6 of the best non-dairy, vegan milks for runners

Whether you’re following a vegan diet or are lactose-intolerant, finding a non-dairy milk that gives you the same nutritional benefits of cow’s milk can be difficult. We look at six of the best dairy-free, vegan milks for runner’s, plus the benefits of each when it comes to recovery.

1. Pea milk

It might sound odd, but this milk, made from split peas, can have as much protein as cow’s milk. It also contains iron, vitamin D and omega-3s. The floury taste, however, is not for everyone.

2. Hemp milk

Lower in protein, but often enriched with omega-3 rich hemp oil. Check the ingredients to rule out added sugars.

3. Coconut milk

Higher in calories and saturated fat than whole dairy milk (170kcals and 16.9g saturated fat versus 64kcals and 3.6g fat per 100ml serving). On the plus side, coconut milk is rich in fibre, iron, magnesium and manganese.

4. Almond milk

Non-dairy milks made from nuts are often a poor nutritional alternative unless they’re fortified with protein, calcium and Vitamin D. Also, most people buy the sweetened versions, adding extra sugar.

5. Oat milk

This is a good choice for post-workout recovery because of its carb, fibre and protein content – it has less protein than cow’s milk but more than nut and coconut milk.

6. Soy milk

Soy is a complete protein, making it the most nutrient-dense of the plant-based milks. It’s also a good source of Vitamin B2, which helps convert food into energy. Choose unsweetened versions.

Related: All the nutrients a runner needs and where to get them

A dietician’s viewpoint

Before you start loading up on non-dairy milks, it’s worth looking at the numbers. From a recovery standpoint, traditional milk is miles ahead of the competition as dietician Renee McGregor explains:

If you’re drinking almond, coconut or oat milk and thinking it’s a like-for-like alternative to real milk, let’s be clear: it’s not.

Almond milk: Per 100ml, almond milk has something like 0.01g of protein and 0.01g of carbs. Milk has 3.5g of protein and 5g of carbs per 100ml.

Coconut milk: Coconuts, like almonds, are incredibly nutritious. But in turning them into milk, their goodness is diluted. You’d be better sprinkling desiccated coconut over your porridge.

Recovery: If you’re using these milks as an alternative in your coffee, fine. If you’re using them as a recovery drink, you’re kidding yourself. Pea protein, however, is a good alternative for vegans or those trying to avoid dairy. Some studies have shown that, from a recovery perspective, it’s not far off whey protein, which you find in milk.