Dairy: A Bodybuilding Super Food!

I'm here to tell you that dairy can be your new wonder food if you know how to make it a part of your nutrition plan. So read on to learn the truth behind this great food.

Many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts shy away from the consumption of dairy products, falsely deeming them counterproductive to their lifestyle goals.

I once felt that dairy products could not be a part of my lifestyle as a fitness and figure competitor. But the more I thought about it, I couldn't provide a tangible reason as to why, so I decided to take the matter into my own hands and do my own research and education.

Since then, I've found the benefits of dairy, and these products have remained a staple in my diet both on and off season. I'm writing this article to dispel many of those common myths about the negative effects of dairy.

I'm here to tell you that dairy can be your new wonder food if you know how to make it a part of your nutrition plan. So read on to learn the truth behind this great food!

What Exactly Is Dairy?

Dairy products include milk or those products derived from milk. The list also consists of:

  • Ice cream
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Cheese
  • Buttermilk
  • Yogurt

If you don't know it by now, milk is an incredible source of protein, vitamins and nutrients essential to everyone's dietary needs, but even more so a bodybuilder's.

Milk's unique protein profile is comprised of about 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein. The benefits of whey have been discussed for years in the bodybuilding industry. Suffice to say that whey is only second to whole egg protein in quality and digestibility, making it a top choice for supplementation by many champion athletes.

Casein protein has a lower quality rating, but its slow and even digestibility make it the perfect balance to whey. Since whey is quickly digested and used up by the body, casein is there to keep the body in a positive nitrogen balance and to slowly "feed" your muscles over a period of several hours.

This makes whey and casein a great combination! Because this is such a great combination, many supplement companies have formulated powders that are blends of whey and casein. Why pay so much for a formulated protein if you can buy it at the grocery store?!

Milk protein also has a higher BCAA value than soy or egg protein.

What Does BCAA Stand For?
Branched Chain Amino Acids. Click here for more information.

Other essential nutrients found in milk include calcium, potassium, and Vitamins B2, B12, D, K, and A. Low-fat milk even contains the fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

Myths and Facts About Dairy

[ Myth ] The fat in dairy will make me fat!


Choosing low or nonfat dairy products eliminates the higher fat content found in the full-fat version of the product, while retaining all vitamins and nutrients the product has to offer.

Dairy's essential fatty acids are necessary in one's diet to regulate metabolism and fat loss and keep skin, hair and nails healthy and shiny.

The key with any higher fat product is portion control. Nuts and peanut butter are excellent sources of fat found in most bodybuilders' diets.

They are high in fat, so the portions consumed must be controlled. This is the same case with full-fat dairy, but if you opt for the low or nonfat version, it's not even an issue at all.

[ Myth ] Dairy products like yogurt and milk contain too much sugar for my diet.


      While too much sugar intake can be detrimental to a bodybuilder's goals, the small amount of lactose (sugar) in one serving of milk will not affect your weight loss efforts.

The sugars one needs to limit on a cutting diet are those coming from simple sugars and processed carbohydrates, and event then the amount of sugar taken in is a large factor in this.

Alissa Competing Alissa Competing
Click Image To Enlarge.
Alissa Competing.

As for yogurt, the sugars in this cultured product are eaten by the live cultures as the product sits on the shelf or in your fridge, so that by the time you consume them, you are eating little to no sugar.

[ Myth ] I can't eat anything "processed" in my diet or I won't lose body fat.


      I hear people say this all the time, but do they really know what it means? I mean, protein powders are "processed" foods and 99% of these same fitness enthusiasts are taking in powders!

The processed foods you should avoid are those that have been treated in a way that removes their nutritional value, adds in unhealthy, unnatural ingredients to prolong shelf life, or cause the product to be digested quickly by the body, resulting in blood sugar spikes and crashes.

Dairy does none of these, and in my opinion is as healthy a processed food as protein powders.

Lactose Intolerance

A legitimate argument against dairy is that of lactose intolerance. There are easy ways around this problem. Lactose intolerance is the body's inability to produce lactase, the enzyme which digests lactose (the sugar found in dairy products). Symptoms include cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. So your options are to either avoid lactose or to enable your body to digest it.

Avoiding Lactose

To avoid lactose, you can choose a variety of low-lactose or lactose-free dairy products, most of which are available at your regular grocery store.

If you're getting your milk protein from powdered supplements, choosing milk isolate will ensure you are getting just the protein from the milk without the lactose.

Digesting Lactose

For your body to digest the lactose, it needs lactase. Lactase enzymes are available in supplement form (pill or liquid) and can be taken before the first bite of diary food to assist in digestion and prevent symptoms from occurring.

Another choice is to supplement the body with optiflora, the good bacteria that aids in food digestion and also eliminates the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance and many other digestive problems.

A common problem that I hear from many competitors is that once they remove dairy from their diets (for instance, pre-contest), they cannot reintroduce them back in without the digestion problems and symptoms of lactose intolerance. This is a prime example of the optiflora (good bacteria) no longer living in their intestines.

They obviously aren't lactose intolerant if they could digest dairy just a few months before. All these people have to do is supplement with this good bacteria; they can instantly resolve the digestion issues associated with dairy consumption.

Dairy Products: Recommendations For Usage

So now that you know the many benefits of dairy, facts dispelling common myths, and how to treat lactose intolerance, you are ready to add dairy to your diet plan. But when should you eat it, in what amounts, and what else should you consume it with for a balanced meal or snack?

Here are several recommendations on how you can easily add dairy to your diet. And the best part—you don't have to cook!

Easy Dairy Recommendations.
Product Best Time Taken Serving Size* Eat With
1-2% cottage cheese breakfast, before bed 1/2 - 1 cup canned fruit (in its own juice), fresh fruit, protein powder, peanut butter
nonfat or low-fat yogurt breakfast, post-workout 1/2 - 1 cup; 1-2 cups canned fruit (in its own juice), fresh fruit, protein powder, and oats/granola
low-fat cheese anytime 1/2 - 1 oz.; 1 - 2 oz; fruit, wheat crackers or nuts as a snack, or with any meal as an added protein and fat source
low-carb yogurt anytime 1/2 - 1 cup; 1 - 2 cups canned fruit (in its own juice), fresh fruit, protein powder, peanut butter, and oats/granola
low-fat or skim milk breakfast, post-workout, before bed 1/2 - 1 cup; 1 - 2 cups oats, whole grain cereal & fruit, protein powder

*There are two recommendations for serving size. The first is for women or those wishing to reduce body fat. The second is for those wishing to gain lean muscle, strength, and/or fuel performance.

Additional Information

Visit these websites for more information on dairy:

I hope this article helped you to realize that dairy is an awesome food for everyone, but particularly for bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts and strength athletes. It's a great and inexpensive way to get quality protein and vitamins that your body needs for good health and for your fitness goals.

Alissa Competing Alissa Competing
Click Image To Enlarge.
Dairy Is An Awesome Food For Everyone.

I hope I've given you some ideas on how you can incorporate diary into your diet, but don't stop there. Continue educating yourself and being creative with new ideas. This will help you to find meals and a nutrition plan that you can live with and even enjoy!

About the Author

Alissa Carpio is a 6-time champion in NPC Fitness & Figure contests. She is the 2005 winner of the NPC Jr. USA Fitness Tall class, and most recently placed 3rd in Fitness Tall at the 2005 NPC Nationals. Alissa offers Fitness & Figure Competitor Workshops to new and aspiring competitors.


  1. www.nationaldairycouncil.org
  2. www.whfoods.com
  3. www.shaklee.net
  4. www.wheyoflife.org