6 Anti-Inflammatory Foods Athletes Should Be Eating!

 I often do grocery store tours with our local baseball, football, and XC athletes here in Nashville, Tennessee. This is also a great option to do virtually over FaceTime if you are in another state! Here are 6 of the top anti-inflammatory foods that we picked up. (Full thread on X)

  1. Egg bites with veggies! A pre-cooked option that contains protein, antioxidants, and key micronutrients!
  2. Whole Lactose-Free Kefir! Kefir is fermented (great for gut health). It offers > 60 strains of bacteria. Studies show these powerful microorganisms may help treat and prevent gastrointestinal disease in addition to muscle recovery!
    1. Dairy also offers leucine-rich protein, calcium, and vitamin D that your muscles and bones need to stay strong.
  3. Cherries are rich in antioxidants and contain anti-inflammatory compounds known as polyphenols!
    1. These polyphenols have been shown to speed up recovery following resistance training, decrease muscle soreness, and lessen muscle breakdown!
      1. Vitamin C, hydrating, and fiber-rich as well!
  4. Blueberries and raspberries! The compounds in berries have been shown to relieve both muscle pain and weakness, inflammation, and cellular damage that occurs after hard exercise.
    1. Blueberries have been shown to help lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease, and improve memory, and cognitive function!
  5. Walnuts! One handful of walnuts contains 91% of the daily value of Omega-3 fatty acids.
    1. The omegas in walnuts can help with reducing inflammation and optimize recovery! Walnuts also contain magnesium which is critical for preventing muscle camping and supporting restful sleep!
  6. Pomegranate! We encourage our athletes and clients to add pom to smoothies, yogurt bowls, protein shakes, oats, and PB toast!
    1. Pomegranate intake has been shown to accelerate muscle recovery, reduce muscle damage, decrease soreness, and improve inflammatory markers post-training!

Here is a simple example of an anti-inflammatory meal for a busy high school or college student-athlete!

  • It is important to note that recovery is a 24-hour process. The body is always rebuilding and regenerating to maintain homeostasis. As an athlete or individual who wants to live a healthy lifestyle, it is best to limit inflammatory foods like cookies, cake, candy, fried foods, and alcohol.
  • Your performance plate should always contain lean protein, quality carbohydrates, fruit, veggies, healthy fat, and hydration.
          • Add Greek yogurt for extra protein, calcium, vitamin D, and calories to support muscle growth and enhance recovery!
          • Choose wild-caught salmon whenever possible as it contains up to 3 times less fat, and more vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, and b-12. If you do not like salmon you can opt for a lean protein like grilled chicken, turkey, flank steak, wild game, or halibut. 
  • What you put in your body directly influences your speed, power, strength, energy, blood sugar, body composition, disease, and injury risk so please take these tips and apply them. A colorful plate is a healthy plate! (Get a copy of Wendi’s Health and Performance Playbook HERE).
  • Female athletes can greatly benefit from more produce to optimize hormone health and help with their menstrual cycle! Learn more HERE
  • Use these tips because “nutrition can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good! What are you willing to do to out-compete your competition? Champions are built in the off-season.” –Wendi

Some additional resources on reducing inflammation & increasing recovery!

If you found this list helpful be sure to check out Wendi’s tips for reducing muscle soreness blog HERE.


References:

  • Albuquerque Pereira, M. F., Matias Albuini, F., & Gouveia Peluzio, M. D. C. (2023). Anti-inflammatory pathways of kefir in murine model: a systematic review. Nutrition reviews, nuad052. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuad052
  • Ammar, A., Turki, M., Chtourou, H., Hammouda, O., Trabelsi, K., Kallel, C., Abdelkarim, O., Hoekelmann, A., Bouaziz, M., Ayadi, F., Driss, T., & Souissi, N. (2016). Pomegranate Supplementation Accelerates Recovery of Muscle Damage and Soreness and Inflammatory Markers after a Weightlifting Training Session. PloS one, 11(10), e0160305.
  • Kelley, D. S., Adkins, Y., & Laugero, K. D. (2018). A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries. Nutrients10(3), 368. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10030368
  • Tan, B., Wang, Y., Zhang, X., & Sun, X. (2022). Recent Studies on Protective Effects of Walnuts against Neuroinflammation. Nutrients14(20), 4360. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14204360
  • Yavari, A., Javadi, M., Mirmiran, P., & Bahadoran, Z. (2015). Exercise-induced oxidative stress and dietary antioxidants. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine6(1), e24898. https://doi.org/10.5812/asjsm.24898

In good health, faith, and fitness

-Wendi A. Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN

The Nutrition with Wendi team 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. We partner with parents, athletes, health professionals, and individuals and offer elite nutrition and health guidance for optimal athletic performance, injury, and disease reduction.  We provide virtual sports nutrition coaching, education, and presentations virtually in Texas, Florida, California, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Arizona, and Michigan. Our primary office is based in Nashville, Tennesse where we serve the greater Brentwood, Franklin, and Green Hills communities.  Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. Services booking here to consult with Wendi for a team talk or QA session.

 

Amenorrhea & Athletes: 3 Tips For Females to Get Their Period Back

Amenorrhea & Athletes: 3 Tips For Females to Get Their Period Back

 

Relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) is the consequence of low-energy availability (LEA) in athletes, adversely affecting an athletes’ performance and health. RED-S can occur in both males and females, negatively impacting normal growth and development, hormonal health, bone health, ability to recover, strength and endurance, and even mental health. The Female Athlete Triad refers to a cluster of three RED-S symptoms originally identified in females, including low energy intake, menstrual disruptions, and low bone mineral density (BMD). It is imperative to prevent the Female Athlete Triad before it spirals into severe interruptions with bone strength, performance, long-term health, and fertility. 

 

What is Low Energy Intake (LEA) and how does it occur?

  • LEA can be intentional or unintentional, occurring when an athlete consumes fewer calories than her body requires for growth, development, and athletic performance. LEA is often associated with ‘disordered eating’ and in severe cases can lead to an eating disorder.
  • Menstrual cycle disruption is the most critical impact of LEA in females. When a female athlete stops getting her period for at least 3 months, this is referred to as ‘amenorrhea.’ Prolonged amenorrhea can negatively impact fertility and bone health.
  • Many athletes choose to intentionally restrict or limit their intake in hopes of “improving performance”. This is especially common in runners and dancers, where the mentality “lighter is faster” is prevalent but extremely damaging.
  • Some athletes may just be unsure of how many calories they should consume to meet the demands of their sport, leading to unintentional LEA. Many athletes eat enough calories to sustain basic hormone function but are not eating enough to fuel sport performance and recovery!
  • The effects of LEA fall into two categories: sociocultural and physiological. Athletes are at a much higher risk for LEA from sociocultural factors, including social media, sport-specific body image stereotypes, and pressure from coaches, teammates, and themselves on looking a certain way. These can all provide a false belief that the athlete will have greater performance outcomes by fitting into these sociocultural standards.
  • Inadequate nutrition intake, leading to LEA, is problematic because the athlete has insufficient energy to fuel the body. For example, if a female athlete only consumes 1,800 kcal per day but uses 3,500 kcal, she is consuming 1,700 kcal LESS than her body NEEDS! In this scenario, the athlete will not have enough energy, impairing performance, growth, and development; it also puts her at heightened risk for illness, injury, impaired fertility, or a life-threatening eating disorder. 
  • At-Risk Sports: cross-country, distance running, cross-country skiing, wrestling, rowing, gymnastics, figure skating, dance, and weight-class sports.

 

Important future considerations

  • The long-term negative effects of amenorrhea can impact fertility as women age. 
  • Women need adequate calories to achieve enough of energy reserve to promote fertility.
  • Women must have enough body fat to produce leptin for reproduction and proper functioning of the ovaries.
  • Scientist Rose Frisch proposed a body fatness theory of fertility in which women need to have at least 17% body fat to menstruate and about 22% body fat for fertility.

Fill out our athlete assessment form HERE and we can reach out to you for a consultation with one of our registered dietitians and sports nutritionists to help you with a plan. 

How does menstrual health impact bone health?

Physical activity, specifically resistance training can have a positive impact on bone development. However, in cases of the female athlete triad or low energy availability, BMD may be low. This low BMD can be attributed to low levels of the hormone, estrogen, which plays a crucial role in bone health! Further, with inadequate calorie intake, athletes may be missing significant micronutrients like vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium, which support strong bones. Low BMD can increase the risk of bone stress injuries, including stress reactions and stress fractures, as well as osteoporosis. 

 

Pro Tip: Test, don’t guess! If you or your student-athlete have concerns about menstruation, bone health, and estrogen levels, reach out to a doctor for blood tests. 

Recovery of a menstrual cycle takes time but is significant for overall health as well as injury prevention and athletic performance.

 

Three ways we help female athletes regain their period:

  1. Increased calories (eating in an energy surplus) for 3-6 months, with a focus on adequate healthy dietary fats and eating frequently (avoiding periods of fasting)
  2. Reducing training volume and permitting healthy weight gain
  3. Log nutrition and track period symptoms 

We teach our athletes that all foods fit! Most athletes need upwards of 3,500 + kcal to support health, training, and recovery demands.Person first and athlete second. We must help female athletes develop a healthy relationship with food!

If you are a parent of a young female athlete or coach that works with female athletes be sure to refer out to a registered dietitian. Female athletes have special considerations and hormone health should always be a top priority. We have worked with several female runners and competitive athletes to regain their period.  It is not normal to lose your cycle for several months. We can work with your program or athlete to regain their cycle via a custom nutrition plan and ongoing coaching.

Female athletes need 3-4 balanced meals coupled with 2-3 snacks on training days. You can’t race like a beast if you eat like a bird!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In good health, wellness, and performance,

Sophia, Brenna, and Wendi your NWW team!

 

The Nutrition with Wendi team 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. We partner with parents, athletes, health professionals, and individuals and offer elite nutrition and health guidance for optimal athletic performance, injury, and disease reduction.  We provide virtual services including telehealth but are based in Nashville, TN. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. Services booking here to consult with Wendi for a team talk or QA session.


Resources:

 

Cabre, H. E., Moore, S. R., Smith-Ryan, A. E., & Hackney, A. C. (2022). Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S): Scientific, Clinical, and Practical Implications for the Female Athlete. Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Sportmedizin, 73(7), 225–234. https://doi.org/10.5960/dzsm.2022.546

Gimunová, M., Paulínyová, A., Bernaciková, M., & Paludo, A. C. (2022). The Prevalence of Menstrual Cycle Disorders in Female Athletes from Different Sports Disciplines: A Rapid Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(21), 14243. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph192114243

Márquez, S., & Molinero, O. (2013). Energy availability, menstrual dysfunction and bone health in sports; an overview of the female athlete triad. Nutricion hospitalaria, 28(4), 1010–1017. https://doi.org/10.3305/nh.2013.28.4.6542

Sims, S. T., Kerksick, C. M., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Janse de Jonge, X. A. K., Hirsch, K. R., Arent, S. M., Hewlings, S. J., Kleiner, S. M., Bustillo, E., Tartar, J. L., Starratt, V. G., Kreider, R. B., Greenwalt, C., Rentería, L. I., Ormsbee, M. J., VanDusseldorp, T. A., Campbell, B. I., Kalman, D. S., & Antonio, J. (2023). International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutritional concerns of the female athlete. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 20(1), 2204066. https://doi.org/10.1080/15502783.2023.2204066

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, May 17). Bone mineral density tests: What the numbers mean. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/bone-mineral-density-tests-what-numbers-mean

von Rosen, P., Ekenros, L., Solli, G. S., Sandbakk, Ø., Holmberg, H. C., Hirschberg, A. L., & Fridén, C. (2022). Offered Support and Knowledge about the Menstrual Cycle in the Athletic Community: A Cross-Sectional Study of 1086 Female Athletes. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(19), 11932. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph191911932

 

3 Tips for Avoiding Muscle Cramps on Game Day!

 

In my 10+ years of experience working with youth, collegiate, and masters level competitors there are three types of athletes. Athletes who are prone to cramping, those who have cramped, and those who WILL CRAMP. Our goal is to prevent cramping, reduce the occurrence of cramping, and Lord willing minimize the cramps with these three considerations.

 

  1. Water and minerals. Inadequate fluid. Drink water early and often! We wake up in a dehydrated state.  Place a water bottle by your bed to wake up and drink water. Set alarms on your phone to hydrate every few hours. Hydration is controllable.  Athletes need roughly 80-100 oz of fluid daily.  This does not account for the minerals we NEED including potassium, calcium, sodium, chloride, and magnesiumLosses during training, games, and hot climate increases fluid and mineral demand. 7 Tips for Hydration here.
      • Consume 20 oz of fluid every 2 hours leading up to game time.
      • Fuel tip: The night before a game have 1/2 an avocado at dinner. Avocados have more potassium than bananas. The potassium levels are almost double!
      • One avocado contains 975 milligrams of potassium, compared to 487 milligrams in a banana.
      • Most muscle cramps are also related to magnesium depletion. Adequate magnesium can help with muscle contraction and relaxation. The RDA for magnesium for adults:
        -Men: 400–420 mg
        -Women: 310–320 mg

        • Magnesium deficiency signs and foods rich in magnesium click here.
        • Magnesium supplementation may be necessary if you’re not consuming sufficient meat and veggies.
      • Some athletes are heavy sweaters and will expel more minerals in their sweat than others. A simple way to test if you or an athlete is a heavy or salty sweater is touching your jersey during/after training. Ensure you’re sipping on sports drinks or an electrolyte mix if you’re prone to cramping. Hotter temperatures will increase the rate at which electrolytes are expelled
        • Is it crusty and drenched? You are likely a heavy sweater and you will also feel the sodium on your face.
        • A hydration video tip to download and share with your student-athletes.
      • Replace every lb. lost during training with 16-24 oz of fluid.
  2. Pre-competition fueling 
      • Athletes often fail to consume enough carbs and calories. Carbs fuel muscle and the brain. A drop in blood sugar leads to a drop in performance. Low-carb diets also decrease sodium and water in the kidneys! 
      • Athletes should be consuming on average 3-5 g of carbs/kg/bw/day to support training demands and optimize recovery.  This means if you weigh 165 lbs or 75 kg . you need a minimum of 225 -375 g of carbs daily.
        • Athletes doing more endurance work or training more hours per week need even more. 5-7 g/kg/bw/day for soccer, field hockey, basketball, and other athletes trying to gain weight! This means that the same 165 lb 75 kg athlete would need 375-525 g of carbs per day!
          • Bagels, rice, pitas, oats, pretzels, fruit, potatoes, dates, honey, and other grains are excellent sources of carbs.
      • The maximum glycogen storage a human can accumulate is between 400-500 grams. Since 1 gram of carbs equals 4 kcal, you will top out at about 1,600-2,000 kcal in your glycogen storage fuel tank.
        • Muscle strength, speed, and contractility decrease when blood glucose levels drop or when glycogen is rapidly depleted. This can happen quickly in multisport athletes as well as endurance athletes.  Athlete nutrition cheat sheet here.
      • Use my chew-nibble-sip fueling strategy to ensure you’re consuming adequate carbs, minerals, and calories leading up to game time. A simple breakdown is found here.
      • Bananas, string cheese, Greek yogurt, and sweet potatoes are great sources of minerals like potassium, and contain sodium to assist with preventing muscle cramps and fatigue. Utilize electrolyte packets pre-, during, and post-event.
      • Too often athletes under-fuel leading up to games and events due to their inability to stomach solid food. Liquid carbs like sports drinks, tart cherry juice, and coconut water can be a great way to fill the glycogen tank prior to an event.
      • Download my 4-2-1 Fueling PDF for FREE HERE
  3. Training/game day warm-up
      • For the strength and sports coaches, this may seem obvious but it is a consideration that we must address. Athletes can cramp due to being undertrained, under-conditioned, or new to the sport. This happens with many young football players in fact. Coaches send me emails all the time with their JV or middle school programs with this concern. We must think beyond electrolytes and carbs to truly identify the source of cramping.
      • The condition of the athlete and their recovery from days trained that week or in previous events can play a role in cramping. Not to mention if the athlete is properly conditioned. Especially after the dog days of camp.

A tip we provide our athletes, coaches, and parents on preventing and treating cramps.

Science illustrates sodium can be absorbed and affect the body’s sodium concentration at a faster rate when spicy/bitter/vinegary smells and tastes are introduced. In fact, this tactic helps reduce the muscular impulse of over-excited contracted nerve impulses that lead to muscle cramping. This tactic can also aid in reducing the occurrence of muscle cramping and/or shorten the duration of the cramping episode according to a study carried out by Miller et al., 2010 published in Medicine and Science and Sports and Exercise.

The acid in the pickle juice, vinegar, and mustard does help alleviate cramps, the study concluded. A cramp induced by researchers lasted two minutes on average. Those cramps lasted 30 seconds shorter when test subjects drank pickle juice during the experiment. When subjects drank water, there was no change. The acid is what assisted with reducing the length of the cramps. Not the “salt”. This is critical for people to understand because there’s a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding in sports.

 

Cramps are a result of many factors. Dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, lack of carbohydrates, and a nervous system overt stimuli or misfiring. It is best to work with a sports dietitian to find ways to ensure your athletes are eating enough leading up to games, hydrating properly, getting sufficient sleep, and warming up properly with correct progression. You may not always be able to avoid cramping but you can certainly minimize it with these tips. Wendi’s health and performance slide deck contains hydration, fueling, and recovery graphics. Get a copy here

 

In good health, faith, and fitness

-Wendi A. Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN

The Nutrition with Wendi team 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. We partner with parents, athletes, health professionals, and individuals and offer elite nutrition and health guidance for optimal athletic performance, injury, and disease reduction.  We provide virtual services including telehealth but are based in Nashville, TN. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. Services booking here to consult with Wendi for a team talk or QA session.

 

Fueling the XC/Track and Field Student Athlete

 

Track & Field athletes compete in one or more events that consist of running, throwing, and jumping. Track and field competitors train for strength, speed, power, and endurance and require adequate nutrition and hydration to support the demands of the sport. In order to excel in the season of season nutrition, sleep, recovery, and overall habits are critical.

Track & field/ XC athletes require a high amount of calories, carbohydrates, and sufficient protein. The number of calories, carbs, protein, and fat will depend on the phase of training, along with the intensity, and whether the athlete is in season, pre-season, or in the off-season. The athlete’s performance plate is a simple place to start. Portions will vary based on the athlete’s goals and training phase respectively.

Carbohydrate requirements in the health and fitness industry are constantly being debated. Randomized control trial studies which are the gold standard for research support the notion endurance athletes require carbohydrates for optimal performance.

Regardless, the carb conundrum continues on leading to significant confusion amongst both young, college, and even masters athletes. I can’t tell you how many countless conversations I have had with fellow dietitians, practitioners, and sports scientists about this carbohydrate debacle. 

 

Several keto and carnivore physicians are making the water even more muddled with their banter on carb needs for competitive athletes and even young athletes without respect to context. I have written many blogs about fueling young athletes based on the position stand papers of both the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). Read here

 

 

 


  • The TheAcademy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Dietitians of Canada (DC), and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) published a joint position stand paper that recommends that moderate exercise (1 h/day (h/day) recommends 5–7 g per kilogram of body weight per day (g/kg/day) of CHO.
  • Whereas moderate to high-intensity exercise (1–3 h/day) requires 6–10 g/kg/day. 
  • Ultra-endurance athletes with extreme levels of commitment to daily activity (4–5 h of moderate to high-intensity exercise every day) may need up to 8–12 g/kg/day (2). 
  • The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends in order to maximize glycogen stores athletes should consume an 8–12 g/kg/day high CHO diet (1).

 


Over the years I have delivered presentations to high schools, clubs, and collegiate programs on how to properly eat and fuel for endurance and power.

Below is a table outlining the recommendations using common body weight for an athlete that we have received great feedback on Specifically from one of the NWW  partners, DOANE University Track and Field.

Why focus on nutrient quality?

👟Protein for muscle maintenance, growth & repair

👟Hydration and minerals for muscle contraction & cardiac function

👟Carbs + calories for power, speed, strength & endurance


Another common example of a 165 lb.👟 that is best to spread meals and snacks throughout the day but focus on eating within targets listed below:

👉375-525g carbs

👉120-150g protein

👉60-80g fat

Total kcal range: 2,500-3,500 kcal

 

 


Nutrient quality and why it matters

When deciding how to eat and fuel you must focus on nutrient quality. You should strive to balance as many high-quality protein sources as eggs, beef, chicken, fish, Greek yogurt, and beans to ensure you’re getting key nutrients you won’t attain from protein supplements. Many athletes often use protein powders and bars in place of real food and fail to understand that quality is more important than quantity. (click here for snack and meal ideas)

  • For example, Greek yogurt is going to offer you high-quality protein rich in leucine (the number one driver for muscle protein synthesis) along with other key nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and probiotics you won’t get from a protein powder or bar. (food first supplement second should always be your focus. 
  • Supplements are meant to supplement the gaps in our nutrition not replace actual meals. If you expect supplements to be a “meal” you are literally rearranging furniture on a sinking ship. -A quote I enjoy using for many topics like discussing pre-workouts and advocating for quality food choices.

Practical application:

That being said you can take a look at a simple fueling example for XC/TF athletes along with some recommendations on snacks. 

 

In good health, faith, and fitness

-Wendi A. Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN

The Nutrition with Wendi team 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. We partner with parents, athletes, health professionals, and individuals and offer elite nutrition and health guidance for optimal athletic performance, injury, and disease reduction.  We provide virtual services including telehealth but are based in Nashville, TN. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. Services booking here

 

 

 

Resources
1. Thomas D.T., Erdman K.A., Burke L.M. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. J. Acad. Nutr. Diet. 2016;116:501–528. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.12.006.
2 Vitale, K., & Getzin, A. (2019). Nutrition and Supplement Update for the Endurance Athlete: Review and Recommendations. Nutrients, 11(6), 1289. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061289
3.Kloby Nielsen, L. L., Tandrup Lambert, M. N., & Jeppesen, P. B. (2020). The Effect of Ingesting Carbohydrate and Proteins on Athletic Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients, 12(5), 1483. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051483

Creatine Monohydrate and Young Athletes

CREATINE MONOHYDRATE IS SAFE, EFFECTIVE, AND BENEFICIAL FOR TEEN ATHLETES. 

17-year-old, Jenkins comes strutting out of the weight room after he just crushed a workout living his strongest, healthiest, and injury-free life. While walking out of the weight room Jenkins is using Nutrition with Wendi’s recommended “25-50-30 rule” and is downing a shaker bottle with chocolate milk and creatine paired with a banana.  Jenkins is a smart kid and has focused on proper sleep, hydration, eating well, and managing his stress while training hard. *Be like Jenkins


Many make comments like, “You know creatine is a steroid and will make him/her big and bulky right?” WRONG!!  Click here to listen to my constant statement on creatine.

 

 

Ever heard this crazy misinformation before? Yes, me too. It has spread like wildfire.  It is even more gut-wrenching when it’s spread by doctors, trainers, health care professionals, influencers, or random people on the internet who know very little about science, sports performance, or even what creatine is. Insert facepalm. Good news! I am here to dispel those myths and provide the science to help combat the misinformation that is so toxic.

  • Creatine is one of the most effective ergogenic aids for adult athletes and is safe.
  • Creatine effectively increases lean mass, strength, power, speed, and exercise capacity (1).  
  • But what about youth athletes? I have had several high school coaches and concerned parents of youth athletes ask me questions like, “Is creatine safe for my kids? Should my female athletes be using creatine?” In almost every conversation, my first response is, “It depends.” Just like any other question I get, nutrition-, health-, fitness- or performance-related, it should be individualized.
  • Creatine, however, is beneficial to all populations according to the science outlined in this article. As a registered dietitian, I strongly promote a “food first” and back-to-basics philosophy. For more information on healthy eating and performance nutrition, see a previous blog here.
  • I empower anyone working with youth athletes to use the guidance in this article when considering “to supplement with creatine or not.”
  • CREATINE IS SAFE TO SUPPLEMENT AT ANY AGE GIVEN IT IS THIRD-PARTY TESTED!!  Yes, any age! Creatine and Infants – According to researchers, hypoxic ventilatory depression in mice and muscle fatigue in adult humans are improved by creatine supplementation (CS). No side effects were seen with creatine supplementation (equal to a 13.6-gram daily dose in a 150 lb person) (8).
  • I would still like for all to focus on food first but creatine won’t hurt you it would only help you! It’s amazing how people will feed their kids and themselves with junk food but creatine is off-limits because some doctor who doesn’t understand the mechanism of action said, “no it is a steroid?”.

    Blasphemy.. please read and digest all of this data and my points to understand that creatine is safe, effective, and beneficial at any age for any sport male or female! 

Creatine Monohydrate 101:

  • 95% of creatine is found in skeletal muscle
  • The human body needs 1-3 g per day
  • Most creatine in the diet comes from animal products like meat, fish, & poultry
  • Enhances post-exercise recovery, injury prevention, and/or spinal cord neuroprotection and muscle growth

What is creatine?

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

Creatine improves numerous factors including strength, power, sprint ability, muscular endurance, resistance to fatigue, muscle mass, recovery, cognition, and rate of muscle growth. Creatine is one of the most widely studied, proven performance enhancers available that also offers clinical benefits (4).


How does creatine work?

Creatine deposits high-energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine. This is given to adenosine diphosphate (ADP), regenerating it to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the sole energy carrier in the human body, which can be called “energy currency” for cells to carry out their functions. For example, during conditions of short-term, high-energy demand activities (<30 seconds) with limited recovery time, ATP runs out quickly, which illustrates the importance of creatine stored in muscles in the form of creatine phosphate. This is explained here

Since creatine phosphate restores ATP, it gives muscle cells the ability to produce greater energy. The greater creatine stores you have, the greater energy your muscle cells can yield during high-intensity exercise, thus leading to increased exercise performance. Even though the most well-documented and primary benefit is higher energy production, this mechanism also supports muscle gain and strength increases, as explained here.

Despite creatine being widely tested since the early 1900s with significant data supporting its effectiveness, it is widely misunderstood by many trainers, coaches, athletes, and concerned parents of high school athletes. Yes, it is 2021 and people still think creatine monohydrate is a steroid due to misinformation generated across social media and the general population (4).

Disregard the false, outlandish, disproven claims. I am referencing the silly fallacies like, “Creatine will make you fat,” “Creatine will cause liver, kidney, or bone injury,” “Creatine will dehydrate you,” or my personal favorite, “Creatine is a steroid that will also lead to baldness.” I know. What a bunch of nonsense. I addressed these fallacies in a previous blog, Creatine Not Just for Men or Muscle. Please go check it out if you are a female because creatine can help you improve your lean mass and lose that fat.

Antonio et al. published a phenomenal paper outlining the common questions and misconceptions regarding creatine use available for open access here (1). I highly recommend you read it and share it with anyone who may have creatine confusion disorder. I made that up, but you get my point. Creatine monohydrate is beneficial for many things beyond performance, which is not my opinion but sc!


Potential ergogenic benefits of creatine supplementation in adults (4):

  • Greater training tolerance
  • Increased sprint performance
  • Increased work performed during sets of maximal effort
  • Increased lean mass & strength adaptations during physical training
  • Enhanced glycogen synthesis
  • Increased work capacity
  • Enhanced recovery
  • Increased anaerobic threshold

If you’re interested in my opinion as a dietitian and performance practitioner working with several athletes I highly recommend creatine. Creatine is like the Swiss Army knife of supplements! It can do so many things!

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


What about side effects?

There is robust evidence to support the effectiveness of creatine in the adult population. Among children and adolescents, there is mounting evidence to support the therapeutic benefits of creatine supplementation as well as clinical and exercise performance. Available studies in the adolescent population involving high-intensity exercise training indicate performance benefits as well as no reported side effects (1,2).

In relation to performance, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has concluded that creatine monohydrate is the most effective ergogenic supplement available to athletes in terms of increasing high-intensity exercise and supporting lean body mass during training. The ISSN has also concluded CM is safe. (4).

Does creatine work in young athletes?

Regardless of the limited data on the teen population, creatine is likely safe, beneficial, and well-tolerated among youth athletes as evidenced by the available data (2). 

  • Creatine supplementation improved time performance and strength in highly competitive swimmers (2,3).
  • Youth soccer players experienced improved sprinting, vertical jump, dribbling, and shooting (6).
  • Creatine can support brain health, offering neuroprotective effects following a concussive injury in athletes < 16 years old (4).

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

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

 

 

Should my teen athletes be supplementing with creatine? As young as infancy..yes but 10-12 YO has been pretty standard for young athletes training at a high level. 

As always, food first, but creatine can be a safe and effective regimen for young athletes who meet the following criteria (1,5):

  • Consuming a well-balanced diet
  • Consuming a diet with a greater emphasis on plant proteins like soy and pea which do not provide creatine like animal proteins
  • Involved in high-intensity training, and competitive sports which include:
    • Track
    • Swimming
    • Lacrosse
    • Ice Hockey
    • American Football
    • Volleyball
    • Field Hockey
    • Basketball
    • Soccer
    • Tennis
    • Olympic Weightlifting
    • Rugby
    • Combat Sports (MMA, wrestling, boxing, etc.)

It is always best practice that athletes of any age fully educate themselves by consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified sports nutritionist, exercise physiologist, or sports-focused physician before the use of any supplement. Similarly, any products used should be NSF International Certified for Sport to reduce the risk of consuming any harmful or contaminated products. Supplements are regulated but not as heavily regulated as pharmaceuticals. Please see the reasons to use NSF Certified for Sport products in a previous blog.

“The USADA recommends that athletes use only dietary supplements that have been certified by a third-party program that tests for substances prohibited in sport. The USADA is responsible for anti-doping education and testing for athletes in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movements as well as the UFC.”

Therefore, all supplements used should be third-party tested for safety, purity, and compliance. For the sake of convenience and safety, you and your athlete can download the NSF Certified Sport app. 

I preach food first, nutrient periodization, quality rest, good sleep hygiene, hydration, and appropriate training, all of which can be better enhanced using creatine monohydrate (CM). Based on the strongest science and studies, CM is the recommended form. CM is used in the studies. Therefore, it should be used in practice as well. I discussed the other forms in my guest appearance on Muscles and Management.

When to use creatine?

Science suggests creatine is most effective immediately post-workout when paired with protein and carbohydrates (7). Creatine consumed immediately post-resistance training is superior to pre-workout in terms of body composition and strength (7). The recommended dose is 3-5 g of creatine per day. Creatine can be used at any time of day. Creatine is safe and effective on rest days from exercise as well as training days. (Click here to follow on Instagram)

  • While CM is best paired with a carbohydrate-rich source (like oatmeal, whole-grain bread, rice, fruit, smoothies, or yogurt) to draw it into muscle cells, it can also be added to water or other beverages.
  • A saturated cell is a happy cell! This supports recovery and muscle repair following resistance training. 

Most creatine supplements are in powder form and must be used in warm water to support the dissolving process. CM will dissolve slowly in cold water and often ends up in the bottom of a shaker bottle, which won’t do any good if it doesn’t make it into your mouth! Creapure is a great brand to use and offers more explanation on dosing. Check it out here! No, I do not have a partnership or any affiliation with Creapure. I just want to share that they make a great product.

My female youth soccer players have integrated CM post-training with their tart cherry juice and chocolate milk. I have taken time to discuss the safety, use, and benefits with my youth athlete’s parents, coaches, and even their PE teachers. I have 50% of my youth athletes supplementing with CM. CM is always a conversation we have after we wrap up their 6-week Nutrition with Wendi Coaching Program.

 

FREE CREATINE MONOHYDRATE PDFS


What about creatine gummies?

CURRENTLY, ZERO studies exist directly comparing traditional creatine monohydrate supplements to creatine gummies.

 
We do not yet know if gummies are just as effective in boosting muscle growth, strength, and athletic performance as other creatine supplements.
 
Some pros and cons if you CHOOSE to use gummies over traditional powder or capsules to consider. I am not telling you to do one over the other.
 
I am simply sharing what we currently know about gummies for those who are asking me. If asked I would direct you to my creatine monohydrate guide and information to make YOUR OWN INFORMED DESCION! 😉

Many gummies are not third-party tested since they are newly available to the industry. Hence my hesitation in recommending them. I stand with the science which is inconclusive on gummies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Are often more expensive than creatine powders and capsules.
  • Processing may lead to creatine being degraded. We are unsure until research is available.
  • Taste and convenience may be a factor to help be consistent with creatine supplementation.
  • Gummies often have additives.
  • Check the ingredients list…
  • No, I am not telling you to use this gummy.
  • I do not have a partnership or affiliation with Klean Supplements.
  • I am sharing this info to HELP consumers make the best and most informed decision.
  • I personally and professionally would STILL recommend the third-party tested powders and capsules until we have research available to illustrate the data and comparisons.

 

Download this FREE Creatine PDF GUIDE HERE


Do I need to load using creatine?

No, you do not need to “creatine load”. In fact, many studies use a typical creatine dose of 5-10 g daily or smaller doses like the standard 2-3 g.

  • However, if you desire to do a loading phase, it would look something like 20-25 g for 5-7 days followed by a maintenance phase of 5 g daily for 4 weeks, 2 weeks off, and then repeat. I do not have any of my athletes do this cycling as it is unnecessary. See the ISSN’s Position Stand for more on this (4).

Studies support the benefits of CM supplementation regardless of the dose. However, that does not mean more is better. If you are a vegetarian and new to using CM, you would benefit from saturating the muscles with CM, leading to an acute increase in strength and body weight via water retention. However, please refer to the experts and those I respect most in the field like Dr. Darren Candow, Dr. Tim N. Ziegenfuss, Dr. Scott Forbes, Dr. Jose Anotonio, Dr. Rich Krider, Dr. Eric Rawson, and others who can further provide the research they have been doing for the last few decades.

Please see another podcast in which I had the opportunity to speak about creatine in the youth population via the Big Time Strength podcast.

Closing thoughts

There is robust literature to support the beneficial effects creatine has on body composition, physical performance, injury prevention, recovery, brain health, and clinical use. Currently, there have not been any negative effects associated with the use of CM in both the adolescent or adult populations. Adolescent athletes under the age of 18, and even children as young as infants, can safely consume CM.

There is zero evidence to suggest CM supplementation would cause harm, dehydration, cramping, or any other outlandish claims that have been disproven by Antonio et al., 2021, and others. Not incorporating a CM supplement would be a disservice to your athletes or even yourself!

Key takeaways:

  • Anyone looking to improve their health of any age or activity level can safely consume 3-5 g of creatine monohydrate immediately post-workout paired with a carbohydrate. 
  • By supplementing with creatine monohydrate immediately following training, you’re able to support muscle growth and recovery, injury prevention, and overall health. 
  • Yes, creatine is safe to consume if you are a teen athlete. Yes, you should use creatine monohydrate.
  • No, creatine is not a steroid. No, creatine will not cause baldness. No, creatine will not dehydrate you. No, creatine will not cause cramps. No, creatine will not decrease your bone mineral density.
  • If you have a beating pulse, then creatine monohydrate is for you!

Sports physicians, athletic trainers, coaches, performance nutritionists, and others working with youth athletes should provide the best guidance to teen athletes based on the available science to support their principal interests. Kids are going to be using supplements like energy drinks and pre-workouts, which contain dangerous amounts of caffeine. I would rather we provide education on the safety and use of creatine, which is not dangerous but beneficial. I would like to see more people using creatine given the ergogenic benefits and no reported adverse effects. Creatine monohydrate is a safe, effective, and inexpensive way to support health and physical performance! Please don’t let, “Joe Public” from accounting or “Susie Quinn,” on Instagram OR THE doctor’s OFFICE tell you any different. 

In good faith, fitness, health, and athletic performance,

Coach Wendi

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD CISSN  is a registered dietitian nutritionist and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for high school and college athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury risk reduction. 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 and her team provide virtual services including sports nutrition presentations, 1:1 and group coaching for families and active adults.

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

References

  1. Antonio, J., Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C. et al. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 18, 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
  2. Grindstaff PD, Kreider R, Bishop R, Wilson M, Wood L, Alexander C, et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on repetitive sprint performance and body composition in competitive swimmers. Int J Sport Nutr. (1997) 7:330–46.
  3. Ostojic SM. Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Feb;14(1):95-103. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.1.95. PMID: 15129933.
  4. Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 18 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
  5. Jagim AR, Stecker RA, Harty PS, Erickson JL, Kerksick CM. Safety of creatine supplementation in active adolescents and youth: A Brief Review. Front Nutr. 2018;5:115. Published 2018 Nov 28. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00115
  6. Ostojic SM. Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Feb;14(1):95-103. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.1.95. PMID: 15129933
  7. Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 6;10:36. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-36. PMID: 23919405; PMCID: PMC3750511.
  8.  Bohnhorst B, Geuting T, Peter CS, Dordelmann M, Wilken B, Poets CF. Randomized, controlled trial of oral creatine supplementation (not effective) for apnea of prematurity. Pediatrics 2004;113 (4):e303-7.

 

Sports Nutrition Tips for High School and College Strength Coaches

“Johnny can’t gain weight. Susie is a picky eater and simply doesn’t like to eat meat or many proteins. My all-conference athlete eats everything in sight but can’t see to gain muscle and has frequent headaches. Tommy bonks out halfway through his match but always eats a large steak the night before his meet. Lydia is concerned about carbs leading to weight gain, so she completely avoids them and is exhausted going into her soccer games. Brad was told he’d have more energy if he would supplement with the special protein powders and keto drinks from a local woman who sells them in his neighborhood. Brad is frequently injured and has little energy entering fall camp.”  Some of these examples may seem extreme, or they may sound all too familiar. Truth be told they are all real situations.

My team and I work with several adolescent athletes, parents of young athletes, and collegiate strength coaches. All of whom I have had these very conversations with. Names are changed of course, out of respect to the athletes. Before you read any further, please check out my previous blog on Practical Nutrition Strategies for Youth Athletes if you haven’t already. It provides some great information to share with your young athletes. Most athletes have zero concept of how to eat every few hours let alone what to eat.

We take away the guesswork and educate you on what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it!

The objective of this article is to provide a framework for conversations, tips, and practical tools to support the health and overall athletic performance of the athletes you may work with. Additionally, to build confidence in talking about nutrition with your young athletes. Along with aspiring strength coaches, we need you, and the more versatile you are with knowledge and tools for your toolbox the greater success you will have in getting hired.

Proper nutrition for busy student-athletes

Proper nutrition is paramount for supporting growth, development, and maturation first.  Simply put, we eat for optimal growth, development, and maturation of our bones, tissues, and brain. Young children need to learn what foods provide nourishment. Not just energy, which is measured in the form of kilocalories. One calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1g of water by 1℃. It takes one kilocalorie of heat to raise one kilogram of water by 1℃. Food calories are kilocalories. If you’re interested in the history of the calorie in nutrition check out the explanation here, published in the American Society for Nutrition. So, what does that mean to me, as a coach? Well, let’s acknowledge nutrition is complicated right?


REGISTER FOR WENDI’S PERFORMANCE NUTRITION 101 WORKSHOP FOR COACHES, EDUCATORS, AND ANYONE WANTING TO LEARN MORE ABOUT FUELING YOUNG ATHLETES!

Wendi covers any of the following topics but is not limited to:
1️⃣Nutrition 101
2️⃣Hydration
3️⃣Nutrient timing
4️⃣Recovery nutrition
5️⃣Supplements

For clarity, you can consume candy that contains calories and vilified pop-tarts. However, you don’t get the same high nutrient composition from those “high-calorie, high-energy” foods as you would fruits, starch vegetables, whole-grain products, or even whole-fat dairy.

The point I am driving home here is teaching young adults about the valuable role those nutrients play in supporting their growth, development, and maturation. Vitamin D, calcium, and protein are found in the Greek whole-fat yogurt which is not the same as the pop-tart. I’m not anti-pop tarts but I am making a stance that each time we sit down to reach for food it is an opportunity to nourish our bodies, to eat for health. Now, fueling is the next priority. Fueling means applying additional calories, micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) along with macronutrients (fats, carbs, and protein) and fluids to optimize athletic performance, enhance recovery, and motor skills, decrease the risk of sports-related injury, increase muscle mass, gain a competitive edge and the list goes on. So again, we eat first and fuel second.

Most athletes won’t go on to play at the next level and if they do, that won’t last forever. We must teach the fundamentals of proper nutrition and facilitate a healthy relationship with food that can be carried into adulthood. I have partnered with some excellent strength coaches who understand the value of good nutritional habits early on. Many unique challenges surface when working with a young age group in comparison to collegiate and adult athletes. So, what are these unique challenges coaches face?


Young athletes require more calories, fluids, and nutrients.

Based on age alone, their body’s calorie needs are through the roof! I reference carbohydrate and protein needs for young athletes in a previous blog found here. For simplicity of coaches who have limited time with their athletes during workouts, you may just want to hand them resources out the door, refer them to a registered dietitian who specializes in sports, or post nutrition info-graphs on the walls in the weight room to help them. One key strategy is to ask them about the basics. The basics are what win games and support health on and off the field. So, what does it mean to return to the basics? We must show our athletes how to build a proper plate with a balance of all food groups including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high-quality protein, and a source of dairy a minimum of three times per day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and potentially another meal before practice (second chance for lunch) should all be built according to the plate.

A more aesthetically pleasing plate geared towards athletes is available to download. I reference this plate in every single nutrition presentation I deliver. The portions of the food groups on the plate will increase or decrease depending on performance, training intensity, energy needs, and body composition goals. Teen athletes have high energy needs, but throwing in being an athlete creates a larger demand for nutrients, fluids, and calories to support training adaptations. One of the largest mistakes young athletes make is not eating enough, not eating breakfast, not eating at the proper time, failing to have calories spread out throughout the day, inadequate consumption of fluids and simply failing to consume enough fruits and vegetables. If you’ll like to dive into the nuts and bolts of the Tanner Stages of Maturing and its Relationship to Sports published in the Journal of Translational Pediatrics please use the aforementioned links for your knowledge and understanding.

 

 

 


What is important to note is you can support your athletes by asking questions:

  • What “fuel” did you consume today?
  • You’re looking strong today! What great things did you eat before you walked in here today?
  • What did you have for breakfast?
  • What did you have for lunch?
  • What colorful fruits did you try today?
  • What veggies have you had today?
  • How many bottles of water have you had?
  • What great things are you doing at home in your meals?
  • Are you getting in a pre-lift snack?
  • What do you plan on eating once you get out of here?

Female athletes NEED to be reminded to eat MORE!

  • Many athletes may give you the “glazed-over deer in the headlights look”. Susie may say, “Coach, I am here to lift. Who cares what I ate for breakfast?” You can respond with “What you ate before you walked into this weight room has everything to do with your lift. Remember that day you were exhausted and had a bad workout? You didn’t each much at all that day.”
  • Athletes need you to hold them accountable and remind them their performance gains are supported by the activities spent outside the weight room. *No fuel = no energy! You can’t eat like a bird and compete like a beast!!!
  • Hydration practices, food source, quality, and quantities by which they are being consumed (breakfast, lunch, pre-post, and at dinner) is what support recovery, strength, speed, and overall desired performance adaptations.
  • Experts promote breakfast as the most important meal and there is existing literature to support the cognitive, behavioral, nutritional status, academic, and overall benefits associated with a quality breakfast. However, I argue all meals matter. There is no magic meal that will win games. It’s about consistently consuming quality meals and fluids in the days and hours leading up to the event.

 


Drawing attention to nutrition among high school athletes and coaches

Greater awareness of the valuable role nutrition plays is being brought to lifts, strength coach conferences, and several other gatherings. I must take a moment to give a special shoutout to NSCA Coach Doug Glee at Traverse City Central High School and the NHSSCA N. Michigan Director for inviting me to present on Nutrition and Fueling Optimal Performance at the 2020 NHSSCA Michigan State Clinic that was held on January 25th at Novi Catholic Central High School.

By empowering coaches to feel comfortable asking the right questions and providing basic encouragement to their athletes to eat and fuel we are pushing the needle forward and serving our athletes. If you’d like a copy of the presentation which covers the performance plate fundamentals, eating for weight gain, injury prevention, and optimizing performance please send me an email directly. If you’re a coach I encourage you to email me or contact me on a social platform and connect with me. I would love to meet you, learn about your work, and offer any support I can to you and your athletes.

 

 

 

 

BOOK WENDI TO SPEAK TO YOUR TEAM OR PARENT ORIENTATION MEETING

 


Unique challenges for high school athletes:

In a study published in 2015 investigating the sports nutrition knowledge of high school athletes, it was reported that 55.7% of participants reported eating breakfast daily, 36.6% reported eating one hour before training and games and 79.4% reported eating within one hour following training/games. Supplements, protein shakes, or meal-replacement beverages were used by 30.1% of the participants. Keep in mind the environment, socioeconomic status, and affluence of the participants in this study. Most of the athletes I have worked with across the world face financial limitations, constraints, and overall access to food to some capacity. This can create challenges for coaches in providing guidance.

  • Eggs, yogurt, milk, whole-grain rice, bread, bananas, chocolate milk, apples, frozen veggies, and even poultry can be quite cheap and budget-friendly for many. Many athletes often skip breakfast, skimp at lunch, fail to consume a snack, and feel fiery hot Cheetos or chips with a few bites of a sandwich and soda are enough lunch. We know this is not optimal or healthy. It fails to support eating and fueling goals, right? So, how do we encourage both eating and fueling for success?
  • Young athletes need to eat early, eat frequently, and if training multiple times per day need to double up on portions! Two plates or two breakfasts is the way!
  • I encourage you to go eat with your athletes at lunch, most strength coaches work at the school and teach. Set an example for your athletes. By eating what they are eating you are demonstrating you to believe the meals are healthy. Make sure you choose healthy snacks in front of them. Your student-athletes will follow suit in your choices. I have been in many schools and have seen what is served, it is so much better than when I was an adolescent.
  • Simply put, many athletes don’t eat enough. Athletes who are consistently in a calorie deficit experience several signs and symptoms which is something coaches should keep on their radar

 


Key signs and symptoms of inadequate energy intake include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Decline in performance
  • Absent or irregular menstrual cycles
  • Stress fractures or repeated bone injuries
  • Decreased muscle strength
  • Always being injured
  • Training hard but not improving performance
  • Undesired weight loss
  • Recurring infections and illness
  • Depression, disordered eating, and expressed concerns about specific foods
  • Inability to gain or build muscle or strength

For more information on low energy availability in athletes check out the Collegiate Professional Sports Dietetics Association (CPSDA) for some great fact sheets and credible information compiled by the Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) a dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For those interested in reading a more detailed review summarizing low energy availability check out a review article published in Sports Medicine.


Key tips to share with your athletes desiring to weight gain in the off-season or weight maintenance during the season

  • Increase protein & leucine (nutrient trigger for muscle anabolism) rich foods – (meat, fish, poultry, dairy & legumes) are spread evenly throughout the day, at meals AND snacks, not all at one time, to aid in the growth of new tissue. (30-40 g/protein/meal).
  • Eat frequently: Every 2-3 hours to help increase calorie intake.
  • Consistency is key – as with training, practice consistency with these tips Monday – Sunday. Much like recovery, it’s a full-time job.
  • Focus on food – aim to increase calories first with food and supplements as a secondary option.
  • Planning– outline meals and snacks for the week. Shop 1x/week
  • Eat a bedtime snack – include a source of protein (cereal + milk, smoothie, cheese + crackers). Consume dairy products like cottage cheese which are rich in casein and leucine before bed for optimal muscle growth and repair according to a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise

 


Below I have listed some high-quality nutrient snack ideas to support weight gain:

  • 1 medium apple + 3 Tbsp. PB (400 kcal)
  • 5 c. Pistachios, almonds, walnuts, seeds (400 kcal)
  • 2 Tbsp. PB + whole wheat bagel + honey = (500 kcal)
  • 5 c. granola + 5 oz. low-fat Greek yogurt = (350 kcal)
  • Cooked veggies in olive oil + ¼ c. avocado= ( 400 kcal)
  • 8 oz. whole milk + 0.5 c. oatmeal = (325 kcal)
  • 5 avocado = (150 kcal)
  • 4 Tbsp. hummus + 10 baby carrots = (220 kcal)
  • Plain whole grain bagel with 2 Tbsp. cream cheese= (400 kcal)
  • Grilled pita bread with ¼ c. hummus, sliced avocado, and tomatoes = (550 kcal)
  • Trail mix or fruit mix per ¼ cup= 100 kcal

Chew Nibble Sip (download here)Nutrient timing, exploring optimal meals pre-and post-workout

I advocate for meal timing of 4-2-1. Which I explain in the following. Eating a proper meal (3-4 hours) before an event according to the plate fuels the muscle, body, prevents hunger, and supports hydration levels to help decrease the risk of injury. The meal should be balanced, with more of a focus on protein, carbohydrates, and limited fat due to the length of time it takes to digest the food source.


Examples of meals to consume (4 hours) before an event include:

  • A glass of skim cow’s milk, 4 oz. of grilled chicken, grapes, whole grain wrap with spinach and tomato. Roughly 500 kcal
  • A glass of skim cow’s milk, 4 oz. of turkey, brown rice, roasted vegetables, and a banana. Roughly 500 kcal
  • A glass of fat-free chocolate milk, egg omelet, and whole-grain toast spread with 1 tbsp. avocado, a cup of fruit. Roughly 550 kcal

To maintain energy stores and support enough fuel for competition or practice consume a small meal containing minimal protein and some carbohydrate.


Examples of meals to consume (2 hours) before an event include:

  • 4 oz. of Greek yogurt and berries. Roughly 200 kcal
  • Hard-boiled egg and pear. Roughly 150 kcal
  • String cheese and strawberries. Roughly 150 kcal

Lastly, about one hour out from practice or event you should sip on fluids, provide a minimal amount of carbohydrates if still hungry limit protein and completely avoid fat. The goal is that you are already properly fueled. If breakfast, lunch, and proper snacks have been consumed this 1-hour out protocol should be fluids. If the athlete is still hungry 45-60 min before the event the window for opportunity to fuel has been missed.


Example of what to consume (1 hour) before the event.

  • Possibly sports drink
  • Honey or applesauce packet
  • Watermelon slices, bananas, or grapes (quick sugar that can be used as fuel with minimal digestion)

A combination of carbohydrates and protein is highly encouraged for pre-workout meals.

 


Recovery nutrition 101

Proper refueling and rehydrating are key after training, practice, or an event. Recovery nutrition can depend on the type of training, training volume, training intensity, the timing of the next training session, body weight, and overall energy intake. Given most high school athletes struggle to consume enough calories any nutrition post-exercise will be beneficial. Specifically, consuming (15-25 gm of protein) and (30-60 gm) of carbohydrates within 30-60 minutes can support recovery and training adaptations due to:

  • Enhancing heart rate, and blood pressure allows greater nutrient delivery to muscles.
  • Quicker glycogen (storage form of carbohydrate) replenishment and ultimate tissue repair.
  • The body initiates muscle anabolism which supports muscle growth and repair.

Recovery options:

  • 1.5 cup cottage cheese and 1 cup of berries
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt with berries
  • 8 oz. of low-fat chocolate milk paired with a banana

Chocolate milk is highly underrated among parents, coaches and health practitioners who are concerned about “too much sugar”. However, chocolate milk offers electrolytes, 8-g of high-quality protein but it replenishes glycogen stores and rehydrates just as well as Gatorade. Additionally, you’re getting 9 essential nutrients which include calcium and vitamin D that support bone health.  How does chocolate milk stack up to the commercial sports drink for both male and female high school athletes?

  • A field based study published in the JISSN study showed that in high school football players, chocolate milk has a greater impact on performance than regular sports beverages when high school athletes drink it for recovery. The athletes who consumed chocolate milk bench-pressed an average of 3.5% more than they could before – whereas those who drank the commercial sports beverage decreased in bench-press strength by about 3.2%. Net difference of 6.7 percent for those who drank CM vs commercial sports beverage.
  • Both groups showed improvement with squats, but chocolate milk drinkers showed more, lifting 15% more weight than before – whereas commercial sports beverage drinkers only lifted 8% more. nearly double the increase in strength for chocolate milk drinkers. Chocolate milk is an accessible, affordable, and delicious recovery option for adolescent athletes—and it may give them a strong edge due to the 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.

 


Encouraging a healthy relationship with food

When talking about nutrition we must practice inclusion vs. exclusion. For example, telling your student-athletes that bread is bad because it isn’t paleo isn’t optimal. Now, you may be smirking, but this is quite common. It is important to promote healthy behaviors and that certain foods may be more optimal than others we don’t demonize foods. When talking to your athletes ask about their food preferences. Acknowledge how they talk about food, body image, and overall relationship with food. Support your athletes who desire to use food and nutrition to enhance, sleep, healing, recovery, and protection from injury and illness.

Speaker before audience in auditoriumForward-thinking is adding sports dietitian services in the high school. I hypothesize in the next 5 to 10 years a sports dietitian will be added to the roster of high schools. I work with many young athletes and several of their parents see the benefit of nutritional services. I, have met with many athletic directors in the state of Michigan and run into challenges of funding and resources. However, I predict that more and more will learn the valuable role of having a sports dietitian on staff is. Not only to help support the health and well-being of the student but the long-term effects on health in creating healthy and sustainable habits. By having a sports dietitian to consult with students and student-athletes to support eating and fueling needs. It’s a great opportunity to review daily nutrition, listen to the guidance, and gain advice from a food and nutrition expert to prevent deficiencies and foster a healthy relationship with food. Sports dietitians can deliver team talks by meeting with teams to discuss fueling strategies to enhance their goals (pre-season, in-season, and off-season). Furthermore, a dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition can help support the four pillars of performance nutrition: Hydration, energy intake, nutrient timing, and recovery. Lastly, sports dietitians provide great resources on meal planning for coaches, administration, parents, and students.

“Nutrition is your athlete’s secret weapon to outcompete their competition. Nutrition can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good.”

– Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN

Gain more info on the NWW Sports Nutrition Partnership HERE.

Wendi Irlbeck is an international speaker and highly sought-after presenter at clinics and events to help athletes, parents, and coaches improve their athletes’ performance. Wendi takes the complex and translates it into simple terms that are easy to understand and follow.  Wendi and her team provide custom meal plans and nutrition coaching programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. We with parents, sports performance staff, special needs, and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance & lifestyle plans. Wendi is based in Nashville, TN.  Wendi is active on Twitter and other social media platforms as Nutrition_with_Wendi.

Eat More Protein to Lose Fat and Build Muscle!

What is protein?

  • Protein is primarily found in animal and dairy products.
  • Image result for protein"Protein enhances muscle mass, strength, endurance, muscle recovery, and power.
  • Decreases inflammation, and muscle protein breakdown.

First off, let’s talk about the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein. The current RDA is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The RDA is established as the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. Essentially, it’s the minimum amount you need to keep from avoiding sickness- not the specific amount you’re supposed to consume each day. For example,

  • For a 140-pound person, that means about 50 grams of protein each day.
  • For a 200-pound person, that means about 70 grams of protein each day.

Reasons to consume more high-quality protein daily

  • Muscle growth
  • Strengthens bones
  • Hormone regulation
  • Aids in quicker recovery
  • Supports lean mass gains
  • Suppresses appetite and promotes satiety
  • Prevents chronic ailments associated with aging
  • Protects the immune system against illness and injury
  • Aids in weight loss during times of energy restriction

Ultimately not only protein but our other daily habits play a role in muscle growth, muscle recovery, and improving overall body composition.

CHECK OUT THIS INFOGRAPHIC ON INCREASING PROTEIN VIA MEALS AND SNACKS!!

That being said, let’s talk about why you need more protein. As you can see in the bullet list provided protein is VERY IMPORTANT. As a registered dietitian nutritionist and fitness professional, I find the RDA to be quite confusing to the general public, athletes, and coaches. To be honest, even dietitians can’t seem to agree on what to recommend for protein to their clients, patients, and athletes. So if there is a misunderstanding among the food and nutrition experts there’s likely a misunderstanding across multiple populations. Especially young children, athletes, and the elderly are in greater need of more protein.

Is more protein better?

The Protein Summit reported in a special supplement to the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN)  that Americans may eat too little protein, not too much. In fact, eating more protein can help provide the whole “package”. That means that a byproduct of consuming more protein is you’re getting other great nutrients such as B vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, and healthy fats that offer the complete package. Naturally, when you consume more protein you will typically consume less low-quality foods like simple or refined carbohydrates that people typically turn to when they’re “hungry”. Sweets, cookies, white bread, and pastries won’t offer the healthy nutrition you’d get from a high-quality protein source.

Examples of high-quality protein sources

These are just a few of the high-quality protein sources out there. Most animal sources of protein such as meat, dairy, fish, and chicken offer all essential amino acids in proportion needed by the human body. While plant-based proteins such as vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains often lack one or more of the essential amino acids. That does not mean you should only consume animal products to attain your essential amino acids because you can utilize soybeans and quinoa which contain all nine essential amino acids needed. Click here for a complete list available if you’re interested in plant-based proteins. Here is a sample plant-based menu to check out as well!

DOWNLOAD HIGH PROTEIN SAMPLE MEAL PLAN FOR HS ATHLETES HERE

Athletes and protein needs

Even athletes have higher needs. Provided the remodeling process of muscle proteins there is a much higher turnover rate as a result of higher training volumes. Specifically, in track and field athletes it would be wise to consume roughly 1.6 grams per kilogram of body mass each day if their goal is to increase muscle and prevent muscle breakdown. A good target protein intake should be between 1.6 and 2.4 grams per kilogram of body mass per day as cited in recent findings in a consensus statement on Sports Nutrition for Track and Field Athletes. A summary of the review can be accessed here .

The International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand on protein and exercise can also be accessed here which provides an objective and critical review related to the protein intake for healthy and fitness-oriented individuals. For building muscle mass and maintaining muscle mass, an overall protein intake of 1.4-2.0 g/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) is enough. However, there is evidence to support (3.0 g/kg/d) support positive effects on body composition in strength-trained athletes to promote lean mass gains. It is optimal to spread out protein intake between 20-40 g/meal throughout the day.

 

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I strive to consume (2.0 g/kg/d) to support my health and performance goals based on the available science.

  • Especially if you’re trying to increase lean mass and strength gains. Higher protein will not make you fat, it will help support a healthy body and make you feel more satisfied!
  • It’s hard to get fat by eating more protein
  • Protein helps you feel fuller for longer periods of time especially during times of kcal restriction. Higher protein is linked with a lower BF % and lean muscle mass (Helms et al., 204).

 

Older adults and protein

Older adults are fighting off an accelerated loss of muscle mass and function that is associated with aging, referred to as sarcopenia. For every decade after 40 years old, you lose 8% of muscle mass and it increases to 15% after 70 years of age. Older adults should strive to consume 1.5 to 2.0 grams of high-quality protein per kg of body weight per day according to an article by the Center of Aging. Up to one-third of older adults don’t eat enough due to reduced appetite, impaired taste, swallowing difficulties, and dental issues. During the aging process, the body is less efficient and struggles to maintain muscle mass and strength along with bone health and optimal physiological function which warrants a greater need for protein.

Your health and fitness coach,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN

For our signature coaching packages click here!