Dairy is Exercise Fuel

Power Up, Power Down Snacks

These protein power snacks can help you power up for a workout and protect your muscles afterward.

  1. 2 slices turkey + 1 slice low-fat cheese in whole wheat wrap
  2. 1 string cheese stick + 5 whole wheat crackers
  3. 8 oz. low-fat chocolate milk
  4. Combine 1 scoop chocolate-flavored whey protein powder + 1 cup fat-free milk + 1 small banana in a blender for quick smoothie

Nature’s Performance Food

Athletes of all ages, shapes and sizes need a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat to keep their bodies fueled and performing at their peak. Carbohydrates and fat give you the energy used before, during and after exercise. Protein then jumps in post-workout to help muscles recover and preserve muscle mass. Dairy is a protein powerhouse and a great way to fuel your workout. The protein, calcium and vitamin D found in milk, yogurt and cheese also can help prevent or aid in the recovery from injuries by building strong muscles and bones.

When To Fuel Up

The timing of eating these nutrients can help as well. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine,  a mix of carbohydrate and protein should be consumed within 30 minutes of intense physical activity to replace glycogen, a source of energy that comes from carbohydrates and is stored in muscles.


Milking Your Workout For All It’s Worth

While all dairy products contain the nutrients your body needs to keep moo-ving, milk and its nine essential nutrients play an especially important role in fueling an active lifestyle. In fact, drinking milk can be an ideal way to help the body refuel, rehydrate and recover after a workout. Low-fat and fat-free milk — white or chocolate — offers a more nutrient-rich alternative to traditional sports drinks, with calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium to replace electrolytes lost through sweat; fluids for rehydration; and just the right balance of carbohydrates and protein for muscle recovery.

Research shows that when compared to carbohydrate-based sports drinks:

  • Chocolate milk is almost twice as effective in refueling exhausted muscles.1
  • Drinking fat-free chocolate milk after a hard workout helped recreational runners build more muscle, reduce muscle breakdown and run longer.2
  • Low-fat chocolate milk helped cyclists gain more muscle and lose more fat during training.3

If you’re an athlete with lactose intolerance, including dairy as part of your exercise routine is important for you, too. Milk and dairy foods are great sources of key nutrients like calcium and vitamin D that can help prevent fractures, as well as electrolytes that can keep you hydrated, and protein to keep you strong. It’s hard to find these nutrients so conveniently packaged together in any other food or beverage. If you’ve been avoiding dairy, get back on track with your training by finding simple ways to work milk, cheese and yogurt back into your everyday diet.

1Karp, J., International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2006; (16: 78-1)

2Lunn WR, Pasiakos SM, Colletto MR, Karfonta KE, Carbone JW, Anderson JM, Rodriguez NR. Chocolate milk & endurance exercise recovery: protein balance, glycogen and performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2012;44:682-691.

3McCleave EL, Ferguson-Stegall L, Ding Z, Doerner PG, Liu Y, Kammer L, Wang B, Wang W, Hwang J, Ivy JL. Effects of aerobic training and nutritional supplementation on body composition, immune cells and inflammatory markers. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2011;23:442.

*Research findings based on young-adult participants.