Whether you are training to gain, lose or improve strength and performance, there are allies in the dairy section of the grocery store that you can put into your diet plan. There are plenty more options now than just milk and cheese, especially compared to 20 years ago. The modern dairy case also usually contains a wealth of flavors and choices like:
- Greek yogurt.
- Cottage cheese.
- Ricotta cheese.
- Goat’s milk and cheese.
- Lactose-free milk and yogurt.
Each of these and the usual standbys of milk and cheese offer serious benefits to the hard-training athlete or aspiring fitness fanatic.
Protein By The Cup
Your whey shake has a lot going for it but it works best when you already have a pretty sound nutritional foundation in place. Dairy products can help lacto-ovo vegetarians and meat-eaters alike hit their protein numbers without breaking the bank.
There is a good reason why so many dairy products make the list of 40 ultimate protein-rich foods. One cup of cow’s milk contains 8g of protein and one cup of Greek yogurt contains anywhere from 16-25g of protein. Ricotta and cottage cheese also offer a great wallop too which is why they have been the secret weapons of athletes since time began.
There is of course a great case for taking whey or casein protein alone, usually post-workout or before bed respectively. Milk-based products offer both proteins making them a great addition to a recovery snack or meal any time during the day, plus, protein powder in milk or yogurt beats the same powder in water every time.
Nutrient-Rich, Yet Customizable By Calorie
Looking beyond the protein-packed goodness of dairy, it is also rich in calcium and vitamin D, both of which are beneficial for your exercise endeavors. Calcium plays a major role in bone health and muscle contraction, whereas vitamin D plays a major role in bone health, strength and immune function. Furthermore, dairy is rich in immune-boosting proteins, such as beta-Lactoglobulin and alpha-lactalbumin.
Are you looking to boost your probiotic intake? Try kefir, yogurt, labneh (a thick, delicious middle-eastern strained yogurt) or quark. If you are looking to get lots of nutrition without lots of calories you can choose lower-fat varieties of almost every dairy product out there.
Bolsters Fat-Loss Efforts
Dairy has been consistently shown to have a major impact on weight loss as well. One reason is related to the fact that dairy is an excellent source of calcium and there has been an established link between low calcium levels among obese people.
There has been a study in obesity published that split overweight subjects into two groups. One group consumed one serving (around 8 oz.) of dairy per day while the other group consumed three servings. During the first phase of the study, subjects maintained their usual exercise and diet habits. During the second phase, each was placed in a 500 calorie deficit to promote weight loss.
Subjects who ate three servings per day of dairy lost a lot more weight during both the first and second phases of the study. They also lost significantly less lean body mass (muscle) compared to the low-dairy group throughout both phases.
Researchers have suggested that the increase in daily calcium played a major role at mitigating weight gain and that vitamin D played a potential cortisol-suppressant role which helps to further reduce body fat. Additionally, they attributed the minimal muscle-mass loss to the high branched-chain amino acid content that dairy contains.
There Is Something For Everyone
Are you lactose intolerant? Then try a lactose-free milk or yogurt to sill gain the benefits dairy products have to offer. There are a number of brands to choose from now. Consider trying regular Greek yogurt as well as it contains less lactose than many types of milk or cheese.
If you want to skip dairy products altogether in your diet plans there are multiple alternatives readily available, I also would like to recommend the Eat, Stop, Eat program to you here. This will really step it up if you are looking to lose weight.