Iron Deficiency: Fast Facts You Need to Know

Iron Deficiency: Fast Facts You Need to Know

Iron is a mineral that the body needs to grow and develop. Iron helps make healthy red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout the body. Iron is critical for normal immune function. Iron is the structural component of hundreds of essential molecules. Iron assists antioxidant enzymes.

  • Iron deficiency is the number one nutritional deficiency in the United States. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) II. iron deficiency occurs in approximately 11% of women,1-2% of all adults, and in approximately 12.5% of athletes.

 

  • It is the No. 1 cause of anemia in athletes. Iron deficiency rates (with or without anemia) in athletes range from 20-50% in women and 4-50% in men.

 

  • Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells due to a lack of iron in the body.

Two forms of dietary iron

  • Heme iron is better absorbed than nonheme iron; the absorption of nonheme iron is enhanced by vitamin C. 


  • National dietary surveys indicate that iron is under-consumed by adolescent and premenopausal females.

 

 

 

 


Iron recommendations vary between adults and teens

 


What causes iron deficiency

  • Iron losses occur from blood loss in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, microscopic losses in urine, hemolysis of red blood cells (RBC) breakdown, menstrual cycle, sweat loss, and intense exercise. 

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, Advil, and naproxen deplete iron and folate. Frequent use of medications with GI side effects such as aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or naproxen can cause or worsen iron deficiency.

 

  • Physical activity particularly high intensity and endurance types increase iron losses by as much as 70% when compared to sedentary populations. Athletes lose more iron due to heavy sweating as well as increased blood loss in the urine and GI tract.

 

Causes range from a variety of health issues to simply overtraining or even lack sleep.  Any athlete that experiences a decrease in training or performance coupled with symptoms should seek out their primary care doctor for further testing and analysis.


Signs and symptoms of low iron

Weakness, fatigue, decreased physical endurance, feeling hot or cold, diminished immune response, alterations in energy levels, cognitive performance, and overall behavior.  Iron deficiency is not the only cause of these common symptoms.  

 

 

 

 


Food sources

Iron in meat, fish, and eggs is easily absorbed by the body but the iron in plant sources is attached to phytates that bind iron in foods.

Following a plant-based diet and limiting animal iron sources can be a challenge. As a practitioner, I meet the client where they are at but do share that consuming animal protein will offer greater iron to support their health and performance goals.

 


Guidance on increasing iron as a plant-based athlete

  • Pair leafy greens (bok choy, kale, spinach) with a source of vitamin c (broccoli, strawberries, bell peppers, and kiwi) –This can increase the absorption by up to 67%! (3)

 

  • Cooking food in cast iron or stainless steel cookware also aids in iron absorption (cook all veggies and protein in the cast iron skillet)

 

  • Eat more beans, lentils, edamame, baked potatoes, and Iron-fortified oatmeal (higher sources of iron).
    • Lima beans
    • Red beans
    • Kidney beans
  • Drink tea or coffee separately from an iron-containing meal or snacks. Caffeine inhibits iron absorption.
  • Additional ways to combine vitamin C-rich foods with beans
    • Drain a can of pineapple cubes and add them to canned baked beans
    • Toss cooked black beans with shredded cabbage in your favorite coleslaw recipe
    • Sauté red peppers and onions in olive oil and stir into the white navy or Great Northern beans (cast iron pan)
    • Add any type of cooked beans to a spinach or kale salad with pineapple or fruit

Add fatty fish into your diet 1x/week (3 oz of salmon) or oysters (also a rich source of iron)!!

    • Blend up leafy greens and fruits rich in vitamin C with your smoothies (you can even add beans – I promise it is a neutral taste)
    • Eat more lean red meat, chicken, seafood, beans, lentils, edamame, baked potatoes, and Iron-fortified oatmeal (higher sources of iron).
  • Sauté red peppers and onions in olive oil and stir into the white navy or Great Northern beans (cast iron pan)
  • In a skillet prepare steak, spinach, or collard greens paired with berries (best way to increase iron)

 

 

 

 


When young athletes or adults we start with simple guidance to help increase iron

  • Set meal goals: 4 oz of flank steak 2-3 x/week paired with leafy greens
  • Snack idea: A side of roasted chickpeas paired with pineapple
  • Snack idea 2: A 1/2 cup of mixed berries paired with fortified oatmeal

Before taking an iron supplement to correct an iron deficiency you should contact your physician and work with a dietitian to raise iron levels properly. It is best to work closely with a dietitian to ensure you or your young athlete is getting the proper amount if iron to avoid health and performance consequences. We have worked with hundreds of teen athletes and plant-based adults that have struggled with low iron. We can help you too! Contact us for student-athlete coaching or for a virtual presentation for your sports team.

 

In good faith, health, and athletic performance,

 

Wendi Irlbeck, MS,RDN,LD,CISSN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Citations and resources to learn more:

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) II.

 

Hurrell, R., & Egli, I. (2010). Iron bioavailability and dietary reference values. The American journal of clinical nutrition91(5), 1461S–1467S. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2010.28674F

 

Goldstein, J. L., Chan, F. K., Lanas, A., Wilcox, C. M., Peura, D., Sands, G. H., Berger, M. F., Nguyen, H., & Scheiman, J. M. (2011). Hemoglobin decreases in NSAID users over time: an analysis of two large outcome trials. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 34(7), 808–816. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04790.x

 

Hallberg, L., & Hulthén, L. (2000). Prediction of dietary iron absorption: an algorithm for calculating absorption and bioavailability of dietary iron. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 71(5), 1147–1160. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/71.5.1147

 

Koehler, et al.  Iron status in elite young athletes: gender-dependent influences of diet and exercise.  Eur J. Appl Physiology, 2011.

Gentle Nutrition: A Non-Diet Approach to Healthful Eating

Let’s walk through a way of eating that is not restrictive, stressful, or judgemental but rather curious and satisfying. The pendulum swing from extreme dieting to overeating can be difficult. You will find yourself tired of Yo-Yo dieting where you lose some weight just to gain back even more. Are you battling cravings and feeling a lack of willpower. Gentle nutrition approaches cravings in a non-judgmental way. Instead of saying “I shouldn’t have eaten that”; Get curious and ask yourself, “Why am I craving this food?”, “Is there something I could have added earlier in my day?”. Nutrition Coaches can help guide you through the process of understanding “why”. 

Gentle Nutrition is a concept of Intuitive Eating which embodies foods that satisfy what your body wants and nutritional knowledge. It empowers people to listen to their internal authority. Let’s walk through how you start.

Reject Diet Culture

Diet Culture is everywhere and is a multiple billion-dollar industry. Ever notice how diets continue to evolve into something new? Maybe diet culture evolves because it does not work. Diet culture is rooted in the belief that appearance and body shape are more important than physical, psychological, and general well-being. Nutrition Coaches can help distinguish what is fact versus myth about nutrition.  

Honor your Hunger

Hunger is a body mechanism to signal the brain to start looking for food. Cravings can signify that you are deficient in a certain nutrient. An example might be craving meat when low in iron. Cravings can be physical or psychological; working with a Health Coach can help identify what your cravings are signifying. 

Practice eating when you are hungry and learn early signs of satiety. Fullness can take 15 minutes to hit, especially if you eat fast. Tips for feeling fullness: Take a sip of water between bites. Chew thoroughly. Taste all of the flavors. If you think you are full, wait 15 minutes and reevaluate if you are still hungry. Grab additional food, if fullness is not met. 

Make Peace with Food

Remember there are no forbidden foods and every food has a place in our diet. Some foods are great for fuel, others provide emotional satisfaction, and some foods satisfy cravings. Food is nourishment and can be there for celebrations and memories. Having forbidden foods is an “all or nothing” way of thinking, meaning once you have forbidden foods you are more likely to feel ravish toward that food item.  

Challenge the Food Police

Food is nourishment and can bring satisfaction. There are no “good” or “bad” foods. Rigid rules can result in increased stress and anxiety causing other complicated issues. There is a difference between rules that heighten anxiety and general guidelines that can be flexible.

Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Having the same simple nutrition food can be helpful with meal planning but as time goes on even your favorite foods get old. Discover new foods to satisfy your taste buds. Find foods that help you feel nourished and satisfied. 

Respect your Fullness

Snacks can be a beautiful way to bridge the gap between meals. Learn how to listen to hunger cues to improve your quality of each day. If extreme hunger or extreme fullness negatively impacts your day; then a Health Coach can help identify early signs of hunger and meal preparation to stay in the sweet spot of hunger and fulness optimizing concentration and performance. Respect your fulness by putting away the leftovers once full; knowing if hunger kicks in that the leftovers are in the refrigerator waiting for you. 

Cope with your Emotions with Kindness

We all have experienced snacking while not even hungry. Family gatherings, late-night snack runs, movies on the couch; Cravings can be psychological and that’s okay. Working with a Coach can help identify why the cravings their and alternative paths you can take. Sometimes a food craving can only be satisfied with food. A coach can help build your self-care toolbox giving you many options when the coping tool is needed. 

Respect your Body 

It is tough to not overthink how our bodies look despite the majority of the day we aren’t even looking at ourselves. A health coach will help bring importance to: How do you feel? Do you have the energy to do the things your love? Practice gratitude for what your body can do daily; rather than focus on what it looks like. Challenging your thoughts can empower you to change your negative feelings about yourself. Negative thinking has become normalized in society partially related to diet culture. Work with a coach to identify and practice reframing these negative thoughts.

Movement – Feel the Difference 

Movement can be fun, nourishing, mood-lifting, and more. Compulsive movement is very inflexible, rigid, and only focused on changing your body. When movement gets too rigid you will find yourself “all or nothing” when it comes to movement. Sometimes it is great to simplify movement. For example, when you get off from a sedentary job and want to work out without going to the gym. A 10-minute youtube video may be all that you need. Sometimes the movement is the transition you need to leave work at work and become present at home with your family.

 

Honor your Health with Gentle Nutrition 

Gentle nutrition is where satisfying your taste buds pairs with sustainably nourishing your body. Gentle nutrition is connecting the foods you eat to how you feel; It is understanding how medication impacts your hunger. Gentle nutrition will look different for everyone – talk with your health coach to see how gentle nutrition looks for you. 

Food Freedom Made Simple

Food Freedom Made Simple

A term you may see a lot of on social media lately is “food freedom”. This ideology, if you will, is combatting old practices of dieting and instead giving individuals the freedom to eat foods without having to eliminate certain food groups or the foods that they simply enjoy eating. Wendi and I share the same philosophy that all foods fit and we should never eliminate food groups as it puts us at risk for nutrient deficiencies. In this blog, I’ll discuss the meaning of “food freedom” and how to achieve it in 3 simple steps so that you can achieve freedom from food as well!

What does “food freedom” mean?

Food freedom can look different for everyone, however, I prefer to define it as the freedom to enjoy all foods without restriction. It means to have a healthy relationship with food without being stressed or guilty when indulging in the foods you love to eat. You’re eliminating the rules of dieting and embracing the joy that food brings to the table…no pun intended!

Is food freedom important?

I am guilty of trying a few diets and quick fixes in the past, but during each escapade, I always thought to myself, “Why must I eliminate foods that I really enjoy eating?” I first heard about food freedom in the midst of the pandemic when so many people were trying to improve their health and seeking out a new fad diet to help them achieve their goals quickly. I had friends who were following keto and carnivore diets and I would sit there asking them, “Well don’t you miss vegetables? Don’t you miss having a bowl of pasta?” and their response was always yes

I understand why people are driven to try these diets out; they see others through social media or by word of mouth who have had major successes. However, we must remember that everyone is made differently. What works for one individual will not necessarily work the same way for you. This is a hard thing to swallow because we as humans naturally want to see results quickly and will try just about anything to achieve that. But what if I told you that you can still work towards your goals, whether they be to lose weight or pack on muscle mass, by eating ALL of the foods you love? Would you believe me? Finding freedom from food can alleviate so much anxiety that surrounds many people when they eat. By achieving this, we can boost our self-esteem while gaining confidence that we can be in a healthy mental and physical state without restricting ourselves from the things we enjoy.

3 steps to achieve food freedom

  • Eliminate 1 thing… diet culture!

Yes, I am encouraging you to replace a bad habit with a good one, something NWW offers in “Learn It, Lose It, Live It”, an evidence-based group program to help you stop dieting and start living! It’s the mentality that we must be constantly dieting to achieve our goals. We face many advertisements for dieting on television, in magazines, and through social media, so I challenge you to take a step back. Unfollow accounts that are diet-specific, throw out the magazines promoting the latest fad diet and change the channel when you start receiving the subliminal messages that you must diet in order to be healthy. Diet culture doesn’t want you to know the real truth about what can make you healthy in a natural way (check out Wendi’s blog entitled Strategies the Diet Industry Does Not Want You to Know to learn more). This is the beginning of taking a step in the right direction! Enroll in LEARN IT, LIVE IT, LOSE IT GROUP PROGRAM to gain the confidence you deserve (NEXT GROUP BEGINS JULY 18TH)!

  • Fuel your body with intent

If you have been dieting for a while, your body is going to need some time to acclimate to eating more food. Registered dieticians Wendi and Sydney recommend 20-30g at each and 10-15g during snacks, depending on your goals. Consume whole grains and plenty of leafy, green vegetables to increase energy and fiber intake. Also, be sure to stay hydrated which helps with weight management and helps flush out waste. If you need ideas for easy, delicious recipes, check out our Recipes page on our website.

 

  • Get moving!

Find enjoyable movement. Exercise can look different for everyone. Maybe it’s engaging in team sports, lifting weights, hiking, tennis, or yoga. Resistance training has been proven to burn calories even during rest. The important thing is to be moving in a way that is fun for you! Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Figure out what time of day you prefer to get your movement in and stick to a routine. It can help to have a friend join you and help with accountability. You can follow me on Instagram @lindsayd_nutrition to find a few workouts you can do at home or in the gym.

Hopefully this blog has given you some insight into the idea of food freedom and how to simply achieve it. It’s not going to be achieved overnight, because let’s be honest, diet culture practices were not achieved in a day either. Start small and work towards a new habit and goal as time goes on. If you need help finding freedom with food, book a FREE Discovery Call so that we can discuss your goals and develop a personalized plan for you. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

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

 

Practice how you want to perform….(Learn through graphics)

When I played sports in high school and college my coaches would always say, “you perform as you practice.” There’s a lot of wisdom with that! I ran cross country in high school but also played softball. I actually went on to play college softball and wish I would have known then what I know now.

Fueling competition day!

Experiment with your eating schedule on a practice day so you can identify the best strategy to give you energy and peak performance! This is applicable to coaches, parents, athletes of all ages! What we eat directly affects how we perform. Use my “4-2-1” eating schedule with some of these meal ideas to try out for your own fueling plan WITH PICTURES!!

👇 NWW’s🍉rule of👍 : “4-2-1 method”

What are some ideas during half-time, between quarters or periods? These options are applicable to all sports.

 

 


What are some other meals and snack ideas??

Breakfast ideas (how to create a breakfast habit)

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

Smart snack ideas

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

Lunch and dinner ideas

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

SAMPLE SCHEDULE

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


BACK TO THE BASICS WITH SIMPLE TIPS!


🎃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

 

 

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

COVID-19 and Obesity-A Link Too Dangerous To Ignore

Obesity and overweight

More than one-third of U.S. adults have obesity, which is defined as having a BMI > 30. According to the World Health Organization, obesity has nearly tripled worldwide since 1975. In 2016, > 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese. A staggering 38 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2019. Most of the world’s population live in countries were overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight. Do I have your attention yet? If not, did you know that 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese. Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016. All the aforementioned facts are per the WHO . Obesity is preventable. We need to wake up and do better, not just for ourselves but the next generations to come. The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed our lives and we must revisit our lifestyle choices in honor of health and disease prevention.

This article will highlight the association of obesity and Covid-19. First and foremost, for adults, the WHO defines overweight as BMI > or equal to 25; and obesity is a BMI > 30. BMI provides a rough measurement tool to correspond fatness in different individuals. It is not the best indicator of health as it is a population-level measure which is the same for both sexes and all ages and adults. BMI does not tell us bio-metrics, energy levels, sleep, relationship with food and other areas that predict health. However, it does provide a common way to classify

overweight or obesity in adults. BMI is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his or her height in meters (kg/m2).

Causes of Obesity

  • Imbalance of calories from physical inactivity or surplus of calories consumed chronically over time
  • Family history and genetics
  • Medications: Some anti-seizure medications, antidepressants, steroids and beta blockers can lead to undesirable weight gain
  • Environment: Surrounding yourself with friends and family who may be overweight making poor food and beverage choices can lead to greater risk of obesity
  • Too little sleep which can increase appetite and desire to consume low nutrient foods

Why is obesity a risk factor for Covid-19?

Obesity is considered a large risk factor for risk of severe COVID-19 because of the respiratory dysfunction. Those with obesity have a greater likely hood of experiencing restricted airways, decreased lung volumes, and weaker respiratory muscles which are an essential defense against COVID-19. Such factors make an individual more susceptible to pneumonia, and experience additional cardiac stress. Furthermore, obesity is also linked with diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease, which overall increase the risk of developing pneumonia. Other ailments like hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and pre-diabetes enhance the susceptibility to infection.

The current science:

  •  Data from 383 patients showed that having obesity was associated with a 142% higher risk of developing severe pneumonia associated with COVID-19.
  •  A larger study of over 4,000 patients with COVID-19 in New York City found that severe obesity was a major risk factor for hospitalization, second only to age.
  • Analysis of critically ill COVID-19 patients in Seattle found that 85% of patients with obesity required mechanical ventilation, compared to 64% of patients without the condition. Moreover, 62% of the patients with obesity died of COVID-19, compared with 36% of those without obesity.
  • Limitation: Study only assessed 24 patients, all of whom were critically ill, making it difficult to draw attention to the conclusions from the data.
    • Another analysis of 124 patients in Lille, France, found that patients with obesity were more likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation.

Collectively this evidence suggest that obesity may be a significant risk factor for COVID-19. Dr. Norbert Stefan, of the German Center for Diabetes Research stated that “obesity may put people infected with Covid-19 at more severe risk and possibly risk of death.” Many of the recent articles published in the last 2 months regarding comorbidities and the association with COVID-19 did not produce data surrounding body composition or metabolic health. The gap in data warrants further research to investigate how body composition, waist circumference, and blood glucose levels play a role in contraction and recovery from the virus, specifically metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a serious health condition that affects roughly 23 percent of adults and increases their risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and diseases related to fatty buildups in arterial walls according to the American Heart Association. The overall underlying cause of metabolic syndrome includes being overweight, obese, inactivity along with other genetic factors associated with aging.

However, given the limited studies there is not sufficient evidence to definitively say that those with obesity at higher risk for more severe COVID-19. The limited literature does suggest a connection and we can note that obesity is indeed a risk factor for worse outcomes in regard to health. Research does support the notion that those who are obese tend to experience more severe forms of infections according to a publication in the International Journal of Obesity .

Strategies to Overcome Obesity: Tips for a Healthier Tomorrow

Now that we are aware of the connection obesity has with disease and infection let’s talk about practical strategies and tips to improve body composition and overall health! First and foremost, obesity prevention begins at a young age. It’s important to help young growing adolescents maintain a healthy weight without a focus on the scale.

Obesity prevention for children

  • Help your toddlers learn appropriate portion sizes. The American Academy of Pediatrics states children from the ages of 1 to 3, every inch of height should equate to approximately 40 calories. As children age you can teach them what appropriate portion sizes look like.
  • Eat healthy foods as a family and create a healthy experience with eating at the table with no distractions like tablets, computes, phones and other games.
  • Encourage eating slowly and eating only when hungry. Eating out of boredom can lead to excess calorie consumption. If you find yourself eating out of boredom be sure to have healthy snacks like fresh cut fruits and veggies available to snack on.
  • Limit unhealthy foods that lack nutrients in the household. If it ends up in your cart at the store, it will end up in your mouth and eventually your tummy. Stock the fridge and pantry with healthy foods, and limit low nutrient foods as a “treat” that is not consumed daily.
  • Establish a healthy sleep routine and focus on managing stress. Those that tend to sleep more heave a healthier weight and crave less unhealthy foods that are often low in nutrition. Higher stress is also associated with weight gain due to poor coping mechanisms.
  • Incorporate regular physical activity which includes at least 60 minutes per day. A byproduct of being more active is less time in front of the screen.

Obesity prevention for adults
It is no secret obesity prevention tips are the same for losing or maintaining a healthy weight. Consuming a healthy diet, sufficient sleep and participating in regular physical activity can help prevent obesity.

  • Consume plenty of healthy fats. A study published in the Nutrition Journal illustrated that intake of healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated fats, can attenuate cholesterol levels and decrease obesity risk.
  •  Eat regular meals on a schedule. Eat a proper breakfast, lunch and dinner that has appropriate portion sizes. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Adults should consume five to nine servings of fruits and veggies each day.
  • Granola, oats, yogurt and fruit with coffeeFruits and veggies are low in calories, high in nutrients, water and full of dietary fiber that supports satiety. Research shows dietary fiber plays a key role in maintaining a healthy weight. A 2019 trial published in Journal of Nutrition found that dietary fiber intake promotes weight loss and dietary adherence in adults with overweight or obesity consuming a calorie-restricted diet.
  • Consume less processed and high sugar foods. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, processed and ultra-processed foods are linked to increased risk for obesity. Most processed foods are high in fat, sodium, and refined sugar which can promote over-eating.
  • High calorie, high sugar foods often contain limited nutrients and tend to promote over-eating. Processed foods that should be limited to avoided include cereals, white bread, potato chips, cookies, ice cream, granola bars, crackers and other snack foods. Be mindful of marketing claims for certain snack foods that may list “low-fat” or ‘low-carb” but still contain a significant amount of sugar and limited nutrients. Should you choose granola bars or grains ensure they are whole-grain.
  • Participating in regular activity that includes both strength training and aerobic activity. Regular physical activity of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity is encouraged per week according to the CDC . Find a movement that you enjoy doing and set a goal to complete it each week with the family. Establish smart goals and hire a coach that can assist you in completing appropriate exercise safely to prevent injury. If you’re new to exercise, begin by walking, stretching and strive to improve your time spent exercising each week.
  • Focus on meal prep and have a plan. It is much easier to shop for healthy foods when you have a list that meets your budget. If you walk into a store with a list you are less likely to be tempted by unhealthy foods. Avoid walking down the aisles looking for items that are not on your list. A good grocery list should contain plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish,  healthy whole-grains, lean proteins, healthy fats and spices. Be sure to make a regular list and post it on the fridge for items as you run out.
  • Eat more protein and veggies as snacks. Higher protein intake is associated with better weight management, glycemic index and bone health according to several studies.  A review published in the Journal of Food Science specifically illustrates the metabolic advantages of higher protein diet and benefits of dairy. Higher protein intake is associated with greater satiety and healthier better composition. Some great high-protein options include eggs, Greek yogurt, beef, chicken, fish, lentils, wild game and other dairy products. A study published in the European Journal of Obesity examining the effect of a high-protein diet versus a standard protein diet on weight loss and biomarkers of metabolic syndrome found significantly greater weight loss with higher protein diet.

Many are looking for ways to stay calm during one of the most unprecedented health crises our country has ever seen. Shift your focus to these 3 areas to improve your health during the pandemic.

Establish a routine:

Which includes regular wake, bedtime, movement, mealtimes, schoolwork, work projects and “leisure time” built in to create stability. Eat breakfast every day! Those that consume the majority of their calories early on are less likely to be overweight and obese. Be sure to incorporate a high-quality protein, fiber and fluids. By getting into the habit of completing tasks on a regular basis along with mealtimes you set yourself up for a new normal.

Nutrition 101

Be mindful of fluids, what you are eating at meals and snacking on. High-stress situations can lead to an impact on our ability to make healthy choices. By stress eating high-calorie and low nutrient foods you are more likely to put on undesirable weight. By creating a schedule of mealtimes and having a calendar of meals you are less likely to eat out of boredom.

  • Have fruits and veggies cut and prepared in the fridge should you be hungry and snack on nutrient dense foods versus processed food.Grocery shopping is critical, be sure to have a list prepared ahead of time and stock up on plenty of frozen along with fresh fruits and veggies.
  • Eat the rainbow and incorporate as many whole foods as possible. By eating colorful fruits and vegetables you can support a healthy immune system. Vitamins and minerals support a healthy immune system which are found in pigment rich foods (color!).
  • Be sure to also incorporate unsalted, nuts, seeds, lean proteins and healthy fats can truly help optimize your immune function land even support good sleep. What we eat has a direct impact on our sleep which can also help keep unwanted pounds at bay!

Supporting positive mental health with movement and meditation!

Getting plenty of regular movement, aerobic activities like walking, biking, hiking, swimming along with resistance training with household items or weights at home. Exercise boosts physical, mental and emotional health which can help reduce stress overall. By reducing stress, you are also fighting off the risk of disease and illness. 30-40 minutes a day of yoga, meditation, walking, running or biking is a great way to stay healthy! Many apps, videos and programs are available on demand online.

Work with a Dietitian to Fight Off Obesity and Establish Healthy Habits

Many find great success working with a registered dietitian nutritionist. Research indicates that a few sessions with an RDN can lead to healthier habits, optimal food choices and successful weight loss. As an RDN I personally work with many on improving their relationship with food, eating more fruits and veggies, selecting high-quality proteins, and preparing foods at home. RDN’s can assist in developing a calorie-controlled plan and calculating out energy needs that support appropriate weight loss, weight maintenance goals. Additionally, a personal trainer or fitness coach can also assist you in setting goals for routine physical activity. I work with several individuals on creating a periodized program for appropriate progression of physical activity. The goal is to move more and to feel good about the exercise you are doing. The journey to 100 miles begins with taking that first step. I am here to help you and support you, join me and take that first step to a healthier tomorrow!

In good health,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN

 

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and fitness coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for those looking to improve their health and energy. Along with supporting athletes desiring to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. Wendi partners with parents, sports performance staff, special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance & lifestyle plans. Wendi is based in East Lansing, Michigan and is very active on social media platforms such as facebook , twitter and Instagram.

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.

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 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?


 

REGISTER FOR WENDI’S PERFORMANCE NUTRITION 101 WORKSHOP FOR COACHES, EDUCATORS, AND ANYONE WANTING TO LEARN MORE ABOUT FUELING YOUNG ATHLETES!

Wendi covers any of the following topics but is not limited to:
1️⃣Nutrition 101
2️⃣Hydration
3️⃣Nutrient timing
4️⃣Recovery nutrition
5️⃣Supplements

 


For clarity, you can consume candy that contains calories and vilified pop-tarts. However, you don’t get the same high nutrient composition from those “high-calorie, high-energy” foods as 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, and 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 facilitate 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.

A more aesthetically pleasing plate geared towards athletes is available to download. 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 throwing 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.

 

 

 

 

BOOK WENDI TO SPEAK TO YOUR TEAM OR PARENT ORIENTATION MEETING

 


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.

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 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, and tomatoes = (550 kcal)
  • Trail mix or fruit mix per ¼ cup= 100 kcal

Chew Nibble Sip (download here)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, and 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) of 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 for 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 of 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 Nashville, TN.  Wendi is active on Twitter and other social media platforms as Nutrition_with_Wendi.