6 Anti-Inflammatory Foods Athletes Should Be Eating!

 I often do grocery store tours with our local baseball, football, and XC athletes here in Nashville, Tennessee. This is also a great option to do virtually over FaceTime if you are in another state! Here are 6 of the top anti-inflammatory foods that we picked up. (Full thread on X)

  1. Egg bites with veggies! A pre-cooked option that contains protein, antioxidants, and key micronutrients!
  2. Whole Lactose-Free Kefir! Kefir is fermented (great for gut health). It offers > 60 strains of bacteria. Studies show these powerful microorganisms may help treat and prevent gastrointestinal disease in addition to muscle recovery!
    1. Dairy also offers leucine-rich protein, calcium, and vitamin D that your muscles and bones need to stay strong.
  3. Cherries are rich in antioxidants and contain anti-inflammatory compounds known as polyphenols!
    1. These polyphenols have been shown to speed up recovery following resistance training, decrease muscle soreness, and lessen muscle breakdown!
      1. Vitamin C, hydrating, and fiber-rich as well!
  4. Blueberries and raspberries! The compounds in berries have been shown to relieve both muscle pain and weakness, inflammation, and cellular damage that occurs after hard exercise.
    1. Blueberries have been shown to help lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease, and improve memory, and cognitive function!
  5. Walnuts! One handful of walnuts contains 91% of the daily value of Omega-3 fatty acids.
    1. The omegas in walnuts can help with reducing inflammation and optimize recovery! Walnuts also contain magnesium which is critical for preventing muscle camping and supporting restful sleep!
  6. Pomegranate! We encourage our athletes and clients to add pom to smoothies, yogurt bowls, protein shakes, oats, and PB toast!
    1. Pomegranate intake has been shown to accelerate muscle recovery, reduce muscle damage, decrease soreness, and improve inflammatory markers post-training!

Here is a simple example of an anti-inflammatory meal for a busy high school or college student-athlete!

  • It is important to note that recovery is a 24-hour process. The body is always rebuilding and regenerating to maintain homeostasis. As an athlete or individual who wants to live a healthy lifestyle, it is best to limit inflammatory foods like cookies, cake, candy, fried foods, and alcohol.
  • Your performance plate should always contain lean protein, quality carbohydrates, fruit, veggies, healthy fat, and hydration.
          • Add Greek yogurt for extra protein, calcium, vitamin D, and calories to support muscle growth and enhance recovery!
          • Choose wild-caught salmon whenever possible as it contains up to 3 times less fat, and more vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, and b-12. If you do not like salmon you can opt for a lean protein like grilled chicken, turkey, flank steak, wild game, or halibut. 
  • What you put in your body directly influences your speed, power, strength, energy, blood sugar, body composition, disease, and injury risk so please take these tips and apply them. A colorful plate is a healthy plate! (Get a copy of Wendi’s Health and Performance Playbook HERE).
  • Female athletes can greatly benefit from more produce to optimize hormone health and help with their menstrual cycle! Learn more HERE
  • Use these tips because “nutrition can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good! What are you willing to do to out-compete your competition? Champions are built in the off-season.” –Wendi

Some additional resources on reducing inflammation & increasing recovery!

If you found this list helpful be sure to check out Wendi’s tips for reducing muscle soreness blog HERE.


References:

  • Albuquerque Pereira, M. F., Matias Albuini, F., & Gouveia Peluzio, M. D. C. (2023). Anti-inflammatory pathways of kefir in murine model: a systematic review. Nutrition reviews, nuad052. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuad052
  • Ammar, A., Turki, M., Chtourou, H., Hammouda, O., Trabelsi, K., Kallel, C., Abdelkarim, O., Hoekelmann, A., Bouaziz, M., Ayadi, F., Driss, T., & Souissi, N. (2016). Pomegranate Supplementation Accelerates Recovery of Muscle Damage and Soreness and Inflammatory Markers after a Weightlifting Training Session. PloS one, 11(10), e0160305.
  • Kelley, D. S., Adkins, Y., & Laugero, K. D. (2018). A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries. Nutrients10(3), 368. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10030368
  • Tan, B., Wang, Y., Zhang, X., & Sun, X. (2022). Recent Studies on Protective Effects of Walnuts against Neuroinflammation. Nutrients14(20), 4360. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14204360
  • Yavari, A., Javadi, M., Mirmiran, P., & Bahadoran, Z. (2015). Exercise-induced oxidative stress and dietary antioxidants. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine6(1), e24898. https://doi.org/10.5812/asjsm.24898

In good health, faith, and fitness

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

The Nutrition with Wendi team utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. We partner with parents, athletes, health professionals, and individuals and offer elite nutrition and health guidance for optimal athletic performance, injury, and disease reduction.  We provide virtual sports nutrition coaching, education, and presentations virtually in Texas, Florida, California, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Arizona, and Michigan. Our primary office is based in Nashville, Tennesse where we serve the greater Brentwood, Franklin, and Green Hills communities.  Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. Services booking here to consult with Wendi for a team talk or QA session.

 

Fueling Victory: 5 Tips for Athletes and Families Meal Prepping on a Budget

For athletes, proper nutrition is the cornerstone of peak performance. Whether you’re a student athlete, seasoned competitor, or a weekend warrior, meal prepping can be a game-changer when it comes to meeting your nutritional needs. Here are five key tips to help athletes streamline their meal prepping process, allowing them to stay on top of their game without breaking the bank.

Need recipe ideas to meal prep? Check out our 30 Days of Recipes!

Plan 3-4 Days Ahead

Successful meal prepping begins with thoughtful planning. Athletes, in particular, benefit from having a well-balanced diet that meets their energy requirements. Planning your meals three to four days ahead provides a strategic advantage by allowing you to consider your training schedule, daily activities, and nutritional needs.

Start by outlining your training sessions, competitions, and any other engagements that might impact your meals. Once you have a clear picture of your week, plan meals that align with your energy expenditure. Include a mix of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure a well-rounded diet.

 

Take Stock

Before heading to the grocery store, take stock of your fridge and pantry. This not only prevents overbuying but also helps you make the most of what you already have. Check for staples like rice, quinoa, beans, and canned tomatoes that can serve as a base for many meals.

Additionally, assess your protein sources. Eggs, chicken, tofu, and beans are cost-effective and versatile options. Look for sales or bulk discounts on frozen vegetables, which are just as nutritious as fresh and have a longer shelf life. By minimizing waste and maximizing the use of existing ingredients, you’ll save money while ensuring your meals are packed with essential nutrients.

 

Know Your Schedule

Athletes often have demanding schedules, making it crucial to sync meal prepping with your daily routine. Knowing your schedule allows you to allocate specific times for prepping, cooking, and storing meals efficiently.

Identify time slots for meals around your training sessions, ensuring you have adequate fuel before and replenishment after. Allocate moments in your day for quick, nutrient-packed snacks to maintain energy levels. By tailoring your meal prep to your unique schedule, you can optimize nutrition to complement your athletic performance. This synchronization not only enhances your energy levels but also promotes overall well-being and resilience.

 

Cook in Bulk

One of the most effective ways to save time and money is to cook in bulk. Batch cooking allows you to prepare large quantities of your favorite meals, providing a stash of ready-to-eat options for the days ahead. This strategy is especially beneficial for athletes, as it minimizes the time spent in the kitchen during busy training periods.

Opt for recipes that can be easily scaled up, such as chili, stir-fries, or casseroles. These dishes often improve in flavor when reheated, making them ideal for bulk cooking. Divide the prepared meals into individual portions and freeze what you won’t consume within the next few days. This not only ensures a constant supply of varied meals but also prevents food waste.

 

Include Daily Staples

Incorporating daily staples into your meal prep routine is key to maintaining a balanced diet on a budget. Items like oats, yogurt, eggs, and whole grains are not only affordable but also versatile and nutrient-dense. They serve as the foundation for a variety of meals, from breakfast to post-training snacks.

For a budget-friendly breakfast, consider overnight oats made with rolled oats, yogurt, and your choice of fruits. Eggs can be prepared in numerous ways and are an excellent source of high-quality protein. Whole grains like brown rice and quinoa can be paired with a mix of vegetables and proteins for a quick and satisfying lunch or dinner. By incorporating these staples, you’ll ensure that your meals are both cost-effective and nutritionally robust.

 

Meal prepping for athletes doesn’t have to be a daunting task, and it certainly doesn’t have to break the bank. By following these five essential tips—planning ahead, taking stock of your pantry, syncing with your schedule, cooking in bulk, and incorporating daily staples—you can streamline your meal prep process and fuel your athletic endeavors with nutritious, budget-friendly options. Remember, success in the kitchen translates to success on the field, and a well-fueled body is your best ally in achieving peak performance.

To learn more about meal prepping for athletes, watch Wendi’s Healthy Meal Prep on a Budget Webinar and access the slides HERE!

 

In good health, wellness, and performance,

Sophia, Brenna, and Wendi your NWW team!

 

The Nutrition with Wendi team utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. We partner with parents, athletes, health professionals, and individuals and offer elite nutrition and health guidance for optimal athletic performance, injury, and disease reduction.  We provide virtual services including telehealth but are based in Nashville, TN. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. Services booking here to consult with Wendi for a team talk or QA session.

Amenorrhea & Athletes: 3 Tips For Females to Get Their Period Back

Amenorrhea & Athletes: 3 Tips For Females to Get Their Period Back

 

Relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) is the consequence of low-energy availability (LEA) in athletes, adversely affecting an athletes’ performance and health. RED-S can occur in both males and females, negatively impacting normal growth and development, hormonal health, bone health, ability to recover, strength and endurance, and even mental health. The Female Athlete Triad refers to a cluster of three RED-S symptoms originally identified in females, including low energy intake, menstrual disruptions, and low bone mineral density (BMD). It is imperative to prevent the Female Athlete Triad before it spirals into severe interruptions with bone strength, performance, long-term health, and fertility. 

 

What is Low Energy Intake (LEA) and how does it occur?

  • LEA can be intentional or unintentional, occurring when an athlete consumes fewer calories than her body requires for growth, development, and athletic performance. LEA is often associated with ‘disordered eating’ and in severe cases can lead to an eating disorder.
  • Menstrual cycle disruption is the most critical impact of LEA in females. When a female athlete stops getting her period for at least 3 months, this is referred to as ‘amenorrhea.’ Prolonged amenorrhea can negatively impact fertility and bone health.
  • Many athletes choose to intentionally restrict or limit their intake in hopes of “improving performance”. This is especially common in runners and dancers, where the mentality “lighter is faster” is prevalent but extremely damaging.
  • Some athletes may just be unsure of how many calories they should consume to meet the demands of their sport, leading to unintentional LEA. Many athletes eat enough calories to sustain basic hormone function but are not eating enough to fuel sport performance and recovery!
  • The effects of LEA fall into two categories: sociocultural and physiological. Athletes are at a much higher risk for LEA from sociocultural factors, including social media, sport-specific body image stereotypes, and pressure from coaches, teammates, and themselves on looking a certain way. These can all provide a false belief that the athlete will have greater performance outcomes by fitting into these sociocultural standards.
  • Inadequate nutrition intake, leading to LEA, is problematic because the athlete has insufficient energy to fuel the body. For example, if a female athlete only consumes 1,800 kcal per day but uses 3,500 kcal, she is consuming 1,700 kcal LESS than her body NEEDS! In this scenario, the athlete will not have enough energy, impairing performance, growth, and development; it also puts her at heightened risk for illness, injury, impaired fertility, or a life-threatening eating disorder. 
  • At-Risk Sports: cross-country, distance running, cross-country skiing, wrestling, rowing, gymnastics, figure skating, dance, and weight-class sports.

 

Important future considerations

  • The long-term negative effects of amenorrhea can impact fertility as women age. 
  • Women need adequate calories to achieve enough of energy reserve to promote fertility.
  • Women must have enough body fat to produce leptin for reproduction and proper functioning of the ovaries.
  • Scientist Rose Frisch proposed a body fatness theory of fertility in which women need to have at least 17% body fat to menstruate and about 22% body fat for fertility.

Fill out our athlete assessment form HERE and we can reach out to you for a consultation with one of our registered dietitians and sports nutritionists to help you with a plan. 

How does menstrual health impact bone health?

Physical activity, specifically resistance training can have a positive impact on bone development. However, in cases of the female athlete triad or low energy availability, BMD may be low. This low BMD can be attributed to low levels of the hormone, estrogen, which plays a crucial role in bone health! Further, with inadequate calorie intake, athletes may be missing significant micronutrients like vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium, which support strong bones. Low BMD can increase the risk of bone stress injuries, including stress reactions and stress fractures, as well as osteoporosis. 

 

Pro Tip: Test, don’t guess! If you or your student-athlete have concerns about menstruation, bone health, and estrogen levels, reach out to a doctor for blood tests. 

Recovery of a menstrual cycle takes time but is significant for overall health as well as injury prevention and athletic performance.

 

Three ways we help female athletes regain their period:

  1. Increased calories (eating in an energy surplus) for 3-6 months, with a focus on adequate healthy dietary fats and eating frequently (avoiding periods of fasting)
  2. Reducing training volume and permitting healthy weight gain
  3. Log nutrition and track period symptoms 

We teach our athletes that all foods fit! Most athletes need upwards of 3,500 + kcal to support health, training, and recovery demands.Person first and athlete second. We must help female athletes develop a healthy relationship with food!

If you are a parent of a young female athlete or coach that works with female athletes be sure to refer out to a registered dietitian. Female athletes have special considerations and hormone health should always be a top priority. We have worked with several female runners and competitive athletes to regain their period.  It is not normal to lose your cycle for several months. We can work with your program or athlete to regain their cycle via a custom nutrition plan and ongoing coaching.

Female athletes need 3-4 balanced meals coupled with 2-3 snacks on training days. You can’t race like a beast if you eat like a bird!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In good health, wellness, and performance,

Sophia, Brenna, and Wendi your NWW team!

 

The Nutrition with Wendi team utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. We partner with parents, athletes, health professionals, and individuals and offer elite nutrition and health guidance for optimal athletic performance, injury, and disease reduction.  We provide virtual services including telehealth but are based in Nashville, TN. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. Services booking here to consult with Wendi for a team talk or QA session.


Resources:

 

Cabre, H. E., Moore, S. R., Smith-Ryan, A. E., & Hackney, A. C. (2022). Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S): Scientific, Clinical, and Practical Implications for the Female Athlete. Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Sportmedizin, 73(7), 225–234. https://doi.org/10.5960/dzsm.2022.546

Gimunová, M., Paulínyová, A., Bernaciková, M., & Paludo, A. C. (2022). The Prevalence of Menstrual Cycle Disorders in Female Athletes from Different Sports Disciplines: A Rapid Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(21), 14243. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph192114243

Márquez, S., & Molinero, O. (2013). Energy availability, menstrual dysfunction and bone health in sports; an overview of the female athlete triad. Nutricion hospitalaria, 28(4), 1010–1017. https://doi.org/10.3305/nh.2013.28.4.6542

Sims, S. T., Kerksick, C. M., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Janse de Jonge, X. A. K., Hirsch, K. R., Arent, S. M., Hewlings, S. J., Kleiner, S. M., Bustillo, E., Tartar, J. L., Starratt, V. G., Kreider, R. B., Greenwalt, C., Rentería, L. I., Ormsbee, M. J., VanDusseldorp, T. A., Campbell, B. I., Kalman, D. S., & Antonio, J. (2023). International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutritional concerns of the female athlete. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 20(1), 2204066. https://doi.org/10.1080/15502783.2023.2204066

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, May 17). Bone mineral density tests: What the numbers mean. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/bone-mineral-density-tests-what-numbers-mean

von Rosen, P., Ekenros, L., Solli, G. S., Sandbakk, Ø., Holmberg, H. C., Hirschberg, A. L., & Fridén, C. (2022). Offered Support and Knowledge about the Menstrual Cycle in the Athletic Community: A Cross-Sectional Study of 1086 Female Athletes. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(19), 11932. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph191911932

 

Fueling the Gluten Free Student-Athlete

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein naturally found in grains like wheat, rye, as well as barley. Gluten contributes to the texture and shape of foods made from these grains.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition that leads to reactions when eating the protein gluten. Symptoms include, but are not limited to gastrointestinal distress (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), abdominal pain, a rash, and malnutrition.

Should I Avoid Gluten?

Those with diagnosed Celiac Disease, gluten ataxia, non-celiac disease gluten sensitivity (gluten intolerance), or wheat allergies should avoid gluten! Otherwise gluten is safe to eat and there is no need to avoid it! 

Research supports that there are no improvements in performance resulting from abstaining from gluten in non-celiac athletes. Further, research in the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Journal supports that gluten-free foods do not offer a “nutritional advantage” over gluten-containing foods.

Gluten-Free Athlete Tips:

  1. Check food labels. Gluten “friendly” and gluten-free are not the same thing. The safest bet is always certified gluten-free!
  1. Consider food prep and processing. Foods that may naturally be gluten-free may become contaminated with gluten through prep. 
  1. Communicate! Let others know about your allergy, especially at restaurants. 
  1. Don’t cut out grains! Just swap for new ones.
  1. Be consistent with gluten-free fueling! It may be tempting to reintroduce gluten into your diet, but if you’re diagnosed with Celiac Disease, the treatment is lifelong a gluten-free diet.

Brands We Love:

There are plenty of gluten options for fueling! Some personal favorites are – Kind, Purely Elisabeth, Canyon Bakehouse, Kodiak Cake GF Pancake mix

Grains that are Naturally Gluten Free: corn, rice, quinoa, tapioca, buckwheat, flax, millet, amaranth, sorghum

*sourdough has low gluten content due to fermentation but is not 100% gluten-free 

Want to know more? Check out this post on Gluten Free Fueling Options on our NWW Coaching Instagram. Book a FREE call with a registered dietitian to ensure you are eating enough calories to support your training and recovery! 

 

 

  1. Devrim-Lanpir, A., Hill, L., & Knechtle, B. (2021). Efficacy of Popular Diets Applied by Endurance Athletes on Sports Performance: Beneficial or Detrimental? A Narrative Review. Nutrients, 13(2), 491. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020491
  2. Niland, B., & Cash, B. D. (2018). Health Benefits and Adverse Effects of a Gluten-Free Diet in Non-Celiac Disease Patients. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 14(2), 82–91.
  3. What is Celiac Disease? | Celiac Disease Foundation
  4. What Is Gluten and What Does It Do? | Johns Hopkins Medicine

3 Tips for Avoiding Muscle Cramps on Game Day!

 

In my 10+ years of experience working with youth, collegiate, and masters level competitors there are three types of athletes. Athletes who are prone to cramping, those who have cramped, and those who WILL CRAMP. Our goal is to prevent cramping, reduce the occurrence of cramping, and Lord willing minimize the cramps with these three considerations.

 

  1. Water and minerals. Inadequate fluid. Drink water early and often! We wake up in a dehydrated state.  Place a water bottle by your bed to wake up and drink water. Set alarms on your phone to hydrate every few hours. Hydration is controllable.  Athletes need roughly 80-100 oz of fluid daily.  This does not account for the minerals we NEED including potassium, calcium, sodium, chloride, and magnesiumLosses during training, games, and hot climate increases fluid and mineral demand. 7 Tips for Hydration here.
      • Consume 20 oz of fluid every 2 hours leading up to game time.
      • Fuel tip: The night before a game have 1/2 an avocado at dinner. Avocados have more potassium than bananas. The potassium levels are almost double!
      • One avocado contains 975 milligrams of potassium, compared to 487 milligrams in a banana.
      • Most muscle cramps are also related to magnesium depletion. Adequate magnesium can help with muscle contraction and relaxation. The RDA for magnesium for adults:
        -Men: 400–420 mg
        -Women: 310–320 mg

        • Magnesium deficiency signs and foods rich in magnesium click here.
        • Magnesium supplementation may be necessary if you’re not consuming sufficient meat and veggies.
      • Some athletes are heavy sweaters and will expel more minerals in their sweat than others. A simple way to test if you or an athlete is a heavy or salty sweater is touching your jersey during/after training. Ensure you’re sipping on sports drinks or an electrolyte mix if you’re prone to cramping. Hotter temperatures will increase the rate at which electrolytes are expelled
        • Is it crusty and drenched? You are likely a heavy sweater and you will also feel the sodium on your face.
        • A hydration video tip to download and share with your student-athletes.
      • Replace every lb. lost during training with 16-24 oz of fluid.
  2. Pre-competition fueling 
      • Athletes often fail to consume enough carbs and calories. Carbs fuel muscle and the brain. A drop in blood sugar leads to a drop in performance. Low-carb diets also decrease sodium and water in the kidneys! 
      • Athletes should be consuming on average 3-5 g of carbs/kg/bw/day to support training demands and optimize recovery.  This means if you weigh 165 lbs or 75 kg . you need a minimum of 225 -375 g of carbs daily.
        • Athletes doing more endurance work or training more hours per week need even more. 5-7 g/kg/bw/day for soccer, field hockey, basketball, and other athletes trying to gain weight! This means that the same 165 lb 75 kg athlete would need 375-525 g of carbs per day!
          • Bagels, rice, pitas, oats, pretzels, fruit, potatoes, dates, honey, and other grains are excellent sources of carbs.
      • The maximum glycogen storage a human can accumulate is between 400-500 grams. Since 1 gram of carbs equals 4 kcal, you will top out at about 1,600-2,000 kcal in your glycogen storage fuel tank.
        • Muscle strength, speed, and contractility decrease when blood glucose levels drop or when glycogen is rapidly depleted. This can happen quickly in multisport athletes as well as endurance athletes.  Athlete nutrition cheat sheet here.
      • Use my chew-nibble-sip fueling strategy to ensure you’re consuming adequate carbs, minerals, and calories leading up to game time. A simple breakdown is found here.
      • Bananas, string cheese, Greek yogurt, and sweet potatoes are great sources of minerals like potassium, and contain sodium to assist with preventing muscle cramps and fatigue. Utilize electrolyte packets pre-, during, and post-event.
      • Too often athletes under-fuel leading up to games and events due to their inability to stomach solid food. Liquid carbs like sports drinks, tart cherry juice, and coconut water can be a great way to fill the glycogen tank prior to an event.
      • Download my 4-2-1 Fueling PDF for FREE HERE
  3. Training/game day warm-up
      • For the strength and sports coaches, this may seem obvious but it is a consideration that we must address. Athletes can cramp due to being undertrained, under-conditioned, or new to the sport. This happens with many young football players in fact. Coaches send me emails all the time with their JV or middle school programs with this concern. We must think beyond electrolytes and carbs to truly identify the source of cramping.
      • The condition of the athlete and their recovery from days trained that week or in previous events can play a role in cramping. Not to mention if the athlete is properly conditioned. Especially after the dog days of camp.

A tip we provide our athletes, coaches, and parents on preventing and treating cramps.

Science illustrates sodium can be absorbed and affect the body’s sodium concentration at a faster rate when spicy/bitter/vinegary smells and tastes are introduced. In fact, this tactic helps reduce the muscular impulse of over-excited contracted nerve impulses that lead to muscle cramping. This tactic can also aid in reducing the occurrence of muscle cramping and/or shorten the duration of the cramping episode according to a study carried out by Miller et al., 2010 published in Medicine and Science and Sports and Exercise.

The acid in the pickle juice, vinegar, and mustard does help alleviate cramps, the study concluded. A cramp induced by researchers lasted two minutes on average. Those cramps lasted 30 seconds shorter when test subjects drank pickle juice during the experiment. When subjects drank water, there was no change. The acid is what assisted with reducing the length of the cramps. Not the “salt”. This is critical for people to understand because there’s a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding in sports.

 

Cramps are a result of many factors. Dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, lack of carbohydrates, and a nervous system overt stimuli or misfiring. It is best to work with a sports dietitian to find ways to ensure your athletes are eating enough leading up to games, hydrating properly, getting sufficient sleep, and warming up properly with correct progression. You may not always be able to avoid cramping but you can certainly minimize it with these tips. Wendi’s health and performance slide deck contains hydration, fueling, and recovery graphics. Get a copy here

 

In good health, faith, and fitness

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

The Nutrition with Wendi team utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. We partner with parents, athletes, health professionals, and individuals and offer elite nutrition and health guidance for optimal athletic performance, injury, and disease reduction.  We provide virtual services including telehealth but are based in Nashville, TN. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. Services booking here to consult with Wendi for a team talk or QA session.

 

Athletic Performance and Gut Health! Athletes READ THIS

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 reduced inflammation, improved sleep quality, and mental well-being.

 How to reduce inflammation (EAT THESE FOODS)!!

 


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 fuel our gut bacteria. 

 

Myth: Drinking water causes Bloating

Fact: Drinking water throughout a meal and after can 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 they 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. (Use Wendi’s AIRPORT TRAVEL TIP!!)

 

Recipes to try: 

 

In good health, faith, and fitness

-NWW Registered Dietitians and Sports Nutritionists

The Nutrition with Wendi team utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. We partner with parents, athletes, health professionals, and individuals and offer elite nutrition and health guidance for optimal athletic performance, injury, and disease reduction.  We provide virtual sports nutrition coaching, education, and presentations virtually in Texas, Florida, California, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Arizona, and Michigan. Our primary office is based in Nashville, Tennesse where we serve the greater Brentwood, Franklin, and Green Hills communities.  Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. Services booking here to consult with Wendi for a team talk or QA session.

 

A Guide To Healthy Eating Out For Student-Athletes and Adults

I advocate for planning both meals and snacks when you will be traveling for work or games, but also on vacation. Please see previous travel nutrition resources that I have outlined on both Instagram and Twitter. You can absolutely be healthy and meet both your health and fueling needs by scoping out the menu, restaurants, and hotel options ahead of time. Many often struggle to make good choices at the moment so it’s wise to plan ahead. I always express we have time to map out our travel because like sporting events and work meetings we know the calendar in advance. In previous blogs and presentations, I have made the effort to always say, “opportunity favors the prepared.” Despite the limited choices, you can make healthy choices at fast food places, gas stations, restaurants, and even concession stands.

So here are some guidelines to equip you with tools to make successful choices on the road, at the table, in the drive-through, and at the sporting event.

-Travel (Pack a cooler).

-You always want to pair a protein with produce.

-Failure to plan will result in limited options and will put you in a situation to be less inclined to make a healthy choice that supports your fueling and health goals.

Produce

-Fruits like (apples, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, and banana)
-Veggies like (cucumber slices, carrot and celery sticks, sliced bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes)

Protein sources
-Hummus, string cheese, Greek yogurt, RTD protein shakes (Muscle Milk, Fairlife, Corepower, Orgain)
-Grilled deli meats like ham, turkey
-Canned tuna or tuna in a bag
-Beef or turkey jerky
-Protein bars (Quest, RXbar, One bar)
-Hard-boiled eggs
-Cottage cheese
Carbohydrates/whole-grains

-Oatmeal packets
-Whole-grain pitas, muffins, wraps, tortillas, bread, rice cakes, and crackers
-Baked goods ahead of time (whole-grain pancakes, waffles, oat bites)

Healthy fats
Snack pack nut butter (sunflower, peanut, cashew, almond)
-Unsalted nuts and seeds (almonds, pistachios, cashews, sunflower seeds)
-Peanut butter oat bites
-Guacamole/avocado snack packs
Click here to use my discount code (143NWW) for 15% off any Nut’s N More nut butter or powdered nut butter.

Combinations include:
-Grapes and string cheese
-Turkey whole-grain sandwich
-Fruit and nut butter snack pack
-Applesauce and hard-boiled egg
-Spinach, veggie, grilled chicken salad, sliced avocado
-Bell peppers (green, red, orange, yellow) 4-6 peppers in baggies
-Hummus and cottage cheese in contai

ners to add to sandwiches and fruit
-Greek yogurt parfaits and mason jar overnight protein oats

Fast food/eating out guide
Remember to visualize building a healthy plate that meets all your food groups (lean protein, healthy fat, fruit, veggie, dairy, and whole-grain). See the performance plate here for student-athletes and a weight-loss/healthy plate for adults.
-Always choose grilled, baked, roasted, or steamed in regards to veggies and protein
-Make sure your bread or bun is whole-grain
-Water in place of soda and fruit juices
-Reduce portion size (don’t supersize to save a buck) your waistline will thank you. Ask for a to-go box immediately upon ordering to have a plan to portion control.
-Replace fries with Greek yogurt, salad, or fruit cup option
-Ask for dressing on the side
-Replace mayo with avocado as a healthier option to increase creamy taste, texture, and flavor
-Use olive oil or avocado in place of dressing if able
Examples:
Subway has protein bowls now!
You can replace the high-fat, high-kcal dressings, mayo, or spicy blue cheese dressing with avocado or olive oil.
You can also ask for the dressing on the side. Choose grilled chicken instead of fried. Ask for additional proteins (egg, grilled meats, cheese) to meet your needs!

Chick-fil-A (one of the most popular fast food places amongst teens and my athletes personally)
Young athletes and adults will still go to fast food places and will yes, eat chicken nuggets. So, practical tips are something I am a huge proponent of. Would I rather you eat a grilled turkey cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread, spinach, and avocado slices with fruit? Yes, absolutely!  But the reality is …that won’t always be an option. So, read on for healthy options at Chick-Fil-A!
  • Choose grilled chicken nuggets instead of fried and pair with a salad (dressing on the side) and a fruit cup
  • Choose their Greek yogurt parfait or Egg white grill for breakfast
    • Nutrition information:
      • 90 calories, 9 g of fat, and 26 grams of protein
  • Another healthy option is the Chick-Fil-A Cool Wrap!
    • Nutrition information:
      • 470 calories, 24 g fat, 22 g carbs, and 43 g protein
  • A grilled chicken sandwich is also a wonderful option
    •  Roughly 380 kcal, 44g of carbs, and 28 g of protein!
    • You can ask for extra tomato and lettuce
    • If you’re concerned about consuming more protein and fewer carbs you can use half the bread. Bear in mind the bun is multigrain so it is still healthier than white as it contains B-vitamins and has not been stripped of its nutrients like most white bread.
    • Fruit cup instead of side salad or ask for dressing on the side and enjoy the salad.

When eating at a sit-down restaurant:

-Scope out the menu before going

Never go to the restaurant OVERLY HUNGRY! You will overheat and be unhappy with yourself.

Have a small snack before you go containing some protein. A few great choices would be:

  • 1/2 apple with some peanut butter
  • 1 string cheese with cucumber slices
  • Hummus and carrot sticks
  • 1/2 protein bar (travel remember)

-Meet your needs (protein, produce, portion)

-Ask for a box before the food arrives to have a plan to consume the proper portion. (Many restaurants often serve 3x the appropriate portion). Consume half of each of the food on your plate and put the remainder in the box to take home or put in your hotel fridge!


Concession stand/gas station eats

**Keep in mind convenience stores should not be your reliance as you will spend more money out of sheer convenience. Versus if you purchase these items ahead of time before travel you will save money and also not put yourself in a situation to be limited in making a healthy choice.

But should you need to stop without packing a cooler here are some healthy options!

-Nuts and seed bags (pistachios, walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds)

-Pick fruit (apple, pear, fruit cup, grapes, banana) and pair it with a protein bar (see above options)

-Hard-boiled eggs paired with fruit

-Cheese sticks

-Sparkling water, zero sugar Gatorade, flavored waters, propel ect. (avoid fountain sodas)

Beef or turkey jerky (watch sodium)

-Almond butter or peanut butter packs (Justin’s Almond Butter  or Jif)

-Hummus and carrots mixture

-Greek yogurt (Chobani is found at every gas station)

-Quest protein bars or RXbars (almost every gas station carriers these)

-Muscle milk, Fairlife Corepower protein shake, Shamrock Farms Rockin’ Refuel, and Organic Farms

 

In closing, failure to consume enough quality protein, carbs, and overall kcal will increase the risk of injury, decrease performance, hinder cognition, blunt focus, and limit the overall health athletic performance of the individual. Nutrition can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good. It is also important to lead by example if you are a parent or coach leading a group of student-athletes.

This blog offers several tools to fill your toolbox as a coach, athlete, parent, and beyond. I am passionate about helping both young student-athletes and adults live a healthy lifestyle. I kindly ask you to share it on social media pages as well as with your student-athletes.

Say a prayer for our government officials in office while you’re at it. Our world needs some extra prayers and kindness. As you know, I am a Christian-focused dietitian and am employed by Jesus Christ. This entire platform is used to help my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ nourish their temple. But for the goal of glorifying God. It’s all for Him.

In good health, safety, and athletic performance,

 

Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN

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

What can hiring a sports nutritionist offer your program? Learn more 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