Bulking and Cutting for Lactose-Free Athletes and Bodybuilders
Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, butter, cream sauces, cheese, whipped cream, and coffee creamer. Many individuals have no issues consuming foods with lactose because they have ample amounts of the lactase enzyme in the small intestine.
Related: Bulking or Cutting - Decide the Easy Way
Lactase breaks down lactose into two simple sugars, glucose and galactose, which easily absorbed into the bloodstream.  Those with issues digesting this sugar may experience diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, bloating, and/or gas between 30 and 120 minutes after consuming foods with lactose.  Most individuals develop lactose intolerance or sensitivity in their adult years, but in rare cases, children can be born with lactose intolerance.
While rare, babies born with a lactase deficiency or congenital alactasia experience severe diarrhea upon the consumption of breast milk and formula. These babies must consume lactose-free infant formula otherwise serious health complications may result.
Individuals who develop primary lactose intolerance or lactase nonpersistence in their adult years do so because the body reduces its production of the lactase enzyme.  You can also develop secondary lactose intolerance if your body decreases lactase production after a small intestine-related illness, injury, or surgery.
Those with celiac disease (gluten intolerance), bacterial overgrowth, and Crohn's disease can also develop secondary lactose intolerance.  The small intestine's natural decreased production of lactase as we age is the most common cause of lactose intolerance.
Medical professions can diagnose lactose intolerance using three methods - a review of your medical, family, and diet history; a physical exam of the abdomen; and medical tests like the hydrogen breath test and stool acidity test.  Your age, ethnicity, weeks in the womb, disease history, and history of cancer treatments can affect your risk of developing lactose intolerance.
As we age the body naturally tends to produce less lactase enzyme. Individuals of African, Asian, Hispanic, and American Indian descent are more likely to have lactose intolerance.  For contrast, up to 90% of adults of East Asian descent have lactose intolerance whereas only about 5% of adults with Northern European descent experience this intolerance.  Scientists propose that communities with a history of consuming unfermented milk products as a primary nutrition source have the lowest rates of lactose intolerance.
If you were born prematurely, have any diseases affecting the small intestine, or have ever received radiation therapy for cancer in the abdomen, then you are also at an increased risk of being lactose intolerant.  However, just because some of the above criteria applies to you, it does not mean you automatically have lactose intolerance.
Many individuals with primary or secondary lactose intolerance do not have to swear off dairy products completely. Some individuals have no issue consuming fermented dairy products like kefir and yogurt as well as low-lactose dairy products like cheese, butter, and cream. For those unsure, if they fall in this lactose grey-area, it is best to eliminate lactose completely and then slowly introduce small amounts of low-lactose and fermented dairy products to see the effects.
While having lactose intolerance or sensitivity can add challenges during school, work, and social settings, it does not have to halt or derail your fitness goals! The diets laid out below provide a framework to reach your muscle-gain or fat-loss goals with lactose-free foods. If you do not have or do not like the taste of one of the foods below then feel free to swap it with a comparable option.
The meal plans below are based on a 180-pound male with the goal of consuming at least one gram of protein and 0.4 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight. The remaining calories come from a mixture of high-quality carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Adjust these intakes based on your age, gender, activity level, and goal.
Sample 3,200 Calorie Diet for Adding MassBreakfast
- 5 large eggs
- 2 ounces of 97% lean sliced ham
- 2 tablespoons of salsa
- 1 large (6.5-inch diameter) whole wheat pita
- 1 large (3.25-inch diameter) golden delicious apple
- 1 cup of blueberries
- 1 cup of soy milk
- 2.5 cups of Cheerios
- 1 cup of cooked wild rice
- 4 ounces of cooked skirt steak
- 2 cups of steamed Brussels sprouts
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 ounce of almonds
- 1 large (8 to 8.88-inch) banana
- 1 scoop of plant-based protein powder
- 1.5 cups of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 2 scoops of Egg White Protein powder
- 6 ounces of roasted turkey breast
- 2 cups of steamed broccoli
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 large (3 to 4.25-inch diameter) baked potato
Totals: 3,200 calories, 239 grams of protein, 338 grams of carbohydrates, 105 grams of fat, and 57 grams of fiber.
Sample 2,000 Calorie Diet for Losing FatBreakfast
- 8 ounces of cooked oatmeal
- 1 scoop of soy protein powder
- 1 cup of sliced strawberries
- 1 tablespoon of almond butter
- 2 ounces of teriyaki beef jerky
- 2 cups of sliced green peppers
- 4 ounces of cooked chicken breast
- 1.5 cups of spinach
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- 1 medium (2.88-inch diameter) navel orange
- 1 ounce of walnuts
- 1 cup of soy milk
- 2 scoops of egg white protein powder
- 1 can of light tuna in water
- 2 tablespoons of light mayonnaise
- 1 large (6.5-inch diameter) whole wheat pita bread
- 5 ounces of tomatoes
- 5 ounces of cucumbers
Totals: 2,000 calories, 197 grams of protein, 166 grams of carbohydrates, 70 grams of fat, and 33 grams of fiber.
References1) Sibley, Eric, et al. "Lactose Intolerance." National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 2014, Accessed Feb. 2017.
2) Lactose Intolerance. Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2 Sept. 2016, Accessed Feb. 2017.
3) Lactose Intolerance. Genetics Home Reference, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 14 Feb. 2017, Accessed Feb. 2017.