Let’s walk through a way of eating that is not restrictive, stressful, or judgemental but rather curious and satisfying. The pendulum swing from extreme dieting to overeating can be difficult. You will find yourself tired of Yo-Yo dieting where you lose some weight just to gain back even more. Are you battling cravings and feeling a lack of willpower. Gentle nutrition approaches cravings in a non-judgmental way. Instead of saying “I shouldn’t have eaten that”; Get curious and ask yourself, “Why am I craving this food?”, “Is there something I could have added earlier in my day?”. Nutrition Coaches can help guide you through the process of understanding “why”.
Gentle Nutrition is a concept of Intuitive Eating which embodies foods that satisfy what your body wants and nutritional knowledge. It empowers people to listen to their internal authority. Let’s walk through how you start.
Reject Diet Culture
Diet Culture is everywhere and is a multiple billion-dollar industry. Ever notice how diets continue to evolve into something new? Maybe diet culture evolves because it does not work. Diet culture is rooted in the belief that appearance and body shape are more important than physical, psychological, and general well-being. Nutrition Coaches can help distinguish what is fact versus myth about nutrition.
Honor your Hunger
Hunger is a body mechanism to signal the brain to start looking for food. Cravings can signify that you are deficient in a certain nutrient. An example might be craving meat when low in iron. Cravings can be physical or psychological; working with a Health Coach can help identify what your cravings are signifying.
Practice eating when you are hungry and learn early signs of satiety. Fullness can take 15 minutes to hit, especially if you eat fast. Tips for feeling fullness: Take a sip of water between bites. Chew thoroughly. Taste all of the flavors. If you think you are full, wait 15 minutes and reevaluate if you are still hungry. Grab additional food, if fullness is not met.
Make Peace with Food
Remember there are no forbidden foods and every food has a place in our diet. Some foods are great for fuel, others provide emotional satisfaction, and some foods satisfy cravings. Food is nourishment and can be there for celebrations and memories. Having forbidden foods is an “all or nothing” way of thinking, meaning once you have forbidden foods you are more likely to feel ravish toward that food item.
Challenge the Food Police
Food is nourishment and can bring satisfaction. There are no “good” or “bad” foods. Rigid rules can result in increased stress and anxiety causing other complicated issues. There is a difference between rules that heighten anxiety and general guidelines that can be flexible.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Having the same simple nutrition food can be helpful with meal planning but as time goes on even your favorite foods get old. Discover new foods to satisfy your taste buds. Find foods that help you feel nourished and satisfied.
Respect your Fullness
Snacks can be a beautiful way to bridge the gap between meals. Learn how to listen to hunger cues to improve your quality of each day. If extreme hunger or extreme fullness negatively impacts your day; then a Health Coach can help identify early signs of hunger and meal preparation to stay in the sweet spot of hunger and fulness optimizing concentration and performance. Respect your fulness by putting away the leftovers once full; knowing if hunger kicks in that the leftovers are in the refrigerator waiting for you.
Cope with your Emotions with Kindness
We all have experienced snacking while not even hungry. Family gatherings, late-night snack runs, movies on the couch; Cravings can be psychological and that’s okay. Working with a Coach can help identify why the cravings their and alternative paths you can take. Sometimes a food craving can only be satisfied with food. A coach can help build your self-care toolbox giving you many options when the coping tool is needed.
Respect your Body
It is tough to not overthink how our bodies look despite the majority of the day we aren’t even looking at ourselves. A health coach will help bring importance to: How do you feel? Do you have the energy to do the things your love? Practice gratitude for what your body can do daily; rather than focus on what it looks like. Challenging your thoughts can empower you to change your negative feelings about yourself. Negative thinking has become normalized in society partially related to diet culture. Work with a coach to identify and practice reframing these negative thoughts.
Movement – Feel the Difference
Movement can be fun, nourishing, mood-lifting, and more. Compulsive movement is very inflexible, rigid, and only focused on changing your body. When movement gets too rigid you will find yourself “all or nothing” when it comes to movement. Sometimes it is great to simplify movement. For example, when you get off from a sedentary job and want to work out without going to the gym. A 10-minute youtube video may be all that you need. Sometimes the movement is the transition you need to leave work at work and become present at home with your family.
Honor your Health with Gentle Nutrition
Gentle nutrition is where satisfying your taste buds pairs with sustainably nourishing your body. Gentle nutrition is connecting the foods you eat to how you feel; It is understanding how medication impacts your hunger. Gentle nutrition will look different for everyone – talk with your health coach to see how gentle nutrition looks for you.
The day of the half-marathon you signed up for has you thinking, what should I eat on race day?
Great question! However, it’s actually more important to be mindful of what you’re eating and drinking in the days leading up to race day.
What you eat the morning of race day should be practiced in advance. My clients and athletes learn through our coaching sessions that the meals and snacks consumed leading up to the event have a greater influence on performance than the meal on the day of.
You can’t expect to race at your best on the morning fuel along. You’ll have to plan ahead with balanced meals using my plate method. For additional ideas, check out my meal and snack guidance which also explains my “4-2-1” method. In the days leading up to your race prioritize plenty of lean protein and complex carbohydrates to provide you with the fuel you need.
Oatmeal with yogurt, whole-grain muffin, and peanut butter with banana slices
Roasted sweet potato with lean ground turkey in a whole grain wrap with hummus and raspberries
Whole-grain crackers with carrot sticks, and hummus
Whole-grain rice bowl with grilled shrimp or 3 oz of salmon tossed in roasted broccoli with diced avocado and fresh fruit
Make sure you’re hydrating properly as well. Consume at least 16 oz of water every three to four hours for 48 to 72 hours prior to your race.
NO NEW FOODS ON RACE DAY! PRACTICE FOODS BEFOREHAND ! 😊
What to eat and when to eat on the morning of my race?
Two hours before your race consume carbohydrates paired with a little protein. You want to limit fat and fiber because of the digestion time required for fat and the distress from fiber that could occur during your run.
You don’t want to eat too much for breakfast. Ideally, it would be better to eat a little bit more for dinner and an evening snack of maybe a power cup muffin the night before. Most feel so excited for race day it is hard to eat anything. But you need feel.
Something is always better than nothing. Even if its just some toast, berries, honey packet, or tart cherry juice you need some carbohydrates before you take off! Studies at the University of Memphis Exercise and Sports Nutrition Laboratory confirm that honey is one of the most effective forms of carbohydrate to eat just before exercise.Honey performs similar to commerical energy gels because of the glucose in gels.
GOOD LUCK and don’t forget to have fun! See the full post on Instagram
What are the benefits of partnering with us to help you with your performance or recovery?
” I highly recommend Wendi! I was at a transitionary period with training & was not fueling or recovering properly. Wendi’s advice on eating more protein + kcal has helped my performance &energy levels. Her guidance is credible and so helpful. Thanks, Wendi!”
**You can support Sammie’s mission to improve mental health awareness by donating or sharing her message with others. More information found here.
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. She is a former cross country runner, college softball player, figure competitor, and avid weight-lifter who still enjoys a good race from time to time. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Nashville, TN.
“How can I/my kid gain weight? We have tried everything and can’t seem to get anywhere.” I get this question and concern daily from coaches and parents. Weight gain is really hard when athletes are young calorie-burning machines!
As always my objective is to provide people with simple and practical tips to achieve their goals!
Here is your, “How to Gain Weight Tip List”
Test don’t guess! Start tracking what you’re eating to know how many calories you’re actually eating each day. Too often teen and college athletes are under-eating without knowing it. What is measured is well-managed. Download a free app to help with tracking calories, protein, fats, and carbs. You can’t gain weight if you’re not eating enough calories consistently to attain a calorie surplus. If you’re unwilling to track calories I recommend the plate method for weight gain. See our weight-gain performance plate here.
The mistake many make when trying to gain weight is not understanding fundamental portion sizes. Weight gain means half your plate comes from CHO and during weight loss, it would be 1/4 the plate (smaller portion = less kcal).
Eat breakfast consistently. Nutrients missed at breakfast are often not made up later in the day. Toast, eggs, and peanut butter paired with whole-fat chocolate milk are a low-cost, high-calorie, and quality option. Try Greek yogurt parfaits with oats, nut butter, and fruit. Avocado egg toast is also super easy and high-calorie. For more ideas check out my Grab and Go Breakfast Ideas
Eat snacks every 2 hours that are high in calories. Set alarms on phones or create email reminders to snack every few hours. (Weight gain requires eating in a calorie surplus so EAT UP!)
Double up on protein servings when dining out (double meat)
Add beef jerky, string cheese, nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocado, butter, olive oil, cheese, and whole-fat sour cream/Greek yogurt when you’re able for more calories!
Sometimes eating a lot of calories can be challenging especially around training. I recommend smoothies. You can consume half in the morning and a half in the evening or afternoon as tolerated. Smoothies are a great liquid vehicle for calories! (oatmeal, peanut butter, whole-fat Greek yogurt, and whole-fat cow’s milk). See my Chunky Monkey Smoothie Recipe here
Recovery nutrition is key for muscle repair and growth. Prioritize a recovery snack or meal immediately post-training. Be sure to include both complex carbohydrates and protein.
Vary your protein throughout the day and be sure to power up with protein as part of your recovery snack to achieve a positive protein balance, promoting muscle growth and recovery. See my backpack portable options here!
“But Wendi, what about nutrient timing?” Great point, please see my 4-2-1 guidance here. Too much fat or too much solid food in the stomach around training can blunt performance.
I emphasize a food-first approach but supplements help supplement the gaps in our nutrition. Supplements like creatine, whey protein, vitamin D, and casein can be helpful for athletes’ muscle recovery, lean mass maintenance, and muscle gain when properly used. Should youth athletes use creatine? Find out what the research says in my blog.
Include a bedtime snack !! Research has effectively demonstrated that consuming casein protein (found in milk and
dairy products) prior to sleep can increase muscle
protein synthesis and facilitate better recovery.
Aim for consuming 4,000-6,000 kcal per day if you’re an HS athlete and likely 6,000 + kcal for collegiate athletes. For individual recommendations contact me and let’s create a custom fueling plan that supports weight gain goals.
I have worked with both HS and college athletes for > 5 years now. I spent time at the University of Florida as a sports nutrition intern in 2015 working with football, men’s and women’s track, swim, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, and tennis. I also worked as a performance nutrition assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Stout during my graduate studies. I educated football, gymnastics, hockey, soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball on proper fueling from 2014 to 2016. Both of these experiences were volunteer and I sought them out because I knew I wanted to help athletes as a future dietitian. These opportunities helped me understand what it takes to fuel an elite athlete with a small budget!
Sleep for more gains..yes sleep impacts our ability to recover and synthesize muscle! Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Many young athletes also skip breakfast and snacks so it’s more of a willingness than an ability problem with weight gain. If your young athlete won’t listen to you don’t worry you’re not alone! But they tend to listen to me, a former college athlete and total stranger :). I provide meal plans, and performance nutrition guidance for picky eaters and those with food allergies/intolerances. (see my student-athlete nutrition coaching package)
Practice how you want to perform….(Learn through graphics)
When I played sports in high school and college my coaches would always say, “you perform as you practice.” There’s a lot of wisdom with that! I ran cross country in high school but also played softball. I actually went on to play college softball and wish I would have known then what I know now.
Fueling competition day!
Experiment with your eating schedule on a practice day so you can identify the best strategy to give you energy and peak performance! This is applicable to coaches, parents, athletes of all ages! What we eat directly affects how we perform. Use my “4-2-1” eating schedule with some of these meal ideas to try out for your own fueling plan WITH PICTURES!!
Choose a small amount of protein + fruit before and after rehab sessions.
Do not stop eating for fear of putting on weight. Consume plenty of protein and produce at meals and snacks to ensure you are getting in enough calories to promote healing and recovery. (WORK WITH A RD to manage your kcal intake).
Prioritize protein that is rich in leucine, low-fat Greek yogurt, fish, poultry, beef, steak, eggs, and low-fat dairy/full-fat dairy.
Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and swelling while speeding up recovery.
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Nashville, TN. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website.
A few weeks ago I went into Target and took several images of foods I would personally recommend to my student-athletes and active adult clients. If you recall I posted a thread of a few photos from the grocery shopping trip on Twitter. These are great options for anyone looking to improve their health with limited time and little to no cooking skills.
Protein smoothie bag (Prepare the night beforehand frozen berries, spinach, chia seeds, whey protein powder and place in zip lock baggie) Pour into blender with milk and add Greek Yogurt the morning of and blend!
Microwave egg-omelet in a glass bowl with spinach, kale, bell peppers + banana, and low-fat milk.
Fully loaded with sour cream, cheese blend, chives, topped 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese. Pair with a slice of Ezekiel toast topped with avocado, and microwavable egg. Here is an example Recipe
Grilled chicken salad
2 oz of pre-grilled chicken added to a bed of spinach + romaine + ½ cup black beans/chickpea mix + mixed cheese blend, 1 sliced hardboiled egg, 1 tbsp. sunflower seeds with a dressing of choice. Highly recommend Bolthouse Farms Greek yogurt as a healthy dressing.
Riced veggie tacos
Frozen bag of riced veggies cooked in the microwave that can be topped with edamame, salsa, in a whole-grain tortilla, shredded pre-made pulled pork, cheddar cheese blend with avocado slices.
Snack pairings (snacks should contain protein and carb) for athletes and for less active days a protein + a plant/healthy fat).
Whole meals first supplement second. Supplements are meant to satisfy small gaps in nutrition and to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Good nutritional habits must be established first. For additional guidance to ensure your athletes are meeting their protein and carbohydrate needs check out this article. No supplement can replace whole foods. See pantry staple ideas for athletes here!
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and performance coach. She utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment here.
What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more here.
Testimonials of Wendi’s expertise from colleges, coaches, parents, young athletes, and high school administrators can be found at the testimonial link on her website. You can also follow Wendi on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information.
Refuel: Post-training, carbohydrates are needed to restore glycogen paired with protein to repair muscle damage that occurred during training. The goal of refueling is to promote both muscle repair and muscle protein synthesis.
Refilling your glycogen stores as an athlete should be a priority, especially when completing back-to-back training sessions.
Why prioritize refueling?
By immediately consuming a high-quality protein paired with a carbohydrate post-training you can enhance muscle gain, muscle growth, reduce time to recovery between back-to-back training sessions, increase overall performance, and decrease the risk of injuries, as well as fighting off on-set fatigue. Are you refueling a two-a-day? Build a plate that supports both training and recovery demands!
A post-training meal is key to support recovery and training.Consume 25-40 grams of protein paired with 50-100 grams of carbohydrates within 30 minutes of activity for reducing muscle breakdown and supporting training adaptations. More information on recovery nutrition here.
Soft reminder with regard to protein intake: WE USE WHAT WE NEED according to the ISSN Position Stand on Protein and Exercise . We use what we need. This means for many athletes can benefit from consuming closer to the 40g post-training due to limited protein intake at other meals or the quality of the protein. But at the least follow my “25-50-30 rule”
Creatine is one of the most widely investigated supplements with proven ergogenic benefits along with recovery from intense training. Creatine paired with a carbohydrate immediately post-resistance training is superior to pre-workout in terms of body composition and strength. Creatine is insulin-mediated so it requires a carbohydrate. Use creatine in your chocolate milk, Greek yogurt parfait, or pair with a protein banana shake. For guidance on supplementing with creatine monohydrate see my previous blog here.
8 oz. of tart cherry juice following exercise can help reduce inflammation, muscle soreness and can even aid in reducing upper respiratory tract symptoms all of which contribute to minimizing the risk of injury, according to a study published in theJournal of theInternational Society of Sports Nutrition.
Low-fat chocolate milk has also been proven an effective refueling choice offering electrolytes, carbohydrates, 8 grams of high-quality protein, and the scientifically proven 3:1 ratio for recovery.
Wishing you blessings of health, wellness, and optimal performance,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website.
What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more here. Testimonials of Wendi’s expertise from colleges, coaches, parents, young athletes, and high school administrators can be found at the testimonial link on her website. You can also follow Wendi on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information. Service
17-year-old, Jenkins comes strutting out of the weight room after he just crushed a workout living his strongest, healthiest, and injury-free life. While walking out of the weight room Jenkins is using Nutrition with Wendi’s recommended “25-50-30 rule” and is downing a shaker bottle with chocolate milk and creatine paired with a banana. Jenkins is a smart kid and has focused on proper sleep, hydration, eating well, and managing his stress while training hard. But of course, many make comments like, “You know that powder he is mixing in there is steroids right? One of my parent’s friends said his coach has been encouraging the use of anabolic steroids for years!” YIKES RIGHT??
Ever heard this crazy misinformation before? Yes, me too. It has spread like wildfire. It is even more gut-wrenching when it’s spread by doctors, trainers, health care professionals, influencers, or random people on the internet that know very little about science, sports performance, or even what creatine is. Insert facepalm. Good news! I am here to dispel those myths and provide the science to help combat the misinformation that is so toxic.
Creatine is one of the most effective ergogenic aids for adult athletes and is safe. Creatine effectively increases lean mass, strength, power, speed, and exercise capacity (1). But what about youth athletes? I have had several high school coaches and concerned parents of youth athletes ask me questions like, “Is creatine safe for my kids? Should my female athletes be using creatine?” In almost every conversation, my first response is, “It depends.” Just like any other question I get, nutrition-, health-, fitness- or performance-related, it should be individualized. Creatine, however, is beneficial to all populations according to the science outlined in this article. As a registered dietitian, I strongly promote a “food first” and back-to-basics philosophy. For more information on healthy eating and performance nutrition, see a previous blog here. I empower anyone working with youth athletes to use the guidance in this article when considering “to supplement with creatine or not.”
Creatine Monohydrate 101:
95% of creatine is found in skeletal muscle
The human body needs 1-3 g per day
Most creatine in the diet comes from animal products like meat, fish, & poultry
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound formed by three amino acids, making it a tripeptide (tri- meaning three) of the amino acids L-glycine, L-arginine, and L-methionine. Creatine is assembled in a two-step process that occurs in the kidneys and liver.
Creatine improves numerous factors including strength, power, sprint ability, muscular endurance, resistance to fatigue, muscle mass, recovery, cognition, and rate of muscle growth. Creatine is one of the most widely studied, proven performance enhancers available that also offers clinical benefits (4).
How does creatine work?
Creatine deposits high-energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine. This is given to adenosine diphosphate (ADP), regenerating it to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the sole energy carrier in the human body, which can be called “energy currency” for cells to carry out their functions. For example, during conditions of short-term, high-energy demand activities (<30 seconds) with limited recovery time, ATP runs out quickly, which illustrates the importance of creatine stored in muscles in the form of creatine phosphate. This is explained here.
Since creatine phosphate restores ATP, it gives muscle cells the ability to produce greater energy. The greater creatine stores you have, the greater energy your muscle cells can yield during high-intensity exercise, thus leading to increased exercise performance. Even though the most well-documented and primary benefit is higher energy production, this mechanism also supports muscle gain and strength increases, as explained here.
Despite creatine being widely tested since the early 1900s with significant data supporting its effectiveness, it is widely misunderstood by many trainers, coaches, athletes, and concerned parents of high school athletes. Yes, it is 2021 and people still think creatine monohydrate is a steroid due to misinformation generated across social media and the general population (4).
Disregard the false, outlandish, disproven claims. I am referencing the silly fallacies like, “creatine will make you fat,” “creatine will cause liver, kidney, or bone injury,” “creatine will dehydrate you,” or my personal favorite, “creatine is a steroid that will also lead to baldness.” I know. What a bunch of nonsense. I addressed these fallacies in a previous blog, Creatine Not Just for Men or Muscle. Please go check it out if you are a female because creatine can help you improve your lean mass and lose that fat.
Antonio et al. published a phenomenal paper outlining the common questions and misconceptions regarding creatine use available for open access here (1). I highly recommend you read it and share it with anyone who may have creatine confusion disorder. I made that up, but you get my point. Creatine monohydrate is beneficial for many things beyond performance, which is not my opinion but sc!
Potential ergogenic benefits of creatine supplementation in adults (4):
Greater training tolerance
Increased sprint performance
Increased work performed during sets of maximal effort
Increased lean mass & strength adaptations during physical training
Enhanced glycogen synthesis
Increased work capacity
Increased anaerobic threshold
If you’re interested in my opinion as a dietitian and performance practitioner working with several athletes I highly recommend creatine. Creatine is like the Swiss Army knife of supplements! It can do so many things!
There is robust evidence to support the effectiveness of creatine in the adult population. Among children and adolescents, there is mounting evidence to support the therapeutic benefits of creatine supplementation as well as clinical and exercise performance. Available studies in the adolescent population involving high-intensity exercise training indicate performance benefits as well as no reported side effects (1,2).
In relation to performance, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has concluded that creatine monohydrate is the most effective ergogenic supplement available to athletes in terms of increasing high-intensity exercise and supporting lean body mass during training. The ISSN has also concluded CM is safe. (4).
Does creatine work in young athletes?
Regardless of the limited data on the teen population, creatine is likely safe, beneficial, and well-tolerated among youth athletes as evidenced by the available data (2).
Creatine supplementation improved time performance and strength in highly competitive swimmers (2,3).
Should my teen athletes be supplementing with creatine?
As always, food first, but creatine can be a safe and effective regimen for young athletes who meet the following criteria (1,5):
Consuming a well-balanced diet
Consuming a diet with a greater emphasis on plant proteins like soy and pea which do not provide creatine like animal proteins
Involved in high-intensity training, and competitive sports which include:
Combat Sports (MMA, wrestling, boxing, etc.)
It is always best practice that athletes of any age fully educate themselves by consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified sports nutritionist, exercise physiologist, or sports-focused physician before the use of any supplement. Similarly, any products used should be NSF International Certified for Sport to reduce the risk of consuming any harmful or contaminated products. Supplements are regulated but not as heavily regulated as pharmaceuticals. Please see the reasons to use NSF Certified for Sport products in a previous blog.
“The USADA recommends that athletes use only dietary supplements that have been certified by a third-party program that tests for substances prohibited in sport. The USADA is responsible for anti-doping education and testing for athletes in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movements as well as the UFC.”
Therefore, all supplements used should be third-party tested for safety, purity, and compliance. For the sake of convenience and safety, you and your athlete can download the NSF Certified Sport app.
I preach food first, nutrient periodization, quality rest, good sleep hygiene, hydration, and appropriate training, all of which can be better enhanced using creatine monohydrate (CM). Based on the strongest science and studies, CM is the recommended form. CM is used in the studies. Therefore, it should be used in practice as well. I discussed the other forms in my guest appearance on Muscles and Management.
When to use creatine?
The science suggests creatine is most effective immediately post-workout when paired with protein and carbohydrate (7). Creatine consumed immediately post-resistance training is superior to pre-workout in terms of body composition and strength (7). The recommended dose is 3-5 g of creatine per day. Creatine can be used at any time of day. Creatine is safe and effective on rest days from exercise as well as training days. (Click here to follow on Instagram)
While CM is best paired with a carbohydrate-rich source (like oatmeal, whole-grain bread, rice, fruit, smoothies, or yogurt) to draw it into muscle cells, it can also be added to water or other beverages. A saturated cell is a happy cell! This supports recovery and muscle repair following resistance training.
Most creatine supplements are in powder form and must be used in warm water to support the dissolving process. CM will dissolve slowly in cold water and often ends up in the bottom of a shaker bottle, which won’t do any good if it doesn’t make it into your mouth! Creapure is a great brand to use and offers more explanation on dosing. Check it out here! No, I do not have a partnership or any affiliation with Creapure. I just want to share that they make a great product.
My female youth soccer players have integrated CM post-training with their tart cherry juice and chocolate milk. I have taken time to discuss the safety, use, and benefits with my youth athlete’s parents, coaches, and even their PE teachers. I have 50% of my youth athletes supplementing with CM. CM is always a conversation we have after we wrap up their 6-week Nutrition with Wendi Coaching Program.
Do I need to load?
No, you do not need to “creatine load”. In fact, many studies use a typical creatine dose of 5-10 g daily or smaller doses like the standard 2-3 g. However, if you desire to do a loading phase, it would look something like 20-25 g for 5-7 days followed by a maintenance phase of 5 g daily for 4 weeks, 2 weeks off, and then repeat. I do not have any of my athletes do this cycling as it is unnecessary. See the ISSN’s Position Stand for more on this (4).
Studies support the benefits of CM supplementation regardless of the dose. However, that does not mean more is better. If you are a vegetarian and new to using CM, you would benefit from saturating the muscles with CM, leading to an acute increase in strength and body weight via water retention. However, please refer to the experts and those I respect most in the field like Dr. Darren Candow, Dr. Tim N. Ziegenfuss, Dr. Scott Forbes, Dr. Jose Anotonio, Dr. Rich Krider, Dr. Eric Rawson, and others who can further provide the research they have been doing for the last few decades.
Please see another podcast in which I had the opportunity to speak about creatine in the youth population via the Big Time Strength podcast.
There is robust literature to support the beneficial effects creatine has on body composition, physical performance, injury prevention, recovery, brain health, and clinical use. Currently, there have not been any negative effects associated with the use of CM in both the adolescent and adult populations. Adolescent athletes under the age of 18, and even children as young as infants, can safely consume CM. There is zero evidence to suggest CM supplementation would cause harm, dehydration, cramping, or any other outlandish claims that have been disproven by Antonio et al., 2021, and others. Not incorporating a CM supplement would be a disservice to your athletes or even yourself!
Anyone looking to improve their health of any age or activity level can safely consume 3-5 g of creatine monohydrate immediately post-workout paired with a carbohydrate.
By supplementing with creatine monohydrate immediately following training, you’re able to support muscle growth and recovery, injury prevention, and overall health.
Yes, creatine is safe to consume if you are a teen athlete. Yes, you should use creatine monohydrate.
No, creatine is not a steroid. No, creatine will not cause baldness. No, creatine will not dehydrate you. No, creatine will not cause cramps. No, creatine will not decrease your bone mineral density.
If you have a beating pulse, then creatine monohydrate is for you!
Sports physicians, athletic trainers, coaches, performance nutritionists, and others working with youth athletes should provide the best guidance to teen athletes based on the available science to support their principal interests. Kids are going to be using supplements like energy drinks and pre-workouts, which contain dangerous amounts of caffeine. I would rather we provide education on the safety and use of creatine, which is not dangerous but beneficial. I would like to see more people using creatine given the ergogenic benefits and no reported adverse effects. Creatine monohydrate is a safe, effective, and inexpensive way to support health and physical performance! Please don’t let, “Joe Public” from accounting or “Susie Quinn,” on Instagram tell you any different.
In good health health, and physical performance,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD CISSN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Nashville, TN. Wendi works with clients of all levels internationally.
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!
Antonio, J., Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C. et al. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 18, 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
Grindstaff PD, Kreider R, Bishop R, Wilson M, Wood L, Alexander C, et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on repetitive sprint performance and body composition in competitive swimmers. Int J Sport Nutr. (1997) 7:330–46.
Ostojic SM. Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Feb;14(1):95-103. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.1.95. PMID: 15129933.
Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 18 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
Jagim AR, Stecker RA, Harty PS, Erickson JL, Kerksick CM. Safety of creatine supplementation in active adolescents and youth: A Brief Review. Front Nutr. 2018;5:115. Published 2018 Nov 28. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00115
Ostojic SM. Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Feb;14(1):95-103. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.1.95. PMID: 15129933
Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 6;10:36. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-36. PMID: 23919405; PMCID: PMC3750511.
Back to the basics! There is no magic meal or diet that will “win games”. If you want to be a better athlete listen up. Consume 3-4 high-quality meals with 2 to 3 snacks in between to support health and optimal performance. Discourage from trying new foods on game day or more intense training days when training duration and load are greater. A post-training meal is a key to supporting recovery and training. Simplify the science and empower your athletes to follow my, “25-50-30 rule”.
In addition to two to three snacks for better focus academically, mentally, and physically. Not skipping meals and fueling up can help increase performance, strength, and performance adaptations, and decrease the risk of injuries, and on-set fatigue. More on building a high-performance plate can be assessed here.
Nutrient timing 101 Nutrient timing can Consume 25 grams of protein paired with 50 grams of carbohydrates within 30 minutes of activity for reducing muscle breakdown and supporting training adaptations. More information on recovery nutrition here.
Don’t skip breakfast
Nutrients and calories missed at breakfast by teens are unlikely to be made up for later in the day. Grab-and-go options; hard boiled-egg and fruit, string cheese, banana, Greek yogurt parfait, whole-grain oats, berries, or a whole-grain turkey bagel sandwich. More breakfast ideas to share with young athletes can be foundhere.
A second breakfast can satisfy energy needs during high-volume and intense training phases or for weight gain. For example, incorporating chocolate milk, peanut butter sandwich, nuts, and seeds with string cheese can help increase calories and nutrition. For additional guidance on fueling your athletes check out this article on practical tips to fueling young athletes as a strength coach.
Hydration is one of the most undervalued performance enhancers available. Water is vital to peak performance. A rule of thumb I encourage is 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. Invest in a good water bottle for your teen athlete to keep on hand. For every pound lost during training, the athlete should replace it with 16-24 oz. of fluid.
A bedtime snack containing 15-20 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbohydrates for restful sleep and growing lean muscle tissue during the night. Cottage cheese, milk, and yogurt are rich in slow-digesting protein. Pair an 8 oz. serving of cottage cheese with sliced bananas for a high-protein, high-magnesium bedtime snack. Magnesium helps relax muscles and lowers brain temperature to regulate hormones.
Eat the Rainbow. Fruits and veggies contain quality nutrients needed for optimal growth and development. The more pigment and color in an athlete’s diet the healthier the immune system they will have that will fight off the risk of infection, and illness, as well as support long-term health. Healthy teens = healthy adults.
Whole meals first supplement second. Supplements are meant to satisfy small gaps in nutrition and to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Good nutritional habits must be established first. For additional guidance to ensure your athletes are meeting their protein and carbohydrate needs check out this article. No supplement can replace whole foods.
In good health and wellness,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but based in Nashville, TN Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website.
What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more here.
Research shows that even just 150 minutes/week of physical activity for adults can not only treat chronic conditions like cancer, type II diabetes, and heart disease but can also help prevent them according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
All adults should complete 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 min of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or some equivalent combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week according to the World Health Organization (1).
Your gym may not be open, but you can still get a great workout at home using simple household items to add resistance or weights if you have them.
Some simple tips for exercising:
Use gallon milk or water jugs can work as weights to do lunges or over-heard presses.
Take the stairs whenever possible and be sure to park a further distance to gain extra steps from your office or destination.
Canned goods in your pantry can work to do shoulder presses, lateral and front raises, or even just hold them walking up and down your stairs.
Bodyweight exercises including push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and other yoga exercises
Aquire weights from a local gym, Facebook Marketplace or online
Take a walk outside every day and find hills to serve as an incline to raise your heart rate
Subscribe to a coach, yoga studio, or online platform for bodyweight exercises to stay on track
The goal is to remain active and move as often as possible. The dangers of physical inactivity can take a toll on your health in as little as two weeks according to a McMaster University study. The researchers found that reducing daily steps to less than 1,500 – comparable to those who are housebound during the pandemic for just two weeks can reduce an older person’s insulin sensitivity by as much as 1/3. Additionally, those who are 65 or older lost as much as four percent of their leg muscle.
There is this real illusion that we cannot control anything right now. This is not true, it may feel that way, but you are 100% in control of your ability to walk, stretch, eat well, drink fluids and practice mindfulness in the presence of God. God is in control, but you must show up and be willing to allow Jesus to protect you and bless you. That means we cannot lay in bed or sit on the couch expecting God to make us money or pay our bills. You must be a good steward of His Kingdom. Mindfulness creates a pause, allowing us to experience optimism and true gratitude when we do not have the ability to change the situation. What we can do is choose to remain calm and focus on what we can control. Mindfulness is a practice and the more you practice the better you get at being connected to yourself and most importantly peace of mind. Remember, God is in control, but we must choose to remain calm.
Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience has indicated that 30-minutes of meditation can improve any depression symptoms which include anxiety and chronic pain (2). Some simple ways to practice mindfulness is to take a moment or two to pause each day in complete silence. Lie down, close your eyes, and put your hands on your belly. Focus on being present and work on keeping your mind quiet. Bring awareness to how you are feeling.
Another great way to meditate is to journal and write down your emotions. Being more self-aware will also help you make healthier choices in times of stress. The pandemic has left us tired, fatigued, and confined to our homes which many have mistaken for hunger.
Pray, journal, complete yoga, or stretch each morning thinking about all the blessings and gratitude you have for just simply being alive. I like to wake up each morning and have a small pep talk with God. I express my sincere gratitude for His blessings but also express my objectives and concerns for potential challenges the day may bring. As a Christian God can help guide you and keep you calm during the many storms.
Consuming a healthy diet is essential during all phases of life, but even more so now during COVID-19. Be sure to eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables at each meal along with quality protein sources. Many may feel stressed and turn to comfort foods during this time but these high sugars, caffeinated, and alcohol will increase anxiety, stress, and even worsen mental health (3).
I talk about many ways to eat a well-balanced diet and remain healthy during quarantine in a previous blog found here.
Do your best to pick out your favorite fruits and veggies at the grocery store. I always work with my clients on building a colorful and balanced plate at each dining session. A byproduct of eating nutrient-dense foods is that your brain is satisfied and naturally you will crave less junk food. If you are feeling stress, try reaching for a Greek yogurt parfait with peanut butter and berries. Try some dark chocolate with banana sliced paired with peanut butter.
What we eat directly affects our immune function. The 8 key nutrients to focus on for healthy immune function are vitamin C, E, A, D, folic acid, iron, selenium, zinc, and protein (3) All of which you can attain through eating whole foods and balanced meals. A few key immune-supporting foods include:
Red bell peppers
Nuts and seeds
Avocado and olive oil
Right now, is not the time to turn to a detox, fad diet, or a famous influencer who lacks credibility for nutritional guidance. If you want to clean up your diet and make healthier choices consult with an expert such as Registered Dietitian. If you’re desiring to eat well, learn proper portions, and meal plan please sign up for a Service on my website. For additional tips on staying healthy this holiday season please check out a previous blog found here.
A healthy mind is a healthy body. Focus on what you can control during these difficult times. Keep your eyes on Jesus and the cross. This too shall pass.
In good health and wellness,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN
Al-Ansari SS, Biddle S, et al World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020;54:1451-1462.
Masana, M. F., Tyrovolas, S., Kolia, N., Chrysohoou, C., Skoumas, J., Haro, J. M., Tousoulis, D., Papageorgiou, C., Pitsavos, C., & Panagiotakos, D. B. (2019). Dietary Patterns and Their Association with Anxiety Symptoms among Older Adults: The ATTICA Study. Nutrients, 11(6), 1250. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061250
Catherine E. Kerr, Matthew D. Sacchet, Sara W. Lazar, Christopher I. Moore, Stephanie R. Jones. Mindfulness starts with the body: somatosensory attention and top-down modulation of cortical alpha rhythms in mindfulness meditation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2013; 7 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00012
Maggini, S., Pierre, A., & Calder, P. C. (2018). Immune function and micronutrient requirements Change over the life course. Nutrients, 10(10), 1531. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101531