Up there with bread, dairy products seemed to be all too commonly feared. There is no reason to eliminate milk, yogurt and other dairy products from your diet, and NO, dairy products haven’t been removed from the updated Canada’s Food Guide. Rather, they are included in the protein section. Dairy products are essential for adequate calcium intake and the type of protein found in dairy products (whey) is a superior protein when it comes to repairing and enhancing muscle growth. However, outside of bone and muscle benefits, those looking to manage their weight have an additional reason to include ample dairy products in their diet.
Studies looking at the relationship between dairy intake and BMI have shown an inverse relationship between the two. This means that as more dairy products were consumed, BMI decreased. A meta-analysis showed that a 300 mg increase in calcium (equivalent to 1 cup of cow’s milk) resulted in a 3 kg lower weight in adults. Studies suggest that it is the dairy intake rather than supplemental calcium that is beneficial for weight loss.
The reasons for the weight loss benefits seen with higher dairy intake is not completely known. Calcium plays a role in regulating fat cell metabolism and storage. Higher dietary calcium intake has also been observed to increase faecal fat excretion, meaning more calories are lost in poop. Dairy products are also filling due to the protein content and low in calories, if lower fat options are selected.
Unfortunately, many athletes looking to reduce weight consume inadequate dairy products due to the many misconceptions about dairy products. Depending on your age and gender, you should be aiming for 2-4 milk and alternatives servings per day. One serving is equal to 1 cup milk, ¾ cup yogurt or 50 grams cheese. If you are lactose intolerant, lactose free brands are available for most dairy products. As I’ve highlighted in past blogs (click here), it’s very hard to get enough calcium in your diet without consuming dairy products or a fortified milk alternative such as soy milk.
Don’t neglect dairy products. Try including a glass of milk with meals or bring yogurt or cottage cheese as an easy go to snack. Dairy products are also a perfect recovery food. Try making a smoothie with Greek yogurt or consume a glass of chocolate milk after exercise to help you recover, while also increasing your dairy consumption.
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