In the off-season, one of the main focuses as athletes is development. As in-season competition approaches, the focus shifts to maintaining current mass (which includes muscle mass) and RECOVERY! This can be found by drinking and eating dairy. The benefits of dairy products for muscle recovery are astounding.
Whether you are an endurance athlete (cross country) or a power athlete (football), recovery from training and competition plays a huge role in your capacity to perform in the following days. Nutrition, hydration, and sleep all play a large role in your body’s ability to recover.
Muscle mass is maintained by regulating the balance of muscle protein building and muscle protein breakdown. When we exercise, our muscles experience an increase in muscle protein breakdown. In order to help your muscles repair and increase muscle protein building, you must consume protein after exercise. But you also can’t forget about carbohydrates after exercise! Adding carbohydrates will help inhibit, or prevent, further muscle protein breakdown.
Benefits of Dairy Products: Protein for Muscle Recovery
Whey protein is one of the best sources of protein to consume following exercise as it is quick digesting. Great food sources of whey include milk, yogurt, and cheese. One glass of milk contains 8 grams of protein, along with carbohydrates, making milk (including chocolate milk) a great, on-the-go recovery beverage.
Young athletes can typically meet their protein needs through a balanced diet. Rather than supplements, focus on real food as a source of protein throughout the day for continued muscle recovery. Young athletes ideally want to split their daily protein intake (1.2-1.8g/kg/day) over multiple meals and snacks. If we rely on supplements to fill our dietary needs rather than food, we risk missing out on many other important nutrients found in a balanced diet. For example, refueling with a glass of milk, a simple and affordable source of high-quality protein, provides 8 grams of protein AND 12 other essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.
“Grab and Go” Sources of Protein for Young Athletes:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Cheese stick
- Peanut butter
- Smith, J.W., Holmes, M.E., & McAllister, M.J. (2015). Nutritional considerations for performance in young athletes. Journal of Sports Medicine, 2015, 1-13.
Carly Harris is in her fourth season with Virginia Tech Football as the Director of Sports Nutrition, Football. Carly grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as a competitive swimmer. She moved to Vancouver, BC, after high school to attend Trinity Western University where she graduated with her BA in Sports Management. She then went on to complete her BSc in Human Nutrition from the University of Prince Edward Island. Carly is passionate about helping athletes find their competitive edge through nutrition education and implementing nutrition strategies.