Milk: Object Lesson In Protein to Energy Ratio

The following is a rabbit hole I went down on my most recent post, CHILI CON CARNE, EXPAT STYLE, for those members subscribed to the Health Bundle. I’m excerpting it and editing a bit into a full post for Member Free Content.

I’m asked a lot why I drink low-fat or sometimes, even skim milk. Admittedly, it’s not as luxuriously silky as is whole milk. First, us brothers grew up principally drinking 2%, and at one point even skim, as we were buying fresh raw from friends and mom used the cream to make butter. Don’t know why that was mom’s call, but it was, and it tastes just fine and delicious to me. I don’t feel as though I’m missing out (I do with skim, though—but I still like it) and so whole milk is more like an indulgence, or treat.

But there are dietary reasons. First, the fat portion, or cream, has no protein and little to no nutrients. Fat alone is nutrient poor, empty calories. Like refined sugar. It also pushes out protein in volume, but with over twice the energy density. Let’s compare ONE CUP of whole milk, alongside a cup of low-fat, and skim.

  • Whole Milk: 149 calories, with 7.7 grams of protein. Cholesterol 8%; potassium 9%; vitamin A 7.9%; and calcium 21%
  • Low-Fat Milk: 102 calories, with 8.2 grams of protein. Cholesterol 4%; potassium 10%; vitamin A 9.6%; and calcium 21%
  • Skim Milk: 83 calories, with 8.3 grams of protein. Cholesterol 2%; potassium 11%; vitamin A 10%; and calcium 23%

So, same volume, exactly, yet the whole milk has 47 more calories than low-fat (46% more!) and 66 more calories than skim (80% more!!!). But that’s not all. Look at the principle nutrients. Every single one is higher in the low-fat and even more so in the skim milk, because fat is essentially refined sugar. Only, it’s worse than that. There’s not much nutrient value, like refined sugar, but twice the energy by gram weight as sugar.

In terms of protein, however, you can see there’s only about a half gram difference between whole and skim. So, it’s not like you’re upping your protein a lot, it’s that fat is powerfully more energy dense.

Dr. Ted Naiman has a great little thing called the P:E ratio, or, protein to energy. He asserts that getting protein up to where protein grams multiplied by 10 are equal to or greater than total calories guarantees fat loss and leanness. He’s a living example, as are a lot of his patients and followers. It’s a quick and easy way to get protein to 40% + of caloric (energy) intake.

  • For whole, 7.7 x 10 = 77, far from 149 total energy, not even close. 20.6% (7.7 x 4 / 149)
  • For low fat, 8.2 x 10 = 82, closer to 102 total energy. 32.2% (8.2 x 4 / 102)
  • For skim, 8.3 x 10 = 83, exact match to 83 total energy, BINGO! 40% (8.3 x 4 / 83)

So as you can see, this is just a nifty little trick to see how close your protein grams are to 40% of total calories, since everyone can multiply by 10 in their head, easy peasy.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with any fat in whole food and whole milk is a whole food. I’m just illustrating. If you are intemperate with milk consumption, as I often am—not unusual to drink a half gallon in a day—then at least low fat and better yet, skim, may be called for or you’ll likely pay.

In my diet and fat loss posts going forward, I will be making extensive use of this trick. No, you’re not always going to be at 40%, which is just about an upward limit for most people anyway. But, it can sure help you to keep the protein up there as a percentage of total calories, which gets you a lot less energy density, higher satiation, and more micro nutrition.

Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. The cost of two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance the travel to write, photo, and film from interesting places and share the experiences with you.


  1. Wout Mertens on April 25, 2021 at 23:08

    Ooh interesting, I didn’t realize vitA content lives in the lean portion of milk. They don’t list fat-soluble nutrients however.

    Looking at vs it looks like the difference is in vitamin D (but not that much anyway) and K, as well as choline and selenium.

    This is a lot less troubling than I thought before. There’s this documented association between full fat dairy and leaner kids, but we’re not kids any more.

  2. El Donimo on April 28, 2021 at 14:57

    I wish there were more unfortified milk brands available.

    Organic Pastures used to sell unfortified fat-free milk but now the health food stores only carry their whole milk or cream.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 28, 2021 at 15:10

      I love raw milk, have had gallons and gallons from both OP and Cavelle when I lived in CA, USA.

      Thailand doesn’t work that way. They are not milk drinkers per se, at least not as any sort of priority, though many, including my GF, like it sometimes.

      So, raw is out of the question. I didn’t even hear of it back in the village. Just not enough of a market, not even for milk at all. Not huge.

      I bought all the brands, and Meiji is the best.

  3. El Donimo on April 29, 2021 at 16:29

    Meiji is in Thailand? I remember that brand from when I grew up in Japan in the 70s! Good stuff.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.