Simple and Practical Weight Gain Tips for Athletes

“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).

 

Too many teen athletes fail to consistently eat regular meals so this is a super easy place to start. (CLICK TO SEE THE FULL INSTAGRAM POST ON WEIGHT GAIN).

 

 

 

 

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!)

Pack high-calorie snacks. Peanut butter banana bagel sandwiches, trail mix, grab-n-go core power protein drinks, smoothies to store in a Yeti at school, peanut butter oat energy bites, mason jar  protein oats 

Planning ahead by meal prepping on the weekend

    • Grill up a dozen chicken breasts and steaks for the week to cut and portion out
    • Prepare PB energy bites
    • Hard-boiled eggs
    • Grab n Go Whole-fat chocolate milk
    • Oatmeal mason jars
    • Loaded baked potato + cheese + broccoli with butter
    • Greek yogurt parfaits (whole-fat dairy)
    • See my weight gain snacks here!

Special considerations for eating more:

  • Sample Weight gain breakdown
  • 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.

See my recommendations here.

 

SLEEP DEPRIVATION WILL BLUNT YOUR GAINS. SLEEP BETTER WITH THESE TIPS


In closing…

Focus on adding to meals to increase overall kcal. The goal would be to increase a snack or meal by 200-500 kcal for an average weight gain of 1-1.5 lbs per week. If you want to gain you’ve gotta eat!

SEE MY TWITTER ACCOUNT FOR PRACTICAL GUIDANCE! 500 KCAL EXAMPLE MEALS + SNACKS!

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)

 

 

In good faith, health, and wellness,

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

Competition Day Eating for Athletes: What to Eat and When to Eat it!

 

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!!

👇 NWW’s🍉rule of👍 : “4-2-1 method”

What are some ideas during half-time??


What are some other meals and snack ideas??

Breakfast ideas (how to create a breakfast habit)

  • Premier protein shake + apple
  • 2 Eggs, spinach, tomatoes, blueberries, whole-grain toast/oatmeal
  • Fruit smoothie with Fair life milk, Greek yogurt, chia, spinach
  • Kodiak Cakes waffle, English muffin, pancakes + hard-boiled egg
  • Greek yogurt parfait + fruit, with oatmeal
  • Oatmeal cup, string cheese, fruit
  • Strawberries, peanut butter toast + Core power protein drink/Orgain protein drink

Smart snack ideas

  • Hard-boiled eggs + whole-grain toast with banana slices
  • String cheese with pepper sticks and hummus
  • Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Beef jerky with cucumbers or apple
  • 2 oz. Deli turkey slices with a pear
  • Protein bar (Quest protein bars, Pure Protein, One Bar, Kirkland protein bar, RX bar)

Lunch and dinner ideas

  • 4-5 oz. 99% Ground turkey, baked sweet potato, 1 cup roasted vegetables + avocado slices
  • Grilled steak, steamed brown rice (1 cup or 1-2 fists), ~ 1 cup roasted vegetables
  • Baked salmon, quinoa (1 cup or 1-2 fists), spinach side salad, ¾ cup pineapple
  • Oatmeal (1-2 cups), toppings of choice (nuts, dried fruit, flax, Fair life milk, cinnamon), fruit salad (1 cup), 4 oz.
  • Egg omelet or frittata with veggies (spinach, onions/mushrooms, sweet potatoes/potatoes in omelet/frittata or on the side), side of melons (1 cup), or berries
  • Greek yogurt w/ oats & berries (try plain Greek and add almond butter)
  • Taco bowl with tofu, spices, corn, lettuce, spinach, peppers, and brown rice

SAMPLE SCHEDULE

*Help your athletes eat every few hours by setting alarms on phones or calendar reminders in email.


BACK TO THE BASICS WITH SIMPLE TIPS!


The Top Five Worst Fat Loss Mistakes

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

1. Skipping meals

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

2. Eliminating entire food groups and fad dieting

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

3. Cutting calories too low or underestimating portions

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

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


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


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

4. Not enough resistance training

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

5. Not eating enough protein

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

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

In good health and many blessings,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LDN, CISSN

 

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LDN, CISSN is a registered dietitian nutritionist, healthy lifestyle coach, former college athlete, physique competitor, and avid weight lifter. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides telehealth and on-site services. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK.

Citations

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

🎃Power Up with Pumpkin!

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

1.Powerful healing properties

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

2.Restores electrolyte balance and supports muscle recovery

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

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

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

3.Reduces both muscle soreness and tissue breakdown

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

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

4.Heart-healthy

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

 

Four ways to enjoy both pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds:

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

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

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

4. Add 1/3 cup pumpkin to baked goods

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

 

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

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

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website.

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

 

Citations used

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

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

 

 

🍉Happy National Watermelon Day!🎉

Happy National Watermelon Day!

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

 

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

Packed full of disease-fighting antioxidants and vitamins

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

 

Watermelon is good for both muscle and heart

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

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

Improved digestion

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

Watermelon hydrates

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

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

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

 

For nutrition facts click here.

Resources used:

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

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

 

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

 

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website.

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

 

 

Jesus Doesn’t Need a “Perfect” You; He Needs a “Healthy” You!

Have you ever felt “out-of-control” in areas of your life that you know Jesus wants you to be better in? I am not talking about attending church or worship here. Yes, you should absolutely attend regularly and seek His word. You should also read the bible regularly. What I am getting at is your daily habits, financial management, sleep hygiene, exercise routine, eating habits, and what you turn to in times of stress to “cope”.

Proverbs 15: 22 tells us,” Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers, they succeed.” I am not a pastor, but I have been called by God to speak up and to grow His Kingdom through physical health, nutrition, and overall inspiration. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I can provide you, counsel, on making healthier choices within your lifestyle to support your physical health. You do not have to do this alone. As a healthy lifestyle coach, I can support you as part of your counsel. I want to help you gain control of your health and fitness.

Drawing awareness to our current situation. In times of crisis and despair, we may allow our physical health to go unchecked. We may come up with excuses like “I am too busy, I don’t have time, I have too many meetings, I have to take care of my children and everyone else.”

For every excuse or limitation, you express for neglecting your physical health, there are several motives to address your health.

Your longevity in life will be cut short with poor health

Your mind, agility, stamina, and performance are affected by what you consume, and the amount of physical activity completed.

As a parent, spouse, son, daughter, brother, sister, leader, manager, employee, and follower of Christ you are called to be an example. How can you expect others to be focused and perform their best if you do not?

Physical and spiritual energy can rise with greater health and fitness. If you realize you are feeling more sluggish, tired, and low energy you are not alone. This pandemic has brought on a whole new level of challenge and crisis.

Your body is a temple and if you have been a poor steward lately, I want to tell you, “it is OKAY”. It is not okay to realize it and do nothing about it. The more you turn to unhealthy food, alcohol, sedentary lifestyle vegged out on the couch in front of the news or Netflix with a bag of chips the more likely you will be less convicted to follow the Lord. In fact, you may find yourself being tempted by satan to do more “unhealthy things” because they temporarily feel good and distract you from dealing with the reality at hand.

When we do neglect our body, we are neglecting the Creator’s creation. I want you to love yourself and respect the body that Christ gave you to live in. Jesus is the Creator of our physical bodies, and it is within our bodies that we serve others as He calls us to do. If you are too tired, sick, and disease-stricken because you have been a poor steward of your habits then you’re unable to support your family and ultimately serve our Lord. Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. You are forgiven regardless of what you do but you must “repent”. I am not here to preach you must “eat perfectly”, exercise every day, and live a “perfect life” because we know that does not exist. Again, we were born into sin and we will never be perfect.

Jesus does not need a perfect you, He needs a healthy you.

Scripture speaks of many reasons to maintain health and even has guidelines to not only build a healthy body but to maintain it. We live in a fallen and broken world. It is much harder to resist the devil and follow Jesus if you are not physically well. When you are too tired, fatigued, and ill you are more susceptible to further sin, poor relationships, and reduced life.

Here are my tips as a Christ-centered dietitian that is biblical to support your physical health

Eat the Rainbow and Consume a Balanced Diet Prioritizing Quality Foods

Learning “self-control” with certain discretionary foods that lack nutrients. I am not saying do not eat cookies or dessert. I am expressing the importance of consuming quality foods first that support healthy body weight.  It is important to maintain a healthy weight as we age to support overall health and well-being. For more on maintaining a healthy weight please check out the National Institute of Health (NIH) fact sheet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also has some great resources on eating well and eating right for a healthy weight found here .

Please check out my website for various recipes to keep you and your family fueled and healthy! I have also written a blog on effective strategies for losing weight in a flawed industry. Please check out the blog here .

As it is written in scripture, Thessalonians 4:4, “Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” Jesus created you and you should want to respect the body He gave you. Again, you do not have to be perfect and have a “six-pack” but you should maintain a healthy body weight to honor God’s creation.

Movement is Quite Truly Medicine

The physical activity guidelines have recently been updated that adults should complete 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 min of vigorous-intensity per week. For more specific details and guidance please check out the World Health Organization (WHO). I have also provided guidance on safely starting an exercise program in a previous blog on staying healthy during COVID-19.

1 Timothy 4:8 states, “Physical exercise has some value.” I think Paul would agree in today’s world exercise has significant value. People use to work hard on the farm, walk everywhere and the forms of transportation were not available back in the day. Today, everything is as convenient. We are more sedentary, many on the average struggle to get the minimum recommendation of physical activity. It is a blessing and a curse that you can have anything at your fingertips. You can even have food and groceries delivered right to your door.  We drive everywhere, we do not take the stairs, and park too close to our offices. If you struggle to walk up the stairs with pain or are out of breath you may need to work on your fitness.

Commit yourself to regular activity. Walk more, park further away from your destination, and take after-dinner walks. See my previous blog for more simple ways to increase your fitness appropriately to reduce the risk of injury. Remember too much too quickly can lead to muscle strains and then further limitations to get healthier.

Limit Alcohol or Avoid Drinking Altogether

So many are turning to substances like alcohol in times of crisis. It is leading to greater disease, poor health, and the ultimate demise of many relationships. One of them being your relationship with Christ. Ephesians 5:18 states, “Don’t get drunk with wine, which will ruin you. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” This scripture should encourage you to evaluate your relationship with alcohol. During times of crisis and stress do you find you consume greater wine, beer, and other forms of alcohol instead of turning to Jesus? Do not get drunk on alcohol, instead get drunk on the Holy Spirit.

In my personal experience, I have lost some of my closest loved ones because they have turned to alcohol instead of the holy spirit. These amazing people lost life of wellness, joy, family, and authenticity. It is debilitating to support someone and watch them struggle with their addictions only to see it be their demise because they refused to understand they had a problem. If you feel shame that is not Jesus, that is the devil. Be sure to get Jesus back on your throne. There is no shame or guilt when we turn to God to express our sins. If you are reading this and feel convicted to get drunk on the Holy Spirit instead of win, I am proud of you. I am cheering for you. It is not easy but, “With God, All Things Are Possible” Matthew 19:26.

Addiction to substances and alcohol can be debilitating. If you or someone you know struggles with alcohol encourage them to seek help. It is never too late to turn your life around. It is more than just your thoughts you must control, but your actions.  Admitting you have an addiction and seeking help and the Lord to get sober is possible. If you are able but unwilling to admit you have a problem, then no one can help you. But if you seek the Lord and those around you no one can stop you. Do not turn to the red one who will tempt you but the Lord.

He will save you. As it is written in James 5:15-16 “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Sleep is not a luxury

Sleep is one of the most important factors in supporting good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting adequate quality sleep can help safeguard your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and even safety. Your food choices, attitude, productivity, and even your cognition can be affected by your sleep patterns according to the Sleep Foundation. Children between the ages of 6-14 years old need roughly 9-11 hours of sleep. Adults between the ages of 18-64 years old need approximately 7-9 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, we live in a society where it is a “badge of honor” to work as many hours as possible on as few hours of sleep as possible. This is what is referred to as “The grind” in sports performance. Psalm 127:2 tells us that, “In vain you rise up early and stay up late.”

No one feels healthy or makes good choices when they are sleep deprived. In fact, as you know sleep deprivation can lead to poor dietary choices, auto accidents, injuries in sport, and illness. A person not getting enough sleep will experience fatigue, irritability, mood changes, and poor memory recall according to the Centers for Disease (CDC) and Sleep Medicine. Our brain and bodies can struggle to function when we go for several days without quality sleep. Again, without sleep, we run the risk of making poor choices, having loose lips, a tongue that may not speak in kindness, and increase our risk for chronic conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and more according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute .

God desires you to get rest. Rest is so important that Jesus placed ‘rest’ within the Ten Commandments. In Mark 6:30-32, Jesus pleaded that His disciples take time to focus on restoration. Jesus stated, “every seventh day, you should rest.” Sundays should be allocated to time with Jesus and refraining from work.

For more information on the importance of getting enough sleep and hours per stage of life please check out SleepFoundation.org

I pray this blog has provided you with some clarity, comfort, motivation, and has sincerely convicted you to make a conscious effort to be healthier. I believe wholeheartedly Jesus wanted me to write something invaluable that is biblical. This article is just the start of what is to come.  In the last few months I have opened my eyes and ears to the way the Lord has shown up in my life. Jesus has been desiring me to integrate His work into my work as a female business owner. My ministry is nutrition. I was a non-believer up until 2012 when I found Jesus and began a relationship with Him. Never would I have never imagined I would write something like this, but I am so grateful I did.

Health is so much more than being “fit” for a race, sporting event, physique competition, or looking “good” on a vacation. Good health and fitness is about stewardship and taking pride in caring for your body. Loving the skin you’re in. Looking in the mirror every day and saying “I love myself because you love me and created me, Jesus”. If you’re a Christian you know Jesus loved us so much that He gave up His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus, to redeem the sins of the world. Yes, the entire world of believers and non-believers.

If you’re a non-believer reading this. Please open your heart to God. I know it may seem scary or that Jesus doesn’t care about you. Or that you are in control of your life, not Him. I get it, I was there. I was you and I remember saying “Jesus doesn’t care about me or my problems”. That’s the Devil. Open your heart to Jesus so that He can help you. What’s the worst that will happen? Will he change your life? Yes, not only will He comfort you but if you allow Jesus into your life He will put you back together in ways you can’t on your own. This will forever change your life in ways science can’t explain.  The only regret I have was not turning my life over to Christ sooner. But that’s the beauty of God’s Grace, He loves us no matter how many times we turn our backs on Him or choose “our will” over His.  Jesus isn’t interested in perfection or performance. Jesus just wants your heart and mine.

Use this article as a soft nudge to focus on being healthy to be a better disciple of Jesus as a mom, dad, grandparent ect. you will experience a better quality of life. Focus on being strong and healthy to provide for your family instead of that six-pack. I hope you feel equally convicted to improve your health as I did in writing this.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share it! Please also check out my other blogs for inspiration and healthy eating tips available HERE ! Additional tips guidance, tips, tools, and strategies on being healthier please follow me on social media. I am active on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. You can also learn more about the various telehealth services if you desire to work with me by clicking HERE .

Testimonials of my coaching and client success found at the testimonial link on my website.

 

Wendi is a devoted Christian, registered dietitian, writer, speaker, performance nutritionist, and healthy lifestyle coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to create nutrition programs so athletes can optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, special needs, and recreational athletes and organizations to eat and fuel for success. Wendi also works with the general population on healthy eating. In addition to lifestyle coaching, she makes her rounds presenting across the country and even in Canada. Wendi has presented at various conferences and clinics. To name a few, the University of Regina in Canada, the University of Northwestern in Iowa, Northwestern State Clinic, Michigan State High School Strength and Conditioning Association clinic. Wendi is a former college athlete, with over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. Wendi earned both her B.S. and M.S. at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and has spent time learning from several professionals in the field along with an internship at the University of Florida. Wendi operates her private practice virtually and remotely but is based primarily in Grand Rapids, MI.

How to Stay Fit and Healthy During COVID-19

Movement is medicine

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

Work with Wendi to help you put together a fitness routine at home 

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.

Mindfulness

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.

Meditation

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.

 

Nutrition

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.

For ordering a Nuts-n-More Nut butter use code 143NWW for 15% off, link found here (https://nuts-n-more.com/?ref=143NWW

Be sure to limit snacking but if you do here are some healthy ideas:

  • Hard-boiled egg paired with carrot sticks
  • Bell pepper with hummus
  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • Spinach protein smoothie
  • String cheese and cucumber slices
  • ½ Whole-grain turkey sandwich with spinach, avocado, cucumber
  • Whole-grain oats, berries, Greek yogurt, and peanut butter

For additional snack options check out my website or my social media platforms  (Twitter Facebook Instagram )

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
  • Broccoli
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Leafy greens
  • Lean meats
  • Carrots
  • Berries
  • Citrus fruits
  • Greek yogurt
  • 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

 

References:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. Nutrients11(6), 1250. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061250 
  3. 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 meditationFrontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2013; 7 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00012
  1. Maggini, S., Pierre, A., & Calder, P. C. (2018). Immune function and micronutrient requirements Change over the life course. Nutrients10(10), 1531. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101531

Give the Gift of Health and Wellness!

Are you looking for the perfect gift for your friends, colleagues, or loved ones? Well then look no further! Purchase a gift certificate for nutrition services provided by Wendi Irlbeck, Registered Dietitian Nutrition, and Healthy Lifestyle Coach!

 

This is the ideal gift for:

-Parent or sibling who wants to lose weight, regain control of their health, or simply just learn how to prepare healthy meals in the kitchen!

-A boss, co-worker, or someone in your community who many desire more energy and accountability in making healthier choices!

-A partner, friend, or family member who may desire to learn more about grocery shopping and meal prep.

-A young athlete who needs help learning more about nutrition to be a stronger and healthier athlete!

-High school educators or parents of young children desiring to learn more about nutrition.

-A sports coach who wants to expand their understanding of nutrition for their teams and fellow coaching staff.

-Anyone who wants to learn more about nutrition, be healthier, gain confidence in the kitchen, lose weight, improve sleep, feel more energy, and feel empowered!

 

Personalized one-on-one consultations and personalized plans and educational opportunities designed to help each and every client achieve their goals and best self!

 

Contact Wendi through email, wendi@nutritionwithwendi.com  to inquiry more details on purchasing the gift of health for your loved ones, friends, community members, or colleagues this holiday season!

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

 

Or sign up to work with Wendi from any of her services .

7 Effective Weight Loss Strategies the Diet Industry Does Not Want You to Know

It seems like everyone is on a diet these days. In fact, many have spent their entire lives trying to lose weight and are chronically dieting. According to the CDC nearly one-half of adults have tried to lose weight within the last 12 months. So, what gives? If everyone is dieting why are we also facing obesity and weight gain across the world? According to the CDC the prevalence of obesity in 2018 was 42.4%. Does that surprise you? How can this be? Let’s look at another shocking statistic.  The weight loss industry grew at an estimated 4.1% in 2018, from $69.8 billion to a whopping $72.7 billion. The market is now forecasting growth of 2.6% annually through 2023 according to the Food Research & Action Center .

So, why are facing rising obesity numbers? Why are so many dieting yet not being successful? What if products, programs and organizations do not want you to lose weight? What if they are not giving you the right information to make the best choices for a sustainable diet? The diet industry is full of myths, misinformation and premium trash guidance. People are often instructed to do all sorts of expensive, reckless, restrictive, fear driven and crazy things that lack merit, evidence and efficacy. However, there are several effective strategies that are evidence based when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle and shedding those pounds for good. I am going to share them with you today. Something I work closely on with my weight loss clients is basic, fundamental habits for life-long health that are sustainable. Remember, if our methods are not sustainable our results won’t be. It is time to get back to the basics, with healthy habits.

1.Consume whole eggs for breakfast

Eating whole eggs, yes, the yolk included has a surplus of health benefits which also include weight loss and weight management. Studies have illustrated that eggs can help decrease the number of calories consumed in the next 36 hours as well as lose greater weight and body fat (1). Another more recent study found that after consuming eggs for breakfast, overweight and obese subjects had a lower energy intake in comparison to eating cereal for breakfast (2).

If you do not love eggs, that is totally okay! The takeaway is that a high-quality source of protein and healthy fat for breakfast will more than likely keep you satisfied, help with calorie control, reduce cravings and feel more energized than the traditional breakfast cereal or grain.

Great quick & nutrient dense breakfast option (Avocado, egg scramble with spinach, Greek yogurt, berries and peanut butter). 

Follow Wendi on Twitter and Instagram for meal planning ideas and guidance!

2.Learn and exercise portion control

Being aware and mindful of appropriate portions of protein, fat, carbohydrates and even refined sugars is key for eating less to create a calorie deficit to lose weight.  Counting calories isn’t fun and can be quite tedious so learning appropriate serving sizes of the main food groups is the best way to be successful whether you are out to eat, on-the-go, at home, or at a birthday party.  I work with many to understand the value of their portions and how it affects their choices and even sleep later.

A simple guide for each meal:

  • Healthy fats: 1 tbsp. (thumb as a serving size)- oils, butter, avocado, cheese, nuts, seed oils
  • High-quality protein: 3-4 oz. (deck of cards as a serving size) – fish, chicken, lean beef, turkey, tofu, beans, dairy and pulses
  • Vegetables and fruits: 1 cup or half of the plate
  • Whole-grains: ¼ of the plate- whole grains, 1/3 cup of oatmeal

Context is key as always, those that are more active, athletes or require greater energy needs due to infections, wound healing or other situations where more energy is needed such as oncology. You can’t manage what you don’t track so it is important to be mindful of portions and in many cases keeping a food diary, taking photos of your meals or tracking in an app to help you lose weight (3).

You are more likely to choose a healthier food if you’re aware of how many calories are in something. For example, measuring your serving of peanut butter. Many assume they are consuming the serving size but in fact they are doubling it. 2 tbsp. of most peanut butters are 190 kcal, imagine if you are consuming 4 tbsp. in a sitting and doing that every day, every week of every month for a year. This equates into an additional 190 kcal/day which can lead to 1,330 kcal unaccounted for at the end of the week. Weight-gain is inevitable if you are consuming more calories than you are burning. 3,500 kcal are equivalent to one pound and this could easily be the case for many without being aware of portions

3. Always keep a cooler in your car along with healthy snacks to fill it with

Having nutrient dense foods available and accessible can help prevent you from eating something lower in nutrition and higher calorie should you become hungry.  As you have learned, protein is important for increasing satiety and can help manage your weight.

Some great options to keep on hand include:

  • Beef jerky
  • Hard boiled eggs with carrot sticks
  • Turkey roll-up wraps in spinach
  • Peanut butter and celery sticks
  • Cheese slices and green pepper slices
  • Sliced bell peppers and hummus
  • Cottage cheese with banana slices
  • Berry spinach protein shake
  • Apple with to-go nut butter
  • Protein bars
  • Greek yogurt parfait with berries in a to-go container or mason jar

4. Combine resistance training and aerobic exercise

One of the biggest myths out there is that lifting weights makes you “big” or bulky. Studies have shown that resistance training increases your calories burnt at rest (resting energy expenditure), supports lean mass and when combined with aerobic exercise is an effect fat loss strategy (4, 5). Resistance exercise is critical for building healthy strong muscles and bones as well as decreasing your risk for disease later. Resistance training also increases muscle growth when combined with appropriate protein intake. Another study involving 40 post-menopausal women were able to decrease their body fat combining resistance training and a higher-protein diet (6).

The research supporting resistance training and aerobic exercise provides great motivation to get moving! If you’re interested in engaging in activity or ramping up your exercise regimen for the first time be sure to work with a qualified fitness expert who holds a credible certification or has experience as a fitness professional to develop you a plan. Please contact me directly for guidance on a fitness program!

Also, please look at one of my power lifting clients, Molly who dropped > 30 lbs. through proper diet, aerobic and strength training. Her great progress photo is shown.  Molly worked daily on creating healthy habits, consistency with her protein intake and managing portion control. Her physical transformation is inspiring, but her mental and spiritual growth is second to none!

5. Follow a high-protein diet

According to the American Heart Association, adults trying to lose weight and maintain weight loss should eat no more than 30% of total daily calories from fat and less than 7 percent from saturated fat.  Currently, the recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a measly 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. The RDA refers to the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. Many confuse the RDA and how to make recommendations to their patients, client and athletes. The RDA is really the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick, not the actual amount you should consume each day. For example, an average adult should consume roughly 25-30 grams of protein per meal, according to Protein Summit 2.0. Furthermore, research by the Protein Summit 2.0 indicated that 1.0 -1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day is beneficial for healthy metabolic function.

I have written about the low RDA for protein and why more is needed to sustain muscle and health in a previous blog published on my website, here .  Growing research has indicated following a high-protein diet can help people lose weight, improve body composition, build lean mass, increase satiety and help maintain a calorie deficit over time to further support weight loss maintenance.

By eating more protein, 25-30 grams per meal can help reduce hunger, suppress appetite which can help decrease undesired snacking leading to a calorie deficit. When trying to lose weight it would be beneficial to replace excess carbohydrate choices with high-quality protein snacks like Greek yogurt, string cheese, hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, turkey slices or even protein shake. Research is mixed on the precise figures, but the available research has supported protein has a much higher thermic effect compared to carbohydrates (20-30%) and (5-10%) respectively (7).

Lastly, consuming a casein rich food before bed can also help support muscle growth, recovery, appetite suppression, weight loss and weight management. Casein is the main protein in milk products, and it is considered a “slow digesting” protein. Not to be confused with whey protein isolate which is a fast digesting protein that should be consumed around training sessions and can serve as meal replacement during times of calorie restriction (8). Since casein protein is slow release it can reduce the rate of digestion and support fat loss. Not only does more protein help increase satiety and energy expenditure but it can also help with appetite suppression in the later hours. A study found that taking casein before bed resulted in 25% higher satiety levels the following day (9). Greater satiety will yield greater results when it comes to weight loss.

See list of high-quality protein sources to compare with carbohydrates Protein and Carbohydrate handout .

Get your 7-9 hours of rest each night

Ever notice you tend to move less, have limited motivation to do much beyond your daily work tasks, eat more unhealthy foods that are high in sugar or even calories when you do not sleep well? If you’re feeling sleepy at work, you grab another cup of coffee and the cookies in the pantry hoping for a “burst of energy” but actually makes you feel even more tired. You then later skip your usual walk breaks and even the workout you had planned to do. If this is you, you are not alone. Sleep debt is like a high interest rate credit care that if it continues to accumulate you will not be able to pay it off and you crash.

Think you can catch up on sleep lost and it will not affect you or your weight? Think again, a study examined moderate sleep restriction on body weight, body composition and metabolic factors in individuals following a caloric restricted diet. The study found that one hour of sleep restriction on five nights per week led to decreased proportion of fat mass loss despite restricting calories (11).

Insufficient sleep derails your weight loss efforts in many ways. Leptin is the hormone that controls your appetite, and when you are sleep deprived you have less leptin. A surplus of grehlin plus little leptin is a fast track or weight gain. A 2010 study found increased hunger, a shift in energy use, less calories expired and less weight loss in participants who slept 5.5 hours (10).

It’s more than safe to say there is a connection between sleep and weight. Strive for 7 or more hours each night to support good energy levels, metabolism, food and activity choices and overall health. The industry will say, “sleep is for the weak” just take this pill, but you know now know differently.

7. More water, especially before meals

Many are very aware how important water is for health, wellness, weight loss and appetite control yet it is commonly touted that you shouldn’t consume water before meals. A study found that drinking 500 mL of water 30 minutes before each meal combined with a calorie-controlled diet led to greater weight loss in overweight and obese middle-aged adults (12).

Water is essential for nutrient and oxygen transportation, lubricating joints, regulating body temperature, protecting organs and tissues, dissolving minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to your body and helping the liver flush waste products (13).

  • Work to increase your water intake upon waking by having a 8-20 oz. water bottle by your bed.
  • Strive to consume 16 oz. before meals.
  • 20 – 24 oz. of water between meals
  • 10 oz. before bed to support good digestion

Increased water intake is associated with better weight control and weight management (13). So drink up!

Bottom line:

We need to stop relying on poor information given out by celebrities, influencers who lack credibility. Instead of spending money on pills, powders, challenges and false promises invest in your daily habits. Get more sleep, drink more water, learn portion control, eat balanced meals and stop giving up on yourself. Take control of your habits and implement the strategies in this article that the diet industry doesn’t want you to know. Sustainable weight loss is about controlling your appetite and consuming more protein and getting rest is a simple way to do it! The secret is out, and it is not the next celebrity cleanse. Your habits should support the future you are trying to create. If you are ready to stop saying “day one” or “one day” contact me, and let’s work together to create a plan for success!

In good health,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi works remotely and currently operates as a traveling dietitian. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website .

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Resources:

(1)Vander Wal, J. S., Gupta, A., Khosla, P., & Dhurandhar, N. V. (2008). Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. International journal of obesity (2005)32(10), 1545–1551. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2008.130

(2)B Keogh, J., & M Clifton, P. (2020). Energy Intake and Satiety Responses of Eggs for Breakfast in Overweight and Obese Adults-A Crossover Study. International journal of environmental research and public health17(15), 5583. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155583

(3). Burke, L. E., Wang, J., & Sevick, M. A. (2011). Self-monitoring in weight loss: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association111(1), 92–102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.008

(4) Ho, S. S., Dhaliwal, S. S., Hills, A. P., & Pal, S. (2012). The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC public health12, 704. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-12-704

(5)Hunter, G. R., Byrne, N. M., Sirikul, B., Fernández, J. R., Zuckerman, P. A., Darnell, B. E., & Gower, B. A. (2008). Resistance training conserves fat-free mass and resting energy expenditure following weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)16(5), 1045–1051. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2008.38

(6) Miller, T., Mull, S., Aragon, A. A., Krieger, J., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2018). Resistance Training Combined With Diet Decreases Body Fat While Preserving Lean Mass Independent of Resting Metabolic Rate: A Randomized Trial. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism28(1), 46–54. https://d6 oi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0221

(7) Westerterp K. R. (2004). Diet induced thermogenesis. Nutrition & metabolism1(1), 5. https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-1-5

(8) Kinsey, A. W., Cappadona, S. R., Panton, L. B., Allman, B. R., Contreras, R. J., Hickner, R. C., & Ormsbee, M. J. (2016). The Effect of Casein Protein Prior to Sleep on Fat Metabolism in Obese Men. Nutrients8(8), 452. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8080452

(9) Ananda Hochstenbach-Waelen, Margriet AB Veldhorst, Arie G Nieuwenhuizen, Margriet S Westerterp-Plantenga, Klaas R Westerterp, Comparison of 2 diets with either 25% or 10% of energy as casein on energy expenditure, substrate balance, and appetite profile, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 89, Issue 3, March 2009, Pages 831–838, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2008.26917

(10)Nedeltcheva, A. V., Kilkus, J. M., Imperial, J., Schoeller, D. A., & Penev, P. D. (2010). Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Annals of internal medicine153(7), 435–441. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-153-7-201010050-00006

(11) Wang, X., Sparks, J. R., Bowyer, K. P., & Youngstedt, S. D. (2018). Influence of sleep restriction on weight loss outcomes associated with caloric restriction. Sleep41(5), 10.1093/sleep/zsy027. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy027

(12) Handbook of Non Drug Intervention (HANDI) Project Team (2013). Pre-meal water consumption for weight loss. Australian family physician42(7), 478.

(13) Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews68(8), 439–458. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x

What to Eat Before Your Workout?

Granola, oats, yogurt and fruit with coffee

It’s 45-min before your lift and you’re starving but nervous about what to eat? Maybe you’ve had too busy of a day, small lunch or inadequate breakfast? Sound familiar? Successful athletes plan by consuming a well-balanced meal approximately 1-2 hours before training.

Physical activity demands a large volume of blood to be pumped to working muscles and tissue. It is important not to consume too large of a meal too close to activity to ensure blood flow is going to working muscles like your legs for running and not your stomach for digestion. It sounds so simple, right? You also want to limit gastrointestinal (GI) complications which result from eating too close to training. Eat well before your workout to ensure adequate digestion time for available fuel as well as oxygen-rich blood to be pumped to working muscles. But what if you eat too many hours in advance and now you’re hungry? “What do I eat before my work-out?” is probably one of the most prominent questions I receive as a performance dietitian. It is also one of the most heavily searched topics on google.

Both young and old athletes may feel too scared to eat so they go to a training session, run or workout with-out any fuel which leads to poor performance and increased risk of injury. Some athletes express they have an “iron-clad stomach” and can eat literally anything and go train. This is not typically the case and some foods are more optimal than others to consume around a training session. For that reason, it is best to have a meal containing some protein and carbohydrates before your workout.

When considering pre-workout foods, remember that poorly planned meals, liquids, and snacks can disrupt the quality of your workout or training session. Depending upon the intensity and duration of the training session most athletes and recreationally active people are encouraged to consume roughly 200-300 kcal approximately 30-60 min before your workout. The meal should consist of some carbohydrates and protein. The foods chosen should be easily digestible and with a limit of fat and even fiber due to digestion time.

7  Pre-workout meals to beat the fatigue and keep you energized

  1. Whole-grain bagel with powdered peanut butter and honey

Powdered peanut butter has less fat (fat is key to limit around training sessions). A whole-grain bagel will provide a large number of carbohydrates along with honey providing quick sugar to help with muscle, brain, and nerve function before a heavier training load day or longer endurance. Many young athletes under fuel so this would be a great way to get in a good amount of carbohydrates in a short period of time.

  1. Apple slices with Greek yogurt and dried cranberries

Quick sugar and a little bit of fiber from some apple paired with the protein from the Greek yogurt is a recipe for muscle-building success. Dried cranberries can be a great addition for additional sugar without the fiber to disrupt digestion for readily available fuel for muscle contraction. A delicious grab-and-go pre-training meal to meet your needs.

  1. Protein oats (whole-grain)

Oats are a great source of complex carbohydrates for the slower release of glucose. This means great things for your energy to remain stable and constant during longer and higher intensity workouts. Oats are also rich in vitamin B, which helps convert carbs into energy. Mix non-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt with blueberries, oats, chia seeds, 1 Tbsp. almond butter and an optional 0.5 scoop of whey protein powder for a substantial amount of protein, nutrients, and calories to sustain longer training and conditioning sessions.

  1. Protein fruit smoothie

Fruit contains a surplus of nutrients but most importantly, fruit contains simple sugars that are easy to digest. Glucose is the body’s desired fuel substrate for fueling high-intensity training sessions as well as giving young athletes the carbs to thrive. Mix one cup of berries with 1/3 cup whole grain oats, 4 oz of milk, and 2 oz of Greek yogurt for a delicious smoothie. For additional protein add a high-quality whey protein. Recipes are available on my website here.

  1. Greek yogurt parfait with mixed berries and whole grain oats

This is a game-crushing combo. The fruit is loaded with antioxidants for healthy immune function but also carbohydrates to support energy while providing quick fuel for your workout. The protein in the Greek yogurt will also help with the muscle breakdown and repair process through-out the training session

  1. Two hard-boiled eggs paired with banana and kiwi slices

Eggs contain high-quality protein, choline for neurotransmitter production assisting in proper brain cognition and the yolks are an excellent source of omega-3s. Slice the hard-boiled egg and pair it with kiwi and banana for some carbohydrate to fuel your training!

  1. Grapes and string cheese

Grapes or watermelon are high in water content as well as quick sugar to fuel an upcoming training session for someone with a nervous stomach before a race. Grapes digest quickly and tend to be well tolerated. String cheese is a great pairing to help provide some protein but not too much to power the training session and prevent muscle protein breakdown.

What you eat before your training session does not have to be complex. Keep the foods simple and focus on the fundamentals of eating for health and fueling for performance. There is no magic meal that can make for a special training session. Training sessions are a great time to experiment for game day. Never try new foods on game day, it is best to try them out and assess tolerance on practice or training days. A rule of thumb for all that wish to be better athletes and healthier humans is to focus on proper meals each day, each week, each month, and each year. There are no magic meals, what works for one may not work for another. For more sports nutrition and health information check out my previous blogs available on my website.

In good health and performance,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and fitness coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi works remotely and currently operates as a traveling dietitian. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. Wendi is available for one-on-one coaching and public speaking inquiries here .