As busy as we have gotten it is time for me to ramp up my videos on youtube and share out some of these actionable tips I provide on Twitter. I will be providing a Tip Tuesday for you to share in your weight room with athletes, in email blasts, at your school, in your athletic department, or anywhere you see fit.
August 2nd *the very first weight room tip Tuesday with Wendi* is now LIVE and available for you to share out.
You can download and share the 90-second clip found on my youtube page and Instagram. The recommended pre-workout graphics are listed below and also found in blogs and on my IG page.
I was praying about how to reach more programs that may struggle with nutrition resources. After some prayer I felt convicted to offer complimentary videos with tips is a great way to help and reach more people. (thank you Jesus and I give all glory to you).
If your program does want to invest in a pre-recorded or LIVE team talk we have actually been creating partnerships with various HS and college programs like hockey, football, and soccer programs.
We work with others but these are our major partners. We kick off the partnership with various presentations that include but are not limited to nutrition 101, supplements, weight management, and injury prevention.
In addition, follow-up video chats to keep your athletes on track with eating, fueling, recovery, and sleep hygiene.
Nutrition is one of the best and most important resources you will make. We are willing and available to help your program take your performance to the next level! Contact us for more information by clicking here.
In good health and performance,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN 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. Learn more about our programs here.
Great question! I get this question from athletes all the time or from parents or coaches concerned about educating their athletes.
What to eat the night before any competition or event depends on many factors. Read on as I provide guidance for sports like ice hockey, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, lacrosse, American football, and track, and field.
It’s actually more important to be cognizant of what you’re eating and drinking in the days leading up to your game or competition. (Learn more here)
Avoid making common mistakes on intense training days or on competition days.
Consuming high-fat or high-fiber right before activity
My five tips to keep in mind when thinking about the night before game day
1.What you eat the night before any competition should be practiced in advance. I can’t stress this enough.
If you try new foods you could end up getting sick with stomach pain, cramping, or digestion issues, the meal could negatively affect your sleep, and ultimately end up disrupting your performance the next day.
Our 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 consumed the night before.
2. Limit oils, too much fiber, and high-fat cuts of meat that take a great deal of time to digest and can prevent you from properly fueling up with carbs.
Too much fiber can also cause GI distress Your goal is to fill up glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates).
Consume a casein-rich snack like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, or string cheese paired with an apple or banana.
The casein (slow digesting dairy protein) will help repair and rebuild muscle while at rest.
A small serving of carbohydrates will top off the fuel tank roughly 45-60 min before bed.
Avoid caffeine, spicy foods, and fried foods.
Cherries and bananas have also been shown to support restful sleep. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin which helps you fall asleep.
Bananas are a great source of magnesium which is a mineral aiding in muscle relaxation. The perfect combo to help your muscles relax, recover, and for you to sleep well before your big game or competition!
NO NEW FOODS THE NIGHT BEFORE A GAME OR ON GAME DAY! I can’t stress this enough!
Practice foods and meals you want to eat the night before a game a week before to know “it works and feels good for you”.
What are the benefits of partnering with Nutrition with Wendi to help you with your performance or recovery?
” Wendi has helped me feel better going into games and camps and has assisted with my weight gain goal. I have gained a solid 10 lbs since we started working together and I have more energy during practice and training. My muscles aren’t as sore after games either.”
The Nutrition with Wendi team utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. We partner with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. We provide virtual services including telehealth but are based in Nashville, TN. Follow us onTwitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information. Service
Iron is a mineral that the body needs to grow and develop. Iron helps make healthy red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout the body. Iron is critical for normal immune function. Iron is the structural component of hundreds of essential molecules. Iron assists antioxidant enzymes.
Iron deficiency is the number one nutritional deficiency in the United States. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) II. iron deficiency occurs in approximately 11% of women,1-2% of all adults, and in approximately 12.5% of athletes.
It is the No. 1 cause of anemia in athletes. Iron deficiency rates (with or without anemia) in athletes range from 20-50% in women and 4-50% in men.
Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells due to a lack of iron in the body.
Two forms of dietary iron
Heme iron is better absorbed than nonheme iron; the absorption of nonheme iron is enhanced by vitamin C.
National dietary surveys indicate that iron is under-consumed by adolescent and premenopausal females.
Iron recommendations vary between adults and teens
What causes iron deficiency
Iron losses occur from blood loss in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, microscopic losses in urine, hemolysis of red blood cells (RBC) breakdown, menstrual cycle, sweat loss, and intense exercise.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, Advil, and naproxen deplete iron and folate. Frequent use of medications with GI side effects such as aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or naproxen can cause or worsen iron deficiency.
Physical activity particularly high intensity and endurance types increase iron losses by as much as 70% when compared to sedentary populations. Athletes lose more iron due to heavy sweating as well as increased blood loss in the urine and GI tract.
Causes range from a variety of health issues to simply overtraining or even lack sleep. Any athlete that experiences a decrease in training or performance coupled with symptoms should seek out their primary care doctor for further testing and analysis.
Signs and symptoms of low iron
Weakness, fatigue, decreased physical endurance, feeling hot or cold, diminished immune response, alterations in energy levels, cognitive performance, and overall behavior. Iron deficiency is not the only cause of these common symptoms.
Iron in meat, fish, and eggs is easily absorbed by the body but the iron in plant sources is attached to phytates that bind iron in foods.
Following a plant-based diet and limiting animal iron sources can be a challenge. As a practitioner, I meet the client where they are at but do share that consuming animal protein will offer greater iron to support their health and performance goals.
Guidance on increasing iron as a plant-based athlete
Pair leafy greens (bok choy, kale, spinach) with a source of vitamin c (broccoli, strawberries, bell peppers, and kiwi) –This can increase the absorption by up to 67%! (3)
Cooking food in cast iron or stainless steel cookware also aids in iron absorption (cook all veggies and protein in the cast iron skillet)
Eat more beans, lentils, edamame, baked potatoes, and Iron-fortified oatmeal (higher sources of iron).
Drink tea or coffee separately from an iron-containing meal or snacks. Caffeine inhibits iron absorption.
Additional ways to combine vitamin C-rich foods with beans
Drain a can of pineapple cubes and add them to canned baked beans
Toss cooked black beans with shredded cabbage in your favorite coleslaw recipe
Sauté red peppers and onions in olive oil and stir into the white navy or Great Northern beans (cast iron pan)
Add any type of cooked beans to a spinach or kale salad with pineapple or fruit
Add fatty fish into your diet 1x/week (3 oz of salmon) or oysters (also a rich source of iron)!!
Blend up leafy greens and fruits rich in vitamin C with your smoothies (you can even add beans – I promise it is a neutral taste)
Eat more lean red meat, chicken, seafood, beans, lentils, edamame, baked potatoes, and Iron-fortified oatmeal (higher sources of iron).
Sauté red peppers and onions in olive oil and stir into the white navy or Great Northern beans (cast iron pan)
In a skillet prepare steak, spinach, or collard greens paired with berries (best way to increase iron)
When young athletes or adults we start with simple guidance to help increase iron
Set meal goals: 4 oz of flank steak 2-3 x/week paired with leafy greens
Snack idea: A side of roasted chickpeas paired with pineapple
Snack idea 2: A 1/2 cup of mixed berries paired with fortified oatmeal
Before taking an iron supplement to correct an iron deficiency you should contact your physician and work with a dietitian to raise iron levels properly. It is best to work closely with a dietitian to ensure you or your young athlete is getting the proper amount if iron to avoid health and performance consequences. We have worked with hundreds of teen athletes and plant-based adults that have struggled with low iron. We can help you too! Contact us for student-athlete coaching or for a virtual presentation for your sports team.
In good faith, health, and athletic performance,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS,RDN,LD,CISSN
Citations and resources to learn more:
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) II.
Hurrell, R., & Egli, I. (2010). Iron bioavailability and dietary reference values. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 91(5), 1461S–1467S. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2010.28674F
Goldstein, J. L., Chan, F. K., Lanas, A., Wilcox, C. M., Peura, D., Sands, G. H., Berger, M. F., Nguyen, H., & Scheiman, J. M. (2011). Hemoglobin decreases in NSAID users over time: an analysis of two large outcome trials. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 34(7), 808–816. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04790.x
Hallberg, L., & Hulthén, L. (2000). Prediction of dietary iron absorption: an algorithm for calculating absorption and bioavailability of dietary iron. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 71(5), 1147–1160. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/71.5.1147
Koehler, et al. Iron status in elite young athletes: gender-dependent influences of diet and exercise. Eur J. Appl Physiology, 2011.
Failing to consume enough water can also increase your risk of heart failure. It is important to stay hydrated for basic philological functions supporting blood circulation, lubricating joints and tissues, digestion, metabolism, and muscle contraction to name a few.
Many people need more than 6-8 glasses of water due to higher body weight, activity, sweat rate, and also supporting a healthy metabolism. We recommend our clients and athletes consume a minimum of 80-100 oz of water per day. We advise checking urine color to help guide you in your water intake. If you struggle to drink enough water you have come to the right place! Our tips will help you increase your water with ease!
First off what are the symptoms of dehydration? Usually, when you wake up you are in a dehydrated state and for many who experience these symptoms listed below you are already dehydrated and it is time to make a plan!
Follow Wendi on Twitter for more graphics and tips
Water is the MOST important FREE health significantly underrated performance enhancement supplement. If you’re an athlete check out my hydration blog with Simplifaster here.
1. Wake up and drink water by placing a glass of water or water bottle by your bed. This strategy will enable you to have zero barriers to getting your hydration started for the day! Focus on consuming 10-16 oz upon waking. Especially if you are an athlete or working outdoors.
2. Set alarms on your phone to hydrate with 16 oz every few hours to shoot for a total goal of 100-120 oz per day (especially if you are an athlete or working outdoors). Another easy way to get in more water is to say 50 oz by 1 pm and another 50 oz by 7 pm!
3. Carry a water bottle or hydro flask that you can easily set water goals. I.e. 32 oz is a typical hydro flask that you can consume 3x/day.
4. Eat your hydration. Yes, that is right we can attain fluid and minerals from our fruit and veggies! Watermelon, grapes, berries, cucumbers, celery, carrots, cherries, and tomatoes are also super hydrating and a great way to get in your veggies for health too! You can also infuse your water with berries, lemon, lime, etc. which makes it tastier and offers antioxidants.
5. Electrolytes can be used to replace minerals lost in sweat. Dairy is also hydrating you could add Greek yogurt, milk, or cheese to meals to get in additional minerals. Cherry juice, chocolate milk, or Gatorade zero can also be a good option depending on your goals for added hydration.
6. Bring a cooler with you to stock with fruits and veggies. You can also pack additional water bottles to make sure you have enough fluid on hand in case of an emergency!
7. Hydrate with milk at meals and water in between! These tips help my clients and athletes stay hydrated! It is also important to consume 16-24 oz of fluid for every pound lost!
Wendi Irlbeck, 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.
The race you have tomorrow has you thinking, what should I do tonight and tomorrow before?
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 ! 😊
Two hours before your race consume carbohydrates paired with a little protein. You want to limit fat and fiber because of the digestion time required for fat and the distress from fiber that could occur during your run.
You don’t want to eat too much for breakfast. Ideally, it would be better to eat a little bit more for dinner and an evening snack of maybe a power cup muffin the night before. Most feel so excited for race day it is hard to eat anything. But you need feel.
Something is always better than nothing. Even if its just some toast, berries, honey packet, or tart cherry juice you need some carbohydrates before you take off! Studies at the University of Memphis Exercise and Sports Nutrition Laboratory confirm that honey is one of the most effective forms of carbohydrate to eat just before exercise.Honey performs similar to commerical energy gels because of the glucose in gels.
GOOD LUCK and don’t forget to have fun! See the full post on Instagram
What are the benefits of partnering with us to help you with your performance or recovery?
” I highly recommend Wendi! I was at a transitionary period with training & was not fueling or recovering properly. Wendi’s advice on eating more protein + kcal has helped my performance &energy levels. Her guidance is credible and so helpful. Thanks, Wendi!”
**You can support Sammie’s mission to improve mental health awareness by donating or sharing her message with others. More information found here.
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN
is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. We utilize 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!
“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!!
👇 NWW’s🍉rule of👍 : “4-2-1 method”
What are some ideas during half-time, between quarters or periods? These options are applicable to all sports.
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. 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
17-year-old, Jenkins comes strutting out of the weight room after he just crushed a workout living his strongest, healthiest, and injury-free life. While walking out of the weight room Jenkins is using Nutrition with Wendi’s recommended “25-50-30 rule” and is downing a shaker bottle with chocolate milk and creatine paired with a banana. Jenkins is a smart kid and has focused on proper sleep, hydration, eating well, and managing his stress while training hard. But of course, many make comments like, “You know that powder he is mixing in there is steroids right? One of my parent’s friends said his coach has been encouraging the use of anabolic steroids for years!” YIKES RIGHT??
Ever heard this crazy misinformation before? Yes, me too. It has spread like wildfire. It is even more gut-wrenching when it’s spread by doctors, trainers, health care professionals, influencers, or random people on the internet that know very little about science, sports performance, or even what creatine is. Insert facepalm. Good news! I am here to dispel those myths and provide the science to help combat the misinformation that is so toxic.
Creatine is one of the most effective ergogenic aids for adult athletes and is safe. Creatine effectively increases lean mass, strength, power, speed, and exercise capacity (1). But what about youth athletes? I have had several high school coaches and concerned parents of youth athletes ask me questions like, “Is creatine safe for my kids? Should my female athletes be using creatine?” In almost every conversation, my first response is, “It depends.” Just like any other question I get, nutrition-, health-, fitness- or performance-related, it should be individualized. Creatine, however, is beneficial to all populations according to the science outlined in this article. As a registered dietitian, I strongly promote a “food first” and back-to-basics philosophy. For more information on healthy eating and performance nutrition, see a previous blog here. I empower anyone working with youth athletes to use the guidance in this article when considering “to supplement with creatine or not.”
Creatine Monohydrate 101:
95% of creatine is found in skeletal muscle
The human body needs 1-3 g per day
Most creatine in the diet comes from animal products like meat, fish, & poultry
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound formed by three amino acids, making it a tripeptide (tri- meaning three) of the amino acids L-glycine, L-arginine, and L-methionine. Creatine is assembled in a two-step process that occurs in the kidneys and liver.
Creatine improves numerous factors including strength, power, sprint ability, muscular endurance, resistance to fatigue, muscle mass, recovery, cognition, and rate of muscle growth. Creatine is one of the most widely studied, proven performance enhancers available that also offers clinical benefits (4).
How does creatine work?
Creatine deposits high-energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine. This is given to adenosine diphosphate (ADP), regenerating it to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the sole energy carrier in the human body, which can be called “energy currency” for cells to carry out their functions. For example, during conditions of short-term, high-energy demand activities (<30 seconds) with limited recovery time, ATP runs out quickly, which illustrates the importance of creatine stored in muscles in the form of creatine phosphate. This is explained here.
Since creatine phosphate restores ATP, it gives muscle cells the ability to produce greater energy. The greater creatine stores you have, the greater energy your muscle cells can yield during high-intensity exercise, thus leading to increased exercise performance. Even though the most well-documented and primary benefit is higher energy production, this mechanism also supports muscle gain and strength increases, as explained here.
Despite creatine being widely tested since the early 1900s with significant data supporting its effectiveness, it is widely misunderstood by many trainers, coaches, athletes, and concerned parents of high school athletes. Yes, it is 2021 and people still think creatine monohydrate is a steroid due to misinformation generated across social media and the general population (4).
Disregard the false, outlandish, disproven claims. I am referencing the silly fallacies like, “creatine will make you fat,” “creatine will cause liver, kidney, or bone injury,” “creatine will dehydrate you,” or my personal favorite, “creatine is a steroid that will also lead to baldness.” I know. What a bunch of nonsense. I addressed these fallacies in a previous blog, Creatine Not Just for Men or Muscle. Please go check it out if you are a female because creatine can help you improve your lean mass and lose that fat.
Antonio et al. published a phenomenal paper outlining the common questions and misconceptions regarding creatine use available for open access here (1). I highly recommend you read it and share it with anyone who may have creatine confusion disorder. I made that up, but you get my point. Creatine monohydrate is beneficial for many things beyond performance, which is not my opinion but sc!
Potential ergogenic benefits of creatine supplementation in adults (4):
Greater training tolerance
Increased sprint performance
Increased work performed during sets of maximal effort
Increased lean mass & strength adaptations during physical training
Enhanced glycogen synthesis
Increased work capacity
Increased anaerobic threshold
If you’re interested in my opinion as a dietitian and performance practitioner working with several athletes I highly recommend creatine. Creatine is like the Swiss Army knife of supplements! It can do so many things!
There is robust evidence to support the effectiveness of creatine in the adult population. Among children and adolescents, there is mounting evidence to support the therapeutic benefits of creatine supplementation as well as clinical and exercise performance. Available studies in the adolescent population involving high-intensity exercise training indicate performance benefits as well as no reported side effects (1,2).
In relation to performance, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has concluded that creatine monohydrate is the most effective ergogenic supplement available to athletes in terms of increasing high-intensity exercise and supporting lean body mass during training. The ISSN has also concluded CM is safe. (4).
Does creatine work in young athletes?
Regardless of the limited data on the teen population, creatine is likely safe, beneficial, and well-tolerated among youth athletes as evidenced by the available data (2).
Creatine supplementation improved time performance and strength in highly competitive swimmers (2,3).
Should my teen athletes be supplementing with creatine?
As always, food first, but creatine can be a safe and effective regimen for young athletes who meet the following criteria (1,5):
Consuming a well-balanced diet
Consuming a diet with a greater emphasis on plant proteins like soy and pea which do not provide creatine like animal proteins
Involved in high-intensity training, and competitive sports which include:
Combat Sports (MMA, wrestling, boxing, etc.)
It is always best practice that athletes of any age fully educate themselves by consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified sports nutritionist, exercise physiologist, or sports-focused physician before the use of any supplement. Similarly, any products used should be NSF International Certified for Sport to reduce the risk of consuming any harmful or contaminated products. Supplements are regulated but not as heavily regulated as pharmaceuticals. Please see the reasons to use NSF Certified for Sport products in a previous blog.
“The USADA recommends that athletes use only dietary supplements that have been certified by a third-party program that tests for substances prohibited in sport. The USADA is responsible for anti-doping education and testing for athletes in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movements as well as the UFC.”
Therefore, all supplements used should be third-party tested for safety, purity, and compliance. For the sake of convenience and safety, you and your athlete can download the NSF Certified Sport app.
I preach food first, nutrient periodization, quality rest, good sleep hygiene, hydration, and appropriate training, all of which can be better enhanced using creatine monohydrate (CM). Based on the strongest science and studies, CM is the recommended form. CM is used in the studies. Therefore, it should be used in practice as well. I discussed the other forms in my guest appearance on Muscles and Management.
When to use creatine?
The science suggests creatine is most effective immediately post-workout when paired with protein and carbohydrate (7). Creatine consumed immediately post-resistance training is superior to pre-workout in terms of body composition and strength (7). The recommended dose is 3-5 g of creatine per day. Creatine can be used at any time of day. Creatine is safe and effective on rest days from exercise as well as training days. (Click here to follow on Instagram)
While CM is best paired with a carbohydrate-rich source (like oatmeal, whole-grain bread, rice, fruit, smoothies, or yogurt) to draw it into muscle cells, it can also be added to water or other beverages. A saturated cell is a happy cell! This supports recovery and muscle repair following resistance training.
Most creatine supplements are in powder form and must be used in warm water to support the dissolving process. CM will dissolve slowly in cold water and often ends up in the bottom of a shaker bottle, which won’t do any good if it doesn’t make it into your mouth! Creapure is a great brand to use and offers more explanation on dosing. Check it out here! No, I do not have a partnership or any affiliation with Creapure. I just want to share that they make a great product.
My female youth soccer players have integrated CM post-training with their tart cherry juice and chocolate milk. I have taken time to discuss the safety, use, and benefits with my youth athlete’s parents, coaches, and even their PE teachers. I have 50% of my youth athletes supplementing with CM. CM is always a conversation we have after we wrap up their 6-week Nutrition with Wendi Coaching Program.
Do I need to load?
No, you do not need to “creatine load”. In fact, many studies use a typical creatine dose of 5-10 g daily or smaller doses like the standard 2-3 g. However, if you desire to do a loading phase, it would look something like 20-25 g for 5-7 days followed by a maintenance phase of 5 g daily for 4 weeks, 2 weeks off, and then repeat. I do not have any of my athletes do this cycling as it is unnecessary. See the ISSN’s Position Stand for more on this (4).
Studies support the benefits of CM supplementation regardless of the dose. However, that does not mean more is better. If you are a vegetarian and new to using CM, you would benefit from saturating the muscles with CM, leading to an acute increase in strength and body weight via water retention. However, please refer to the experts and those I respect most in the field like Dr. Darren Candow, Dr. Tim N. Ziegenfuss, Dr. Scott Forbes, Dr. Jose Anotonio, Dr. Rich Krider, Dr. Eric Rawson, and others who can further provide the research they have been doing for the last few decades.
Please see another podcast in which I had the opportunity to speak about creatine in the youth population via the Big Time Strength podcast.
There is robust literature to support the beneficial effects creatine has on body composition, physical performance, injury prevention, recovery, brain health, and clinical use. Currently, there have not been any negative effects associated with the use of CM in both the adolescent and adult populations. Adolescent athletes under the age of 18, and even children as young as infants, can safely consume CM. There is zero evidence to suggest CM supplementation would cause harm, dehydration, cramping, or any other outlandish claims that have been disproven by Antonio et al., 2021, and others. Not incorporating a CM supplement would be a disservice to your athletes or even yourself!
Anyone looking to improve their health of any age or activity level can safely consume 3-5 g of creatine monohydrate immediately post-workout paired with a carbohydrate.
By supplementing with creatine monohydrate immediately following training, you’re able to support muscle growth and recovery, injury prevention, and overall health.
Yes, creatine is safe to consume if you are a teen athlete. Yes, you should use creatine monohydrate.
No, creatine is not a steroid. No, creatine will not cause baldness. No, creatine will not dehydrate you. No, creatine will not cause cramps. No, creatine will not decrease your bone mineral density.
If you have a beating pulse, then creatine monohydrate is for you!
Sports physicians, athletic trainers, coaches, performance nutritionists, and others working with youth athletes should provide the best guidance to teen athletes based on the available science to support their principal interests. Kids are going to be using supplements like energy drinks and pre-workouts, which contain dangerous amounts of caffeine. I would rather we provide education on the safety and use of creatine, which is not dangerous but beneficial. I would like to see more people using creatine given the ergogenic benefits and no reported adverse effects. Creatine monohydrate is a safe, effective, and inexpensive way to support health and physical performance! Please don’t let, “Joe Public” from accounting or “Susie Quinn,” on Instagram tell you any different.
In good health health, and physical performance,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD CISSN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Nashville, TN. Wendi works with clients of all levels internationally.
What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more here. Interested in signing up for the NEW and upcoming NWW newsletter? Click here to sign up!
Antonio, J., Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C. et al. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 18, 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
Grindstaff PD, Kreider R, Bishop R, Wilson M, Wood L, Alexander C, et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on repetitive sprint performance and body composition in competitive swimmers. Int J Sport Nutr. (1997) 7:330–46.
Ostojic SM. Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Feb;14(1):95-103. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.1.95. PMID: 15129933.
Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 18 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
Jagim AR, Stecker RA, Harty PS, Erickson JL, Kerksick CM. Safety of creatine supplementation in active adolescents and youth: A Brief Review. Front Nutr. 2018;5:115. Published 2018 Nov 28. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00115
Ostojic SM. Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Feb;14(1):95-103. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.1.95. PMID: 15129933
Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 6;10:36. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-36. PMID: 23919405; PMCID: PMC3750511.
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