🎃Power Up with Pumpkin!

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

1.Powerful healing properties

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

2.Restores electrolyte balance and supports muscle recovery

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

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

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

3.Reduces both muscle soreness and tissue breakdown

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

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

4.Heart-healthy

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

 

Four ways to enjoy both pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds:

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

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

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

4. Add 1/3 cup pumpkin to baked goods

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Citations used

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

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

 

 

🍉Happy National Watermelon Day!🎉

Happy National Watermelon Day!

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

 

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

Packed full of disease-fighting antioxidants and vitamins

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

 

Watermelon is good for both muscle and heart

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

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

Improved digestion

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

Watermelon hydrates

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

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

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

 

For nutrition facts click here.

Resources used:

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

Carbohydrate and Protein Needs for Young Athletes Desiring to Make the Jump from Good to Great!

Bowls filled with granola and berries

There’s No “One-Size-Fits-All” Nutrition Approach

An athlete’s energy and nutrient needs depend individually on his or her age, body composition, goals, and training volume, and depends globally on the demands and intensity of the sport. Put simply, the greater the intensity, duration and frequency of the activity combined with the athlete’s weight or body composition, the higher the demand of protein, carbohydrate and calorie intake.

If you’re a coach, parent or athlete reading this, don’t become overwhelmed. This article intends to introduce to you some general guidelines on optimizing energy needs (i.e. calories, protein, and carbohydrates) to sufficiently support overall health and advance athletic performance.

First rule of thumb, ALL adolescent athletes should consume breakfast, lunch and dinner with 2-3 snacks in between meals to fully optimize energy levels. You must build a plate that includes a source of lean protein, a fruit, a vegetable, a healthy fat and a serving of dairy if you wish to get real and progress with your nutrition. A visual of the plate and practical nutrition strategies can be found in my previous blog here.

Fuel Up to Avoid Stalling Out

Youth athletes have significantly higher nutritional needs than their less-active classmates because athletes need more calories to support performance demands, normal growth, general development and maturation. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, female teen athletes need roughly 2,200-3,000 calories and male teen athletes need roughly 3,000-4,000 calories per day (depending upon the individual and sport). Additionally, adolescent athletes training in multiple sports may need upwards of 5,000 calories per day to maintain weight and support growth needs. It’s paramount to encourage adequate calorie consumption during times of heavy training. For perspective, low-energy availability in female adolescent athletes can lead to short stature, increased injury, delayed puberty, poor bone health, metabolic and cardiovascular issues, menstrual irregularities, disordered eating behaviors – this according to a review published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism published by Desbrow et al., 2019.

Relative Energy Deficiency Syndrome (RED-S) is a more comprehensive label that builds on the condition of low-energy availability, also known as “female athlete triad,” to describe an energy deficiency gap that results when energy intake is insufficient to support daily activities, living, growth and function. RED-S affects primarily females, but also young males.

Premium Fuel for the Young Athlete – Carbohydrates!

Carbohydrates are an athlete’s most important source of energy for optimal athletic performance. Several studies carried out during the last 50-60 years have consistently highlighted carbohydrates as the primary macronutrient to sustain and enhance physical performance. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has established that 45-65 percent of calories in one’s diet should come from carbohydrates or between 3 and 8 grams per kilogram of body mass, depending upon the exercise intensity. For example, a 14-year-old female athlete should consume 2,000-2,400 Granola and yogurt with fruit, juice, and eggscalories per day, with 225 – 270 g (45% of total calories) to 325 – 390 g (65% of total calories) from carbohydrates. Keep in mind the dietary reference intake (DRI) remains at 100 g per day and recommended daily allowance (RDA) at 130 g day for all age and sex categories (children ≥ 1 year), both measures not related to physical activity. High-quality carbohydrates for athletes to consume include, but are not limited to, 1. whole grains like pasta, rice, tortillas, bread, oatmeal, low-fat dairy, and energy bars, 2. fruits like berries & bananas, and apples, 3. starchy vegetables like squash, potatoes and eggplant. To experience a boost in energy, consider adding items from this longer list of quality carbohydrate-rich foods to achieve enhanced athletic performance.

Performance tip: Make half your plate carbohydrates if you’re an endurance athlete, especially on heavy training days. The average athlete should be eating around 360-500 grams of carbohydrates per day. Failing to consume enough carbohydrates will cause a decline in performance, cognition, focus, and athletic performance. Time-to-fatigue and injury risk will also increase without enough dietary carbohydrates. To keep it simple, carbohydrates are not “optional”; they are essential. You can take it from an RDN whom stands for science or examine the science for yourself by checking out Nutritional Considerations for Performance in Young Athletes published in the Journal of Sports Medicine.

Power Up with Protein!

Protein is critical for building, maintaining and repairing many cellular structures, like skeletal tissues. Consuming enough protein supports synthesis of hormones, neurotransmitters, energy production, gene activity and transportation of biological molecules. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has established that 15 to 20 percent of total calories, or about 70-160 grams should derive from high-quality protein sources.

To breakdown the science, consuming adequate protein is critical for proper growth, development and normal physiological function during adolescence leading into adulthood. Distinctive demands during adolescence, especially those that engage in high-intensity sport, call for a greater daily protein intake than that of adults. Currently the RDA for protein is 0.95 g/kg/day for children ages 4-13 years and 0.8 g/kg/day for adolescents between the ages of 14-18. Those that engage in regular training and endurance sports like swimming, rowing, distance running, and soccer may need 1.2-1.4 g/kg/day while power sports like weightlifting, gymnastics, football, wrestling shall require 1.0 – 1.5 g/kg/day .

High-quality protein sources include beef, poultry, bison, pea protein, pork, tuna, turkey, seafood, fish, and dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, whey, cheese and cottage cheese. To find out how much protein some of your favorite sources provide, check out this list from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Keep in mind that not all proteins are created equal. To deter you from going down the rabbit hole of plant proteins vs. animal proteins, I will simply link an article for you to review here. It’s important to just remember that foods rich in leucine, a branched chain amino acid found in animal proteins, will have the greatest positive affect on driving muscle protein synthesis. We could get really complex on this topic but it’s enough to simply emphasize the importance of consumption of high-quality proteins that are listed above due to their rich leucine content, especially since we are addressing protein intake for adolescent athletes. Most young athletes barely consume enough calories and protein as it is. To keep it simple, make sure your adolescent athlete consumes ¼ of their plate or a 4 oz. serving of a high-quality protein three-five times per day. As I always say, success starts with the basics and carrying them out on a consistent basis.

Failure by your adolescent athlete to consume adequate protein intake will cause declines in energy, weight, muscle growth, and strength, while increasing the likelihood of onset fatigue. Does this mean your adolescent athlete should be slamming protein shakes? Of course not, but they should be consistently consuming whole foods at regular mealtimes. Consuming good old fashioned chocolate milk on-the-go can even be a great way to increase calories while meeting additional protein intake demands. This is especially a great addition to refuel and re-hydrate post-practice or game! Make no mistake, a protein shake or chocolate milk will not make up for missed nutrients from consuming regular meals. Furthermore, supplements like protein powders are not regulated by the FDA and so it is important to select a protein powder that has been third-party tested with a NSF stamp of approval, which deems it certified for sport. This is paramount to ensure there are no banned substances on the label, that the product is manufactured in a facility that follows acceptable manufacturing standards, and that the contents of the supplement match what is printed on the label, ultimately being safe for consumption. To search supplements that are third-party tested and free of any banned substances, check out Informed-Sport.

Stirring it Altogether:

Knowing your carbohydrate and protein intake recommendations is great, but I encourage using the plate as a method of hitting your intake requirements. If you consume a balanced plate with all the components 3-5 times per day with high-quality snacks in between, you’re likely going to meet the energy demands of your sport. Again, it’s important to remember that carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy.

Keeping with the basics such as eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with small snacks in between meals will help improve your health and sport performance. Don’t skip meals and make sure your plate is full of colorful fruits and vegetables. Always choose water or milk over sugary beverage to support hydration and better overall health. It’s time we get back to the basics, which I discuss in detail in the last article I published, available for reference here. As always, nutrition is a secret weapon that can help you perform optimally in the classroom and in sport.

Your sports nutritionist,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN

Practical Nutrition Strategies for Youth Athletes

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 productsOatmeal bowl topped with fruit and nut butter 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!

In good health,

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, CISSN