Great question! I get this question from athletes all the time or from parents or coaches concerned about educating their athletes.
What to eat the night before any competition or event depends on many factors. Read on as I provide guidance for sports like ice hockey, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, lacrosse, American football, and track, and field.
It’s actually more important to be cognizant of what you’re eating and drinking in the days leading up to your game or competition. (Learn more here)
Avoid making common mistakes on intense training days or on competition days.
Consuming high-fat or high-fiber right before activity
My five tips to keep in mind when thinking about the night before game day
1.What you eat the night before any competition should be practiced in advance. I can’t stress this enough.
If you try new foods you could end up getting sick with stomach pain, cramping, or digestion issues, the meal could negatively affect your sleep, and ultimately end up disrupting your performance the next day.
Our clients and athletes learn through our coaching sessions that the meals and snacks consumed leading up to the event have a greater influence on performance than the meal consumed the night before.
2. Limit oils, too much fiber, and high-fat cuts of meat that take a great deal of time to digest and can prevent you from properly fueling up with carbs.
Too much fiber can also cause GI distress Your goal is to fill up glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates).
Consume a casein-rich snack like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, or string cheese paired with an apple or banana.
The casein (slow digesting dairy protein) will help repair and rebuild muscle while at rest.
A small serving of carbohydrates will top off the fuel tank roughly 45-60 min before bed.
Avoid caffeine, spicy foods, and fried foods.
Cherries and bananas have also been shown to support restful sleep. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin which helps you fall asleep.
Bananas are a great source of magnesium which is a mineral aiding in muscle relaxation. The perfect combo to help your muscles relax, recover, and for you to sleep well before your big game or competition!
NO NEW FOODS THE NIGHT BEFORE A GAME OR ON GAME DAY! I can’t stress this enough!
Practice foods and meals you want to eat the night before a game a week before to know “it works and feels good for you”.
What are the benefits of partnering with Nutrition with Wendi to help you with your performance or recovery?
” Wendi has helped me feel better going into games and camps and has assisted with my weight gain goal. I have gained a solid 10 lbs since we started working together and I have more energy during practice and training. My muscles aren’t as sore after games either.”
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, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. We provide virtual services including telehealth but are based in Nashville, TN. Follow us onTwitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information. Service
Failing to consume enough water can also increase your risk of heart failure. It is important to stay hydrated for basic philological functions supporting blood circulation, lubricating joints and tissues, digestion, metabolism, and muscle contraction to name a few.
Many people need more than 6-8 glasses of water due to higher body weight, activity, sweat rate, and also supporting a healthy metabolism. We recommend our clients and athletes consume a minimum of 80-100 oz of water per day. We advise checking urine color to help guide you in your water intake. If you struggle to drink enough water you have come to the right place! Our tips will help you increase your water with ease!
First off what are the symptoms of dehydration? Usually, when you wake up you are in a dehydrated state and for many who experience these symptoms listed below you are already dehydrated and it is time to make a plan!
Follow Wendi on Twitter for more graphics and tips
Water is the MOST important FREE health significantly underrated performance enhancement supplement. If you’re an athlete check out my hydration blog with Simplifaster here.
1. Wake up and drink water by placing a glass of water or water bottle by your bed. This strategy will enable you to have zero barriers to getting your hydration started for the day! Focus on consuming 10-16 oz upon waking. Especially if you are an athlete or working outdoors.
2. Set alarms on your phone to hydrate with 16 oz every few hours to shoot for a total goal of 100-120 oz per day (especially if you are an athlete or working outdoors). Another easy way to get in more water is to say 50 oz by 1 pm and another 50 oz by 7 pm!
3. Carry a water bottle or hydro flask that you can easily set water goals. I.e. 32 oz is a typical hydro flask that you can consume 3x/day.
4. Eat your hydration. Yes, that is right we can attain fluid and minerals from our fruit and veggies! Watermelon, grapes, berries, cucumbers, celery, carrots, cherries, and tomatoes are also super hydrating and a great way to get in your veggies for health too! You can also infuse your water with berries, lemon, lime, etc. which makes it tastier and offers antioxidants.
5. Electrolytes can be used to replace minerals lost in sweat. Dairy is also hydrating you could add Greek yogurt, milk, or cheese to meals to get in additional minerals. Cherry juice, chocolate milk, or Gatorade zero can also be a good option depending on your goals for added hydration.
6. Bring a cooler with you to stock with fruits and veggies. You can also pack additional water bottles to make sure you have enough fluid on hand in case of an emergency!
7. Hydrate with milk at meals and water in between! These tips help my clients and athletes stay hydrated! It is also important to consume 16-24 oz of fluid for every pound lost!
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. She is a former cross country runner, college softball player, figure competitor, and avid weight-lifter who still enjoys a good race from time to time. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Nashville, TN.
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.
A term you may see a lot of on social media lately is “food freedom”. This ideology, if you will, is combatting old practices of dieting and instead giving individuals the freedom to eat foods without having to eliminate certain food groups or the foods that they simply enjoy eating. Wendi and I share the same philosophy that all foods fit and we should never eliminate food groups as it puts us at risk for nutrient deficiencies. In this blog, I’ll discuss the meaning of “food freedom” and how to achieve it in 3 simple steps so that you can achieve freedom from food as well!
What does “food freedom” mean?
Food freedom can look different for everyone, however, I prefer to define it as the freedom to enjoy all foods without restriction. It means to have a healthy relationship with food without being stressed or guilty when indulging in the foods you love to eat. You’re eliminating the rules of dieting and embracing the joy that food brings to the table…no pun intended!
Is food freedom important?
I am guilty of trying a few diets and quick fixes in the past, but during each escapade, I always thought to myself, “Why must I eliminate foods that I really enjoy eating?” I first heard about food freedom in the midst of the pandemic when so many people were trying to improve their health and seeking out a new fad diet to help them achieve their goals quickly. I had friends who were following keto and carnivore diets and I would sit there asking them, “Well don’t you miss vegetables? Don’t you miss having a bowl of pasta?” and their response was always yes.
I understand why people are driven to try these diets out; they see others through social media or by word of mouth who have had major successes. However, we must remember that everyone is made differently. What works for one individual will not necessarily work the same way for you. This is a hard thing to swallow because we as humans naturally want to see results quickly and will try just about anything to achieve that. But what if I told you that you can still work towards your goals, whether they be to lose weight or pack on muscle mass, by eating ALL of the foods you love? Would you believe me? Finding freedom from food can alleviate so much anxiety that surrounds many people when they eat. By achieving this, we can boost our self-esteem while gaining confidence that we can be in a healthy mental and physical state without restricting ourselves from the things we enjoy.
3 steps to achieve food freedom
Eliminate 1 thing… diet culture!
Yes, I am encouraging you to replace a bad habit with a good one, something NWW offers in “Learn It, Lose It, Live It”, an evidence-based group program to help you stop dieting and start living! It’s the mentality that we must be constantly dieting to achieve our goals. We face many advertisements for dieting on television, in magazines, and through social media, so I challenge you to take a step back. Unfollow accounts that are diet-specific, throw out the magazines promoting the latest fad diet and change the channel when you start receiving the subliminal messages that you must diet in order to be healthy. Diet culture doesn’t want you to know the real truth about what can make you healthy in a natural way (check out Wendi’s blog entitled Strategies the Diet Industry Does Not Want You to Know to learn more). This is the beginning of taking a step in the right direction! Enroll in LEARN IT, LIVE IT, LOSE IT GROUP PROGRAM to gain the confidence you deserve (NEXT GROUP BEGINS JULY 18TH)!
Fuel your body with intent
If you have been dieting for a while, your body is going to need some time to acclimate to eating more food. Registered dieticians Wendi and Sydney recommend 20-30g at each and 10-15g during snacks, depending on your goals. Consume whole grains and plenty of leafy, green vegetables to increase energy and fiber intake. Also, be sure to stay hydrated which helps with weight management and helps flush out waste. If you need ideas for easy, delicious recipes, check out our Recipes page on our website.
Find enjoyable movement. Exercise can look different for everyone. Maybe it’s engaging in team sports, lifting weights, hiking, tennis, or yoga. Resistance training has been proven to burn calories even during rest. The important thing is to be moving in a way that is fun for you! Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Figure out what time of day you prefer to get your movement in and stick to a routine. It can help to have a friend join you and help with accountability. You can follow me on Instagram @lindsayd_nutrition to find a few workouts you can do at home or in the gym.
Hopefully this blog has given you some insight into the idea of food freedom and how to simply achieve it. It’s not going to be achieved overnight, because let’s be honest, diet culture practices were not achieved in a day either. Start small and work towards a new habit and goal as time goes on. If you need help finding freedom with food, book a FREE Discovery Call so that we can discuss your goals and develop a personalized plan for you. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
The race you have tomorrow has you thinking, what should I do tonight and tomorrow before?
Great question! However, it’s actually more important to be mindful of what you’re eating and drinking in the days leading up to race day.
What you eat the morning of race day should be practiced in advance. My clients and athletes learn through our coaching sessions that the meals and snacks consumed leading up to the event have a greater influence on performance than the meal on the day of.
You can’t expect to race at your best on the morning fuel along. You’ll have to plan ahead with balanced meals using my plate method. For additional ideas, check out my meal and snack guidance which also explains my “4-2-1” method. In the days leading up to your race prioritize plenty of lean protein and complex carbohydrates to provide you with the fuel you need.
Oatmeal with yogurt, whole-grain muffin, and peanut butter with banana slices
Roasted sweet potato with lean ground turkey in a whole grain wrap with hummus and raspberries
Whole-grain crackers with carrot sticks, and hummus
Whole-grain rice bowl with grilled shrimp or 3 oz of salmon tossed in roasted broccoli with diced avocado and fresh fruit
Make sure you’re hydrating properly as well. Consume at least 16 oz of water every three to four hours for 48 to 72 hours prior to your race.
NO NEW FOODS ON RACE DAY! PRACTICE FOODS BEFOREHAND ! 😊
Two hours before your race consume carbohydrates paired with a little protein. You want to limit fat and fiber because of the digestion time required for fat and the distress from fiber that could occur during your run.
You don’t want to eat too much for breakfast. Ideally, it would be better to eat a little bit more for dinner and an evening snack of maybe a power cup muffin the night before. Most feel so excited for race day it is hard to eat anything. But you need feel.
Something is always better than nothing. Even if its just some toast, berries, honey packet, or tart cherry juice you need some carbohydrates before you take off! Studies at the University of Memphis Exercise and Sports Nutrition Laboratory confirm that honey is one of the most effective forms of carbohydrate to eat just before exercise.Honey performs similar to commerical energy gels because of the glucose in gels.
GOOD LUCK and don’t forget to have fun! See the full post on Instagram
What are the benefits of partnering with us to help you with your performance or recovery?
” I highly recommend Wendi! I was at a transitionary period with training & was not fueling or recovering properly. Wendi’s advice on eating more protein + kcal has helped my performance &energy levels. Her guidance is credible and so helpful. Thanks, Wendi!”
**You can support Sammie’s mission to improve mental health awareness by donating or sharing her message with others. More information found here.
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN
is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. We utilize 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. She is a former cross country runner, college softball player, figure competitor, and avid weight-lifter who still enjoys a good race from time to time. Wendi provides virtual services including telehealth but is based in Nashville, TN.
Many people think they are doing the right thing by skipping breakfast and avoiding eating until they are ravenous. Skipping meals will lead to an imbalance in blood sugar levels (1). Skipping meals will also lead to overeating at the next meal but it’s not sustainable nor is it optimal for maintaining lean mass. We know lean mass helps burn more fat. Our blood glucose levels drive our energy, focus, concentration, and productivity to name a few (1). Focus on powering up with protein and produce at breakfast. Protein will help keep you satisfied and help regulate your hormones that control hunger.
2. Eliminating entire food groups and fad dieting
People go rouge and cut out entire food groups. Eliminating food groups is not a wise choice and is often a mistake I see many falling victims to as a dietitian. People vilify or demonize carbohydrates because of their sugar content. The reality is that successful fat loss comes down to a calorie deficit. You can most certainly eat fruit and still lose fat. Don’t listen to the misinformation from clowns demonizing fruit or even carbohydrates. Research supports carbohydrates as a critical part of a healthy diet as well as supporting weight loss goals (2). Carbohydrates provide our muscles and brain with energy. If you’re hoping to lose fat and crank up the intensity in the gym but decide to cut out fruit and carbohydrates, you’ll likely experience fatigue quickly. You don’t need to cut carbs or eliminate fruit to lose fat (3). Nutrition with Wendi fat loss clients does not cut carbs or eliminate food groups. If you’re interested in learning how to portion your carbs and a macronutrient breakdown, please contact me by booking a consultation.
3. Cutting calories too low or underestimating portions
Cutting calories too low too quickly will not only leave you feeling tired, depleted, cranky, and full of cravings it will also put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies. It’s also unsustainable to live off poverty macros in the 600-900 kcal range. No one should be going below 1200 calories per day. It is too low, not sustainable, and will put you at risk for unhealthy habits and a host of other consequences. One thing I teach my clients and athletes is that our methods and systems when working towards any goal must be sustainable or our results won’t be. Sure, you could slash your calories for a few weeks and lose a few pounds, but it will come back with a vengeance if you can’t keep it up. It is best to start off with a daily 200-300 kcal deficit which followed consistently will help you lose 1-2 lbs. per week and keep it off. Keep it off for good when done properly. 95% of people regain the weight they lose. See a great resource on how to build a plate here and consult with a dietitian to determine your individual calorie needs.
Studies suggest that people tend to misreport and incorrectly estimate how many calories they consume (4). Many think they are eating in a calorie deficit when indeed they are not eating in a calorie deficit. All Nutrition with Wendi fat loss clients record their intake and track their portions to facilitate self-awareness of calories and portions. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
For example, a person may report they are consuming one serving of almonds per day may but are actually consuming 2.5 servings unknowingly. This is often due to grabbing a handful between meals or throughout the day without any concept of true portion size. Handfuls and bites can add up quickly putting a person in a calorie surplus each day without even knowing it and then “expressing their efforts are wasted”. This is a simple correction of both a mindset and accurate tracking by learning serving size to support an honest leger of calories consumed.
Higher calorie foods like nut butter are important to measure out to you’re aware of the portion size. It is not obsessive to track your intake if you have a goal to lose weight. For example, if you and your family are planning on taking a vacation to Disney World you don’t just guess how much money you should save each month and eyeball your savings adding some money here and there from a paycheck or two and cross your fingers for the best. No, that would be reckless and not leave many of us with the funds to take a trip to Disney World with the family because we had no concept of a budget. To achieve your vacation fund needs you would identify a budget and allocate your funds accordingly by the week or month to ensure you have hit a designated fiscal goal. This is the same for our fat loss goals. Tracking and managing our intake is critical to be aware of what we are “eating” just like how much we are spending. If you’re not aware of your finances, you are likely to go into debt or be limited with your vacation or retirement options.
4. Not enough resistance training
When people want to lose weight, they quickly default to more cardiovascular exercise like running or more time on the elliptical. While increasing your cardiovascular exercise is good for heart health, stress management, and reducing the risk of chronic disease it is not the best form of exercise for fat loss. I’m not saying cardio can’t help but it is not as optimal as resistance training. Additionally, people often overestimate how many calories they burn during cardio, and it also does not offer the same muscle-building benefits as resistance training does. Cardio won’t help you lose fat and chisel your body in the way you desire. You need to lift weights. Resistance training burns more calories at rest and supports gaining lean mass which burns more fat at rest. This is referred to as (EPOC), which is the amount of oxygen required to return to its pre-exercise or resting state called post-exercise oxygen consumption. Read more about how resistance training helps raise resting metabolic rate in women in this 2018 study published in the International Journal of Exercise. Furthermore, having more muscle means a lower risk for sarcopenia. I have transformed my physique along with hundreds of others by prescribing four to five 20-30 min resistance training sessions per week paired. Strength training paired with daily walking and proper nutrition can lead to great results if consistently executed. Daily walking is a great way to manage stress, support digestion, mental health, and more. For fat loss resistance training is the best form of exercise (5). The more cardio you do also the hungrier you may feel which can lead to overeating which won’t help you sustain a calorie deficit to lose fat. Not to mention all the added load and stress on your joints and tissues become quite taxing and unsustainable. If your methods to losing fat aren’t sustainable your results won’t be. Research recommends combining both aerobic exercise and weight training for optimal results.
5. Not eating enough protein
Too many are skimping on their protein which is leaving them chronically hungry and unable to ever satisfy themselves (7). There’s also a great deal of misinformation that if we eat more than 20 g of protein in a meal it will be stored as fat. This is not true and has been dispelled in a position paper published in the (JISSN), Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. We use what we need and for many that is more than 20 g at a time. Optimal protein intake should be broken down between meals and snacks to best support satiety, muscle growth, and muscle maintenance. For more read the JISSN Position Stand Paper featuring diets and body composition. A great way to enhance satiety and consistently eat in a calorie deficit is to increase protein intake at meals and snacks. Ideally, a good place to start would be at least 25g to 40 g of protein at a meal, along with 10 g to 15 g of protein at snacks. I have several resources on how to increase your protein with specific guides on my Instagram,Twitter, and blogs. For more on this see my previous blog on consuming greater protein for fat loss.
If you want to lose fat and gain lean mass you must be willing to reduce your calories appropriately, eat sufficient protein, be consistent with resistance training, sleep 7 to 9 hours, consume fluids and focus on quality movement or quantity. As a reminder, if your methods aren’t sustainable your results won’t be. What is measured is well managed are both important concepts that must be at the forefront when making changes to your nutrition, sleep, workouts, and more. Manage your calories like you would manage your finances if you’re climbing out of debt. Keep in mind that improving by one percent each day can add up over time. Compound your good habits and be consistently aware of what you are eating and how much of it you are eating. If you need help creating a plan to support your fat loss goals, please schedule a consult, or sign up for nutrition coaching! We will get you where you want to be without making the mistakes listed above.
In good health and many blessings,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LDN, CISSN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LDN, CISSN is a registered dietitian nutritionist, healthy lifestyle coach, former college athlete, physique competitor, and avid weight lifter. 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.
Nas, A., Mirza, N., Hägele, F., Kahlhöfer, J., Keller, J., Rising, R., Kufer, T. A., & Bosy-Westphal, A. (2017). Impact of breakfast skipping compared with dinner skipping on the regulation of energy balance and metabolic risk. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 105(6), 1351–1361. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.116.151332
Hall, K. D., & Kahan, S. (2018). Maintenance of Lost Weight and Long-Term Management of Obesity. The Medical clinics of North America, 102(1), 183–197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.012
Brown, R. E., Canning, K. L., Fung, M., Jiandani, D., Riddell, M. C., Macpherson, A. K., & Kuk, J. L. (2016). Calorie Estimation in Adults Differing in Body Weight Class and Weight Loss Status. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 48(3), 521–526. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000796
Aristizabal, J. C., Freidenreich, D. J., Volk, B. M., Kupchak, B. R., Saenz, C., Maresh, C. M., Kraemer, W. J., & Volek, J. S. (2015). Effect of resistance training on resting metabolic rate and its estimation by a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry metabolic map. European journal of clinical nutrition, 69(7), 831–836. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2014.216
Brown, R. E., Canning, K. L., Fung, M., Jiandani, D., Riddell, M. C., Macpherson, A. K., & Kuk, J. L. (2016). Calorie Estimation in Adults Differing in Body Weight Class and Weight Loss Status. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 48(3), 521–526. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000796
Antonio, J., Candow, D. G., Forbes, S. C., Ormsbee, M. J., Saracino, P. G., & Roberts, J. (2020). Effects of Dietary Protein on Body Composition in Exercising Individuals. Nutrients, 12(6), 1890. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061890
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? 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 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
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 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
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!
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).
Should my teen athletes be supplementing with creatine?
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:
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?
The science suggests creatine is most effective immediately post-workout when paired with protein and carbohydrate (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?
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.
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 and 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!
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 tell you any different.
In good health health, and physical performance,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD CISSN
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!
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
Have you ever felt “out-of-control” in areas of your life that you know Jesus wants you to be better in? I am not talking about attending church or worship here. Yes, you should absolutely attend regularly and seek His word. You should also read the bible regularly. What I am getting at is your daily habits, financial management, sleep hygiene, exercise routine, eating habits, and what you turn to in times of stress to “cope”.
Proverbs 15: 22 tells us,” Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers, they succeed.” I am not a pastor, but I have been called by God to speak up and to grow His Kingdom through physical health, nutrition, and overall inspiration. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I can provide you, counsel, on making healthier choices within your lifestyle to support your physical health. You do not have to do this alone. As a healthy lifestyle coach, I can support you as part of your counsel. I want to help you gain control of your health and fitness.
Drawing awareness to our current situation. In times of crisis and despair, we may allow our physical health to go unchecked. We may come up with excuses like “I am too busy, I don’t have time, I have too many meetings, I have to take care of my children and everyone else.”
For every excuse or limitation, you express for neglecting your physical health, there are several motives to address your health.
Your longevity in life will be cut short with poor health
Your mind, agility, stamina, and performance are affected by what you consume, and the amount of physical activity completed.
As a parent, spouse, son, daughter, brother, sister, leader, manager, employee, and follower of Christ you are called to be an example. How can you expect others to be focused and perform their best if you do not?
Physical and spiritual energy can rise with greater health and fitness. If you realize you are feeling more sluggish, tired, and low energy you are not alone. This pandemic has brought on a whole new level of challenge and crisis.
Your body is a temple and if you have been a poor steward lately, I want to tell you, “it is OKAY”. It is not okay to realize it and do nothing about it. The more you turn to unhealthy food, alcohol, sedentary lifestyle vegged out on the couch in front of the news or Netflix with a bag of chips the more likely you will be less convicted to follow the Lord. In fact, you may find yourself being tempted by satan to do more “unhealthy things” because they temporarily feel good and distract you from dealing with the reality at hand.
When we do neglect our body, we are neglecting the Creator’s creation. I want you to love yourself and respect the body that Christ gave you to live in. Jesus is the Creator of our physical bodies, and it is within our bodies that we serve others as He calls us to do. If you are too tired, sick, and disease-stricken because you have been a poor steward of your habits then you’re unable to support your family and ultimately serve our Lord. Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. You are forgiven regardless of what you do but you must “repent”. I am not here to preach you must “eat perfectly”, exercise every day, and live a “perfect life” because we know that does not exist. Again, we were born into sin and we will never be perfect.
Scripture speaks of many reasons to maintain health and even has guidelines to not only build a healthy body but to maintain it. We live in a fallen and broken world. It is much harder to resist the devil and follow Jesus if you are not physically well. When you are too tired, fatigued, and ill you are more susceptible to further sin, poor relationships, and reduced life.
Here are my tips as a Christ-centered dietitian that is biblical to support your physical health
Eat the Rainbow and Consume a Balanced Diet Prioritizing Quality Foods
Learning “self-control” with certain discretionary foods that lack nutrients. I am not saying do not eat cookies or dessert. I am expressing the importance of consuming quality foods first that support healthy body weight. It is important to maintain a healthy weight as we age to support overall health and well-being. For more on maintaining a healthy weight please check out the National Institute of Health (NIH) fact sheet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also has some great resources on eating well and eating right for a healthy weight found here .
Please check out my website for various recipes to keep you and your family fueled and healthy! I have also written a blog on effective strategies for losing weight in a flawed industry. Please check out the blog here .
As it is written in scripture, Thessalonians 4:4, “Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” Jesus created you and you should want to respect the body He gave you. Again, you do not have to be perfect and have a “six-pack” but you should maintain a healthy body weight to honor God’s creation.
1 Timothy 4:8 states, “Physical exercise has some value.” I think Paul would agree in today’s world exercise has significant value. People use to work hard on the farm, walk everywhere and the forms of transportation were not available back in the day. Today, everything is as convenient. We are more sedentary, many on the average struggle to get the minimum recommendation of physical activity. It is a blessing and a curse that you can have anything at your fingertips. You can even have food and groceries delivered right to your door. We drive everywhere, we do not take the stairs, and park too close to our offices. If you struggle to walk up the stairs with pain or are out of breath you may need to work on your fitness.
Commit yourself to regular activity. Walk more, park further away from your destination, and take after-dinner walks. See my previous blog for more simple ways to increase your fitness appropriately to reduce the risk of injury. Remember too much too quickly can lead to muscle strains and then further limitations to get healthier.
Limit Alcohol or Avoid Drinking Altogether
So many are turning to substances like alcohol in times of crisis. It is leading to greater disease, poor health, and the ultimate demise of many relationships. One of them being your relationship with Christ. Ephesians 5:18 states, “Don’t get drunk with wine, which will ruin you. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” This scripture should encourage you to evaluate your relationship with alcohol. During times of crisis and stress do you find you consume greater wine, beer, and other forms of alcohol instead of turning to Jesus? Do not get drunk on alcohol, instead get drunk on the Holy Spirit.
In my personal experience, I have lost some of my closest loved ones because they have turned to alcohol instead of the holy spirit. These amazing people lost life of wellness, joy, family, and authenticity. It is debilitating to support someone and watch them struggle with their addictions only to see it be their demise because they refused to understand they had a problem. If you feel shame that is not Jesus, that is the devil. Be sure to get Jesus back on your throne. There is no shame or guilt when we turn to God to express our sins. If you are reading this and feel convicted to get drunk on the Holy Spirit instead of win, I am proud of you. I am cheering for you. It is not easy but, “With God, All Things Are Possible” Matthew 19:26.
Addiction to substances and alcohol can be debilitating. If you or someone you know struggles with alcohol encourage them to seek help. It is never too late to turn your life around. It is more than just your thoughts you must control, but your actions. Admitting you have an addiction and seeking help and the Lord to get sober is possible. If you are able but unwilling to admit you have a problem, then no one can help you. But if you seek the Lord and those around you no one can stop you. Do not turn to the red one who will tempt you but the Lord.
He will save you. As it is written in James 5:15-16 “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Sleep is not a luxury
Sleep is one of the most important factors in supporting good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting adequate quality sleep can help safeguard your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and even safety. Your food choices, attitude, productivity, and even your cognition can be affected by your sleep patterns according to the Sleep Foundation. Children between the ages of 6-14 years old need roughly 9-11 hours of sleep. Adults between the ages of 18-64 years old need approximately 7-9 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, we live in a society where it is a “badge of honor” to work as many hours as possible on as few hours of sleep as possible. This is what is referred to as “The grind” in sports performance. Psalm 127:2 tells us that, “In vain you rise up early and stay up late.”
No one feels healthy or makes good choices when they are sleep deprived. In fact, as you know sleep deprivation can lead to poor dietary choices, auto accidents, injuries in sport, and illness. A person not getting enough sleep will experience fatigue, irritability, mood changes, and poor memory recall according to the Centers for Disease (CDC) and Sleep Medicine. Our brain and bodies can struggle to function when we go for several days without quality sleep. Again, without sleep, we run the risk of making poor choices, having loose lips, a tongue that may not speak in kindness, and increase our risk for chronic conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and more according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute .
God desires you to get rest. Rest is so important that Jesus placed ‘rest’ within the Ten Commandments. In Mark 6:30-32, Jesus pleaded that His disciples take time to focus on restoration. Jesus stated, “every seventh day, you should rest.” Sundays should be allocated to time with Jesus and refraining from work.
For more information on the importance of getting enough sleep and hours per stage of life please check out SleepFoundation.org .
I pray this blog has provided you with some clarity, comfort, motivation, and has sincerely convicted you to make a conscious effort to be healthier. I believe wholeheartedly Jesus wanted me to write something invaluable that is biblical. This article is just the start of what is to come. In the last few months I have opened my eyes and ears to the way the Lord has shown up in my life. Jesus has been desiring me to integrate His work into my work as a female business owner. My ministry is nutrition. I was a non-believer up until 2012 when I found Jesus and began a relationship with Him. Never would I have never imagined I would write something like this, but I am so grateful I did.
Health is so much more than being “fit” for a race, sporting event, physique competition, or looking “good” on a vacation. Good health and fitness is about stewardship and taking pride in caring for your body. Loving the skin you’re in. Looking in the mirror every day and saying “I love myself because you love me and created me, Jesus”. If you’re a Christian you know Jesus loved us so much that He gave up His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus, to redeem the sins of the world. Yes, the entire world of believers and non-believers.
If you’re a non-believer reading this. Please open your heart to God. I know it may seem scary or that Jesus doesn’t care about you. Or that you are in control of your life, not Him. I get it, I was there. I was you and I remember saying “Jesus doesn’t care about me or my problems”. That’s the Devil. Open your heart to Jesus so that He can help you. What’s the worst that will happen? Will he change your life? Yes, not only will He comfort you but if you allow Jesus into your life He will put you back together in ways you can’t on your own. This will forever change your life in ways science can’t explain. The only regret I have was not turning my life over to Christ sooner. But that’s the beauty of God’s Grace, He loves us no matter how many times we turn our backs on Him or choose “our will” over His. Jesus isn’t interested in perfection or performance. Jesus just wants your heart and mine.
Use this article as a soft nudge to focus on being healthy to be a better disciple of Jesus as a mom, dad, grandparent ect. you will experience a better quality of life. Focus on being strong and healthy to provide for your family instead of that six-pack. I hope you feel equally convicted to improve your health as I did in writing this.
If you enjoyed this blog, please share it! Please also check out my other blogs for inspiration and healthy eating tips available HERE ! Additional tips guidance, tips, tools, and strategies on being healthier please follow me on social media. I am active on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more nutrition information. You can also learn more about the various telehealth services if you desire to work with me by clicking HERE .
Wendi is a devoted Christian, registered dietitian, writer, speaker, performance nutritionist, and healthy lifestyle coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to create nutrition programs so athletes can optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, special needs, and recreational athletes and organizations to eat and fuel for success. Wendi also works with the general population on healthy eating. In addition to lifestyle coaching, she makes her rounds presenting across the country and even in Canada. Wendi has presented at various conferences and clinics. To name a few, the University of Regina in Canada, the University of Northwestern in Iowa, Northwestern State Clinic, Michigan State High School Strength and Conditioning Association clinic. Wendi is a former college athlete, with over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. Wendi earned both her B.S. and M.S. at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and has spent time learning from several professionals in the field along with an internship at the University of Florida. Wendi operates her private practice virtually and remotely but is based primarily in Grand Rapids, MI.
Research shows that even just 150 minutes/week of physical activity for adults can not only treat chronic conditions like cancer, type II diabetes, and heart disease but can also help prevent them according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
All adults should complete 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 min of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or some equivalent combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week according to the World Health Organization (1).
Your gym may not be open, but you can still get a great workout at home using simple household items to add resistance or weights if you have them.
Some simple tips for exercising:
Use gallon milk or water jugs can work as weights to do lunges or over-heard presses.
Take the stairs whenever possible and be sure to park a further distance to gain extra steps from your office or destination.
Canned goods in your pantry can work to do shoulder presses, lateral and front raises, or even just hold them walking up and down your stairs.
Bodyweight exercises including push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and other yoga exercises
Aquire weights from a local gym, Facebook Marketplace or online
Take a walk outside every day and find hills to serve as an incline to raise your heart rate
Subscribe to a coach, yoga studio, or online platform for bodyweight exercises to stay on track
The goal is to remain active and move as often as possible. The dangers of physical inactivity can take a toll on your health in as little as two weeks according to a McMaster University study. The researchers found that reducing daily steps to less than 1,500 – comparable to those who are housebound during the pandemic for just two weeks can reduce an older person’s insulin sensitivity by as much as 1/3. Additionally, those who are 65 or older lost as much as four percent of their leg muscle.
There is this real illusion that we cannot control anything right now. This is not true, it may feel that way, but you are 100% in control of your ability to walk, stretch, eat well, drink fluids and practice mindfulness in the presence of God. God is in control, but you must show up and be willing to allow Jesus to protect you and bless you. That means we cannot lay in bed or sit on the couch expecting God to make us money or pay our bills. You must be a good steward of His Kingdom. Mindfulness creates a pause, allowing us to experience optimism and true gratitude when we do not have the ability to change the situation. What we can do is choose to remain calm and focus on what we can control. Mindfulness is a practice and the more you practice the better you get at being connected to yourself and most importantly peace of mind. Remember, God is in control, but we must choose to remain calm.
Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience has indicated that 30-minutes of meditation can improve any depression symptoms which include anxiety and chronic pain (2). Some simple ways to practice mindfulness is to take a moment or two to pause each day in complete silence. Lie down, close your eyes, and put your hands on your belly. Focus on being present and work on keeping your mind quiet. Bring awareness to how you are feeling.
Another great way to meditate is to journal and write down your emotions. Being more self-aware will also help you make healthier choices in times of stress. The pandemic has left us tired, fatigued, and confined to our homes which many have mistaken for hunger.
Pray, journal, complete yoga, or stretch each morning thinking about all the blessings and gratitude you have for just simply being alive. I like to wake up each morning and have a small pep talk with God. I express my sincere gratitude for His blessings but also express my objectives and concerns for potential challenges the day may bring. As a Christian God can help guide you and keep you calm during the many storms.
Consuming a healthy diet is essential during all phases of life, but even more so now during COVID-19. Be sure to eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables at each meal along with quality protein sources. Many may feel stressed and turn to comfort foods during this time but these high sugars, caffeinated, and alcohol will increase anxiety, stress, and even worsen mental health (3).
I talk about many ways to eat a well-balanced diet and remain healthy during quarantine in a previous blog found here.
Do your best to pick out your favorite fruits and veggies at the grocery store. I always work with my clients on building a colorful and balanced plate at each dining session. A byproduct of eating nutrient-dense foods is that your brain is satisfied and naturally you will crave less junk food. If you are feeling stress, try reaching for a Greek yogurt parfait with peanut butter and berries. Try some dark chocolate with banana sliced paired with peanut butter.
What we eat directly affects our immune function. The 8 key nutrients to focus on for healthy immune function are vitamin C, E, A, D, folic acid, iron, selenium, zinc, and protein (3) All of which you can attain through eating whole foods and balanced meals. A few key immune-supporting foods include:
Red bell peppers
Nuts and seeds
Avocado and olive oil
Right now, is not the time to turn to a detox, fad diet, or a famous influencer who lacks credibility for nutritional guidance. If you want to clean up your diet and make healthier choices consult with an expert such as Registered Dietitian. If you’re desiring to eat well, learn proper portions, and meal plan please sign up for a Service on my website. For additional tips on staying healthy this holiday season please check out a previous blog found here.
A healthy mind is a healthy body. Focus on what you can control during these difficult times. Keep your eyes on Jesus and the cross. This too shall pass.
In good health and wellness,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN
Al-Ansari SS, Biddle S, et al World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020;54:1451-1462.
Masana, M. F., Tyrovolas, S., Kolia, N., Chrysohoou, C., Skoumas, J., Haro, J. M., Tousoulis, D., Papageorgiou, C., Pitsavos, C., & Panagiotakos, D. B. (2019). Dietary Patterns and Their Association with Anxiety Symptoms among Older Adults: The ATTICA Study. Nutrients, 11(6), 1250. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061250
Catherine E. Kerr, Matthew D. Sacchet, Sara W. Lazar, Christopher I. Moore, Stephanie R. Jones. Mindfulness starts with the body: somatosensory attention and top-down modulation of cortical alpha rhythms in mindfulness meditation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2013; 7 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00012
Maggini, S., Pierre, A., & Calder, P. C. (2018). Immune function and micronutrient requirements Change over the life course. Nutrients, 10(10), 1531. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101531
It seems like everyone is on a diet these days. In fact, many have spent their entire lives trying to lose weight and are chronically dieting. According to the CDC nearly one-half of adults have tried to lose weight within the last 12 months. So, what gives? If everyone is dieting why are we also facing obesity and weight gain across the world? According to the CDC the prevalence of obesity in 2018 was 42.4%. Does that surprise you? How can this be? Let’s look at another shocking statistic. The weight loss industry grew at an estimated 4.1% in 2018, from $69.8 billion to a whopping $72.7 billion. The market is now forecasting growth of 2.6% annually through 2023 according to the Food Research & Action Center .
So, why are facing rising obesity numbers? Why are so many dieting yet not being successful? What if products, programs and organizations do not want you to lose weight? What if they are not giving you the right information to make the best choices for a sustainable diet? The diet industry is full of myths, misinformation and premium trash guidance. People are often instructed to do all sorts of expensive, reckless, restrictive, fear driven and crazy things that lack merit, evidence and efficacy. However, there are several effective strategies that are evidence based when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle and shedding those pounds for good. I am going to share them with you today. Something I work closely on with my weight loss clients is basic, fundamental habits for life-long health that are sustainable. Remember, if our methods are not sustainable our results won’t be. It is time to get back to the basics, with healthy habits.
1.Consume whole eggs for breakfast
Eating whole eggs, yes, the yolk included has a surplus of health benefits which also include weight loss and weight management. Studies have illustrated that eggs can help decrease the number of calories consumed in the next 36 hours as well as lose greater weight and body fat (1). Another more recent study found that after consuming eggs for breakfast, overweight and obese subjects had a lower energy intake in comparison to eating cereal for breakfast (2).
If you do not love eggs, that is totally okay! The takeaway is that a high-quality source of protein and healthy fat for breakfast will more than likely keep you satisfied, help with calorie control, reduce cravings and feel more energized than the traditional breakfast cereal or grain.
Great quick & nutrient dense breakfast option (Avocado, egg scramble with spinach, Greek yogurt, berries and peanut butter).
Being aware and mindful of appropriate portions of protein, fat, carbohydrates and even refined sugars is key for eating less to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. Counting calories isn’t fun and can be quite tedious so learning appropriate serving sizes of the main food groups is the best way to be successful whether you are out to eat, on-the-go, at home, or at a birthday party. I work with many to understand the value of their portions and how it affects their choices and even sleep later.
A simple guide for each meal:
Healthy fats: 1 tbsp. (thumb as a serving size)- oils, butter, avocado, cheese, nuts, seed oils
High-quality protein: 3-4 oz. (deck of cards as a serving size) – fish, chicken, lean beef, turkey, tofu, beans, dairy and pulses
Vegetables and fruits: 1 cup or half of the plate
Whole-grains: ¼ of the plate- whole grains, 1/3 cup of oatmeal
Context is key as always, those that are more active, athletes or require greater energy needs due to infections, wound healing or other situations where more energy is needed such as oncology. You can’t manage what you don’t track so it is important to be mindful of portions and in many cases keeping a food diary, taking photos of your meals or tracking in an app to help you lose weight (3).
You are more likely to choose a healthier food if you’re aware of how many calories are in something. For example, measuring your serving of peanut butter. Many assume they are consuming the serving size but in fact they are doubling it. 2 tbsp. of most peanut butters are 190 kcal, imagine if you are consuming 4 tbsp. in a sitting and doing that every day, every week of every month for a year. This equates into an additional 190 kcal/day which can lead to 1,330 kcal unaccounted for at the end of the week. Weight-gain is inevitable if you are consuming more calories than you are burning. 3,500 kcal are equivalent to one pound and this could easily be the case for many without being aware of portions
3. Always keep a cooler in your car along with healthy snacks to fill it with
Having nutrient dense foods available and accessible can help prevent you from eating something lower in nutrition and higher calorie should you become hungry. As you have learned, protein is important for increasing satiety and can help manage your weight.
Some great options to keep on hand include:
Hard boiled eggs with carrot sticks
Turkey roll-up wraps in spinach
Peanut butter and celery sticks
Cheese slices and green pepper slices
Sliced bell peppers and hummus
Cottage cheese with banana slices
Berry spinach protein shake
Apple with to-go nut butter
Greek yogurt parfait with berries in a to-go container or mason jar
4. Combine resistance training and aerobic exercise
One of the biggest myths out there is that lifting weights makes you “big” or bulky. Studies have shown that resistance training increases your calories burnt at rest (resting energy expenditure), supports lean mass and when combined with aerobic exercise is an effect fat loss strategy (4, 5). Resistance exercise is critical for building healthy strong muscles and bones as well as decreasing your risk for disease later. Resistance training also increases muscle growth when combined with appropriate protein intake. Another study involving 40 post-menopausal women were able to decrease their body fat combining resistance training and a higher-protein diet (6).
The research supporting resistance training and aerobic exercise provides great motivation to get moving! If you’re interested in engaging in activity or ramping up your exercise regimen for the first time be sure to work with a qualified fitness expert who holds a credible certification or has experience as a fitness professional to develop you a plan. Please contact me directly for guidance on a fitness program!
Also, please look at one of my power lifting clients, Molly who dropped > 30 lbs. through proper diet, aerobic and strength training. Her great progress photo is shown. Molly worked daily on creating healthy habits, consistency with her protein intake and managing portion control. Her physical transformation is inspiring, but her mental and spiritual growth is second to none!
5. Follow a high-protein diet
According to the American Heart Association, adults trying to lose weight and maintain weight loss should eat no more than 30% of total daily calories from fat and less than 7 percent from saturated fat. Currently, the recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a measly 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. The RDA refers to the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. Many confuse the RDA and how to make recommendations to their patients, client and athletes. The RDA is really the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick, not the actual amount you should consume each day. For example, an average adult should consume roughly 25-30 grams of protein per meal, according to Protein Summit 2.0. Furthermore, research by the Protein Summit 2.0 indicated that 1.0 -1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day is beneficial for healthy metabolic function.
I have written about the low RDA for protein and why more is needed to sustain muscle and health in a previous blog published on my website, here . Growing research has indicated following a high-protein diet can help people lose weight, improve body composition, build lean mass, increase satiety and help maintain a calorie deficit over time to further support weight loss maintenance.
By eating more protein, 25-30 grams per meal can help reduce hunger, suppress appetite which can help decrease undesired snacking leading to a calorie deficit. When trying to lose weight it would be beneficial to replace excess carbohydrate choices with high-quality protein snacks like Greek yogurt, string cheese, hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, turkey slices or even protein shake. Research is mixed on the precise figures, but the available research has supported protein has a much higher thermic effect compared to carbohydrates (20-30%) and (5-10%) respectively (7).
Lastly, consuming a casein rich food before bed can also help support muscle growth, recovery, appetite suppression, weight loss and weight management. Casein is the main protein in milk products, and it is considered a “slow digesting” protein. Not to be confused with whey protein isolate which is a fast digesting protein that should be consumed around training sessions and can serve as meal replacement during times of calorie restriction (8). Since casein protein is slow release it can reduce the rate of digestion and support fat loss. Not only does more protein help increase satiety and energy expenditure but it can also help with appetite suppression in the later hours. A study found that taking casein before bed resulted in 25% higher satiety levels the following day (9). Greater satiety will yield greater results when it comes to weight loss.
Ever notice you tend to move less, have limited motivation to do much beyond your daily work tasks, eat more unhealthy foods that are high in sugar or even calories when you do not sleep well? If you’re feeling sleepy at work, you grab another cup of coffee and the cookies in the pantry hoping for a “burst of energy” but actually makes you feel even more tired. You then later skip your usual walk breaks and even the workout you had planned to do. If this is you, you are not alone. Sleep debt is like a high interest rate credit care that if it continues to accumulate you will not be able to pay it off and you crash.
Think you can catch up on sleep lost and it will not affect you or your weight? Think again, a study examined moderate sleep restriction on body weight, body composition and metabolic factors in individuals following a caloric restricted diet. The study found that one hour of sleep restriction on five nights per week led to decreased proportion of fat mass loss despite restricting calories (11).
Insufficient sleep derails your weight loss efforts in many ways. Leptin is the hormone that controls your appetite, and when you are sleep deprived you have less leptin. A surplus of grehlin plus little leptin is a fast track or weight gain. A 2010 study found increased hunger, a shift in energy use, less calories expired and less weight loss in participants who slept 5.5 hours (10).
It’s more than safe to say there is a connection between sleep and weight. Strive for 7 or more hours each night to support good energy levels, metabolism, food and activity choices and overall health. The industry will say, “sleep is for the weak” just take this pill, but you know now know differently.
7. More water, especially before meals
Many are very aware how important water is for health, wellness, weight loss and appetite control yet it is commonly touted that you shouldn’t consume water before meals. A study found that drinking 500 mL of water 30 minutes before each meal combined with a calorie-controlled diet led to greater weight loss in overweight and obese middle-aged adults (12).
Water is essential for nutrient and oxygen transportation, lubricating joints, regulating body temperature, protecting organs and tissues, dissolving minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to your body and helping the liver flush waste products (13).
Work to increase your water intake upon waking by having a 8-20 oz. water bottle by your bed.
Strive to consume 16 oz. before meals.
20 – 24 oz. of water between meals
10 oz. before bed to support good digestion
Increased water intake is associated with better weight control and weight management (13). So drink up!
We need to stop relying on poor information given out by celebrities, influencers who lack credibility. Instead of spending money on pills, powders, challenges and false promises invest in your daily habits. Get more sleep, drink more water, learn portion control, eat balanced meals and stop giving up on yourself. Take control of your habits and implement the strategies in this article that the diet industry doesn’t want you to know. Sustainable weight loss is about controlling your appetite and consuming more protein and getting rest is a simple way to do it! The secret is out, and it is not the next celebrity cleanse. Your habits should support the future you are trying to create. If you are ready to stop saying “day one” or “one day” contact me, and let’s work together to create a plan for success!
In good health,
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN
Wendi Irlbeck, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, and performance coach. Wendi utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. She partners with parents, sports performance staff, and special needs and recreational athletes to offer nutritional guidance and optimal athletic performance and lifestyle plans. Wendi works remotely and currently operates as a traveling dietitian. Wendi works with clients of all levels and ages across the US as well as Canada and the UK. You can find more about Wendi and scheduling an appointment with her on her website .
Follow Wendi on Twitter and Instagram for nutrition, health and fitness inspiration.
(1)Vander Wal, J. S., Gupta, A., Khosla, P., & Dhurandhar, N. V. (2008). Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. International journal of obesity (2005), 32(10), 1545–1551. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2008.130
(2)B Keogh, J., & M Clifton, P. (2020). Energy Intake and Satiety Responses of Eggs for Breakfast in Overweight and Obese Adults-A Crossover Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(15), 5583. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155583
(3). Burke, L. E., Wang, J., & Sevick, M. A. (2011). Self-monitoring in weight loss: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(1), 92–102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.008
(4) Ho, S. S., Dhaliwal, S. S., Hills, A. P., & Pal, S. (2012). The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC public health, 12, 704. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-12-704
(5)Hunter, G. R., Byrne, N. M., Sirikul, B., Fernández, J. R., Zuckerman, P. A., Darnell, B. E., & Gower, B. A. (2008). Resistance training conserves fat-free mass and resting energy expenditure following weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 16(5), 1045–1051. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2008.38
(6) Miller, T., Mull, S., Aragon, A. A., Krieger, J., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2018). Resistance Training Combined With Diet Decreases Body Fat While Preserving Lean Mass Independent of Resting Metabolic Rate: A Randomized Trial. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 28(1), 46–54. https://d6 oi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0221
(8) Kinsey, A. W., Cappadona, S. R., Panton, L. B., Allman, B. R., Contreras, R. J., Hickner, R. C., & Ormsbee, M. J. (2016). The Effect of Casein Protein Prior to Sleep on Fat Metabolism in Obese Men. Nutrients, 8(8), 452. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8080452
(9) Ananda Hochstenbach-Waelen, Margriet AB Veldhorst, Arie G Nieuwenhuizen, Margriet S Westerterp-Plantenga, Klaas R Westerterp, Comparison of 2 diets with either 25% or 10% of energy as casein on energy expenditure, substrate balance, and appetite profile, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 89, Issue 3, March 2009, Pages 831–838, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2008.26917
(11) Wang, X., Sparks, J. R., Bowyer, K. P., & Youngstedt, S. D. (2018). Influence of sleep restriction on weight loss outcomes associated with caloric restriction. Sleep, 41(5), 10.1093/sleep/zsy027. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy027
(12) Handbook of Non Drug Intervention (HANDI) Project Team (2013). Pre-meal water consumption for weight loss. Australian family physician, 42(7), 478.
(13) Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews, 68(8), 439–458. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x