The Surprising Effects of Dairy on Your Daily Basketball Nutrition
I am a former college basketball player and during my freshmen season I had been struggling with severe digestive issues. It was so bad that any time our team went out to the track or had a longer workout or practice; I began to dread it instantly, knowing that my IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) was going to flare up forcing me to have to embarrassingly ask to excuse myself once again. It also made it difficult for me to perform with the level of intensity I needed to in order to keep up with the rest of the team, which was very disheartening.
I knew that I had a serious health problem, but I didn’t know what the underlying cause was at the time. Athletic trainers and team physicians kept telling me that it was all due to mental and physiological stress, but I wasn’t convinced. My life wasn’t very stressful and I just intuitively knew that there was no way that stress was the root cause.
It wasn’t until I heard a theory about dairy products causing digestive upset in some people that I began to wonder if I fell into this group of people. I began to do tons of personal research and based upon what I found which I will lay out in the following sections of this article, I made the decision to completely cut out dairy products from my daily nutrition plan.
The results I quickly achieved were outstanding – my digestive system began to heal and I was no longer plagued with seasonal allergies!
I’ve never had any digestive issues like that since and the fact that my seasonal allergies were eliminated as well was enough for me to continue focusing on limiting my dairy intake.
I would like it to be known that the opinions and beliefs expressed within this article are based upon my personal experience with the consumption of dairy products, specifically cow’s milk and are intended to provide a new viewpoint to the table based upon my opinion, experience and research.
Milk in our Basketball Culture
Milk has long been thought of as the healthiest non-water beverage that you can consume. Daily consumption of milk has long been promoted by the USDA and FDA as being the ideal source of non-meat protein and calcium to enhance growth development in young children and athletes as well as strong bones in the elderly.
We’ve all seen the “Got Milk!” advertisements and other commercial products heavily promoting the dairy industry as they’ve flooded us with over $300 million in advertisements each year. Many of these marketing campaigns have featured sports stars and movie celebrities reminding us to drink milk every day for all of its nutritional benefits.
For decades the American culture has widely believed and followed this popular general health recommendation – however, today there are many people that have begun to question the validity of these supposed healthy living claims as seen on the government regulated ‘Food Guide Pyramid’.
The potentially misleading information given about the nutritional benefits of dairy products is not the only thing that poses a potential health threat to those that consume it on a regular basis; an even bigger and nastier issue is the manufacturing process of the dairy products.
Artificial hormones and antibiotics are being pumped into the sick livestock which has contaminated the overall milk supply and the only way to make the milk from these sick animals saleable is to pasteurize it which kills off any pathogens. However, issue still remains since pasteurization doesn’t address the toxic overload issue in the supply that directly impacts the American public’s health and safety.
This article is not intended to bash the dairy industry, but rather to inform and educate basketball players to help them make the wisest nutritional choices possible to support their athletic bodies through building a wise nutrition plan.
Knowledge is power, and understanding the harmful effects that today’s dairy products can have on the human body is game changing information. Fortunately, in today’s health foods market there are several milk alternatives to choose from providing safer and more wholesome health benefits for basketball players and non-athletes alike.
Does Dairy Have a Rightful Place in a Healing Diet for Basketball Players?
Basketball players and athletes have high demands put on their bodies, so it’s important that they are only fueling up with foods sources that are going to keep it functioning effectively and efficiently while avoiding any sources that could potentially cause health issues.
While milk has long been touted as a very nutritious food source, the fact is that dairy foods are mucous producing agents that promote the growth of bad bacteria in the body. This auto-immune reaction interferes with the cleansing-healing process, making it practically impossible to allow your body’s own natural healing mechanisms to work optimally.
Dairy foods are very dense and high in saturated fats that challenge digestion, immunity and metabolism. Basketball players need to consider this alarming physiological truth because anything that is going to hinder those three basic bodily functions is certainly not something that you want to include in your healthy basketball nutrition plan on a regular basis because it could slow you down on the court so to speak.
In fact, over one-quarter of Americans are intolerant to dairy foods (lactose intolerant), meaning they will experience allergic reactions, very poor elimination and digestion (weight gain and constipation) and severe mucous build-up (inflammation). Sounds nasty right? That’s because it is.
Another startling fact is that dairy foods become harder to digest as we age because our bodies don’t naturally produce high levels of milk-digesting enzymes (lactase) and after we’re done nursing from our own mothers the need for this enzyme is no longer needed theoretically – unless you choose to drink cow’s milk consistently of course.
Despite whether your body is completely intolerant to dairy products or not, the strain put on the eliminative organs like the colon and urinary system is caused from the clogging that occurs over time due to the overproduction of mucous. Dairy literally acts like toxic sludge in the body slowing everything down for the worse.
Many people claim to gain higher, more consistent energy levels after greatly reducing or eliminating their daily dairy intake – this is directly related to the reduction in mucous and the improved functioning of vital eliminative organs. It’s safe to assume that all basketball players are aiming to keep their health in tip top shape and dairy doesn’t seem to fit the equation for a wholesome, clean daily diet.
What about all of the Nutritional Content in Cow’s Milk Building up Strong Bodies for Basketball Players?
Since the early 1990’s, the dairy industry has done a great job of marketing their products as an essential part of any health eating program by posting pictures of basketball legends like Michael Jordan and Shaquile O’ Neal all over media sources to influence young players to drink their daily intake of dairy to build up a strong body to help make them a better player – the raw truth is that this is all very misleading information.
Michael Jordan did not become the basketball great that he was because he drank milk every day. This is not to say that he didn’t drink milk, but he certainly didn’t get most of his daily recommended calcium from it considering that the human body doesn’t absorb dairy calcium well because of the pasteurizing and homogenizing processes it takes to make the milk safe for human consumption.
“A 12 year study, formally known as the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study finds that high intake of milk and other dairy foods does not reduce bone breaks or osteoporosis. The study found that instead that hip fracture risk was 1.45 times higher in women who drank 2 or more glasses of milk per day compared to women who only had one glass or less per week.”
This study proves that homogenized milk is a poor source of absorbable calcium and has very low levels of magnesium to make matters less nutritious. Any good source of calcium will have a 1:1 ration of magnesium along with it to increase absorbability of the essential mineral. Instead, the protein found in cow’s milk may actually cause the loss of calcium via the urinary tract ultimately leading to poor skeletal health overall.
Another factor to consider is that conventional milk is not extracted from grass-fed cattle; instead the dairy cows are being fed artificial grains that are loaded with even more toxic substances making their way into your body with each sip.
The fundamental question in this instance is how can the milk from artificial grain fed cattle have significant amounts of calcium, minerals, and vitamin D when these minerals can only be present in the cow’s body if the cow is eating grass which is the original source of the minerals? It simply can’t.
On the contrary, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables positively affects bone health.
In fact, studies have been conducted comparing the absorption of the calcium content in cow’s milk to that of vegetable sources. It was discovered that the absorption of the calcium from brussels sprouts was 63.8%, broccoli was 52.6%, kale was 50%, compared to only 32% from milk.
Leafy greens, other vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish and non-GMO soy foods have much higher amounts of absorbable calcium as well as other important minerals like magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium and selenium.
Basketball players need the benefits from calcium and other minerals to help prevent sidelining injuries and illnesses, so you are much better off focusing on getting in your 3-5 servings of vegetables each day than you are by serving up a cold glass of cow’s milk.
The protein content in cow’s milk is equally as ineffective for the human body as its calcium content. Cow’s milk contains a specific protein known as bovine serum albumin and actually triggers an auto-immune reaction in the body causing antibodies to attack and destroy insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. This is why children who are given cow’s milk during infancy have a higher risk of developing diabetes later on in life as mentioned in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Finally, the saturated fat (unhealthy fat) content in dairy is very dense, high and unhealthy. Even if you do choose 2% or 1% milk, you are still consuming 35% and 25% saturated fat per glass respectively.
The bottom line is that dairy products are not contributing to your muscle building and athletic efforts on or off the court in the weight room.
How do Today’s Dairy Manufacturing Processes Affect my Health?
“On November 5, 1993, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved genetically engineered Artificial Bovine Growth Hormone (rBST, rBGH, BGH) for commercial use in the United States.”
These artificial hormones are used to increase the milk production of cattle in order to meet the high supply and demand of American dairy products.
Due to America’s surplus milk demand and dairy subsidies, it’s easy to understand why farmers would use these unnatural and health hazardous hormones to promote more milk production from their cattle.
Although the research is slimmer, the International Journal of Health Services does show that genetically engineered rBGH may promote breast and colon cancer in humans.
Europe and Canada already ban the use of artificial hormones in dairy cows, and has taken it a step further by banning the importation of U.S. dairy goods to their countries for this reason.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence, it’s safe to assume that common sense prevails over this matter – if only the United States had more of it considering that other countries clearly value the people more by putting the public health and safety of its citizens and livestock over the almighty dollar.
It is known, however, that cows treated with these artificial hormones have increased incidences of mastitis infections (inflammation, infection, cancer).
These infections start a vicious cycle by forcing farmers to treat the sick cattle with more antibiotics to keep them healthy enough to continue producing milk. If the farmers lose their cattle, they lose money and they are willing to do anything to keep that from happening.
“The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that an astounding 24.6 million pounds of antibiotics are fed to animals every year to help fight illnesses that break out in overcrowded, unsanitary feed lots.”
The over worked cattle’s swollen utters dragging on the manure-laden floors not only increase the risk of bacterial infections, but also contaminates the milk; in combination with the antibiotics given to the cattle to treat the infections which are also found in the milk, this creates more of a creamy toxic substance rather than fresh, raw, organic milk like nature intended.
The dairy industry’s solution to this problem is to pasteurize the milk, however pasteurization only knocks out the bacterial pathogens – it doesn’t address the matter of there also being significant amounts of hormones and pesticides still being present after the pasteurization process served straight to the American public.
The reality is that the diary industry’s current practices are not in you or your family’s best interests, it’s all to increase supply and demand for a profit by whatever means they have to do that – healthy and safe or not!
Is Raw Milk and Fermented Dairy Products Equally Unhealthy?
Raw milk is a much healthier choice to make if you are going to continue using dairy products in your basketball nutrition plan. Raw milk can only be found at your local farmer’s market or through a private farmer, but is definitely the way to go.
Fermented dairy products like kefir and yogurt are also healthier dairy products. They are cultured foods that present health benefits by providing the body with significant amounts of healthy bacteria (probiotics) and absorbable calcium for the body. These fermented foods are actually considered living because they contain intestinal flora that aide the digestive process, and since the lactase enzyme is not needed to breakdown these forms of dairy products they are much easier to assimilate and absorb than milk, cheese or butter.
There are no health issues with continuing or adding these forms of dairy into your nutrition plan unless you are completely intolerant to lactose.
What Healthy Milk Alternatives Should Basketball Players look for?
Just because the dairy industry has fallen to the wayside, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy your favorite cereal, smoothies, shakes, ice cream and baked goods. The creamy consistency of milk is what makes it so enjoyable and while it’s obviously not the best idea to continue rushing out to the grocery store to buy another gallon when you’ve run out, it is a good idea to start looking to healthier milk alternatives that actually do provide nutritional benefits for your basketball body and nutrition plan.
Listed below are the most nutritious milk alternatives found on the market. All of them can be substituted for milk in all recipes and are excellent served in many of your traditionally milk-based treats like smoothies and ice cream. These milk alternatives are made using highly nutritious nuts and seeds and offer the benefits of healthy fats, protein, minerals, vitamins as well as being free from artificial sugars.
There are so many options available that you are destined to find one that suits your consistency, texture, and taste needs. Many of these alternatives are also found in vanilla and chocolate flavors and are sweetened using natural cane sugar, which still amounts to much less than that found in conventional cow’s milk.
If you are interested in making your own nut or seed milk, there are easy recipes online for making them at home as well.
Flax Milk – rich in healthy omega-3 fats, flax milk is made using flax seeds and is a great option for those looking for a creamy consistency with a slightly nutty taste. Flax milk is lactose, cholesterol and saturated fat free making it an ideal choice for replacing your cow’s milk with. The only pitfall to flax milk is that it doesn’t contain any protein, however you can find it with fortified protein if you desire.
Hemp Milk – this milk alternative is made using hemp seeds and is very rich in omega-3 and omega-6 healthy fats. It is also a great source of amino acids, providing about 4 grams of protein per serving. Hemp milk contains 46% of your RDA of absorbable calcium and is also rich in other vitamins and nutrients like Vitamin A, E, B12, folic acid, iron and magnesium.
Coconut Milk – great for adding to smoothies and ice cream recipes, coconut milk offers a delicious milk alternative. Coconut milk is made from the meat of mature coconuts and is easy to digest. You will benefit from drinking coconut milk because of the healthy fat content, antioxidants, Vitamins C, E and B, as well as minerals like magnesium, potassium and phosphorous.
Almond Milk – one of the most popular milk alternatives, almond milk, is known for being a low-calorie, saturated fat and cholesterol free beverage that can also help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Offering the nutritional benefits of calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and fiber are a few other perks to including this in your daily basketball nutrition plan.
A few honorable mention milk alternative products include soy milk, rice milk, quinoa milk and cashew milk that all are great options.
Although cow’s milk and other dairy products have long been a staple in the traditional American diet, many people are now turning to healthier, less toxic alternatives in order to prevent the risks associated with consuming today’s conventional dairy.
Basketball players need the best nutrition possible to maintain a healthy body and immune system during the season and the current facts and studies point out some valid reasons to reconsider your choices for dairy as part of your daily nutrition plan. By focusing on getting your daily servings of fruits, veggies, and other wholesome foods as well as trying out some of the milk alternatives mentioned, you are on your way to getting enough calcium, protein and other minerals necessary to support your basketball health goals on and off the court!
 Healthy Healing, 14th ed. Page, Linda. Pg. 156
 Healthy Healing, 14th ed. Page, Linda. Pg. 155
 Healthy Healing. 14th ed. Page, Linda. Pg. 158
Note from Basketball Trainer Publisher Chris Corbett:
When Danielle first sent me this article, I was taken aback a bit as it challenged several of my own beliefs. After reading it a second and third time I thought it was important to share this article with our audience for a few reasons:
- Many people have digestive issues and struggle with it during training. This might shed some light on their struggle.
- We all need to take a better look at the sugars we consume as they are hidden in many products we view as “healthy.”
- This article provides a starting point conversation that should continue with your doctor and parents (if you are a minor.) Everyone has a different digestive system but after consulting a doctor, education and monitoring thru the use of a basketball nutrition food journal you should be able to make strides to improve your overall health and your game. Looking at dairy intake can be one factor.
- The world needs to be aware of the power that mighty lobbying groups have on our daily basketball nutrition. Danielle brings a fresh voice to challenge our assumptions and make us think at the supermarket.
- We welcome a response from the dairy industry or trainers with a different viewpoint if it can expand the breadth of this dialogue. We will be contacting the dairy industry to hear their response and hopefully get to share that.