Food Freedom Made Simple

Food Freedom Made Simple

A term you may see a lot of on social media lately is “food freedom”. This ideology, if you will, is combatting old practices of dieting and instead giving individuals the freedom to eat foods without having to eliminate certain food groups or the foods that they simply enjoy eating. Wendi and I share the same philosophy that all foods fit and we should never eliminate food groups as it puts us at risk for nutrient deficiencies. In this blog, I’ll discuss the meaning of “food freedom” and how to achieve it in 3 simple steps so that you can achieve freedom from food as well!

What does “food freedom” mean?

Food freedom can look different for everyone, however, I prefer to define it as the freedom to enjoy all foods without restriction. It means to have a healthy relationship with food without being stressed or guilty when indulging in the foods you love to eat. You’re eliminating the rules of dieting and embracing the joy that food brings to the table…no pun intended!

Is food freedom important?

I am guilty of trying a few diets and quick fixes in the past, but during each escapade, I always thought to myself, “Why must I eliminate foods that I really enjoy eating?” I first heard about food freedom in the midst of the pandemic when so many people were trying to improve their health and seeking out a new fad diet to help them achieve their goals quickly. I had friends who were following keto and carnivore diets and I would sit there asking them, “Well don’t you miss vegetables? Don’t you miss having a bowl of pasta?” and their response was always yes

I understand why people are driven to try these diets out; they see others through social media or by word of mouth who have had major successes. However, we must remember that everyone is made differently. What works for one individual will not necessarily work the same way for you. This is a hard thing to swallow because we as humans naturally want to see results quickly and will try just about anything to achieve that. But what if I told you that you can still work towards your goals, whether they be to lose weight or pack on muscle mass, by eating ALL of the foods you love? Would you believe me? Finding freedom from food can alleviate so much anxiety that surrounds many people when they eat. By achieving this, we can boost our self-esteem while gaining confidence that we can be in a healthy mental and physical state without restricting ourselves from the things we enjoy.

3 steps to achieve food freedom

  • Eliminate 1 thing… diet culture!

Yes, I am encouraging you to replace a bad habit with a good one, something NWW offers in “Learn It, Lose It, Live It”, an evidence-based group program to help you stop dieting and start living! It’s the mentality that we must be constantly dieting to achieve our goals. We face many advertisements for dieting on television, in magazines, and through social media, so I challenge you to take a step back. Unfollow accounts that are diet-specific, throw out the magazines promoting the latest fad diet and change the channel when you start receiving the subliminal messages that you must diet in order to be healthy. Diet culture doesn’t want you to know the real truth about what can make you healthy in a natural way (check out Wendi’s blog entitled Strategies the Diet Industry Does Not Want You to Know to learn more). This is the beginning of taking a step in the right direction! Enroll in LEARN IT, LIVE IT, LOSE IT GROUP PROGRAM to gain the confidence you deserve (NEXT GROUP BEGINS JULY 18TH)!

  • Fuel your body with intent

If you have been dieting for a while, your body is going to need some time to acclimate to eating more food. Registered dieticians Wendi and Sydney recommend 20-30g at each and 10-15g during snacks, depending on your goals. Consume whole grains and plenty of leafy, green vegetables to increase energy and fiber intake. Also, be sure to stay hydrated which helps with weight management and helps flush out waste. If you need ideas for easy, delicious recipes, check out our Recipes page on our website.

 

  • Get moving!

Find enjoyable movement. Exercise can look different for everyone. Maybe it’s engaging in team sports, lifting weights, hiking, tennis, or yoga. Resistance training has been proven to burn calories even during rest. The important thing is to be moving in a way that is fun for you! Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Figure out what time of day you prefer to get your movement in and stick to a routine. It can help to have a friend join you and help with accountability. You can follow me on Instagram @lindsayd_nutrition to find a few workouts you can do at home or in the gym.

Hopefully this blog has given you some insight into the idea of food freedom and how to simply achieve it. It’s not going to be achieved overnight, because let’s be honest, diet culture practices were not achieved in a day either. Start small and work towards a new habit and goal as time goes on. If you need help finding freedom with food, book a FREE Discovery Call so that we can discuss your goals and develop a personalized plan for you. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

What to Eat Before Your Half Marathon

What to eat for your half marathon in < 500 words

The day of the half-marathon you signed up for has you thinking, what should I eat on race day?

Great question! However, it’s actually more important to be mindful of what you’re eating and drinking in the days leading up to race day.

What you eat the morning of race day should be practiced in advance. My clients and athletes learn through our coaching sessions that the meals and snacks consumed leading up to the event have a greater influence on performance than the meal on the day of.

You can’t expect to race at your best on the morning fuel along. You’ll have to plan ahead with balanced meals using my plate method. For additional ideas, check out my meal and snack guidance which also explains my “4-2-1” method. In the days leading up to your race prioritize plenty of lean protein and complex carbohydrates to provide you with the fuel you need.

You can’t race like a beast if you eat like a bird (additional snack ideas!

Example meal and snacks included on the days leading up to your half marathon:

  • Whole-grain chicken wrap with beans, spinach, tomato, mashed avocado or hummus, and fruit
  • Greek yogurt fruit toast (see my recipe)
  • Oatmeal with yogurt, whole-grain muffin, and peanut butter with banana slices
  • Roasted sweet potato with lean ground turkey in a whole grain wrap with hummus and raspberries
  • Whole-grain crackers with carrot sticks, and hummus
  • Whole-grain rice bowl with grilled shrimp or 3 oz of salmon tossed in roasted broccoli with diced avocado and fresh fruit

Make sure you’re hydrating properly as well. Consume at least 16 oz of water every three to four hours for 48 to 72 hours prior to your race.

NO NEW FOODS ON RACE DAY! PRACTICE FOODS BEFOREHAND ! 😊

 

What to eat and when to eat on the morning of my race?

Two hours before your race consume carbohydrates paired with a little protein. You want to limit fat and fiber because of the digestion time required for fat and the distress from fiber that could occur during your run.

Performance Nutrition (1)

Breakfast Ideas to Consume 2 hours Pre-Race:

  • 1-2 rice cakes + ½ tbsp honey + ½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • Kodiak Cakes muffin or oatmeal cup
  • Bagel + kiwi slices + string cheese
  • Gel or sports drink + grapes
  • Oatmeal + egg whites or non-fat milk
  • Watermelon, grapes, orange slices, or any fruit
  • 1-2 slices of toast + Greek yogurt
  • Cereal + non-fat milk
  • Overnight oats
  • 100 % fruit bar or dried fruit
  • Apple sauce packets or honey
  • Tart cherry juice or watermelon juice

You don’t want to eat too much for breakfast. Ideally, it would be better to eat a little bit more for dinner and an evening snack of maybe a power cup muffin the night before.  Most feel so excited for race day it is hard to eat anything. But you need feel.

Something is always better than nothing. Even if its just some toast, berries, honey packet, or tart cherry juice you need some carbohydrates before you take off! Studies at the University of Memphis Exercise and Sports Nutrition Laboratory confirm that honey is one of the most effective forms of carbohydrate to eat just before exercise.Honey performs similar to commerical energy gels because of the glucose in gels.

GOOD LUCK and don’t forget to have fun! See the full post on Instagram


What are the benefits of partnering with us to help you with your performance or recovery?

” I highly recommend Wendi! I was at a transitionary period with training & was not fueling or recovering properly. Wendi’s advice on eating more protein + kcal has helped my performance &energy levels. Her guidance is credible and so helpful. Thanks, Wendi!”
**You can support Sammie’s mission to improve mental health awareness by donating or sharing her message with others. More information found here.

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, 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. She is a former cross country runner, college softball player, figure competitor, and avid weight-lifter who still enjoys a good race from time to time. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Nashville, TN.

 

You can also follow Wendi on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. Service

The Top Five Worst Fat Loss Mistakes

Avoid making these common mistakes when trying to lose fat and gain lean muscle mass!

1. Skipping meals

Many people think they are doing the right thing by skipping breakfast and avoiding eating until they are ravenous. Skipping meals will lead to an imbalance in blood sugar levels (1). Skipping meals will also lead to overeating at the next meal but it’s not sustainable nor is it optimal for maintaining lean mass. Which we know lean mass helps burn more fat. Our blood glucose levels drive our energy, focus, concentration, and productivity to name a few (1). Focus on powering up with protein and produce at breakfast. Protein will help keep you satisfied and help regulate your hormones that control hunger.

2. Eliminating entire food groups and fad dieting

People go rouge and cut out entire food groups. Eliminating food groups is not a wise choice and is often a mistake I see many falling victims to as a dietitian. People vilify or demonize carbohydrates because of their sugar content. The reality is that successful fat loss comes down to a calorie deficit. You can most certainly eat fruit and still lose fat. Don’t listen to the misinformation from clowns demonizing fruit or even carbohydrates. Research supports carbohydrates as a critical part of a healthy diet as well as supporting weight loss goals (2). Carbohydrates provide our muscles and brain with energy. If you’re hoping to lose fat and crank up the intensity in the gym but decide to cut out fruit and carbohydrates, you’ll likely experience fatigue quickly. You don’t need to cut carbs or eliminate fruit to lose fat (3). Nutrition with Wendi fat loss clients does not cut carbs or eliminate food groups. If you’re interested in learning how to portion your carbs and a macronutrient breakdown, please contact me by booking a consultation.

3. Cutting calories too low or underestimating portions

Cutting calories too low too quickly will not only leave you feeling tired, depleted, cranky, and full of cravings it will also put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies. It’s also unsustainable to live off poverty macros in the 600-900 kcal range. No one should be going below 1200 calories per day. It is too low, not sustainable, and will put you at risk for unhealthy habits and a host of other consequences. One thing I teach my clients and athletes is that our methods and systems when working towards any goal must be sustainable or our results won’t be. Sure, you could slash your calories for a few weeks and lose a few pounds, but it will come back with a vengeance if you can’t keep it up. It is best to start off with a daily 200-300 kcal deficit which followed consistently will help you lose 1-2 lbs. per week and keep it off. Keep it off for good when done properly. 95% of people regain the weight they lose.  See a great resource on how to build a plate here and consult with a dietitian to determine your individual calorie needs.

Studies suggest that people tend to misreport and incorrectly estimate how many calories they consume (4). Many think they are eating in a calorie deficit when indeed they are not eating in a calorie deficit. All Nutrition with Wendi fat loss clients record their intake and track their portions to facilitate self-awareness of calories and portions. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.


For example, a person may report they are consuming one serving of almonds per day may but are actually consuming 2.5 servings unknowingly.  This is often due to grabbing a handful between meals or throughout the day without any concept of true portion size. Handfuls and bites can add up quickly putting a person in a calorie surplus each day without even knowing it and then “expressing their efforts are wasted”. This is a simple correction of both a mindset and accurate tracking by learning serving size to support an honest leger of calories consumed. 


Higher calorie foods like nut butter are important to measure out to you’re aware of the portion size. It is not obsessive to track your intake if you have a goal to lose weight. For example, if you and your family are planning on taking a vacation to Disney World you don’t just guess how much money you should save each month and eyeball your savings adding some money here and there from a paycheck or two and cross your fingers for the best. No, that would be reckless and not leave many of us with the funds to take a trip to Disney World with the family because we had no concept of a budget. To achieve your vacation fund needs you would identify a budget and allocate your funds accordingly by the week or month to ensure you have hit a designated fiscal goal. This is the same for our fat loss goals. Tracking and managing our intake is critical to be aware of what we are “eating” just like how much we are spending. If you’re not aware of your finances, you are likely to go into debt or be limited with your vacation or retirement options.

4. Not enough resistance training

When people want to lose weight, they quickly default to more cardiovascular exercise like running or more time on the elliptical. While increasing your cardiovascular exercise is good for heart health, stress management, and reducing the risk of chronic disease it is not the best form of exercise for fat loss. I’m not saying cardio can’t help but it is not as optimal as resistance training. Additionally, people often overestimate how many calories they burn during cardio, and it also does not offer the same muscle-building benefits as resistance training does. Cardio won’t help you lose fat and chisel your body in the way you desire. You need to lift weights. Resistance training burns more calories at rest and supports gaining lean mass which burns more fat at rest. This is referred to as (EPOC), which is the amount of oxygen required to return to its pre-exercise or resting state called post-exercise oxygen consumption. Read more about how resistance training helps raise resting metabolic rate in women in this 2018 study published in the International Journal of Exercise. Furthermore, having more muscle means a lower risk for sarcopenia. I have transformed my physique along with hundreds of others by prescribing four to five 20-30 min resistance training sessions per week paired. Strength training paired with daily walking and proper nutrition can lead to great results if consistently executed. Daily walking is a great way to manage stress, support digestion, mental health, and more. For fat loss resistance training is the best form of exercise (5). The more cardio you do also the hungrier you may feel which can lead to overeating which won’t help you sustain a calorie deficit to lose fat. Not to mention all the added load and stress on your joints and tissues become quite taxing and unsustainable. If your methods to losing fat aren’t sustainable your results won’t be.  Research recommends combining both aerobic exercise and weight training for optimal results.

5. Not eating enough protein

Too many are skimping on their protein which is leaving them chronically hungry and unable to ever satisfy themselves (7). There’s also a great deal of misinformation that if we eat more than 20 g of protein in a meal it will be stored as fat. This is not true and has been dispelled in a position paper published in the (JISSN), Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. We use what we need and for many that is more than 20 g at a time. Optimal protein intake should be broken down between meals and snacks to best support satiety, muscle growth, and muscle maintenance. For more read the JISSN  Position Stand Paper featuring diets and body composition. A great way to enhance satiety and consistently eat in a calorie deficit is to increase protein intake at meals and snacks. Ideally, a good place to start would be at least 25g to 40 g of protein at a meal, along with 10 g to 15 g of protein at snacks. I have several resources on how to increase your protein with specific guides on my Instagram, Twitter, and blogs. For more on this see my previous blog on consuming greater protein for fat loss.

If you want to lose fat and gain lean mass you must be willing to reduce your calories appropriately, eat sufficient protein, be consistent with resistance training, sleep 7 to 9 hours, consume fluids and focus on quality movement or quantity. As a reminder, if your methods aren’t sustainable your results won’t be. What is measured is well managed are both important concepts that must be at the forefront when making changes to your nutrition, sleep, workouts, and more. Manage your calories like you would manage your finances if you’re climbing out of debt. Keep in mind that improving by one percent each day can add up over time. Compound your good habits and be consistently aware of what you are eating and how much of it you are eating. If you need help creating a plan to support your fat loss goals, please schedule a consult, or sign up for nutrition coaching! We will get you where you want to be without making the mistakes listed above.

In good health and many blessings,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LDN, CISSN

 

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LDN, CISSN is a registered dietitian nutritionist, healthy lifestyle coach, former college athlete, physique competitor, and avid weight lifter. 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 telehealth and on-site services. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK.

Citations

  1. Nas, A., Mirza, N., Hägele, F., Kahlhöfer, J., Keller, J., Rising, R., Kufer, T. A., & Bosy-Westphal, A. (2017). Impact of breakfast skipping compared with dinner skipping on the regulation of energy balance and metabolic risk. The American journal of clinical nutrition105(6), 1351–1361. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.116.151332
  2. Astrup, A., & Hjorth, M. F. (2017). Low-Fat or Low Carb for Weight Loss? It Depends on Your Glucose Metabolism. EBioMedicine22, 20–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2017.07.001
  3. Hall, K. D., & Kahan, S. (2018). Maintenance of Lost Weight and Long-Term Management of Obesity. The Medical clinics of North America102(1), 183–197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.012
  4. Brown, R. E., Canning, K. L., Fung, M., Jiandani, D., Riddell, M. C., Macpherson, A. K., & Kuk, J. L. (2016). Calorie Estimation in Adults Differing in Body Weight Class and Weight Loss Status. Medicine and science in sports and exercise48(3), 521–526. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000796
  5. Aristizabal, J. C., Freidenreich, D. J., Volk, B. M., Kupchak, B. R., Saenz, C., Maresh, C. M., Kraemer, W. J., & Volek, J. S. (2015). Effect of resistance training on resting metabolic rate and its estimation by a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry metabolic map. European journal of clinical nutrition69(7), 831–836. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2014.216
  6. Brown, R. E., Canning, K. L., Fung, M., Jiandani, D., Riddell, M. C., Macpherson, A. K., & Kuk, J. L. (2016). Calorie Estimation in Adults Differing in Body Weight Class and Weight Loss Status. Medicine and science in sports and exercise48(3), 521–526. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000796
  7. Antonio, J., Candow, D. G., Forbes, S. C., Ormsbee, M. J., Saracino, P. G., & Roberts, J. (2020). Effects of Dietary Protein on Body Composition in Exercising Individuals. Nutrients12(6), 1890. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061890

A Guide To Healthy Eating Out For Student-Athletes and Adults

I advocate for planning both meals and snacks when you will be traveling for work or games, but also vacation. Please see previous travel nutrition resources that I have outlined on both Instagram and Twitter. You can absolutely be healthy and meet both your health and fueling needs by scoping out the menu, restaurants, and hotel options ahead of time. Many often struggle to make good choices at the moment so it’s wise to plan ahead. I always express we have time to map out our travel because like sporting events and work meetings we know the calendar in advance. In previous blogs and presentations, I have made the effort to always say, “opportunity favors the prepared.” Despite the limited choices, you can make healthy choices at fast food places, gas stations, restaurants, and even concession stands.

So here are some guidelines to equip you with tools to make successful choices on the road, at the table, in the drive-through, and at the sporting event.

-Travel (Pack a cooler).

-You always want to pair a protein with produce.

-Failure to plan will result in limited options and will put you in a situation to be less inclined to make a healthy choice that supports your fueling and health goals.

Produce

-Fruits like (apples, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, banana)
-Veggies like (cucumber slices, carrot and celery sticks, sliced bell peppers, cherry tomatoes)
Protein sources
-Hummus, string cheese, Greek yogurt, RTD protein shakes (Muscle Milk, Fairlife, Corepower, Orgain)
-Grilled deli meats like ham, turkey
-Canned tuna or tuna in a bag
-Beef or turkey jerky
-Protein bars (Quest, RXbar, One bar)
-Hard-boiled eggs
-Cottage cheese
Carbohydrates/whole-grains

-Oatmeal packets
-Whole-grain pitas, muffins, wraps, tortillas, bread, rice cakes, and crackers
-Baked goods ahead of time (whole-grain pancakes, waffles, oat bites)
Healthy fats
Snack pack nut butter (sunflower, peanut, cashew, almond)
-Unsalted nuts and seeds (almonds, pistachios, cashews, sunflower seeds)
-Peanut butter oat bites
-Guacamole/avocado snack packs
Click here to use my discount code (143NWW) for 15% off any Nut’s N More nut butter or powdered nut butter.

Combinations include:
-Grapes and string cheese
-Turkey whole-grain sandwich
-Fruit and nut butter snack pack
-Applesauce and hard-boiled egg
-Spinach, veggie, grilled chicken salad, sliced avocado
-Bell peppers (green, red, orange, yellow) 4-6 peppers in baggies
-Hummus and cottage cheese in contai

ners to add to sandwiches and fruit
-Greek yogurt parfaits and mason jar overnight protein oats

Fast food/eating out guide
Remember to visualize building a healthy plate that meets all your food groups (lean protein, healthy fat, fruit, veggie, dairy, and whole-grain). See the performance plate here for student-athletes and a weight-loss/healthy plate for adults.
-Always choose grilled, baked, roasted, or steamed in regards to veggies and protein
-Make sure your bread or bun is whole-grain
-Water in place of soda and fruit juices
-Reduce portion size (don’t supersize to save a buck) your waistline will thank you. Ask for a to-go box immediately upon ordering to have a plan to portion control.
-Replace fries with Greek yogurt, salad, or fruit cup option
-Ask for dressing on the side
-Replace mayo with avocado as a healthier option to increase creamy taste, texture, and flavor
-Use olive oil or avocado in place of dressing if able
Examples:
Subway has protein bowls now!
You can replace the high-fat, high-kcal dressings, mayo, or spicy blue cheese dressing with avocado or olive oil.
You can also ask for the dressing on the side. Choose grilled chicken instead of fried. Ask for additional proteins (egg, grilled meats, cheese) to meet your needs!

Chick-fil-A (one of the most popular fast food places amongst teens and my athletes personally)
Young athletes and adults will still go to fast food places and will yes, eat chicken nuggets. So, practical tips are something I am a huge proponent of. Would I rather you eat a grilled turkey cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread, spinach, and avocado slices with fruit? Yes, absolutely!  But the reality is …that won’t always be an option. So, read on for healthy options at Chick-Fil-A!
  • Choose grilled chicken nuggets instead of fried and pair with a salad (dressing on the side) and a fruit cup
  • Choose their Greek yogurt parfait or Egg white grill for breakfast
    • Nutrition information:
      • 90 calories, 9 g of fat, and 26 grams of protein
  • Another healthy option is the Chick-Fil-A Cool Wrap!
    • Nutrition information:
      • 470 calories, 24 g fat, 22 g carbs, and 43 g protein
  • A grilled chicken sandwich is also a wonderful option
    •  Roughly 380 kcal, 44g of carbs, and 28 g of protein!
    • You can ask for extra tomato and lettuce
    • If you’re concerned about consuming more protein and fewer carbs you can use half the bread. Bear in mind the bun is multigrain so it is still healthier than white as it contains B-vitamins and has not been stripped of its nutrients like most white bread.
    • Fruit cup instead of side salad or ask for dressing on the side and enjoy the salad.

When eating at a sit-down restaurant:

-Scope out the menu before going

Never go to the restaurant OVERLY HUNGRY! You will overheat and be unhappy with yourself.

Have a small snack before you go containing some protein. A few great choices would be:

  • 1/2 apple with some peanut butter
  • 1 string cheese with cucumber slices
  • Hummus and carrot sticks
  • 1/2 protein bar (travel remember)

-Meet your needs (protein, produce, portion)

-Ask for a box before the food arrives to have a plan to consume the proper portion. (Many restaurants often serve 3x the appropriate portion). Consume half of each of the food on your plate and put the remainder in the box to take home or put in your hotel fridge!


Concession stand/gas station eats

**Keep in mind convenience stores should not be your reliance as you will spend more money out of sheer convenience. Versus if you purchase these items ahead of time before travel you will save money and also not put yourself in a situation to be limited in making a healthy choice.

But should you need to stop without packing a cooler here are some healthy options!

-Nuts and seed bags (pistachios, walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds)

-Pick fruit (apple, pear, fruit cup, grapes, banana) and pair it with a protein bar (see above options)

-Hard-boiled eggs paired with fruit

-Cheese sticks

-Sparkling water, zero sugar Gatorade, flavored waters, propel ect. (avoid fountain sodas)

Beef or turkey jerky (watch sodium)

-Almond butter or peanut butter packs (Justin’s Almond Butter  or Jif)

-Hummus and carrots mixture

-Greek yogurt (Chobani is found at every gas station)

-Quest protein bars or RXbars (almost every gas station carriers these)

-Muscle milk, Fairlife Corepower protein shake, Shamrock Farms Rockin’ Refuel, and Organic Farms

 

In closing, failure to consume enough quality protein, carbs, and overall kcal will increase the risk of injury, decrease performance, hinder cognition, blunt focus, and limit the overall health athletic performance of the individual. Nutrition can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good. It is also important to lead by example if you are a parent or coach leading a group of student-athletes.

This blog offers several tools to fill your toolbox as a coach, athlete, parent, and beyond. I am passionate about helping both young student-athletes and adults live a healthy lifestyle. I kindly ask you to share it on social media pages as well as with your student-athletes.

Say a prayer for our government officials in office while you’re at it. Our world needs some extra prayers and kindness. As you know, I am a Christian-focused dietitian and am employed by Jesus Christ. This entire platform is used to help my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ nourish their temple. But for the goal of glorifying God. It’s all for Him.

In good health, safety, and athletic performance,

 

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN

Wendi Irlbeck 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 Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website.

What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more hereTestimonials of Wendi’s expertise from colleges, coaches, parents, young athletes, and high school administrators can be found at the testimonial link on her website. You can also follow Wendi on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information

No Cooking Required Meal and Snack Ideas for Student-Athletes

A few weeks ago I went into Target and took several images of foods I would personally recommend to my student-athletes and active adult clients. If you recall I posted a thread of a few photos from the grocery shopping trip on Twitter. These are great options for anyone looking to improve their health with limited time and little to no cooking skills.

Remember my, “put down the phone and pick up breakfast post?” Be sure to check that out as well! If you have time to scroll social media you have time to eat breakfast!

Many of these items and ideas are great for the pantry at home or for the college dorm!

Breakfast ideas:

English muffin cut in half with sliced avocado paired with 3/4 cup Greek yogurt and mixed blueberries and raspberries.

 

 

 

A glass of Fairlife chocolate milk or plant-based alternative + Kashi cereal 

 

 

 

See grab-and-go options that can be prepared ahead of time.

(no cooking required of course)

Greek Yogurt Berry Bark Bites! Recipe here

 

 

     Mason jar protein Oats

Frozen breakfast bagel sandwich or breakfast burrito

 

Greek yogurt parfait 

Make the night beforehand (Greek yogurt, berries, chia, nut butter)

English muffin/Whole-grain pita wrap with mashed banana and peanut butter

 

Toast + 2 oz. deli turkey + 1 oz. cheese + tomato wedges paired with chocolate Corepower

 

 

Wendi’s tasty Greek yogurt breakfast toast recipe

 

 

Hard-boiled eggs + apple + string cheese

 

 

Protein smoothie bag (Prepare the night beforehand frozen berries, spinach, chia seeds, whey protein powder and place in zip lock baggie) Pour into blender with milk and add Greek Yogurt the morning of and blend!

Microwave egg-omelet in a glass bowl with spinach, kale, bell peppers + banana, and low-fat milk.

Kodiak instant oatmeal +strawberries + Greek yogurt

Grab and go peanut butter packs paired with fruit

Kodiak Cakes Power Cup Muffins (12 g of protein but you can add milk and Greek yogurt to increase protein) + fruit for more energy!

 

Kodiak cake frozen waffles or pancakes paired with grab n-go nut butter packets + 1 apple

 

 

RX nut butter packets or Nuts ‘N More

Click here to use my discount code (143NWW) for 15% off any Nut’s N More nut butter or powdered nut butter.

NWW POWER SMOOTHIE!!! Greek yogurt protein smoothie blended with 1 cup spinach, 4 oz. low-fat milk and ½ cup whole-grain oats. See recipe

See other breakfast options or read my full blog Motor Revving Breakfast Ideas here!


Lunch ideas:

  • Spinach bowl topped with two hard-boiled eggs + 1-2 tbsp chickpeas, raspberries, almonds + avocado slices + Kind bar
  • Greek yogurt parfait, pepper/cucumber slices, apple, RX bar, cheese stick

 

Microwavable lentil pasta + add pre-cooked meat + cheese + marinara sauce

 

 

Whole-grain pita with 3 oz. deli ham + carrot sticks + kiwi slices + almonds

 

 

Whole-grain turkey cheese, spinach, tomato sandwich with mashed avocado + mixed fruit cup + serving of whole-grain pretzels

 

If you’re really pressed for time this lunch idea is for you!

Tuna packet (17 g of protein)

Pre-packaged carrot sticks & guacamole

Whole-grain English muffin

Apple, banana, or pear (backpack stable)

See other travel options here


Dinner ideas:

                            Microwavable sweet potato

Fully loaded with sour cream, cheese blend, chives, topped 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese. Pair with a slice of Ezekiel toast topped with avocado, and microwavable egg. Here is an example Recipe

Grilled chicken salad

2 oz of pre-grilled chicken added to a bed of spinach + romaine + ½ cup black beans/chickpea mix + mixed cheese blend, 1 sliced hardboiled egg, 1 tbsp. sunflower seeds with a dressing of choice. Highly recommend Bolthouse Farms Greek yogurt as a healthy dressing.

Riced veggie tacos

Frozen bag of riced veggies cooked in the microwave that can be topped with edamame, salsa, in a whole-grain tortilla, shredded pre-made pulled pork, cheddar cheese blend with avocado slices.


Snack pairings (snacks should contain protein and carb) for athletes and for less active days a protein + a plant/healthy fat).

Snack pack nut butter + fruit

Greek yogurt cup + almonds

 

 

 

Tuna packet + veggies

 

 

 

 

Guacamole to go

String cheese sticks + applesauce

Chocolate milk + cherries

RX Oats + fruit

Grapes + cottage cheese

 

Applesauce + Kashi bar

Hard-boiled eggs Nuts + dried fruit + cereal (healthy trail mix)

Greek yogurt + pumpkin pure + chia

Cottage cheese + kiwi + cinnamon spice

1/2 Turkey cheese bagel

Toast with sunflower seed nut butter (PEANUT FREE OPTION) + banana or kiwi slices

 

 

 

Hummus + cucumber/carrot/celery stick mix

CorePower protein drink + fruit

Overnight protein oats (chia, milk, flax, cinnamon, fruit, honey, or nut butter) See my recipes here!

Protein oat bites

 

 

 

 

Hard-boiled eggs + apple

 

 

 

 

Cottage cheese + fruit

RX layers protein bar + pineapple

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squeezable apple sauce packets + RX bar

Teriyaki beef jerky + pre-cut bell pepper slices

Hummus + apple + celery and carrot sticks

Greek yogurt + PB2 + unsalted almonds

 

Serving of trail mix + 2 hard-boiled eggs

Quest protein bar + watermelon slice

 

Skinny pop popcorn + string cheese

 

 

Whole meals first supplement second. Supplements are meant to satisfy small gaps in nutrition and to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Good nutritional habits must be established first. For additional guidance to ensure your athletes are meeting their protein and carbohydrate needs check out this article. No supplement can replace whole foods. See pantry staple ideas for athletes here!

 

CLICK THIS LINK TO DOWNLOAD THE PRINTABLE LIST OF PAIRINGS

All items are available at Target or Trader Joe’s!

In good health and wellness,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and performance coach. She 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 Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment here.

What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more here.

 

Testimonials of Wendi’s expertise from colleges, coaches, parents, young athletes, and high school administrators can be found at the testimonial link on her website. You can also follow Wendi on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. 

🎃Power Up with Pumpkin!

Four reasons to eat pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds to improve health and performance along with four ways to include pumpkin into foods!

1.Powerful healing properties

Pumpkin is rich in the mineral zinc. Zinc helps maintain optimum immune function, supports wound healing, and proper growth.  Zinc can also help with fighting off colds, protecting against age-related diseases, and may also offer protection against colds, viruses, and more.

2.Restores electrolyte balance and supports muscle recovery

Pumpkin is a rich source of electrolytes potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Three minerals are lost during sweat, hot conditions and must be replaced for proper cardiac function, bone health, muscle contraction, and muscle relaxation.

Magnesium is particularly important for athletes and active folks. During training and vigorous exercise our body shifts magnesium to meet the metabolic demands. There’s evidence to support that magnesium deficiency impairs exercise performance, increases the risk of injury and oxidative stress. All of which can be worsened without sufficient intake (1).

Carbohydrates found in pumpkin can also help support glycogen stores in the liver and muscle. for energy production during competition, training, and more. Glucose is the body’s desired fuel substrate for energy production via ATP (the cell’s energy currency). See one of my previous blogs for more on carbohydrate metabolism for athletes. While pumpkin is only 12 g of carbohydrate per mashed up it still contributes to the needs of the active population. Be sure to see protein and carbohydrate needs for athletes here.

3.Reduces both muscle soreness and tissue breakdown

Beta-carotene and alpha-carotene are two compounds found in pumpkin that help eliminate free radicals in the body that may cause damage to blood vessels and muscle damage from training and other environmental stressors.

Vitamin C helps with collagen production and strengthening the immune system. Pumpkin is packed with vitamin C which can also aid in iron absorption as well! One cup of pumpkin contains roughly 19 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.

4.Heart-healthy

Pumpkins are a great source of soluble fiber which is excellent for digestive function and lowering both total cholesterol and LDL levels which in turn reduce the risk of a heart attack (2).

 

Four ways to enjoy both pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds:

  1. Add 1-2 tbsp. of pumpkin puree to Greek yogurt or oatmeal with cinnamon or nutmeg post-training. Another version is to combine 1-2 tbsp. of pumpkin puree to overnight protein oats for breakfast with pea or whey protein powder combined with nutmeg! Click for the recipe.

2.Add pumpkin seeds to salads for additional crunch and plant-based protein!

3.Add ½ cup pumpkin puree to protein fruit smoothies, chili, veggie dishes, and more! See my turkey taco recipe with added pumpkin!

4. Add 1/3 cup pumpkin to baked goods

Protein muffins, protein pancakes, or waffles! Click here for my pumpkin protein pancakes recipe!

 

Click here to use my discount code (143NWW) for 15% off any Nut’s N More nut butter or powdered nut butter.

Wishing you blessings of good health, wellness, and performance!

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, 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 Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website.

What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more hereTestimonials of Wendi’s expertise from colleges, coaches, parents, young athletes, and high school administrators can be found at the testimonial link on her website. You can also follow Wendi on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information

 

Citations used

(1). Nielsen, F. H., & Lukaski, H. C. (2006). Update on the relationship between magnesium and exercise. Magnesium Research19(3), 180–189.

(2). Tang, G. Y., Meng, X., Li, Y., Zhao, C. N., Liu, Q., & Li, H. B. (2017). Effects of Vegetables on Cardiovascular Diseases and Related Mechanisms. Nutrients9(8), 857. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9080857

 

 

🍉Happy National Watermelon Day!🎉

Happy National Watermelon Day!

Today, August 3rd is National Watermelon Day! People have been enjoying the delicious, tasty, and refreshing fruit for millennia that started in Ancient Egypt. It’s said that watermelon cultivation began in the Nile Valley as early as the second millennium B.C. Watermelon seeds were even found in King Tut’s tomb! How cool right?

 

But wait there’s more to the story. Let’s talk about the health and performance benefits of my favorite fruit which is also the basis of my logo!

Packed full of disease-fighting antioxidants and vitamins

Watermelon has more lycopene than any other fruit or veggie. Lycopene is a carotenoid that offers anti-cancer benefits along with supporting immune health, reducing inflammation, and has been linked to reducing prostate cancer. Lycopene has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels which support heart health. Rich source of vitamins A and vitamin C helps prevent cell damage from free radicals and supports a healthy immune system.

 

Watermelon is good for both muscle and heart

Watermelon contains L-citrulline, which may increase nitric oxide levels in the body that positively affect blood pressure by lowering it (2). Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry results found consuming watermelon pre-intense cycling led to reduced muscle soreness within 24 hours. Watermelon can help facilitate recovery following training because of the positive effects on both blood pressure and also muscle soreness (1).

Let’s also note that a serving, (1 cup) of watermelon contains roughly 21 g of carbohydrates per serving which can help restore glycogen reserves that have been depleted following exercise.

Improved digestion

Watermelon contains water to help with digestion, but the fiber also can aid in providing bulk to your stool to keep your digestive tract moving efficiently and on time. If you’re struggling to have a normal and regular bowel movement, daily check your fiber intake. The national fiber recommendations are 30 to 38 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women between 18 and 50 years old, and 21 grams a day if a woman is 51 and older. Most Americans fall short of recommended fiber amounts. See ways to increase fiber intake here.

Watermelon hydrates

Watermelon is 92% water and contains 170 mg of potassium per 1 cup serving. Potassium is critical for lowering blood pressure, supporting healthy nerve function, and also muscle contraction for athletes as a critical mineral. Potassium is lost through sweat and must be replenished as low levels will negatively affect energy and endurance. See one of my posts on & hydration tips here. Watermelon is a great choice to refuel your training due to water content and also carbohydrates. See article on refueling post-workout here.

In summary, watermelon reduces muscle soreness, increases muscle recovery, reduces the risk of disease, optimizes immunity, supports healthy digestion, while also hydrating you! Watermelon is a low-calorie fruit that fits any healthy lifestyle! Enjoy some slices today!

  • Best enjoyed diced, sliced, or put in a smoothie!
  • Grill it, put on a salad, or pair it as a refreshing side dish.
  • Serve it with prosciutto, add fetta, or add it to ceviche.
  • Turn into freezer pops or infuse in your water for natural flavoring!

 

For nutrition facts click here.

Resources used:

1.Tarazona-Díaz, M. P., Alacid, F., Carrasco, M., Martínez, I., & Aguayo, E. (2013). Watermelon juice: potential functional drink for sore muscle relief in athletes. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry61(31), 7522–7528. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf400964r

2. Collins, J. K., Wu, G., Perkins-Veazie, P., Spears, K., Claypool, P. L., Baker, R. A., & Clevidence, B. A. (2007). Watermelon consumption increases plasma arginine concentrations in adults. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.)23(3), 261–266. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2007.01.005

 

Wishing you blessings of good health, wellness, and performance!

 

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, 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 Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website.

What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more hereTestimonials of Wendi’s expertise from colleges, coaches, parents, young athletes, and high school administrators can be found at the testimonial link on her website. You can also follow Wendi on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information

 

 

🍉Healthy Lifestyle Coaching for Men

Registration for the next NWW Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaching program for men only is now LIVE!! That is right a program designed just for men.

As a participant and client, you will receive guidance from an experienced health professional, registered dietitian, former college athlete, physique competitor, and fitness coach, Wendi Irlbeck. With our support, you will learn how to:

  • Build a plate that supports your goals without rigid diets or deprivation.
    • 95% of the population that loses fat or weight ends up re-gaining it and it becomes even harder to lose.
  • Increase your activity levels no matter what fitness level you currently find yourself at.
  • Leave behind the “diet mentality” and misinformation around fad diets and diet culture by gaining confidence in what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it!
  • Build a routine that supports the life you want to live. Unsure what that life is? No worries, Wendi will help you come up with a plan that is built using lifestyle modification and establishing S.M.A.R.T. goals.
  • Set a realistic S.M.A.R.T. goal in any area of your life beyond nutrition, health, or fitness. Wendi believes in a spiritual approach integrating faith and Christianity to help solve challenging barriers within our life.

 

What about the results or outcome? You will:

  • Lose fat and lose the excess “weight” holding you back from being your healthiest, best, and strongest self. Sometimes the weight holding us back is not around our mid-section but behind our ears. Wendi will help you retrain and rewire your thought process to form a positive mindset to achieve your dream physique and self!
  • Build physical, mental, spiritual confidence and strength in your body!
  • Gain the mental clarity and confidence to approach life’s most difficult tasks that are holding you back from being your best self as a parent, coach, brother, sister, daughter, and more.
  • Gain peace of mind that comes from living a healthy lifestyle without the stress of knowing if you are doing the right thing.

Click here to enroll Or schedule a discovery call with Wendi to discuss other options and resources here.

 

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LDN, CISSN is a registered dietitian nutritionist, former college athlete, physique competitor, 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 telehealth and on-site services. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK.

Should Youth Athletes Use Creatine Monohydrate?

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
  • Enhances post-exercise recovery, injury prevention, and/or spinal cord neuroprotection and muscle growth

What is it?

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 can be consumed via dietary sources, which include foods like eggs, milk, tuna, salmon, herring, cod, shrimp, beef, and pork. Consuming enough creatine from the diet is challenging given the total creatine pool available according to an article published in Frontiers in Nutrition Sport and Exercise Nutrition by Candow et al., 2019. This literature, along with the International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand on Creatine Supplementation and Exercise, suggests the body needs to replenish about 1–3 g of creatine per day to maintain normal (un-supplemented) creatine stores depending on muscle mass.  Creatine monohydrate is the most well-studied form of creatine in the literature. For a more detailed breakdown of other forms please check out Will Brink’s fantastic breakdown on Creatine HCL vs Monohydrate for a deep dive.

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
  • Enhanced recovery
  • 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!

In November 2020 I had the fortunate opportunity to be a guest on Dr. Bradford Cooper’s podcast, Catalyst Coaching, where I discussed the role creatine plays according to science. Please check out the video or podcast here.

What about side effects?

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).
  • Youth soccer players experienced improved sprinting, vertical jump, dribbling, and shooting (6).
  • Creatine can support brain health, offering neuroprotective effects following a concussive injury in athletes < 16 years old (4).

Check out a Creatine Supplementation in Children and Adolescents review carried out by Jagim and Kerksick, 2021, outlining the available studies involving youth athletes for more information.

Another podcast to check out is Gerry DeFilippo. Gerry kindly invited me on his podcast to discuss the different forms of creatine. To learn more download and listen to Episode #143 Everything You Need to Know About Creatine with Wendi Irlbeck.

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:
    • Track
    • Swimming
    • Lacrosse
    • Ice Hockey
    • American Football
    • Volleyball
    • Field Hockey
    • Basketball
    • Soccer
    • Tennis
    • Olympic Weightlifting
    • Rugby
    • 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.

Closing thoughts

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!

Key takeaways:

  • 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.

What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more here.  Interested in signing up for the NEW and upcoming NWW newsletter? Click here to sign up!

References

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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
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