The Road to Better Health and Fitness is a Journey, Not a Destination.

Spoiler alert, this is a long blog with personal experience, science and encouragement! So, get comfortable and grab a snack and beverage and soak up some great content.  As I sit down to write this article, I reflect on the last decade I have spent studying human nutrition, metabolism, exercise, fitness, physiology, wellness, and psychology. Science has been the basis of how I conduct my work with clients in establishing their nutritional recommendations as well as exercise protocols. I have always been fascinated with the way the human mind and body functions. Investigating and understanding what drives people’s desires.  I refer to my client’s goals as their “emotional nugget”. We all have a desirable nugget that we are connected to emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. However, many struggles to identify what their “emotional nugget” is and how to attain it. This is where I use my expertise by partnering closely with my adolescent athletes, general consumers, and fitness enthusiasts on setting smart goals. If you do not measure it, you cannot improve it.

S.M.A.R.T stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. It is the basis for my coaching. Upon setting S.M.A.R.T. goals we can be more specific and identify a reasonable timeline to achieving the goal. For many, that may be not feeling like they have access to weights to improve their fitness levels. However, as we know there are many workouts that can be done to improve fitness without weights! General walking, stretching and elevating your heart rate can help improve your fitness! Please contact me for workouts without weights because it can be done! Another layer I discuss when coaching my clients is previous successes and failures, commitment to achieving the goal and the timeline in which you envision it. If you have not set a SMART goal before, please reach out and we can set one together! Furthermore, identifying successful strategies to overcoming the barriers. Many of us, get in our own way. We tell ourselves “No”, “I can’t”, “that’s too hard”, “I failed before”, “what if I fail again” and the list goes on. That type of talk and negativity is destructive. We want to focus on positive self-talk and constructive dialogue with ourselves.

For example, to my moms of 4, married and working a full career, you ladies are straight up AWESOME. Reproducing, running a household, working, being a wife and taking care of tiny humans is a lot of work. If you could reflect on all the truly “hard” things you have done in life you could utilize that as motivation and momentum to achieve your health and fitness goals. God has provisioned us all with the innate ability to achieve greatness and “health”. But health looks different for each person. A part of Nutrition with Wendi’s foundation is built on empowering people to create habits supporting optimal health, wellness, athletic performance and longevity in the context of their lifestyle.

Again, that looks differently for each person, for some it may be any of the following:

  • Wake up feeling energized and not needing to consume caffeine
  • Being able to pick up their kids or miscellaneous items around the house without pain
  • Living a disease-free life
  • Knowing how much to eat and when to eat it
  • Being able to strength train 3-4 times per week
  • Lose fat and build muscle
  • Reduce joint pain, headaches, fatigue
  • Improve digestion
  • Eat more protein
  • Improve self-confidence
  • Run a PR 5K, 10K, Marathon
  • Improved relationship with food
  • Be able to run 1 mile without stopping

The are all real goals I have enjoyed supporting my clients to achieving and maintaining! If you’re interested in scheduling a consult to work on your personal health and fitness goals please click here .

Getting back to the point here. As time passes, science and data are cool, but it is the behavioral change and motivational interviewing that are the true keys to unlocking people’s success. Just because something is proven and works in the lab does not automatically transfer to the field. My athletes understand this better than anyone. We use the science and data to guide our nutritional needs but ultimately create a plan that works for them as an individual athlete. Cookie cutter programs or “rigid” diets serve no one. Nutrition can be confusing, and the amount of misinformation available online can make a person’s head spin, even as an RDN. You can find a magnitude of research to support one way of eating vs another. Ultimately, we know that you must facilitate a calorie deficit to see a decline on the scale. Now, let us be clear weight loss vs fat loss are not the same. For example, a person could dehydrate themselves and cut carbohydrates for a few days. Anyone who understands metabolism and physiology knows carbohydrates draw water into the cell, so by temporarily cutting carbohydrates you may see a “decline”, but it does not mean it is true fat loss. Again, not to get tangential but that is a real thing. Please email me or reach out if you would like to learn more.

Success is a result of many previous actions, which effort, diligence consistent work has been put fourth to facilitate a change. Success does not happen overnight. Successfully losing fat, building muscle, making money, paying off debt, mending relationships, building a relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I would like to personally share my story. I have always been passionate about exercise, nutrition, and overall fitness. I used the pain I experienced as a child and turned it into power. I used to run laps around our home to “feel good” when my family was enduring challenges. Now to be clear, I have the world’s greatest father, family and just like anyone else we all went through things, faced hardship, and experienced loss. What I would like to note is, that when things were challenging with my parents’ divorce, I would go play outside, run laps around the house or on our gravel roads (ask my uncle), rock pick, sports or anything outdoors. My siblings and I had several chores we had to complete which I am beyond grateful for. I learned at a young age that you must earn everything. The world does not owe you anything and that anything worth having is worth working hard for.  Life can be tough, unfair and can knock you down. However, with hard work, sweat and a drive to succeed you can overcome great adversity and enjoy success. My family values were built on hard work, which is why I love the challenges within fitness, nutrition, and health. Hard work like rock picking was one of the best things I could have ever done as a child. I always joked with my city friends about how much I enjoyed the labor of picking rocks. I was grateful for the paycheck, sunshine, exercise and feeling of accomplishment after a hard day of manual labor.

My mindset is focused on my “gains” not my “losses”. That is the difference when you want to be successful. You focus on the positives, and not the negatives. I have experienced many times of self-doubt, like failing my registered dietitian exam. Yes, I failed it four times. Not once, not twice, not three times but four times. I passed on the fifth attempt. I suffered performance anxiety, and this was incredibly hard for me. My ultimate dream had always been to be a registered dietitian and performance nutritionist that desired to operate her own practice. I felt my confidence shrink with each attempt on the exam. For those that are unfamiliar the RD exam is incredibly challenging as it is broad in the questions. It covers topics from research, management, education, clinical care, human resources, marketing, quality improvement, sustainability, safety and sanitation, menu planning, procurement, production, and distribution. You could be asked a question on glycolysis and energy production , parental nutrition and tube feeding requirements , full time employee calculations for labor, then “how many inches of aisle space should be in a kitchen with so many people, or the size of the clearance of heavy equipment from a wall.” None the less it is a tough exam and I felt like a failure with each attempt I would miss by one point. During this time was fortunate enough to be a guest on a podcast called, Inner Fire Podcast with Jimmy Lee in California in November 2018. If you have not checked Jimmy out, I encourage you to do so. Great human with an incredibly positive platform. I recall talking about it with him then and saying, “It is not a no, just a not yet.” That is a true statement for all things. My dad taught me early on “we don’t quit”.

I kept getting back in the arena and taking the hits till I passed. I am not a quitter and I am grateful for the failures that were learning experiences. I used the pain and embarrassment of failing as power to accelerate me forward. Most people boast they never fail anything and are less willing to share their shortcomings. I think this is a disservice to many out there. It is so uplifting to hear the journey of many successful figures in our world. Acknowledging failures, growth and that success is not overnight. Failing something as important as my RDN exam made me appreciate it so much more.

It has been my childhood dream to be a registered dietitian nutritionist and help athletes, moms, women and men of any goal to simply be better! If I had passed on the first time, I do not think I would have appreciated earning my RDN credentials as much. Believe me, it was a difficult year of growth for me and I often stressed ate and did not take super care of myself. Which is why I am grateful to have that in my past and understanding the importance of taking care of my body, which is my temple. I was also distant in my relationship with Jesus during this time. By failing this exam, I had to truly trust Him and His plan for me. Jeremiah 29:11 was something I read daily and recited to myself and my journal for meditative practice for 360 days straight.

I highly recommend Dr. Brené Brown, researcher and story teller to anyone looking to be more vulnerable.  I read her book “Daring Greatly and Rising Strong which helped me understand the power of being vulnerable and sharing your vulnerabilities with the world. Me sharing my journey is a way to show you that I have failed too, and that if I can overcome challenges so can you. Successful people understand that failure, struggle, and loss will come but you must stay positive and keep moving forward. It is truly a journey, and not an overnight solution that you can purchase off amazon prime. You may laugh but is true, I cannot tell you how many people come to me desiring to override decades of poor nutritional choices, inactivity, poor sleep, and unhealthy habits in a weekend. Yes folks, we start on a Friday and Monday rolls around and they say, “Wendi this isn’t working, I have not lost any weight.” My response, patience is a virtue. We live in a society in which we are often overly entitled, everyone wants everything instantly, with limited cost, at convenience NOW. The fact of the matter is it takes time and it takes what it takes which is a lot of work, patience, and trust in the process. I talk more about this on a podcast interview with Austin Witt available here .

My recent physique transformation explained

I have been an athlete my whole life, I ran cross country and played softball in high school. I loved nutrition and exercise; it was a fun way to focus on the “good” during rough times. Exercise always made me feel good, at the time I had no idea it was because of all the endorphins. Thanks science! I truly used to think running and endless hours of cardio was the best way to lose fat. I even used to think too much resistance training could make me “thick” and of course in my younger days fearing too much protein and meat. From 2010-2018 I train

ed and ate that way. I even competed in a physique competition in 2014 in which I placed 5th place with a skinny body and no muscle. Press on from 2014-2018 I was “healthy” by eating a variety of foods but too many carbohydrates, too little protein and inadequate fruits and vegetables. I felt tired, uncertain and unaware of what I could do differently as someone studying nutrition and a fitness professional. Until 2019, I finally decided that I would follow the science but also find a way to meet my goals to gain strength, improve my lean mass and simply be healthier. I created myself a plan and committed 100 percent into making a lifestyle I felt proud and happy to live. I always want to be a health and fitness professional that walks the walk and talks the talk.I am so grateful to share this experience with you all.

I have been where you have been, frustrated, confused and discouraged. Being healthy and transforming takes time. It took me ten years and I know the journey continues. I transformed for me, not anyone else. Since December of 2019 (see Instagram post) I have been focusing on my strength training, eating more high-quality protein. The current RDA for protein is 0.8 g/kg/day. I consume roughly 2.5 g/kg/day of protein. The benefits of a higher protein diet are becoming quite robust for fighting off sarcopenia (age related muscle loss), beneficial effects on body composition and overall health. Higher protein diets have been shown to be beneficial for health and body composition according to a crossover trial in resistance trained men published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN) . For more information on higher protein diets check out another publication via the JISSN’s position stand on protein and exercise.  Lastly, a 2015 publication studying a high protein diet of 3.4g/kg/d combined with a heavy resistance training program improved body composition in healthy trained men and women via the JISSN.

With the great science to support the positive effects of higher protein I set a goal to consume (2.0-3.0 g/kg/d) to support my goals. A byproduct of eating higher protein (3x the RDA) helped me experience greater satiety and lead to me ramping up my fruit and veggie game.  I have never been a frequent user of alcohol, but I have not had even a glass of wine since August 2019. Alcohol and discretionary calories can add up quickly and when you limit them a byproduct is you consumer greater fruits, veggies, and lean proteins! Context is key, I am not an adolescent athlete and I do not participate in endurance sports, so I am not instructing my young athletes or masters athletes to eat higher protein. More carbohydrates are needed when you are a young athlete as well as endurance athlete. Furthermore, I consistently started using 5/g/day of creatine monohydrate. That is a whole different topic but I have previously published a blog, “Creatine, Not Just for Men or Muscle”. Creatine is not a steroid and it helps us better recycle ATP supporting health, recovery from injuries, traumatic brain injuries, athletic performance, cognition, bone mineral density and muscle mass. I love science and we have significant research to support the use of creatine beyond sports performance. Go read about it in the JISSN’s position stand paper on creatine in exercise, sport and medicine.

In addition to creatine, if you’re interested in learning more on sports nutrition I encourage you to check out one of my guest appearances on Fitness Disrupted with Tom Holland fitness on fueling young athletes. I have also authored previous blogs discussing carbohydrate and protein needs for young athletes , practical nutritional strategies for youth athletes  , practical nutrition tips for the high school strength coach , and sample fueling day found here and on my website www.nutritionwithwendi.com . Furthermore, I have authored other sports nutrition articles that discuss on the science for optimal athletic performance that have been published on Stack and Simplifaster.

 

So, keeping context in mind here, the benefits of higher protein for body composition, decreased fat mass, better satiety during times of caloric restriction and fighting off sarcopenia is the context I am speaking about. We lose an average of 3%-5% of our lean mass after the age of 30. Men will lose up to 30% of their lean mass during their lifetime. It is possible to rebuild and maintain muscle mass with resistance training and greater protein intake. Statistics published in the Muscles, Ligaments and Tendons Journal .

I am pleased with my physique but the mental clarity and general energy I experience is far more important than any abs or muscles. I sleep well, feel consistent energy during the day, have grown my faith, more muscle mass so better bone health and less disease. I eat unlimited amounts of fruits and vegetables and feel more confident and empowered in my work with others. I genuinely want to inspire anyone to be healthy, fit and to just simply trust the process. It took me roughly a decade to achieve where I am at today, and it has not been easy.

I have failed, I have taken steps back, I have learned, I have restarted but I never quit.  Ultimately, creating sustainability within your health and fitness requires the mindset of “this is a lifestyle”. More people need to acknowledge eating nutrient dense foods in appropriate portions, quality sleep, meditation along with daily exercise should be a way of life. A life that should be lived in a way that will support my long-term goals. Another fun part of improving my fitness was being able to do true chin-ups and pull-ups. I will not forget the moment at the gym back in May of 2019 when I could not even do one pull-up. I thought, wow that is pathetic. So, I began doing pull-ups and chin-ups every single day until I could do 3, 5, then eventually now 12 at a time. My chin-up and pull-up goals required patience, discipline, and daily focus. The time is going to pass anyway so you might as well execute. You will regret it if you do not.

Many people will discourage you from wanting to be healthy and some may even succumb to “fit shaming”. Yes, fit shaming in which people will comment on your weight loss pictures where you express how great you are feeling, the changes you have made in your diet, exercise, and sleep. They may even direct questions like “why are you losing weight?” or “you look too thin, you looked better with more fat”. These comments are unfortunate and often those that make them are jealous that you are making healthier changes that they may struggle with. It is not acceptable to ask an overweight or obese person “why are you obese or overweight?” So, it should not be acceptable to directly ask someone why they are lean or to call them skinny. None of these comments are kind. Both men and women struggle with insecurities and loving their body can be one of them. Many women in particular , including myself at some point have felt as though we are held to a certain standard of “how we should look” even feelings of being under a microscope of society telling us to have ____insert physique. “Don’t get too lean, don’t get too fat, don’t get bulky, maybe you should do just cardio…sound familiar? Meanwhile, men are encouraged by their physiques and muscle gains, “hey bro nice work on your biceps and dropping the fat!” How often do women get compliments on dropping fat and gaining lean mass? Often there is a critique of “you’re too skinny, where are you curves?” The list goes on. I will say this, I am incredibly proud of the physique I have earned, and I feel the best I have ever felt. I do not eat for health and train for anyone else but myself. I love feeling strong, healthy, and energized! I want to spread positive vibes and help all my clients succeed.

Should you ever feel discouraged, smile, dust off and keep believing in yourself. No one is going to do it for you but there are people available to help you! I am sharing my progress photos with you to hopefully inspire you that if I can, you can! Many will also discourage you along the way, but you must remember to live your own life and that if people are discouraging you from living a healthier lifestyle to be a better parent, spouse, professional or just to simply be “better” they are not your people. Furthermore, we must stop comparing ourselves to others. God created us all as individuals with talents, skills, unique identifiers that make us individuals. I empower you to want to “look like your best self” vs “I want to look like that man or woman.” Our bodies are a temple that we must honor and respect. To say you want to look like someone else is to say you do not love God’s creation. God created you and I am happy to help you be the best you that you can be to grow God’s kingdom. Therefore, I also have a special place in my heart for adolescent athletes. The habits developed and fostered at a young age are carried out into adulthood. What we eat and how we talk to ourselves influences who we are as people and how we treat others. If you feel well rested, healthy, energized and generally “feeling well” you are less likely to be impatient, short and can enjoy life more!

My key pointers for fostering health, fitness, disease prevention and longevity:

  • Eat the rainbow
  • Sleep 7-9 hours
  • Manage your stress
  • Get up and walk often
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Check in with yourself regularly
  • Eat a meal within 60-min of waking
  • Fruits and vegetables at every meal
  • Take after walk dinners with your family
  • Drink water, limit sugar sweetened beverages
  • Consume whole-grain breads, wraps, rice, bagels, and oats
  • Eat more high-quality proteins with appropriate portions (see portions here)
  • Resistance training 3-4 times per week to support lean mass and fight off sarcopenia

I really hope you found value in this blog and that it may inspire you to continue with healthy habits or consider making some changes. Investing in your health, fitness, career, family, personal interests is one of the best things you could do for yourself. If you want to live your best life start each day with a grateful mind, heart, and desire to be kind. Remember that you will work on your health, fitness and nutrition for the decades to come. Each day we have a new opportunity to take care of ourselves and fuel for success. Keeping in mind that there is no finish line, and this journey is more important than the destination. Should you have a bad day where you eat off your desired plan or fail to exercise that you give yourself some grace. When you are stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire you don’t slash the other three tires do you? No, that would be silly, you would have to spend more money and time repairing all four instead of just the one. Focus on one meal at a time, one exercise session at a time, one action at a time and keep positive. Anytime something negative pops into your mind replace it with a positive thought. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. So be mindful of when you slip up, just get back up and keep moving forward with your journey.

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.

COVID-19 and Obesity-A Link Too Dangerous To Ignore

Obesity and overweight

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.
  • Granola, oats, yogurt and fruit with coffeeFruits 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.

Nutrition 101

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.

Overindulge on Thanksgiving? Damage Control Tips for the Weekend After

A delicious left-over pumpkin pie taunts you from the kitchen counter alongside the heaps of leftovers in the fridge, saying, “eat me!” Or those sugar cookies and assorted desserts your guests conveniently forgot to take home? Eh, what’s one more going to do? The weekend after Thanksgiving can be toughest for many hoping to maintain their weight and health goals. Holiday weight gain is quite common for many adults. So, you’re feeling guilty from too much pie and turkey. The best thing you can do now is let the past exist in the past. Say “goodbye” to the guilt, shame or any negative feelings you may have because you have a new day in front of you and an opportunity to take control moving forward.

Many of my clients have expressed that “it’s inevitable to gain weight and I might as well just start over on January 1st.” While I honor those, who desire to start off a new year with health as a priority, this is not the best mentality for life-long health. As a registered dietitian and trainer who has been where you currently are, I encourage you to work smarter, not harder. Let me throw out an analogy for you – if you sign up for a 5k, which is roughly 3.10 miles, would you start your race 2 miles before the starting line, expecting the same time and competition as if you started at the starting line with the other runners? Raise your hand if you want to work harder and put yourself at a disadvantage? I wouldn’t put my hand up either, so what I am getting at here is if you know you want to lose weight or improve your lifestyle, start the process now.

Let’s begin by being mindful of our health and fitness goals by minimizing the empty calories and overindulgence that takes place between today and January 1st. Would you not feel better if you started today and not January first like everyone else? The truth is you don’t have to start two miles behind the starting line and then end up running a 7k when you’re only training for a 5k. Let’s CHOOSE to make it easier for ourselves, limiting the shame and guilt, because holiday weight gain is not inevitable! I believe in you – you should too – and I promise you can do this!

Here are 5 tips to help you focus on gaining more memories this holiday season than lbs.:

  1. Repeat after me, “resume normal eating immediately”

The worst thing you can do today is continue with the oversized portions of foods that you don’t normally consume. Get back on track with your normal intake of balanced meals containing a lean protein, fruit, vegetable and healthy fat. It’s important not to consume meals that are both high in fat and high in carbohydrates to offset blood sugar levels. You likely consumed an overabundance of carbohydrates on Thanksgiving so it may be wise to CHOOSE to limit carbs and even calories in these immediate days after to re-stabilize your hormones. Don’t make the mistake of skipping meals now to try and off-set the over-eating you did on Thanksgiving. Unless you practice intermittent fasting in your normal routine, you shouldn’t skip meals. Skipping meals can lead to feeling overly hungry later, which will make matters worse.

  1. Get active with family & friends

Sitting on the couch watching Netflix may be your family’s holiday tradition. However, inactivity contributes to weight gain, especially during times of overeating. Make a new tradition with your family spending time moving with your loved ones! Races are popular this time of year – go sign up as a family and gain memories! If you can’t run, walking can be just as beneficial. Movement is movement! Look at gym memberships that are likely currently available at a lower to no joining fee cost!

  1. Drink up!
    • I’m not talking about the eggnog. Although it’s delicious, it won’t help you with your health and fitness goals. I am talking about water. It is so important to increase your water intake during the holidays due to the different foods you’ve been consuming which can disrupt regular digestion. Your gut and waistline will thank you for greaterImage result for water glass" water intake after eating new foods.
    • Water consumption is also a great way to curb cravings and stay hydrated. Often when we are “hungry” or have a craving it is because we are thirsty and dehydrated. Be sure to drink 20 oz. of water every couple of hours throughout the day to stay hydrated and ward off unnecessary snacking. Research exists indicating increased hydration can be associated with weight loss.
    • According to the study, higher protein and water intake is associated with weight loss. If you’re having difficulty losing weight and finding yourself overly hungry all the time, you may want to reevaluate your water intake. Drinking water before meals can help you feel fuller and can also assist with digestion during meals.
  2. Control portions
    • Controlling portions supports getting back into a routine of normal eating. Keep in mind the portions you may or may not have learned –
      • A portion of protein is the size of your palm which is roughly equivalent to 3 oz.
      • A serving of veggies is 1 cup and fruits is 0.5 cup
      • A fat is approximately 1 Tbsp. nuts and seeds should be limited to a serving of 0.5 oz.
      • Should you choose to include a carbohydrate, a serving is 1 slice of bread, 0.5 cup of pasta or 1 cup of a whole grain.
    • In instances of weight loss and management it may be more helpful to increase protein, fruits and vegetables. I recommend working with a dietitian to ensure you’re hitting appropriate portions and getting adequate nutrition.
  3. Focus on quality sleep and managing stress levels
    • Sleep deprivation during the holidays is quite common and can further lead to poor nutrition and physical activity habits. Those that tend to sleep less tend to be hungrier and a result can over consume calories leading to an increase on the scale. Additionally, less hours slept is also associated with a disruption in the circadian rhythm, which is our biological clock controlling many important physiological functions. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. This will also help prevent your risk of getting sick and missing out on the true enjoyment of the holiday festivities.

These five simple tips will enable you to focus on progress through the holiday season! Should you over-eat or have something outside of your “plan,” tell yourself “it’s okay,” dust the cookie crumbs off and keep moving forward. “When a child learns to walk and falls down 50 times, the child never thinks to himself maybe this isn’t for me.” Always get back up and keep moving!

Your health and fitness coach,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN

Evidence You Should Consume More Protein from a Dietitian Who Lifts!

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, 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 eat 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 immune system against illness and injury
  • Aids in weight loss during times of energy restriction

 

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 for 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 breads 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 few of the high-quality protein sources out there. Most animal sources of protein such a

s 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 interest in plant-based proteins.

 

Athletes and protein needs

Even athletes have higher needs. Provided the remodeling process of muscle proteins there is a much higher turn over 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 pre

vent 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) to 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. I encourage all of my clients and athletes to consume more protein. 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!

Older adults and protein

Older adults are fighting off 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.

Protein summary

Eat more high-quality protein. It won’t make you fat, harm your kidneys or bones. It will support lean tissue gains and help you recover overall while fighting age related muscle loss. Especially if you’re a female athlete, aging adult, male, or in general human with a beating pulse. That’s a joke, but really If you have questions about eating more protein or how to implement higher-quality sources into your diet email me and let’s have a conversation!

Your health and fitness coach,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN

Tips for Staying on “Track” this Holiday Season!

The holidays are a time for cheer, indulging and celebration with family and friends at parties. So, how do you enjoy the delicious treats but still stay on track with your goals? As a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist, I have some strategies that will help you stay lean and healthy to keep you on track with your health and performance goals during the holiday season!

Repeat after me, it is not about being perfect but maintaining accountability. Set an intention before you attend a holiday party or event. Hold yourself accountable by sharing your intent of “health” or eating “well” with your family and friends at the party. By setting an intent beforehand you are less likely to indulge in food or drink that make you feel less than your best! Another great way to stay on track is to avoid skipping meals to save calories. This is a common mistake made by many that if they save all their calories for the party, they won’t overindulge. It would be wise to consume a balanced snack with lean protein and healthy fat like string cheese, hummus and pepper slices. Check out this awesome recipe for a tasty , lighter and smoother version of hummus using Greek yogurt! Another factor to keep in mind is pairing quality protein and fat to help reduce cravings for sugar and overly processed carbs.

Let’s talk about alcohol, which is a real challenge for most around the holidays. Alcohol lowers your ability to make good decisions and can lead to regret in the days following. Most alcoholic beverages are loaded with sugar and empty calories. If your goals are to maintain good health, energy and optimize your workouts it may be wise to limit or avoid alcohol. Request a sparkling or fruit infused water at the party. Your waistline, scale and next 5k time will thank you for that! In addition to re-thinking your drink, it would be wise to eat mindfully. Mindfulness means expressing gratitude with each bite of food. After all it is a time of cheer, spirit and gratitude during the holiday season! Before the meal, take some deep breaths and as you eat, breathe through your nose, chewing every bite slowly by focusing on the flavors, colors, and smells. Then after, assess your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 and determine how much more food you need to consume to be satisfied.

Another great way to stay on track and even enhance your relationships with others is to focus on the people, not the food. Focus on the conversation with the people at the table instead of what’s on your plate. You will learn quite quickly how much the person appreciates your attentiveness and eye contact with them, over pushing around the pie on your plate next to the carrot slices. Make a point to plan a fun activity after the meal, a group walk, board games, and offer the host assistance with the cleanup. Again, not only will the host appreciate this, but this decreases the risk of you reaching for another dessert or overeating, plus you’ll burn more calories than sitting in a chair!

Staying on track often means playing some mad defense. Yes, I said defense. Food pushers are at every gathering, function and we all know them, and you may even be one. Keep in mind to be polite when being pushed to indulge. Many of us can identify certain relatives as food pushers, they may ask you to have another slice of pie or try the turkey shaped cookies on the counter next to the mimosas, when really you don’t want to over do it. You kindly and respectfully decline but they again proceed to say, “have one, come on you work so hard and are always so strict, just one won’t hurt you.” Remember to stay your course. It can be challenging to say “no”, but this is oh-so important when the average weight gain during the holidays is around 6-8 pounds!

When trying to resist the urge to overindulge or play defense against the food pushers keep these tips in mind:

-Load up on high quality protein (chicken, beef, eggs, cheese, yogurt)
-Pick your favorite dessert, only eat one serving of it.
-Practice mindful eating and focus on how hungry you are.
-Load up on veggies if you feel the urge to snack and limit dips and dressings that can be high calorie

Maintain consistent workouts. Be sure to participate in a good long run or some aerobic exercise to offset some of the inflammation and higher calorie foods that are not your usual diet. Encourage your friends & family to join you!
Lastly, if you get off track you can always get back on the right one to lead you to your destination. Let me be straight with you, as runners and fitness enthusiasts you can often get off course during a run. If you do, do you just lay there in the forest or the trail to die? Of course not! You get back up and find yRunner outside on snowy dayour course back to your end destination. Our diet is the same, if you get off course you can always get back on track the next day to reach your destination! The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and celebrated with loved ones and it is okay to try new foods and to sample delicious treats. Just be mindful of your goals and incorporate the strategies in this blog for success!

Your health and fitness coach,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN