ATHLETES TAKING BACK DIET CULTURE: DAIRY
The intent of this series is to normalize foods or a category of foods that diet culture tells us is unhealthy or unacceptable. It can be difficult to decipher fact from fiction. Many of the foods that are avoided or restricted could be part of your fueling toolbox to improve your performance, and your long-term health.
Our first food to normalize: DAIRY.
What the Research says about Dairy for our Health
The theme of “dairy and inflammation” is widely circulated in our culture. However, this theme of dairy causing inflammation is incorrect, plain and simple. In fact, a 2020 systematic review found that, “dairy foods have neutral to beneficial effects on biomarkers of inflammation.” This type of research is our gold standard, meaning it takes into account a large body of research and sums it up to provide us the most complete picture. In conclusion, worst case scenario; if you choose to eat dairy, it will not have any effect on inflammation. Best case scenario, your dairy consumption may improve inflammation.
Did you know dairy products may improve your body composition? Low-fat dairy consumption is shown to decrease fat mass and increase lean body mass.
There is also talk of dairy causing acne. The jury is still out for debate on this claim. Dietary patterns and choices may play one role amongst many in the development of acne. However, there are still missing gaps in our knowledge. We do not have research that completes a full picture for us. The key take-away is that there are many reasons that an individual may have acne, and we do not have enough quality evidence to begin suggesting removing a whole food group, like dairy, as your acne solution. My recommendation? See a Dermatologist.
Dairy products are recommended for long term health. Dairy is associated with a neutral or reduced risk of chronic diseases. In fact, the new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines continue to encourage daily intake of dairy products for those wanting to pursue a healthy lifestyle.
How might it impact your athletic performance?
Dairy products have shown time and time again to be one of the optimal recovery choices to promote favorable metabolic adaptations after exercise. Do you want to work harder, faster, stronger? If chosen, dairy could be a highly efficient and easy refueling choice in your training routine. Chocolate milk is just one example of an optimal, portable, and delicious refueling option.
One of the main reasons for its infamous reputation amongst athletes is its protein content. Dairy has the perfect blend of amino acids (the compounds that make up protein) to build muscle, and help your muscle withstand tougher workouts. I talked about this more in depth in this blog post. Dairy’s exceptional ability to promote muscle growth is perhaps one of the reasons why dairy consumption is associated with improvements in body composition.
Dairy is an important contributor to bone health, due to the many nutrients found in dairy products. Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Zinc, and vitamin D (if fortified); these are just some of the nutrients found in dairy products. These nutrients help grow, repair and maintain healthy bones. Healthy bones mean less time injured, more time enjoying the sport or activity you love.
So pour a big glass of chocolate milk after that long training run - your body will thank you!
Written by Maddi Osburn RDN LD.
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