I was talking to a Division 1 women’s soccer player about how important nutrition is for optimal performance. She said that their coach wants them to drink chocolate or other flavored milk after practice and games.

Whether your child is on a school team, trying out, heading to the playoffs, is on a club and/or travel team or does multiple sports, you’re probably looking for healthy meals, snacks, and drinks to help them feel their best.

The fact is, compared to adults, kids and teens are growing rapidly and have increased needs for high-quality nutrients that will serve their bodies well as they go through their teens, twenties, and beyond. No matter what our age, when we exercise, we strain muscle fibers and we need protein afterward to help them repair and rest.

Why Calcium and Protein in Dairy is So Important

Studies show that fewer kids are getting the recommended amounts of nutrients, especially those found in dairy. While it’s recommended that teens get 2-3 servings of calcium-rich dairy every day, less than half manage to get 1 to 2 glasses of milk per week.

The teen years are when their bodies are using calcium every day to build up their bone mass.

Achieving 90% of Peak Bone Mass

  • Girls reach 90% by age 18
  • Boys reach 90% by age 20

Daily calcium is essential for bone building and strong bones in the late teens and early twenties. A strong, sturdy skeleton provides the framework and foundation for supporting every part of their body, their posture and helps reduce the risk of fracturing bones now and later in life.

What about Broken Bones?

Most parents are surprised to learn that approximately 1/3 of all kids will have a bone fracture sometime before age 18. Most of these breaks occur from activities and falls, however, it’s not inevitable. The stronger our bones are, the more likely they are to resist breaking, even if there is a fall. While there are genetic factors that play a role, in general, the more bone mass that’s present in the teens, the less likely a person is to have a break or fracture for the rest of their life.

9 Essential Nutrients in 1 Glass of Milk

Calcium, Vitamin D and protein are all essential nutrients for building bone mass and muscle strength. With protein for power, calcium for strong bones, plus 7 other essential nutrients, dairy provides a perfect nutrient-dense package for all the athletes in your family.

Milk as a Sports Recovery Drink?

Really! This is well-known advice from trainers, sports nutritionists, and coaches. Drink milk before and after exercise. Here’s why:

  • Milk has water for rehydration
  • Milk has both protein and carbohydrates, which are rapidly absorbed for immediate energy needs and also provides sustained energy release over several hours
  • Milk has protein to help replenish and restore muscle growth
  • The vitamins and minerals in milk are essential for muscle and nerve functioning
  • Milk replenishes nutrients used in exercise

What about Flavored Milks?

Many parents might be concerned about flavored milk, and I was too until I realized that kids of all ages, may prefer the taste of chocolate, vanilla or strawberry milk and be willing to drink milk instead of other beverages with fewer nutrients. Flavored milk also helps them get the protein, calcium, and nutrients they need with only 25 extra calories per cup.

Ok, this is reassuring. That’s just as many calories found in one slice of apple.

Flavored Milk Offers:

  • All the nutritional benefits and 9 essential nutrients found in plain milk
  • Readily absorbed additional carbohydrates from the sugars in chocolate, vanilla or strawberry milk for added energy needs

Disclosure: I’m working with the California Milk Advisory Board to help educate parents and health care providers about the benefits of real dairy. 

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