Are you confused about where dairy fits into a balanced eating plan for your active lifestyle? Dairy is rich in several important nutrients for performance including protein, vitamin D, calcium, and potassium. However, for some individuals, dairy can cause stomach discomfort. If you are concerned about symptoms from consuming dairy but don’t want to miss out on the nutrients it can provide, you may benefit from trying a2 Milk. In this post, we’ll go over what a2 Milk is, the benefits of a2 Milk for athletes, and how you can incorporate this product into your diet to help support your needs as an athlete or active individual.
Thanks to a2 Milk for sponsoring this post! As always, all opinions are my own, and I only engage in authentic partnerships with those who share similar philosophies and values.
What is a2 Milk?
The name a2 Milk comes from the A2 protein found in cows’ milk. Regular cows’ milk contains both A1 and A2 beta-casein proteins, whereas a2 Milk only has the A2 proteins. More specifically, a2 Milk comes from cows that naturally produce only the A2 protein and no A1.
Benefits of a2 Milk for Digestion
One benefit of a2 Milk is that because it only has A2 proteins, it may be easier to digest and therefore help avoid stomach discomfort for some people. This happens because there is a slight difference in the amino acid sequencing of A2 proteins compared to A1 proteins, and therefore the proteins are digested differently.
One study from Purdue University showed that some people who suffer from stomach discomfort after drinking regular milk may significantly reduce their symptoms if they drink milk that contains only A2 protein. If you’ve been able to consume goat or sheep’s milk with no problem, that is likely because these products mostly contain only the A2 protein as well.
Animal Welfare and Sustainability on a2 Milk Farms
As you know, we at Kelly Jones Nutrition care deeply about sustainability and safe farming practices, so it’s great to know that all a2 Milk farms are Validus certified for animal welfare. This means that they follow a comprehensive dairy cattle audit and assessment program backed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). To maintain this certification, farmers must participate in audits, reviews, and training to ensure that their animal care aligns with the standards, which cover proper animal handling, herd health procedures, high-quality food and water, housing that promotes animal comfort, and proper care of special animal needs.
A2 Milk’s integrated approach to sustainability takes into account not only animal welfare but also the wellbeing of their workers and the environmental impact of their business model. Their sustainability plan addresses several key components of environmental management in the dairy industry including preserving soil and water quality, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing biodiversity on farms, and decreasing waste.
Now that you understand the digestive and environmental benefits of a2 milk, let’s dive deep into the nutrients in a2 Milk that support athletic performance.
Nutritional Benefits of a2 Milk For Athletes
For some people, cutting out dairy is necessary due to lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy. However, there’s also been a recent trend of people without those conditions opting for non-dairy products too. This may be due to concern around possible stomach discomfort or just following trends that influencers on social media promote.
The issue with this is that many non-dairy alternatives, like almond or oat milk, don’t have the same nutritional content and benefits as real dairy products from cows. For athletes, this means missing out on important nutrients for performance like protein, vitamin D, calcium, and potassium. In contrast, a2 Milk contains the same amounts of calcium and other important minerals and nutrients as cows’ milk because it is real cows’ milk.
Protein is an essential macronutrient needed for muscle growth and recovery. Protein helps maintain your organs and tissues, is responsible for fluid balance, and even influences your immune health. It also plays a role in hormonal balance and energy metabolism. a2 Milk provides 8 grams of protein per cup and contains all three branched-chain amino acids (or BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are particularly important for muscle protein synthesis and can help support athletic performance and recovery.
For athletes and active individuals, it’s important to consume 10-20g of high-quality protein within 30 minutes of exercise to maximize muscle recovery. If you struggle with post-workout appetite suppression, a fluid source of protein like milk can be a great way to meet your body’s needs. By pairing 1 cup of a2 Milk with a handful of nuts or dried edamame or by adding it to a smoothie with additional protein from ingredients like protein powder or nut butter, you can meet your post-workout protein needs in a palatable, convenient, and easily digestible way.
Vitamin D has important roles in muscle and bone as well as in the immune system. This nutrient helps the body absorb calcium from the intestines which is important for bone health. Low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased fracture risk which is why it’s such an important nutrient for injury prevention in athletes. Vitamin D may also play a role in muscle growth and repair and in regulating inflammatory and immune responses. Few foods contain Vitamin D, but one of the benefits of a2 Milk is that 1 cup provides 15% of the daily recommended intake for vitamin D.
Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, is important for bone and teeth structure as well as muscle, nerve, and hormone function. Since calcium is required for muscle contraction, not having enough could contribute to muscle cramps for athletes. Additionally, any athlete with RED-S is at risk for bone loss and fractures and therefore needs to ensure adequate calcium consumption. To help meet calcium needs, 1 cup of a2 Milk provides 25% of the daily recommendation for calcium intake.
Potassium is an electrolyte that helps preserve bone health and regulate muscle contractions, blood pressure, and heart rate. It’s also important for proper hydration and is often lost in sweat during intense exercise. In 1 cup of a2 Milk, you can consume 8% of the daily recommended intake for potassium.
Dehydration in athletes can lead to decreased performance, early fatigue, cramps, headaches and, in extreme situations, heatstroke and organ failure. Lack of proper hydration also hinders recovery. In fact, losing just 1-2% of your body weight in fluids leads to impaired endurance and cognitive performance. A2 Milk can count towards your daily fluid intake while also providing the other nutrients above that support performance as well.
How Athletes Can Use a2 Milk
Please note that a2 Milk is 100% cows’ milk, and therefore is not appropriate for those medically diagnosed with lactose intolerance or those with a whey/ milk allergy. However, if you have stomach discomfort when drinking milk and have not received either of these diagnoses, you could try adding in a2 Milk to your diet. I recommend starting small with 2 tbsp/day working up to a full cup while monitoring your GI symptoms.
Here are a few ideas for incorporating a2 Milk into your diet:
- Have it as a post-workout snack
- a2 Milk contains protein and carbs which are both important to replenish post-workout. Try pairing 1 cup of a2 Milk with a handful of dried edamame for some extra protein and a piece of fruit for some extra carbohydrates.
- Mix into oatmeal or overnight oats instead of water for an added nutrient boost
- Use it as the base in your morning smoothie
- Have it with cereal or muesli for a pre-workout snack
- Add a2 creamer into your coffee
- Use it to make homemade yogurt
If you need help fueling for performance and avoiding GI discomfort, reach out to us to learn more about our 1-1 nutrition coaching services.