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Maryland-made milk aims for growing recovery market

The milk for Fifth Quarter Fresh comes to Hagerstown-based Lanco-Pennland Dairy Co-operative, a farmer-owned and farmer-run organization.
The milk for Fifth Quarter Fresh comes to Hagerstown-based Lanco-Pennland Dairy Co-operative, a farmer-owned and farmer-run organization. (Photo courtesy of Eric Schurr)

Two fathers from Western Maryland have developed a nutritionally dense chocolate milk they say will help athletes recover better after strenuous exercise.

Their milk, dubbed 5th Quarter Fresh, is better than ordinary chocolate milk, the men say, citing a recent University of Maryland study, because it uses milk from Jersey and Guernsey cows rather than Holsteins and is pasteurized at a lower temperature to preserve some proteins.

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Milk from those breeds contains more proteins, electrolytes, calcium and carbohydrates than most milk found in stores. But about 90 percent of the milk sold in the United States comes from Holstein cows because they are nearly twice as productive as the smaller breeds.

Richard Doak and Kurt Williams came up with the idea after taking in a football game at Boonsboro High School in Washington County in 2012. The two noticed many of the players were suffering from injuries and wondered why. Both men suspected nutrition might have played a role, Doak said.

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Williams works in the dairy industry, and the two had noticed recent studies that found chocolate milk was a better recovery drink than much of what was commercially available.

"We set out to create a chocolate milk that we believed would meet the needs of athletes better than what was already out there," Doak said.

By the spring of 2013, they formed 5Q Management LLC and launched 5th Quarter Fresh hoping to find a local niche in a growing market for sports drinks. The name refers to the four quarters in a game, with the fifth quarter being time for recovery.

The company adds cocoa powder and raw cane sugar to the milk produced by the Lanco-Pennland Dairy Co-operative, a farmer-owned and -run organization in Hagerstown with nearly 800 members. The 14-ounce drinks are bottled at Frederick-based Dairy Maid Dairy, and the company is selling about 9,000 bottles a month.

Fifth Quarter Fresh milk has 40 grams of carbohydrates and 20 grams of protein. A carbohydrate-to-protein ratio between 2-to-1 and 4-to-1 is thought to be ideal to repair muscles and refuel spent glycogen, a form of energy stored in the muscle.

"When you do a workout, you're creating a controlled muscle damage, for lack of a better word," Doak said. "So after a workout, your body needs those key building blocks to repair that muscle."

But preserving some of the protein in the milk creates a drawback when it comes to distribution. The milk is pasteurized at 165 degrees, a lower temperature than most commercial variants, to preserve more of the milk's natural casein protein.

That long-lasting protein becomes damaged during the 200-degree pasteurization more commonly used for commercial milk products. But the lower-temperature pasteurization shortens the shelf life of Fifth Quarter Fresh to about 19 days maximum. High-temperature pasteurization techniques can give milk a shelf life of about two months.

"There's a lot of people that want to jump on the bandwagon and say, 'Hey we got chocolate milk too,'" Doak said. But "the processing that's taking place in dairy to extend the shelf life is also decreasing the effectiveness of the product in recovery."

Doak said the milk's short shelf life has made it difficult to sell to some grocery stores. Retailers typically want a longer shelf life for untested products. For now, the company's only customers are school athletic programs. It has agreements with eight high school athletic programs in Western Maryland and at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.

The milk is fat-free to keep the calorie count down, Doak said. Using whole milk could bring the 270-calorie count closer to 400 calories per bottle, something he said could turn off some customers.

The Maryland Industrial Partnerships program at the University of Maryland, College Park, helped fund a $100,000 study into the milk's performance compared to alternatives. Last year, Jae Kun Shim, a professor of kinesiology in the School of Public Health at College Park, tested 13 men for the study, having them exercise and drink either water, Fifth Quarter Fresh, or two other commercially available recovery drinks.

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The two commercial recovery drinks "were not actually different from water," Shim said.

But the subjects who drank Fifth Quarter Fresh tested better afterward on measures of recovery and endurance. None of the drinks made a difference in the strength of the subjects, he said.

"Their milk has more electrolytes inside, better protein, less damage because of the process they're using," Shim said. "Those are probably the reasons."

Shim is now conducting a new study of how the milk works at helping athletes recover after concussions, using the Washington County Technical High School football team and the University of Maryland's women's soccer team.

Doak and Williams hope the studies help their milk get greater distribution and catch on with athletes.

"What we really believe is that when people are told the real story about what they need, they want to provide themselves and their kids what they need in a safe and natural way," Doak said. "We want to eat fresh and local, and this fits that."

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