National Dairy Council Opens the Door to Sports, Fitness World

Allison Koch MS, RD, CSSD, LDN National Dairy Council

Allison Koch, National Dairy Council

It’s hard to see a headline saying a well-known athlete is eliminating dairy from their diet with the belief they’ll gain a competitive edge.

Athletes can have the sort of influence that may cause the average consumer – or even children – to follow suit and make a dietary decision without fully understanding the ramifications.

But it goes far beyond the professional sports world. Those at the high school and collegiate level – as well as the everyday weekend warrior or fitness enthusiast at the neighborhood gym – also are seeking to optimize performance through the foods they eat.

What sort of messages are they receiving, especially when it comes to dairy consumption?

National Dairy Council (NDC) recognized the gaps – and opportunities – among athletes and fitness-minded consumers, so we researched organizations we needed to collaborate with to help share the science-based information on dairy’s role in fitness and sports.

We used 2017 as an exploratory year to see where we could build relationships and partnerships and identified four key groups:

  • Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA) – represents more than 1,200 registered dietitians who work with collegiate and professional sports teams, Olympic training centers, as well as the military and law enforcement. Similar to NDC, CPSDA follows a “food first” principle, which means selecting whole foods from the various food groups instead of supplements.
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) – association of 50,000 members representing sports medicine, exercise science and health/fitness professionals.
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) – organization of 45,000 that is dedicated to advancing the strength and conditioning profession; includes many coaches who work in high schools and colleges.
  • IDEA Health and Fitness Association – world’s leading organization of fitness and wellness professionals with a network of more than 250,000 members who work as personal trainers, group instructors, directors and/or business owners.

We found that many of these professionals have a steady flow of athletes or clients – possibly reaching hundreds of individuals a week – and can be considered a credible voice on nutrition, yet some may lack a solid background in nutrition. We also learned that many fitness professionals typically offer anecdotal advice on what has worked personally for them or their colleagues. Overall, they see dairy in the “neutral to negative” range.

Strategy in place

Armed with these insights and opportunities, we began 2018 with a strategy to bring balance and introduce dairy’s voice and benefits into the conversation. And that is critical now more than ever because companies and organizations that promote anti-dairy and vegan platforms are trying to influence the same audiences we want to reach.

Our tactics include providing continuing education opportunities through speaking engagements at their national conferences or webinars. We work with dairy companies to provide on-site milk sampling at their events when possible.

We also submit articles or guest blog posts to their communications outlets, and our state and regional checkoff teams serve as resources to universities and other fitness professional organizations at the local level. We’ve arranged for some of these professionals to visit dairy farms and we have had farmers make presentations to these groups.



And we have a great team of NDC third-party ambassadors who help educate about dairy’s benefits even further on our behalf.

Dispelling myths

We have found many of the people in the sports and fitness world are no different than some consumers when it comes to questions about dairy. This is why we offer a “myths and misperceptions” presentation that helps set the record straight on subjects such as antibiotics and hormones.

We also know one of dairy’s key components – high quality protein – resonates very well with these audiences, thanks to the growing body of research supporting protein’s role in recovery from sport. This is another relevant point we share with them.

We’re in a struggle against the latest diet fads or opinions put forth by an influential athlete or anti-dairy group that may not be based in sound science. Unhappily, these types of claims can generate attention. But fortunately, NDC has a 100-year-plus legacy of using good science and nutrition advice to help turn the tide.



And that is happening. We know these groups are moveable and they want the best, credible information they can find. Many have told us they feel much better about dairy after hearing about the science and how to apply it to performance.

It’s this sort of progress that will keep NDC on its mission to collaborate with these groups to ensure ongoing awareness about dairy and how it indeed plays a complementary role to the work they do every day.

1 Comment

  1. The American Dental Association and state dental groups and associations would be great collaborators as well. Keep up the great work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.