Research has found that milk and milk-based products are instrumental as sports rehydration drinks and in recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage.

This and other findings were revealed at a sport nutrition seminar for cycling coaches organised by the National Dairy Council and Cycling Ireland at the National Sports Campus Conference Centre in on May 19.

“Putting thought and planning into our nutrition can play an important role in preparing for training and competition, at any age and any level,” said Caroline O’Donovan, Nutritionist at the National Dairy Council.

“The principles of sports nutrition provide the guidance to help us perform our best; with aspects such as adequate hydration, post-training recovery and nutritional requirements for the days we compete all essential considerations.”

O’Donovan said that following the basic principles of a balanced diet as part of an active lifestyle provides the energy and nutrients needed for good health.

The type, amounts and timing of food intakes can affect performance and will depend on the type of sport and the competitive level we are involved in.

“Following a race or intense training session, the focus should be on recovery,” said O’Donovan.

O’Donovan explained that carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta and cereals are important for refuelling energy stores.

However, protein plays a role in muscle growth, maintenance and repair.

“Milk, yogurt and cheese are rich in protein, with other protein-containing foods including lean meat, eggs, fish, nuts and lentils. Adopting ways to rehydrate effectively is also an important part of recovery between sessions,” said O’Donovan.

She said that as milk is an excellent source of high-quality protein and provides natural carbohydrate and electrolytes in a fluid form, it is gaining attention in the area of recovery nutrition.

Research has highlighted specific areas of interest being explored including the effectiveness of skimmed milk as a re-hydration drink and the beneficial role of milk and milk-based products in recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage,” said O’Donovan.

“Additionally, milk provides a number of nutrients important for health such as calcium, protein, phosphorus, potassium, iodine, vitamin B2 and vitamin B12”.

Cyclist And Sports Nutrition

The keynote speaker at the seminar was Sports Dietitian, Orla Walsh.

A qualified dietitian, Walsh works with clients including Athletics Ireland and The Irish Institute of Sport.

“You don’t have to be a scientist to follow the basic guidelines for good sports nutrition and we can draw on nature’s natural performance enhancers by including natural foods in our diet,” said Walsh.

She said carbohydrates are king when it comes to performance and go into important races with a full tank and replenish carbs while on the bike.

“Generally, you only absorb 30g carbs each hour – so you need 30g if cycling over one hour, 30-60g if cycling two to three hours and you may need 60-90g if cycling longer,” said Walsh.

She said some handy on-the-bike snack ideas include a cereal bar, banana, dates, apricots or oaty biscuits.

“Hydration is very important but you can only absorb a maximum of 1 litre per hour.  When you’re on the bike use two bottles in water carriages and try and take a gulp every 3 minutes,” said Walsh.