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
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” 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!”
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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!!
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.
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 nutrition, 105(6), 1351–1361. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.116.151332
Hall, K. D., & Kahan, S. (2018). Maintenance of Lost Weight and Long-Term Management of Obesity. The Medical clinics of North America, 102(1), 183–197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.012
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 exercise, 48(3), 521–526. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000796
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 nutrition, 69(7), 831–836. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2014.216
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 exercise, 48(3), 521–526. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000796
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. Nutrients, 12(6), 1890. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061890
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
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!
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Personalized one-on-one consultations and personalized plans and educational opportunities designed to help each and every client achieve their goals and best self!
Contact Wendi through email, email@example.com to inquiry more details on purchasing the gift of health for your loved ones, friends, community members, or colleagues this holiday season!
Testimonials of Wendi’s expertise from colleges, coaches, parents, young athletes, and high school administrators can be found at the testimonial link on her website. You can also follow Wendi on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information.
Or sign up to work with Wendi from any of her services .
It seems like everyone is on a diet these days. In fact, many have spent their entire lives trying to lose weight and are chronically dieting. According to the CDC nearly one-half of adults have tried to lose weight within the last 12 months. So, what gives? If everyone is dieting why are we also facing obesity and weight gain across the world? According to the CDC the prevalence of obesity in 2018 was 42.4%. Does that surprise you? How can this be? Let’s look at another shocking statistic. The weight loss industry grew at an estimated 4.1% in 2018, from $69.8 billion to a whopping $72.7 billion. The market is now forecasting growth of 2.6% annually through 2023 according to the Food Research & Action Center .
So, why are facing rising obesity numbers? Why are so many dieting yet not being successful? What if products, programs and organizations do not want you to lose weight? What if they are not giving you the right information to make the best choices for a sustainable diet? The diet industry is full of myths, misinformation and premium trash guidance. People are often instructed to do all sorts of expensive, reckless, restrictive, fear driven and crazy things that lack merit, evidence and efficacy. However, there are several effective strategies that are evidence based when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle and shedding those pounds for good. I am going to share them with you today. Something I work closely on with my weight loss clients is basic, fundamental habits for life-long health that are sustainable. Remember, if our methods are not sustainable our results won’t be. It is time to get back to the basics, with healthy habits.
1.Consume whole eggs for breakfast
Eating whole eggs, yes, the yolk included has a surplus of health benefits which also include weight loss and weight management. Studies have illustrated that eggs can help decrease the number of calories consumed in the next 36 hours as well as lose greater weight and body fat (1). Another more recent study found that after consuming eggs for breakfast, overweight and obese subjects had a lower energy intake in comparison to eating cereal for breakfast (2).
If you do not love eggs, that is totally okay! The takeaway is that a high-quality source of protein and healthy fat for breakfast will more than likely keep you satisfied, help with calorie control, reduce cravings and feel more energized than the traditional breakfast cereal or grain.
Great quick & nutrient dense breakfast option (Avocado, egg scramble with spinach, Greek yogurt, berries and peanut butter).
Being aware and mindful of appropriate portions of protein, fat, carbohydrates and even refined sugars is key for eating less to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. Counting calories isn’t fun and can be quite tedious so learning appropriate serving sizes of the main food groups is the best way to be successful whether you are out to eat, on-the-go, at home, or at a birthday party. I work with many to understand the value of their portions and how it affects their choices and even sleep later.
A simple guide for each meal:
Healthy fats: 1 tbsp. (thumb as a serving size)- oils, butter, avocado, cheese, nuts, seed oils
High-quality protein: 3-4 oz. (deck of cards as a serving size) – fish, chicken, lean beef, turkey, tofu, beans, dairy and pulses
Vegetables and fruits: 1 cup or half of the plate
Whole-grains: ¼ of the plate- whole grains, 1/3 cup of oatmeal
Context is key as always, those that are more active, athletes or require greater energy needs due to infections, wound healing or other situations where more energy is needed such as oncology. You can’t manage what you don’t track so it is important to be mindful of portions and in many cases keeping a food diary, taking photos of your meals or tracking in an app to help you lose weight (3).
You are more likely to choose a healthier food if you’re aware of how many calories are in something. For example, measuring your serving of peanut butter. Many assume they are consuming the serving size but in fact they are doubling it. 2 tbsp. of most peanut butters are 190 kcal, imagine if you are consuming 4 tbsp. in a sitting and doing that every day, every week of every month for a year. This equates into an additional 190 kcal/day which can lead to 1,330 kcal unaccounted for at the end of the week. Weight-gain is inevitable if you are consuming more calories than you are burning. 3,500 kcal are equivalent to one pound and this could easily be the case for many without being aware of portions
3. Always keep a cooler in your car along with healthy snacks to fill it with
Having nutrient dense foods available and accessible can help prevent you from eating something lower in nutrition and higher calorie should you become hungry. As you have learned, protein is important for increasing satiety and can help manage your weight.
Some great options to keep on hand include:
Hard boiled eggs with carrot sticks
Turkey roll-up wraps in spinach
Peanut butter and celery sticks
Cheese slices and green pepper slices
Sliced bell peppers and hummus
Cottage cheese with banana slices
Berry spinach protein shake
Apple with to-go nut butter
Greek yogurt parfait with berries in a to-go container or mason jar
4. Combine resistance training and aerobic exercise
One of the biggest myths out there is that lifting weights makes you “big” or bulky. Studies have shown that resistance training increases your calories burnt at rest (resting energy expenditure), supports lean mass and when combined with aerobic exercise is an effect fat loss strategy (4, 5). Resistance exercise is critical for building healthy strong muscles and bones as well as decreasing your risk for disease later. Resistance training also increases muscle growth when combined with appropriate protein intake. Another study involving 40 post-menopausal women were able to decrease their body fat combining resistance training and a higher-protein diet (6).
The research supporting resistance training and aerobic exercise provides great motivation to get moving! If you’re interested in engaging in activity or ramping up your exercise regimen for the first time be sure to work with a qualified fitness expert who holds a credible certification or has experience as a fitness professional to develop you a plan. Please contact me directly for guidance on a fitness program!
Also, please look at one of my power lifting clients, Molly who dropped > 30 lbs. through proper diet, aerobic and strength training. Her great progress photo is shown. Molly worked daily on creating healthy habits, consistency with her protein intake and managing portion control. Her physical transformation is inspiring, but her mental and spiritual growth is second to none!
5. Follow a high-protein diet
According to the American Heart Association, adults trying to lose weight and maintain weight loss should eat no more than 30% of total daily calories from fat and less than 7 percent from saturated fat. Currently, the recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a measly 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. The RDA refers to the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. Many confuse the RDA and how to make recommendations to their patients, client and athletes. The RDA is really the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick, not the actual amount you should consume each day. For example, an average adult should consume roughly 25-30 grams of protein per meal, according to Protein Summit 2.0. Furthermore, research by the Protein Summit 2.0 indicated that 1.0 -1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day is beneficial for healthy metabolic function.
I have written about the low RDA for protein and why more is needed to sustain muscle and health in a previous blog published on my website, here . Growing research has indicated following a high-protein diet can help people lose weight, improve body composition, build lean mass, increase satiety and help maintain a calorie deficit over time to further support weight loss maintenance.
By eating more protein, 25-30 grams per meal can help reduce hunger, suppress appetite which can help decrease undesired snacking leading to a calorie deficit. When trying to lose weight it would be beneficial to replace excess carbohydrate choices with high-quality protein snacks like Greek yogurt, string cheese, hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, turkey slices or even protein shake. Research is mixed on the precise figures, but the available research has supported protein has a much higher thermic effect compared to carbohydrates (20-30%) and (5-10%) respectively (7).
Lastly, consuming a casein rich food before bed can also help support muscle growth, recovery, appetite suppression, weight loss and weight management. Casein is the main protein in milk products, and it is considered a “slow digesting” protein. Not to be confused with whey protein isolate which is a fast digesting protein that should be consumed around training sessions and can serve as meal replacement during times of calorie restriction (8). Since casein protein is slow release it can reduce the rate of digestion and support fat loss. Not only does more protein help increase satiety and energy expenditure but it can also help with appetite suppression in the later hours. A study found that taking casein before bed resulted in 25% higher satiety levels the following day (9). Greater satiety will yield greater results when it comes to weight loss.
Ever notice you tend to move less, have limited motivation to do much beyond your daily work tasks, eat more unhealthy foods that are high in sugar or even calories when you do not sleep well? If you’re feeling sleepy at work, you grab another cup of coffee and the cookies in the pantry hoping for a “burst of energy” but actually makes you feel even more tired. You then later skip your usual walk breaks and even the workout you had planned to do. If this is you, you are not alone. Sleep debt is like a high interest rate credit care that if it continues to accumulate you will not be able to pay it off and you crash.
Think you can catch up on sleep lost and it will not affect you or your weight? Think again, a study examined moderate sleep restriction on body weight, body composition and metabolic factors in individuals following a caloric restricted diet. The study found that one hour of sleep restriction on five nights per week led to decreased proportion of fat mass loss despite restricting calories (11).
Insufficient sleep derails your weight loss efforts in many ways. Leptin is the hormone that controls your appetite, and when you are sleep deprived you have less leptin. A surplus of grehlin plus little leptin is a fast track or weight gain. A 2010 study found increased hunger, a shift in energy use, less calories expired and less weight loss in participants who slept 5.5 hours (10).
It’s more than safe to say there is a connection between sleep and weight. Strive for 7 or more hours each night to support good energy levels, metabolism, food and activity choices and overall health. The industry will say, “sleep is for the weak” just take this pill, but you know now know differently.
7. More water, especially before meals
Many are very aware how important water is for health, wellness, weight loss and appetite control yet it is commonly touted that you shouldn’t consume water before meals. A study found that drinking 500 mL of water 30 minutes before each meal combined with a calorie-controlled diet led to greater weight loss in overweight and obese middle-aged adults (12).
Water is essential for nutrient and oxygen transportation, lubricating joints, regulating body temperature, protecting organs and tissues, dissolving minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to your body and helping the liver flush waste products (13).
Work to increase your water intake upon waking by having a 8-20 oz. water bottle by your bed.
Strive to consume 16 oz. before meals.
20 – 24 oz. of water between meals
10 oz. before bed to support good digestion
Increased water intake is associated with better weight control and weight management (13). So drink up!
We need to stop relying on poor information given out by celebrities, influencers who lack credibility. Instead of spending money on pills, powders, challenges and false promises invest in your daily habits. Get more sleep, drink more water, learn portion control, eat balanced meals and stop giving up on yourself. Take control of your habits and implement the strategies in this article that the diet industry doesn’t want you to know. Sustainable weight loss is about controlling your appetite and consuming more protein and getting rest is a simple way to do it! The secret is out, and it is not the next celebrity cleanse. Your habits should support the future you are trying to create. If you are ready to stop saying “day one” or “one day” contact me, and let’s work together to create a plan for success!
In good health,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi works remotely and currently operates as a traveling dietitian. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website .
Follow Wendi on Twitter and Instagram for nutrition, health and fitness inspiration.
(1)Vander Wal, J. S., Gupta, A., Khosla, P., & Dhurandhar, N. V. (2008). Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. International journal of obesity (2005), 32(10), 1545–1551. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2008.130
(2)B Keogh, J., & M Clifton, P. (2020). Energy Intake and Satiety Responses of Eggs for Breakfast in Overweight and Obese Adults-A Crossover Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(15), 5583. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155583
(3). Burke, L. E., Wang, J., & Sevick, M. A. (2011). Self-monitoring in weight loss: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(1), 92–102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.008
(4) Ho, S. S., Dhaliwal, S. S., Hills, A. P., & Pal, S. (2012). The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC public health, 12, 704. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-12-704
(5)Hunter, G. R., Byrne, N. M., Sirikul, B., Fernández, J. R., Zuckerman, P. A., Darnell, B. E., & Gower, B. A. (2008). Resistance training conserves fat-free mass and resting energy expenditure following weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 16(5), 1045–1051. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2008.38
(6) Miller, T., Mull, S., Aragon, A. A., Krieger, J., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2018). Resistance Training Combined With Diet Decreases Body Fat While Preserving Lean Mass Independent of Resting Metabolic Rate: A Randomized Trial. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 28(1), 46–54. https://d6 oi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0221
(8) Kinsey, A. W., Cappadona, S. R., Panton, L. B., Allman, B. R., Contreras, R. J., Hickner, R. C., & Ormsbee, M. J. (2016). The Effect of Casein Protein Prior to Sleep on Fat Metabolism in Obese Men. Nutrients, 8(8), 452. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8080452
(9) Ananda Hochstenbach-Waelen, Margriet AB Veldhorst, Arie G Nieuwenhuizen, Margriet S Westerterp-Plantenga, Klaas R Westerterp, Comparison of 2 diets with either 25% or 10% of energy as casein on energy expenditure, substrate balance, and appetite profile, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 89, Issue 3, March 2009, Pages 831–838, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2008.26917
(11) Wang, X., Sparks, J. R., Bowyer, K. P., & Youngstedt, S. D. (2018). Influence of sleep restriction on weight loss outcomes associated with caloric restriction. Sleep, 41(5), 10.1093/sleep/zsy027. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy027
(12) Handbook of Non Drug Intervention (HANDI) Project Team (2013). Pre-meal water consumption for weight loss. Australian family physician, 42(7), 478.
(13) Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews, 68(8), 439–458. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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 .
If you’re a high school athlete, you’ve probably gone to an early morning practice, school, training session, or game without eating “breakfast”. Learn how you’re hindering your performance. Or, if you work with young athletes, are a high school athlete, or a parent of the one you know what crazy mornings look like these days. Many are so worried about checking their phone in the am they are wasting precious minutes that could be allocated to breakfast. Case and point, if you have time to grab your phone, scroll through social in the morning then you have time to grab something nutritious to fuel your day. That’s right, young athletes need to eat breakfast and the excuse “I don’t have time” or “I’m not hungry” is not acceptable. Time for some tough love here. Way too many teens are staying up past midnight snacking and not getting quality sleep which disrupts the circadian clock, hunger hormones like ghrelin and leptin leading to “appetite disruptions”. This is quite common because high-calorie, low-nutrient choices like Cheetos , candies, and snack foods were consumed at 1 am while playing Minecraft.
“Time” the biggest barrier in skipping breakfast
According to a study, parents identified time as the greatest barrier to breakfast consumption. To overcome this barrier, we must utilize our down-time outside of morning hours and throughout the week to prepare grab and go-options. This article will help decrease the concern parents also have about the healthfulness of some traditional breakfasts. I will provide some simple, high-nutrient options for that first meal of the day!
Breakfast, what is it? According to Merriam-Webister, breakfast is the first meal of the day, especially when taken in the morning. While most health professionals, doctors, and dietitians will say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The reason breakfast, the first meal of the day I.e. breaking the fast is considered incredibly important is since we wake up dehydrated and need to fuel both our muscle and brain for the day. The first meal we put into our bodies sets the tone for our neurotransmitters that day. Research has indicated nutrients and calories missed at breakfast by teens are unlikely to be made up for later in the day. Studies also illustrate breakfast eaters tend to have higher school attendance, score higher on standardized tests, greater on-time attendance, and fewer hunger-induced stomach pains in the morning. Additionally, recent studies illustrate the benefits of breakfast. To the parents out there reading this, you should front-load your calories. What does that mean? Well, it would be helpful for weight management and long-term health to consume a higher amount of nutrients at breakfast than at dinner according to a 2020 article published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
As the day progresses and schedules intensify there is left time to eat and fuel. If you’re new to my work, then please refer back to my where I break down the difference between eating and fueling. In fact, archive People first an athlete second will always be my approach. We eat for health first and fuel for performance second. Fundamental carbohydrate and protein information for young athletes can be found here . If you are a strength coach then check out this article as I have written it specifically for you.
Eating and fueling upon fasting while we are rested is key for supporting growth, development, and maturation. Then factor in practices, training, and conditioning? It’s a recipe for injury, blunted maturation, stress fractures, and consequences for long-term health if we skip meals. In my opinion, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. That is right, nor is “lunch” or “dinner”. As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and performance dietitian I educate and coach on the philosophy that ALL MEALS MATTER! A great resource on building a high-performance plate can be viewed here. One meal is not more important than another. I also reference pre-training and post-training nutrition in this statement. Many young athletes are so worried about that post-competition meal being perfect but fail to at consistently well at all the other meals leading up to the event. How you eat at each meal will produce much better results for growth and recovery than one meal. #EattheRainbow
All meals matter explained
When I present at coaches, clinics, and conferences I reference “breakfast” but quickly identify that I call breakfast as meal one. I do not use traditional meal patterns like most. Why you may ask? Well, for starters I like to teach my athletes that all meals matter. Not one meal over another, and I also clear up the confusion that there’s some special “pre-game” or “pre-training” meal that will bolster an athlete’s performance. The fact of the matter is that the meals consumed leading up to that training session are what win games and lead to a stellar training session. Consistently eating well over time translates into successful practices, games and ultimately championships won.
Ask any successful coach who has had a string of winning seasons, he/she understands it’s all about the fundamentals carried out day in and day out. Championship teams are not strung together after a few weeks of camp. It takes time, commitment, planning, and strategy. Furthermore, high-school and adult athletes need more than the three normal meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) a non-athlete would consume. Athletes need more calories and that requires more frequent feedings with a higher volume of calories. Young athletes also need to get in plenty of colorful fruits and veggies. Unsure of how to incorporate them? Check out one of my recent articles, 7 Ways to Get More Veggies into your Young Athlete’s Diet published at Simplifaster .
Nutrition with Wendi Coaching Hack
When counseling my young athletes and recreationally active adults we go over the benefits consume four-five meals per day. When we go over their nutrition I ask, what was meal one? Referring to “breakfast” as meal one also helps young athletes feel like eating something before, they leave the house is realistic. Breakfast is often affiliated with a “sit down and eat approach”. Most young athletes and even adults do not have time to sit down and eat something and feel overwhelmed with a lack of planning or time in the morning. So, for a young growing, and developing athlete meal one is a grab-n-go option of a protein, fiber + carbohydrate. Ideally, the meal would be planned out in advance to ensure it is available to grab on the way out. Control your controllable habits, planning meals in advance for a schedule you know you have come up with is controllable. Simple grab-and-go breakfasts include hard-boiled egg and fruit, string cheese and banana, yogurt parfait and whole-grain granola, whole-grain toast with nut butter, turkey breakfast sandwich, and berries and oatmeal.
My top five premium fuel meal one options
Eggs, one of the most nutrient-dense, convenient, and inexpensive foods available. Eggs are rich in choline which helps support neurotransmitter production for cognition. 6-8 grams of high-quality protein and contain all essential amino acids for muscle mass, bone health, and promoting satiety. also contain lutein and zeaxanthin which are antioxidants that support eye health. Eggs are considered one of the most nutritious foods available containing several vitamins, minerals, and folate. Egg scramble, hard-boiled, or even a fried egg sandwich!
2. Greek Yogurt, another nutrient-rich option that is convenient, delicious, and nourishing for all ages. Greek yogurt is high in protein, reduces appetite, contains beneficial pro-biotics for healthy gut function along with calcium and vitamin D. Greek yogurt also contains electrolytes and carbohydrates to support brain and muscle contraction. I build several yogurt parfaits and keep them in the fridge for busy days. See video on my Facebook page on building the ultimate parfait or posts for inspiration!
Bone Health Hack
Calcium can only reach its full bone-growth potential in the presence of adequate vitamin D. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium. Recommendations for calcium and vitamin D vary. A great way to attain adequate calcium and vitamin D is to consume dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, milk, and fortified beverages. Bonus: A yogurt parfait with mixed berries can be a great pre-exercise snack roughly 45-60 min before training. A yogurt parfait offers key carbohydrates and high-quality protein to fuel exercise.
Whole-grains Oatmeal or Overnight Oats, a great way to attain some high-quality calories for optimal focus in the classroom and on the field. Oatmeal is a great swap for those breakfast cereal lovers, oatmeal contains more fiber, less sugar and promotes satiety along with an abundance of B-vitamins. Oats are also rich in antioxidants which help reduce exercise-induced inflammation and support heart health. Keep in mind 1 cup of oatmeal contains scant protein, 6-8 g to be exact. This is why it is important to incorporate some sort of protein option like Greek yogurt, string cheese, hard-boiled egg, milk, whey protein powder, or a high-protein nut butter like RX nut butter, 100% peanut butter, and almond butter Please check out my website for some ideas on overnight oats or view this great recipe via the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Whole-grain toast, wrap, waffle, or even PANCAKES! That is right, whole-grain pancakes can be a great sit-down option, grab-n-go, or even snack later in the week. You can prepare them in bulk and wrap the leftovers in tinfoil. I have a great recipe here for you to try or Nuts’-n-More. Use discount code 143NWW for 15% off your next order. View the high-protein coconut pancake recipe here!
High-protein fruit smoothie, quick and convenient way to consume high-quality protein, carbohydrates, fruits, and liquids on the go. You can even add Greek yogurt, chia seeds, flax, or other omega-3 fatty fats to help support health, digestion and reduce exercise-induced inflammation. Be sure to include NSF approved whey protein powder or cow’s milk for ample high-quality protein. Put together protein powder, chia seeds, fruits/veggies in a gallon freezer bag and place in the freezer to be used in the morning to save time. Add milk, ice and you’re set.
Simple ways to overcome the time barrier with simple meals:
Establish a morning routine
Utilize breakfast at school (if available)Wake up 15-min sooner
Prepare foods for meal one ahead of time
Dozen hard-boiled eggs for the week
Hard-boiled egg, spinach & chicken
Smoothie freezer bags ready to go
Overnight oats in mason jars for the week
Turkey cheese sausage bagel wrapped in tinfoil
Grab-and-go chocolate or white milk
Bananas, apples, pears, and other perishable fruit on hand
String cheese and portioned out nuts
Whole-grain pita with turkey, egg, and cheese
Egg scramble muffin tins baked ahead of time
Wendi’s Egg-cellent Eggbake recipe which can be portioned out (Click here )
Greek yogurt parfaits in mason jars or Tupperware container
Please follow me on Twitter for other quick and healthy nutritional strategies
Mixing it all together
We eat for health first and fuel for athletic performance second). Baring in mind that not every young athlete will always be an athlete. We must learn healthy habits early on which begin with meal one. As always, we need to get back to the basics. To be a champion you must be willing to execute healthy habits consistently to be successful. What are you willing to do today that will help you be better tomorrow? Plan to start your day with the intent of what you plan to accomplish which hopefully upon reading this article is meal one. If the pandemic is still overwhelming you please refer back to a previous blog I wrote on staying healthy during the quarantine found here .
Still, feeling a little hungry for more information on nutrition and even training? Check out an article I co-authored with Erica Suter available here. In the article, I provide a weekly sample menu for young athletes and Erica provides a sample week of strength and conditioning. I highly recommend Erica to anyone out there who works with young female athletes or is a young female athlete. Erica’s knowledge is next to none and she is someone I respect with significance in our field as a role model to both young men and women of all ages.
“Nutrition is a secret weapon! It can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good, the choice is up to you!” (Sm)
In Good Health and Performance,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist, health & fitness coach, and former college athlete. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to create nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing oninjury prevention. Wendi partners with parents, sports performance staff, special needs and recreational athletes, and organizations to eat and fuel for success. Wendi specializes in sports nutrition serving elite youth athletes as well as collegiate athletes teaching them the importance of getting back to the basics. She is a former sports dietitian for the Dairy Council of Michigan, is an adjunct instructor in Kinesiology, Health, and Wellness Division at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan. She 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 also works with the general population to build healthier habits and improve body composition. Wendi is based in East Lansing, Michigan with her own nutrition consulting business.Follow Wendi on Twitter and Instagram and book a consultation to become a nutritional client HERE.
More than one-third of U.S. adults have obesity, which is defined as having a BMI > 30. According to the World Health Organization, obesity has nearly tripled worldwide since 1975. In 2016, > 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese. A staggering 38 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2019. Most of the world’s population live in countries were overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight. Do I have your attention yet? If not, did you know that 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese. Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016. All the aforementioned facts are per the WHO . Obesity is preventable. We need to wake up and do better, not just for ourselves but the next generations to come. The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed our lives and we must revisit our lifestyle choices in honor of health and disease prevention.
This article will highlight the association of obesity and Covid-19. First and foremost, for adults, the WHO defines overweight as BMI > or equal to 25; and obesity is a BMI > 30. BMI provides a rough measurement tool to correspond fatness in different individuals. It is not the best indicator of health as it is a population-level measure which is the same for both sexes and all ages and adults. BMI does not tell us bio-metrics, energy levels, sleep, relationship with food and other areas that predict health. However, it does provide a common way to classify
overweight or obesity in adults. BMI is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his or her height in meters (kg/m2).
Causes of Obesity
Imbalance of calories from physical inactivity or surplus of calories consumed chronically over time
Family history and genetics
Medications: Some anti-seizure medications, antidepressants, steroids and beta blockers can lead to undesirable weight gain
Environment: Surrounding yourself with friends and family who may be overweight making poor food and beverage choices can lead to greater risk of obesity
Too little sleep which can increase appetite and desire to consume low nutrient foods
Why is obesity a risk factor for Covid-19?
Obesity is considered a large risk factor for risk of severe COVID-19 because of the respiratory dysfunction. Those with obesity have a greater likely hood of experiencing restricted airways, decreased lung volumes, and weaker respiratory muscles which are an essential defense against COVID-19. Such factors make an individual more susceptible to pneumonia, and experience additional cardiac stress. Furthermore, obesity is also linked with diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease, which overall increase the risk of developing pneumonia. Other ailments like hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and pre-diabetes enhance the susceptibility to infection.
The current science:
Data from 383 patients showed that having obesity was associated with a 142% higher risk of developing severe pneumonia associated with COVID-19.
A larger study of over 4,000 patients with COVID-19 in New York City found that severe obesity was a major risk factor for hospitalization, second only to age.
Analysis of critically ill COVID-19 patients in Seattle found that 85% of patients with obesity required mechanical ventilation, compared to 64% of patients without the condition. Moreover, 62% of the patients with obesity died of COVID-19, compared with 36% of those without obesity.
Limitation: Study only assessed 24 patients, all of whom were critically ill, making it difficult to draw attention to the conclusions from the data.
• Another analysis of 124 patients in Lille, France, found that patients with obesity were more likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation.
Collectively this evidence suggest that obesity may be a significant risk factor for COVID-19. Dr. Norbert Stefan, of the German Center for Diabetes Research stated that “obesity may put people infected with Covid-19 at more severe risk and possibly risk of death.” Many of the recent articles published in the last 2 months regarding comorbidities and the association with COVID-19 did not produce data surrounding body composition or metabolic health. The gap in data warrants further research to investigate how body composition, waist circumference, and blood glucose levels play a role in contraction and recovery from the virus, specifically metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a serious health condition that affects roughly 23 percent of adults and increases their risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and diseases related to fatty buildups in arterial walls according to the American Heart Association. The overall underlying cause of metabolic syndrome includes being overweight, obese, inactivity along with other genetic factors associated with aging.
However, given the limited studies there is not sufficient evidence to definitively say that those with obesity at higher risk for more severe COVID-19. The limited literature does suggest a connection and we can note that obesity is indeed a risk factor for worse outcomes in regard to health. Research does support the notion that those who are obese tend to experience more severe forms of infections according to a publication in the International Journal of Obesity .
Strategies to Overcome Obesity: Tips for a Healthier Tomorrow
Now that we are aware of the connection obesity has with disease and infection let’s talk about practical strategies and tips to improve body composition and overall health! First and foremost, obesity prevention begins at a young age. It’s important to help young growing adolescents maintain a healthy weight without a focus on the scale.
Obesity prevention for children
Help your toddlers learn appropriate portion sizes. The American Academy of Pediatrics states children from the ages of 1 to 3, every inch of height should equate to approximately 40 calories. As children age you can teach them what appropriate portion sizes look like.
Eat healthy foods as a family and create a healthy experience with eating at the table with no distractions like tablets, computes, phones and other games.
Encourage eating slowly and eating only when hungry. Eating out of boredom can lead to excess calorie consumption. If you find yourself eating out of boredom be sure to have healthy snacks like fresh cut fruits and veggies available to snack on.
Limit unhealthy foods that lack nutrients in the household. If it ends up in your cart at the store, it will end up in your mouth and eventually your tummy. Stock the fridge and pantry with healthy foods, and limit low nutrient foods as a “treat” that is not consumed daily.
Establish a healthy sleep routine and focus on managing stress. Those that tend to sleep more heave a healthier weight and crave less unhealthy foods that are often low in nutrition. Higher stress is also associated with weight gain due to poor coping mechanisms.
Incorporate regular physical activity which includes at least 60 minutes per day. A byproduct of being more active is less time in front of the screen.
Obesity prevention for adults
It is no secret obesity prevention tips are the same for losing or maintaining a healthy weight. Consuming a healthy diet, sufficient sleep and participating in regular physical activity can help prevent obesity.
Consume plenty of healthy fats. A study published in the Nutrition Journal illustrated that intake of healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated fats, can attenuate cholesterol levels and decrease obesity risk.
Eat regular meals on a schedule. Eat a proper breakfast, lunch and dinner that has appropriate portion sizes. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Adults should consume five to nine servings of fruits and veggies each day.
Fruits and veggies are low in calories, high in nutrients, water and full of dietary fiber that supports satiety. Research shows dietary fiber plays a key role in maintaining a healthy weight. A 2019 trial published in Journal of Nutrition found that dietary fiber intake promotes weight loss and dietary adherence in adults with overweight or obesity consuming a calorie-restricted diet.
Consume less processed and high sugar foods. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, processed and ultra-processed foods are linked to increased risk for obesity. Most processed foods are high in fat, sodium, and refined sugar which can promote over-eating.
High calorie, high sugar foods often contain limited nutrients and tend to promote over-eating. Processed foods that should be limited to avoided include cereals, white bread, potato chips, cookies, ice cream, granola bars, crackers and other snack foods. Be mindful of marketing claims for certain snack foods that may list “low-fat” or ‘low-carb” but still contain a significant amount of sugar and limited nutrients. Should you choose granola bars or grains ensure they are whole-grain.
Participating in regular activity that includes both strength training and aerobic activity. Regular physical activity of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity is encouraged per week according to the CDC . Find a movement that you enjoy doing and set a goal to complete it each week with the family. Establish smart goals and hire a coach that can assist you in completing appropriate exercise safely to prevent injury. If you’re new to exercise, begin by walking, stretching and strive to improve your time spent exercising each week.
Focus on meal prep and have a plan. It is much easier to shop for healthy foods when you have a list that meets your budget. If you walk into a store with a list you are less likely to be tempted by unhealthy foods. Avoid walking down the aisles looking for items that are not on your list. A good grocery list should contain plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, healthy whole-grains, lean proteins, healthy fats and spices. Be sure to make a regular list and post it on the fridge for items as you run out.
Eat more protein and veggies as snacks. Higher protein intake is associated with better weight management, glycemic index and bone health according to several studies. A review published in the Journal of Food Science specifically illustrates the metabolic advantages of higher protein diet and benefits of dairy. Higher protein intake is associated with greater satiety and healthier better composition. Some great high-protein options include eggs, Greek yogurt, beef, chicken, fish, lentils, wild game and other dairy products. A study published in the European Journal of Obesity examining the effect of a high-protein diet versus a standard protein diet on weight loss and biomarkers of metabolic syndrome found significantly greater weight loss with higher protein diet.
Many are looking for ways to stay calm during one of the most unprecedented health crises our country has ever seen. Shift your focus to these 3 areas to improve your health during the pandemic.
Establish a routine:
Which includes regular wake, bedtime, movement, mealtimes, schoolwork, work projects and “leisure time” built in to create stability. Eat breakfast every day! Those that consume the majority of their calories early on are less likely to be overweight and obese. Be sure to incorporate a high-quality protein, fiber and fluids. By getting into the habit of completing tasks on a regular basis along with mealtimes you set yourself up for a new normal.
Be mindful of fluids, what you are eating at meals and snacking on. High-stress situations can lead to an impact on our ability to make healthy choices. By stress eating high-calorie and low nutrient foods you are more likely to put on undesirable weight. By creating a schedule of mealtimes and having a calendar of meals you are less likely to eat out of boredom.
Have fruits and veggies cut and prepared in the fridge should you be hungry and snack on nutrient dense foods versus processed food.Grocery shopping is critical, be sure to have a list prepared ahead of time and stock up on plenty of frozen along with fresh fruits and veggies.
Eat the rainbow and incorporate as many whole foods as possible. By eating colorful fruits and vegetables you can support a healthy immune system. Vitamins and minerals support a healthy immune system which are found in pigment rich foods (color!).
Be sure to also incorporate unsalted, nuts, seeds, lean proteins and healthy fats can truly help optimize your immune function land even support good sleep. What we eat has a direct impact on our sleep which can also help keep unwanted pounds at bay!
Supporting positive mental health with movement and meditation!
Getting plenty of regular movement, aerobic activities like walking, biking, hiking, swimming along with resistance training with household items or weights at home. Exercise boosts physical, mental and emotional health which can help reduce stress overall. By reducing stress, you are also fighting off the risk of disease and illness. 30-40 minutes a day of yoga, meditation, walking, running or biking is a great way to stay healthy! Many apps, videos and programs are available on demand online.
Work with a Dietitian to Fight Off Obesity and Establish Healthy Habits
Many find great success working with a registered dietitian nutritionist. Research indicates that a few sessions with an RDN can lead to healthier habits, optimal food choices and successful weight loss. As an RDN I personally work with many on improving their relationship with food, eating more fruits and veggies, selecting high-quality proteins, and preparing foods at home. RDN’s can assist in developing a calorie-controlled plan and calculating out energy needs that support appropriate weight loss, weight maintenance goals. Additionally, a personal trainer or fitness coach can also assist you in setting goals for routine physical activity. I work with several individuals on creating a periodized program for appropriate progression of physical activity. The goal is to move more and to feel good about the exercise you are doing. The journey to 100 miles begins with taking that first step. I am here to help you and support you, join me and take that first step to a healthier tomorrow!
In good health,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and fitness coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for those looking to improve their health and energy. Along with supporting athletes desiring to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. Wendi partners with parents, sports performance staff, special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance & lifestyle plans. Wendi is based in East Lansing, Michigan and is very active on social media platforms such as facebook , twitter and Instagram.