For Love Island winner Greg O’Shea, dairy foods play a crucial part in a balanced diet.
“I’m a great supporter of the sporting benefits gained from drinking milk when it comes to hydration and recovery,” says the professional rugby 7’s star, who — along with one of Ireland’s top women boxers Kellie Harrington — is an ambassador for the ‘Everything Starts with Milk’ campaign.
Now in its second year, the campaign has been introduced to highlight milk as an important dietary building block, from childhood growth and development to post-workout recovery. The EU-funded initiative is implemented locally by the National Dairy Council.
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Sharon Madigan, head of performance nutrition at Sport Ireland Institute, says milk acts as a food and a fluid, and is very important for school-aged children, particularly when you consider the alternative drinks they’re often drawn to — sugar-laden soft drinks and acidic fizzy ones. She says milk — being a rich source of calcium — has a protective mechanism for teeth against acid attacks caused by eating/drinking.
While many people see oat, rice and almond milk as alternatives to dairy, Madigan warns they’re not talking like for like. “These are nowhere near the mark compared with dairy. It’s important parents are aware these aren’t a substitute and you’re losing out on a lot.”
She points out that not only is milk rich in protein – important for muscle growth and maintenance – it provides a natural carbohydrate source to help refuel energy stores.
A glass of milk offers lots of electrolytes to assist rehydration, as well as minerals and vitamins such as calcium, phosphorous, and potassium for supporting bone health, iodine to contribute to normal cognitive brain function, vitamin B2 to help with energy release, and vitamin B12 to support normal functioning of the immune system.
Kellie Harrington says she’s delighted to be an ambassador for the campaign. “Eating well is essential for boxing, like every sport, so it’s great to have the opportunity to advise our young sportspeople on why consuming milk is such a key component in fuelling your body correctly for your sport.”