Dairy products, meat and sports performance

Sports Med. 2003;33(8):615-31. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200333080-00006.


Creatine supplementation improves repetitive, short-term performance. It has not been shown that exclusion of meat from the diet would impair repetitive short-term performance. In contrast, reduction of protein intake and a concomitant increase of carbohydrate intake during a period of 3-5 days improves anaerobic (2-7 minutes) performance. The protein intake in a mixed or lacto-vegetarian diet is adequate even for elite athletes, providing that energy requirements are met. Many dietary supplements have been suggested to increase muscle mass and/or to decrease fat mass. Although the effects of conjugated linoleic acid on body composition in athletes are not clear, some positive findings in untrained, obese individuals call for more studies. Strenuous training may impair immune function and increase the susceptibility to infections. Exclusion of meat from the diet does not seem to have adverse effects on immune function. Glutamine supplementation (>3-6 g/day) may improve immune function, but more studies are needed. Similarly, more studies on the possible effects of whey protein and probiotic supplementation on immune function and performance in physically highly active individuals are warranted. Vitamin and mineral balance are not usually a problem among athletes. Notable exceptions may be calcium and iron in some females. Increased calcium intake in athletes with hormonal and menstrual disturbances could theoretically help in maintaining bone status; however, no data are available. A diet with meat may help in maintaining adequate iron stores.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Dairy Products*
  • Energy Intake / immunology
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / immunology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Meat*
  • Sports / physiology*