Dairy And Fat Loss-Do You Have To Remove Dairy To Lose Weight?

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How do you feel about dairy intake and staying lean? I have heard both sides of the main arguements, but I wanted your opinion?

That was a facebook question that I got the other day and I wanted to take the time to address it in a bigger space then facebook comments

Shout out to Adam Parker for asking the question, thanks for reading Adam!

Here’s the deal with dairy and fat loss, is it critical to eliminate dairy to lose body fat?

Before we can look at how it impacts fat loss, we need to look at how it builds muscle. If you remember in “Pumping Iron”, Lou Ferrigno mentions how he drinks a gallon of milk per day when he was trying to build muscle. I think it was “Pumping Iron”, might have been elsewhere but Big Louie drank a gallon of milk per day to build muscle.

Back then bodybuilders knew of the fat content and knew that it was a quick way to add extra calories. So in a simplistic view, if one food is a “muscle building food”, it can’t be a “fat burning food” so it MUST be eliminated to burn bodyfat, right? Hence the legend began.

There are research studies that show that calcium actually increases fat burningduring a diet to the tune of about 60 fat calories per day (1). I think this is why some diet gurus may advise a high calcium intake for improving insulin sensitivity but hold on.

Research has built off of the idea that calcium burns fat and has look at other aspects of the dairy/calcium connection and has focused on branch chain amino acids and other amino acids (2). So it can’t just be the dairy or calcium that burn the extra grams of fat.

Note that whey protein is very high in BCAA’s so we can essentially get the same result from including whey protein in our diet.

So why else might someone want to remove dairy from a fat loss or bodybuilding diet?

The first issue is the carbohydrates involved. Sure, fat free milk contains about 18 or so grams of carbs, if I remember correctly, in about 6 ounces. This goes hand-in-hand with the phobia involving carbohydrates and extra calories in a diet. That might be way some advise you to remove dairy to lose weight.

The second issue has to do with lactose intolerance and I’m willing to bet that many people take to the internet to discuss dairy removal from a fat loss plan. Drink a class of milk and you become bloated, don’t feel right and don’t look at lean.

Dairy intolerance is a large issue and I advise my clients to take digestive enzymes with their protein and/or stay with whey isolate. My intolerance to dairy is one reasons why I remove it from my diet completely year round amongst other things.

So to answer your question Adam, will dairy intake limit your fat loss progress? No. Can removing it help you lose more body fat? Yes.

You’ll feel better without it in your diet but dairy makes you fat the same way that carbohydrates make you fat. That is if they are in abundance in your diet. You must monitor your macronutrient intake. Any macro, including protein, can lead to fat gain if it is just liberally consumed without any monitoring or cycling. it’s the exact system that I layout in Macronutrient Math Made Easy.

So dairy isn’t evil…

If you love a bowl of cereal with it in your diet every day, go for it. Just monitor how your body progresses. It’s a potential food to remove when you manipulate your carbohydrate intake but it isn’t bad and it won’t limit you.

What do you guys think? Do you consume large amounts of dairy in your diet? Does it help or hurt you burn fat? ┬áPlease hit the Facebook “like” button and leave a comment below. Also check out my youtube video below, I go a little deeper into the topic.


  1. Zemel MB. Role of calcium and dairy products in energy partioning and weight management. Am J Clin Nutr (2004) 79 (suppl): 907s-912s.
  2. Jacobsen R. Effect of short-term high dietary calcium intake on 24-h energy expenditure, fat oxidation, and fecal fat excretion. Int J Obes (Lond). 2005 Mar;29(3):292-301.
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