Dairy and Sports Nutrition

Science supports many health benefits dairy foods provide
for athletes and active lifestyles.

Dairy And Sports Nutrition For Athletes

Dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese are an important part of a nutritious diet. Including dairy in a balanced diet provides the essential nutrients athletes need for fuel, strength, immunity, and overall wellness.

Why Is Dairy Important for Athletes?

From bone building to muscle strengthening, the nutrients found in milk provide a variety of health benefits and nutrition for athletes. Fluid and electrolytes replenish what is lost in sweat to rehydrate the body, the carbohydrates in milk help to refuel energy, and protein works to repair and build muscle.

Research shows milk, flavored or unflavored, to be an effective post-exercise beverage for endurance or resistance activities.  Research also supports the role whey protein, the naturally occurring protein in milk, plays in improving body composition and managing a healthy weight.

Explore our different sports nutrition pages and resources to learn more.

Refuel with Chocolate Milk

Chocolate milk contains high-quality protein to help repair and rebuild muscles after strenuous exercise.

Learn More

Easy Tips for Eating Right and Staying Hydrated

Whether you’re gearing up for a high-intensity workout or taking a weekend hike, it’s important to eat right and hydrate to fuel all your activities.

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Related FAQs

Is milk good before a workout?

Pre-workout nutrition is important to prepare the body for working hard and energy expenditure. Carbohydrates provide fuel for exercise and are the main source of energy for muscles. Throughout the day, focus on a varied diet filled with whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and dairy. Include high-quality protein at each meal to help repair and build muscles. As you get closer to your workout, focus on foods low in fat and fiber to avoid stomach upset.

During exercise, focus on replacing fluids, electrolytes, and carbohydrates as needed. Based on the duration of the activity, recommendations will change. Make sure to always have water and fuel on hand.

Dairy is a great choice for exercise recovery. The carbohydrates in milk refuel muscles and replenish energy stores while the high-quality protein repairs and rebuilds muscles. Milk also replaces electrolytes lost in sweat. Learn more about hydration and recovery here. 

Is chocolate milk good for recovery after a workout or endurance activity?

When refueling after a run, your goal is to replenish glycogen stores with carbohydrates and rebuild muscle with protein. Chocolate milk contains an ideal 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein for this purpose. A study found that runners who consumed fat-free chocolate milk after a strenuous run, “ran 23% longer and had a 38% increase in markers of muscle building compared to when they drank a carbohydrate-only sports beverage with the same number of calories.” Chocolate milk also replenishes electrolytes which are important for runners to prevent muscle fatigue and cramping. 

Is milk good for athletes?

Milk packs in 13 essential nutrients in every serving, including, protein, zinc, selenium, vitamin A, and vitamin D, which contribute to healthy immune function. Milk’s nutrient package make it an affordable and accessible source of fuel for an athlete. 

Is whey protein good for athletes?

Whey protein is a high-quality protein naturally found in dairy. It is a complete protein containing all of the essential amino acids (“building blocks”) your body needs and is easy to digest. Whey protein is also one of the best sources of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) including leucine, which has been shown to stimulate muscle synthesis.

Whey is a fast-acting protein that can be absorbed into the bloodstream and arrive at the muscles very quickly. Whey is fast fuel for the muscles. Research shows that whey can help build and repair muscle after workouts. 

How much milk should an athlete drink per day?

Throughout the day, athletes should focus on a varied diet filled with whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and dairy. They should include high-quality protein from animal-sourced foods like dairy at each meal to help repair and build muscles.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends three low-fat or fat-free dairy servings in the Healthy U.S. and Healthy Vegetarian patterns, and two to two and a half servings in the Healthy Mediterranean for adults, and three servings for those 9 to 18 years of age.

What nutrients does dairy have?

Dairy is nutrient-rich and its health benefits are supported by a robust body of science that continues to grow. View the individual nutrients for milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Further Reading

Sports Nutrition Blog Posts

  • Building Muscle with High-Quality Protein: A Guide to Protein Consumption

    Can you reach your protein consumption goals just by eating the right foods?

    Learn More
  • Lift Weights? Here’s What to Eat

    Research on recovery nutrition for resistance exercise has focused on dairy products due to its carbohydrate and unique protein profile.

    Learn More
  • Why a Post-Exercise Smoothie Works

    If your stomach doesn’t feel too great after exercising, try this nutrient-rich smoothie.

    Learn More

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