Dairy for Athletes: Friend or Foe

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05/31/2005| 0 comments
by Kathy Zawadzki

Dairy for Athletes: Friend or Foe

Some love it, others can't stand it. Do dairy products make good fuel for athletes?

You have seen the ads in magazines, billboards and on television.   They all tell us that milk ?Does a Body Good.? The National "got milk?" Milk Mustache Campaign is jointly funded by America's milk processors and dairy farmers ? of course they are going to tell you it?s good for you!   It is a slick ad campaign that is designed to convince us that dairy products are not only wholesome, but that every man, woman and child would benefit from drinking at least three glasses of milk a day.   But does this apply to athletes as well?


Dairy is essential for young athletes

Recent figures show that the amount of soft drinks teenagers consume has risen by more than three gallons per capita over the past decade, while the amount of milk consumed has dropped by the same amount. On average, teens are drinking only one glass of milk a day.   Data from 99 children followed over 12 years from ages 3 to 13 suggest that low intakes of dairy products during childhood may contribute to their acquiring more body fat.  Teens missing out on milk are missing out on good nutrition. During teen years, nearly half of all bone mass is formed and about 15 percent of adult height is added. That's why it is so important for teens to include three to four glasses of milk each day for calcium to do its job to help build strong bones, especially for young athletes.


What about the grown-up athletes?

Dairy foods (including milk, cheese and yogurt) provide carbohydrates, protein and a truckload of essential vitamins and minerals.   We always hear about the benefits of the high levels of calcium found in dairy products, but you will also find vitamins A and D, riboflavin, phosphorus, magnesium, B-vitamins and (in some yogurts) active cultures of beneficial bacteria.   At only 85 calories for a small 8-ounce cup of skim milk you get approximately 12 grams of carbohydrate along with 8 grams of protein ? both necessary nutrients for athletes ? and almost no fat.   This is indeed an appropriate beverage for most athletes.   It is easy to digest and provides the package of nutrients needed to build strong bones and bodies.


If you are not the type to down a cold glass of milk, there are some ?sneaky? ways to get dairy in your day.   You can blend a cup of low-fat yogurt in with some frozen fruit for a smoothie, you can sprinkle an ounce of cheese on top of your pasta, or prepare your morning coffee with a cup of skim milk and enjoy a latte.


When making choices for the recommended three servings a day, it is critical to include low-fat or non-fat varieties of dairy products.   An 8-ounce cup of WHOLE milk will add about 150 calories and 8 grams of fat to your daily intake.    Cheeses are a great way to spice up many meals, but being picky pays off.   Traditional hard


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