How to Stay Fit and Healthy During COVID-19

Movement is medicine

Research shows that even just 150 minutes/week of physical activity for adults can not only treat chronic conditions like cancer, type II diabetes, and heart disease but can also help prevent them according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

All adults should complete 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 min of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or some equivalent combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week according to the World Health Organization (1).

Your gym may not be open, but you can still get a great workout at home using simple household items to add resistance or weights if you have them.

Some simple tips for exercising:

  • Use gallon milk or water jugs can work as weights to do lunges or over-heard presses.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible and be sure to park a further distance to gain extra steps from your office or destination.
  • Canned goods in your pantry can work to do shoulder presses, lateral and front raises, or even just hold them walking up and down your stairs.
  • Bodyweight exercises including push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and other yoga exercises
  • Aquire weights from a local gym, Facebook Marketplace or online
  • Take a walk outside every day and find hills to serve as an incline to raise your heart rate
  • Subscribe to a coach, yoga studio, or online platform for bodyweight exercises to stay on track

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

The goal is to remain active and move as often as possible. The dangers of physical inactivity can take a toll on your health in as little as two weeks according to a McMaster University study. The researchers found that reducing daily steps to less than 1,500 – comparable to those who are housebound during the pandemic for just two weeks can reduce an older person’s insulin sensitivity by as much as 1/3. Additionally, those who are 65 or older lost as much as four percent of their leg muscle.

Mindfulness

There is this real illusion that we cannot control anything right now. This is not true, it may feel that way, but you are 100% in control of your ability to walk, stretch, eat well, drink fluids and practice mindfulness in the presence of God. God is in control, but you must show up and be willing to allow Jesus to protect you and bless you. That means we cannot lay in bed or sit on the couch expecting God to make us money or pay our bills. You must be a good steward of His Kingdom. Mindfulness creates a pause, allowing us to experience optimism and true gratitude when we do not have the ability to change the situation. What we can do is choose to remain calm and focus on what we can control. Mindfulness is a practice and the more you practice the better you get at being connected to yourself and most importantly peace of mind. Remember, God is in control, but we must choose to remain calm.

Meditation

Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience has indicated that 30-minutes of meditation can improve any depression symptoms which include anxiety and chronic pain (2).  Some simple ways to practice mindfulness is to take a moment or two to pause each day in complete silence. Lie down, close your eyes, and put your hands on your belly. Focus on being present and work on keeping your mind quiet. Bring awareness to how you are feeling.

Another great way to meditate is to journal and write down your emotions. Being more self-aware will also help you make healthier choices in times of stress. The pandemic has left us tired, fatigued, and confined to our homes which many have mistaken for hunger.

Pray, journal, complete yoga, or stretch each morning thinking about all the blessings and gratitude you have for just simply being alive. I like to wake up each morning and have a small pep talk with God. I express my sincere gratitude for His blessings but also express my objectives and concerns for potential challenges the day may bring. As a Christian God can help guide you and keep you calm during the many storms.

 

Nutrition

Consuming a healthy diet is essential during all phases of life, but even more so now during COVID-19. Be sure to eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables at each meal along with quality protein sources. Many may feel stressed and turn to comfort foods during this time but these high sugars, caffeinated, and alcohol will increase anxiety, stress, and even worsen mental health (3).

I talk about many ways to eat a well-balanced diet and remain healthy during quarantine in a previous blog found here.

Do your best to pick out your favorite fruits and veggies at the grocery store. I always work with my clients on building a colorful and balanced plate at each dining session. A byproduct of eating nutrient-dense foods is that your brain is satisfied and naturally you will crave less junk food. If you are feeling stress, try reaching for a Greek yogurt parfait with peanut butter and berries. Try some dark chocolate with banana sliced paired with peanut butter.

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

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

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

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

What we eat directly affects our immune function. The 8 key nutrients to focus on for healthy immune function are vitamin C, E, A, D, folic acid, iron, selenium, zinc, and protein (3) All of which you can attain through eating whole foods and balanced meals. A few key immune-supporting foods include:

  • Red bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Leafy greens
  • Lean meats
  • Carrots
  • Berries
  • Citrus fruits
  • Greek yogurt
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Avocado and olive oil

Right now, is not the time to turn to a detox, fad diet, or a famous influencer who lacks credibility for nutritional guidance. If you want to clean up your diet and make healthier choices consult with an expert such as Registered Dietitian. If you’re desiring to eat well, learn proper portions, and meal plan please sign up for a  Service on my website. For additional tips on staying healthy this holiday season please check out a previous blog found here.

A healthy mind is a healthy body. Focus on what you can control during these difficult times. Keep your eyes on Jesus and the cross. This too shall pass.

 

In good health and wellness,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN

 

References:

  1. Al-Ansari SS, Biddle S, et al World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020;54:1451-1462.
  2. Masana, M. F., Tyrovolas, S., Kolia, N., Chrysohoou, C., Skoumas, J., Haro, J. M., Tousoulis, D., Papageorgiou, C., Pitsavos, C., & Panagiotakos, D. B. (2019). Dietary Patterns and Their Association with Anxiety Symptoms among Older Adults: The ATTICA Study. Nutrients11(6), 1250. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061250 
  3. Catherine E. Kerr, Matthew D. Sacchet, Sara W. Lazar, Christopher I. Moore, Stephanie R. Jones. Mindfulness starts with the body: somatosensory attention and top-down modulation of cortical alpha rhythms in mindfulness meditationFrontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2013; 7 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00012
  1. Maggini, S., Pierre, A., & Calder, P. C. (2018). Immune function and micronutrient requirements Change over the life course. Nutrients10(10), 1531. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101531

Evidence You Should Consume More Protein from a Dietitian Who Lifts!

What is protein?

  • Protein is primarily found in animal and dairy products.
  • Image result for protein"Protein enhances muscle mass, strength, endurance, muscle recovery and power.
  • Decreases inflammation, muscle protein breakdown.

First off, let’s talk about the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein. The current RDA is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The RDA is established as the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. Essentially, it’s the minimum amount you need to keep from avoiding sickness- not the specific amount you’re supposed to consume each day. For example,

  • For a 140-pound person, that means about 50 grams of protein each day.
  • For a 200-pound person, that means about 70 grams of protein each day.

Reasons to consume more high-quality protein daily

  • Muscle growth
  • Strengthens bones
  • Hormone regulation
  • Aids in quicker recovery
  • Supports lean mass gains
  • Suppresses appetite and promotes satiety
  • Prevents chronic ailments associated with aging
  • Protects immune system against illness and injury
  • Aids in weight loss during times of energy restriction

Ultimately not only protein but our other daily habits play a role in muscle growth, muscle recovery, and improving overall body composition.

CHECK OUT THIS INFOGRAPHIC ON INCREASING PROTEIN VIA MEALS AND SNACKS!!

That being said, let’s talk about why you need more protein. As you can see in the bullet list provided protein is VERY IMPORTANT. As a registered dietitian nutritionist and fitness professional, I find the RDA to be quite confusing to the general public, athletes, and coaches. To be honest, even dietitians can’t seem to agree on what to recommend for protein to their clients, patients, and athletes. So if there is a misunderstanding among the food and nutrition experts there’s likely a misunderstanding across multiple populations. Especially young children, athletes, and the elderly are in greater need of more protein.

Is more protein better?

The Protein Summit reported in a special supplement to the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN)  that Americans may eat too little protein, not too much. In fact, eating more protein can help provide the whole “package”. That means that a byproduct of consuming more protein is you’re getting other great nutrients such as B-vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, and healthy fats that offer the complete package. Naturally, when you consume more protein you will typically consume less low-quality foods like simple or refined carbohydrates that people typically turn to when they’re “hungry”. Sweets, cookies, white bread, and pastries won’t offer the healthy nutrition you’d get from a high-quality protein source.

Examples of high-quality protein sources

These are just a few of the high-quality protein sources out there. Most animal sources of protein such as meat, dairy, fish, and chicken offer all essential amino acids in proportion needed by the human body. While plant-based proteins such as vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains often lack one or more of the essential amino acids. That does not mean you should only consume animal products to attain your essential amino acids because you can utilize soybeans and quinoa which contain all nine essential amino acids needed. Click here for a complete list available if you’re interested in plant-based proteins. Here is a sample plant-based menu to check out as well!

 

Athletes and protein needs

Even athletes have higher needs. Provided the remodeling process of muscle proteins there is a much higher turnover rate as a result of higher training volumes. Specifically, in track and field athletes it would be wise to consume roughly 1.6 grams per kilogram of body mass each day if their goal is to increase muscle and prevent muscle breakdown. A good target protein intake should be between 1.6 and 2.4 grams per kilogram of body mass per day as cited in recent findings in a consensus statement on Sports Nutrition for Track and Field Athletes. A summary of the review can be accessed here .

The International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand on protein and exercise can also be accessed here which provides an objective and critical review related to the protein intake for healthy and fitness-oriented individuals. For building muscle mass and maintaining muscle mass, an overall protein intake of 1.4-2.0 g/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) is enough. However, there is evidence to support (3.0 g/kg/d) support positive effects on body composition in strength-trained athletes to promote lean mass gains. It is optimal to spread out protein intake between 20-40 g/meal throughout the day.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I strive to consume (2.0 g/kg/d) to support my health and performance goals. I encourage all of my clients and athletes to consume more protein. Especially if you’re trying to increase lean mass and strength gains. Higher protein will not make you fat, it will help support a healthy body and make you feel more satisfied!

Older adults and protein

Older adults are fighting off an accelerated loss of muscle mass and function that is associated with aging, referred to as sarcopenia. For every decade after 40 years old you lose 8% of muscle mass and it increases to 15% after 70 years of age. Older adults should strive to consume 1.5 to 2.0 grams of high-quality protein per kg of body weight per day according to an article by the Center of Aging. Up to one-third of older adults don’t eat enough due to reduced appetite, impaired taste, swallowing difficulties, and dental issues. During the aging process, the body is less efficient and struggles to maintain muscle mass and strength along with bone health and optimal physiological function which warrants a greater need for protein.

Protein summary

Eat more high-quality protein. It won’t make you fat, harm your kidneys or bones. It will support lean tissue gains and help you recover overall while fighting age-related muscle loss. Especially if you’re a female athlete, aging adult, male, or in general human with a beating pulse. That’s a joke, but really If you have questions about eating more protein or how to implement higher-quality sources into your diet email me and let’s have a conversation!

Your health and fitness coach,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN

 

Tips for Staying on “Track” this Holiday Season!

The holidays are a time for cheer, indulging and celebration with family and friends at parties. So, how do you enjoy the delicious treats but still stay on track with your goals? As a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist, I have some strategies that will help you stay lean and healthy to keep you on track with your health and performance goals during the holiday season!

Repeat after me, it is not about being perfect but maintaining accountability. Set an intention before you attend a holiday party or event. Hold yourself accountable by sharing your intent of “health” or eating “well” with your family and friends at the party. By setting an intent beforehand you are less likely to indulge in food or drink that make you feel less than your best! Another great way to stay on track is to avoid skipping meals to save calories. This is a common mistake made by many that if they save all their calories for the party, they won’t overindulge. It would be wise to consume a balanced snack with lean protein and healthy fat like string cheese, hummus and pepper slices. Check out this awesome recipe for a tasty , lighter and smoother version of hummus using Greek yogurt! Another factor to keep in mind is pairing quality protein and fat to help reduce cravings for sugar and overly processed carbs.

Let’s talk about alcohol, which is a real challenge for most around the holidays. Alcohol lowers your ability to make good decisions and can lead to regret in the days following. Most alcoholic beverages are loaded with sugar and empty calories. If your goals are to maintain good health, energy and optimize your workouts it may be wise to limit or avoid alcohol. Request a sparkling or fruit infused water at the party. Your waistline, scale and next 5k time will thank you for that! In addition to re-thinking your drink, it would be wise to eat mindfully. Mindfulness means expressing gratitude with each bite of food. After all it is a time of cheer, spirit and gratitude during the holiday season! Before the meal, take some deep breaths and as you eat, breathe through your nose, chewing every bite slowly by focusing on the flavors, colors, and smells. Then after, assess your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 and determine how much more food you need to consume to be satisfied.

Another great way to stay on track and even enhance your relationships with others is to focus on the people, not the food. Focus on the conversation with the people at the table instead of what’s on your plate. You will learn quite quickly how much the person appreciates your attentiveness and eye contact with them, over pushing around the pie on your plate next to the carrot slices. Make a point to plan a fun activity after the meal, a group walk, board games, and offer the host assistance with the cleanup. Again, not only will the host appreciate this, but this decreases the risk of you reaching for another dessert or overeating, plus you’ll burn more calories than sitting in a chair!

Staying on track often means playing some mad defense. Yes, I said defense. Food pushers are at every gathering, function and we all know them, and you may even be one. Keep in mind to be polite when being pushed to indulge. Many of us can identify certain relatives as food pushers, they may ask you to have another slice of pie or try the turkey shaped cookies on the counter next to the mimosas, when really you don’t want to over do it. You kindly and respectfully decline but they again proceed to say, “have one, come on you work so hard and are always so strict, just one won’t hurt you.” Remember to stay your course. It can be challenging to say “no”, but this is oh-so important when the average weight gain during the holidays is around 6-8 pounds!

When trying to resist the urge to overindulge or play defense against the food pushers keep these tips in mind:

-Load up on high quality protein (chicken, beef, eggs, cheese, yogurt)
-Pick your favorite dessert, only eat one serving of it.
-Practice mindful eating and focus on how hungry you are.
-Load up on veggies if you feel the urge to snack and limit dips and dressings that can be high calorie

Maintain consistent workouts. Be sure to participate in a good long run or some aerobic exercise to offset some of the inflammation and higher calorie foods that are not your usual diet. Encourage your friends & family to join you!
Lastly, if you get off track you can always get back on the right one to lead you to your destination. Let me be straight with you, as runners and fitness enthusiasts you can often get off course during a run. If you do, do you just lay there in the forest or the trail to die? Of course not! You get back up and find yRunner outside on snowy dayour course back to your end destination. Our diet is the same, if you get off course you can always get back on track the next day to reach your destination! The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and celebrated with loved ones and it is okay to try new foods and to sample delicious treats. Just be mindful of your goals and incorporate the strategies in this blog for success!

Your health and fitness coach,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN