For athletes seeking an edge over their competition, dairy delivers a simple strategy for athletes to power up their plate with protein. Just like getting to the top of your sport, proper protein intake requires consistent practice and the performance gains are well worth the effort.
Protein is essential for athletes to build and maintain strong muscles and tendons, which allows them to optimize performance gains. Foods with ample protein and the health benefits of dairy also promote oxygen transport to working muscles, energy metabolism and immune health.
While no amount of protein can make up for the hard work necessary to improve as an athlete, optimal protein intake will ensure you reap the full benefits. Use the following strategies to power your plate with your recommended daily protein intake:
- Consume protein consistently throughout the day by incorporating dairy products into each meal and snack, starting with breakfast. Consistent intake of protein ensures your body always has the tools it needs to build and repair muscle.
- Maximize performance gains with a post-workout snack that includes 20-30 grams of protein, ideally within 30-60 minutes of working out. Aim for protein sources that are rich in leucine, the amino acid found most often in milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese, and lean meats. Pairing protein with carbohydrates further enhances recovery gains, making chocolate milk an ideal and convenient recovery beverage.
- Optimize recovery by getting plenty of sleep and including a protein-rich snack as part of your bedtime routine. A simple snack like Greek yogurt and berries or cottage cheese and pineapple will ensure your muscles have the fuel they need to repair and rebuild while you sleep.
Power-up your plate with dairy to boost training gains and take your performance to the next level! Get the facts on the benefits of dairy from The Dairy Alliance and be sure to explore their protein-packed dairy recipes.
Kristen Chang, MS, RDN, CSSD
Kristen is a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics and the owner of Real Food for Fuel LLC, a private practice geared toward helping endurance athletes optimize their performance. She is an avid triathlete and runner and teaches at Virginia Tech and Radford University. Connect with Kristen on Instagram or Twitter using the handle @realfoodforfuel.