La Femme Correspondent
MOST parents, teachers and sports coaches know the importance of providing active teens with proper hydration during and after exercise but few know that instead of using commercial sports drinks to rehydrate young athletes, milk, especially low-fat milk or low-fat flavoured milk is an attractive alternative. Milk South Africa believes its products are often overlooked in favour of commercial rehydration drinks, but says milk contains carbohydrates and electrolytes within a natural food matrix, and has the added benefit of containing protein.
Many athletes include resistance exercise in their training schedules – repeated high-intensity contractions of different muscle groups to build lean body mass. Such intense exercise needs to be supported by a combined protein and carbohydrate intake just before or shortly after exercise to stimulate protein synthesis and muscle growth.
According to dietitian of the Consumer Education Project of Milk SA Maretha Vermaak, a number of recently published studies have established the positive impact of milk on muscle gain. "Dairy protein is a complete protein, comprising 80% casein and 20% whey protein. Whey protein contains a large proportion of branched-chain amino acids, which play an integral role in muscle metabolism and protein synthesis.”
Vermaak said research increasingly suggested consumption of whey protein in particular may:
ŭStimulate greater muscle protein synthesis than soy protein intake;
ŭResult in greater muscle gain when combined with chronic resistance training; and
ŭEnhance recovery after exercise, especially in younger individuals.
She recommended teen athletes consumed four servings of dairy per day as part of a healthy, balanced diet that also included five daily servings of vegetables and fruit. Athletes involved in strength training should aim to consume one gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight and 0.4g protein per kilogram body weight during the first two hours after training.
Vermaak said the issue of recovery – including rehydration – was particularly important as research had shown that dehydration impaired performance and had negative health implications, especially in the case of regular and repeated exercise activities. Research also confirmed that electrolytes play a fundamental role in the rehydration process. "Exercise-induced dehydration, where sweat losses surpass fluid intake, is common among athletes, particularly with prolonged, intense exercise. Low-fat milk has a naturally high concentration of electrolytes that can replace those lost through sweat during exercise,” Vermaak said.
In fact, low-fat milk products came through strongly in the studies as the dairy drink with the potential to have the most positive impact on muscle growth and rehydration when consumed correctly as a post-exercise recovery drink.
For example, 300ml of low-fat drinking yoghurt provided more than three times the estimated carbohydrate contribution of full-cream, low-fat and fat-free milk during the post-exercise recovery period. Low-fat flavoured milk was not far behind, at almost double the carbohydrate contribution of these three dairy sources. This compares favourably with popular sports drinks, with milk also being a source of much-needed protein.
"It’s clear from all this research that low-fat dairy drinks provide carbohydrates to help the body refuel; protein to help reduce muscle breakdown and stimulate growth; and fluid and electrolytes to aid in rehydration,” said Vermaak. "Low-fat drinking yoghurt and flavoured milk contribute significantly to the recovery of macro-nutrients in strength training athletes if included in the post-exercise meal.”
More information on sports nutrition and the role of dairy, compiled by dieticians Maretha Vermaak and Nicky de Villiers, is available online at: www.rediscoverdairy.co.za