3 Surprising Benefits of Dairy for Exercise Recovery
Note: This is an edited version of a blog written by sports dietitian Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, as a partnership with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Dairy Council (NDC). You can read the complete original post here.
Check out three surprising benefits of dairy foods when it comes to refueling and rehydrating after a workout!
#1: Rehydration After A Workout
Nutrition and rehydration after exercise can help with recovery and may improve future exercise performance (1). Both milk and chocolate milk have been shown to help with muscle recovery after a workout, but some research suggests that milk may also be better for rehydration when compared to a carbohydrate and electrolyte beverage alone (11, 12).
Milk has other benefits when it comes to rehydration. Milk is a source of potassium (8% DV in each cup) and provides about 100 mg of sodium per 8-ounce glass, both electrolytes lost in sweat that need to be replaced after a workout.
Put it into action:
Milk and chocolate milk are convenient, affordable options for kids and adults. Found in almost every grocery store, school cafeteria and quick service restaurants, milk is a one stop shop providing carbohydrates to refuel, high quality protein to rebuild/repair muscle and fluids/electrolytes to help rehydrate after a workout. Milk can also be used as the base in fruit smoothies as a refreshing way to enjoy carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes.
#2: Improve Body Composition and Aerobic Fitness
When most exercisers and athletes think of adding protein to their diets, they typically associate the benefits in the context of resistance exercise training. Very few studies to date have investigated/demonstrated a benefit with endurance exercise. However, a 2019 study (13) took young, moderately active men and put them on a 10-week endurance training program. What is important to note is that this was not an elite athlete training program, but instead consisted of a routine most individuals can follow: 3 days a week of cycling for 60 minutes each day.
In addition to their regular diet, study participants consumed about 30 grams of dairy protein (casein) every day before sleep on non-training days. On training days, study participants consumed an additional 30 grams of dairy protein (casein) immediately following exercise as well as the 30 grams consumed before sleep (about 60 grams total in addition to their regular diet). Control study participants consumed a calorie matched carbohydrate replacement on all days in addition to their regular diet. After the 10 weeks, the group consuming more dairy protein (casein)had enhanced improvements in aerobic fitness (as measured by maximal oxygen consumption or VO2 max) and body composition (as measured by an increase in lean body mass and reduction in fat mass) compared to the control (carbohydrate) group.
Put it into action:
What does this amount of protein look like in food spread out in a day? For someone 150 pounds that means about 30 grams per meal and 15 grams per snack (if you are having two snacks/day). Sound like a lot? One cup of milk has 8 grams of protein, 1 oz of cheese, depending on type, can have between 6 and 8 grams of protein. A container (170 grams) of Greek yogurt has 15 grams of protein.
#3: It’s Not Just About Milk
We know that milk and/or whey protein plus resistance exercise can increase strength and muscle size and optimize body composition in adult males and females. But do other dairy foods have the same effect?
Greek yogurt contains similar muscle-supporting nutrients as milk yet differs by being a semi-solid food, containing bacterial cultures and having a higher protein content (mostly casein) per serving. While it had previously not been investigated, a 2019 (4) 12-week study showed that supplementing a 3-day a week plyometric strength training program with Greek yogurt resulted in improved strength, muscle thickness and body composition when compared to a carbohydrate-based placebo. Study participants consumed Greek yogurt (20 grams protein per serving) three times a day on training days and two times a day on non-training days.
Put it into action:
There are many ways Greek yogurt can be consumed. Smoothies and overnight oats and pudding recipes are always great options, but Greek yogurt can also be used as a base for dips to pair with fruit and veggies, as well as for sauces on wraps, pizzas or in pastas.
Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD is a dietitian and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. Amy has worked with the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, TCU Athletics, Ben Hogan Sports Medicine, Dairy Farmers of America and more. She is a co-author of Swim, Bike, Run, Eat and nutrition contributor to retired NFL Player Donald Driver’s book, The 3-D Body Revolution. She is a writer for Women’s Running Magazine and owner of RD Career Jumpstart. Amy is an ambassador for the American Heart Association and National Dairy Council, a speaker/consultant for Gatorade Sports Science Institute and a media dietitian for RDTV.
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