Enhanced Performance

An increasing number of professional athletes are going dairy-free, claiming the lifestyle as their secret weapon to consistent, elite-level performance. Ditching dairy significantly reduces post-exercise inflammation, allowing you to get back to training with renewed vitality faster than those who consume dairy. The bottom line: a dairy-free diet helps you get better—faster—and sustain these gains longer in virtually every sports discipline.

Better Digestion

No one performs at their best on an upset or bloated stomach no matter how much they try to ignore the discomfort. 

  • 65% of the global population is lactose intolerant according to the National Institute of Health. (1) This number is even higher among non-white populations such as Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics. (1) 
  • Those who cannot effectively digest lactose are considered lactose intolerant and experience uncomfortable symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, and diarrhea—all of which can be a major detriment to training and performance.
  • Thankfully, athletes can avoid all of these issues simply by ditching dairy. Stomach issues don’t have to be a “normal” thing; save the grit and pain tolerance for those burning muscles, not your upset stomach. 

Learn more
What Is Lactose Intolerance?
Take Our Lactose Intolerance Quiz
Switch4Good Podcast with Gastroenterologist Dr. Angie Sadeghi


1. NIH. Lactose Intolerance Statistics.

Breathe Better

A runner won’t win the race if he’s gasping for air halfway through; a cyclist is out of luck if she needs to wipe her runny nose while climbing a hill; a powerlifter is in serious trouble if she messes up a deadlift while attempting to clear mucus from her throat. All of these issues— impaired breathing, a runny nose, and excess mucus—can all be exacerbated by drinking cows’ milk. 

  • Cows’ milk proteins, particularly casein which makes up 80% of cows’ milk, have been shown to increase mucus production in the gut and respiratory tract. (1)  Researchers hypothesize that increased intestinal permeability, which has been linked to poor diet, disease, and strenuous exercise, allows the casein and other proteins to leak through the gut and therefore stimulate excess mucus production (2,3).
  • Cows’ milk proteins seem foreign to the body, so an immune defense is mounted, which can affect lung function, making it more difficult to breathe when we need it most. (2) 
  • Asthmatic athletes are particularly crippled by drinking dairy, as dairy is devoid of antioxidants which are essential substances that protect asthmatics’ vulnerable lungs. (3). By eating naturally antioxidant-rich plant-based foods, asthmatics can cut their chance of worsening symptoms by half! (4) In fact, chocolate soy milk from Trader Joe’s almost doubles the antioxidant content of store brand chocolate cows’ milk. (5)

Learn More
Olympic Sprinter Malachi Davis Runs Faster After Ditching Dairy


  1. Frosh A, Cruz C, Wellsted D, Stephens J. Effect of a dairy diet on nasopharyngeal mucus secretion. Laryngoscope. 2019 Jan;129(1):13-17.
  2. Bartley, Jamie and Susan Read McGlashan. Does milk increase mucus production? Medical hypotheses 2010; 74(4):732-4. 
  3. JanssenDuijghuijsen, Lonneke M et al. “The effect of endurance exercise on intestinal integrity in well-trained healthy men.” Physiological reports vol. 4,20 (): e12994. 
  4. Yusoff NA, Hampton SM, Dickerson JW, Morgan JB. The effects of exclusion of dietary egg and milk in the management of asthmatic children: a pilot study. J R Soc Promot Health. 2004 Mar;124(2):74-80. No link
  5. Lisa G. Wood et al. Airway and circulating levels of carotenoids in asthma. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005; 24(6):448-55.
  6. Lisa G Wood et al.Manipulating antioxidant intake in asthma: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012; 96(3):534–543. 
  7. Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, Holte K, et al. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Nutr J. 2010; 9:3

Less Inflammation and Oxidative Stress

What Is Inflammation and Oxidative Stress?

  • These are normal responses to an effective workout. Training is essentially a system of tear and repair. An athlete breaks down muscle tissues and fibers during the workout and build them back up during recovery.
  • Acute inflammation is a natural response to breaking down these tissues—the muscles swell and you feel sore due to the free radicals released by the body under this temporary stress. The issue is, while antioxidant stress and free radicals have been found to create a stimulus to athletic adaptation prolonged exposure of these free radicals can damage cells and extend, impair or limit recovery if left unchecked. (1)
  • It is crucial for an athlete to decrease their inflammation and oxidative stress as quickly as possible so they can recover faster and get back to training at the same (or elevated) intensity as the day before. (2) 

What’s Dairy Got to Do With It?

  • Cows’ milk and other dairy foods are LOW in antioxidants (3), which are necessary substances that combat exercise-induced inflammation-causing free radicals. (1) 
  • According to Harvard Health, dairy foods are the number one source of saturated fats (4) which constrict blood flow to muscles and promote further inflammation. 
  • Cows’ milk is the main dietary source of the sugar molecule D-galactose which has been shown to promote inflammation and oxidative stress in animal models (5,6).
  • The polyunsaturated lipids in dairy are high in omega-6 PUFAs, which contribute to a pro-inflammatory state. While athletes do need omega-6 to help repair their tissues, too much can lead to chronic inflammation. Research suggests a lower ratio of omega-3:omega-6 PUFAs is key to optimal health and function. (7)
  • Cows’ milk contains proteins and other foreign components, including sugars such as Neu5gc, that many people’s bodies do not recognize, initiating an immune response and promoting further inflammation. (8,9,10)

How to Reduce Inflammation

  • Eat antioxidant-rich plants and ditch dairy. A whole food plant-based diet, free of dairy foods, has 64 times more antioxidant content than animal foods. (3) 
  • Fun fact: Pomegranate juice a great anti-inflammatory food. Compared to drinking a placebo, pomegranate juice can increase Olympic weightlifting performance by 8%, decrease how hard training felt by 4%, and decrease muscle soreness by 13%! (11)
  • Even though both high in fat, when study subjects consumed both cows’ milk ice cream, which is phytonutrient poor, and avocado ice cream, which is phytonutrient-rich, only the cows’ milk ice cream showed an increase in inflammatory and oxidative markers. (12)
  • A plant-based diet, free of dairy foods, is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and swelling, and low in Omega 6 to help produce the optimal 2:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 PUFAs. (7)
  • Bottom line: Plant-based diets high in phytonutrients and antioxidants, when combined with rest, play a key role in reducing oxidative, free-radical stress and improving recovery (2)


  1. Gammone MA, Riccioni G, Parrinello G, D’Orazio N. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Benefits and Endpoints in Sport. Nutrients. 2019; 11(1):46.
  2. Barnard ND, Goldman DM, Loomis JF, et al. Plant-Based Diets for Cardiovascular Safety and Performance in Endurance Sports. Nutrients. 2019;11(1):130.
  3. Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, Holte K, et al. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Nutr J. 2010; 9:3
  4. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/
  5. Michaëlsson K, Wolk A, Langenskiöld S, et al. Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. BMJ 2014; 349:g6015.
  6. Batey LA, Welt CK, Rohr F, Wessel A, Anastasoaie V, Feldman HA, Guo CY, Rubio-Gozalbo E, Berry G, Gordon CM. Skeletal health in adult patients with classic galactosemia. Osteoporos Int. 2013 Feb;24(2):501-9. 
  7. Simopoulos AP. Omega-3 fatty acids and athletics. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2007 Jul;6(4):230-6.
  8. Shek LP, Bardina L, Castro R, Sampson HA, Beyer K. Humoral and cellular responses to cow milk proteins in patients with milk-induced IgE-mediated and non-IgE-mediated disorders. Allergy. 2005 Jul;60(7):912-9.
  9. Samraj Annie, Läubli Heinz, Varki Nissi, Varki Ajit. Involvement of a Non-Human Sialic Acid in Human Cancer. Frontiers in Oncology, 2014; 4:33
  10. Dhar C, Sasmal A and Varki A (2019) From “Serum Sickness” to “Xenosialitis”: Past, Present, and Future Significance of the Non-human Sialic Acid Neu5Gc. Front. Immunol. 10:807.
  11. Ammar A, Turki M, Chtourou H, et al. Pomegranate Supplementation Accelerates Recovery of Muscle Damage and Soreness and Inflammatory Markers after a Weightlifting Training Session. PLoS One. 2016; 11(10):e0160305.
  12. Khor A, Grant R, Tung C, Guest J, Pope B, Morris M, Bilgin A. Postprandial oxidative stress is increased after a phytonutrient-poor food but not after a kilojoule-matched phytonutrient-rich food. Nutr Res. 2014 May;34(5):391-400.

Improve Cardiovascular Health & Optimize Blood Flow

All athletes need a strong heart! Learn what the cardiovascular system does for our performance:

  • Efficient blood flow and strong arteries deliver oxygen and nutrients to cells and carry out waste—such as soreness-inducing lactic acid. (1)
  • Dairy products are high in saturated (2) and trans fat (3) which can constrict blood vessels and slow blood flow to working muscles, ultimately inhibiting performance. 
  • Low-fat, plant-based sources, high in Omega 3 PUFAs can improve performance. These foods improve arterial function leading to improved vascular and blood flow dynamics along with enhanced oxygen & nutrient delivery to your working cells during exercise. (4,5) 
  • Researchers found that relying on high carb, plant-based sources of fuel actually increases the strength of our arteries, which tend to be damaged over time as blood courses through them.  (1)


  1. Barnard ND, Goldman DM, Loomis JF, et al. Plant-Based Diets for Cardiovascular Safety and Performance in Endurance Sports. Nutrients. 2019;11(1):130. 
  2. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/implications for acute coronary syndrome. 
  3. USDA: Fat and Fatty Acid Content of Selected Foods Containing Trans-Fatty Acids
  4. Lithander, Fiona E et al. “Postprandial effect of dietary fat quantity and quality on arterial stiffness and wave reflection: a randomised controlled trial.” Nutrition journal vol. 12 93. 10 Jul. 2013.
  5. Stebbins CL, Hammel LE, Marshal BJ, Spangenberg EE, Musch TI. Effects of dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated Fatty acids on the skeletal-muscle blood-flow response to exercise in rats. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2010 Dec;20(6):475-86.