No Cooking Required Meal and Snack Ideas for Student-Athletes

A few weeks ago I went into Target and took several images of foods I would personally recommend to my student-athletes and active adult clients. If you recall I posted a thread of a few photos from the grocery shopping trip on Twitter. These are great options for anyone looking to improve their health with limited time and little to no cooking skills.

Remember my, “put down the phone and pick up breakfast post?” Be sure to check that out as well! If you have time to scroll social media you have time to eat breakfast!

Many of these items and ideas are great for the pantry at home or for the college dorm!

Breakfast ideas:

English muffin cut in half with sliced avocado paired with 3/4 cup Greek yogurt and mixed blueberries and raspberries.

 

 

 

A glass of Fairlife chocolate milk or plant-based alternative + Kashi cereal 

 

 

 

See grab-and-go options that can be prepared ahead of time.

(no cooking required of course)

Greek Yogurt Berry Bark Bites! Recipe here

 

 

     Mason jar protein Oats

Frozen breakfast bagel sandwich or breakfast burrito

 

Greek yogurt parfait 

Make the night beforehand (Greek yogurt, berries, chia, nut butter)

English muffin/Whole-grain pita wrap with mashed banana and peanut butter

 

Toast + 2 oz. deli turkey + 1 oz. cheese + tomato wedges paired with chocolate Corepower

 

 

Wendi’s tasty Greek yogurt breakfast toast recipe

 

 

Hard-boiled eggs + apple + string cheese

 

 

Protein smoothie bag (Prepare the night beforehand frozen berries, spinach, chia seeds, whey protein powder and place in zip lock baggie) Pour into blender with milk and add Greek Yogurt the morning of and blend!

Microwave egg-omelet in a glass bowl with spinach, kale, bell peppers + banana, and low-fat milk.

Kodiak instant oatmeal +strawberries + Greek yogurt

Grab and go peanut butter packs paired with fruit

Kodiak Cakes Power Cup Muffins (12 g of protein but you can add milk and Greek yogurt to increase protein) + fruit for more energy!

 

Kodiak cake frozen waffles or pancakes paired with grab n-go nut butter packets + 1 apple

 

 

RX nut butter packets or Nuts ‘N More

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

NWW POWER SMOOTHIE!!! Greek yogurt protein smoothie blended with 1 cup spinach, 4 oz. low-fat milk and ½ cup whole-grain oats. See recipe

See other breakfast options or read my full blog Motor Revving Breakfast Ideas here!


Lunch ideas:

  • Spinach bowl topped with two hard-boiled eggs + 1-2 tbsp chickpeas, raspberries, almonds + avocado slices + Kind bar
  • Greek yogurt parfait, pepper/cucumber slices, apple, RX bar, cheese stick

 

Microwavable lentil pasta + add pre-cooked meat + cheese + marinara sauce

 

 

Whole-grain pita with 3 oz. deli ham + carrot sticks + kiwi slices + almonds

 

 

Whole-grain turkey cheese, spinach, tomato sandwich with mashed avocado + mixed fruit cup + serving of whole-grain pretzels

 

If you’re really pressed for time this lunch idea is for you!

Tuna packet (17 g of protein)

Pre-packaged carrot sticks & guacamole

Whole-grain English muffin

Apple, banana, or pear (backpack stable)

See other travel options here


Dinner ideas:

                            Microwavable sweet potato

Fully loaded with sour cream, cheese blend, chives, topped 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese. Pair with a slice of Ezekiel toast topped with avocado, and microwavable egg. Here is an example Recipe

Grilled chicken salad

2 oz of pre-grilled chicken added to a bed of spinach + romaine + ½ cup black beans/chickpea mix + mixed cheese blend, 1 sliced hardboiled egg, 1 tbsp. sunflower seeds with a dressing of choice. Highly recommend Bolthouse Farms Greek yogurt as a healthy dressing.

Riced veggie tacos

Frozen bag of riced veggies cooked in the microwave that can be topped with edamame, salsa, in a whole-grain tortilla, shredded pre-made pulled pork, cheddar cheese blend with avocado slices.


Snack pairings (snacks should contain protein and carb) for athletes and for less active days a protein + a plant/healthy fat).

Snack pack nut butter + fruit

Greek yogurt cup + almonds

 

 

 

Tuna packet + veggies

 

 

 

 

Guacamole to go

String cheese sticks + applesauce

Chocolate milk + cherries

RX Oats + fruit

Grapes + cottage cheese

 

Applesauce + Kashi bar

Hard-boiled eggs Nuts + dried fruit + cereal (healthy trail mix)

Greek yogurt + pumpkin pure + chia

Cottage cheese + kiwi + cinnamon spice

1/2 Turkey cheese bagel

Toast with sunflower seed nut butter (PEANUT FREE OPTION) + banana or kiwi slices

 

 

 

Hummus + cucumber/carrot/celery stick mix

CorePower protein drink + fruit

Overnight protein oats (chia, milk, flax, cinnamon, fruit, honey, or nut butter) See my recipes here!

Protein oat bites

 

 

 

 

Hard-boiled eggs + apple

 

 

 

 

Cottage cheese + fruit

RX layers protein bar + pineapple

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squeezable apple sauce packets + RX bar

Teriyaki beef jerky + pre-cut bell pepper slices

Hummus + apple + celery and carrot sticks

Greek yogurt + PB2 + unsalted almonds

 

Serving of trail mix + 2 hard-boiled eggs

Quest protein bar + watermelon slice

 

Skinny pop popcorn + string cheese

 

 

Whole meals first supplement second. Supplements are meant to satisfy small gaps in nutrition and to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Good nutritional habits must be established first. For additional guidance to ensure your athletes are meeting their protein and carbohydrate needs check out this article. No supplement can replace whole foods. See pantry staple ideas for athletes here!

 

 

All items are available at Target or Trader Joe’s!

In good health and wellness,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN

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

What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more here.

 

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

🎃Power Up with Pumpkin!

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

1.Powerful healing properties

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

2.Restores electrolyte balance and supports muscle recovery

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

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

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

3.Reduces both muscle soreness and tissue breakdown

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

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

4.Heart-healthy

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

 

Four ways to enjoy both pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds:

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

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

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

4. Add 1/3 cup pumpkin to baked goods

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Citations used

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

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

 

 

🍉Happy National Watermelon Day!🎉

Happy National Watermelon Day!

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

 

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

Packed full of disease-fighting antioxidants and vitamins

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

 

Watermelon is good for both muscle and heart

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

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

Improved digestion

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

Watermelon hydrates

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

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

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

 

For nutrition facts click here.

Resources used:

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

Refueling Youth Athletes in Under 500 Words

Refueling needs depend largely on the type and duration of training completed, body composition goals, and overall personal preferences. This blog will focus solely on refueling post-training.

  • Rehydrate: Ingest fluids and electrolytes during and immediately after training within 30-minutes to jumpstart the recovery process.
  • Refuel: Post-training, carbohydrates are needed to restore glycogen paired with protein to repair muscle damage that occurred during training. The goal of refueling is to promote both muscle repair and muscle protein synthesis.
    • The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 1.2 to 2.0 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for athletes, depending on the type of training.
    • Refilling your glycogen stores as an athlete should be a priority, especially when completing back-to-back training sessions.

Why prioritize refueling?

By immediately consuming a high-quality protein paired with a carbohydrate post-training you can enhance muscle gain, muscle growth, reduce time to recovery between back-to-back training sessions, increase overall performance, and decrease the risk of injuries, as well as fighting off on-set fatigue. Are you refueling a two-a-day? Build a plate that supports both training and recovery demands!

A post-training meal is key to support recovery and training.  Consume 25-40 grams of protein paired with 50-100 grams of carbohydrates within 30 minutes of activity for reducing muscle breakdown and supporting training adaptations. More information on recovery nutrition here.

Soft reminder with regard to protein intake: WE USE WHAT WE NEED according to the ISSN Position Stand on Protein and Exercise . We use what we need.  This means for many athletes can benefit from consuming closer to the 40g post-training due to limited protein intake at other meals or the quality of the protein. But at the least follow my “25-50-30 rule”

Smart supplements

  • Creatine is one of the most widely investigated supplements with proven ergogenic benefits along with recovery from intense training. Creatine paired with a carbohydrate immediately post-resistance training is superior to pre-workout in terms of body composition and strength. Creatine is insulin-mediated so it requires a carbohydrate. Use creatine in your chocolate milk, Greek yogurt parfait, or pair with a protein banana shake. For guidance on supplementing with creatine monohydrate see my previous blog here.
  • 8 oz. of tart cherry juice following exercise can help reduce inflammation, muscle soreness and can even aid in reducing upper respiratory tract symptoms all of which contribute to minimizing the risk of injury, according to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
  • Low-fat chocolate milk has also been proven an effective refueling choice offering electrolytes, carbohydrates, 8 grams of high-quality protein, and the scientifically proven 3:1 ratio for recovery.

Wishing you blessings of health, wellness, and optimal performance,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN

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

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

Fueling Youth Athletes in Under 500 Words

Back to the basics! There is no magic meal or diet that will “win games”. If you want to be a better athlete listen up. Consume 3-4 high-quality meals with 2 to 3 snacks in between to support health and optimal performance. Discourage from trying new foods on game day or more intense training days when training duration and load are greater. A post-training meal is key to support recovery and training.  Simplify the science and empower your athletes to follow the “25-50-30 rule”.

addition to two to three snacks for better focus academically, mentally, and physically. Not skipping meals and fueling up can help increase performance, strength, performance adaptations, decrease the risk of injuries, and on-set fatigue. More on building a high-performance plate can be assessed here.

Nutrient timing 101 Nutrient timing can Consume 25 grams of protein paired with 50 grams of carbohydrates within 30 minutes of activity for reducing muscle breakdown and supporting training adaptations. More information on recovery nutrition here.

Don’t skip breakfast

Nutrients and calories missed at breakfast by teens are unlikely to be made up for later in the day. Grab-and-go options; hard boiled-egg and fruit, string cheese, banana, Greek yogurt parfait, whole-grain oats, berries, or a whole-grain turkey bagel sandwich. More breakfast ideas to share with young athletes can be found here. Bowls filled with granola and berries

A second breakfast can satisfy energy needs during high-volume and intense training phases or for weight gain. For example, incorporating chocolate milk, peanut butter sandwich, nuts, and seeds with string cheese can help increase calories and nutrition. For additional guidance on fueling your athletes check out this article on practical tips to fueling young athletes as a strength coach.

Hydration is one of the most undervalued performance enhancers available. Water is vital to peak performance. A rule of thumb I encourage is 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. Invest in a good water bottle for your teen athlete to keep on hand. For every pound lost during training, the athlete should replace it with 16-24 oz. of fluid.

A bedtime snack containing 15-20 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbohydrates for restful sleep and growing lean muscle tissue during the night. Cottage cheese, milk, and yogurt are rich in slow-digesting protein. Pair an 8 oz. serving of cottage cheese with sliced bananas for a high-protein, high-magnesium bedtime snack. Magnesium helps relax muscles and lowers brain temperature to regulate hormones.

Eat the Rainbow. Fruits and veggies contain quality nutrients needed for optimal growth and development. The more pigment and color in an athlete’s diet the healthier the immune system they will have that will fight off the risk of infection, illness, and support long-term health.

Whole meals first supplement second. Supplements are meant to satisfy small gaps in nutrition and to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Good nutritional habits must be established first. For additional guidance to ensure your athletes are meeting their protein and carbohydrate needs check out this article. No supplement can replace whole foods.

In good health and wellness,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN

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

What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more here.

 

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

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

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

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

1.Consume whole eggs for breakfast

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

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

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

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

2.Learn and exercise portion control

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

A simple guide for each meal:

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

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

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

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

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

Some great options to keep on hand include:

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

4. Combine resistance training and aerobic exercise

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

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

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

5. Follow a high-protein diet

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

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

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

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

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

Get your 7-9 hours of rest each night

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

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

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

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

7. More water, especially before meals

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

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

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

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

Bottom line:

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

In good health,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN

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

Follow Wendi on Twitter and Instagram for nutrition, health and fitness inspiration.

 

Resources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Eat Before Your Workout?

Granola, oats, yogurt and fruit with coffee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Apple slices with Greek yogurt and dried cranberries

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

  1. Protein oats (whole-grain)

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

  1. Protein fruit smoothie

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Grapes and string cheese

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

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

In good health and performance,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN

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

Motor Revving Breakfast Ideas for Fueling High School Athletes On-the-Go!

 

High School Boys Basketball Team, Detroit Michigan

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

  1. 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 calciumRecommendations 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. 

  1. 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.
  1. 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!
  1. 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 on injury 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.

The Performance Training and Nutrition Menu for Athletes Desiring to Make the Jump from Good to Great!

The Performance Training and Nutrition Menu for Beast Athletes

Let me ask you this: as an athlete, when do you feel at your BEST?

When do you feel your most empowered? Your strongest? Your most energized? Your healthiest? Your most resilient?

When do you feel ready to step on the field with confidence and tenacity?

Let me dive deeper: what exactly are you doing when you feel at your BEST?

Are you doing your workouts? Are you training with intensity transferable to the game? Are you tracking your progress? Are you hydrating? Are you filling your body with nutrients and whole foods?


Or are you missing workouts? Are you training at a slow pace that won’t sustain in the game? Are you not competing with yourself? Are you rolling your eyes at the thought of a strength workout? Are you “forgetting” to hydrate? Are you eating toxic sludge?

Before my friend and amazing dietician, Wendi Irbeck, talks nutrition for performance, I want to get into the physical training aspect first.

Right now, there are no excuses to miss workouts and train half-heartedly, unless you have a real emergency.

But for everyone else who has good health, a safe family, a roof, a home gym fancier than my facility, and a front yard the size of a soccer field, there are no excuses to not do your strength and conditioning workouts.

Sports are canceled, so what are you doing to prepare to be your best when they return?

What do you look like and act like when you are training at your BEST? How do you envision yourself stepping back onto the field?

They’re deep questions, but get a paper and pencil and start writing your thoughts.

It’s critical to become AWARE.

Returning to play as the player you were before the quarantine began is going to be immensely hard. And it’s going to take a grind harder than you can imagine. I’m not going to beat around the bush.

And no amount of HIIT circuits on the web are going to prepare you. No amount of bodyweight workouts are going to bulletproof you against the change of direction, fatiguing muscle actions in the game that cause ACL injury. No amount of jump squat, burpee and push-up tests are going to train your nervous system how to sprint FAST again.

Even though the world has come to a stop, strength and conditioning programming based off of science has not.

Too, it’s important to remember this:

– Athletes now have time to really improve the physical components of their game: speed, power, and conditioning. Practices and games aren’t in the way anymore.

– Athletes now have time to hone in on correct and safe movement patterns for a healthier return to play, and seek out professionals to help.

– Athletes now have time to lean into the power of exercise and strength training for mental health and immunity.

There’s no excuse.

To that end, athletes who care deeply about playing at a high level will show their true colors right now. Do they truly love the game? Are they committed? Can they adapt when adversity strikes?

I’m speaking to you: if you want to earn your stripes as a high level athlete, let’s see how well you rise above the chaos during a global pandemic.


I’ll take you seriously when you can attack adversity and use it as a means to become better.

Don’t take this out of context, though. I’m not totally insensitive to the emotional storm now.

I get everyone is anxious, scared, sad, depressed, worried. I get it, I experienced it, my loved ones are going through it, and I want to be considerate.

Collectively, yes, the world is freaking out.

And I’m speaking to you, coaches: if you want to earn your stripes as a coach, let’s see how much you hold your players accountable for their physical health and care for them with a smooth return to play.

Truthfully, I would be a terrible coach to kids who want to perform at a high level if I didn’t encourage them to continue to train like the amazing athletes they are during this time. It’s a win-win to move, get better, improve speed times, get stronger, and keep routine. No going through the motions.

Athletes thrive on goal setting, routine, and working hard toward something meaningful. 


Okay, okay. I’ll step off my soapbox.

I do want to provide actionable items for the athletes and coaches who do not have access to a comprehensive strength and conditioning program, and help people piece this all together with minimal thinking and stress.

I’m happy to take everyone through a sample week menu with video links and sets and reps. It is going to be similar to an off-season program that focuses on general strength, power, speed and conditioning, then progresses to specific in the next couple months as we approach sports starting back up again.


 

Day 1: Total Body Strength

Slow Bird Dog 2×15 each
Lateral Mini Band Walks 2×20 each
Heel Hold 2×30 sec each
Clock Jab Steps 2×15 each

Slow Box Squat 3×6
Snap Down 1×5
Mini Vertical Jump 2×5


Pull-Up 3×10
Lateral Lunge 2×8 each
SL Deadlift 2×15 each

Pallof Hold 2×30 sec each
Plank Walkout 2×30 sec

Day 2: Linear Speed and Conditioning

Dynamic WU (10 minutes – aerobic zone)

Linear Skipping and Ladders (7 minutes continuous – aerobic zone)
Forward March
Forward Skipx20ydx2
2 Out 2 Inx3
Icky Shuffle Skp Boxx3
High Kneesx3
2 Out 2 In Skip Box3

Acceleration Leans 1×10 each (focus on loading ball of foot, shoulders past hips, back arm extended)
Kneeling Accelerations 10-yard x4 (45 second rest)
Feet Chopping Sprints 20-yard x3 (2 minute rest)
Bunny Hop Sprints 30-yard x3 (2 minute rest)

Day 3: Total Body Strength
Dead Bug 2×10 each
Jab Steps 2×15 each
Slow Bird Dog 2×15 each
Multi-Directional Band Walks 2×20

Dumbbell Deadlift 3×6
Snap Down 1×5
Broad Jump 1×5 (measured, stick landing, record distance from best of 5 reps)

Pull-Up
Banded Good Morning
Glute Bridge Floor Press

Hollow Hold
Side Plank Leg Raise
Body Saw
Pallof Circle

Day 4: Lateral Speed and Agility
Dynamic WU (10 minutes – aerobic zone)

Lateral Skipping and Ladders (7 minutes continuous – aerobic zone)
Lateral Skipx20ydx2 each
Lateral Ladder High Kneesx2 each
2 Step Patternx2 each
3 Step Patternx2 each
Scissor Kickersx2 each

Side Shuffle Technique with Hold x5 each, 5 second hold

Side Shuffle to 30-yard sprint x 6 (3 each) (2 minute rest)
Lateral Footwork to 40-yard sprint x 2 (1 each) (2 minute rest)



Day 5: Total Body Strength
Glute Bridge Abduction
Slow Bird Dog
Controlled Mountain Climber

Goblet Split Squat
Lateral Bounding

Pull-Up
Single Leg Deadlift Hold
Reverse Lunge

Renegade Row Push-Up
Hip Bridge

Plank X Crunch
Side Plank Band Row
Reverse Crunch


Day 6: Aerobic + Return to Functioning Human

(10 minutes on clock continuous)

Forward Skipx20yard
Lateral Skipx20 yard
Circular Skipx20 yard
Forward Crawlx20 yard
Lateral Crawlx20 yard
Circular Crawlx1 clockwise, 1 counterclockwise
Cross Crawl Marchx20 yard


Day 7: Netflix and Chill

8 hours x AMRAP 



Kidding. ;-O


So there you are. Have at it and enjoy this sample for a few weeks (I’d say up to 2 weeks, then you need to begin to tweak the sets/reps, progress intensity, learn how to absorb and create force, and put yourself in conditioning drills at a higher intensity than the game to provide a physiological adaptation). But start here and see how you do. Remember, general —-> specific.

Done correctly and considering you aren’t skipping workouts, you are good on volume and should be gassed after these workouts. Not depleted nor destroyed, but feeling like you accomplished a tough training session like a high level athlete.

I’ll have Wendi take it away with how to work in proper nutrition to make the most of an off-season menu like this, and return to the field feeling empowered and at your best physically. Nutrition plays a major role in the success of these workouts and the intensity, as well as energy you bring to them.

Eat. And fuel up.

Enjoy.

Well…that is one tough act to follow! Well done, Erica and well said! Now that you have some guidance on training from the expert herself, let’s talk about the other 16 hours of the day outside of sleep. Controlling what you put in your mouth to support overall health and performance. So let’s stir it all together!

Erica has really provided the framework for a consistent conditioning and workout program which should be supported by sufficient energy. I will address some of the specifics in greater detail below. Typically, the off-season is the period from December and January to May, June or even July when soccer athletes are fending for themselves. This time is best spent relaxing and disconnecting from the soccer world to “decompress”. As highly competitive athletes we all need rest and our brains and bodies need a break to support recovery to continue building. However, eating and fueling well along with staying active as Erica so thoroughly illustrated in the stated workouts above is important. Eating a variety of real foods, yes real foods, not supplements is critical during this time to help maintain condition, strength and endurance. overlooked piece of the puzzle or a missed opportunity to improve by young players.  The goals of this “off-season” sample can be represented below:

  •  Account for the differences in training, lifestyle and of course the unprecedented times we find ourselves in, the Novel Covid-19 Pandemic if you will. It’s important nutrient intake is adjusted but also sufficient to support the “off-season” activity.
  •  Acknowledge body composition changes in which weight may fluctuate and that is OKAY! The off-season is a great time to focus on your individual progress and any body comp changes that may be necessary would be a great opportunity to consult with a registered dietitian. An under-fueled low-energy athlete cannot build or maintain muscle mass or size, so nutrition remains critical during this time.
  • Create a solid equilibrium between training volume and nutritional intake.

 

Nutrition with Wendi Fueling Fundamentals for Off-Season:

Intent: Focus on fueling to support your training objectives. Which may include strength gains, improving focus, speed, endurance and decreasing risk of injury.

Quality nutrients: Your plate should contain all the essential components of the plate. Colorful fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. Proper nutrition will provide you the sustained energy to help you recover from training and provide satiety between meals.

Quantity: Optimal training requires sufficient energy (calories) to support growth, development, and overall energy needs during training.

Timing: Balance your meals with snacks to ensure you’re feeling appropriately. Post-workouts and training should contain a protein and carbohydrate to support recovery and performance adaptations.

Consistency: Consuming consistent meals, snacks and overall calories to support your growth and performance is vital. There are no magic meals to bolster athletic performance. Games won are in the off-season where nutrition is prioritized. Another key to consistency is finding what works well for you and your training. Never try a new meal on a heavy or intense training day. That stands true for game day. Never experiment with new foods, as they risk stomach pain, digestive challenges and can hinder performance.

Hydration: Fluids are essential for optimal health and athletic performance. You need about 80-100 oz. of fluid per day to support the transportation of essential nutrients to your muscles and organs. Water is key for keeping our joints fluid, muscle contraction and overall focus. A drop in 1-2% of your total body weight can result in declines in your performance ranging from cognition, muscle contraction, speed and overall fatigue. For every pound lost around training, replace with 16 to 24 oz. of fluid.

 

So, as you’re learning nutrition plays a pivotal role in your health and performance. Nutrition is truly a tool to support the overall maintenance and strength of your body, which is a machine. Your plate should reflect your health and performance goals.

Every meal ,include:

  •  Fat
  •  Lean protein
  • Carbohydrate
  • Water/and or serving of dairy

This is what is referred to as the performance plate.

To perform at your best, it’s important to eat the rainbow and get a balance from most IF NOT ALL food groups at every meal. The size of those portions may increase or decrease provided the season. For this specific article, we are in the off-season, so additional whole grains or carbs may not be necessary. However, eating for health and fueling for activity requires the right amount. What does that look like roughly? For girls, that can be anywhere from 2400-3000 kcal per day and boys 2800-3500 kcal per day. In each hour soccer athletes can burn up to 500-700 kcal per hour.

Nutrition with Wendi Quick Nutrition Tips:

  • Eat breakfast every day, non-negotiable.
  • Eat real food, prioritize nutrients from whole foods instead of supplements.
  •  Do not skip meals – all meals matter.
  • Assess hunger, if you’re hungry post-meal, load up on more veggies!
  •  Drink plenty of fluids (80-100 oz.).
  •  Always reach for baked, grilled, steamed, broiled, roasted and never fried.
  • To ensure good sleep avoid high-fat, spicy or overly large meals prior to bed.
  • Eat the rainbow, focus on lean proteins, quality fats and fluids at each meal.
  • Consume quality nutrients every 2-3 hours to avoid hunger and support proper energy levels.

Sample Meal Ideas for Athletes (Nutrition with Wendi) SM

Sample Meal Ideas for Athletes (Nutrition with Wendi) SM

Day Breakfast Snack 

 

Lunch Dinner 

 

Post-training  Pre-sleep snack
Day 1 (Protein + fiber rich food + fruit/veggie) (1-2 carb choices + 1-2 oz. protein) (Protein + whole grain + fruit/veggie) (Protein + whole grain + fruit/veggie) (Protein + Carb within 30-60 min of training  (Little protein + some carb, (60-min of bed))
Day 2 2 egg veggie omelet + whole grain English muffin with avocado1-2 cups of water Cucumber slices + String cheese Whole-grain turkey pesto wrap + pear + carrot sticks Grilled chicken sandwich on whole-grain bun, steam veggies, side salad with avocado, water and low-fat milk Banana, 8 oz of low-fat chocolate milk or 

 

3 oz. Cottage cheese with raspberries
Day 3 Fruit yogurt parfait·         1 cup berries

·         1 cup Greek yogurt

·         1/2 cup whole-grain oats

1-2 cups of water

 

Hummus + pepper slices Brown rice + black beans, 4 oz. baked or grilled chicken + spinach salad with vinaigrette or low-fat dressing 

1-2 cups of water

Large baked potato, broccoli in low-fat cheese, salsa, sliced turkey and salsa + 1 cup of berries 

1-2 cups of water

6 oz. of Greek yogurt + 1 c. berries 1 banana with 2 Tbsp. nut butter
Day 4 Fruit smoothie·         1 cup whole grain oats

·         4 oz of low-fat milk

·         1 cup blueberries + spinach

·         1 piece of whole grain toast

String cheese, whole grain crackers + apple Turkey tacos (whole grain tortilla, 3 oz. of 93% lean hamburger meat, cheese, lettuce, salsa, avocado) 

8 oz. cup of milk

1-2 cups of water

Whole-wheat English muffin with low-fat tuna + melted Swiss cheese + baked baby carrots, green beans + side fruit 

1-2 cups of water

1 cup of grapes, string cheese or hard boiled egg ½ whole grain turkey sandwich
Day 5 Whole grain bagel with 2 oz. of turkey, cheese and tomato 

 

1-2 cups of water

Kind bar, RX protein bar, nut bar, high protein granola bar + pineapple or raspberries Whole-grain pasta + 1 cup of broccoli + cherries 3 oz. of steak 8 oz of tart cherry juice + string cheese String cheese + pear slices
Day 6 Whole grain waffle with 2 Tbsp. almond butter, chia or flax seedOrange/Pear

 

1-2 cups of water

Whole grain rice cake + 1 Tbsp. nut butter + blueberries or banana slices Whole-wheat English muffin topped with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, grilled chicken, spinach + side of fruit 

1-2 cups of water

Hamburger + whole grain pasta, green beans + tomato spinach salad with feta cheese Whole grain waffle + 1 Tbsp. peanut butter + banana slices Greek yogurt + blueberries
Day 7 Whole-wheat pita + egg + low-fat cheese + sliced apple 

1-2 cups of water

Whole-wheat crackers, strawberries + string cheese Sautéed shrimp + asparagus, brown rice + blueberries 

1-2 cups of water or low-fat milk

Sautéed veggies, ground turkey, sweet potato + raspberries 

1-2 cups of water or low-fat milk

Chunky monkey smoothie (see recipe) Whole-wheat bread + 1 Tbsp. almond butter
Day 8 Oatmeal or overnight oats prepared with cow’s or soy milk + sliced almonds + peaches (see recipe) 

1-2 cups of water

Sugar snap peas, sliced bell peppers + hummus or low-fat ranch dip 3 oz. of salmon or (baked fish option) veggie salad, avocado, whole-wheat roll 

1-2 cups of water

Tomato basil wrap with tofu + sautéed mushrooms and onions + frozen grapes 

1-2 cups of water or 8 oz. of low-fat milk

2 Hard-boiled eggs + blueberries Banana soft-serve (combine ½ scoop protein powder + ice + frozen banana with 4 oz. of milk)

 


 

About the Authors

Erica Suter is a certified strength and conditioning coach in Baltimore, Maryland, as well as online for thousands of youth soccer players. She works with kids starting at the elementary level and going all the way up to the college level. She believes in long-term athletic development and the gradual progression of physical training for safe and effective results. She helps youth master the basic skills of balance, coordination, and stability, and ensures they blossom into powerful, fast and strong athlete when they’re older. She has written two books on youth strength and conditioning, Total Youth Soccer Fitness, and Total Youth Soccer Fitness 365, a year-round program for young soccer players to develop their speed, strength and conditioning.

Follow Erica on Twitter and Instagram and book a discovery call to become an online client HERE.

 

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 on injury 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 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.

Practical Nutrition Tips for Strength and Sport Coaches

“Johnny can’t gain weight. Susie is a picky eater and simply doesn’t like to eat meat or many proteins. My all-conference athlete eats everything in sight but can’t see to gain muscle and has frequent headaches. Tommy bonks out halfway through his match but is always eats a large steak the night before his meet. Lydia is concerned about carbs leading to weight gain, so she completely avoids them and is exhausted going into her soccer games. Brad was told he’d have more energy if he would supplement with the special protein powders and keto drinks from a local woman who sells them in his neighborhood. Brad is frequently injured and has little energy entering fall camp.”  Some of these examples may seem extreme, or they may sound all too familiar? Truth be told they are all real situations.

 

I work with several adolescent athletes, parents of young athletes and high-school strength coaches. All of who I have had these very conversations with. Names are changed of course, out of respect to the athletes. Before you read any further, please check out my previous blog on Practical Nutrition Strategies for Youth Athletes if you haven’t already. It provides some great information to share with your young athletes.

The objective of this article is to provide a framework for conversations, tips and practical tools to support the health and overall athletic performance of the athletes you may work with. Additionally, to build confidence in talking about nutrition with your young athletes. Along with aspiring strength coaches, we need you and the more versatile you are with knowledge and tools for your toolbox the greater success you will have in getting hired. I also want to direct you to Brett Bartholomew’s website found here. Brett helps coaches, leaders, educators, and business owners in many areas. He wrote a book called Conscious Coaching , which I picked up in May, 2017 and could not put down. I finished it on the weekend. Conscious Coaching was a game-changer for me. It helped me acknowledge the deficiencies in optimal communication with my athletes and even colleagues years back. It’s a phenomenal resource that I often reference and to note, I am a registered dietitian not a coach. As Brett so clearly illustrates in his writing is that it benefits anyone who has a relationship, which is all of us. I have never met Brett, but he has provided some great content and deserves the credibility. Thanks, Brett.

Proper nutrition

Proper nutrition is paramount for supporting growth, development and maturation first.  Which is something I emphasize and encourage coaches to emphasize when working with young athletes. We eat for health first and fuel for performance second. Why? Because it is essential to develop healthy habits to sustain for life into adulthood as a non-athlete. What do I classify as the difference between eating and fueling? Simply put, we eat for optimal growth, development, and maturation of our bones, tissues, and brain. Young children need to learn what foods provide nourishment. Not just energy, which is measured in the form of a kilocalories. One calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1g of water by 1℃. It takes one kilocalorie of heat to raise one kilogram of water by 1℃. Food calories are kilocalories. If you’re interested in the history of the calorie in nutrition check out the explanation here, published in the American Society for Nutrition. So, what does that mean to me, as a coach? Well, let’s acknowledge nutrition is complicated right?

For clarity, you can consume candy that contains calories and the vilified pop-tarts. However, you don’t get the same high nutrient composition from those “high-calorie, high-energy” foods like you would fruits, starch vegetables, whole-grain products, or even whole-fat dairy.

The point I am driving home here is teaching young adults about the valuable role those nutrients play in supporting their growth, development and maturation. Vitamin D, calcium, and protein are found in the Greek whole-fat yogurt which is not the same in relation to the pop-tart. I’m not anti-pop tarts but I am making a stance that each time we sit down to reach for food it is an opportunity to nourish our bodies, to eat for health. Now, fueling is the next priority. Fueling means applying additional calories, micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) along with macronutrients (fats, carbs, and protein) and fluids to optimize athletic performance, enhance recovery, motor skills, decrease the risk of sports-related injury, increase muscle mass, gain a competitive edge and the list goes on. So again, we eat first and fuel second.

Most athletes won’t go on to play at the next level and if they do, that won’t last forever. We must teach the fundamentals of proper nutrition and facilitating a healthy relationship with food that can be carried into adulthood. I have partnered with some excellent strength coaches who understand the value of good nutritional habits early on. There are many unique challenges that surface when working with a young age group in comparison to collegiate and adult athletes. So, what are these unique challenges coaches face?

Young athletes require more calories, fluids, and nutrients.

Based on age alone, their body’s calorie needs are through the roof! I reference carbohydrate and protein needs for young athletes in a previous blog found here. For simplicity of coaches who have limited time with their athletes during workouts, you may just want to hand them resources out the door, refer them to a registered dietitian who specializes in sports, or post nutrition info-graphs on the walls in the weight room to help them. One key strategy is to ask them about the basics. The basics are what win games and support health on and off the field. So, what does it mean to return to the basics? We must show our athletes how to build a proper plate with a balance of all food groups including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high-quality protein, and a source of dairy a minimum of three times per day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and potentially another meal before practice (second chance for lunch) should all be built according to the plate. If you are unfamiliar with the plate, it is the ChooseMyplate.gov resource.

A more aesthetically pleasing plate geared towards athletes is found here. I reference this plate in every single nutrition presentation I deliver. The portions of the food groups on the plate will increase or decrease depending upon performance, training intensity, energy needs and body composition goals. Teen athletes have high energy needs, but throw in being an athlete creates a larger demand for nutrients, fluids and calories to support training adaptations. One of the largest mistakes young athletes make is not eating enough, not eating breakfast, not eating at the proper time, failing to have calories spread out throughout the day, inadequate consumption of fluids and simply failing to consume enough fruits and vegetables. If you’ll like to dive into the nuts and bolts of the Tanner Stages of Maturing and its Relationship to Sports published in the Journal of Translational Pediatrics please use the aforementioned links for your knowledge and understanding. What is important to note is you can support your athletes by doing the following:

  • While your athletes are doing their workout, ask them some of the following questions.
  • What “fuel” did you consume today?
  • You’re looking strong today! What great things did you eat before you walked in here today?
  • What did you have for breakfast?
  • What did you have for lunch?
  • What colorful fruits did you try today?
  • What veggies have you had today?
  • How many bottles of water have you had?
  • What great things are you doing at home in your meals?
  • Are you getting in a pre-lift snack?
  • What do you plan on eating once you get out of here?

Many athletes may give you the “glazed over deer in the headlights look”. Timmy may say, “Coach, I am here to lift. Who cares what I ate for breakfast?” You can respond with “What you ate before you walked into this weight room has everything to do with your lift. Remember that day you were exhausted and had a bad workout? You didn’t each much at all that day.” Athletes need you to hold them accountable and remind them their performance gains are supported with the activities spent outside the weight room. Hydration practices, food source, quality, and quantities by which they are being consumed (breakfast, lunch, pre-post, and at dinner) is what support recovery, strength, speed, and overall desired performance adaptations.  Experts promote breakfast as the most important meal and there is existing literature to support the cognitive, behavioral, nutritional status, academic and overall benefits associated with a quality breakfast. However, I argue all meals matter. There is no magic meal that will win games. It’s about consistently consuming quality meals and fluids in the days and hours leading up to the event.

Drawing attention to nutrition among high school athletes and coaches

Greater awareness of the valuable role nutrition plays is being brought to lifts, strength coach conferences, and several other gatherings. I must take a moment to give a special shoutout to NSCA Coach Doug Glee at Traverse City Central High School and the NHSSCA N. Michigan Director for inviting me to present on Nutrition and Fueling Optimal Performance at the 2020 NHSSCA Michigan State Clinic that was held on January 25th at Novi Catholic Central High School.

By empowering coaches to feel comfortable asking the right questions and providing basic encouragement to their athletes to eat and fuel we are pushing the needle forward and serving our athletes. If you’d like a copy of the presentation which covers the performance plate fundamentals, eating for weight gain, injury prevention, and optimizing performance please send me an email directly. If you’re a coach I encourage you to email me or contact me on a social platform and connect with me. I would love to meet you, learn about your work, and offer any support I can to you and your athletes.

 

Unique challenges for high school athletes:

In a study published in 2015 investigating the sports nutrition knowledge of high school athletes it was reported that 55.7% of participants reported eating breakfast daily, 36.6% reported eating one hour before training and games and 79.4% reported eating within one hour following training/games. Supplements, protein shakes, or meal replacement beverages were used by 30.1% of the participants. Keep in mind the environment, socioeconomic status, and affluence of the participants in this study. Most of the athletes I have worked with across the world face financial limitations, constraints, and overall access to food to some capacity. This can create challenges for coaches in providing guidance.

Good news, eggs, yogurt, milk, whole-grain rice, bread, bananas, chocolate milk, apples, frozen veggies, and even poultry can be quite cheap and budget-friendly for many. Many athletes often skip breakfast, skimp at lunch, fail to consume a snack and feel fiery hot Cheetos or chips with a few bites of a sandwich and soda are enough lunch. We know this is not optimal or healthy. It fails to support eating and fueling goals, right? So, how do we encourage both eating and fueling for success?

 

I encourage you to go eat with your athletes at lunch, most strength coaches work at the school and teach. Set an example for your athletes. By eating what they are eating you are demonstrating you to believe the meals are healthy. In fact, make sure you choose healthy snacks in front of them. Your student-athletes will follow suit in your choices. I have been in many schools and have seen what is served, it is so much better than when I was an adolescent.

Simply put, many athletes don’t eat enough. Athletes who are consistently in a calorie deficit experience several signs and symptoms which is something coaches should keep on their radar.

Key signs and symptoms of inadequate energy intake include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Decline in performance
  • Absent or irregular menstrual cycles
  • Stress fractures or repeated bone injuries
  • Decreased muscle strength
  • Always being injured
  • Training hard but not improving performance
  • Undesired weight loss
  • Recurring infections and illness
  • Depression, disordered eating, and expressed concerns about specific foods
  • Inability to gain or build muscle or strength

For more information on low energy availability in athletes check out the Collegiate Professional Sports Dietetics Association (CPSDA) for some great fact sheets and credible information compiled by the Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) a dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For those interested in reading a more detailed review summarizing low energy availability check out a review article published in Sports Medicine .

Key tips to share with your athletes desiring to weight gain in the off-season or weight maintenance during the season

  • Increase protein & leucine (nutrient trigger for muscle anabolism) rich foods – (meat, fish, poultry, dairy & legumes) are spread evenly throughout the day, at meals AND snacks, not all at one time, to aid in the growth of new tissue. (30-40 g/protein/meal).
  • Eat frequently: Every 2-3 hours to help increase calorie intake.
  • Consistency is key – as with training, practice consistency with these tips Monday – Sunday. Much like recovery, it’s a full-time job.
  • Focus on food – aim to increase calories first with food and supplements as a secondary option.
  • Planning– outline meals and snacks for the week. Shop 1x/week
  • Eat a bedtime snack – include a source of protein (cereal + milk, smoothie, cheese + crackers). Consume dairy products like cottage cheese which are rich in casein and leucine before bed for optimal muscle growth and repair according to a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

Below I have listed out some high-quality nutrient snack ideas to support weight gain:

  • 1 medium apple + 3 Tbsp. PB (400 kcal)
  • 5 c. Pistachios, almonds, walnuts, seeds (400 kcal)
  • 2 Tbsp. PB + whole wheat bagel + honey = (500 kcal)
  • 5 c. granola + 5 oz. low-fat Greek yogurt = (350 kcal)
  • Cooked veggies in olive oil + ¼ c. avocado= ( 400 kcal)
  • 8 oz. whole milk + 0.5 c. oatmeal = (325 kcal)
  • 5 avocado = (150 kcal)
  • 4 Tbsp. hummus + 10 baby carrots = (220 kcal)
  • Plain whole grain bagel with 2 Tbsp. cream cheese= (400 kcal)
  • Grilled pita bread with ¼ c. hummus, sliced avocado, tomatoes = (550 kcal)
  • Trail mix or fruit mix per ¼ cup= 100 kcal

Nutrient timing, exploring optimal meals pre-and post-workout

I advocate for meal timing of 4-2-1. Which I explain in the following. Eating a proper meal (3-4 hours) before an event according to the plate fuels the muscle, body, prevents hunger and supports hydration levels to help decrease the risk of injury. The meal should be balanced, with more of a focus on protein, carbohydrate, and limited fat due to the length of time it takes to digest the food source.

Examples of meals to consume (4 hours) prior to an event include:

  • A glass of skim cow’s milk, 4 oz. of grilled chicken, grapes, whole grain wrap with spinach and tomato. Roughly 500 kcal
  • A glass of skim cow’s milk, 4 oz. of turkey, brown rice, roasted vegetables, and a banana. Roughly 500 kcal
  • A glass of fat-free chocolate milk, egg omelet, whole-grain toast spread with 1 tbsp. avocado, a cup of fruit. Roughly 550 kcal

To maintain energy stores and support enough fuel for competition or practice consume a small meal containing minimal protein and some carbohydrate.

Examples of meals to consume (2 hours) prior to an event include:

  • 4 oz. of Greek yogurt and berries. Roughly 200 kcal
  • Hard-boiled egg and pear. Roughly 150 kcal
  • String cheese and strawberries. Roughly 150 kcal

Lastly, about one hour out from practice or event you should sip on fluids, provide a minimal about of carbohydrates if still hungry and limit protein and completely avoid fat. The goal is that you are already properly fueled. If breakfast, lunch, and proper snacks have been consumed this 1-hour out protocol should really be fluids. If the athlete is still hungry 45-60 min prior to the event the window for opportunity to fuel has been missed.

Example of what to consume (1 hour) prior to the event.

  • Possibly sports drink
  • Water, flavored waters
  • Watermelon slices, banana or grapes (quick sugar that can be used as fuel with minimal digestion)

A combination of carbohydrates and protein is highly encouraged for pre-workout meals.

Recovery nutrition 101

Proper refueling and rehydrating are key after training, practice, or an event. Recovery nutrition can depend on the type of training, training volume, training intensity, the timing of next training session, body weight, and overall energy intake. Given most high school athletes struggle to consume enough calories any nutrition post-exercise will be beneficial. Specifically, consuming (15-25 gm of protein) and (30-60 gm) carbohydrates within 30-60 minutes can support recovery and training adaptations due to:

  • Enhancing heart rate, blood pressure allowing greater nutrient delivery to muscles.
  • Quicker glycogen (storage form of carbohydrate) replenishment and ultimate tissue repair.
  • The body initiates muscle anabolism which supports muscle growth and repair.

Recovery options:

  • 1.5 cup cottage cheese and 1 cup of berries
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt with berries
  • 8 oz. of low-fat chocolate milk paired with a banana

Chocolate milk is highly underrated among parents, coaches and health practitioners who are concerned about “too much sugar”. However, chocolate milk offers electrolytes, 8-g of high-quality protein but it replenishes glycogen stores and rehydrates just as well as Gatorade. Additionally, you’re getting 9-essential nutrients which include calcium and vitamin D that support bone health.  How does chocolate milk stack up to the commercial sports drink regarding both male and female high school athletes? A field based study published in the JISSN study showed that in high school football players, chocolate milk has a greater impact on performance than regular sports beverages when high school athletes drink it for recovery. The athletes who consumed chocolate milk bench-pressed an average of 3.5% more than they could before – whereas those who drank the commercial sports beverage decreased in bench-press strength by about 3.2%. Net difference of 6.7 percent for those who drank CM vs commercial sports beverage. Both groups showed improvement with squats, but chocolate milk drinkers showed more, lifting 15% more weight than before – whereas commercial sports beverage drinkers only lifted 8% more. nearly double the increase in strength for chocolate milk drinkers. Chocolate milk is an accessible, affordable, and delicious recovery option for adolescent athletes—and it may give them a strong edge due to the 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.

If you’re a coach check out your local dairy council to explore options available for stocking your team’s fridge with chocolate milk. This is a grant program offered to you by your local dairy farmers regardless of what state you are in. Check out the National Dairy Council’s resources for more information about your state or regions grant’s available. A great resource to check out recovery nutrition and a long list of snack ideas is found here compliments of the USOC Sports Nutrition Team.

Encouraging a healthy relationship with food

When talking about nutrition we must practice inclusion vs. exclusion. For example, telling your student-athletes that bread is bad because it isn’t paleo isn’t optimal. Now, you may be smirking, but this is quite common. It is important to promote healthy behaviors and that certain foods may be more optimal than others we don’t demonize foods. When talking to your athletes ask about their food preferences. Acknowledge how they talk about food, body image, overall relationship with food. Support your athletes who desire to use food and nutrition to enhance, sleep, healing, recovery, and protection from injury and illness.

Speaker before audience in auditoriumForward-thinking is adding sports dietitian services in the high school. I hypothesize in the next 5 to 10 years a sports dietitian will be added to the roster of high schools. I work with many young athletes and several of their parents see the benefit of nutritional services. I myself, have met with many athletic directors in the state of Michigan and run into challenges of funding and resources. However, I predict that more and more will learn the valuable role having a sports dietitian on staff is. Not only to help support the health and well-being of the student but the long-term effects on health in creating healthy and sustainable habits. By having a sports dietitian to consult with students and student-athletes to support eating and fueling needs. It’s a great opportunity to review daily nutrition, listen to the guidance, and gain advice from a food and nutrition expert to prevent deficiencies and foster a healthy relationship with food. Sports dietitians can deliver team talks by meeting with teams to discuss fueling strategies to enhance their goals (pre-season, in-season, and off-season). Furthermore, a dietitian that specializes in sports nutrition can help support the four pillars of performance nutrition: Hydration, energy intake, nutrient timing, and recovery. Lastly, sports dietitians provide great resources on meal planning for coaches, administration, parents, and students.

“Nutrition is your athlete’s secret weapon to outcompete their competition. Nutrition can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good.”

– Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN

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. 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 the founder of Nutrition with Wendi, LLC. Wendi is active on Twitter and other social media platforms as Nutrition_with_Wendi.