#77: Skills Over Pills With Sports Pharmacist Jess Beal

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Do you think your female athlete is struggling due to stress or fatigue? Are you considering taking pills or medication for it?

Jess Beal a sports pharmacist and our guest for today’s episode strongly advises moms on—

“Skills over pills.” 

The skills needed to overcome fatigue and to have a healthy lifestyle are far more effective than taking pills to boost your energy. No supplement can replace a proper sleeping routine or a healthy meal. 

Jessica Beal-Stahl is a pharmacist, coach, scientist, and competitive athlete with a long history. She works with athletes, coaches, and organizations to delve into what goes beyond reps, sets, matches, practices, and performance to focus on components of nutrition, recovery, and mental strength that are often overlooked and devalued in training and performance. 

She was a 3-sport letterman in high school, club volleyball player, 4 yr D1 volleyball player, CrossFit athlete, and current national and international Olympic weightlifter.

We talked about the primary skills that athletes can develop beyond supplementation and medication and how you can help foster them in your athlete. We also chatted about when supplementation might be beneficial to an athlete’s goals and how to know what that supplementation might be.

Jess took it from experience as she played volleyball in college. During those times, Jess suffered from an eating disorder and perfectionism. Instead of working on her mental health, or going to a sports dietician, she was only given medication to cope. It was just medication and it didn’t sit right with her at that time.

From Jess Beal:

Blending The Worlds of Sports and Pharmacy

Jess has been a pharmacist for about 15 years, and she’s spent the majority of her time talking to hundreds of athletes about their health, disease states, medication, and supplement information. To be a better coach for her patients, she delved into integrative and functional medicine foundations. She noticed that the foundations and tools for understanding nutrition, daily movement, quality sleep, self-care, and the effects of chronic stress were typically missing in the majority of the patients’ circumstances.

Her passion is in everything from understanding supplementation to mindset, to looking at nutrition and simply blending her two worlds of sports and pharmacy.

Chronic Conditions on Athletes

Most athletes have chronic conditions they would request supplements for. The number one cause is “fatigue”. There are a lot of conditions that stem from fatigue such as chronic pain, lack of sleep, etc. 

It’s very common to just take supplements and pills enough to face another day and go on, but it doesn’t cure it. Supplements don’t replace the mental skills an athlete needs to boost their game. Medications don’t replace good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. For sure, it helps for a couple of hours and it will help you last a little longer, but it doesn’t replace all the work you should do.

So, before asking for supplements or pills, look for the cause of the problem first.

Medication Typically Prescribed on Athletes

When Jess was still playing volleyball in college, she used to take Ibuprofen and Tylenol to get past chronic pain and get back on the court. She was on scholarship and felt like she had to push herself. There was no support for mental health. Their trainer encourages her to take shots of cortisol or take Ibuprofen to numb it up just to get her through the season.

Looking back, she believed it caused her to not trust her own decisions in her body. 

“ Am I really hungry?” “ Am I hurting?” Those years of people pushing her blindly to keep going through meds, made her invalidate what her body feels. 

The Right Prescription

There’s no right prescription unless we know the underlying cause of the condition. 

For example, many people are unaware that birth control can cause nutrient depletion. Some of the most important nutrients include vitamin Bs and magnesium. That’s how we know the athlete needs B12 levels, Vitamin D, and other supplements that could replace the lost nutrients due to the birth control and other pills.

Not properly fueling and recovering is also another cause of fatigue. And usually, these causes don’t require pills to heal.

What the athlete needs are these 3 basic skills to help them overthrow fatigue.

1. Sleep

Sleep and figuring out how to have quality sleep is the number one prescription. What are you doing before you sleep? Are you having caffeine? What are your sleeping habits? Here are some good habits for your body to wind down after a 7-9 practice.

  • Nasal breathing
  • Journaling
  • Relaxing

You can also advise young female athletes to put away their phones before sleeping. It helps their mind to relax. Some people just dive into social media as a way to numb everything. And learning how to actually process things and move forward is a huge benefit for athletes.

2. Meditation

The other skill is meditation and learning how to accept the emotions that are coming up. Learning how to ride those waves of emotions is just like surfing. When you first start to meditate that’s your first start to surf and you’ll get pushed under the waves. You’ll crash and feel like you’re drowning. It gets better after that and as you keep on doing and practicing it, you’ll eventually learn how to ride.  

3. Breathwork

The last skill is breath work and different types of breathing styles. Oftentimes we are in a hurry or a fight or flight mode that we forget to breathe. Learning how to do quick and easy breath work, even if it’s two or three minutes, gets your body to be in a state of relaxation. Let your body calm and feel safe even in just a few minutes. 

The athlete can have long breathing exercises but short breathing exercises also work especially during the game. She can learn to do two short quick inhales and one long exhale to calm herself in the middle of the match. 

Beneficial Supplementation

When is supplementation beneficial?

Resort to meds only:

  • If you have done all of the foundation work and you still feel something wrong. 
  • If you are on medications that cause nutrient depletions.
  • If you’re on medications that affect your appetite.
  • If you need meds to decrease inflammation.
  • If you have an underlying condition such as celiac disease.

Overall, it’s about looking at the whole situation and asking whether you need supplementation or not. Sometimes supplementation is necessary for life. It’s beneficial, but not always necessary.

Nutrient-depleting Medications

A lot of pharmacists can do reviews for you if your medicines are nutrient-depleting. And here are some nutrient-depleting medications Jess shared with us.

  • Birth control pills
  • Antidepressants
  • Any mood-altering medication
  • Antipsychotics
  • Antiseizure medication
  • Metformin

Kids that may have migraines might sometimes be on seizure medications. And those kinds of medications are probably the most common issues that Jess sees in younger athletes. 

You can support your female athletes better by knowing the cause of their chronic pains first. Give them the skillset they need to start good habits. You can allow them to learn from mental training programs such as The Elite Competitor Program to help them in their athletic journey. 

They need the mental skills to handle stress and pressure, listen to their body’s needs, have proper nutrition, and know the best way for their body to recover.

If you want to learn more about Jess and what she does you can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her website, so make sure to check the links below.


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