June Dairy Month: Protein’s Powerful Punch

June Dairy Month focuses on the nutrition found in dairy foods. Foods rich in protein, like dairy, pack a powerful punch for athletes.

Dairy products like Greek yogurt, low-fat chocolate milk and low-fat string cheese, and foods like beef jerky, are a few of the snacks athletes at the University of Virginia (UVA) consider their favorites. As a sports dietitian at UVA, every athlete who works with me knows the importance of optimal protein in his or her diet. They know it not only helps build strong muscles, but it protects their bones and aids in recovery from injuries and intense workouts.

When fueling one’s body as an athlete, protein is especially critical. Most athletes know about the importance of protein after workouts, but often forget they need protein at other meals and snacks as well. The inclusion of high-quality protein at all meals and snacks help keeps blood sugar levels steady and gives the body the opportunity to build and repair muscle multiple times throughout the day.

After workouts, optimal recovery requires foods that consist of protein as well as carbohydrates. Consuming carbohydrates after a workout will help replenish the energy stores used during exercise, while protein assists in repairing muscle that has been broken down. Many food choices have both high-quality protein and carbohydrates packed into every bite. Some favorites among UVA athletes are low-fat chocolate milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit and yogurt smoothies, apples and string cheese, and trail mix with dried fruit.

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Kelly RossiKelly Rossi is associate director of sports nutrition at the University of Virginia (UVA). She works with a variety of men’s and women’s sports at UVA. Before arriving at UVA, Rossi worked with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) as a contractor, supporting research in human performance, training and education related to Marines.

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