Are you a fitness enthusiast or just trying to start the New Year off on the right foot with a better fitness routine? You likely want to accomplish one or more of these goals — build more muscle, burn more fat, manage weight or improve body tone — all in the quest for good health. It’s important to understand food and fitness go hand in hand. It’s not only about working out smarter, but also eating smarter.
First things first — a balanced nutrition plan that meets calorie needs and provides key nutrients like carbohydrates and protein for muscle energy and recovery is fundamental (1). The majority of nutrients should come from whole foods first, from all the food groups. Three servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, like milk, cheese and yogurt, can be an important part of a healthy eating plan.
When it comes to fitness, low-fat milk and chocolate milk have a unique combination of nutrients, fluid and electrolytes that help fitness enthusiasts support their muscles and training. A number of professional athletes actually drink chocolate milk as a recovery drink when training.
Here are three reasons you may want to include milk in your exercise and eating plan:
- Muscle mass and strength: Milk contains high quality protein, which helps facilitate muscle growth and repair. While numerous research studies support protein supplementation post-exercise (compared to control) for muscle growth and repair (2), drinking milk can be just as effective.
- Muscle recovery: Not only is low-fat chocolate milk nutrient-rich and delicious, but scientific research has identified it as an effective workout recovery drink (3). Low-fat chocolate milk has the ability to help support recovery after exercise because it provides key nutrition important for effective recovery:
Protein – the natural protein in milk helps muscles recover after a tough workout by stimulating muscle growth. The high quality proteins in milk can help you get the essential amino acids your body needs to build and maintain muscles.
Carbohydrates – to help refuel muscle glycogen.
Fluid and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) – to rehydrate the body and replenish what is lost in sweat.
- Body composition: Weight management is often a goal for those participating in an exercise program. While calorie deficit alone can be effective, reducing daily calorie consumption along with regular exercise seems to provide the most success (4). Further, when losing weight the goal is to lose body fat, while preserving lean body mass. Research studies in different populations indicate that eating a diet higher in protein and reduced carbohydrates, yet lower in calories, paired with regular exercise may facilitate fat loss while preserving lean body mass (5,6). And dairy foods offer a source of protein available in low-fat or fat-free options, which can mean fewer calories, with the same protein.
Eating to support performance can be as much an art as it is a science for fitness-minded individuals. As a food group, dairy foods can be hard to beat when it comes to providing fluids, vitamins and minerals along with a natural source of high quality protein and calories to keep you going strong. Check out these ideas for getting your day started with protein at your morning meal.