We are so proud of our New England Dairy & Food Council intern Elle Purrier who just returned from the U.S. Trials for the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Purrier is an undergraduate student at University of New Hampshire in the Nutrition and Wellness program. She is from Montgomery, Vermont where she grew up on her family’s dairy farm. She is this week’s guest blogger and shares her personal experience as an athlete and refueling with dairy.
What should a runner eat in order to maximize their performance? Good question. The answer is quite complex as there are many variables included in the decisions people make about their food. From my experience as a competitive collegiate runner and a nutrition student, I have learned that eating a well-balanced meal is a crucial part of the equation to success. I have also learned that there is no clear cut magic diet. Eating-well involves more of a strategic and habitual approach. Runners must try to eat enough nutrient-dense calories, at the right times in order to recharge themselves from the long and exhausting miles they put on each week while training. This is no easy task, but can become easier by including a few foods that are both delicious and nutritious. For example…dairy products!
Having grown up on a dairy farm, naturally dairy has always been something served with every meal around my table at home. This tradition has carried on into my young adult years, and I don’t predict it to change any time soon!
Milk (both chocolate and white), cream cheese, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, butter, and CHEESE (of any variety, but especially cheddar)….I eat them all and I just can’t get enough. I am always that person who orders extra, extra sour cream for my baked potatoes, because who really likes the taste of potatoes anyway? Okay…maybe I do like the taste of potatoes a little, but in my opinion, it’s all about that cream. I am also one of the select few who orders milk with my dinner at restaurants, although this request often startles the waitress. And don’t even get me started about cheddar cheese and crackers as a late night snack. I can’t even count how many times my college roommate has brushed her teeth before I pulled out my two-pound block of cheddar cheese–she always would give in and have to brush them twice. This is something I never really felt sorry about because after all, she was eating my cheese!
Although dairy has been a part of my family’s cuisine for reasons such as taste, availability, and a striving effort to support the dairy industry, I also believe that it has been a huge influence on my success as a runner. Dairy products are delicious and nutritious. They are very nutrient-dense foods which are often easy to prepare and access. This is key for runners who need to refuel as quickly as possible after running.
Since high school, chocolate milk has been there waiting for me at the end of the hardest training and workout days. Let’s just say it has had my back in terms of satisfaction and recovery. It’s not only packed with nine essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, but it also has the perfect ratio of carbs and protein for recovery (protein for rebuilding muscle and carbs for refueling). On a more technical level, chocolate milk includes a variety of types of carbohydrates which speeds up the body’s process of utilizing them for energy. Chocolate milk is also good for a runner’s recovery because it replenishes electrolytes that could be lost through sweating during grueling workouts.
The list of great things about chocolate milk goes on and on, but still doesn’t take away from the magnitude of other dairy products. For example, Greek yogurt is a great source of protein and can be mixed with granola or other ingredients to keep it interesting. Smoothies are a great option as well because they can help runners get their daily requirements of fruit and dairy (sometimes even vegetables) all in one. In general, dairy foods are high in calcium, vitamin D, and B vitamins, which are essential for bone strength and energy replenishment. And believe me, running on brittle bones is no tea party. I have seen way too many women runners suffer from stress fractures because their bones were not built to their full potential.
It’s hard to believe I am already heading into my senior year as a nutrition student—but it’s definitely an exciting time as I prepare for my career and continue to reach new heights as a competitive athlete. From growing up on a farm, learning in the classroom, and competing on the track, dairy has been my backbone through it all.