Dairy Foods, Sport & Fitness

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How to grow muscles

Increasing muscle mass and strength is a common goal for guys wanting to get the most out of their sport; not to mention looking fit off the field as well! When it comes to growing muscles, what you eat is just as important as the training you do.

Increase energy intake

To grow muscles athletes need to support regular strength training sessions with a high energy (calorie) diet. This calls for a general increase in food intake containing plenty of carbohydrate, moderate amounts of high-quality protein and limited fat.

Carbohydrates are important to ‘fuel’ the muscles to train hard, which will stimulate muscles to grow. A carbohydrate rich meal or snack prior to resistance training has been show to increase the effectiveness of the workout; so you can lift heavier weights and perform more repetitions. Suitable pre-workout meals and snacks include:

Pre-workout meals (3-4 hours)  Pre-workout snack (1-2 hours) 
Fruit toast with ricotta and banana  Fresh fruit 
Baked potato with corn and cheese  Canned fruit 
Baked beans on toast  Tub of yoghurt 
Breakfast cereal with milk  Cereal bar 
Sandwich with meat filling and salad  Flavoured milk 
Fruit salad or berries with yoghurt  Fruit bun or fruit scone 
Pasta or rice with low-fat sauce   
Pita bread wrap with tuna and salad   

Well timed protein

Many people wanting to grow muscles believe they need to eat large amounts of protein. But most Australians easily consume the protein they need and consuming more won’t result in more muscle mass. The focus should be on timing protein intake around resistance training sessions.

Consuming protein after a workout provides the amino acid building blocks needed to repair muscle fibres and to promote the development of new muscle tissue. Although protein requirements vary between individuals, consuming 15 - 25 grams of protein within 30 minutes of finishing training can help maximise the muscle rebuilding and repair process.

Proteins are made up of chains of smaller components called amino acids. A protein’s nutritional value or quality is judged by how many of the essential amino acids it provides and in what quantity. When it comes to building new muscle tissue you need a high quality protein source that contains all the essential amino acids. Protein from animal sources, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, meat, poultry, or fish is high quality, because it contains all nine of the essential amino acids.

One amino acid, leucine, in particular plays a key role in turning on the muscle building machinery after exercise. The highest concentrations of leucine are found in whey protein from dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt.

Set realistic goals

It’s important to set realistic individual goals, as everyone has different genetic potential to develop muscle mass. It is often difficult to build muscle during the competition season, because the demands of training and games leaves little time for the required resistance training and rest needed to grow muscles. The off-season or pre-season is therefore the best time to focus on building muscle.

Hydration and sport

Why is hydration important?

Staying hydrated is essential for everyone, but people who play sport and exercise regularly have an even greater need to maintain proper hydration.

The side effects of poor hydration on performance can include:

  • increased heart rate

  • impaired heat regulation

  • increased perceived exertion

  • reduced mental function

  • reduced skill level

The hydration zone

When it comes to hydrating during sport and exercise, the goal is to avoid gaining weight (a sign that you’ve consumed too much fluid) and avoid losing more than 2% of your pre-exercise body weight (which is the level of fluid loss beyond which performance is affected). This is the hydration zone, where individuals perform at their best and avoid the adverse health effects of dehydration or over-hydration.

What is a sweat rate?

The way to stay in the hydration zone is to consume fluids at a rate that keeps pace with your sweat rate. Fluid needs vary based on factors such as body size, exercise intensity, and competition conditions. That means that everyone will have their own unique sweat rate, so it is best that you calculate your individual sweat rates for the various conditions in which you train or compete.

Basic sweat rate testing

You can easily estimate your fluid requirements by weighing yourself before and after training or games. Each kilogram (kg) of weight lost is equivalent to approximately one litre (L) of fluid.

  1. Weigh yourself before training (Initial Weight)

  2. Weigh yourself after training (Final Weight)

  3. Subtract Final Weight from Initial Weight.

  4. The difference plus the volume of fluid consumed during training gives you your sweat rate for that period of time.

  5. Divide this by the total time (hours) to determine hourly sweat rate.

  6. Aim to match fluid intake to sweat rate

Sweat Rate (L/hr) = [Initial Weight (kg) - Final Weight (kg)] + Fluid (L)/Time (hrs)

Example calculation 
Weight before workout:  70 kg  Weight after workout:  69 kg 
Fluid consumed:  1.5 litres  Training duration:  3 hours 
Fluid loss = Weight before (70 kg) - Weight after (69 kg) = 1 kg
Sweat loss = Fluid lost (1 l) + Fluid consumed (1.5 l) = 2.5 l
Sweat rate = 2.5 litres divided by 3 hours = 0.83 litres/hour
Drink 830 ml per hour of exercise (Approx 200 ml every fifteen minutes)  

What is the best drink during sport?

Water is cheap and effective for hydration in low intensity or short duration workouts (less than one hour). A sports drink is ideal for longer sessions and where sweat losses are high (e.g. when training in hot or humid conditions).

Sports drinks provide carbohydrates to top up fuel levels during exercise and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium which help you retain more fluid and replace the electrolytes lost in sweat.

Rehydration after sport?

After training or a game, replacing fluid plus electrolyte losses is important for optimal recovery. You continue to lose fluid through sweat and urine even after finishing your session, so you should aim to replace losses by 150%. In practice, this means if you are 1 kilogram lighter after your workout, you need to drink 1.5 litres over the next 2-6 hours.

Including a protein source after exercise is also important for repairing muscle tissue. Milk naturally contains fluid, electrolytes and high quality proteins, and has been shown to be as effective if not more effective for rehydration than water or a sports drinks.

Dairy protein - your muscle partner

Most people know that protein is important for muscle growth. But did you know not all proteins are created equal? In fact the protein type and the timing of protein intake are much more important than eating large quantities of it.

Protein explained

Protein is an essential nutrient that plays many important roles, such as repairing the body’s cells; building and repairing muscles; helping build and maintain bones; and helping control many metabolic processes.

Proteins are made up of chains of smaller chemicals called amino acids. But not all proteins are crated equally! A protein’s nutritional value or quality is judged by how many of the essential amino acids it provides and in what quantity.
Protein from animal sources, such as meat and milk, is high quality, because it contains all nine of the essential amino acids. Most vegetable proteins are considered incomplete because they lack one or more of the essential amino acids.


Milk protein

Cow’s milk protein is considered to have a high nutritional quality due to its amino acid composition. Milk contains about 3.5% protein made up of casein protein (80%) and whey protein (20%).

Whey is known as a "fast protein" because it's quickly broken down into amino acids and absorbed into the bloodstream, making it ideal to include after your workout. Whey protein has a high concentration of the branched chain amino acid – leucine. Leucine has been shown to specifically stimulate building of new muscle protein and consuming dairy protein has been shown to directly stimulate muscle building.(1)

Casein protein on the other hand is digested slowly. While this "slow" protein doesn't directly promote muscle formation, it can help prevent muscle breakdown which is important in overall muscle growth. Casein is ideal for providing your body with a steady supply of smaller amounts of protein for a longer period of time.

Muscle milk

A number of studies have now shown that consuming milk or milk proteins after resistance training promotes more muscle gain than other protein sources. For example a 2007 study compared how much muscle protein young men gained after completing a heavy weight workout followed by consumption of protein as either skim milk or a soy drink. Men who drank two cups of skim milk after each of their workouts gained almost twice as much muscle in 10 weeks than those who drank a soy drink.(2)

And there’s good news for women as well. A recent study showed that drinking two glasses of milk one hour after lifting weights helped women tone muscles and burn fat.(3) Researchers from Canada’s McMaster University conducted a 12-week experiment, monitoring two groups of young women who previously did not do resistance-training exercise.


Every day, after their workout, one group drank 500ml of skim milk; the other group consumed a similar-looking but sugar-based energy drink. The women who drank milk gained more lean muscle and lost more fat than the other group.


1. National Dairy Council (2006) Emerging health benefits of dairy proteins. Dairy Council Digest. July/August, Vol. 77, No. 4.
2. Wilkinson et, al. (2007) Consumption of fluid skim milk promotes greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than does consumption of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy-protein beverage1 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 85, No. 4, 1031-1040.
3. Andrea R. Josse, Jason E. Tang, Mark A. Tarnopolsky, Stuart M. Phillips. ‘Body Composition and Strength Changes in Women with Milk and Resistance Exercise.’ Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2010; 42 (6): 1122-1130 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c854f6

Milk: nature's sports drink

When you train hard, you sweat hard. Milk helps you rehydrate fast by replacing fluid and electrolytes in the right balance. There is no more natural way to give your body what it needs most after exercise.

Why is hydration important?

Staying hydrated is essential for everyone, but people who play sport and exercise regularly have an even greater need to maintain proper hydration. Fluid deficits as low as 2% (i.e. a deficit of 1.2 litres for a 60 kg athlete) can have negative effects on performance. Unless fluid losses are replaced during exercise, dehydration can occur. The side effects of dehydration can include:

  • increased heart rate

  • impaired heat regulation

  • increased perceived exertion

  • reduced mental function

  • reduced skill level 


Rehydrate naturally


Milk naturally provides both fluid and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) to assist with rehydration. The electrolyte concentration of milk is similar to conventional sports drinks and fluid retention is aided by other nutrients.

A number of studies have shown that milk is an effective drink for rehydration. For example a 2007 study found low-fat milk helped dehydrated cyclists replace sweat loss better than water or a sports drink.(1) In four separate trials, volunteers undertook a series of cycling exercises until they had lost about 1.8% of their body mass. They were then given low-fat milk, a sports drink or water to re-hydrate. The cyclists who drank milk were better hydrated by an average 600mL, compared with water and the sports drink four hours after exercise.


A reason to smile

The consumption of sugary and acidic drinks commonly found at sporting venues can increase the risk of tooth decay. Milk on the other hand has been linked to a decreased risk of cavities, making it a good drink choice after sport.(2) Plain or flavoured milk provides the rehydration benefits you need after sport and has the added advantage of containing a unique combination of special anti-decay nutrients – calcium, phosphorus and the protein, casein.


1. Shirreffs SM et al. (2007) Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink. Brit J Nutr 98, 173-80.
2. Moynihan P & Peterson PE (2004) Diet, nutrition and the prevention of dental diseases. Public Health Nutrition, 7: 201-226.

Dairy protein plus exercise for better weight loss

New research suggests a higher-protein, lower-carbohydrate energy-restricted diet can help trim belly fat and increase lean muscle mass, particularly when the proteins come from dairy foods.(1)

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, compared three groups of overweight and obese, premenopausal women. Each group consumed either low, medium or high amounts of dairy foods coupled with higher or lower amounts of protein and carbohydrates. The women exercised seven days per week for four months, including five days of aerobic exercise and two days of resistance training.

The researchers reported identical total weight losses among the groups, but the higher-protein, high-dairy group experienced greater whole-body fat and abdomen fat losses, greater lean mass gains and greater increases in strength.

"One hundred per cent of the weight lost in the higher-protein, high-dairy group was fat. An additional benefit was that the participants gained lean muscle mass," says Glenys Zucco, Dietitian Dairy Australia. "Preserving or gaining muscle is very important for maintaining metabolic rate and preventing weight regain, which can be major problem for people wanting to lose weight."

According to the researches the lower-protein, low-dairy group lost 0.7kg of muscle whereas the lower-protein, medium dairy group lost almost no muscle. The higher-protein, high-dairy group actually gained 0.7kg of muscle. The higher-protein, high-dairy group also lost twice as much fat from the belly than the lower-protein, low-dairy group.

These results support a recent scientific review published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2011. The researchers identified 16 studies which looked at the effect of dairy consumption on weight, body fat mass, waist circumference and lean muscle mass in adults.(2) After reviewing the studies, the researchers concluded that the consumption of 3-4 serves of dairy foods, as part of a calorie-restricted diet led to greater weight and fat loss compared to a standard calorie-restricted diet. The increased dairy diets also led to a greater loss of fat from around the tummy.



1.Josse, A. et, al. (2011) ‘Increased Consumption of Dairy Foods and Protein during Diet- and Exercise-Induced Weight Loss Promotes Fat Mass Loss and Lean Mass Gain in Overweight and Obese Premenopausal Women’ Journal of Nutrition 141: 1626–1634, 2011
2.Abargouei, E.S. et, al. (2012) ‘Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials.’ International Journal of Obesity 1 -9

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