Dairy Protein: The Steady Way to a Lean Body

Just like your favorite smoothie recipe needs the right quantity of each ingredient, so does the recipe for building a lean and healthy body. With so many diets promising easy solutions to the “perfect body,” what are the best recommendations based on the current science?

The Ingredients

Recent research finds that higher-protein diets may help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. The type of protein may also be important. High-quality or complete proteins include a full complement of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Casein and whey, the two high-quality proteins found in dairy foods, may be particularly beneficial for weight loss and building lean body mass.

Whey protein, which comprises about 20 percent of the protein in milk, is digested and absorbed faster into the bloodstream than other forms of protein. It is also a rich source of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs are taken up directly by the muscles instead of having to be first metabolized by the liver. Hence, whey protein acts faster to synthesize lean body mass.

Low-fat chocolate milk is a delicious whey protein source that serves as an ideal refueling beverage for athletes. When consumed within 30 minutes after working out, chocolate milk provides the right mix of high-quality protein and carbohydrates, which: 1) Enhance the absorption of protein; 2) Reduce muscle breakdown; 3) Enhance muscle repair; 4) Replenish carbohydrate stores, and; 5) Rehydrate the body with fluids and electrolytes.

Casein, which comprises about 80 percent of the protein in milk, is slowly absorbed. It supplies a longer-lasting and sustained source of amino acids for protein synthesis. This slow-but-steady source of protein can contribute to the feeling of fullness, thereby preventing us from consuming unnecessary calories.

The Quantities

As part of a nutritionally balanced diet, it is recommended to include 25-30 grams of high-quality protein at each meal throughout the day. Your protein intake should be spread throughout the day to promote the synthesis of lean body mass and contribute to satiety. Consuming more than 30 grams per meal is not recommended and will only lead to protein wasting, which means you will just burn it as energy or store it as fat. Both of these outcomes are not beneficial to building and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Including three cups of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products (e.g., cheese, yogurt), as well as additional foods and beverages containing protein, will give you the recipe for building and maintaining a lean body weight. Try these easy and delicious recipes to add rich sources of dairy protein to your meals.

Lisa Sheehan-Smith, RD, LDN

Southeast Dairy Association - Lisa Sheehan-SmithLisa Sheehan-Smith is a registered and licensed dietitian, a professor of nutrition and food science, and director of the dietetics program at Middle Tennessee State University. She has a bachelor of science degree from Western Kentucky University and a master of science education degree and doctorate in human resource development from Vanderbilt University. She is also an avid figure skater.