Spend too much time on social media? Me too

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. 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.

 

God bless,

 

Wendi

Becoming an All-American

What I learned from becoming an All-American?

My Journey: 

The start of my All-American Journey was in middle school when I absolutely fell in love with the sport of track and field events shotput and discus. After my first middle school meets, I told my dad “I’m going to be the best Discus thrower, What do I have to do that?” That very night he printed off the results of the previous High-school Discus State Championships. For two years, I focussed on my goal of winning State. I was Sleeping 8-11 hours; Eating 4 meals with 2-3 snacks, and Practicing for 3-4 hours daily. Before bed, I would study my craft, watch films, and take visionary reps. Keep in mind that this was middle school. I was dreaming BIG and working hard. I worked so hard that even on my bad days, I was still setting myself up to win. Freshman year of high school, My hard work paid off and I Won State! I met my goal three years earlier than anticipated. Each year, I wanted to see how much further I could throw. Always, looking for the next record to break. To become Elite in your craft you must be obsessed with how you are going to get better. 

 

Burnout: 

Junior year of high school, my first experience with burnout. At this point, I have been obsessed with my craft for 4 years. I could no longer sustain what I had been doing. So what’s next? Reflect and Pivot. I was not giving the little things the attention that I should have. I was no longer prioritizing sleep and nutrition. I had to reset and recognize that my intense training load was not going to make me better unless I was willing to re-prioritize Sleep, Hydration and Nutrition. I had to also re-establish my “why”. I was no longer doing track and field due to an innate drive to win but I was doing it for the adventures it brought with my family and friends. I was doing it to learn how to overcome hard times and continue to grow. Coming back from burnout will look different for everyone and having a strong foundation is merely the starting point. Recognize early signs, reflect and prioritize the little things. Learn to love adversity and the growth that follows it. 

All-American Secrets:

  1. Be Consistent – Step one: Show up! Come to practice every day seeing it as an opportunity. Growth occurs when you can show up sore from a heavy lift and see it as the perfect opportunity to improve your technique or your end of the gameplay. Once I started prioritizing growing my knowledge on the days I was exceptionally sore, I was able to have even bigger throws on the days I felt good. 

 

  1. Do the little things – Prioritize the basics of your sleep, training, nutrition, recovery, knowledge, and mental health. There are so many factors that go into becoming an All-American such as genetics, sleep, mental toughness, competitiveness, “heart”, coachability, speed, strength, rest, body composition, and more. Lay the foundations of sleeping and eating well, early. With a strong foundation, you can grow brick by brick increasing the ceiling of your capabilities. You can not build with no foundation. 

 

  1. Fuel your Performance – Build your plate for performance. Having proper nutrition is a non-negotiable when it comes to becoming elite. Not eating enough of the right foods will result in earlier fatigue, injury, and a decrease in your physical threshold.

 

  1. Recovery (Don’t wait to become injured) – Elite athletes do not wait for an injury to start rehab. Pushing through the pain is much different from pushing through injury. You are going to hurt and be sore but use your tools of nutrition, hydration, stretching, rest, rehab, and sleep to improve recovery time. Identify when you are injured and seek medical advice. 

 

  • Reflect – Are your actions aligned with your goals? I once cut out any fluids other than water to become a better athlete and be “healthier”. I reduced my Carbohydrate intake and focussed on only protein and veggies. After a few weeks, I was exhausted and passed out at practice. Hence reflection, were my actions aligned with my goals of improved health and performance? No, they were doing the opposite. I felt more exhausted and light-headed. I needed more electrolytes, Carbohydrates, and Fats. Do not Yo-Yo diet and work with NWW to ensure you are fueling for health and performance. 

 

  1. Rest Days – To build your physical threshold and muscle capacity you must have rest days. Sometimes the best thing you can do is sleep. If you want to optimize rest days schedule time to take visionary reps. Visualize what it’s like winning, visualize what it feels like. These reps are Freebies! Watch the film and then take your mind off it with self-care. Incorporate gentle walks and stretching to help promote recovery. 

 

Team Meals for Competition Day

Team Meal Recommendations:

  • No new foods on the event day. Avoid serving high-fat or spicy foods to athletes.
  • Team dinners hosted by booster clubs or parents with the best intentions at heart often fail to pick up the proper meals and snacks to serve athletes beforehand.
  • Even colleges have made this mistake which is why I am going to list out some team dinner suggestions!

Read the previous night before game day blog

 

 

Here are some SIMPLE  team meal ideas for your program that are going to provide your athletes with the right fuel in the right portions!

  • Pasta party
      • Whole-grain pasta (1-2 cups per athlete)
      • Mixed grapes, pineapple, and orange slices
      • One-two grilled chicken breast (4-6 oz ideally)
  • Low-fat cheese + marinara sauce (focus on avoiding pasta sauces high in fat)
      • Veggies (cucumber, spinach, carrots) – you may want to limit super high-fiber veggies like broccoli as they can lead to gas and bloating as you learned 
      • Fruit cup (offer high-volume water fruit like watermelon or berries)
      • Low-fat milk and water as a beverage. I would recommend avoiding sugary juices to support good sleep.
  • Turkey or beef taco bar
      • Choose lean ground turkey or lean ground beef (97-99% lean)
      • Whole-grain tortillas
      • You can also choose to do tofu for plant-based
      • Avocado, salsa, low-fat cheese
      • Rice or beans
      • Plenty of spinach, green veggies, tomatoes
      • Fruit cups or fruit bowl (pineapple, melon, strawberries0
      • Low-fat milk and water as a beverage
  • Grilled chicken, burgers, or steak kabob grill party
      • Grilled chicken or lean red meat (flank steak is fantastic and rich in iron for endurance athletes)
      • Sweet potato or baby red potatoes on the girl
      • Side of whole-grain or brown rice
      • Large veggie salad with light dressing (drizzle don’t drench)
  • Brown bag it
      • Turkey cheese or ham cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread + avocado
      • Side of blueberries + banana
      • Pretzel rods + applesauce
      • Greek yogurt cup + PB packet
      • Milk + water
  • Build your own sandwich buffet
    • Have any lean grilled protein options available (tofu, chicken, lean beef, ham, ground turkey)
    • Whole-grain rice, pasta, bread, or pita of choice
    • A mixture of veggies (cucumber, tomato, spinach)
    • Watermelon slices or fruit
    • Low-fat milk and water

These meal examples are something you can share with parents, booster clubs, and those in charge of getting meals and snacks together before games and events. *Note that portion size and ratios of each meal will vary depending on body size, goals, and sport. Nutrition can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good!

If you are looking for a team talk or presentation we are now booking for January 2023! Help your athletes, coaches, and community understand the fundamentals of fueling, sleep, recovery, and weight gain with a talk today! Email info@nutritionwithwendi.com for rates and scheduling or click here to contact Wendi directly!

Remember to use my “4-2-1 Fueling Strategy” to properly time meals with guidance!

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN

6 Holiday Eating Tips for Athletes and Adults!

Every year people fret about the holidays and what they should eat to maintain their weight or simply avoid overindulging.  All fair concerns and I am happy to provide some perspective and tips! Depending upon your culture and what holidays you celebrate we are really only looking at 5-6 days total in a year.

 


I wish people would focus more on what they are eating, how active they are, and prioritizing sleep on the other 360 days of the year.

So, the perspective 6 days of sweets or eating outside of your “healthy routine” out of 365 days is truly only 0.016% which is not significant.

An all-foods fit dietitian…honestly, I say this often..”We need to get back to the basics and control our controllables!”Do yourself a favor and avoid the fad diets and shame game.  Below I provide simple tips for both young athletes and adults to follow this holiday season. 

  • For mindful eating and gentle nutrition tips check out Coach Sydney’s blog here.
  • Tips for staying on track this holiday season click here.
  • Should you overindulge check out my damage control blog.

6 Healthy Holiday Eating Tips for Adults and Athletes!

1.Eat breakfast or a small amount of protein like string cheese or a hard-boiled egg beforehand. Do not go into meals and gatherings on an empty tummy. You will end up overeating and feel guilt and shame. Also, if you have an evening gathering…Do not starve yourself all day. Restricting leads to overeating. 

2. Think you drink! Avoid drinking sugary beverages that contain a lot of calories but not a lot of quality nutrition. Should you choose to indulge in a sugary drink make sure you stick to one serving and hydrate with plenty of water! If of age limit alcohol intake which can also contain a lot of calories and lead to overeating later on.


3. Set your fork down in between bites and talk to those around you. By slowing down your eating you will help your stomach and brain communicate fullness. You should be able to walk away from the table at 75-80% fullness. The food is not going anywhere. You can always eat more food but once you eat it you cannot un-eat it. So be mindful when you eat! Focus on the conversation and less on the food. (you will enjoy your conversations with others more this way). Holidays are about being grateful for the community and conversing with loved ones. Make them your focus and you’ll have greater satisfaction with your holiday experience!

4.Use a smaller plate and add colorful fruits and veggies. You should not look down and only see brown (gravy, turkey, and bread). Your body will appreciate the added fiber and antioxidants around the holidays when people often get sick, and rundown, and being around a variety of people can tax the immune system. The added boost of berries could be a great way to stay healthy!

5. Choose one dessert, not a plateful! If you feel worried about making a healthy choice prepare something you know supports your goals. Another dish to pass is never a bad thing! You are likely not the only one who wants to make healthier choices and feel good!

Want some recipes? Try our Greek yogurt bark barspumpkin trail mix, egg bake, or the NWW protein PB energy bites, protein puppy chow, or, tasty black bean quinoa bowl!

  • You can always munch on fruits & veggies if you’re a snacker and feel the urge. If you feel there won’t be a veggie tray take initiative and bring one. You can also add some hummus and jerky sticks for protein! Protein will help keep you full to avoid snacking and stabilize blood sugar when paired with carbohydrates or desserts!

6. Stay active! Take a walk, bike ride go for a hike, grab the basketball, football, or soccer ball, or plan an activity everyone enjoys. The movement will help with digestion and reduce the risk of feeling lethargic which often leads to guilt and shame.

The holidays do not need to be stressful. Have a plan, pack some protein bars or snacks for travel and stick to one plate! Blessings to you in good health, wellness, and faith,

 

-Coch Wendi A. Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN

Sports and Gut Health

5 myths that may be hindering your athletic performance-related gut health.

Gut issues are a common problem affecting about 45-85% of athletes (ter Steege et al, 2012). Issues include Heartburn, acid reflux, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, gastritis, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, etc. There are several pathways of communication between the brain and gut, the most prominent being the vagus nerve (Breit et al. 2018) and over 90% is from the gut to the brain (Bonaz, Bazin & Pellissier 2018). How crazy is that? Our gut communicates to our brain more than the other way only increases the importance of building a strong gut. GI issues can be caused by numerous factors such as stress, nutrition and nutrient timing, medications, dehydration, etc. Having good gut health may result in reduce inflammation, improved sleep quality, and mental well-being.

 

Myth: After eliminating food you don’t need to reintroduce them

Fact: Elimination diets such as low FODMAP were developed with the intent of foods being reintroduced. Eliminating foods increases the risk of potential negative effects on the microbiota, and nutritional adequacy.  Foods high in FODMAP are high in the prebiotics that fuels our gut bacteria. 

 

Myth: Drinking water causes Bloating

Fact: Drinking water throughout a meal and after can actually aid in the digestion of food. Water helps with the absorption of nutrients needed to perform at an elite level.  See Tips for Staying Hydrated!  

 

Myth: Snacking is bad for your gut 

Fact: Snacking can help curve hunger and reduce the risk of overindulging in a meal which can lead to indigestion. Eating 5 to 6 times per day or every 3-4 hours is recommended and keep your blood sugar consistent and for your stomach to optimally digest. Snacks are a great opportunity to add fiber with Fruits and Veggies to strengthen your gut microbiome.

 

Myth: Intermittent fasting is necessary to improve my gut health

Fact: Many people who have experienced overindulging in food may think that that need to restrict intake the next day or to fast for an extended period of time. When in fact the continual diet mentality of overeating and then restricting can be endless and harmful to your body. Check out the blog on Overindulge on Thanksgiving? Damage Control Tips for the Weekend After for tips on how to get back on track after a holiday get-together or a night out with friends. There are many foods to include after overindulging to support gut health such as fermented foods and veggies as well as giving your body time and returning to normal eating habits. 

 

Myth:  We must take a probiotic and prebiotic supplement to support our Microbiome

Fact: Prebiotics are the food that fuels the Probiotics or good bacteria in our gut. Prebiotics are essential to increase good bacteria in the gut, improve digestion, and even boost your immune system. While some may benefit from supplementation – Using the performance plate and including a variety of food including vegetables, dairy, and fermented foods will help fuel a healthy gut and enhance your performance.

           

Tips for Improving your gut health:

  1. Start your day with fiber and get veggies in early! Check out this quick and easy way to include veggies in the morning.
  2. Add beans to meals often for extra fiber – Beans contain 30g of fiber per cup. Check out some tips on how!
  3. Increase foods containing probiotics and prebiotics gradually. Sudden change can cause GI distress. Gradually adding in these foods will help create a strong gut!

 

Travel Tip: Foods high in prebiotics tend to increase gas in the GI. This is not always a bad thing but when flying for competition bloating can become excessive. If you can relate to having uncomfortable bloating from flying, try this tip!  Consume foods low in prebiotics before your flight and then consume the majority of fruits and veggies upon landing.

   

Recipes to try: 

Very Berry Greek Yogurt

Vanilla Berry Blast

Black Bean Cranberry Quinoa Salad

Iron Deficiency: Fast Facts You Need to Know

Iron Deficiency: Fast Facts You Need to Know

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

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

 

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

 

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

Two forms of dietary iron

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


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

 

 

 

 


Iron recommendations vary between adults and teens

 


What causes iron deficiency

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

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

 

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

 

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


Signs and symptoms of low iron

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

 

 

 

 


Food sources

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

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

 


Guidance on increasing iron as a plant-based athlete

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 


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

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

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

 

In good faith, health, and athletic performance,

 

Wendi Irlbeck, MS,RDN,LD,CISSN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Citations and resources to learn more:

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) II.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Gentle Nutrition: A Non-Diet Approach to Healthful Eating

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

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

Reject Diet Culture

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

Honor your Hunger

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

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

Make Peace with Food

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

Challenge the Food Police

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

Discover the Satisfaction Factor

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

Respect your Fullness

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

Cope with your Emotions with Kindness

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

Respect your Body 

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

Movement – Feel the Difference 

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

 

Honor your Health with Gentle Nutrition 

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

🍉Healthy Lifestyle Coaching for Men

Registration for the next NWW Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaching program for men only is now LIVE!! That is right a program designed just for men.

As a participant and client, you will receive guidance from an experienced health professional, registered dietitian, former college athlete, physique competitor, and fitness coach, Wendi Irlbeck. With our support, you will learn how to:

  • Build a plate that supports your goals without rigid diets or deprivation.
    • 95% of the population that loses fat or weight ends up re-gaining it and it becomes even harder to lose.
  • Increase your activity levels no matter what fitness level you currently find yourself at.
  • Leave behind the “diet mentality” and misinformation around fad diets and diet culture by gaining confidence in what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it!
  • Build a routine that supports the life you want to live. Unsure what that life is? No worries, Wendi will help you come up with a plan that is built using lifestyle modification and establishing S.M.A.R.T. goals.
  • Set a realistic S.M.A.R.T. goal in any area of your life beyond nutrition, health, or fitness. Wendi believes in a spiritual approach integrating faith and Christianity to help solve challenging barriers within our life.

 

What about the results or outcome? You will:

  • Lose fat and lose the excess “weight” holding you back from being your healthiest, best, and strongest self. Sometimes the weight holding us back is not around our mid-section but behind our ears. Wendi will help you retrain and rewire your thought process to form a positive mindset to achieve your dream physique and self!
  • Build physical, mental, spiritual confidence and strength in your body!
  • Gain the mental clarity and confidence to approach life’s most difficult tasks that are holding you back from being your best self as a parent, coach, brother, sister, daughter, and more.
  • Gain peace of mind that comes from living a healthy lifestyle without the stress of knowing if you are doing the right thing.

Click here to enroll Or schedule a discovery call with Wendi to discuss other options and resources here.

 

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LDN, CISSN is a registered dietitian nutritionist, former college athlete, physique competitor, 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 telehealth and on-site services. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK.

Should Youth Athletes Use Creatine Monohydrate?

CREATINE MONOHYDRATE IS SAFE, EFFECTIVE, AND BENEFICIAL FOR TEEN ATHLETES. Read on to learn more…

17-year-old, Jenkins comes strutting out of the weight room after he just crushed a workout living his strongest, healthiest, and injury-free life. While walking out of the weight room Jenkins is using Nutrition with Wendi’s recommended “25-50-30 rule” and is downing a shaker bottle with chocolate milk and creatine paired with a banana.  Jenkins is a smart kid and has focused on proper sleep, hydration, eating well, and managing his stress while training hard.

 

 

 


But of course, many make comments like, “You know that powder he is mixing in there is steroids right? Click here to listen to my constant statement on creatine. One of my parent’s friends said his coach has been encouraging the use of anabolic steroids for years!” YIKES RIGHT??

Ever heard this crazy misinformation before? Yes, me too. It has spread like wildfire.  It is even more gut-wrenching when it’s spread by doctors, trainers, health care professionals, influencers, or random people on the internet that know very little about science, sports performance, or even what creatine is. Insert facepalm. Good news! I am here to dispel those myths and provide the science to help combat the misinformation that is so toxic.

  • Creatine is one of the most effective ergogenic aids for adult athletes and is safe.
  • Creatine effectively increases lean mass, strength, power, speed, and exercise capacity (1).  
  • But what about youth athletes? I have had several high school coaches and concerned parents of youth athletes ask me questions like, “Is creatine safe for my kids? Should my female athletes be using creatine?” In almost every conversation, my first response is, “It depends.” Just like any other question I get, nutrition-, health-, fitness- or performance-related, it should be individualized.
  • Creatine, however, is beneficial to all populations according to the science outlined in this article. As a registered dietitian, I strongly promote a “food first” and back-to-basics philosophy. For more information on healthy eating and performance nutrition, see a previous blog here.
  • I empower anyone working with youth athletes to use the guidance in this article when considering “to supplement with creatine or not.”
  • CREATINE IS SAFE TO SUPPLEMENT AT ANY AGE GIVEN IT IS THIRD-PARTY TESTED!!  Yes, any age! Creatine and Infants – According to researchers, hypoxic ventilatory depression in mice and muscle fatigue in adult humans are improved by creatine supplementation (CS). No side effects were seen with creatine supplementation (equal to a 13.6-gram daily dose in a 150 lb person) (8).
  • I would still like for all to focus on food first but creatine won’t hurt you it would only help you! It’s amazing how people will feed their kids and themselves with junk food but creatine is off-limits because some doctor who doesn’t understand the mechanism of action said, “no it is a steroid?”.

    Blasphemy.. please read and digest all of this data and my points to understand that creatine is safe, effective, and beneficial at any age for any sport male or female! 

Creatine Monohydrate 101:

  • 95% of creatine is found in skeletal muscle
  • The human body needs 1-3 g per day
  • Most creatine in the diet comes from animal products like meat, fish, & poultry
  • Enhances post-exercise recovery, injury prevention, and/or spinal cord neuroprotection and muscle growth

What is creatine?

  • Creatine is a naturally occurring compound formed by three amino acids, making it a tripeptide (tri- meaning three) of the amino acids L-glycine, L-arginine, and L-methionine. Creatine is assembled in a two-step process that occurs in the kidneys and liver. 
  • Creatine can be consumed via dietary sources, which include foods like eggs, milk, tuna, salmon, herring, cod, shrimp, beef, and pork.
  • Consuming enough creatine from the diet is challenging given the total creatine pool available according to an article published in Frontiers in Nutrition Sport and Exercise Nutrition by Candow et al., 2019.
  • This literature, along with the International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand on Creatine Supplementation and Exercise, suggests the body needs to replenish about 1–3 g of creatine per day to maintain normal (un-supplemented) creatine stores depending on muscle mass.  Creatine monohydrate is the most well-studied form of creatine in the literature. For a more detailed breakdown of other forms please check out Will Brink’s fantastic breakdown on Creatine HCL vs Monohydrate for a deep dive.

Creatine improves numerous factors including strength, power, sprint ability, muscular endurance, resistance to fatigue, muscle mass, recovery, cognition, and rate of muscle growth. Creatine is one of the most widely studied, proven performance enhancers available that also offers clinical benefits (4).


How does creatine work?

Creatine deposits high-energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine. This is given to adenosine diphosphate (ADP), regenerating it to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the sole energy carrier in the human body, which can be called “energy currency” for cells to carry out their functions. For example, during conditions of short-term, high-energy demand activities (<30 seconds) with limited recovery time, ATP runs out quickly, which illustrates the importance of creatine stored in muscles in the form of creatine phosphate. This is explained here

Since creatine phosphate restores ATP, it gives muscle cells the ability to produce greater energy. The greater creatine stores you have, the greater energy your muscle cells can yield during high-intensity exercise, thus leading to increased exercise performance. Even though the most well-documented and primary benefit is higher energy production, this mechanism also supports muscle gain and strength increases, as explained here.

Despite creatine being widely tested since the early 1900s with significant data supporting its effectiveness, it is widely misunderstood by many trainers, coaches, athletes, and concerned parents of high school athletes. Yes, it is 2021 and people still think creatine monohydrate is a steroid due to misinformation generated across social media and the general population (4).

Disregard the false, outlandish, disproven claims. I am referencing the silly fallacies like, “creatine will make you fat,” “creatine will cause liver, kidney, or bone injury,” “creatine will dehydrate you,” or my personal favorite, “creatine is a steroid that will also lead to baldness.” I know. What a bunch of nonsense. I addressed these fallacies in a previous blog, Creatine Not Just for Men or Muscle. Please go check it out if you are a female because creatine can help you improve your lean mass and lose that fat.

Antonio et al. published a phenomenal paper outlining the common questions and misconceptions regarding creatine use available for open access here (1). I highly recommend you read it and share it with anyone who may have creatine confusion disorder. I made that up, but you get my point. Creatine monohydrate is beneficial for many things beyond performance, which is not my opinion but sc!


Potential ergogenic benefits of creatine supplementation in adults (4):

  • Greater training tolerance
  • Increased sprint performance
  • Increased work performed during sets of maximal effort
  • Increased lean mass & strength adaptations during physical training
  • Enhanced glycogen synthesis
  • Increased work capacity
  • Enhanced recovery
  • Increased anaerobic threshold

If you’re interested in my opinion as a dietitian and performance practitioner working with several athletes I highly recommend creatine. Creatine is like the Swiss Army knife of supplements! It can do so many things!

In November 2020 I had the fortunate opportunity to be a guest on Dr. Bradford Cooper’s podcast, Catalyst Coaching, where I discussed the role creatine plays according to science. Please check out the video or podcast here.


What about side effects?

There is robust evidence to support the effectiveness of creatine in the adult population. Among children and adolescents, there is mounting evidence to support the therapeutic benefits of creatine supplementation as well as clinical and exercise performance. Available studies in the adolescent population involving high-intensity exercise training indicate performance benefits as well as no reported side effects (1,2).

In relation to performance, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has concluded that creatine monohydrate is the most effective ergogenic supplement available to athletes in terms of increasing high-intensity exercise and supporting lean body mass during training. The ISSN has also concluded CM is safe. (4).

Does creatine work in young athletes?

Regardless of the limited data on the teen population, creatine is likely safe, beneficial, and well-tolerated among youth athletes as evidenced by the available data (2). 

  • Creatine supplementation improved time performance and strength in highly competitive swimmers (2,3).
  • Youth soccer players experienced improved sprinting, vertical jump, dribbling, and shooting (6).
  • Creatine can support brain health, offering neuroprotective effects following a concussive injury in athletes < 16 years old (4).

Check out a Creatine Supplementation in Children and Adolescents review carried out by Jagim and Kerksick, 2021, outlining the available studies involving youth athletes for more information.

Another podcast to check out is Gerry DeFilippo. Gerry kindly invited me on his podcast to discuss the different forms of creatine. To learn more download and listen to Episode #143 Everything You Need to Know About Creatine with Wendi Irlbeck.

 

 

Should my teen athletes be supplementing with creatine? As young as infancy..yes but 10-12 YO has been pretty standard for young athletes training at a high level. 

As always, food first, but creatine can be a safe and effective regimen for young athletes who meet the following criteria (1,5):

  • Consuming a well-balanced diet
  • Consuming a diet with a greater emphasis on plant proteins like soy and pea which do not provide creatine like animal proteins
  • Involved in high-intensity training, and competitive sports which include:
    • Track
    • Swimming
    • Lacrosse
    • Ice Hockey
    • American Football
    • Volleyball
    • Field Hockey
    • Basketball
    • Soccer
    • Tennis
    • Olympic Weightlifting
    • Rugby
    • Combat Sports (MMA, wrestling, boxing, etc.)

It is always best practice that athletes of any age fully educate themselves by consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified sports nutritionist, exercise physiologist, or sports-focused physician before the use of any supplement. Similarly, any products used should be NSF International Certified for Sport to reduce the risk of consuming any harmful or contaminated products. Supplements are regulated but not as heavily regulated as pharmaceuticals. Please see the reasons to use NSF Certified for Sport products in a previous blog.

“The USADA recommends that athletes use only dietary supplements that have been certified by a third-party program that tests for substances prohibited in sport. The USADA is responsible for anti-doping education and testing for athletes in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movements as well as the UFC.”

Therefore, all supplements used should be third-party tested for safety, purity, and compliance. For the sake of convenience and safety, you and your athlete can download the NSF Certified Sport app. 

I preach food first, nutrient periodization, quality rest, good sleep hygiene, hydration, and appropriate training, all of which can be better enhanced using creatine monohydrate (CM). Based on the strongest science and studies, CM is the recommended form. CM is used in the studies. Therefore, it should be used in practice as well. I discussed the other forms in my guest appearance on Muscles and Management.

When to use creatine?

Science suggests creatine is most effective immediately post-workout when paired with protein and carbohydrates (7). Creatine consumed immediately post-resistance training is superior to pre-workout in terms of body composition and strength (7). The recommended dose is 3-5 g of creatine per day. Creatine can be used at any time of day. Creatine is safe and effective on rest days from exercise as well as training days. (Click here to follow on Instagram)

  • While CM is best paired with a carbohydrate-rich source (like oatmeal, whole-grain bread, rice, fruit, smoothies, or yogurt) to draw it into muscle cells, it can also be added to water or other beverages.
  • A saturated cell is a happy cell! This supports recovery and muscle repair following resistance training. 

Most creatine supplements are in powder form and must be used in warm water to support the dissolving process. CM will dissolve slowly in cold water and often ends up in the bottom of a shaker bottle, which won’t do any good if it doesn’t make it into your mouth! Creapure is a great brand to use and offers more explanation on dosing. Check it out here! No, I do not have a partnership or any affiliation with Creapure. I just want to share that they make a great product.

My female youth soccer players have integrated CM post-training with their tart cherry juice and chocolate milk. I have taken time to discuss the safety, use, and benefits with my youth athlete’s parents, coaches, and even their PE teachers. I have 50% of my youth athletes supplementing with CM. CM is always a conversation we have after we wrap up their 6-week Nutrition with Wendi Coaching Program.

Do I need to load using creatine?

No, you do not need to “creatine load”. In fact, many studies use a typical creatine dose of 5-10 g daily or smaller doses like the standard 2-3 g.

  • However, if you desire to do a loading phase, it would look something like 20-25 g for 5-7 days followed by a maintenance phase of 5 g daily for 4 weeks, 2 weeks off, and then repeat. I do not have any of my athletes do this cycling as it is unnecessary. See the ISSN’s Position Stand for more on this (4).

Studies support the benefits of CM supplementation regardless of the dose. However, that does not mean more is better. If you are a vegetarian and new to using CM, you would benefit from saturating the muscles with CM, leading to an acute increase in strength and body weight via water retention. However, please refer to the experts and those I respect most in the field like Dr. Darren Candow, Dr. Tim N. Ziegenfuss, Dr. Scott Forbes, Dr. Jose Anotonio, Dr. Rich Krider, Dr. Eric Rawson, and others who can further provide the research they have been doing for the last few decades.

Please see another podcast in which I had the opportunity to speak about creatine in the youth population via the Big Time Strength podcast.

Closing thoughts

There is robust literature to support the beneficial effects creatine has on body composition, physical performance, injury prevention, recovery, brain health, and clinical use. Currently, there have not been any negative effects associated with the use of CM in both the adolescent or adult populations. Adolescent athletes under the age of 18, and even children as young as infants, can safely consume CM.

There is zero evidence to suggest CM supplementation would cause harm, dehydration, cramping, or any other outlandish claims that have been disproven by Antonio et al., 2021, and others. Not incorporating a CM supplement would be a disservice to your athletes or even yourself!

Key takeaways:

  • Anyone looking to improve their health of any age or activity level can safely consume 3-5 g of creatine monohydrate immediately post-workout paired with a carbohydrate. 
  • By supplementing with creatine monohydrate immediately following training, you’re able to support muscle growth and recovery, injury prevention, and overall health. 
  • Yes, creatine is safe to consume if you are a teen athlete. Yes, you should use creatine monohydrate.
  • No, creatine is not a steroid. No, creatine will not cause baldness. No, creatine will not dehydrate you. No, creatine will not cause cramps. No, creatine will not decrease your bone mineral density.
  • If you have a beating pulse, then creatine monohydrate is for you!

Sports physicians, athletic trainers, coaches, performance nutritionists, and others working with youth athletes should provide the best guidance to teen athletes based on the available science to support their principal interests. Kids are going to be using supplements like energy drinks and pre-workouts, which contain dangerous amounts of caffeine. I would rather we provide education on the safety and use of creatine, which is not dangerous but beneficial. I would like to see more people using creatine given the ergogenic benefits and no reported adverse effects. Creatine monohydrate is a safe, effective, and inexpensive way to support health and physical performance! Please don’t let, “Joe Public” from accounting or “Susie Quinn,” on Instagram OR THE doctor’s OFFICE tell you any different. 

In good faith, fitness, health, and athletic performance,

Coach Wendi

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN  is a registered dietitian nutritionist and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Nashville, TN.  Wendi works with clients of all levels internationally.

What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more here.  Interested in signing up for the NEW and upcoming NWW newsletter? Click here to sign up!

References

  1. Antonio, J., Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C. et al. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 18, 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
  2. Grindstaff PD, Kreider R, Bishop R, Wilson M, Wood L, Alexander C, et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on repetitive sprint performance and body composition in competitive swimmers. Int J Sport Nutr. (1997) 7:330–46.
  3. Ostojic SM. Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Feb;14(1):95-103. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.1.95. PMID: 15129933.
  4. Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 18 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
  5. Jagim AR, Stecker RA, Harty PS, Erickson JL, Kerksick CM. Safety of creatine supplementation in active adolescents and youth: A Brief Review. Front Nutr. 2018;5:115. Published 2018 Nov 28. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00115
  6. Ostojic SM. Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Feb;14(1):95-103. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.1.95. PMID: 15129933
  7. Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 6;10:36. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-36. PMID: 23919405; PMCID: PMC3750511.
  8.  Bohnhorst B, Geuting T, Peter CS, Dordelmann M, Wilken B, Poets CF. Randomized, controlled trial of oral creatine supplementation (not effective) for apnea of prematurity. Pediatrics 2004;113 (4):e303-7.

 

Creatine: Not Just for Men or Muscle

If you’re a man or woman reading this, excellent. It applies to both genders. Are you an aging adult, or someone who has experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI)? Then yes, keep reading. Next, if you’re an athlete or non-athlete reading this, even better because it applies to you as well. Still aren’t with me, do you have a beating heart? If this answer is no, please seek medical attention at once. All jokes aside, if you’re a living breathing homo sapiens (homo = genus , sapiens = species) this article is for you.

If you’re a parent of a young athlete, coach, athlete or bodybuilder you likely have read up on creatine and have supplemented with creatine monohydrate before. Creatine is one of the most well-research and effective supplements to date. Creatine can support exercise performance by quickly producing energy during intense activity. Furthermore, creatine may also provide cognitive benefits, but further research is warranted. Studies have consistently illustrated how creatine supplementation increases intramuscular creatine concentrations that can help us understand the observed improvements in high-intensity exercise performance and overall training adaptations at large. We know creatine supplementation can bolster post-exercise recovery, decrease risk of injury and support injury prevention, expedite rehabilitation, thermoregulation, concussion and or spinal cord neuroprotection. Additionally, clinical applications of creatine supplementation have been investigated in neurodegenerative diseases like (muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s Huntington’s disease), diabetes, aging, osteoarthritis, brain and heart ischemia, adolescent depression and even pregnancy as cited in the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN) Position Stand on Creatine Supplementation in Exercise, Sport and Medicine . Studies are demonstrating short and long-term supplementation (up to 30 grams per day for five years) is not only safe, but well-tolerated in individuals and a range of clinical settings from infants to the elderly.  So, creatine is not just for male athletes trying to build muscle and facilitate recovery. It is beneficial to all given the wide range of benefits associated with supplementation that have been documented in literature and several that are currently under investigation in a clinical setting.

Let’s review and clear up a common myth regarding creatine:

“Creatine is a steroid” Incorrect, please stop this nonsense from making its way into 2021 please. In my professional experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist , this must be one of the most obnoxious fallacies to date. Possibly behind “protein hurts my kidneys”, also false but that’s a whole other subject for a different blog. However, I am happy to direct you to the literature that dispels this myth publish in 2016 in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism compliments of Dr. Jose Antonio and colleagues . Now back to creatine, let’s clear this up quickly, creatine is not a steroid. It has no relation to a steroid structurally or with its mechanism of action. Why? Well, by scientific definition a steroid is any compound that possesses a common structural feature like 3 cyclohexane rings and a cyclopentane ring make up the structure that by definition is a steroid molecule. In fact, eggs contain a steroid compound which is called cholesterol and it is naturally produced in the body that become steroid hormones like testosterone and estrogen. But no, creatine is not a steroid.

What is creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound made up of three amino acids, which we would call a tripeptide (tri meaning three). Three amino acids (L-glycine, L-methionine and L-arginine) make up creatine. Creatine is largely made in the liver and to a limited extent, the kidneys and pancreas. It deposits high-energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine which are given to ADP, regenerating it to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the sole energy carrier in the human body which can be called “energy currency” for cells to execute their functions. For example, in conditions of short-term high-energy demand activities (< 30 seconds) with limited recovery time, ATP runs out quickly, which brings us to creatine that is stored in muscles in the form of creatine phosphate explained here . Creatine phosphate can help restore ATP, giving muscle cells the ability to produce greater energy. The greater creatine you have, the greater energy your muscle cells can yield during high-intensity exercise, thus leading to increased exercise performance. Even though the most well documented and primary benefit is higher energy production this mechanism also supports muscle gain and strength increases explained here.

Creatine is naturally found in several of the foods we consume like, eggs, milk, tuna, salmon, herring, cod, shrimp, beef and pork.  Consuming enough creatine from the diet is challenging given the total creatine pool available according to an article published in the Frontiers in Nutrition Sport and Exercise Nutrition via Candow et al., 2019 . Which suggests, the body needs to replenish about 1.0–3.0 g of creatine per day to maintain normal (un-supplemented) creatine stores depending on muscle mass. Creatine improves numerous factors including strength, power, sprint ability, muscular endurance, resistance to fatigue, muscle mass, recovery, cognition, and speeding up muscle growth.

More women should use creatine:

I am a female who participates in regular strength-training (4-5 times per week) along with (2-3 cardiovascular sessions per week). I eat a whole foods diet, supplement with 2,000 IU of vitamin D3, whey protein isolate, 1,200 mg of fish oil and a multivitamin. Those are my supplements; these are not recommendations for “you”, your “young athlete”, “teammate” or “your friend”. I make this clear because there is no one-size-fits all in nutrition, health and fitness. What works well for me, does not mean it will work well for you. I see too many mistakes made with people trying to adapt the same diet, training and lifestyle of those in their cohort when it simply is not sustainable or appropriate. As individuals we have different genetics, hormones, environment stimulus, training styles, body composition, sport and performance goals, resting metabolic rate, and the list goes on. It would be absurd to eat and train the same way as someone else and anticipate the same outcome with the previously listed differences as humans.

One certainty is we can all benefit from eating real food, but given the benefits of creatine supplementation it is an undervalued and written off supplement among my fellow ladies. Hear me out ladies, creatine will not make you fat, bulky, retain water, turn you into a man or any of the other nonsensical claims that exist on the web these days. I don’t care what Linda at the gym said about “creatine making you fat or how it is a steroid that will make you a man”. I hear these claims often, and not only are they flat out wrong, they misinform my fellow ladies out there trying to gain strength, lean mass and other health benefits that would occur with appropriate creatine supplementation.

Here is a side by side comparison of me, roughly 10 years ago when I ate too many carbohydrates, inadequate protein, some strength training and an abundance of cardiovascular exercise. I ran lots of miles. Now, ten years later, I am happy to report I engage in strength training sessions no greater than 45-minutes, 4-5 times per week with some sprints and daily walking. I supplement with 5 gm of creatine monohydrate post-workout , w

hey protein isolate, take a multivitamin and consume 2 gm/kg/body weight per day in protein. I infrequently track calories because I fuel my body with high-quality protein, as many fruits and veggies as I can get my hands on. Creatine won’t make you fat, bulky or manly ladies. It will help support a lean body composition. Let me be more specific to my fellow ladies, creatine can may help you improve your health, fitness, recovery and overall physique.

Trying to turn up the intensity of your workouts? Use creatine! Creatine is like a Koenigsegg Agera RS , the fastest vehicle in the world. Creatine is a vehicle for producing ATP, which as you have learned drives muscle contraction. Kind of important when trying to sprint, lift heavy weights, jump and train with max output? By regularly supplementing with creatine monohydrate (3 -5 gm/day) for 8 weeks or greater can help maximize the body’s stores of phosphocreatine, the necessary compound to product ATP. Thus, allowing for skeletal muscle to produce more energy, bolster power output and exert more work overall. Fitness hack: The greater the intensity expressed fourth the greater your muscles grow stronger, bigger and faster should you train appropriately. Therefore, creatine supplementation is a highly underrated supplement among the female population. I encourage and empower my fellow ladies reading this article who have been on the fence about using creatine to take note of its effectiveness. Creatine has shown to bolster muscular size, power and strength. More muscle equates to more energy burned, healthier body composition, bone mineral density and a decreased risk for musculoskeletal disorders. Not to mention the link between muscle mass and risk of cardiovascular disease. Keeping aging muscles fit is also linked to better health later on in life according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health .

Even sedentary women who utilized creatine long-term experienced increases in maximal muscle strength during resistance training by 20 to 25% when compared to women who were given a placebo in a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology . Another study examined the effects of long-term creatine supplementation (12-weeks) combined with resistance training on one-rep max strength, motor functional performance tests and body composition in eighteen older women. The creatine group gained significantly more fat-free mass, muscle mass and were able to efficiently perform submaximal-strength functional test than the placebo group. Special note the creatine group was also able to increase training volume and one-rep max bench press. Creatine contains no calories and does not lead to fat gain. The increase on the scale you may see from use is drawing water into the cell which is a desired response with training.

Many benefits of creatine

A number of studies have shown creatine supplementation can increase brain creatine content by roughly 5-15% along with reducing mental fatigue, and improving cognitive function according to research referenced in the ISSN’s Position Stand on Creatine. Another study carried out by Rawson & Venezia, 2011 reported creatine supplementation of (20 g/day for 5 days or about 2g per day for 30 days) resulted in increased skeletal muscle creatine phosphocreatine which lead to the enhancement of high-intensity exercise tasks. Moreover, there is well documented benefits of creatine supplementation in young adults, increased strength, lean body mass and delayed onset fatigue during resistance training. All of which are critical for older adults striving to maintain cognition, bone mineral density and overall health.

Research is scant but, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was carried out in using creatine in type 2 diabetes subjects that was published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise . The study illustrated creatine supplementation improved glucose tolerance in healthy subjects. When creatine was supplemented in the diabetic subjects that participated in an exercise program the results lead to an improvement in glycemic control. The underlying mechanism could be contributed to the increase in GLUT-4 recruitment specific to the sarcolemma. More research is warranted in diabetics, but the current literature is promising. Functional foods for brain health go mainstream

Another study examined the potential of creatine or phosphocreatine supplementation in cerebrovascular disease and in ischemic heart disease . The study illustrates the ability high-dose creatine supplementation has on cerebral creatine content and that it may have the capacity in humans to protect against stroke due to increasing not only the neuronal but also the endothelial creatine content. Emerging evidence also suggest that creatine supplementation with and without resistance training has the potential mechanistic effect to influence bone biology according to a study carried out by Candow & Chilibeck, 2010. A more recent study published in Experimental Gerontology examines pre-exercise and post-exercise creatine supplementation has similar effects on aging bone mineral density and content. A meta-analysis carried out by Forbes et al., 2018 illustrated creatine supplementation did not lead to greater bone mineral density during resistance training in older adults > 50 years of age.

Research in animals also suggested creatine supplementation to support managing Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and brain or spinal cord injuries. Furthermore, a study was conducted examining creatine supplementation following sleep deprivation, with mild exercise, on cognitive and psychomotor performance, mood state and catecholamines. The study eludes to creatine supplementation decreasing the negative effects, like mood, focus, impulse and emotional reactions that are reliant on the prefrontal cortex.

Creatine is safe and easy to use

As you have learned creatine offers many diverse benefits beyond muscle. It is one of the least expensive and safest supplements available on the market. It has been studied for over 200 years and an abundance of literature supports is safety, efficacy and no reported adverse effects in healthy individuals as referenced in the ISSN’s Position Stand: Creatine Supplementation and Exercise.

A good dose to begin with is simply taking 3.0 to 5.0 grams of creatine monohydrate post-exercise to support recovery, muscle growth and decreasing fatigue. If you’re a vegetarian or new to using creatine you may wish to start with a loading phase by taking (0.3g/kg/body weight/day). For example, if you’re a 60 kg female = 18 g total for the day but broken up into 4 doses for 5-7 days. This would mean a (4.5 g dose of creatine 4x/day) for 5-7 days. Then onto a maintenance phase of 5 g per day for 12 weeks. If you’re interested in looking at different phases of cycling creatine (short-term and long-term) you can refer to the literature in the Creatine Position Stand paper I have referenced throughout this article. For example, supplementing with (5g/day) for 12 weeks during training to truly help increase intramuscular creatine stores and support health and performance benefits outlined in this article. Dissolve the creatine in water or your protein-carb drink post-workout for best results. Take a break from supplementation after using for 12-16 weeks. Where to order creatine? I strongly advise supplements that are Informed Choice Certified, meaning they are free of any banned substances and ensure the product has been tested from any unsafe substances. Here is a comprehensive list of certified products updated March, 2020.

If you’re parent or coach of adolescent athletes and are considering creatine supplementation. Take note, limited research is available in this population highlighting the safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in young athletes < 18 years of age. Jagim et al., 2018 published a review examining the limited studies in the adolescent population as a means to identify use of creatine in young athletes. The review suggests that adolescent athletes using creatine tolerated supplementation well, had no reported adverse events or incident. Ethically, we do not have enough research to recommend creatine monohydrate to young athletes, but many are using despite direction from professionals. My advice as a sports dietitian is to provide the literature and suggestions to support best interest of my athletes.

As registered dietitian nutritionist and sports nutrition specialist, I advocate for whole foods first and prioritizing nutrition to optimize your health, wellness, physique and performance goals. Creatine is a great supplement to incorporate in addition to great nutrition, enough hydration, adequate sleep and proper training. Creatine works best when paired with resistance training. I hope reading the science outlined in this article surrounding creatine has given clarity. Creatine can benefit everyone, if you have a beating pulse that’s you. Train hard, eat well and stay healthy my friends.

In good health,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and fitness coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. Wendi partners with parents, sports performance staff, special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance & lifestyle plans. Wendi is based in East Lansing, Michigan and is the founder of Nutrition with Wendi, LLC. Wendi is active on Twitter and other social media platforms as Nutrition_with_Wendi.