We teach high school and college athletes how to eat for health and fuel performance. We specialize in helping athletes gain lean mass the right way and dial in their nutrition around games and training with custom plans. individuals that want to improve their athletic performance, energy, mood, health, and overall quality of life.
Amenorrhea & Athletes: 3 Tips For Females to Get Their Period Back
Relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) is the consequence of low-energy availability (LEA) in athletes, adversely affecting an athletes’ performance and health. RED-S can occur in both males and females, negatively impacting normal growth and development, hormonal health, bone health, ability to recover, strength and endurance, and even mental health. The Female Athlete Triad refers to a cluster of three RED-S symptoms originally identified in females, including low energy intake, menstrual disruptions, and low bone mineral density (BMD). It is imperative to prevent the Female Athlete Triad before it spirals into severe interruptions with bone strength, performance, long-term health, and fertility.
What is Low Energy Intake (LEA)and how does it occur?
LEA can be intentional or unintentional, occurring when an athlete consumes fewer calories than her body requires for growth, development, and athletic performance. LEA is often associated with ‘disordered eating’ and in severe cases can lead to an eating disorder.
Menstrual cycle disruption is the most critical impact of LEA in females. When a female athlete stops getting her period for at least 3 months, this is referred to as ‘amenorrhea.’ Prolonged amenorrhea can negatively impact fertility and bone health.
Many athletes choose to intentionally restrict or limit their intake in hopes of “improving performance”. This is especially common in runners and dancers, where the mentality “lighter is faster” is prevalent but extremely damaging.
Some athletes may just be unsure of how many calories they should consume to meet the demands of their sport, leading to unintentional LEA. Many athletes eat enough calories to sustain basic hormone function but are not eating enough to fuel sport performance and recovery!
The effects of LEA fall into two categories: sociocultural and physiological. Athletes are at a much higher risk for LEA from sociocultural factors, including social media, sport-specific body image stereotypes, and pressure from coaches, teammates, and themselves on looking a certain way. These can all provide a false belief that the athlete will have greater performance outcomes by fitting into these sociocultural standards.
Inadequate nutrition intake, leading to LEA, is problematic because the athlete has insufficient energy to fuel the body. For example, if a female athlete only consumes 1,800 kcal per day but uses 3,500 kcal, she is consuming 1,700 kcal LESS than her body NEEDS! In this scenario, the athlete will not have enough energy, impairing performance, growth, and development; it also puts her at heightened risk for illness, injury, impaired fertility, or a life-threatening eating disorder.
The long-term negative effects of amenorrhea can impact fertility as women age.
Women need adequate calories to achieve enough of energy reserve to promote fertility.
Women must have enough body fat to produce leptin for reproduction and proper functioning of the ovaries.
Scientist Rose Frisch proposed a body fatness theory of fertility in which women need to have at least 17% body fat to menstruate and about 22% body fat for fertility.
Fill out our athlete assessment form HERE and we can reach out to you for a consultation with one of our registered dietitians and sports nutritionists to help you with a plan.
How does menstrual health impact bone health?
Physical activity, specifically resistance training can have a positive impact on bone development. However, in cases of the female athlete triad or low energy availability, BMD may be low. This low BMD can be attributed to low levels of the hormone, estrogen, which plays a crucial role in bone health! Further, with inadequate calorie intake, athletes may be missing significant micronutrients like vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium, which support strong bones. Low BMD can increase the risk of bone stress injuries, including stress reactions and stress fractures, as well as osteoporosis.
Pro Tip: Test, don’t guess! If you or your student-athlete have concerns about menstruation, bone health, and estrogen levels, reach out to a doctor for blood tests.
Recovery of a menstrual cycle takes time but is significant for overall health as well as injury prevention and athletic performance.
Three ways we help female athletes regain their period:
Increased calories (eating in an energy surplus) for 3-6 months, with a focus on adequate healthy dietary fats and eating frequently (avoiding periods of fasting)
Reducing training volume and permitting healthy weight gain
Log nutrition and track period symptoms
We teach our athletes that all foods fit! Most athletes need upwards of 3,500 + kcal to support health, training, and recovery demands.Person first and athlete second. We must help female athletes develop a healthy relationship with food!
If you are a parent of a young female athlete or coach that works with female athletes be sure to refer out to a registered dietitian. Female athletes have special considerations and hormone health should always be a top priority. We have worked with several female runners and competitive athletes to regain their period. It is not normal to lose your cycle for several months. We can work with your program or athlete to regain their cycle via a custom nutrition plan and ongoing coaching.
Female athletes need 3-4 balanced meals coupled with 2-3 snacks on training days. You can’t race like a beast if you eat like a bird!
The Nutrition with Wendi team utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. We partner with parents, athletes, health professionals, and individuals and offer elite nutrition and health guidance for optimal athletic performance, injury, and disease reduction. We provide virtual services including telehealth but are based in Nashville, TN. Follow us onTwitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information. Services booking here to consult with Wendi for a team talk or QA session.
Cabre, H. E., Moore, S. R., Smith-Ryan, A. E., & Hackney, A. C. (2022). Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S): Scientific, Clinical, and Practical Implications for the Female Athlete. Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Sportmedizin, 73(7), 225–234. https://doi.org/10.5960/dzsm.2022.546
Gimunová, M., Paulínyová, A., Bernaciková, M., & Paludo, A. C. (2022). The Prevalence of Menstrual Cycle Disorders in Female Athletes from Different Sports Disciplines: A Rapid Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(21), 14243. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph192114243
Márquez, S., & Molinero, O. (2013). Energy availability, menstrual dysfunction and bone health in sports; an overview of the female athlete triad. Nutricion hospitalaria, 28(4), 1010–1017. https://doi.org/10.3305/nh.2013.28.4.6542
Sims, S. T., Kerksick, C. M., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Janse de Jonge, X. A. K., Hirsch, K. R., Arent, S. M., Hewlings, S. J., Kleiner, S. M., Bustillo, E., Tartar, J. L., Starratt, V. G., Kreider, R. B., Greenwalt, C., Rentería, L. I., Ormsbee, M. J., VanDusseldorp, T. A., Campbell, B. I., Kalman, D. S., & Antonio, J. (2023). International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutritional concerns of the female athlete. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 20(1), 2204066. https://doi.org/10.1080/15502783.2023.2204066
von Rosen, P., Ekenros, L., Solli, G. S., Sandbakk, Ø., Holmberg, H. C., Hirschberg, A. L., & Fridén, C. (2022). Offered Support and Knowledge about the Menstrual Cycle in the Athletic Community: A Cross-Sectional Study of 1086 Female Athletes. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(19), 11932. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph191911932
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition that leads to reactions when eating the protein gluten. Symptoms include, but are not limited to gastrointestinal distress (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), abdominal pain, a rash, and malnutrition.
Should I Avoid Gluten?
Those with diagnosed Celiac Disease, gluten ataxia, non-celiac disease gluten sensitivity (gluten intolerance), or wheat allergies should avoid gluten! Otherwise gluten is safe to eat and there is no need to avoid it!
Research supports that there are no improvements in performance resulting from abstaining from gluten in non-celiac athletes. Further, research in the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Journal supports that gluten-free foods do not offer a “nutritional advantage” over gluten-containing foods.
Gluten-Free Athlete Tips:
Check food labels. Gluten “friendly” and gluten-free are not the same thing. The safest bet is always certified gluten-free!
Consider food prep and processing. Foods that may naturally be gluten-free may become contaminated with gluten through prep.
Communicate! Let others know about your allergy, especially at restaurants.
Don’t cut out grains! Just swap for new ones.
Be consistent with gluten-free fueling! It may be tempting to reintroduce gluten into your diet, but if you’re diagnosed with Celiac Disease, the treatment is lifelong a gluten-free diet.
Brands We Love:
There are plenty of gluten options for fueling! Some personal favorites are – Kind, Purely Elisabeth, Canyon Bakehouse, Kodiak Cake GF Pancake mix
Grains that are Naturally Gluten Free: corn, rice, quinoa, tapioca, buckwheat, flax, millet, amaranth, sorghum
*sourdough has low gluten content due to fermentation but is not 100% gluten-free
Want to know more? Check out this post on Gluten Free Fueling Options on our NWW Coaching Instagram. Book a FREE call with a registered dietitian to ensure you are eating enough calories to support your training and recovery!
Devrim-Lanpir, A., Hill, L., & Knechtle, B. (2021). Efficacy of Popular Diets Applied by Endurance Athletes on Sports Performance: Beneficial or Detrimental? A Narrative Review. Nutrients, 13(2), 491. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020491
Niland, B., & Cash, B. D. (2018). Health Benefits and Adverse Effects of a Gluten-Free Diet in Non-Celiac Disease Patients. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 14(2), 82–91.
In my 10+ years of experience working with youth, collegiate, and masters level competitors there are really three types of athletes. Athletes who are prone to cramping, those who have cramped, and those who will. Our goal is to prevent cramping, reduce the occurrence of cramping, and Lord willing minimize the cramps with these three considerations.
Water and minerals. Inadequate fluid. Drink water early and often! We wake up in a dehydrated state. Place a water bottle by your bed to wake up and drink water. Set alarms on your phone to hydrate every few hours. Hydration is controllable. Athletes need roughly 80-100 oz of fluid daily. This does not account for the minerals we NEED including potassium, calcium, sodium, chloride, and magnesium. Losses during training, games, and hot climate increases fluid and mineral demand. 7 Tips for Hydration here.
Consume 20 oz of fluid every 2 hours leading up to game time.
Fuel tip: The night before a game have 1/2 an avocado at dinner. Avocados have more potassium than bananas. The potassium levels are almost double!
One avocado contains 975 milligrams of potassium, compared to 487 milligrams in a banana.
Most muscle cramps are also related to magnesium depletion. Adequate magnesium can help with muscle contraction and relaxation. The RDA for magnesium for adults:
-Men: 400–420 mg
-Women: 310–320 mg
Magnesium deficiency signs and foods rich in magnesium click here.
Magnesium supplementation may be necessary if you’re not consuming sufficient meat and veggies.
Some athletes are heavy sweaters and will expel more minerals in their sweat than others. A simple way to test if you or an athlete is a heavy or salty sweater is touching your jersey during/after training. Ensure you’re sipping on sports drinks or an electrolyte mix if you’re prone to cramping. Hotter temperatures will increase the rate at which electrolytes are expelled
Is it crusty and drenched? You are likely a heavy sweater and you will also feel the sodium on your face.
A hydration video tip to download and share with your student-athletes.
Replace every lb. lost during training with 16-24 oz of fluid.
Athletes often fail to consume enough carbs and calories. Carbs fuel muscle and the brain. A drop in blood sugar leads to a drop in performance. Low-carb diets also decrease sodium and water in the kidneys!
Athletes should be consuming on average 3-5 g of carbs/kg/bw/day to support training demands and optimize recovery. This means if you weigh 165 lbs or 75 kg . you need a minimum of 225 -375 g of carbs daily.
Athletes doing more endurance work or training more hours per week need even more. 5-7 g/kg/bw/day for soccer, field hockey, basketball, and other athletes trying to gain weight! This means that the same 165 lb 75 kg athlete would need 375-525 g of carbs per day!
Bagels, rice, pitas, oats, pretzels, fruit, potatoes, dates, honey, and other grains are excellent sources of carbs.
The maximum glycogen storage a human can accumulate is between 400-500 grams. Since 1 gram of carbs equals 4 kcal, you will top out at about 1,600-2,000 kcal in your glycogen storage fuel tank.
Muscle strength, speed, and contractility decrease when blood glucose levels drop or when glycogen is rapidly depleted. This can happen quickly in multisport athletes as well as endurance athletes. Athlete nutrition cheat sheet here.
Bananas, string cheese, Greek yogurt, and sweet potatoes are great sources of minerals like potassium, and contain sodium to assist with preventing muscle cramps and fatigue. Utilize electrolyte packets pre-, during, and post-event.
Too often athletes under-fuel leading up to games and events due to their inability to stomach solid food. Liquid carbs like sports drinks, tart cherry juice, and coconut water can be a great way to fill the glycogen tank prior to an event.
For the strength and sports coaches, this may seem obvious but it is a consideration that we must address. Athletes can cramp due to being undertrained, under-conditioned, or new to the sport. This happens with many young football players in fact. Coaches send me emails all the time with their JV or middle school programs with this concern. We must think beyond electrolytes and carbs to truly identify the source of cramping.
The condition of the athlete and their recovery from days trained that week or in previous events can play a role in cramping. Not to mention if the athlete is properly conditioned. Especially after the dog days of camp.
Training progression and warm-up leading up to games can play a drastic role in an athlete who is prone to cramping. Too much too quick is a recipe for cramping and injury
A tip we provide our athletes, coaches, and parents on preventing and treating cramps.
Science illustrates sodium can be absorbed and affect the body’s sodium concentration at a faster rate when spicy/bitter/vinegary smells and tastes are introduced. In fact, this tactic helps reduce the muscular impulse of over-excited contracted nerve impulses that lead to muscle cramping. This tactic can also aid in reducing the occurrence of muscle cramping and/or shorten the duration of the cramping episode according to a study carried out by Miller et al., 2010 published in Medicine and Science and Sports and Exercise.
The acid in the pickle juice, vinegar, and mustard does help alleviate cramps, the study concluded. A cramp induced by researchers lasted two minutes on average. Those cramps lasted 30 seconds shorter when test subjects drank pickle juice during the experiment. When subjects drank water, there was no change. The acid is what assisted with reducing the length of the cramps. Not the “salt”. This is critical for people to understand because there’s a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding in sports.
Cramps are a result of many factors. Dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, lack of carbohydrates, and a nervous system overt stimuli or misfiring. It is best to work with a sports dietitian to find ways to ensure your athletes are eating enough leading up to games, hydrating properly, getting sufficient sleep, and warming up properly with correct progression. You may not always be able to avoid cramping but you can certainly minimize it with these tips. Wendi’s health and performance slide deck contains hydration, fueling, and recovery graphics. Get a copy here
In good health, faith, and fitness
-Wendi A. Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN
The Nutrition with Wendi team utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. We partner with parents, athletes, health professionals, and individuals and offer elite nutrition and health guidance for optimal athletic performance, injury, and disease reduction. We provide virtual services including telehealth but are based in Nashville, TN. Follow us onTwitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information. Services booking here to consult with Wendi for a team talk or QA session.
READ WITH CARE. A tweet thread of mine you can read provides context to this post.
Please read this full post as it is full of stats that are incredibly important to your well-being in addition to your children and young athletes. You don’t have to rely on social media for getting your message and brand out there if your business is rooted in the Lord. He will make a way for you to share your message and generate business through His provisions. Be willing to trust Him 100% and prioritize your relationship with Him before reaching for your phone. We all have a special assignment from God. By spending too much time online or being busy scrolling or posting you could be missing your true calling from God. Our joy, hope, and fulfillment are found in Him.
God creates every person for a specific assignment on earth; to do good works ordained before you are created. Eph 2:10: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them
If you read it till the end it is worth it. Please be sure to share with someone else you know who is in need of a social media check. The Lord has been convicting me for a while to reduce my social media use and sharing of content to focus on Him. In addition to writing my Devotions with Wendi book and Performance Nutrition Playbook with a goal to be written end of this year.
Just a note I authored this “Social Media Fasting” blog in June of 2022. It is now January 2023 and I find myself in a space where I am willing to focus on my faith and be present with the Lord instead of on social media. Posting has been a great way to promote my business, brand, and content through graphics and tweets. I find myself in a season where social media is taking away from my life instead of adding. I am not worried about helping folks or providing quality content as you can see it all in my newsletter which you can subscribe to for free.
Enjoy this blog post on social media fasting. The only type of fasting I truly recommend.
SOCIAL MEDIA FASTING
The average daily usage of social media is roughly 4 hours and 27 minutes. Can you believe that? To be honest I am surprised it’s not closer to five hours. Many people are chronically scrolling social media looking for the next oxytocin fix. Many like myself have used social media to help grow businesses, connect with others around the world, and share content to create awareness of services and more. Personally, I could go without Facebook and Instagram, but I do enjoy Twitter. I am not here to bash social media as I think it can be a powerful tool to connect with people. That was before everything became incredibly political, cruel, and distasteful online. Many of you who have worked with me, hired me for a presentation, or consulted me for coaching likely met me through Twitter. While Twitter is an awesome platform that has allowed me to share sports nutrition resources, and healthy lifestyle tips, and engage with brilliant minds to further learn it has become counterproductive. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for Twitter and the following that has even been a positive platform to filter information I follow but also share the Gospel.
I have found all social media to be toxic to my mental health lately. I find myself consumed with reading and following so many different things at once online it’s like my brain is on overdrive. I have found myself reading fewer books, doing fewer things outside without my phone, and even just feeling stressed about having to constantly post content to help someone, or answer their direct message in the IG chat let alone blog for my website. I know I am not alone in this feeling. I built a great deal of my business (est in 2019) online well before the 2020 pandemic. Twitter has continued to help me get my healthy tips and sports nutrition guidance out there that has helped me connect with so many.
It is kind of radical to think about stepping away from Twitter or Instagram, but I believe God needs me to do so for the best interest of my relationship with God, understanding His personal assignment of my life, as well as my physical and mental health. I help a lot of people and I love doing it. But my tank feels depleted because many of these folks are not actual clients they are just people who want to drop in my DMs and rant about how much help they need and ask questions but are unwilling to partner. Then get upset when I refuse to help them further for free. Many folks invest in our services and appreciate the content but then the others seem to be so much louder and it is becoming too much. As I have said , if satan can’t make you bad he will make you busy. I don’t want to be busy I always want to be productive. My book needs to get done and I want to be present in my life for the people who truly matter, my family and close friends. Not a total stranger who wants to take advantage of me and my kindness. So yes, it is time for a break.
Moderation does not work when someone is “addicted” to something. I am not saying I am addicted to social media, but I would say social media is disrupting my sleep, well-being, connection with God, and building meaningful relationships in real life. I do not care how many followers I have or if I build the best content or have the most liked info graphs. I care about helping people using my God-given skills, abilities, and passion which includes spreading the Gospel. I have even created a personal IG to help share the gospel and daily devotionals. This is a great way to spread God’s word but again being online is time-consuming and depleting my tank. Maybe that’s just me but have you ever just paused for a minute and asked yourself, “how did I get here?”
I always start my morning with a devotional. This was a habit I built over the last 1.5 years…but lately it has been getting shorter and less meaningful as biz ramps up and content is being requested. I always encourage clients to also reach for their bible before checking email or anything. Start and end your day with God not social media. I’m so consumed with trying to post the best content on social media and help as many as I can that I am not helping myself. I have also been comparing my professional platform to others who have been in the game 20+ years longer than me and it makes me feel like a failure. I know I am not a failure and that I am driven and running my own race but as of lately the noise is loud. Many may feel shocked to read that I struggle with the same battles they do but my source of help is Jesus. However, social media is sometimes louder and more destructive because I have allowed it to be. Social media never really used to impact me until I learned how self-sabotaging and distracting it is. Even if I am scrolling devotionals on Instagram, it is holding me back from creating real meaningful relationships offline.
So, I asked myself a very important question. Perhaps you would want to ask yourself an important question too. Do the “benefits” of social media use outweigh the drawbacks? How is this serving me? Does it negatively affect my relationship with God? There are plenty of benefits to social media use for business and connection but lately, I have acknowledged the benefits no longer outweigh the negatives at this present time. I don’t want to live online, and I most certainly don’t want the media to control my mindset or mood. The narrative is so negative and full of gloom and doom. There’s a whole world out there to experience and you don’t have to document it online. Work hard but also work to unplug like I will be doing. Please read on for some jolting statistics.
Social media and electronics can interfere with circadian rhythms according to the Sleep Foundation.
According to studies social media is making both adults and teens unhappy. There’s a link between social media and depression according to the Child Mind Institute. Several studies indicate teenage and young adult users who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms were shown to have 13 to 66% higher rate of depression than those who spent the least time. A 2017 study investigating over a half million eight through 12th graders found that both depressive symptoms increased by 33 percent along with suicide rates for girls increased by 65%.
Another study evaluated a national sample of young adults aged 19-32 illustrating a correlation between time spent on social media and perceived social isolation. Results indicated those on social media had greater feelings of isolation which can induce anxiety, depression, and concerns of even body image.
There are plenty of statistics available on social media use that is linked with weight gain, depression, disease, suicide, and more. I encourage you to check out the statistics. Our youth and adult population are at risk for any of the ailments. I want to publicly share and post that I will be taking a fast from social media. I have this beautiful website I invested a lot of resources and time into that is full of blogs, nutrition services, recipes, and ways for us to connect. I am not worried about missing out on anything. I have worked hard in my years as a dietitian and health practitioner earning credentials and great experience that enables me the great privilege to help you, your family, and young athlete.
I know what you are thinking, “how long will you fast for?” If it takes to feel like I am 100% putting my faith first and enjoying the things I used to truly enjoy before the pandemic hit. Nature, camping, hiking, taking actual vacations and unplugging without fear of “missing out”. Life is short, and it would be a darn shame to waste it living on some device working to please people who don’t care about you. Seriously, if someone wants to talk to you or me they can pick up the phone and call, write a letter, or dare we say go visit in person. Politics fear-mongering, misinformation, and evil have really corrupted social media. I am sick of it and it is making me sick. No, I am not depressed but I am a firm believer in being proactive in one’s health. I do not want to become depressed, nor do I want to be robbed of my joy or time which is exactly what social media has been doing lately. Maybe it is not like that for you so rock on. However, for me, I want to experience life free from social media sin.
A social media fast can offer the restoration of my mind, body, and spirit needs. I am not the only one who thinks so. In fact, many clinical psychologists agree, “social media fasts can increase positivity, decrease anxiety, and assuage feelings of depression.” -Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear.
Here are my tips to unplug and take a break from social media:
Make a schedule of what time of the day you will unplug. I.e., no social media from 7 pm-9 am. I would encourage more than that or take specific breaks to limit use and screen time.
Use do not disturb. Taking a break from notifications using the great features on your phone. This can even include silencing calls. I do this during my workday, and it has really helped me stay focused. (Remove all notifications from apps and place on a different screen or put in a folder on your phone)
Leave your “work phone” at work. For many this is impossible as we run our own businesses and the work never ends. However, you can again unplug using a schedule and outline boundaries with your clients and followers that you are not reachable at set hours. This will also limit the screen time and phone access.
You may not think social media or phone use bothers or disrupts your life then again, cool. However, studies show that 3 in 4 Americans spend 3 or more hours daily looking at a screen. Maybe you don’t want to unplug for a period of time but I do encourage you to evaluate your screen time and social media use. Is it affecting your relationships with others? Do you feel like you’re always having to post? Do you feel compelled to constantly check your phone for notifications, updates, or what is going on in the news? Maybe try unplugging for a few days or even a few weeks.
I have been giving out free content for years and many have been appreciative of that, but others have demonstrated a lack of respect and demand I help them for free. My hope and identity are found in Christ. I find myself very turned off by social media at the moment and it is taking energy, time, and value away from my life so that is why I will stick with posting in my newsletter, website, and videos periodically. If you want our help you can enroll in our coaching services, and hire me for team talks, speaking engagements, corporate wellness, and partnerships.
I am not going away from social media I am just simply taking a break. The fact that I feel I have to announce that is exactly why I need the break. Social media is a tool and it is getting in the way of my relationship with the Lord and true purpose. I am not worried about losing business by not being as active online because I know that God’s will can’t be stopped. We do good work and have good things to say each day in helping folks and athletes of all ages. I encourage you to take time away from social media if you find yourself picking up your phone before reading your bible. Christian or not social media is not a good use of our time, energy, or God-given talents.
We look forward to serving you with high value coaching and content as we have since day one.
I advocate for planning both meals and snacks when you will be traveling for work or games, but also on vacation. Please see previous travel nutrition resources that I have outlined on both Instagram and Twitter. You can absolutely be healthy and meet both your health and fueling needs by scoping out the menu, restaurants, and hotel options ahead of time. Many often struggle to make good choices at the moment so it’s wise to plan ahead. I always express we have time to map out our travel because like sporting events and work meetings we know the calendar in advance. In previous blogs and presentations, I have made the effort to always say, “opportunity favors the prepared.” Despite the limited choices, you can make healthy choices at fast food places, gas stations, restaurants, and even concession stands.
So here are some guidelines to equip you with tools to make successful choices on the road, at the table, in the drive-through, and at the sporting event.
-Travel (Pack a cooler).
-You always want to pair a protein with produce.
-Failure to plan will result in limited options and will put you in a situation to be less inclined to make a healthy choice that supports your fueling and health goals.
-Fruits like (apples, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, and banana)
-Veggies like (cucumber slices, carrot and celery sticks, sliced bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes)
-Always choose grilled, baked, roasted, or steamed in regards to veggies and protein
-Make sure your bread or bun is whole-grain
-Water in place of soda and fruit juices
-Reduce portion size (don’t supersize to save a buck) your waistline will thank you. Ask for a to-go box immediately upon ordering to have a plan to portion control.
-Replace fries with Greek yogurt, salad, or fruit cup option
-Ask for dressing on the side
-Replace mayo with avocado as a healthier option to increase creamy taste, texture, and flavor
-Use olive oil or avocado in place of dressing if able
Subway has protein bowls now!
You can replace the high-fat, high-kcal dressings, mayo, or spicy blue cheese dressing with avocado or olive oil.
You can also ask for the dressing on the side. Choose grilled chicken instead of fried. Ask for additional proteins (egg, grilled meats, cheese) to meet your needs!
Chick-fil-A (one of the most popular fast food places amongst teens and my athletes personally)
Young athletes and adults will still go to fast food places and will yes, eat chicken nuggets. So, practical tips are something I am a huge proponent of. Would I rather you eat a grilled turkey cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread, spinach, and avocado slices with fruit? Yes, absolutely! But the reality is …that won’t always be an option. So, read on for healthy options at Chick-Fil-A!
470 calories, 24 g fat, 22 g carbs, and 43 g protein
A grilled chicken sandwich is also a wonderful option
Roughly 380 kcal, 44g of carbs, and 28 g of protein!
You can ask for extra tomato and lettuce
If you’re concerned about consuming more protein and fewer carbs you can use half the bread. Bear in mind the bun is multigrain so it is still healthier than white as it contains B-vitamins and has not been stripped of its nutrients like most white bread.
Fruit cup instead of side salad or ask for dressing on the side and enjoy the salad.
When eating at a sit-down restaurant:
-Scope out the menu before going
Never go to the restaurant OVERLY HUNGRY! You will overheat and be unhappy with yourself.
Have a small snack before you go containing some protein. A few great choices would be:
1/2 apple with some peanut butter
1 string cheese with cucumber slices
Hummus and carrot sticks
1/2 protein bar (travel remember)
-Meet your needs (protein, produce, portion)
-Ask for a box before the food arrives to have a plan to consume the proper portion. (Many restaurants often serve 3x the appropriate portion). Consume half of each of the food on your plate and put the remainder in the box to take home or put in your hotel fridge!
Concession stand/gas station eats
**Keep in mind convenience stores should not be your reliance as you will spend more money out of sheer convenience. Versus if you purchase these items ahead of time before travel you will save money and also not put yourself in a situation to be limited in making a healthy choice.
But should you need to stop without packing a cooler here are some healthy options!
-Nuts and seed bags (pistachios, walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds)
-Pick fruit (apple, pear, fruit cup, grapes, banana) and pair it with a protein bar (see above options)
-Almond butter or peanut butter packs (Justin’s Almond Butter or Jif)
-Hummus and carrots mixture
-Greek yogurt (Chobani is found at every gas station)
-Quest protein bars or RXbars (almost every gas station carriers these)
-Muscle milk, Fairlife Corepower protein shake, Shamrock Farms Rockin’ Refuel, and Organic Farms
In closing, failure to consume enough quality protein, carbs, and overall kcal will increase the risk of injury, decrease performance, hinder cognition, blunt focus, and limit the overall health athletic performance of the individual. Nutrition can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good. It is also important to lead by example if you are a parent or coach leading a group of student-athletes.
This blog offers several tools to fill your toolbox as a coach, athlete, parent, and beyond. I am passionate about helping both young student-athletes and adults live a healthy lifestyle. I kindly ask you to share it on social media pages as well as with your student-athletes.
Say a prayer for our government officials in office while you’re at it. Our world needs some extra prayers and kindness. As you know, I am a Christian-focused dietitian and am employed by Jesus Christ. This entire platform is used to help my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ nourish their temple. But for the goal of glorifying God. It’s all for Him.
In good health, safety, and athletic performance,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN
Wendi Irlbeck is a registered dietitian nutritionist and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. 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 here. Testimonials of Wendi’s expertise from colleges, coaches, parents, young athletes, and high school administrators can be found at the testimonial link on her website. You can also follow Wendi on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information
Have you ever felt “out-of-control” in areas of your life that you know Jesus wants you to be better in? I am not talking about attending church or worship here. Yes, you should absolutely attend regularly and seek His word. You should also read the bible regularly. What I am getting at is your daily habits, financial management, sleep hygiene, exercise routine, eating habits, and what you turn to in times of stress to “cope”.
Proverbs 15: 22 tells us,” Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers, they succeed.” I am not a pastor, but I have been called by God to speak up and to grow His Kingdom through physical health, nutrition, and overall inspiration. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I can provide you, counsel, on making healthier choices within your lifestyle to support your physical health. You do not have to do this alone. As a healthy lifestyle coach, I can support you as part of your counsel. I want to help you gain control of your health and fitness.
Drawing awareness to our current situation. In times of crisis and despair, we may allow our physical health to go unchecked. We may come up with excuses like “I am too busy, I don’t have time, I have too many meetings, I have to take care of my children and everyone else.”
For every excuse or limitation, you express for neglecting your physical health, there are several motives to address your health.
Your longevity in life will be cut short with poor health
Your mind, agility, stamina, and performance are affected by what you consume, and the amount of physical activity completed.
As a parent, spouse, son, daughter, brother, sister, leader, manager, employee, and follower of Christ you are called to be an example. How can you expect others to be focused and perform their best if you do not?
Physical and spiritual energy can rise with greater health and fitness. If you realize you are feeling more sluggish, tired, and low energy you are not alone. This pandemic has brought on a whole new level of challenge and crisis.
Your body is a temple and if you have been a poor steward lately, I want to tell you, “it is OKAY”. It is not okay to realize it and do nothing about it. The more you turn to unhealthy food, alcohol, sedentary lifestyle vegged out on the couch in front of the news or Netflix with a bag of chips the more likely you will be less convicted to follow the Lord. In fact, you may find yourself being tempted by satan to do more “unhealthy things” because they temporarily feel good and distract you from dealing with the reality at hand.
When we do neglect our body, we are neglecting the Creator’s creation. I want you to love yourself and respect the body that Christ gave you to live in. Jesus is the Creator of our physical bodies, and it is within our bodies that we serve others as He calls us to do. If you are too tired, sick, and disease-stricken because you have been a poor steward of your habits then you’re unable to support your family and ultimately serve our Lord. Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. You are forgiven regardless of what you do but you must “repent”. I am not here to preach you must “eat perfectly”, exercise every day, and live a “perfect life” because we know that does not exist. Again, we were born into sin and we will never be perfect.
Scripture speaks of many reasons to maintain health and even has guidelines to not only build a healthy body but to maintain it. We live in a fallen and broken world. It is much harder to resist the devil and follow Jesus if you are not physically well. When you are too tired, fatigued, and ill you are more susceptible to further sin, poor relationships, and reduced life.
Here are my tips as a Christ-centered dietitian that is biblical to support your physical health
Eat the Rainbow and Consume a Balanced Diet Prioritizing Quality Foods
Learning “self-control” with certain discretionary foods that lack nutrients. I am not saying do not eat cookies or dessert. I am expressing the importance of consuming quality foods first that support healthy body weight. It is important to maintain a healthy weight as we age to support overall health and well-being. For more on maintaining a healthy weight please check out the National Institute of Health (NIH) fact sheet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also has some great resources on eating well and eating right for a healthy weight found here .
Please check out my website for various recipes to keep you and your family fueled and healthy! I have also written a blog on effective strategies for losing weight in a flawed industry. Please check out the blog here .
As it is written in scripture, Thessalonians 4:4, “Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” Jesus created you and you should want to respect the body He gave you. Again, you do not have to be perfect and have a “six-pack” but you should maintain a healthy body weight to honor God’s creation.
1 Timothy 4:8 states, “Physical exercise has some value.” I think Paul would agree in today’s world exercise has significant value. People use to work hard on the farm, walk everywhere and the forms of transportation were not available back in the day. Today, everything is as convenient. We are more sedentary, many on the average struggle to get the minimum recommendation of physical activity. It is a blessing and a curse that you can have anything at your fingertips. You can even have food and groceries delivered right to your door. We drive everywhere, we do not take the stairs, and park too close to our offices. If you struggle to walk up the stairs with pain or are out of breath you may need to work on your fitness.
Commit yourself to regular activity. Walk more, park further away from your destination, and take after-dinner walks. See my previous blog for more simple ways to increase your fitness appropriately to reduce the risk of injury. Remember too much too quickly can lead to muscle strains and then further limitations to get healthier.
Limit Alcohol or Avoid Drinking Altogether
So many are turning to substances like alcohol in times of crisis. It is leading to greater disease, poor health, and the ultimate demise of many relationships. One of them being your relationship with Christ. Ephesians 5:18 states, “Don’t get drunk with wine, which will ruin you. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” This scripture should encourage you to evaluate your relationship with alcohol. During times of crisis and stress do you find you consume greater wine, beer, and other forms of alcohol instead of turning to Jesus? Do not get drunk on alcohol, instead get drunk on the Holy Spirit.
In my personal experience, I have lost some of my closest loved ones because they have turned to alcohol instead of the holy spirit. These amazing people lost life of wellness, joy, family, and authenticity. It is debilitating to support someone and watch them struggle with their addictions only to see it be their demise because they refused to understand they had a problem. If you feel shame that is not Jesus, that is the devil. Be sure to get Jesus back on your throne. There is no shame or guilt when we turn to God to express our sins. If you are reading this and feel convicted to get drunk on the Holy Spirit instead of win, I am proud of you. I am cheering for you. It is not easy but, “With God, All Things Are Possible” Matthew 19:26.
Addiction to substances and alcohol can be debilitating. If you or someone you know struggles with alcohol encourage them to seek help. It is never too late to turn your life around. It is more than just your thoughts you must control, but your actions. Admitting you have an addiction and seeking help and the Lord to get sober is possible. If you are able but unwilling to admit you have a problem, then no one can help you. But if you seek the Lord and those around you no one can stop you. Do not turn to the red one who will tempt you but the Lord.
He will save you. As it is written in James 5:15-16 “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Sleep is not a luxury
Sleep is one of the most important factors in supporting good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting adequate quality sleep can help safeguard your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and even safety. Your food choices, attitude, productivity, and even your cognition can be affected by your sleep patterns according to the Sleep Foundation. Children between the ages of 6-14 years old need roughly 9-11 hours of sleep. Adults between the ages of 18-64 years old need approximately 7-9 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, we live in a society where it is a “badge of honor” to work as many hours as possible on as few hours of sleep as possible. This is what is referred to as “The grind” in sports performance. Psalm 127:2 tells us that, “In vain you rise up early and stay up late.”
No one feels healthy or makes good choices when they are sleep deprived. In fact, as you know sleep deprivation can lead to poor dietary choices, auto accidents, injuries in sport, and illness. A person not getting enough sleep will experience fatigue, irritability, mood changes, and poor memory recall according to the Centers for Disease (CDC) and Sleep Medicine. Our brain and bodies can struggle to function when we go for several days without quality sleep. Again, without sleep, we run the risk of making poor choices, having loose lips, a tongue that may not speak in kindness, and increase our risk for chronic conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and more according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute .
God desires you to get rest. Rest is so important that Jesus placed ‘rest’ within the Ten Commandments. In Mark 6:30-32, Jesus pleaded that His disciples take time to focus on restoration. Jesus stated, “every seventh day, you should rest.” Sundays should be allocated to time with Jesus and refraining from work.
For more information on the importance of getting enough sleep and hours per stage of life please check out SleepFoundation.org .
I pray this blog has provided you with some clarity, comfort, motivation, and has sincerely convicted you to make a conscious effort to be healthier. I believe wholeheartedly Jesus wanted me to write something invaluable that is biblical. This article is just the start of what is to come. In the last few months I have opened my eyes and ears to the way the Lord has shown up in my life. Jesus has been desiring me to integrate His work into my work as a female business owner. My ministry is nutrition. I was a non-believer up until 2012 when I found Jesus and began a relationship with Him. Never would I have never imagined I would write something like this, but I am so grateful I did.
Health is so much more than being “fit” for a race, sporting event, physique competition, or looking “good” on a vacation. Good health and fitness is about stewardship and taking pride in caring for your body. Loving the skin you’re in. Looking in the mirror every day and saying “I love myself because you love me and created me, Jesus”. If you’re a Christian you know Jesus loved us so much that He gave up His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus, to redeem the sins of the world. Yes, the entire world of believers and non-believers.
If you’re a non-believer reading this. Please open your heart to God. I know it may seem scary or that Jesus doesn’t care about you. Or that you are in control of your life, not Him. I get it, I was there. I was you and I remember saying “Jesus doesn’t care about me or my problems”. That’s the Devil. Open your heart to Jesus so that He can help you. What’s the worst that will happen? Will he change your life? Yes, not only will He comfort you but if you allow Jesus into your life He will put you back together in ways you can’t on your own. This will forever change your life in ways science can’t explain. The only regret I have was not turning my life over to Christ sooner. But that’s the beauty of God’s Grace, He loves us no matter how many times we turn our backs on Him or choose “our will” over His. Jesus isn’t interested in perfection or performance. Jesus just wants your heart and mine.
Use this article as a soft nudge to focus on being healthy to be a better disciple of Jesus as a mom, dad, grandparent ect. you will experience a better quality of life. Focus on being strong and healthy to provide for your family instead of that six-pack. I hope you feel equally convicted to improve your health as I did in writing this.
If you enjoyed this blog, please share it! Please also check out my other blogs for inspiration and healthy eating tips available HERE ! Additional tips guidance, tips, tools, and strategies on being healthier please follow me on social media. I am active on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information. You can also learn more about the various telehealth services if you desire to work with me by clicking HERE .
Wendi is a devoted Christian, registered dietitian, writer, speaker, performance nutritionist, and healthy lifestyle coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to create nutrition programs so athletes can optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, special needs, and recreational athletes and organizations to eat and fuel for success. Wendi also works with the general population on healthy eating. In addition to lifestyle coaching, she makes her rounds presenting across the country and even in Canada. Wendi has presented at various conferences and clinics. To name a few, the University of Regina in Canada, the University of Northwestern in Iowa, Northwestern State Clinic, Michigan State High School Strength and Conditioning Association clinic. Wendi is a former college athlete, with over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. Wendi 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 operates her private practice virtually and remotely but is based primarily in Grand Rapids, MI.
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It seems like everyone is on a diet these days. In fact, many have spent their entire lives trying to lose weight and are chronically dieting. According to the CDC nearly one-half of adults have tried to lose weight within the last 12 months. So, what gives? If everyone is dieting why are we also facing obesity and weight gain across the world? According to the CDC the prevalence of obesity in 2018 was 42.4%. Does that surprise you? How can this be? Let’s look at another shocking statistic. The weight loss industry grew at an estimated 4.1% in 2018, from $69.8 billion to a whopping $72.7 billion. The market is now forecasting growth of 2.6% annually through 2023 according to the Food Research & Action Center .
So, why are facing rising obesity numbers? Why are so many dieting yet not being successful? What if products, programs and organizations do not want you to lose weight? What if they are not giving you the right information to make the best choices for a sustainable diet? The diet industry is full of myths, misinformation and premium trash guidance. People are often instructed to do all sorts of expensive, reckless, restrictive, fear driven and crazy things that lack merit, evidence and efficacy. However, there are several effective strategies that are evidence based when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle and shedding those pounds for good. I am going to share them with you today. Something I work closely on with my weight loss clients is basic, fundamental habits for life-long health that are sustainable. Remember, if our methods are not sustainable our results won’t be. It is time to get back to the basics, with healthy habits.
1.Consume whole eggs for breakfast
Eating whole eggs, yes, the yolk included has a surplus of health benefits which also include weight loss and weight management. Studies have illustrated that eggs can help decrease the number of calories consumed in the next 36 hours as well as lose greater weight and body fat (1). Another more recent study found that after consuming eggs for breakfast, overweight and obese subjects had a lower energy intake in comparison to eating cereal for breakfast (2).
If you do not love eggs, that is totally okay! The takeaway is that a high-quality source of protein and healthy fat for breakfast will more than likely keep you satisfied, help with calorie control, reduce cravings and feel more energized than the traditional breakfast cereal or grain.
Great quick & nutrient dense breakfast option (Avocado, egg scramble with spinach, Greek yogurt, berries and peanut butter).
Being aware and mindful of appropriate portions of protein, fat, carbohydrates and even refined sugars is key for eating less to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. Counting calories isn’t fun and can be quite tedious so learning appropriate serving sizes of the main food groups is the best way to be successful whether you are out to eat, on-the-go, at home, or at a birthday party. I work with many to understand the value of their portions and how it affects their choices and even sleep later.
A simple guide for each meal:
Healthy fats: 1 tbsp. (thumb as a serving size)- oils, butter, avocado, cheese, nuts, seed oils
High-quality protein: 3-4 oz. (deck of cards as a serving size) – fish, chicken, lean beef, turkey, tofu, beans, dairy and pulses
Vegetables and fruits: 1 cup or half of the plate
Whole-grains: ¼ of the plate- whole grains, 1/3 cup of oatmeal
Context is key as always, those that are more active, athletes or require greater energy needs due to infections, wound healing or other situations where more energy is needed such as oncology. You can’t manage what you don’t track so it is important to be mindful of portions and in many cases keeping a food diary, taking photos of your meals or tracking in an app to help you lose weight (3).
You are more likely to choose a healthier food if you’re aware of how many calories are in something. For example, measuring your serving of peanut butter. Many assume they are consuming the serving size but in fact they are doubling it. 2 tbsp. of most peanut butters are 190 kcal, imagine if you are consuming 4 tbsp. in a sitting and doing that every day, every week of every month for a year. This equates into an additional 190 kcal/day which can lead to 1,330 kcal unaccounted for at the end of the week. Weight-gain is inevitable if you are consuming more calories than you are burning. 3,500 kcal are equivalent to one pound and this could easily be the case for many without being aware of portions
3. Always keep a cooler in your car along with healthy snacks to fill it with
Having nutrient dense foods available and accessible can help prevent you from eating something lower in nutrition and higher calorie should you become hungry. As you have learned, protein is important for increasing satiety and can help manage your weight.
Some great options to keep on hand include:
Hard boiled eggs with carrot sticks
Turkey roll-up wraps in spinach
Peanut butter and celery sticks
Cheese slices and green pepper slices
Sliced bell peppers and hummus
Cottage cheese with banana slices
Berry spinach protein shake
Apple with to-go nut butter
Greek yogurt parfait with berries in a to-go container or mason jar
4. Combine resistance training and aerobic exercise
One of the biggest myths out there is that lifting weights makes you “big” or bulky. Studies have shown that resistance training increases your calories burnt at rest (resting energy expenditure), supports lean mass and when combined with aerobic exercise is an effect fat loss strategy (4, 5). Resistance exercise is critical for building healthy strong muscles and bones as well as decreasing your risk for disease later. Resistance training also increases muscle growth when combined with appropriate protein intake. Another study involving 40 post-menopausal women were able to decrease their body fat combining resistance training and a higher-protein diet (6).
The research supporting resistance training and aerobic exercise provides great motivation to get moving! If you’re interested in engaging in activity or ramping up your exercise regimen for the first time be sure to work with a qualified fitness expert who holds a credible certification or has experience as a fitness professional to develop you a plan. Please contact me directly for guidance on a fitness program!
Also, please look at one of my power lifting clients, Molly who dropped > 30 lbs. through proper diet, aerobic and strength training. Her great progress photo is shown. Molly worked daily on creating healthy habits, consistency with her protein intake and managing portion control. Her physical transformation is inspiring, but her mental and spiritual growth is second to none!
5. Follow a high-protein diet
According to the American Heart Association, adults trying to lose weight and maintain weight loss should eat no more than 30% of total daily calories from fat and less than 7 percent from saturated fat. Currently, the recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a measly 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. The RDA refers to the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. Many confuse the RDA and how to make recommendations to their patients, client and athletes. The RDA is really the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick, not the actual amount you should consume each day. For example, an average adult should consume roughly 25-30 grams of protein per meal, according to Protein Summit 2.0. Furthermore, research by the Protein Summit 2.0 indicated that 1.0 -1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day is beneficial for healthy metabolic function.
I have written about the low RDA for protein and why more is needed to sustain muscle and health in a previous blog published on my website, here . Growing research has indicated following a high-protein diet can help people lose weight, improve body composition, build lean mass, increase satiety and help maintain a calorie deficit over time to further support weight loss maintenance.
By eating more protein, 25-30 grams per meal can help reduce hunger, suppress appetite which can help decrease undesired snacking leading to a calorie deficit. When trying to lose weight it would be beneficial to replace excess carbohydrate choices with high-quality protein snacks like Greek yogurt, string cheese, hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, turkey slices or even protein shake. Research is mixed on the precise figures, but the available research has supported protein has a much higher thermic effect compared to carbohydrates (20-30%) and (5-10%) respectively (7).
Lastly, consuming a casein rich food before bed can also help support muscle growth, recovery, appetite suppression, weight loss and weight management. Casein is the main protein in milk products, and it is considered a “slow digesting” protein. Not to be confused with whey protein isolate which is a fast digesting protein that should be consumed around training sessions and can serve as meal replacement during times of calorie restriction (8). Since casein protein is slow release it can reduce the rate of digestion and support fat loss. Not only does more protein help increase satiety and energy expenditure but it can also help with appetite suppression in the later hours. A study found that taking casein before bed resulted in 25% higher satiety levels the following day (9). Greater satiety will yield greater results when it comes to weight loss.
Ever notice you tend to move less, have limited motivation to do much beyond your daily work tasks, eat more unhealthy foods that are high in sugar or even calories when you do not sleep well? If you’re feeling sleepy at work, you grab another cup of coffee and the cookies in the pantry hoping for a “burst of energy” but actually makes you feel even more tired. You then later skip your usual walk breaks and even the workout you had planned to do. If this is you, you are not alone. Sleep debt is like a high interest rate credit care that if it continues to accumulate you will not be able to pay it off and you crash.
Think you can catch up on sleep lost and it will not affect you or your weight? Think again, a study examined moderate sleep restriction on body weight, body composition and metabolic factors in individuals following a caloric restricted diet. The study found that one hour of sleep restriction on five nights per week led to decreased proportion of fat mass loss despite restricting calories (11).
Insufficient sleep derails your weight loss efforts in many ways. Leptin is the hormone that controls your appetite, and when you are sleep deprived you have less leptin. A surplus of grehlin plus little leptin is a fast track or weight gain. A 2010 study found increased hunger, a shift in energy use, less calories expired and less weight loss in participants who slept 5.5 hours (10).
It’s more than safe to say there is a connection between sleep and weight. Strive for 7 or more hours each night to support good energy levels, metabolism, food and activity choices and overall health. The industry will say, “sleep is for the weak” just take this pill, but you know now know differently.
7. More water, especially before meals
Many are very aware how important water is for health, wellness, weight loss and appetite control yet it is commonly touted that you shouldn’t consume water before meals. A study found that drinking 500 mL of water 30 minutes before each meal combined with a calorie-controlled diet led to greater weight loss in overweight and obese middle-aged adults (12).
Water is essential for nutrient and oxygen transportation, lubricating joints, regulating body temperature, protecting organs and tissues, dissolving minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to your body and helping the liver flush waste products (13).
Work to increase your water intake upon waking by having a 8-20 oz. water bottle by your bed.
Strive to consume 16 oz. before meals.
20 – 24 oz. of water between meals
10 oz. before bed to support good digestion
Increased water intake is associated with better weight control and weight management (13). So drink up!
We need to stop relying on poor information given out by celebrities, influencers who lack credibility. Instead of spending money on pills, powders, challenges and false promises invest in your daily habits. Get more sleep, drink more water, learn portion control, eat balanced meals and stop giving up on yourself. Take control of your habits and implement the strategies in this article that the diet industry doesn’t want you to know. Sustainable weight loss is about controlling your appetite and consuming more protein and getting rest is a simple way to do it! The secret is out, and it is not the next celebrity cleanse. Your habits should support the future you are trying to create. If you are ready to stop saying “day one” or “one day” contact me, and let’s work together to create a plan for success!
In good health,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi works remotely and currently operates as a traveling dietitian. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website .
Follow Wendi on Twitter and Instagram for nutrition, health and fitness inspiration.
(1)Vander Wal, J. S., Gupta, A., Khosla, P., & Dhurandhar, N. V. (2008). Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. International journal of obesity (2005), 32(10), 1545–1551. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2008.130
(2)B Keogh, J., & M Clifton, P. (2020). Energy Intake and Satiety Responses of Eggs for Breakfast in Overweight and Obese Adults-A Crossover Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(15), 5583. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155583
(3). Burke, L. E., Wang, J., & Sevick, M. A. (2011). Self-monitoring in weight loss: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(1), 92–102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.008
(4) Ho, S. S., Dhaliwal, S. S., Hills, A. P., & Pal, S. (2012). The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC public health, 12, 704. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-12-704
(5)Hunter, G. R., Byrne, N. M., Sirikul, B., Fernández, J. R., Zuckerman, P. A., Darnell, B. E., & Gower, B. A. (2008). Resistance training conserves fat-free mass and resting energy expenditure following weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 16(5), 1045–1051. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2008.38
(6) Miller, T., Mull, S., Aragon, A. A., Krieger, J., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2018). Resistance Training Combined With Diet Decreases Body Fat While Preserving Lean Mass Independent of Resting Metabolic Rate: A Randomized Trial. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 28(1), 46–54. https://d6 oi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0221
(8) Kinsey, A. W., Cappadona, S. R., Panton, L. B., Allman, B. R., Contreras, R. J., Hickner, R. C., & Ormsbee, M. J. (2016). The Effect of Casein Protein Prior to Sleep on Fat Metabolism in Obese Men. Nutrients, 8(8), 452. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8080452
(9) Ananda Hochstenbach-Waelen, Margriet AB Veldhorst, Arie G Nieuwenhuizen, Margriet S Westerterp-Plantenga, Klaas R Westerterp, Comparison of 2 diets with either 25% or 10% of energy as casein on energy expenditure, substrate balance, and appetite profile, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 89, Issue 3, March 2009, Pages 831–838, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2008.26917
(11) Wang, X., Sparks, J. R., Bowyer, K. P., & Youngstedt, S. D. (2018). Influence of sleep restriction on weight loss outcomes associated with caloric restriction. Sleep, 41(5), 10.1093/sleep/zsy027. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy027
(12) Handbook of Non Drug Intervention (HANDI) Project Team (2013). Pre-meal water consumption for weight loss. Australian family physician, 42(7), 478.
(13) Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews, 68(8), 439–458. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
Most parents and families understand how critical a nutrient-rich, balanced diet is for optimal health and athletic performance. If you’re raising an adolescent or teen athlete performing at a high level, you must focus greater attention on their fueling needs to ward off fatigue, prevent nutrient deficiencies, and decrease the risk of injury.
Support your youth athlete using these strategies:
There is no “special diet plan” to assist in achieving optimal athletic performance. Consumption of the fundamentals (three high-quality balanced meals with 2-3 snacks between) on a consistent basis leads to better sports performance, games won, strength increases, and fewer injuries. A great resource to build a plate for optimal performance can be viewed here .
The greater intensity of the sport, duration and training volume, the greater requirement of carbohydrates and calories to sufficiently support energy levels. This pertains to sports like ice hockey, field hockey, basketball, swimming, soccer, and long-distance running.
You must also make a conscious effort to consume snacks containing protein and carbohydrates between meals. Fruit with string cheese is a great snack to support energy levels and maintain fueling between meals! For snack ideas to fuel your teen athlete, be sure to check out this article from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Water is vital to maintain peak performance during exercise. A good rule of thumb is to encourage consumption of 1 oz. of water per pound of body weight. It is worthwhile to invest in a good water bottle for your teen athlete to carry and keep on hand to foster good habits and prevent dehydration. Check out this article from USA Triathlon for fluid needs before, during, and after exercise.
Eating breakfast is non-negotiable. Teens need adequate nutrition to support proper growth and development. Research has indicated nutrients and calories missed at breakfast by teens are unlikely made up for later in the day. This can result in insufficient intake which can hinder sports performance and prevent proper maturation. Great grab-and-go meals include a hard-boiled egg and fruit, string cheese and banana, yogurt parfait, and whole-grain granola, berries, and oatmeal.
A bedtime snack containing 15-20 grams of protein and approximately 30 grams of carbohydrates will support restful sleep and help build lean muscle tissue during the night. Athletes training intensely especially need bedtime protein to improve recovery and training adaptations (Trommelen & VanLoon, 2016). Cottage cheese, milk, and yogurt are rich in casein, a slow-digesting protein. Pair an 8 oz. serving of cottage cheese with sliced bananas, which are a rich source of magnesium helping to relax the muscles in your body as well as lower brain temperature to regulate hormones.
Caffeine has no place in an adolescent’s diet. A 2018 report stated that greater than 40% of American teens surveyed had consumed an energy drink within the past three months. Several emergency visits have occurred due to energy drink consumption among teens between the ages of 12-17. The American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that energy drinks are “not appropriate for children and adolescents, and should never be consumed.” Monster and Gatorade do not provide the same hydration benefits so be wary of advertisements that contribute to this confusion. Caffeine can negatively impact sleep, anxiety levels and also impair appetite.
Load up on fruits and vegetables between meals! The more colorful your athlete’s plate, the better their gut health and immune function will be. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and contain quality nutrients needed for optimal growth and development.
Calcium is critical for proper bone growth, development, and overall health. However, calcium can only reach its full bone-growth potential in the presence of adequate vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D work together. How? Vitamin D helps absorb calcium. Research has proven that American girls do not get adequate calcium in their diet after age 11. This deficiency increases the risk of injuries like stress fractures. Recommendations for calcium and vitamin D vary. A great way to attain adequate calcium and vitamin D is to consume dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, milk, and fortified beverages. A yogurt parfait with mixed berries is a great pre-exercise snack to fuel performance and also serves as a great breakfast to start the day!
Ramp up the color game! No, I am not talking about your outfit; I am talking about your plate. Be sure to fill your plate with many colorful fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for health and injury prevention. Citrus fruits, red and yellow bell peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, berries, and tomatoes offer vitamin C. Vitamin C offers anti-inflammatory properties that speed up recovery and decrease the risk of injuries.
Due to their zinc content, meat, fish, nuts, seeds, and whole grains should be included to help athletes recover from tough practices while supporting growth. Zinc is a component of proteins and enzymes and research has shown that insufficient zinc can delay recovery and wound healing.
I hope you find useful these basic strategies to support your adolescent in their sport. It is important to make sure your adolescent is consuming balanced meals consistently with snacks in between before implementing supplements, as supplements are meant to satisfy the gaps in nutrition. Good nutritional habits must be established first. Click here for information on building a performance plate.
Nutrition is a secret weapon! It can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good, the choice is up to you!
A delicious left-over pumpkin pie taunts you from the kitchen counter alongside the heaps of leftovers in the fridge, saying, “eat me!” Or those sugar cookies and assorted desserts your guests conveniently forgot to take home? Eh, what’s one more going to do? The weekend after Thanksgiving can be toughest for many hoping to maintain their weight and health goals. Holiday weight gain is quite common for many adults. So, you’re feeling guilty from too much pie and turkey. The best thing you can do now is let the past exist in the past. Say “goodbye” to the guilt, shame or any negative feelings you may have because you have a new day in front of you and an opportunity to take control moving forward.
Many of my clients have expressed that “it’s inevitable to gain weight and I might as well just start over on January 1st.” While I honor those, who desire to start off a new year with health as a priority, this is not the best mentality for life-long health. As a registered dietitian and trainer who has been where you currently are, I encourage you to work smarter, not harder. Let me throw out an analogy for you – if you sign up for a 5k, which is roughly 3.10 miles, would you start your race 2 miles before the starting line, expecting the same time and competition as if you started at the starting line with the other runners? Raise your hand if you want to work harder and put yourself at a disadvantage? I wouldn’t put my hand up either, so what I am getting at here is if you know you want to lose weight or improve your lifestyle, start the process now.
Let’s begin by being mindful of our health and fitness goals by minimizing the empty calories and overindulgence that takes place between today and January 1st. Would you not feel better if you started today and not January first like everyone else? The truth is you don’t have to start two miles behind the starting line and then end up running a 7k when you’re only training for a 5k. Let’s CHOOSE to make it easier for ourselves, limiting the shame and guilt, because holiday weight gain is not inevitable! I believe in you – you should too – and I promise you can do this!
Here are 5 tips to help you focus on gaining more memories this holiday season than lbs.:
Repeat after me, “resume normal eating immediately”
The worst thing you can do today is continue with the oversized portions of foods that you don’t normally consume. Get back on track with your normal intake of balanced meals containing a lean protein, fruit, vegetable and healthy fat. It’s important not to consume meals that are both high in fat and high in carbohydrates to offset blood sugar levels. You likely consumed an overabundance of carbohydrates on Thanksgiving so it may be wise to CHOOSE to limit carbs and even calories in these immediate days after to re-stabilize your hormones. Don’t make the mistake of skipping meals now to try and off-set the over-eating you did on Thanksgiving. Unless you practice intermittent fasting in your normal routine, you shouldn’t skip meals. Skipping meals can lead to feeling overly hungry later, which will make matters worse.
Get active with family & friends
Sitting on the couch watching Netflix may be your family’s holiday tradition. However, inactivity contributes to weight gain, especially during times of overeating. Make a new tradition with your family spending time moving with your loved ones! Races are popular this time of year – go sign up as a family and gain memories! If you can’t run, walking can be just as beneficial. Movement is movement! Look at gym memberships that are likely currently available at a lower to no joining fee cost!
I’m not talking about the eggnog. Although it’s delicious, it won’t help you with your health and fitness goals. I am talking about water. It is so important to increase your water intake during the holidays due to the different foods you’ve been consuming which can disrupt regular digestion. Your gut and waistline will thank you for greater water intake after eating new foods.
Water consumption is also a great way to curb cravings and stay hydrated. Often when we are “hungry” or have a craving it is because we are thirsty and dehydrated. Be sure to drink 20 oz. of water every couple of hours throughout the day to stay hydrated and ward off unnecessary snacking. Research exists indicating increased hydration can be associated with weight loss.
According to the study, higher protein and water intake is associated with weight loss. If you’re having difficulty losing weight and finding yourself overly hungry all the time, you may want to reevaluate your water intake. Drinking water before meals can help you feel fuller and can also assist with digestion during meals.
Controlling portions supports getting back into a routine of normal eating. Keep in mind the portions you may or may not have learned –
A portion of protein is the size of your palm which is roughly equivalent to 3 oz.
A serving of veggies is 1 cup and fruits is 0.5 cup
A fat is approximately 1 Tbsp. nuts and seeds should be limited to a serving of 0.5 oz.
Should you choose to include a carbohydrate, a serving is 1 slice of bread, 0.5 cup of pasta or 1 cup of a whole grain.
In instances of weight loss and management it may be more helpful to increase protein, fruits and vegetables. I recommend working with a dietitian to ensure you’re hitting appropriate portions and getting adequate nutrition.
Focus on quality sleep and managing stress levels
Sleep deprivation during the holidays is quite common and can further lead to poor nutrition and physical activity habits. Those that tend to sleep less tend to be hungrier and a result can over consume calories leading to an increase on the scale. Additionally, less hours slept is also associated with a disruption in the circadian rhythm, which is our biological clock controlling many important physiological functions. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. This will also help prevent your risk of getting sick and missing out on the true enjoyment of the holiday festivities.
These five simple tips will enable you to focus on progress through the holiday season! Should you over-eat or have something outside of your “plan,” tell yourself “it’s okay,” dust the cookie crumbs off and keep moving forward. “When a child learns to walk and falls down 50 times, the child never thinks to himself maybe this isn’t for me.” Always get back up and keep moving!
Your health and fitness coach,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN