On and off the field, dairy delivers. Whether you are a weekend warrior or an elite athlete, dairy foods provide carbohydrates needed for energy, electrolytes for fluid balance, and calcium and vitamin D for strong bones. Dairy’s high-quality protein is crucial in rebuilding muscle.
When it comes to athletes with lactose intolerance, dairy is still on the training table. For former Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, it means finding a few clever ways to keep dairy on his plate.
“When you go through a hurdle, your life doesn’t have to stop. Being lactose intolerant, I had to learn a little more about how to enjoy dairy foods,” says DeMarcus.
Lactose intolerance is simply the inability to digest the natural sugar lactose that's found in milk. Living with lactose intolerance doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite dairy foods. It is about finding ways to break down the sugar or find a few lactose-free options. The good news is there are many solutions and choices in the dairy case – from lactose-free milk to dairy foods that are easier to digest – to help meet your needs. The key is to know what works best for you.
Enjoy Your Favorite Dairy Foods
Before you cut out the benefits of the dairy foods you enjoy, learn a few tips and tricks:
- Start Small. For many with lactose intolerance, it may be about building up a tolerance over time. You can start with a small amount of regular milk daily and increase it slowly over several days or weeks to find out how much regular milk you can comfortably digest.
- Mix It Up. When it comes to making your meals, mix milk with other foods. Those solid foods help slow digestion and give your body more time to digest the lactose.
- Shop the Store. You can also select lactose intolerant-friendly dairy foods. Natural cheeses, such as cheddar, Colby Jack, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and Swiss, have virtually zero lactose. Many yogurts feature live and active cultures. Those cultures help your body digest lactose.
- Leave the Lactose Behind. Lactose-free milk is real milk, just without the lactose. It provides the same essential nutrients, such as calcium, potassium and vitamin D. Over-the-counter tablets or drops containing the lactase enzyme can help break down lactose for you.
Real Food Fuels You
When it comes to his diet, Ware focuses just as much on taste as he does on nutrition. Dairy is a food group that contributes both: milk, cheese and yogurt provide fuel needed on the field, while ice cream is served as a sweet treat.
“You know, I've always just looked at life like you only have one life, and you only have one body. If you take care of yourself, your body will give back to you. With lactose intolerance, it’s about being good to your body and finding what works for you. The more you know about yourself, the better you can attack the situation – and then you'll have a better life and a bigger outcome in what you want to do,” says DeMarcus.
Don’t let your intolerance stop you from finding those good-for-you foods and getting the nutrients your body needs. Focus on keeping dairy in your diet.