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Farmer athletes: Refuel with chocolate milk

Brenda Miller

Author, Brenda Miller, and her farmer athlete father, Duane Nelson, at the 2009 Seattle Rock n Roll Half Marathon. Duane dairy farms near Winthrop, MN.

All dairy farmers (and dairy workers) are athletes. Some farmers are actual real-life marathon runners but most farmers are farmer athletes. What does this mean? Think about milking in a tie-stall barn: reaching for the pipeline, carrying milking units, squatting while prepping cows, and pushing up feed with a broom or scraper. Or think about a parlor setting: walking back and forth in a parlor, cleaning freestalls, in/out of a skid steer or tractor, and fetching cows. How about throwing bales or pitching silage or manure? Sound familiar? All farmers need to rest and refuel their bodies when energy levels are low or fatigue sets in to reduce chance of injury and help prevent accidents.

A farmer's body is made up of bone, muscle, fat, blood, organs, connective tissue, and averages about 53% water overall. Basically speaking, 99% of the body is composed of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. The body needs to maintain certain levels of all of those elements in order to function properly. In addition, a farmer's body needs vitamins to complement those minerals in order for the body to stay fully restored. When a farmer sweats, their body is depleted of electrolytes and thus needs to rehydrate. Some ingredients in electrolytes are: calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. When a baby calf gets scours, the caretaker feeds the calf electrolytes to replenish those nutrients lost; this is the same idea.

When a farmer athlete's body is not properly maintained, it can become prone to injury due to conditions such as dehydration, stress fractures, fatigue, and a weakened immune system. Dairy farmers are pretty lucky as they have the perfect solution to help keep their bodies fully maintained right there on the farm. It's milk! The wholesome and nutritious product your cows produce every day. However, an even tastier recovery drink after a long, hard day is a tall glass of chocolate milk. For some, chocolate milk is a little more palatable after an endurance event than white milk.

Why milk or chocolate milk? Milk is nature's most natural recovery drink. It has 9 essential vitamins and minerals that all work together to nourish a farmer athlete's body. These include: calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin, and niacin. These vitamins and minerals work together to build and maintain strong bones, teeth, a healthy immune system, boost energy, and help to reduce the risk of stress fractures. In addition, milk provides the right mix of proteins and carbohydrates to refuel and rebuild tired muscles, fluids to rehydrate the body, and electrolytes to help replenish the elements lost when a farmer sweats.

Chocolate milk can be a great snack and give the body a boost of energy all while nourishing bones, muscles, and organs. If your current pick-me-up consists of a can of soda and cookies/candy/processed sugars, give chocolate milk a try - your body will thank you. Or at least have a treat of milk and cookies instead. Most dairy farms have a refrigerator in their milk house so just throw a gallon in there. From an economics standpoint, in today's market, you will be paying roughly about the same amount of money (depending upon where you shop) for a gallon of milk (128 oz) versus a twelve pack of soda (144 oz). If you buy a gallon of white milk and a bottle of chocolate syrup and make your own chocolate milk, financially, you will be coming out way ahead while providing your farmer athlete body better nourishment.

Farmer athletes are true endurance athletes, sometimes without even knowing it. Some put on 8 to 12 miles a day or more just by doing everyday and/or extra chores. If you are curious to see just how many steps you are walking per day by doing your normal farming routine there are pedometer apps you can download onto your smart phone to track your steps. If you don't have a smart phone you can purchase a simple, inexpensive pedometer from a retail store that clips onto your belt or pants pocket. It depends upon stride length but on average the number of steps per mile when walking is around 2,000 to 2,500.

Farmers are a tenacious lot and possess a mental/physical toughness that is hard to duplicate. The key to keeping the everyday momentum going and injuries at bay is to refuel the system with a nutrient packed product. So next time, refuel with chocolate milk. Milk does a (farmer athlete's) body good!

February 2016

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