater net gain. Fat mass decreased with training only in the milk group. Isotonic strength increased more in the milk group.

The study, partially funded by Dairy Farmers of Canada, will continue. The researchers are planning to conduct a large clinical weight loss trial in women.