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!
Do you have limited time to cook meals? Do you feel overwhelmed trying to think about healthy options to cook for dinner? What if I told you that you could prepare a healthy, filling, and savory dinner in just a half-hour?
Many of my clients have found relief using “sheet pan meals,” which of course I will break down here for you! As always you want to include a high-quality protein, any colorful veggie, and starch on a baking sheet with your choice of oils and seasonings. It’s a great way to cut down on time spent cleaning up using multiple pans and it’s delicious!
High-quality protein options: Shrimp, chicken breast, beef, ham, sausage, salmon, steak, turkey breast, turkey burger, fish, and tofu are just a few. Be mindful that some proteins will cook faster than others. For example, a 99% lean ground turkey burger will bake much faster than an 85%. This is also true when cooking chicken vs beef. Be sure to use the appropriate temperatures which can be referenced here to avoid unsafe meat consumption. See the updated temperatures here at the USDA’s website .
Tip: Some starches require more time in the oven and may need to be cooked before cooking with the protein. For example, baby red potatoes, sweet potatoes, and lentils.
Starchy vegetable options: All squash variations such as winter, acorn, butternut, and more. Sweet potatoes and baby reds are a huge hit as they are super sweet and delicious. Be sure to cut these into cube-like pieces or slice small enough so that they may be cooked with the protein. Decreasing the surface size will help speed up the cooking time.
Herbs and spices for all the flavor without all the sodium! Pick out some of your favorite herbs and spices at the store! You can also reach for salt-free flavorings from Mrs. Dash or other popular shelf-stable brands! Fresh always tastes best so check out your local market for basil, curry, dill, lemongrass, cilantro, oregano, barley, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, coriander, bay leaf, cumin, cinnamon, clove, turmeric, sage, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper and Italian herb and spice.
Herbs and spices are a super way to beef up the flavor (food pun intended) without all the sodium, sugar, or fat which we all know adds flavor! Getting familiar with herbs and spices for any dish is a great way to reduce hypertension and even disease. Herbs and spices are packed with antioxidants, minerals and can help reduce inflammation! Check the study here.
NWW heart-healthy cooking tip: You can also add citrus fruits to your sheet pan meal that will not only enhance flavor but also boost immunity and reduce the risk of cancer! Citrus fruits include lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, and more! See the study here.
Be sure to choose your favorite oil: Using oils that have a lower smoke point can be beneficial for low and medium-heat cooking. Olive oil, flaxseed, grapeseed, and sesame are great as well! Vegetable oil can be confusing just to keep in mind most “vegetable oils” available on the market include a blend of canola, corn, soybean, palm, and safflower. I encourage my clients and those I work with to select olive oil due to the many health benefits. Be sure to educate yourself on the various oils to meet the needs of you and your family.
Check out the American Heart Association link here to understand more about the various health benefits associated with your favorite cooking oil.
Cooking oil conclusion: Adding oil to your sheet pan meal helps support a very moist and crisp dish with all the flavors!
Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken and Carrots!
4 chicken thighs
1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled and trimmed (see my Instagram page for rainbow carrot ideas)
1 head of garlic
1-2 large onions, peeled and cut
3-4 tablespoon of olive oil
1 ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 lemons squeezed
1-2 diced tomatoes or cherry tomatoes (add-in at 15-min)
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Arrange the carrots and onion in a layer on a greased baking sheet.
Slice the top of the head of garlic
Drizzle olive oil over the veggies and season with herbs
Top with the chicken thighs. Rub each chicken thigh with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil, and season with pepper and salt
Roast in the oven until you can see the chicken skin is golden and temp to 165°F!
Add in diced cherry tomatoes/broccoli as you see fit (use the veggies you love)
Carrots should be tender in 15-20 min. Be sure to slice them thinly to cook in time.
Add balsamic dressing or glaze as you see fit (optional)
Remember, a healthy plate is a colorful plate! Eat the rainbow and be sure to share this recipe with others who may need some ideas on healthy meals with a tight schedule!
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, a certified international society of sports nutritionist, and fitness 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 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.
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 Twitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information
Have you ever felt “out-of-control” in areas of your life that you know Jesus wants you to be better in? I am not talking about attending church or worship here. Yes, you should absolutely attend regularly and seek His word. You should also read the bible regularly. What I am getting at is your daily habits, financial management, sleep hygiene, exercise routine, eating habits, and what you turn to in times of stress to “cope”.
Proverbs 15: 22 tells us,” Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers, they succeed.” I am not a pastor, but I have been called by God to speak up and to grow His Kingdom through physical health, nutrition, and overall inspiration. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I can provide you, counsel, on making healthier choices within your lifestyle to support your physical health. You do not have to do this alone. As a healthy lifestyle coach, I can support you as part of your counsel. I want to help you gain control of your health and fitness.
Drawing awareness to our current situation. In times of crisis and despair, we may allow our physical health to go unchecked. We may come up with excuses like “I am too busy, I don’t have time, I have too many meetings, I have to take care of my children and everyone else.”
For every excuse or limitation, you express for neglecting your physical health, there are several motives to address your health.
Your longevity in life will be cut short with poor health
Your mind, agility, stamina, and performance are affected by what you consume, and the amount of physical activity completed.
As a parent, spouse, son, daughter, brother, sister, leader, manager, employee, and follower of Christ you are called to be an example. How can you expect others to be focused and perform their best if you do not?
Physical and spiritual energy can rise with greater health and fitness. If you realize you are feeling more sluggish, tired, and low energy you are not alone. This pandemic has brought on a whole new level of challenge and crisis.
Your body is a temple and if you have been a poor steward lately, I want to tell you, “it is OKAY”. It is not okay to realize it and do nothing about it. The more you turn to unhealthy food, alcohol, sedentary lifestyle vegged out on the couch in front of the news or Netflix with a bag of chips the more likely you will be less convicted to follow the Lord. In fact, you may find yourself being tempted by satan to do more “unhealthy things” because they temporarily feel good and distract you from dealing with the reality at hand.
When we do neglect our body, we are neglecting the Creator’s creation. I want you to love yourself and respect the body that Christ gave you to live in. Jesus is the Creator of our physical bodies, and it is within our bodies that we serve others as He calls us to do. If you are too tired, sick, and disease-stricken because you have been a poor steward of your habits then you’re unable to support your family and ultimately serve our Lord. Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. You are forgiven regardless of what you do but you must “repent”. I am not here to preach you must “eat perfectly”, exercise every day, and live a “perfect life” because we know that does not exist. Again, we were born into sin and we will never be perfect.
Scripture speaks of many reasons to maintain health and even has guidelines to not only build a healthy body but to maintain it. We live in a fallen and broken world. It is much harder to resist the devil and follow Jesus if you are not physically well. When you are too tired, fatigued, and ill you are more susceptible to further sin, poor relationships, and reduced life.
Here are my tips as a Christ-centered dietitian that is biblical to support your physical health
Eat the Rainbow and Consume a Balanced Diet Prioritizing Quality Foods
Learning “self-control” with certain discretionary foods that lack nutrients. I am not saying do not eat cookies or dessert. I am expressing the importance of consuming quality foods first that support healthy body weight. It is important to maintain a healthy weight as we age to support overall health and well-being. For more on maintaining a healthy weight please check out the National Institute of Health (NIH) fact sheet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also has some great resources on eating well and eating right for a healthy weight found here .
Please check out my website for various recipes to keep you and your family fueled and healthy! I have also written a blog on effective strategies for losing weight in a flawed industry. Please check out the blog here .
As it is written in scripture, Thessalonians 4:4, “Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” Jesus created you and you should want to respect the body He gave you. Again, you do not have to be perfect and have a “six-pack” but you should maintain a healthy body weight to honor God’s creation.
1 Timothy 4:8 states, “Physical exercise has some value.” I think Paul would agree in today’s world exercise has significant value. People use to work hard on the farm, walk everywhere and the forms of transportation were not available back in the day. Today, everything is as convenient. We are more sedentary, many on the average struggle to get the minimum recommendation of physical activity. It is a blessing and a curse that you can have anything at your fingertips. You can even have food and groceries delivered right to your door. We drive everywhere, we do not take the stairs, and park too close to our offices. If you struggle to walk up the stairs with pain or are out of breath you may need to work on your fitness.
Commit yourself to regular activity. Walk more, park further away from your destination, and take after-dinner walks. See my previous blog for more simple ways to increase your fitness appropriately to reduce the risk of injury. Remember too much too quickly can lead to muscle strains and then further limitations to get healthier.
Limit Alcohol or Avoid Drinking Altogether
So many are turning to substances like alcohol in times of crisis. It is leading to greater disease, poor health, and the ultimate demise of many relationships. One of them being your relationship with Christ. Ephesians 5:18 states, “Don’t get drunk with wine, which will ruin you. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” This scripture should encourage you to evaluate your relationship with alcohol. During times of crisis and stress do you find you consume greater wine, beer, and other forms of alcohol instead of turning to Jesus? Do not get drunk on alcohol, instead get drunk on the Holy Spirit.
In my personal experience, I have lost some of my closest loved ones because they have turned to alcohol instead of the holy spirit. These amazing people lost life of wellness, joy, family, and authenticity. It is debilitating to support someone and watch them struggle with their addictions only to see it be their demise because they refused to understand they had a problem. If you feel shame that is not Jesus, that is the devil. Be sure to get Jesus back on your throne. There is no shame or guilt when we turn to God to express our sins. If you are reading this and feel convicted to get drunk on the Holy Spirit instead of win, I am proud of you. I am cheering for you. It is not easy but, “With God, All Things Are Possible” Matthew 19:26.
Addiction to substances and alcohol can be debilitating. If you or someone you know struggles with alcohol encourage them to seek help. It is never too late to turn your life around. It is more than just your thoughts you must control, but your actions. Admitting you have an addiction and seeking help and the Lord to get sober is possible. If you are able but unwilling to admit you have a problem, then no one can help you. But if you seek the Lord and those around you no one can stop you. Do not turn to the red one who will tempt you but the Lord.
He will save you. As it is written in James 5:15-16 “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Sleep is not a luxury
Sleep is one of the most important factors in supporting good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting adequate quality sleep can help safeguard your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and even safety. Your food choices, attitude, productivity, and even your cognition can be affected by your sleep patterns according to the Sleep Foundation. Children between the ages of 6-14 years old need roughly 9-11 hours of sleep. Adults between the ages of 18-64 years old need approximately 7-9 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, we live in a society where it is a “badge of honor” to work as many hours as possible on as few hours of sleep as possible. This is what is referred to as “The grind” in sports performance. Psalm 127:2 tells us that, “In vain you rise up early and stay up late.”
No one feels healthy or makes good choices when they are sleep deprived. In fact, as you know sleep deprivation can lead to poor dietary choices, auto accidents, injuries in sport, and illness. A person not getting enough sleep will experience fatigue, irritability, mood changes, and poor memory recall according to the Centers for Disease (CDC) and Sleep Medicine. Our brain and bodies can struggle to function when we go for several days without quality sleep. Again, without sleep, we run the risk of making poor choices, having loose lips, a tongue that may not speak in kindness, and increase our risk for chronic conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and more according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute .
God desires you to get rest. Rest is so important that Jesus placed ‘rest’ within the Ten Commandments. In Mark 6:30-32, Jesus pleaded that His disciples take time to focus on restoration. Jesus stated, “every seventh day, you should rest.” Sundays should be allocated to time with Jesus and refraining from work.
For more information on the importance of getting enough sleep and hours per stage of life please check out SleepFoundation.org .
I pray this blog has provided you with some clarity, comfort, motivation, and has sincerely convicted you to make a conscious effort to be healthier. I believe wholeheartedly Jesus wanted me to write something invaluable that is biblical. This article is just the start of what is to come. In the last few months I have opened my eyes and ears to the way the Lord has shown up in my life. Jesus has been desiring me to integrate His work into my work as a female business owner. My ministry is nutrition. I was a non-believer up until 2012 when I found Jesus and began a relationship with Him. Never would I have never imagined I would write something like this, but I am so grateful I did.
Health is so much more than being “fit” for a race, sporting event, physique competition, or looking “good” on a vacation. Good health and fitness is about stewardship and taking pride in caring for your body. Loving the skin you’re in. Looking in the mirror every day and saying “I love myself because you love me and created me, Jesus”. If you’re a Christian you know Jesus loved us so much that He gave up His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus, to redeem the sins of the world. Yes, the entire world of believers and non-believers.
If you’re a non-believer reading this. Please open your heart to God. I know it may seem scary or that Jesus doesn’t care about you. Or that you are in control of your life, not Him. I get it, I was there. I was you and I remember saying “Jesus doesn’t care about me or my problems”. That’s the Devil. Open your heart to Jesus so that He can help you. What’s the worst that will happen? Will he change your life? Yes, not only will He comfort you but if you allow Jesus into your life He will put you back together in ways you can’t on your own. This will forever change your life in ways science can’t explain. The only regret I have was not turning my life over to Christ sooner. But that’s the beauty of God’s Grace, He loves us no matter how many times we turn our backs on Him or choose “our will” over His. Jesus isn’t interested in perfection or performance. Jesus just wants your heart and mine.
Use this article as a soft nudge to focus on being healthy to be a better disciple of Jesus as a mom, dad, grandparent ect. you will experience a better quality of life. Focus on being strong and healthy to provide for your family instead of that six-pack. I hope you feel equally convicted to improve your health as I did in writing this.
If you enjoyed this blog, please share it! Please also check out my other blogs for inspiration and healthy eating tips available HERE ! Additional tips guidance, tips, tools, and strategies on being healthier please follow me on social media. I am active on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information. You can also learn more about the various telehealth services if you desire to work with me by clicking HERE .
Wendi is a devoted Christian, registered dietitian, writer, speaker, performance nutritionist, and healthy lifestyle coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to create nutrition programs so athletes can optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, special needs, and recreational athletes and organizations to eat and fuel for success. Wendi also works with the general population on healthy eating. In addition to lifestyle coaching, she makes her rounds presenting across the country and even in Canada. Wendi has presented at various conferences and clinics. To name a few, the University of Regina in Canada, the University of Northwestern in Iowa, Northwestern State Clinic, Michigan State High School Strength and Conditioning Association clinic. Wendi is a former college athlete, with over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. Wendi earned both her B.S. and M.S. at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and has spent time learning from several professionals in the field along with an internship at the University of Florida. Wendi operates her private practice virtually and remotely but is based primarily in Grand Rapids, MI.
Research shows that even just 150 minutes/week of physical activity for adults can not only treat chronic conditions like cancer, type II diabetes, and heart disease but can also help prevent them according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
All adults should complete 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 min of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or some equivalent combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week according to the World Health Organization (1).
Your gym may not be open, but you can still get a great workout at home using simple household items to add resistance or weights if you have them.
Some simple tips for exercising:
Use gallon milk or water jugs can work as weights to do lunges or over-heard presses.
Take the stairs whenever possible and be sure to park a further distance to gain extra steps from your office or destination.
Canned goods in your pantry can work to do shoulder presses, lateral and front raises, or even just hold them walking up and down your stairs.
Bodyweight exercises including push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and other yoga exercises
Aquire weights from a local gym, Facebook Marketplace or online
Take a walk outside every day and find hills to serve as an incline to raise your heart rate
Subscribe to a coach, yoga studio, or online platform for bodyweight exercises to stay on track
The goal is to remain active and move as often as possible. The dangers of physical inactivity can take a toll on your health in as little as two weeks according to a McMaster University study. The researchers found that reducing daily steps to less than 1,500 – comparable to those who are housebound during the pandemic for just two weeks can reduce an older person’s insulin sensitivity by as much as 1/3. Additionally, those who are 65 or older lost as much as four percent of their leg muscle.
There is this real illusion that we cannot control anything right now. This is not true, it may feel that way, but you are 100% in control of your ability to walk, stretch, eat well, drink fluids and practice mindfulness in the presence of God. God is in control, but you must show up and be willing to allow Jesus to protect you and bless you. That means we cannot lay in bed or sit on the couch expecting God to make us money or pay our bills. You must be a good steward of His Kingdom. Mindfulness creates a pause, allowing us to experience optimism and true gratitude when we do not have the ability to change the situation. What we can do is choose to remain calm and focus on what we can control. Mindfulness is a practice and the more you practice the better you get at being connected to yourself and most importantly peace of mind. Remember, God is in control, but we must choose to remain calm.
Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience has indicated that 30-minutes of meditation can improve any depression symptoms which include anxiety and chronic pain (2). Some simple ways to practice mindfulness is to take a moment or two to pause each day in complete silence. Lie down, close your eyes, and put your hands on your belly. Focus on being present and work on keeping your mind quiet. Bring awareness to how you are feeling.
Another great way to meditate is to journal and write down your emotions. Being more self-aware will also help you make healthier choices in times of stress. The pandemic has left us tired, fatigued, and confined to our homes which many have mistaken for hunger.
Pray, journal, complete yoga, or stretch each morning thinking about all the blessings and gratitude you have for just simply being alive. I like to wake up each morning and have a small pep talk with God. I express my sincere gratitude for His blessings but also express my objectives and concerns for potential challenges the day may bring. As a Christian God can help guide you and keep you calm during the many storms.
Consuming a healthy diet is essential during all phases of life, but even more so now during COVID-19. Be sure to eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables at each meal along with quality protein sources. Many may feel stressed and turn to comfort foods during this time but these high sugars, caffeinated, and alcohol will increase anxiety, stress, and even worsen mental health (3).
I talk about many ways to eat a well-balanced diet and remain healthy during quarantine in a previous blog found here.
Do your best to pick out your favorite fruits and veggies at the grocery store. I always work with my clients on building a colorful and balanced plate at each dining session. A byproduct of eating nutrient-dense foods is that your brain is satisfied and naturally you will crave less junk food. If you are feeling stress, try reaching for a Greek yogurt parfait with peanut butter and berries. Try some dark chocolate with banana sliced paired with peanut butter.
What we eat directly affects our immune function. The 8 key nutrients to focus on for healthy immune function are vitamin C, E, A, D, folic acid, iron, selenium, zinc, and protein (3) All of which you can attain through eating whole foods and balanced meals. A few key immune-supporting foods include:
Red bell peppers
Nuts and seeds
Avocado and olive oil
Right now, is not the time to turn to a detox, fad diet, or a famous influencer who lacks credibility for nutritional guidance. If you want to clean up your diet and make healthier choices consult with an expert such as Registered Dietitian. If you’re desiring to eat well, learn proper portions, and meal plan please sign up for a Service on my website. For additional tips on staying healthy this holiday season please check out a previous blog found here.
A healthy mind is a healthy body. Focus on what you can control during these difficult times. Keep your eyes on Jesus and the cross. This too shall pass.
In good health and wellness,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN
Al-Ansari SS, Biddle S, et al World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020;54:1451-1462.
Masana, M. F., Tyrovolas, S., Kolia, N., Chrysohoou, C., Skoumas, J., Haro, J. M., Tousoulis, D., Papageorgiou, C., Pitsavos, C., & Panagiotakos, D. B. (2019). Dietary Patterns and Their Association with Anxiety Symptoms among Older Adults: The ATTICA Study. Nutrients, 11(6), 1250. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061250
Catherine E. Kerr, Matthew D. Sacchet, Sara W. Lazar, Christopher I. Moore, Stephanie R. Jones. Mindfulness starts with the body: somatosensory attention and top-down modulation of cortical alpha rhythms in mindfulness meditation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2013; 7 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00012
Maggini, S., Pierre, A., & Calder, P. C. (2018). Immune function and micronutrient requirements Change over the life course. Nutrients, 10(10), 1531. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101531
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This is the ideal gift for:
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Personalized one-on-one consultations and personalized plans and educational opportunities designed to help each and every client achieve their goals and best self!
Contact Wendi through email, email@example.com to inquiry more details on purchasing the gift of health for your loved ones, friends, community members, or colleagues this holiday season!
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 Twitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information.
Or sign up to work with Wendi from any of her services .
It seems like everyone is on a diet these days. In fact, many have spent their entire lives trying to lose weight and are chronically dieting. According to the CDC nearly one-half of adults have tried to lose weight within the last 12 months. So, what gives? If everyone is dieting why are we also facing obesity and weight gain across the world? According to the CDC the prevalence of obesity in 2018 was 42.4%. Does that surprise you? How can this be? Let’s look at another shocking statistic. The weight loss industry grew at an estimated 4.1% in 2018, from $69.8 billion to a whopping $72.7 billion. The market is now forecasting growth of 2.6% annually through 2023 according to the Food Research & Action Center .
So, why are facing rising obesity numbers? Why are so many dieting yet not being successful? What if products, programs and organizations do not want you to lose weight? What if they are not giving you the right information to make the best choices for a sustainable diet? The diet industry is full of myths, misinformation and premium trash guidance. People are often instructed to do all sorts of expensive, reckless, restrictive, fear driven and crazy things that lack merit, evidence and efficacy. However, there are several effective strategies that are evidence based when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle and shedding those pounds for good. I am going to share them with you today. Something I work closely on with my weight loss clients is basic, fundamental habits for life-long health that are sustainable. Remember, if our methods are not sustainable our results won’t be. It is time to get back to the basics, with healthy habits.
1.Consume whole eggs for breakfast
Eating whole eggs, yes, the yolk included has a surplus of health benefits which also include weight loss and weight management. Studies have illustrated that eggs can help decrease the number of calories consumed in the next 36 hours as well as lose greater weight and body fat (1). Another more recent study found that after consuming eggs for breakfast, overweight and obese subjects had a lower energy intake in comparison to eating cereal for breakfast (2).
If you do not love eggs, that is totally okay! The takeaway is that a high-quality source of protein and healthy fat for breakfast will more than likely keep you satisfied, help with calorie control, reduce cravings and feel more energized than the traditional breakfast cereal or grain.
Great quick & nutrient dense breakfast option (Avocado, egg scramble with spinach, Greek yogurt, berries and peanut butter).
Being aware and mindful of appropriate portions of protein, fat, carbohydrates and even refined sugars is key for eating less to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. Counting calories isn’t fun and can be quite tedious so learning appropriate serving sizes of the main food groups is the best way to be successful whether you are out to eat, on-the-go, at home, or at a birthday party. I work with many to understand the value of their portions and how it affects their choices and even sleep later.
A simple guide for each meal:
Healthy fats: 1 tbsp. (thumb as a serving size)- oils, butter, avocado, cheese, nuts, seed oils
High-quality protein: 3-4 oz. (deck of cards as a serving size) – fish, chicken, lean beef, turkey, tofu, beans, dairy and pulses
Vegetables and fruits: 1 cup or half of the plate
Whole-grains: ¼ of the plate- whole grains, 1/3 cup of oatmeal
Context is key as always, those that are more active, athletes or require greater energy needs due to infections, wound healing or other situations where more energy is needed such as oncology. You can’t manage what you don’t track so it is important to be mindful of portions and in many cases keeping a food diary, taking photos of your meals or tracking in an app to help you lose weight (3).
You are more likely to choose a healthier food if you’re aware of how many calories are in something. For example, measuring your serving of peanut butter. Many assume they are consuming the serving size but in fact they are doubling it. 2 tbsp. of most peanut butters are 190 kcal, imagine if you are consuming 4 tbsp. in a sitting and doing that every day, every week of every month for a year. This equates into an additional 190 kcal/day which can lead to 1,330 kcal unaccounted for at the end of the week. Weight-gain is inevitable if you are consuming more calories than you are burning. 3,500 kcal are equivalent to one pound and this could easily be the case for many without being aware of portions
3. Always keep a cooler in your car along with healthy snacks to fill it with
Having nutrient dense foods available and accessible can help prevent you from eating something lower in nutrition and higher calorie should you become hungry. As you have learned, protein is important for increasing satiety and can help manage your weight.
Some great options to keep on hand include:
Hard boiled eggs with carrot sticks
Turkey roll-up wraps in spinach
Peanut butter and celery sticks
Cheese slices and green pepper slices
Sliced bell peppers and hummus
Cottage cheese with banana slices
Berry spinach protein shake
Apple with to-go nut butter
Greek yogurt parfait with berries in a to-go container or mason jar
4. Combine resistance training and aerobic exercise
One of the biggest myths out there is that lifting weights makes you “big” or bulky. Studies have shown that resistance training increases your calories burnt at rest (resting energy expenditure), supports lean mass and when combined with aerobic exercise is an effect fat loss strategy (4, 5). Resistance exercise is critical for building healthy strong muscles and bones as well as decreasing your risk for disease later. Resistance training also increases muscle growth when combined with appropriate protein intake. Another study involving 40 post-menopausal women were able to decrease their body fat combining resistance training and a higher-protein diet (6).
The research supporting resistance training and aerobic exercise provides great motivation to get moving! If you’re interested in engaging in activity or ramping up your exercise regimen for the first time be sure to work with a qualified fitness expert who holds a credible certification or has experience as a fitness professional to develop you a plan. Please contact me directly for guidance on a fitness program!
Also, please look at one of my power lifting clients, Molly who dropped > 30 lbs. through proper diet, aerobic and strength training. Her great progress photo is shown. Molly worked daily on creating healthy habits, consistency with her protein intake and managing portion control. Her physical transformation is inspiring, but her mental and spiritual growth is second to none!
5. Follow a high-protein diet
According to the American Heart Association, adults trying to lose weight and maintain weight loss should eat no more than 30% of total daily calories from fat and less than 7 percent from saturated fat. Currently, the recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a measly 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. The RDA refers to the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. Many confuse the RDA and how to make recommendations to their patients, client and athletes. The RDA is really the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick, not the actual amount you should consume each day. For example, an average adult should consume roughly 25-30 grams of protein per meal, according to Protein Summit 2.0. Furthermore, research by the Protein Summit 2.0 indicated that 1.0 -1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day is beneficial for healthy metabolic function.
I have written about the low RDA for protein and why more is needed to sustain muscle and health in a previous blog published on my website, here . Growing research has indicated following a high-protein diet can help people lose weight, improve body composition, build lean mass, increase satiety and help maintain a calorie deficit over time to further support weight loss maintenance.
By eating more protein, 25-30 grams per meal can help reduce hunger, suppress appetite which can help decrease undesired snacking leading to a calorie deficit. When trying to lose weight it would be beneficial to replace excess carbohydrate choices with high-quality protein snacks like Greek yogurt, string cheese, hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, turkey slices or even protein shake. Research is mixed on the precise figures, but the available research has supported protein has a much higher thermic effect compared to carbohydrates (20-30%) and (5-10%) respectively (7).
Lastly, consuming a casein rich food before bed can also help support muscle growth, recovery, appetite suppression, weight loss and weight management. Casein is the main protein in milk products, and it is considered a “slow digesting” protein. Not to be confused with whey protein isolate which is a fast digesting protein that should be consumed around training sessions and can serve as meal replacement during times of calorie restriction (8). Since casein protein is slow release it can reduce the rate of digestion and support fat loss. Not only does more protein help increase satiety and energy expenditure but it can also help with appetite suppression in the later hours. A study found that taking casein before bed resulted in 25% higher satiety levels the following day (9). Greater satiety will yield greater results when it comes to weight loss.
Ever notice you tend to move less, have limited motivation to do much beyond your daily work tasks, eat more unhealthy foods that are high in sugar or even calories when you do not sleep well? If you’re feeling sleepy at work, you grab another cup of coffee and the cookies in the pantry hoping for a “burst of energy” but actually makes you feel even more tired. You then later skip your usual walk breaks and even the workout you had planned to do. If this is you, you are not alone. Sleep debt is like a high interest rate credit care that if it continues to accumulate you will not be able to pay it off and you crash.
Think you can catch up on sleep lost and it will not affect you or your weight? Think again, a study examined moderate sleep restriction on body weight, body composition and metabolic factors in individuals following a caloric restricted diet. The study found that one hour of sleep restriction on five nights per week led to decreased proportion of fat mass loss despite restricting calories (11).
Insufficient sleep derails your weight loss efforts in many ways. Leptin is the hormone that controls your appetite, and when you are sleep deprived you have less leptin. A surplus of grehlin plus little leptin is a fast track or weight gain. A 2010 study found increased hunger, a shift in energy use, less calories expired and less weight loss in participants who slept 5.5 hours (10).
It’s more than safe to say there is a connection between sleep and weight. Strive for 7 or more hours each night to support good energy levels, metabolism, food and activity choices and overall health. The industry will say, “sleep is for the weak” just take this pill, but you know now know differently.
7. More water, especially before meals
Many are very aware how important water is for health, wellness, weight loss and appetite control yet it is commonly touted that you shouldn’t consume water before meals. A study found that drinking 500 mL of water 30 minutes before each meal combined with a calorie-controlled diet led to greater weight loss in overweight and obese middle-aged adults (12).
Water is essential for nutrient and oxygen transportation, lubricating joints, regulating body temperature, protecting organs and tissues, dissolving minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to your body and helping the liver flush waste products (13).
Work to increase your water intake upon waking by having a 8-20 oz. water bottle by your bed.
Strive to consume 16 oz. before meals.
20 – 24 oz. of water between meals
10 oz. before bed to support good digestion
Increased water intake is associated with better weight control and weight management (13). So drink up!
We need to stop relying on poor information given out by celebrities, influencers who lack credibility. Instead of spending money on pills, powders, challenges and false promises invest in your daily habits. Get more sleep, drink more water, learn portion control, eat balanced meals and stop giving up on yourself. Take control of your habits and implement the strategies in this article that the diet industry doesn’t want you to know. Sustainable weight loss is about controlling your appetite and consuming more protein and getting rest is a simple way to do it! The secret is out, and it is not the next celebrity cleanse. Your habits should support the future you are trying to create. If you are ready to stop saying “day one” or “one day” contact me, and let’s work together to create a plan for success!
In good health,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN
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 works remotely and currently operates as a traveling dietitian. 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 .
Follow Wendi on Twitter and Instagram for nutrition, health and fitness inspiration.
(1)Vander Wal, J. S., Gupta, A., Khosla, P., & Dhurandhar, N. V. (2008). Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. International journal of obesity (2005), 32(10), 1545–1551. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2008.130
(2)B Keogh, J., & M Clifton, P. (2020). Energy Intake and Satiety Responses of Eggs for Breakfast in Overweight and Obese Adults-A Crossover Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(15), 5583. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155583
(3). Burke, L. E., Wang, J., & Sevick, M. A. (2011). Self-monitoring in weight loss: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(1), 92–102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.008
(4) Ho, S. S., Dhaliwal, S. S., Hills, A. P., & Pal, S. (2012). The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC public health, 12, 704. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-12-704
(5)Hunter, G. R., Byrne, N. M., Sirikul, B., Fernández, J. R., Zuckerman, P. A., Darnell, B. E., & Gower, B. A. (2008). Resistance training conserves fat-free mass and resting energy expenditure following weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 16(5), 1045–1051. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2008.38
(6) Miller, T., Mull, S., Aragon, A. A., Krieger, J., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2018). Resistance Training Combined With Diet Decreases Body Fat While Preserving Lean Mass Independent of Resting Metabolic Rate: A Randomized Trial. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 28(1), 46–54. https://d6 oi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0221
(8) Kinsey, A. W., Cappadona, S. R., Panton, L. B., Allman, B. R., Contreras, R. J., Hickner, R. C., & Ormsbee, M. J. (2016). The Effect of Casein Protein Prior to Sleep on Fat Metabolism in Obese Men. Nutrients, 8(8), 452. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8080452
(9) Ananda Hochstenbach-Waelen, Margriet AB Veldhorst, Arie G Nieuwenhuizen, Margriet S Westerterp-Plantenga, Klaas R Westerterp, Comparison of 2 diets with either 25% or 10% of energy as casein on energy expenditure, substrate balance, and appetite profile, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 89, Issue 3, March 2009, Pages 831–838, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2008.26917
(11) Wang, X., Sparks, J. R., Bowyer, K. P., & Youngstedt, S. D. (2018). Influence of sleep restriction on weight loss outcomes associated with caloric restriction. Sleep, 41(5), 10.1093/sleep/zsy027. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy027
(12) Handbook of Non Drug Intervention (HANDI) Project Team (2013). Pre-meal water consumption for weight loss. Australian family physician, 42(7), 478.
(13) Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews, 68(8), 439–458. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
More than one-third of U.S. adults have obesity, which is defined as having a BMI > 30. According to the World Health Organization, obesity has nearly tripled worldwide since 1975. In 2016, > 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese. A staggering 38 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2019. Most of the world’s population live in countries were overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight. Do I have your attention yet? If not, did you know that 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese. Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016. All the aforementioned facts are per the WHO . Obesity is preventable. We need to wake up and do better, not just for ourselves but the next generations to come. The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed our lives and we must revisit our lifestyle choices in honor of health and disease prevention.
This article will highlight the association of obesity and Covid-19. First and foremost, for adults, the WHO defines overweight as BMI > or equal to 25; and obesity is a BMI > 30. BMI provides a rough measurement tool to correspond fatness in different individuals. It is not the best indicator of health as it is a population-level measure which is the same for both sexes and all ages and adults. BMI does not tell us bio-metrics, energy levels, sleep, relationship with food and other areas that predict health. However, it does provide a common way to classify
overweight or obesity in adults. BMI is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his or her height in meters (kg/m2).
Causes of Obesity
Imbalance of calories from physical inactivity or surplus of calories consumed chronically over time
Family history and genetics
Medications: Some anti-seizure medications, antidepressants, steroids and beta blockers can lead to undesirable weight gain
Environment: Surrounding yourself with friends and family who may be overweight making poor food and beverage choices can lead to greater risk of obesity
Too little sleep which can increase appetite and desire to consume low nutrient foods
Why is obesity a risk factor for Covid-19?
Obesity is considered a large risk factor for risk of severe COVID-19 because of the respiratory dysfunction. Those with obesity have a greater likely hood of experiencing restricted airways, decreased lung volumes, and weaker respiratory muscles which are an essential defense against COVID-19. Such factors make an individual more susceptible to pneumonia, and experience additional cardiac stress. Furthermore, obesity is also linked with diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease, which overall increase the risk of developing pneumonia. Other ailments like hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and pre-diabetes enhance the susceptibility to infection.
The current science:
Data from 383 patients showed that having obesity was associated with a 142% higher risk of developing severe pneumonia associated with COVID-19.
A larger study of over 4,000 patients with COVID-19 in New York City found that severe obesity was a major risk factor for hospitalization, second only to age.
Analysis of critically ill COVID-19 patients in Seattle found that 85% of patients with obesity required mechanical ventilation, compared to 64% of patients without the condition. Moreover, 62% of the patients with obesity died of COVID-19, compared with 36% of those without obesity.
Limitation: Study only assessed 24 patients, all of whom were critically ill, making it difficult to draw attention to the conclusions from the data.
• Another analysis of 124 patients in Lille, France, found that patients with obesity were more likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation.
Collectively this evidence suggest that obesity may be a significant risk factor for COVID-19. Dr. Norbert Stefan, of the German Center for Diabetes Research stated that “obesity may put people infected with Covid-19 at more severe risk and possibly risk of death.” Many of the recent articles published in the last 2 months regarding comorbidities and the association with COVID-19 did not produce data surrounding body composition or metabolic health. The gap in data warrants further research to investigate how body composition, waist circumference, and blood glucose levels play a role in contraction and recovery from the virus, specifically metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a serious health condition that affects roughly 23 percent of adults and increases their risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and diseases related to fatty buildups in arterial walls according to the American Heart Association. The overall underlying cause of metabolic syndrome includes being overweight, obese, inactivity along with other genetic factors associated with aging.
However, given the limited studies there is not sufficient evidence to definitively say that those with obesity at higher risk for more severe COVID-19. The limited literature does suggest a connection and we can note that obesity is indeed a risk factor for worse outcomes in regard to health. Research does support the notion that those who are obese tend to experience more severe forms of infections according to a publication in the International Journal of Obesity .
Strategies to Overcome Obesity: Tips for a Healthier Tomorrow
Now that we are aware of the connection obesity has with disease and infection let’s talk about practical strategies and tips to improve body composition and overall health! First and foremost, obesity prevention begins at a young age. It’s important to help young growing adolescents maintain a healthy weight without a focus on the scale.
Obesity prevention for children
Help your toddlers learn appropriate portion sizes. The American Academy of Pediatrics states children from the ages of 1 to 3, every inch of height should equate to approximately 40 calories. As children age you can teach them what appropriate portion sizes look like.
Eat healthy foods as a family and create a healthy experience with eating at the table with no distractions like tablets, computes, phones and other games.
Encourage eating slowly and eating only when hungry. Eating out of boredom can lead to excess calorie consumption. If you find yourself eating out of boredom be sure to have healthy snacks like fresh cut fruits and veggies available to snack on.
Limit unhealthy foods that lack nutrients in the household. If it ends up in your cart at the store, it will end up in your mouth and eventually your tummy. Stock the fridge and pantry with healthy foods, and limit low nutrient foods as a “treat” that is not consumed daily.
Establish a healthy sleep routine and focus on managing stress. Those that tend to sleep more heave a healthier weight and crave less unhealthy foods that are often low in nutrition. Higher stress is also associated with weight gain due to poor coping mechanisms.
Incorporate regular physical activity which includes at least 60 minutes per day. A byproduct of being more active is less time in front of the screen.
Obesity prevention for adults
It is no secret obesity prevention tips are the same for losing or maintaining a healthy weight. Consuming a healthy diet, sufficient sleep and participating in regular physical activity can help prevent obesity.
Consume plenty of healthy fats. A study published in the Nutrition Journal illustrated that intake of healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated fats, can attenuate cholesterol levels and decrease obesity risk.
Eat regular meals on a schedule. Eat a proper breakfast, lunch and dinner that has appropriate portion sizes. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Adults should consume five to nine servings of fruits and veggies each day.
Fruits and veggies are low in calories, high in nutrients, water and full of dietary fiber that supports satiety. Research shows dietary fiber plays a key role in maintaining a healthy weight. A 2019 trial published in Journal of Nutrition found that dietary fiber intake promotes weight loss and dietary adherence in adults with overweight or obesity consuming a calorie-restricted diet.
Consume less processed and high sugar foods. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, processed and ultra-processed foods are linked to increased risk for obesity. Most processed foods are high in fat, sodium, and refined sugar which can promote over-eating.
High calorie, high sugar foods often contain limited nutrients and tend to promote over-eating. Processed foods that should be limited to avoided include cereals, white bread, potato chips, cookies, ice cream, granola bars, crackers and other snack foods. Be mindful of marketing claims for certain snack foods that may list “low-fat” or ‘low-carb” but still contain a significant amount of sugar and limited nutrients. Should you choose granola bars or grains ensure they are whole-grain.
Participating in regular activity that includes both strength training and aerobic activity. Regular physical activity of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity is encouraged per week according to the CDC . Find a movement that you enjoy doing and set a goal to complete it each week with the family. Establish smart goals and hire a coach that can assist you in completing appropriate exercise safely to prevent injury. If you’re new to exercise, begin by walking, stretching and strive to improve your time spent exercising each week.
Focus on meal prep and have a plan. It is much easier to shop for healthy foods when you have a list that meets your budget. If you walk into a store with a list you are less likely to be tempted by unhealthy foods. Avoid walking down the aisles looking for items that are not on your list. A good grocery list should contain plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, healthy whole-grains, lean proteins, healthy fats and spices. Be sure to make a regular list and post it on the fridge for items as you run out.
Eat more protein and veggies as snacks. Higher protein intake is associated with better weight management, glycemic index and bone health according to several studies. A review published in the Journal of Food Science specifically illustrates the metabolic advantages of higher protein diet and benefits of dairy. Higher protein intake is associated with greater satiety and healthier better composition. Some great high-protein options include eggs, Greek yogurt, beef, chicken, fish, lentils, wild game and other dairy products. A study published in the European Journal of Obesity examining the effect of a high-protein diet versus a standard protein diet on weight loss and biomarkers of metabolic syndrome found significantly greater weight loss with higher protein diet.
Many are looking for ways to stay calm during one of the most unprecedented health crises our country has ever seen. Shift your focus to these 3 areas to improve your health during the pandemic.
Establish a routine:
Which includes regular wake, bedtime, movement, mealtimes, schoolwork, work projects and “leisure time” built in to create stability. Eat breakfast every day! Those that consume the majority of their calories early on are less likely to be overweight and obese. Be sure to incorporate a high-quality protein, fiber and fluids. By getting into the habit of completing tasks on a regular basis along with mealtimes you set yourself up for a new normal.
Be mindful of fluids, what you are eating at meals and snacking on. High-stress situations can lead to an impact on our ability to make healthy choices. By stress eating high-calorie and low nutrient foods you are more likely to put on undesirable weight. By creating a schedule of mealtimes and having a calendar of meals you are less likely to eat out of boredom.
Have fruits and veggies cut and prepared in the fridge should you be hungry and snack on nutrient dense foods versus processed food.Grocery shopping is critical, be sure to have a list prepared ahead of time and stock up on plenty of frozen along with fresh fruits and veggies.
Eat the rainbow and incorporate as many whole foods as possible. By eating colorful fruits and vegetables you can support a healthy immune system. Vitamins and minerals support a healthy immune system which are found in pigment rich foods (color!).
Be sure to also incorporate unsalted, nuts, seeds, lean proteins and healthy fats can truly help optimize your immune function land even support good sleep. What we eat has a direct impact on our sleep which can also help keep unwanted pounds at bay!
Supporting positive mental health with movement and meditation!
Getting plenty of regular movement, aerobic activities like walking, biking, hiking, swimming along with resistance training with household items or weights at home. Exercise boosts physical, mental and emotional health which can help reduce stress overall. By reducing stress, you are also fighting off the risk of disease and illness. 30-40 minutes a day of yoga, meditation, walking, running or biking is a great way to stay healthy! Many apps, videos and programs are available on demand online.
Work with a Dietitian to Fight Off Obesity and Establish Healthy Habits
Many find great success working with a registered dietitian nutritionist. Research indicates that a few sessions with an RDN can lead to healthier habits, optimal food choices and successful weight loss. As an RDN I personally work with many on improving their relationship with food, eating more fruits and veggies, selecting high-quality proteins, and preparing foods at home. RDN’s can assist in developing a calorie-controlled plan and calculating out energy needs that support appropriate weight loss, weight maintenance goals. Additionally, a personal trainer or fitness coach can also assist you in setting goals for routine physical activity. I work with several individuals on creating a periodized program for appropriate progression of physical activity. The goal is to move more and to feel good about the exercise you are doing. The journey to 100 miles begins with taking that first step. I am here to help you and support you, join me and take that first step to a healthier tomorrow!
In good health,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and fitness coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for those looking to improve their health and energy. Along with supporting athletes desiring to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. Wendi partners with parents, sports performance staff, special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance & lifestyle plans. Wendi is based in East Lansing, Michigan and is very active on social media platforms such as facebook , twitter and Instagram.
Baseball and softball diamonds are empty. Soccer fields and tracks lay desolate. High school sports’ championships are cancelled. Indefinite halt in practices, games, and tournaments have left many coaches, parents and young athletes devastated. A whole new pain has developed around the world when the term “cancelled” is used due to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, their outlet for stress, health, social time and joy has been halted with short notice. The all-around impact when sports and organized recreation resumes, remains uncertain. The big question remains: “When will this end, and when can we return to our normal lives again?” The reality is, we will not return to how things were. How do we adapt, overcome, and conquer the many challenges of unknowns and uncontrollable modalities? This article will aim to provide clarity, support and motivation, and simple tips to stay healthy and conditioned during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are many things sport athletes cannot control, such as weather conditions, their opponent, playing fields and, now, a pandemic! Ultimately one thing that athletes of all ages (adults too) can control is themselves. Being involved in a sport creates routine through practice and preparation. Routines were carried out and executed pre-pandemic and they should now be established during the coronavirus to prevent further declines in health, wellness, and overall athletic performance. Creating structure in life is more important than ever. Many young athletes may find themselves feeling “abnormal” or “off” and it is important for coaches and parents to check in with them. During these first few weeks of the “Stay at Home Order” here in Michigan many of my young athletes and clients have been faced with a different way of life and schedule. Schedule and routine should be the second most important priority after the shelter in place. Health hack: You can still maintain your fitness at home with regular walking, body weight exercises, light weights with greater volume and of course proper nutrition. -Please Schedule a consultation with me if you’re desiring further assistance in any area of your health, I am here to help.
5-6 Simple Suggestions to Keep You Healthy & Conditioned During the Pandemic:
PLAN Your Day. Set your alarm to wake up to the same time each day, eat regular meals & snacks, hydration goals, when you will train, complete school-work, watch your favorite show, read, walk the dog, study, and complete chores. Without a routine, your energy, nutrition, water or fueling goals will be affected. Structuring your day will benefit your mental health and athletic success post-virus. Utilize this time to focus on taking care of your body, schoolwork, mental health, and maintaining overall optimism. It is okay to live by the “one-day-at-a-time” mantra. Do not undo all the hard work put into your training. Take a breath, stay motivated, and conditioned.
PLAN Your Bedtime. Establish a bed-time routine to carve out time to brush teeth, wash your face, and prepare for rest. Research supports more restful sleep when we limit phone use prior to bed. For example, establish a bedtime of 10 pm. Begin getting ready for bed at 9:15 pm. Put your phone away, meditate, limit time around books and activities that would decrease your ability to relax. Be in bed by 9:45 with time to quiet your mind and fall asleep by 10 pm.
PLAN Your Intent. What does this mean? When you wake up, write down what you want to accomplish for the day. This simple act is powerful, it creates structure and meaning to our day. If we start our day being mindful of what we want to accomplish and the intent of our actions, it will facilitate the motivation and drive to tackle them.
Body Composition. Many are concerned about gaining weight due to less activity. This applies to not only young impressionable athletes but adults as well. Do not overdo it with exercise trying to “earn calories” or “burn off what you ate”. For some young and older athletes, this time at home may mean more activity because of “extra time”. It may be wise to limit intensive training to what your coach or trainer has prioritized. Be sure to enjoy light, mindful movement with your family such as going on walks together. It is key to remember that supporting proper growth, development and maturation needs, are all priorities for young athletes. To learn more, please read one of my previous blogs here. Reminder: young athletes eat first and fuel second. This concept is also illustrated in a blog I recently wrote for strength coaches at the high school level.
PLAN Your Meals. By no means should young athletes be cutting out food groups, meals or critical calories because schedule changes. Meal planning and usual eating habits are likely to be affected if they are less active and not training as intensely. Pandemic or not, young athletes still need the fundamental three to four high-quality meals that contain the basics (lean protein, fruit, vegetable, whole-grain and dairy). The snacks consumed in-between meals may decrease due to less activity, training and events. I have always encouraged my athletes to consume a protein and carbohydrate source as snack. However, with less activity than usual, a lower carbohydrate snack may be a better option (such as string cheese with cucumber slices). For many, eating nowadays may be similar to “off-season” eating or rest days. However, the athletes training more intensely or adding in addition cardio sessions, may need to increase their protein and carbohydrate snacks following training. This a very important concept for people to understand. Ultimately, an athlete’s plate needs to support the training and work that is being done. See the performance plate guidelines which provide clear illustrations of building a plate to reflect the type of training day.
PLAN to be Creative. Food access, security, safety, and overall availability impacts how we eat. Now is not the time to try out a rigid diet, dirty dozen, 21-day fix in the house. Foods may be available in limited amounts and many families are going shopping for one to two week’s worth of groceries. Meeting nutrition needs perfectly is not necessarily the reality, but it is a good goal to keep front and center. When shopping, pick up canned veggies, canned beans, frozen fruits, frozen vegetables, and consider buying meats in bulk that can be placed in the freezer. Keep in mind you can freeze many food items! Please navigate to my social media platforms such as twitter and Instagram for more instructions and ideas. A quick online search will also show you some creative ideas. It is critical to continue avoiding overly processed foods that are high in sugar and low in nutrition, such as chips, pastries, sweets, etc. All foods fit, but keep in mind good nutrition is the foundation for good health. Focus on consuming a variety of foods that are nutrient dense to support a healthy immune system to fight off disease, decrease exercise induced inflammation, promote healing of tissues and overall health. Eating an abundance of nutritious foods will provide stable energy levels, cognition, athletic performance, injury reduction, self-confidence, healthy body composition, and heart health. I encourage my athletes to continue to pursue a healthy relationship with food despite the challenges we currently face.
If you’re interested on some specifics check out what the Food and Drug Administration has to say regarding food availability during the novel Covid-19 virus in a recent article.
This unexpected challenge is our opportunity to define our new normal. Stay at home, wash your hands, create a routine, limit discretionary calories, keep training, prioritize your hydration, eat well and fuel accordingly. This is the ultimate chance to learn from professionals, peers, and family, to move forward with different and healthier habits. And, this is exactly what we will do. Opportunity favors the prepared. Don’t miss this opportunity to optimize your health and training. What controllable behaviors are you willing to work on daily to set yourself up for your next power play?
**The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has helpful tips on keeping your family healthy and safe at home. They can be found here. Avoid misinformation online regarding COVID-19. Rely on credible, accurate sources such as the CDC, FDA ,and the NIH .
**I recently delivered a presentation on “The Importance of a Routine During Uncertainty” on a recent webinar with the West Virginia Soccer Association. The webinar will be available on demand on the WVSA Beyond the Pitch Podcast in the next week.
“Nutrition is your athlete’s secret weapon to out compete their competition. Nutrition can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good.” (SM)
– Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and fitness 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. Wendi partners with parents, sports performance staff, special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance & lifestyle plans. Wendi is based in East Lansing, Michigan and is the founder of Nutrition with Wendi, LLC. Wendi is active on Twitter and other social media platforms as Nutrition_with_Wendi.
If you’re a man or woman reading this, excellent. It applies to both genders. Are you an aging adult, or someone who has experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI)? Then yes, keep reading. Next, if you’re an athlete or non-athlete reading this, even better because it applies to you as well. Still aren’t with me, do you have a beating heart? If this answer is no, please seek medical attention at once. All jokes aside, if you’re a living breathing homo sapiens (homo = genus , sapiens = species) this article is for you.
If you’re a parent of a young athlete, coach, athlete or bodybuilder you likely have read up on creatine and have supplemented with creatine monohydrate before. Creatine is one of the most well-research and effective supplements to date. Creatine can support exercise performance by quickly producing energy during intense activity. Furthermore, creatine may also provide cognitive benefits, but further research is warranted. Studies have consistently illustrated how creatine supplementation increases intramuscular creatine concentrations that can help us understand the observed improvements in high-intensity exercise performance and overall training adaptations at large. We know creatine supplementation can bolster post-exercise recovery, decrease risk of injury and support injury prevention, expedite rehabilitation, thermoregulation, concussion and or spinal cord neuroprotection. Additionally, clinical applications of creatine supplementation have been investigated in neurodegenerative diseases like (muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s Huntington’s disease), diabetes, aging, osteoarthritis, brain and heart ischemia, adolescent depression and even pregnancy as cited in the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN) Position Stand on Creatine Supplementation in Exercise, Sport and Medicine . Studies are demonstrating short and long-term supplementation (up to 30 grams per day for five years) is not only safe, but well-tolerated in individuals and a range of clinical settings from infants to the elderly. So, creatine is not just for male athletes trying to build muscle and facilitate recovery. It is beneficial to all given the wide range of benefits associated with supplementation that have been documented in literature and several that are currently under investigation in a clinical setting.
Let’s review and clear up a common myth regarding creatine:
“Creatine is a steroid” Incorrect, please stop this nonsense from making its way into 2021 please. In my professional experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist , this must be one of the most obnoxious fallacies to date. Possibly behind “protein hurts my kidneys”, also false but that’s a whole other subject for a different blog. However, I am happy to direct you to the literature that dispels this myth publish in 2016 in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism compliments of Dr. Jose Antonio and colleagues . Now back to creatine, let’s clear this up quickly, creatine is not a steroid. It has no relation to a steroid structurally or with its mechanism of action. Why? Well, by scientific definition a steroid is any compound that possesses a common structural feature like 3 cyclohexane rings and a cyclopentane ring make up the structure that by definition is a steroid molecule. In fact, eggs contain a steroid compound which is called cholesterol and it is naturally produced in the body that become steroid hormones like testosterone and estrogen. But no, creatine is not a steroid.
What is creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound made up of three amino acids, which we would call a tripeptide (tri meaning three). Three amino acids (L-glycine, L-methionine and L-arginine) make up creatine. Creatine is largely made in the liver and to a limited extent, the kidneys and pancreas. It deposits high-energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine which are given to ADP, regenerating it to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the sole energy carrier in the human body which can be called “energy currency” for cells to execute their functions. For example, in conditions of short-term high-energy demand activities (< 30 seconds) with limited recovery time, ATP runs out quickly, which brings us to creatine that is stored in muscles in the form of creatine phosphate explained here . Creatine phosphate can help restore ATP, giving muscle cells the ability to produce greater energy. The greater creatine 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 explained here.
Creatine is naturally found in several of the foods we consume 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 the Frontiers in Nutrition Sport and Exercise Nutrition via Candow et al., 2019 . Which suggests, the body needs to replenish about 1.0–3.0 g of creatine per day to maintain normal (un-supplemented) creatine stores depending on muscle mass. Creatine improves numerous factors including strength, power, sprint ability, muscular endurance, resistance to fatigue, muscle mass, recovery, cognition, and speeding up muscle growth.
More women should use creatine:
I am a female who participates in regular strength-training (4-5 times per week) along with (2-3 cardiovascular sessions per week). I eat a whole foods diet, supplement with 2,000 IU of vitamin D3, whey protein isolate, 1,200 mg of fish oil and a multivitamin. Those are my supplements; these are not recommendations for “you”, your “young athlete”, “teammate” or “your friend”. I make this clear because there is no one-size-fits all in nutrition, health and fitness. What works well for me, does not mean it will work well for you. I see too many mistakes made with people trying to adapt the same diet, training and lifestyle of those in their cohort when it simply is not sustainable or appropriate. As individuals we have different genetics, hormones, environment stimulus, training styles, body composition, sport and performance goals, resting metabolic rate, and the list goes on. It would be absurd to eat and train the same way as someone else and anticipate the same outcome with the previously listed differences as humans.
One certainty is we can all benefit from eating real food, but given the benefits of creatine supplementation it is an undervalued and written off supplement among my fellow ladies. Hear me out ladies, creatine will not make you fat, bulky, retain water, turn you into a man or any of the other nonsensical claims that exist on the web these days. I don’t care what Linda at the gym said about “creatine making you fat or how it is a steroid that will make you a man”. I hear these claims often, and not only are they flat out wrong, they misinform my fellow ladies out there trying to gain strength, lean mass and other health benefits that would occur with appropriate creatine supplementation.
Here is a side by side comparison of me, roughly 10 years ago when I ate too many carbohydrates, inadequate protein, some strength training and an abundance of cardiovascular exercise. I ran lots of miles. Now, ten years later, I am happy to report I engage in strength training sessions no greater than 45-minutes, 4-5 times per week with some sprints and daily walking. I supplement with 5 gm of creatine monohydrate post-workout , w
hey protein isolate, take a multivitamin and consume 2 gm/kg/body weight per day in protein. I infrequently track calories because I fuel my body with high-quality protein, as many fruits and veggies as I can get my hands on. Creatine won’t make you fat, bulky or manly ladies. It will help support a lean body composition. Let me be more specific to my fellow ladies, creatine can may help you improve your health, fitness, recovery and overall physique.
Trying to turn up the intensity of your workouts? Use creatine! Creatine is like a Koenigsegg Agera RS , the fastest vehicle in the world. Creatine is a vehicle for producing ATP, which as you have learned drives muscle contraction. Kind of important when trying to sprint, lift heavy weights, jump and train with max output? By regularly supplementing with creatine monohydrate (3 -5 gm/day) for 8 weeks or greater can help maximize the body’s stores of phosphocreatine, the necessary compound to product ATP. Thus, allowing for skeletal muscle to produce more energy, bolster power output and exert more work overall. Fitness hack: The greater the intensity expressed fourth the greater your muscles grow stronger, bigger and faster should you train appropriately. Therefore, creatine supplementation is a highly underrated supplement among the female population. I encourage and empower my fellow ladies reading this article who have been on the fence about using creatine to take note of its effectiveness. Creatine has shown to bolster muscular size, power and strength. More muscle equates to more energy burned, healthier body composition, bone mineral density and a decreased risk for musculoskeletal disorders. Not to mention the link between muscle mass and risk of cardiovascular disease. Keeping aging muscles fit is also linked to better health later on in life according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health .
Even sedentary women who utilized creatine long-term experienced increases in maximal muscle strength during resistance training by 20 to 25% when compared to women who were given a placebo in a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology . Another study examined the effects of long-term creatine supplementation (12-weeks) combined with resistance training on one-rep max strength, motor functional performance tests and body composition in eighteen older women. The creatine group gained significantly more fat-free mass, muscle mass and were able to efficiently perform submaximal-strength functional test than the placebo group. Special note the creatine group was also able to increase training volume and one-rep max bench press. Creatine contains no calories and does not lead to fat gain. The increase on the scale you may see from use is drawing water into the cell which is a desired response with training.
Many benefits of creatine
A number of studies have shown creatine supplementation can increase brain creatine content by roughly 5-15% along with reducing mental fatigue, and improving cognitive function according to research referenced in the ISSN’s Position Stand on Creatine. Another study carried out by Rawson & Venezia, 2011 reported creatine supplementation of (20 g/day for 5 days or about 2g per day for 30 days) resulted in increased skeletal muscle creatine phosphocreatine which lead to the enhancement of high-intensity exercise tasks. Moreover, there is well documented benefits of creatine supplementation in young adults, increased strength, lean body mass and delayed onset fatigue during resistance training. All of which are critical for older adults striving to maintain cognition, bone mineral density and overall health.
Research is scant but, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was carried out in using creatine in type 2 diabetes subjects that was published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise . The study illustrated creatine supplementation improved glucose tolerance in healthy subjects. When creatine was supplemented in the diabetic subjects that participated in an exercise program the results lead to an improvement in glycemic control. The underlying mechanism could be contributed to the increase in GLUT-4 recruitment specific to the sarcolemma. More research is warranted in diabetics, but the current literature is promising.
Another study examined the potential of creatine or phosphocreatine supplementation in cerebrovascular disease and in ischemic heart disease . The study illustrates the ability high-dose creatine supplementation has on cerebral creatine content and that it may have the capacity in humans to protect against stroke due to increasing not only the neuronal but also the endothelial creatine content. Emerging evidence also suggest that creatine supplementation with and without resistance training has the potential mechanistic effect to influence bone biology according to a study carried out by Candow & Chilibeck, 2010. A more recent study published in Experimental Gerontology examines pre-exercise and post-exercise creatine supplementation has similar effects on aging bone mineral density and content. A meta-analysis carried out by Forbes et al., 2018 illustrated creatine supplementation did not lead to greater bone mineral density during resistance training in older adults > 50 years of age.
Research in animals also suggested creatine supplementation to support managing Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and brain or spinal cord injuries. Furthermore, a study was conducted examining creatine supplementation following sleep deprivation, with mild exercise, on cognitive and psychomotor performance, mood state and catecholamines. The study eludes to creatine supplementation decreasing the negative effects, like mood, focus, impulse and emotional reactions that are reliant on the prefrontal cortex.
Creatine is safe and easy to use
As you have learned creatine offers many diverse benefits beyond muscle. It is one of the least expensive and safest supplements available on the market. It has been studied for over 200 years and an abundance of literature supports is safety, efficacy and no reported adverse effects in healthy individuals as referenced in the ISSN’sPosition Stand: Creatine Supplementation and Exercise.
A good dose to begin with is simply taking 3.0 to 5.0 grams of creatine monohydrate post-exercise to support recovery, muscle growth and decreasing fatigue. If you’re a vegetarian or new to using creatine you may wish to start with a loading phase by taking (0.3g/kg/body weight/day). For example, if you’re a 60 kg female = 18 g total for the day but broken up into 4 doses for 5-7 days. This would mean a (4.5 g dose of creatine 4x/day) for 5-7 days. Then onto a maintenance phase of 5 g per day for 12 weeks. If you’re interested in looking at different phases of cycling creatine (short-term and long-term) you can refer to the literature in the Creatine Position Stand paper I have referenced throughout this article. For example, supplementing with (5g/day) for 12 weeks during training to truly help increase intramuscular creatine stores and support health and performance benefits outlined in this article. Dissolve the creatine in water or your protein-carb drink post-workout for best results. Take a break from supplementation after using for 12-16 weeks. Where to order creatine? I strongly advise supplements that are Informed Choice Certified, meaning they are free of any banned substances and ensure the product has been tested from any unsafe substances. Here is a comprehensive list of certified products updated March, 2020.
If you’re parent or coach of adolescent athletes and are considering creatine supplementation. Take note, limited research is available in this population highlighting the safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in young athletes < 18 years of age. Jagim et al., 2018 published a review examining the limited studies in the adolescent population as a means to identify use of creatine in young athletes. The review suggests that adolescent athletes using creatine tolerated supplementation well, had no reported adverse events or incident. Ethically, we do not have enough research to recommend creatine monohydrate to young athletes, but many are using despite direction from professionals. My advice as a sports dietitian is to provide the literature and suggestions to support best interest of my athletes.
As registered dietitian nutritionist and sports nutrition specialist, I advocate for whole foods first and prioritizing nutrition to optimize your health, wellness, physique and performance goals. Creatine is a great supplement to incorporate in addition to great nutrition, enough hydration, adequate sleep and proper training. Creatine works best when paired with resistance training. I hope reading the science outlined in this article surrounding creatine has given clarity. Creatine can benefit everyone, if you have a beating pulse that’s you. Train hard, eat well and stay healthy my friends.
In good health,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and fitness 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. Wendi partners with parents, sports performance staff, special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance & lifestyle plans. Wendi is based in East Lansing, Michigan and is the founder of Nutrition with Wendi, LLC. Wendi is active on Twitter and other social media platforms as Nutrition_with_Wendi.
An estimated 1 billion people worldwide, across all ethnicities and age groups, have a vitamin D deficiency according to a review published in the Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmoacotherapeutics . Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that regulates > 1,000 processes in the body, and it has been well known as the “sunshine” vitamin playing an important role in preventing illnesses like, osteoporosis and rickets . Winter days are often dark and sun exposure is limited leading to an increased risk for vitamin D deficiency and infections. Vitamin D is a hormone but is most widely known as a fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut. Vitamin D supports muscle function, cell growth and immunity. Vitamin D is obtained from supplements, sun exposure and consuming vitamin D-containing foods like, wild salmon, eggs, mushrooms, fortified cereal and dairy products.
How Much Vitamin D Is Needed?
One confusing element of understanding vitamin D guidelines to correct deficiency can be challenging. Currently, there is no consensus definition of vitamin D deficiency according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently reviewing vitamin D screening. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) guidelines for vitamin D use a blood level of 20 ng/ml o 25-hydroxyvitamin D as a benchmark for deficiency because it is the minimum level that meets the needs for good bone health for at least 97.5% of the population (1). However, the Endocrine Society recommended that people aim for a level of 30 ng/mL or higher . A more comprehensive table of Vitamin D concentrations and health are found here via the National Institute of Health.
Current Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for Vitamin D:
Birth to 12 months: 400 IU
Children 1-13 years: 600 IU
Teens 14-18 years: 600 IU
Adults 19-70 years: 600 IU
Adults 71 years and older: 800 IU
Pregnant and breastfeeding women: 600 IU
Vitamin D Deficiency Signs and Symptoms that Can Lead to Severe Health Complications:
Risk of stress fractures
Muscle aches and weakness
In the Body, Vitamin D is Linked with:
Blood pressure regulation
Muscle strength and mass
Absorption of calcium
Healthy weight management
Overall bone and teeth health
Vitamin D and Athletes
Numerous studies reviewed in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition has assessed the possibility for vitamin D’s impact on performance and recovery. In fact a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examining soccer players who supplemented with 5,000 IU of vitamin D per day for a total of eight weeks had interesting results. Those that supplemented jumped higher and were linked to faster sprints.
A vitamin D deficiency in athletes increases the risk for stress fractures, anemia and a weaker immune system which and blunt athletic performance. A 2008 study examining Vitamin D status in a group of distance runners found that forty percent of the runners, who trained indoors in sunny Baton Rouge, Louisiana had insufficient vitamin D. deficiency is common among athletes and enough levels are needed to maintain bone health and aid in injury repair. A review carried out in 2015 identified about 56% of athletes had inadequate levels of vitamin D. Another study evaluating vitamin D levels in athletes participating at the NFL combine found that players with a history of lower extremity muscle strain an core muscle injury had a greater prevalence of inadequate vitamin . Furthermore, another study assessing association of vitamin levels with race and found a higher rate of vitamin D deficiency among black football players than white football players.
As stated above musculoskeletal pain and weakness are often unrecognized symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. A study conducted in Minnesota identified 93% of individuals with persistent non-specific musculoskeletal pain had 25(OH)D concentration <20 ng mL and 28% had a concentration <8 ng mL. Animal studies have also reported that vitamin D deficiency leads to the atrophy of fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are critical in power movements like sprints. Fast-twitch fibers also fatigue faster which can explain the physiological why vitamin D can influence based on its function.
As you have learned, vitamin D deficiency is overlooked and should be a focus of concern for any professionals working with athletes. The strong association in muscle fatigue and low vitamin D levels in elite and collegiate athletes may lead to long-term injuries with life and career altering effects. An article published in the American College of Sports Medicine provides charts and illustrations representing the vitamin D status in athletes living in various geographic locations.
To Supplement or Not Supplement?
Upon reading this article you can see how challenging it is to achieve daily vitamin D needs from foods and limited sun exposure. Provided the critical role vitamin D plays in our mood, digestion, cognition, recovery, athletic performance and overall health it would be wise to supplement with 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day during the winter solstice months and likely even more if you fall into any of the high-risk categories for vitamin D deficiency. Justifying a greater need for vitamin D for athletes who train often and participate in multiple sports. Disclaimer, I am not a physician and I would encourage you to discuss vitamin D testing with your doctor to ensure you’re not reaching toxicity, which can occur with high-dose vitamin D intakes of 60,000 IU per day. Blood levels should be monitored by anyone who chooses to take higher dose of vitamin D. As always, talk with your doctor and sports medicine staff before taking any vitamin and mineral supplements. Interested in learning more about your vitamin D status? Check out the website of the Vitamin D Society for more information. Other great resources to learn more about vitamin D include ,the Linus Pauling Institute and the National Institute of Health fact sheet for health professionals.