As a busy college student pursuing a degree in dietetics, time and money are two items that I always seem to be running out of. I know many fellow students and friends who tend to use this same predicament as an excuse to not prioritize living a healthy lifestyle. I get it, it can be easy to tell yourself that you will focus on your nutrition when you graduate and “have more time”. However, I have learned that as soon as you get to the next stage of life you will more than likely find new activities and events to fill your schedule up, once again pushing all thoughts of nutrition to the backburner of your mind. I am here to tell you that it does not have to be that way, you do not have to keep putting off your goals! You can fuel your body properly without hurting your budget or having to daily carve out three hours of your already busy schedule to prepare meals. Two great ways to overcome the common barriers of time and money are getting the most out of the groceries you purchase and meal prepping. When you combine these two methods you come to an intersection that brings you to the wonderful concept of crockpot meals!
Crockpot meals are a wonderful way to have a tasty and nutritious supper waiting for you after a long day! There are many appetizing slow-cooker recipes out there, but I want to focus on providing you with recipes that give you the tools to build your plate in a way that promotes consuming lean proteins, eating the rainbow, and having adequate portions.
My first recipe to share with you all is a slow-cooker lemon chicken recipe! It requires minimal meal prep, and you can eat the leftovers for the rest of the week. Note: this minimizes the number of meals you have to prepare, therefore saving you precious time and money. This meal fills up your plate with chicken, potatoes, red onions, and asparagus so you do not have to prepare other side dishes. It smells heavenly as it is cooking and tastes just as satisfactory as it smells. When I made this, I only added a small amount of feta cheese, grape tomatoes, and my grandpa’s special spice mix!
One other thing I love about this recipe is that it is the type of meal that sounds good all year long. If it is a hot summer day and you don’t want to heat up the house by turning on the oven, you can put some chicken in the crockpot and still have a whole plate full of deliciousness. At the same time, this recipe can also be used to warm you up on the cold nights that come with wintertime. You really cannot go wrong!
Please never forget that you do not have to compromise on your nutrition goals because of the demands of life. Prioritize your health and your body will thank you later! Stay tuned for more crockpot recipes to come!
1 red onion
6-8 chicken thighs- bone-in, skin on
1-1.5 lbs baby potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp honey
4 cloves garlic
½ Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt & pepper to taste
1 bunch of thin green asparagus
Peel & slice the red onion & add to the bottom of the slow cooker in one layer.
Add chicken thighs on top in one layer.
Wash & half baby potatoes & add to slow-cooker.
In a small bowl mix zest of 1 lemon, juice of the same lemon, olive oil, honey, thyme, sea salt, pepper, & finely chopped garlic, & then pour over ingredients in the slow cooker.
Put the lid on & secure, then set to high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours (depending on your schedule. 3 hours on high being the minimum and 4 the maximum and 6 hours being the minimum and 8 hours the maximum when set on low).
15-20 minutes before the time is over, set the slow cooker to high & add asparagus on top & put the lid back on. NOTE: The thicker the asparagus, the longer amount of time it will take.
OPTIONAL: 5 minutes before the time is over, remove the chicken thighs, place on a baking sheet, and put under the broiler on high for 3-5 minutes or until the skin is golden.
Grace is a third-year undergraduate student at South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD. She is majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics and will graduate in May of 2022. She is involved in the Dietetics club and Oasis College & Young Adult Ministry. She works for HyVee as an Aisles Online Worker and for Sanford Hospital as a Formula Technician in the NICU. She recently joined Nutrition with Wendi as a Virtual Assistant at the beginning of February. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends or being outside biking, running, hiking, or kayaking! Grace’s Christian faith is very important to her and she is very excited to see what God has in store for her in the coming years!
17-year-old, Jenkins comes strutting out of the weight room after he just crushed a workout living his strongest, healthiest, and injury-free life. While walking out of the weight room Jenkins is using Nutrition with Wendi’s recommended “25-50-30 rule” and is downing a shaker bottle with chocolate milk and creatine paired with a banana. Jenkins is a smart kid and has focused on proper sleep, hydration, eating well, and managing his stress while training hard. But of course, many make comments like, “You know that powder he is mixing in there is steroids right? One of my parent’s friends said his coach has been encouraging the use of anabolic steroids for years!” YIKES RIGHT??
Ever heard this crazy misinformation before? Yes, me too. It has spread like wildfire. It is even more gut-wrenching when it’s spread by doctors, trainers, health care professionals, influencers, or random people on the internet that know very little about science, sports performance, or even what creatine is. Insert facepalm. Good news! I am here to dispel those myths and provide the science to help combat the misinformation that is so toxic.
Creatine is one of the most effective ergogenic aids for adult athletes and is safe. Creatine effectively increases lean mass, strength, power, speed, and exercise capacity (1). But what about youth athletes? I have had several high school coaches and concerned parents of youth athletes ask me questions like, “Is creatine safe for my kids? Should my female athletes be using creatine?” In almost every conversation, my first response is, “It depends.” Just like any other question I get, nutrition-, health-, fitness- or performance-related, it should be individualized. Creatine, however, is beneficial to all populations according to the science outlined in this article. As a registered dietitian, I strongly promote a “food first” and back-to-basics philosophy. For more information on healthy eating and performance nutrition, see a previous blog here. I empower anyone working with youth athletes to use the guidance in this article when considering “to supplement with creatine or not.”
Creatine Monohydrate 101:
95% of creatine is found in skeletal muscle
The human body needs 1-3 g per day
Most creatine in the diet comes from animal products like meat, fish, & poultry
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound formed by three amino acids, making it a tripeptide (tri- meaning three) of the amino acids L-glycine, L-arginine, and L-methionine. Creatine is assembled in a two-step process that occurs in the kidneys and liver.
Creatine improves numerous factors including strength, power, sprint ability, muscular endurance, resistance to fatigue, muscle mass, recovery, cognition, and rate of muscle growth. Creatine is one of the most widely studied, proven performance enhancers available that also offers clinical benefits (4).
How does creatine work?
Creatine deposits high-energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine. This is given to adenosine diphosphate (ADP), regenerating it to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the sole energy carrier in the human body, which can be called “energy currency” for cells to carry out their functions. For example, during conditions of short-term, high-energy demand activities (<30 seconds) with limited recovery time, ATP runs out quickly, which illustrates the importance of creatine stored in muscles in the form of creatine phosphate. This is explained here.
Since creatine phosphate restores ATP, it gives muscle cells the ability to produce greater energy. The greater creatine stores you have, the greater energy your muscle cells can yield during high-intensity exercise, thus leading to increased exercise performance. Even though the most well-documented and primary benefit is higher energy production, this mechanism also supports muscle gain and strength increases, as explained here.
Despite creatine being widely tested since the early 1900s with significant data supporting its effectiveness, it is widely misunderstood by many trainers, coaches, athletes, and concerned parents of high school athletes. Yes, it is 2021 and people still think creatine monohydrate is a steroid due to misinformation generated across social media and the general population (4).
Disregard the false, outlandish, disproven claims. I am referencing the silly fallacies like, “creatine will make you fat,” “creatine will cause liver, kidney, or bone injury,” “creatine will dehydrate you,” or my personal favorite, “creatine is a steroid that will also lead to baldness.” I know. What a bunch of nonsense. I addressed these fallacies in a previous blog, Creatine Not Just for Men or Muscle. Please go check it out if you are a female because creatine can help you improve your lean mass and lose that fat.
Antonio et al. published a phenomenal paper outlining the common questions and misconceptions regarding creatine use available for open access here (1). I highly recommend you read it and share it with anyone who may have creatine confusion disorder. I made that up, but you get my point. Creatine monohydrate is beneficial for many things beyond performance, which is not my opinion but sc!
Potential ergogenic benefits of creatine supplementation in adults (4):
Greater training tolerance
Increased sprint performance
Increased work performed during sets of maximal effort
Increased lean mass & strength adaptations during physical training
Enhanced glycogen synthesis
Increased work capacity
Increased anaerobic threshold
If you’re interested in my opinion as a dietitian and performance practitioner working with several athletes I highly recommend creatine. Creatine is like the Swiss Army knife of supplements! It can do so many things!
There is robust evidence to support the effectiveness of creatine in the adult population. Among children and adolescents, there is mounting evidence to support the therapeutic benefits of creatine supplementation as well as clinical and exercise performance. Available studies in the adolescent population involving high-intensity exercise training indicate performance benefits as well as no reported side effects (1,2).
In relation to performance, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has concluded that creatine monohydrate is the most effective ergogenic supplement available to athletes in terms of increasing high-intensity exercise and supporting lean body mass during training. The ISSN has also concluded CM is safe. (4).
Does creatine work in young athletes?
Regardless of the limited data on the teen population, creatine is likely safe, beneficial, and well-tolerated among youth athletes as evidenced by the available data (2).
Creatine supplementation improved time performance and strength in highly competitive swimmers (2,3).
Should my teen athletes be supplementing with creatine?
As always, food first, but creatine can be a safe and effective regimen for young athletes who meet the following criteria (1,5):
Consuming a well-balanced diet
Consuming a diet with a greater emphasis on plant proteins like soy and pea which do not provide creatine like animal proteins
Involved in high-intensity training, and competitive sports which include:
Combat Sports (MMA, wrestling, boxing, etc.)
It is always best practice that athletes of any age fully educate themselves by consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified sports nutritionist, exercise physiologist, or sports-focused physician before the use of any supplement. Similarly, any products used should be NSF International Certified for Sport to reduce the risk of consuming any harmful or contaminated products. Supplements are regulated but not as heavily regulated as pharmaceuticals. Please see the reasons to use NSF Certified for Sport products in a previous blog.
“The USADA recommends that athletes use only dietary supplements that have been certified by a third-party program that tests for substances prohibited in sport. The USADA is responsible for anti-doping education and testing for athletes in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movements as well as the UFC.”
Therefore, all supplements used should be third-party tested for safety, purity, and compliance. For the sake of convenience and safety, you and your athlete can download the NSF Certified Sport app.
I preach food first, nutrient periodization, quality rest, good sleep hygiene, hydration, and appropriate training, all of which can be better enhanced using creatine monohydrate (CM). Based on the strongest science and studies, CM is the recommended form. CM is used in the studies. Therefore, it should be used in practice as well. I discussed the other forms in my guest appearance on Muscles and Management.
When to use creatine?
The science suggests creatine is most effective immediately post-workout when paired with protein and carbohydrate (7). Creatine consumed immediately post-resistance training is superior to pre-workout in terms of body composition and strength (7). The recommended dose is 3-5 g of creatine per day. Creatine can be used at any time of day. Creatine is safe and effective on rest days from exercise as well as training days. (Click here to follow on Instagram)
While CM is best paired with a carbohydrate-rich source (like oatmeal, whole-grain bread, rice, fruit, smoothies, or yogurt) to draw it into muscle cells, it can also be added to water or other beverages. A saturated cell is a happy cell! This supports recovery and muscle repair following resistance training.
Most creatine supplements are in powder form and must be used in warm water to support the dissolving process. CM will dissolve slowly in cold water and often ends up in the bottom of a shaker bottle, which won’t do any good if it doesn’t make it into your mouth! Creapure is a great brand to use and offers more explanation on dosing. Check it out here! No, I do not have a partnership or any affiliation with Creapure. I just want to share that they make a great product.
My female youth soccer players have integrated CM post-training with their tart cherry juice and chocolate milk. I have taken time to discuss the safety, use, and benefits with my youth athlete’s parents, coaches, and even their PE teachers. I have 50% of my youth athletes supplementing with CM. CM is always a conversation we have after we wrap up their 6-week Nutrition with Wendi Coaching Program.
Do I need to load?
No, you do not need to “creatine load”. In fact, many studies use a typical creatine dose of 5-10 g daily or smaller doses like the standard 2-3 g. However, if you desire to do a loading phase, it would look something like 20-25 g for 5-7 days followed by a maintenance phase of 5 g daily for 4 weeks, 2 weeks off, and then repeat. I do not have any of my athletes do this cycling as it is unnecessary. See the ISSN’s Position Stand for more on this (4).
Studies support the benefits of CM supplementation regardless of the dose. However, that does not mean more is better. If you are a vegetarian and new to using CM, you would benefit from saturating the muscles with CM, leading to an acute increase in strength and body weight via water retention. However, please refer to the experts and those I respect most in the field like Dr. Darren Candow, Dr. Tim N. Ziegenfuss, Dr. Scott Forbes, Dr. Jose Anotonio, Dr. Rich Krider, Dr. Eric Rawson, and others who can further provide the research they have been doing for the last few decades.
Please see another podcast in which I had the opportunity to speak about creatine in the youth population via the Big Time Strength podcast.
There is robust literature to support the beneficial effects creatine has on body composition, physical performance, injury prevention, recovery, brain health, and clinical use. Currently, there have not been any negative effects associated with the use of CM in both the adolescent and adult populations. Adolescent athletes under the age of 18, and even children as young as infants, can safely consume CM. There is zero evidence to suggest CM supplementation would cause harm, dehydration, cramping, or any other outlandish claims that have been disproven by Antonio et al., 2021, and others. Not incorporating a CM supplement would be a disservice to your athletes or even yourself!
Anyone looking to improve their health of any age or activity level can safely consume 3-5 g of creatine monohydrate immediately post-workout paired with a carbohydrate.
By supplementing with creatine monohydrate immediately following training, you’re able to support muscle growth and recovery, injury prevention, and overall health.
Yes, creatine is safe to consume if you are a teen athlete. Yes, you should use creatine monohydrate.
No, creatine is not a steroid. No, creatine will not cause baldness. No, creatine will not dehydrate you. No, creatine will not cause cramps. No, creatine will not decrease your bone mineral density.
If you have a beating pulse, then creatine monohydrate is for you!
Sports physicians, athletic trainers, coaches, performance nutritionists, and others working with youth athletes should provide the best guidance to teen athletes based on the available science to support their principal interests. Kids are going to be using supplements like energy drinks and pre-workouts, which contain dangerous amounts of caffeine. I would rather we provide education on the safety and use of creatine, which is not dangerous but beneficial. I would like to see more people using creatine given the ergogenic benefits and no reported adverse effects. Creatine monohydrate is a safe, effective, and inexpensive way to support health and physical performance! Please don’t let, “Joe Public” from accounting or “Susie Quinn,” on Instagram tell you any different.
In good health health, and physical performance,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD CISSN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Nashville, TN. Wendi works with clients of all levels internationally.
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Antonio, J., Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C. et al. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 18, 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
Grindstaff PD, Kreider R, Bishop R, Wilson M, Wood L, Alexander C, et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on repetitive sprint performance and body composition in competitive swimmers. Int J Sport Nutr. (1997) 7:330–46.
Ostojic SM. Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Feb;14(1):95-103. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.1.95. PMID: 15129933.
Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 18 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
Jagim AR, Stecker RA, Harty PS, Erickson JL, Kerksick CM. Safety of creatine supplementation in active adolescents and youth: A Brief Review. Front Nutr. 2018;5:115. Published 2018 Nov 28. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00115
Ostojic SM. Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Feb;14(1):95-103. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.1.95. PMID: 15129933
Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 6;10:36. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-36. PMID: 23919405; PMCID: PMC3750511.