Wilfredo Benitez, MScN, M.Ed.: Adapting Your Nutrition Strategy

Share This Article


About this episode:
In this week’s episode, Hillary interviews performance nutritionist Will Benitez and discusses with him nutrition’s role in performance, adapting your fueling strategy for injuries, and managing stress.

Guest Bio – Wilfredo Benitez, MScN, M.Ed.:
Wilfredo (Will) Benitez is a performance nutritionist located in Portland, Oregon, USA and is the owner of his nutrition coaching practice On Pace Wellness, LLC. Will believes that nutritional optimization is a process that involves sustainable behavioral changes and practices accordingly. Will works primarily with athletes but also with those who enjoy or want to enjoy an active lifestyle, helping them to optimize their nutrition to elevate performance and health. As a performance nutritionist, a certified running coach, and an athlete himself, Will understands the athlete’s mindset, what it’s like to pursue athletic goals, and how to balance the pursuit of those goals with other responsibilities. He is passionate about helping his clients strike the necessary balance to make the nutrition coaching process result in sustained nutrition habits that are effective for the client’s goals.

Will earned his Masters Degree in Nutrition Science in 2017. He lives in Portland with his wife, Valentina, who is a naturopathic physician, and their dog and two cats.

Read More About Wilfredo Benitez:

https://www.onpacewellness.com/

https://twitter.com/WillBenitez21

https://www.instagram.com/onpacewellness/

Episode Highlights:

  • Nutrition’s role in performance
  • Fueling for injury recovery
  • Strategies for managing stress

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform


Episode Transcription:

Hillary Allen:

So, welcome to the Training Right Podcast, today I have Will Benitez, how are you?

Wilfredo Benitez:

I’m doing very well, Hillary, how are you doing?

Hillary Allen:

Great. Yeah, it’s so good to have you on. Yeah, I mean, we’re a world apart right now, I’m over in France and you’re … Where are you based again?

Wilfredo Benitez:

I am in Portland, Oregon. Yeah, a great place to be, I love this city and we’re relatively okay here not many cases, and I’m sure I don’t even have to explain what that means now, I feel like everybody knows what I’m talking about. But yeah, and I know France was a scary place to be for a while, how’s it going over there?

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, it’s getting a little bit better, we still have pretty strict rules in cities, we have the quarantine or in french it’s called [French 00:01:14] so confinement, which I think seems so sweet. They’re a little bit [inaudible 00:01:20] but yeah, no, we’re doing okay, I’m secluded in a cabin, I’m living here with my boyfriend. His family, they have a house that’s basically in a small village that’s pretty self-secluded anyways. So we’re pretty safe, I feel like we’re in a bubble, but we still have pretty strict rules, we have to go, it’s like 500 meters from our house if we want to go running, if we want to go to the grocery store we have to sign a permission slip. Yeah, so it’s pretty strict, but actually, this is part of the reason why I really wanted to talk with you, so you have your own nutrition company it’s called One Pace Wellness.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), On Pace Wellness, yeah.

Hillary Allen:

On Pace Wellness, sorry.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Nope, no worries.

Hillary Allen:

And I think the reason I wanted to talk with you specifically about kind of, as our lives are changing as athletes, yes, sure, here in France maybe my life has changed like my training schedule has changed a little bit, but I wanted to talk with you to kind of get your expert opinion for athletes when they’re going through changes in activity level. Whether that’s right now when we’re dealing with the global pandemic where athletes are forced to spend less time outside, or because we’re managing work and family and everything like this. Or whether that’s of injury or an off-season, so before we get into those specific questions, I just want to hear from you about what got you into this business and what inspired you to start your own company?

Wilfredo Benitez:

Yeah, sure. So, appreciate the question, I was actually a teacher, funny enough, before I became a nutritionist, I was a school teacher, fourth and fifth grade, here in the states is elementary or primary school. And I did that for a little bit and my wife actually go into medical school, so we moved across the country, we were in New Jersey on the East Coast and we moved across the country to Portland, Oregon for her to go to medical school and I thought, “You know what? I’m ready for a change too.” I loved kids, still do, but being a teacher in school just didn’t seem like the fit for me, if I thought long-term. I’ve identified as an athlete for a very long time and I was always into nutrition, and college got me into nutrition more and I decided, “Hey, let me go back to school and study nutrition science.” So I came across a program at my wife’s school, actually, at her medical school, and got all my requirements done and started that program and I’ve been in my own business now for three years or so.

Wilfredo Benitez:

And for me, why I decided to do it was I come from a family with a lot of health issues, rampant throughout my family, and our healthcare system on the East Coast, or maybe just in my state, but I think it’s more a United States-wide issue, isn’t exactly the best when it comes to prevention and care that actually makes you better. In a way, I feel like a lot of our care is not focused on prevention and a lot of it is focused more on bandaid type of care where you’re just throwing stuff at the symptoms to kind of pause the symptoms or reduce the symptoms. And then when something else comes up or when it gets worse, you’re just throwing another medical technique or another medication at that issue, and it’s never really getting to the underlying issue. And I just saw that so much with so many family members, and there’s no way that that wouldn’t influence me in some way in my life. Now with me going into nutrition, it really inspired me to want to help people understand nutrition and how it can help their bodies, and how it can help their health.

Wilfredo Benitez:

And then with my athletic background, it just kind of made sense for me to also do that plus get into more sports nutrition and work with athletes, and not even just to help them perform better, like achieve certain marks or run their best race, or do their best on the field. But to also have their bodies perform better because when I talk about performance, I don’t just mean athletic performance, I mean, let’s get the athletic body to just perform better and then they’re going to become a better athlete. So yeah, it was kind of inspired by the family, by just our current healthcare system not probably being the best that it can be, and then my wife also, she’s a naturopathic doctor right now, and it’s more kind of what people might call holistic medicine or natural medicine, it’s in that realm. She’s a primary care physician, so she’s a fully licensed doctor practicing natural medicine, and that’s what I want to do with nutrition. I want to be that kind of holistic or natural route for people who want to get their bodies to perform better.

Hillary Allen:

Oh man, I love that. So, my dad, he is a food science human nutrition researcher, so he’s not a nutritionist, but he goes at it from like, he’s studied fatty acid and lipid metabolism, metabolic pathways on a cellular level. So, we’re nerds in a different way, so I’ve actually really always been interested in nutrition itself as well, but I love what you say about having a holistic approach. I mean from, obviously, your wife’s influence but also just your family background because I believe so many ailments, they can’t really be fixed by Western modern medicine as we kind of know it in the United States, like overmedication, it’s mostly natural things. It’s so funny, as a coach people ask me like, “Okay, so recovery, what’s the best thing for recovery?” I’m like, “Eating well, did you eat after your workout?”

Hillary Allen:

They’re like, “Oh, I feel tired today, I wonder what it is.” I’m like, “Let’s look back to yesterday, how soon after did you refuel after you did this workout?” Yeah and I think honestly, it’s cool that you chose to focus on athletes, but I think everyone can be an athlete, it doesn’t have to be just if you’re a nutritionist for athletes, that doesn’t mean they’re all elite athletes. Everyone, every human can be an athlete and is an athlete in my opinion.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Yes, I completely agree with that. I actually try to not call myself a nutritionist for athletes or like, “Oh, I work with athletes.” Because there are people who are active, who may not identify as an athlete even though I would say that they are an athlete. So, I don’t want them to think like, “Oh, I can’t help you.” Or, “I only work with elite athletes, you’re not an athlete.” That’s not the case, I help the body perform, I consider myself a performance nutritionist, and sure yes, I work with athletes and elite athletes, and Olympic athletes even, but I can help active people just be more active, help their health in other ways. Help them maybe to start to identify as an athlete if that’s what they want to do. Yeah, it really just comes down to body performance, I read something, and this is kind of a tangent here, but it’s super quick.

Wilfredo Benitez:

I read something in a book recently, and it was like, “If you’re going to help athletes perform …” I’m definitely paraphrasing here, “If you’re going to help athletes perform the best they can, they have to be the healthiest person that they can be.” Right?

Hillary Allen:

Yeah.

Wilfredo Benitez:

So it’s like you have to have a healthy body first regardless of what you’re trying to do, regardless of if you’re trying to get to the Olympics, or be the best CEO possible, or be the best lawyer possible. Your body just needs to be as healthy as it can be for you to do whatever you want to do, and so it’s like do that first, achieve that first and then you can worry about the nuances of everything else, and that really stuck with me.

Hillary Allen:

I love that, and also I love tangents, so that’s okay because I mean, I didn’t even plan to ask you this question, but how much of your work as a nutritionist do you … Obviously, as athletes, we want to have a healthy body and I think a lot of people think like, “Okay, performing high levels, especially like Olympians, you have to eat right, you have to have dialed nutrition plan.” But as a nutritionist, do you think that there’s a mindfulness, and how much do you think emotional and mental health kind of plays into that being your healthiest body?

Wilfredo Benitez:

So much. Yeah, I mean, I could leave it right there, so much does mental health play into, and mindset, mindset, mindfulness, mental health, play into that, play into the body’s ability to be the healthiest that I can be. I see it very often, especially when I’m working with more of my higher-level athletes, where there’s just a lot more pressure around their sport and performance, whether it’s their professional career, so obviously there’s a lot of pressure to perform, of they’re just trying to get to that next level and they’re putting a lot of pressure on themselves. But with that comes a lot of stress and anxiety, and like I said, rightly so, that’s their career, it’s not just a hobby for them, and I see like, “Oh my gosh, you’re eating really well, but you’re still having these digestive issues or you’re still not able to have your weight budge in any which way.” And when I talk about weight, I usually try to do it in the healthiest manner possible.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Whether that’s weight up or weight down, but still, I see some barriers that come across when even though they’re eating super healthy, really as a nutritionist I can quality that they are eating very well, something doesn’t seem to be clicking for them. And then I dig in some more and I learn about all the stress that they’re carrying, and this anxiety that they’re dealing with on a regular basis and I’m like, “Whoa, those are barriers in and of themselves, just to let you live your best life, they’re barriers.” But they really do have bio-physiological effects on the body. They can really impede some processes that are normal from happening or speed up other processes. Stress can really affect your hormonal production, and your endocrine system and that alone tells you that it can impact many things, one obvious thing that we see impacted the most is sleep.

Wilfredo Benitez:

If you’re not going to sleep well from this anxiety and stress, then there’s no way you can recover your best, there’s no way your body’s going to perform at its best. So yes, to your question, mental health and your mindset, your approach can really impact any of your goals, so that also needs to be, not necessarily dialed in, but it should definitely be attended to. So it’s funny, as a nutritionist, I have my initial consultations with clients, and in my intake, I always ask about sleep and I ask about stress, and sometimes I get questions like, “why are you asking me about sleep?” Or, “Why am I scoring my stress levels?” And I like, “Well, this stuff matters, I can’t be the best nutritionist I can be and only focus on food if you’re living this high-stress life or if you’re constantly anxious about things, or if you’re not sleeping well, I don’t want to ignore those things because those are real, those are part of you.”

Hillary Allen:

I know. So we just started working together, and so selfishly I’m like, “Okay, I need to put you in a podcast because there’s so many things that I want people to [inaudible 00:14:51].” But that was on thing I noticed about the intake for as well, and for me, for someone who is a coach, I understand if I’m trying to get my athletes to be the best performing that they can be it’s not just that I need to prescribe the right recipe of workouts, it’s also up to them to be able to recover well, eat well, to sleep well. But then I also try to take into account it’s like, we’re not robots, we’re human beings with emotions and stress, and it does crazy things to your body, and I think the best policy with that, at least what I’ve found as a coach and even working with you as a nutritionist is being honest about that fact. And it’s also one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to you today is about how your nutrition should change when stress ramps up and even at the same time, stress ramps up and training kind of has to ramp down.

Hillary Allen:

And I feel like that can cause anxiety for a lot of people, so basically, I guess, yeah, how does someone’s nutrition, or an athlete’s nutrition change when they have to kind of make these life adjustments to enter an “off-season”?

Wilfredo Benitez:

Right, right. This is a big question, Hillary, I knew it was coming because we talked about it beforehand, but there’s so much here, there’s so many different even scenarios, and I feel like the listeners each have their own scenario. Like there’s the person who has to be kind of completely on pause for whatever reason, maybe they’re tending to a loved one who’s sick or maybe they’re sick, or they don’t have exercise equipment at home and they can’t get outside. So there’s that scenario and they just have completely went from training almost every day to nothing, I’m sure there are people out there who have gone through that. Then you have the people who are injured, they can only do limited activity, and so there’s some activity but they’re not completely on pause but definitely a shift from what they were doing. You have people who are just dealing with a lot of mental anxiety from everything going on right now, and they’re kind of in a whole nother boat, like maybe they are on pause from their exercise routine but they’re dealing not just with that, but they’re dealing with the serious mental anxiety that a lot of people are dealing with right now with everything going on in the world.

Wilfredo Benitez:

So I think I just name three or four different scenarios and I’m sure there are so many more, there are people who they aren’t getting outside as much, maybe they don’t have a treadmill, so maybe they’re not running as much, but they are doing a bunch of strength workouts and high-intensity HIIT routines and working out in other ways. So, clearly, a lot of different scenarios, and honestly, each one of them is going to require a different nutritional approach than whatever their norm was because it’s a shift. It’s a shift from what they were doing, and probably what they were doing for a long time, that probably was their routine. If they were runner, for example, they run five, six days a week, they were probably doing that for a while, now all of a sudden they made this massive shift to doing something else three or four days a week. So regardless of the scenario, it involves a shift and so yes, their nutritional approach should also shift and kind of match their needs, but it really does look different.

Wilfredo Benitez:

So, I’ll probably tackle a few here, I definitely wanted to tackle injury, like what should be done nutritionally if they’re dealing with injury which, COVID-19 aside, is probably something that can be really helpful for people, and I also wanted to address, very lightly, the anxiety and stress piece. And then I guess I can kind of lump the other scenarios that are out there into just runners, since you’re a runner, I’m a runner, we can just talk about someone who is running or someone who identifies as doing that kind of activity to all of a sudden doing more strength stuff. Because I see a lot of it on social media, a lot of different kinds of at home body workouts, so I feel like a lot of people are shifting towards doing it, and honesty, ill be honest myself, I’m doing a lot more strength work than I probably have been doing in the last year, I feel like because I am home and I can take advantage of my equipment that I have here at home.

Wilfredo Benitez:

So I, myself, am doing a lot more of that, so that’s probably my third scenario that I’ll address, does that sound good?

Hillary Allen:

That sounds perfect, and yeah, I’ll just let you go ahead and dive in.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Let me go.

Hillary Allen:

[inaudible 00:20:11] I’m going to take notes, just kidding. But yeah, no, I think that that’s wonderful because there’s a lot of tidbits in there, and then yeah, of course, it’s specific to everyone, but again, I think it’s kind of a good refresher for everyone to just review and see where they fit in. So I’ll let you take it-

Wilfredo Benitez:

Yeah, sure, and … I will, I’ll take it away, but please chime in, I want this to be a conversation piece because you’re an athlete, and I know your story too, the injury piece, you lived it. So if you have at any point something to weigh in on, please chime in, I’d be happy to talk it over with you here on this podcast. Okay, so I, like I said, lightly touch on the anxiety and stress piece, so with that clearly comes this need … We can’t get rid of stress, I’ll start with that, stress is almost like an energy, you can’t get rid of it, you can help to manage it, you can reduce it, and reducing is even a tough word to use because I don’t know if you actually reduce stress, I just think you get better at managing that stress. Whether it’s really a mental approach to managing that stress, or just the body’s own physiological approach to managing that stress, so it’s not even about let’s reduce stress, it’s like, how can we help the body cope with that stress and how can we have that stress be less of an impact on you because you’re doing these different techniques?

Wilfredo Benitez:

And especially when that stress leads to anxiety, so whether you have anxiety from not being able to exercise and what’s going to come from that, or anxiety from having all your races canceled, or just anxiety from this very real and scary virus that’s taking over the world. What do you do when you’re in these moments with regards to nutrition? So the first thing that you need to do is just eat well, it’s really that simple, you really do need to just make sure that you’re getting all of your vitamins and minerals in your diet. Making sure that you, from a calorie perspective, you’re getting all your calories that you need, not necessarily being calorie-restrictive, or overeating, just nourishing your body with proper nutrition. Before we get into the nitty-gritty and before you focus on all the nuances, just make sure you’re eating well, so if you are dealing with a lot of anxiety and stress and you also eat a lot of processed foods or eating a lot of takeout, maybe now you can’t do the takeout piece because a lot of restaurants are closed.

Wilfredo Benitez:

That is probably a really big benefit to you, it’s kind of forcing us to go to the store and buy our own foods and learn how to cook or cook different recipes, just prepare food differently and nourish our bodies differently. So I think that’s the first thing we need to do, is just to nourish our body with more wholesome whole food, a lot more plant foods that can give us the phytonutrients and the antioxidants that our body needs to kind of manage this stress because when this stress is rampant in the body, there’s a lot of oxidative stress that occurs inside of us. And people have probably heard of anti-oxidants before at this point, it was a buzzword probably eight or so years ago but now it’s probably pretty mainstream. Anti-oxidants are from our foods and when we ingest these anti-oxidants, they actually help to combat and reduce that oxidative stress that can come from just a high-stress mindset or a high-stress lifestyle.

Wilfredo Benitez:

So, that is what we need to do first and foremost is just nourish our bodies with just wholesome, whole plant foods. Second, I think, would be to reduce a lot of processed foods. So if you’re going to the store, it can be so easy, especially now to grab the chips and grab the sodas or the pops and all the high sugar or highly processed foods that do have a kind of soothing effect on our mindset. They’re comforting in that way, but they’re not really exactly nourishing to the body, do as best as you can to reduce some of those, I’m not saying you can’t have those chips or you can’t have the ice cream or anything like that. But don’t have that be what you’re resorting to in times of stress, a best as you can, try to nourish your bodies with these wholesome plant foods. The other thing that I wanted to touch on here with anxiety and stress, that scenario, is herbal medicine, herbs can be hugely important and helpful for these times right now, and whether that is just drinking more herbal teas.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Or going out and ordering or going to a pharmacist and buying liquid extracts of teas, or capsules of certain herbs or botanicals, depending on what they are, and maybe you want to work with someone on this, reach out to a doctor or a herbalist or a nutritionist who understands it, herbs can be really, really helpful for helping to manage anxiety and stress. So you might think of ashwagandha, for example, ashwagandha’s a pretty popular one when it comes to reducing stress and helping out with sleep and getting the body to be more calm. Lavender is another popular one, there are all these different herbs that can really have these impacts and effects on the body, and I think maybe-

Hillary Allen:

[inaudible 00:26:11].

Wilfredo Benitez:

Oh, yeah, go ahead.

Hillary Allen:

I mean, no, sorry, I’m thinking about for sleep and recovery, tea is also a good routine, that’s also part of nutrition, it’s like sleep hygiene, I love drinking tea before I go to bed and I love one with fennel in it, and people think it’s old lady tea, but I love it. But no, it’s just simple things like that, it’s a [inaudible 00:26:38]. But sorry, continue, keep going.

Wilfredo Benitez:

No, but I love that you’re chiming in because I want to kind of reduce whatever those negative connotations are around drinking tea before bed. I was like that too, not that it had a negative connotation, but I didn’t drink that much tea before bed until my wife got me into tea, and now it’s just a thing that happened. It’s not even a ritual anymore, although it is, but it’s second nature, we just drink tea, maybe two cups, before bed every night. We have our bedtime tea, or nighty-night tea or whatever the case is and it’s like chamomile or there’s valerian root in there or passionflower, all these different herbs that are really helpful for calming the body, getting it into more of a parasympathetic state, and just really helping to induce better sleep. So-

Hillary Allen:

Because [inaudible 00:27:34], that’s considered nutrition, and I think that that’s what sometimes people need a reminder of, it’s these little, small things. I mean, in my history as an athlete, I think I fell into this back when I was at college, you’re thinking of a calorie standpoint, but really it’s more complex and nuanced with different details. And that’s why I think it’s always just super refreshing to talk to a nutritionist, like an expert who can kind of help you out with all the little details that are involved.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Right, exactly, yeah, and herbs are one of them. I don’t, by any means, call myself a herbal expert or a herbalist, but I studied herbs in school, and my wife as a naturopathic physician, studies herbs and uses herbs all the time. So, my education I think would be a little bit better than other nutritionists or dieticians, or just people who don’t really understand herbs, so at the very least I can talk to them a little bit, and I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it with clients, I’ve seen it with myself, just how they can be really helpful for people so I’ll wrap it up this scenario with take this time to, even if you don’t know anything about herbs and you’re not sure if you want to just jump right into using them, learn about them. Do some online research, maybe get a free consult with a nutritionist or something like that, or a herbalist and just talk, or maybe your friends who really use herbs and now you’re really interested in their knowledge and just learn more about them and how they can actually help you because again they can be really helpful during this time.

Wilfredo Benitez:

So I think, yeah, for the person who’s kind of stuck right now or on pause right now due to anxiety and stress, I really think nourish your body, reduce or get rid of the highly processed foods as much as you can and then yeah, maybe look into herbal medicine as something that can really help you. And I think yeah, tea, if herbal medicine kind of scares you or makes you uncertain, just think of herbal tea, and it’s maybe a lot easier to digest in that way. Okay, next scenario, Hillary, is the injured athlete-

Hillary Allen:

Oh, I’ve been there too many times.

Wilfredo Benitez:

You have, you have, and if people who are listening to this and don’t know your background, maybe this will get them to look you up and read your story in the tons of article that articled that are out there, heck, I’ll throw this out there for you, maybe they’ll go ahead and pre-order your book that I know is coming out sometimes soon, right? August, I think?

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, August, if it’s not sidetracked by all of this stuff.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Oh my gosh, right, right.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, but I mean, it’s your interview, but before we talk about the injury piece, I’ll just kind of start it out with, the first thing that I had a problem with when I was injured was like, “Holy crap, it’s a huge change to my routine.” I was used to [inaudible 00:30:46] literally at peak shape, I was in racing season and then I couldn’t run, I couldn’t move, I could not even walk for three months and my instant concerns were, I mean, as an athlete it’s like, “Oh my gosh, am I going to gain weight? I can’t do any activity, how is my body going to change?” My mind was racing, but the craziest thing was how incredibly hungry I was all of the time when I was injured. But yeah, anyways, those were my fears going into it, I was just afraid of the change in routine, but then what that meant for my metabolism, and if I all of a sudden had to start eating like a bird because I was this injured athlete, and I was surprised it actually wasn’t the case.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Right, right, yeah, most people are surprised by that, and I’ll talk to that a little bit too. I do want to, just before I get in here, I want to mention that I’m not talking about the nutrition for the injured athlete who had surgery or anything like that and is on certain medications that essentially suppress appetite because there are definitely those. I’ve worked with those athletes before, they’re just not hungry because they’re on these painkillers or other kinds of medication that really just do that, they suppress the appetite, so I’m not exactly talking to those athletes, I’m more talking about the injured athlete who is essentially injured for whatever reason but just not using any kind of painkillers with appetite suppressant side effects. So you mentioned the calorie piece, so let’s just start with that, so a lot of athletes, when they get injured, or people in general, you get injured and you become more sedentary, and you worry about the weight gain.

Wilfredo Benitez:

And rightly so, it’s very common to see more weight gain when you’re sedentary, so you go from this person who was active all the time, to now not being able to do as much or maybe anything at all, and yeah, that’s one of the first things that comes to mind, maybe like, “When can I get active again?” And then right behind that, “How much weight am I going to gain?” Or, “What do I do about my weight?” And one of the things that they try to do to kind of have that not be an issue or less of an issue, is they try to restrict calories. So your kind of situation aside, Hillary, where you were just always hungry, I’ll touch on that in a second, but for these athletes, I see it so commonly. They try to restrict calorie intake to reduce the weight gain and what they’re doing there is, depending on how they’re doing it, it obviously depends on the severity or intensity of their calorie restriction, but if you do it to the extent where you’re just not giving your body enough calories or nutrients any more, you’re going to slow down healing.

Wilfredo Benitez:

So when the body is injured, it actually needs just as much or even possibly slightly more compared to your expenditure, and so there’s a whole thing we can get into there. But it needs slightly more or just as much calorie intake because it’s healing because it’s actually going through a lot of different healing processes that are energy-dependent, it uses and burns more energy and the only way for that whole process to function properly is if it has the energy to use to do that. So if you’re constantly in this calorie-restrictive state, that process, and this could be months long where the body is trying to recover from injury, that process for those months or weeks or however long it is just isn’t optimal. It doesn’t have the calories and energy that it needs to heal properly, so yes it’s going to keep healing, but it’s just going to be slowed down due to the restrictiveness of the energy coming in.

Wilfredo Benitez:

So that’s one thing I try to get athletes or just people in general to understand is I understand wanting to reduce the tendency for weight gain, but do so in a way that doesn’t also slow down healing. So I work with an athlete with their own specific injury and with their own specific calorie needs, to find what it is that we want them to be making sure that they intake on a regular basis still, with injury needs in mind. So that’s a really important piece I think people don’t get, is they do need those calories to keep healing going. And then to your own experience where you mentioned you were hungry all the time, even though you were sedentary, you could not move, yet you found probably to your surprise, that you were just constantly hungry and you did not have the appetite suppressive effects. I can’t say exactly what was going on there because I wasn’t working with you then, I don’t know what you were eating like or what was going on there.

Wilfredo Benitez:

But I do see this sometimes, and what I find in those people who are just always hungry, despite not doing anything really, is one, maybe they’re not eating enough, two, even if they are eating enough, they’re eating differently than they were, which makes sense. But what they might not be getting enough of is protein, so protein is very much needed when we’re healing, all those different amino acids, think about it as an athlete, you recover from the protein that you get from your post-workout, you ingest protein, you ingest those amino acids, they recover and repair the tissue damage, that’s how you adapt and heal. Same thing when you’re injured, you want a little bit more protein in your diet than was probably previously in your diet, and that’s because the body is using all those amino acids that make up those proteins to heal pretty directly. So it needs more of it because it’s not just doing it to repair normal damage, but it’s healing wounds, it’s healing bone injuries, muscle injuries, whatever the case is.

Wilfredo Benitez:

And when we don’t get enough protein, we can see a kind of spike in that hunger, if you’re not getting enough protein we see people just being more hungry in general, and it makes sense, maybe for you, I can’t speak to again 100%, but maybe you weren’t getting enough protein in your diet at that time and you were just feeling really hungry like you weren’t satisfying your hunger with whatever you were eating. So that’s a possibility, but that-

Hillary Allen:

And also [inaudible 00:37:46] pretty much everything, so my body was trying to heal everything. But yes, you’re right, and again, I don’t know and actually, that’s kind of what prompted me to be more in tune, is after all of these injuries that I’ve had it’s like, “Okay, I want to optimize my recovery.” But then also, weirdly, through that time I learned to trust my body again, and be like, “Oh, my body is going to tell me what it needs, I just have to listen.” And then after that, yeah, it just made me more interested in the whole process of being like, “Okay, I mean, my body’s just been through something traumatic, I want to treat it the best I can, so let’s figure out of there’s any cracks or holes in the whole system in the process.”

Wilfredo Benitez:

Sure, sure, yeah, and you’re right, your body was literally healing everything. So, it did probably require a lot more protein than someone who’s nursing an injured ankle, or a hamstring strain or something like that, right?

Hillary Allen:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Wilfredo Benitez:

And then there are other nutrients-

Hillary Allen:

Which is [inaudible 00:39:01]. Sorry, no I mean, I think in any injury, it doesn’t have to be super severe, I mean, it’s like any injury is a disruption in routine and stress, and we can relate that to kind of what’s going on now in our whole global pandemic. So, any injury is significant, it doesn’t have to be as extreme as my case too-

Wilfredo Benitez:

Right, right, 100%, yeah, exactly and if it’s your case or the injured ankle, yes, you are going to need more protein, you are going to want to make sure you’re not restricting your calories to allow healing. So, obviously, there are varying degrees of this, but it’s still applicable, right?

Hillary Allen:

Yeah.

Wilfredo Benitez:

And then the other thing, there are all these specific nutrients that you might want to pay attention to as the injured athlete. So, to name a few you’ve got zinc, vitamin A and vitamin C, and actually, I’ll throw in Omega-3 fatty acids in there too, but what these nutrients are doing is they can be involved very specifically with repairing tissue damage or reducing inflammation in the body, vitamin A is a pretty important anti-oxidant, so it’s reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in that way. Zinc is really important for connective tissue healing and protein synthesis, so making sure zinc is sufficient in the diet is important for that reason. So you do have these specific nutrients that have all these really cool roles when it comes to injury healing, I kind of love it, and so again, going back to the anxiety, when I talked about that scenario is you want to be making sure that you are still nourishing your body. So, being super calorie-restrictive might not be the case, and it’s not even necessarily just for the calorie part, it’s because when you are calorie-restrictive, people tend to not get enough nutrients.

Wilfredo Benitez:

So, when you do that, again you just slow down that healing process, and so if you’re just not sure, if you’ve been injured for a while and you just feel like it’s not healing properly, or things are off still, reach out to someone to kind of work with you on this because again, there are so many different nuances. Every person is different, the injury cases are varied, but nutrition is so, so, so important for injury recovery, and injury rehabilitation. So I do want people to pay attention to that, and I hope that they got a little bit something there if they’re dealing with injury right now, even if they’re just inspired to learn more about nutrition for themselves or to reach out to someone. I think that’s going to be really helpful for them, and then, Hillary, I think the last scenario here that I mentioned was, I think if I’m remembering correctly, it’s the athlete who, they’re running a lot or swimming a lot of cycling, or on the pitch all the time.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Whatever the case is, moving their body in so many ways, and then now they’re stuck at home, maybe they don’t have a treadmill, maybe they don’t have a stationary bike. They clearly don’t have a pool, unless they have a backyard pool, which is great, I envy them, and they’re just doing more strength workouts. A lot of strength routines or HIIT, or high-intensity interval training at home, it’s very different, they’re so active, which is great, and maybe even more active than they were, maybe they’re burning more calories than they were doing before. But it’s different, it’s a shift from what they were doing and now their activity looks very different than previously. So, to match that, your nutrition also needs to shift because you’re using different … Possibly, depending on what they’re doing, but you’re maybe using different energy systems.

Wilfredo Benitez:

So your body is going to be requiring, essentially, different energy intake to kind of match what you’re doing and to kind of recover in other ways. So, for example, the person who’s just on full rest at home, they were running all the time, they don’t have exercise equipment at home, for those people, yeah, it might be a little bit less of a caloric intake because they’re just not burning as much anymore. So they don’t need as much calories coming in as they were when they were very active and running outside all the time, but here’s the thing, to go from running and active outside all the time to now kind of on full rest, that’s a shift in the body. The body doesn’t know exactly that that’s happening right away, so that person, in the beginning, is going to still be very hungry, and the body’s going to be requiring all this intake, or at least signals that it’s giving is like, “Give me this food, give me this food, give me this food.” Because it’s used to that and there’s a time period that the body needs to go through to realize, “Oh, wait, I’m actually sedentary now.” Or, “I’m not doing as much.”

Wilfredo Benitez:

So in that interim where the body is telling you to eat the same amount as you were eating before even though you’re not doing as much, what I encourage people to do is increase their protein intake, maybe increase their fats a little bit because what those two macronutrients do is kind of satiate the body much better and they help with that cellular signaling and it also kind of helps keep blood glucose down from the carbs that are ingested. So all of those effects that come from eating fat and eating protein a little bit more in the diet when you’re on this full rest, allows your body to say, “Hey, okay, I can slow down here, I don’t need as much calories coming in.” And it allows it to adapt to the new normal that’s happening. So instead of just eating all the carbs that you might have been used to when you were super active outside, again, shift that diet a little bit, include more fats, include more protein, reduce those carbs just a little bit and within a shorter amount of time you should see and feel a shift happening where now you’re more okay with a little bit less calories than you needed before.

Wilfredo Benitez:

So again, those are for those full rest or more rest, just less activity kinds of people, and now for those people who are doing more strength, and again those high-intensity interval training kind of workouts, and maybe again, they’re running less, they’re cycling less, they’re swimming less, again, less carbs in the diet. The body, in those other scenarios, they need more carbs, the body needs more glucose the glycogen to get through those kinds of training, those workouts. It’s using more or a carbohydrate driven energy system, but now if they’re doing more strength, they want and they can afford more protein in the body because the body needs to recover from the different kinds of workouts that they’re doing. If they’re doing more of the high-intensity interval training, they’re burning a lot more fat. Yes, they’re burning carbs, but they’re burning a lot more fat in those workouts, so depending on what their goals are, they might love that and don’t want to ingest more fat.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Or they want more fat, especially if they’re a female athlete and they do need a good amount of fat intake in their body for their hormonal system to be working properly. So if they’re doing a lot more high-intensity stuff, then they probably do want to have more protein and fat still also in their diet and less carbs in their diet. The other shift is having, especially if you’re inside more and you’re not outside expending as much energy, whatever carbs you are having, play around with this idea, having more of those carbs around your training. So whether that is before, during or after your training, keep as much as you … Maybe not as much as you can, but more so than you were doing, have those carbs be around training and they’ll get utilized better by the body and therefore we won’t see as much of a carbohydrate storage happening where excess carbs are just going to get stored as fat. So if you are waiting two hours after your workout and you’re eating this big, huge meal and a lot of it is carbs, whether it’s potato driven or a lot of rice, or a huge thing of oatmeal because you’re hungry because you waited so long after your workout.

Wilfredo Benitez:

So you’re eating these massive amounts of carbs, which is great, you do need those carbs, but because it’s so much excess, most of that is just going to get stored as fat, all that excess is just going to get stored as fat. So what we want to do is time it appropriately where you’re just getting more of those calories in closer to your workout, more of those carbs in closer to your workout, they’re going to get utilized more properly by the body for recovery purposes or for fueling purposes and then we’ll see much less of that excess being stored as fat. So there is a nutrition timing component to this shift that’s happening to the people who are, they’re still active but they’re active in different ways, and maybe even less active than they were. Maybe they need to focus on the nutrition timing piece to make sure they’re getting that right too.

Hillary Allen:

It’s so interesting to me … Oh, are you there? Sorry. It’s so interesting to me to see how the body can actually change over the different types of workouts that you’re doing, it’s so cool to me, it’s like a living and breathing plant experiment, which is really what it is.

Wilfredo Benitez:

It really is.

Hillary Allen:

A friend of mine, it’s so funny, I gave him so much crap for this because he was getting into strength training and he was doing more strength training, he’s like, “Oh my gosh, Hillary, I had a banana before I worked out and I felt amazing.” And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, Chris, yes,”, “Strategically placed carbs.” Is what he said, I’m just like, “Oh my gosh.”

Wilfredo Benitez:

I love that.

Hillary Allen:

I know, I was giving him crap I was like, “I eat bananas all the time, Chris, this is my fourth banana of the day.”

Wilfredo Benitez:

Right, right. Yeah, I love that phrase, I might borrow that phrase, tell Chris thank you in advance for that phrase. I just go with nutrition timing and all that, but strategically placed carbs, I like it a lot because that’s so important, I have an athlete recently, he’s an elite athlete, I’ll just say that he’s an elite athlete, super active. Two days, double days, whatever you want to call them, and he was telling me that from his kind of more running-based workout, two days a week he would go into, 15, 20 minutes later, into a strength routine. He goes to a gym and he does the strength workout, but he wasn’t feeling it, he just wasn’t feeling great, wasn’t feeling like he had the energy that other people did and I was like, “Well, after your workout, what are you doing in between? Are you eating anything? What are you eating?” He goes, “Oh no, I only have 15, 20 minutes, so I don’t eat, I drink some water and I just go to my strength workout.”

Wilfredo Benitez:

And I was like, “Well yeah, of course, you don’t have any energy because you just did this hour-long intense workout, this running based workout, and then you did nothing, you drank water which is great, but you didn’t ingest any-other calories and you are going to do this 30 to 45-minute strength workout, of course, you’re tired.” I need to tell him, or I have told him, but I want to use that phrase now like, “We’re strategically placing your carbs in this 15, 20-minute window, and yeah okay, you’re not going to have a bowl of oatmeal in that window. But you can have a banana, you can have an orange or some dates or some kind of carbohydrate intake to get some of that energy back.” Yeah, it’s amazing-

Hillary Allen:

That’s so funny because I always give him so much crap, but no, it is true. So, I mean, you’ve answered so many important scenarios and questions and I think I was going to ask you a question, but it might be a loaded one about what’s your best advice for an athlete for nutrition? But maybe we should just leave it at that, strategically placed carbs, or-

Wilfredo Benitez:

Strategically placed carbs.

Hillary Allen:

[crosstalk 00:51:52] about timing, like we should be able to contact you. So I guess to end, I’d like to just ask, so if athletes want to learn more about your business or nutrition in general, can you give me some idea of how to contact you?

Wilfredo Benitez:

Oh my gosh, yes. So, website is obviously great, has a good amount of information on there, so that’s onpacewellness.com, that’s www. O-N P-A-C-E wellness.com, and actually a little bit on that, so On Pace kind of came from running. We talk about pace a lot we talk about like, “Hey, are you on pace?” I’ve heard that phrase just so many times and I was like, “You know what? I’m going to go build that into my name, my company name, my brand.” And I just went with On Pace. So, onpacewellness.com, my email is wilfredo@onpacewellness.com, that’s W-I-L-F-R-E-D-O @onpacewellness.com, and then my cellphone, and I am in the United States, so for those of you who are international, you might want to contact me in other ways, but my cellphone 609-954-2620, and I put that out there because some people, especially my clientele, they’d rather text or I have had people who just want to call. They’re still in that mode, which is great, so I welcome that too and get in touch with me because I’m not just trying to necessarily turn you into a client and get a sale from this.

Wilfredo Benitez:

I want to talk with you, if you’ve been struggling especially and you just don’t know what to change, or how to go about this, or even if working with a nutritionist is right for you, I just want to have that conversation with you. So, Hillary, I’ll throw this out there, if people will get in contact with me from this podcast and they just want to talk at first and see if this is right, let’s just jump on the call for 15, 20 minutes, no charge and let’s just get on the same page. Maybe if you want to use that time to just get some simple questions answered, by all means, I’m okay with that, and this is a different, strange time we’re in right now. So there’s just so much unknown, so if you just want to talk with me and figure things out, again, 15, 20 minds, let’s just jump on a call or email back and forth a little bit, I’m perfectly fine with that. Even if this inspires you to reach out to not me, but just another nutritionist or a herbalist like I mentioned before.

Wilfredo Benitez:

That’s great, I don’t need everyone coming to me, reach out to people who you know are experts or who you feel really comfortable with, or if you want to work with someone locally, by all means, go ahead and do that. But just realize that nutrition really is an important piece to your health and your recovery and your performance, and again, your body’s performance. Your body’s ability to be the best is can be for you, and so just pay a little bit more attention to your nutrition, I think is the one thing that I want to come out of this whole talk right now, if for people just to do that.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah. Oh man, see, this just leaves me so pumped up on life, not only [inaudible 00:55:16] but I think it’s a good reminder that the importance is community, and the importance is that we’re there for one another and it’s like you’re trying to get, me as a coach, trying to get the best out of someone for their performances but also just try to get the best out of them as a person, and I think the same can be said for you, working specifically through your nutrition company.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Yeah, I would agree with that, 100%, yep.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah. Well, it’s been such pleasure, Will, thank you so much for joining us today.

Wilfredo Benitez:

Yeah, thank you, Hillary, I appreciate the invite and getting the chance to speak with you and your followers here, I feel it’s a great conversation, I hope we, like I said, inspired and maybe educated some people out there, and yeah, again, thank you so much.

Hillary Allen:

Thanks.

 


Share This Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *