Compared to losing weight, staying the same weight sounds like it should be easy.

“Just don’t go back to what you were doing before!”

Simple, right?

Yet it often doesn’t feel that way.

In fact, maintaining your progress might be even harder than dropping those pounds in the first place.1

This is true even if you don’t crash diet.

That’s because…

What makes you good at losing weight doesn’t necessarily make you good at keeping it off.

Post-weight loss, people often find themselves wondering:

  • ‘Can I really keep saying “no” to ice cream forever?’
  • ‘What’s my goal now that… I don’t have a goal?’
  • ‘If I’m not trying to lose weight, but I can’t go back to my old habits, what am I supposed to do?’

Here’s the good news:

If you’ve lost weight, you do have the skills you need to maintain your weight.

But those skills likely need to evolve. This guide will show you how.

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Reaching your weight loss goal means you’ve mastered a set of skills.

That’s right, “skills.” Essentially, you’ve built a better health resume of consistent practices and experience.

For example, you’ve likely learned how to:

  • Maintain your boundaries and avoid foods and situations that don’t align with your goals
  • Create new nutrition, exercise, and/or lifestyle habits
  • Stay with the discomfort of doing things differently
  • Consistently stick to your plan (whether it’s restrictive, super flexible, or somewhere in between)

Congratulations!

This deserves some recognition. Changing your body and improving your fitness and health isn’t easy.

In a world filled with hyperpalatable foods, out-of-control stress levels, and unlimited access to screens, building the skills you need to lose weight is no easy feat.

But once you’ve reached your goal, the game changes.

You may feel like you don’t know HOW to maintain your new progress.

Maybe you don’t know how to live your life without “being on a diet.” (Or you may have to face whatever “being on a diet” helped you avoid in your life.)

You may feel afraid that you’ll have to:

  • Follow a rigid meal plan
  • Track every morsel of food
  • Weigh yourself every day; and
  • Constantly worry about your weight

… FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER.

Ugh. Why bother?!

The good news is: Weight maintenance is a different game than weight loss. And you can learn to play that new game, just like you can learn anything else.

Weight maintenance means adjusting your mindset—and your hard-earned skills—accordingly. 

Ever rewrite your resume for a new job? Your skills don’t actually change, but how you express those skills does.

And, of course, once you start, there’s a learning curve—no matter how experienced you are.

It’s the same when you enter a new phase of weight control. But by adjusting your skills, and then practicing them, you’ll be up to speed in no time.

3 ways to evolve your skills for weight maintenance

Weight loss skill Why it works for weight loss Why it doesn’t work for maintenance Weight maintenance skill
Learning how to say “no” and setting boundaries Helps you avoid overeating triggers and preserve your time/energy Saying “no” all the time can become too restrictive Master moderation: Balancing your “yeses” and “nos”
Creating and maintaining new habits Moves the needle on weight loss; feels exciting and fresh You know what to do, but it’s no longer novel or fun Evolve your habits using the “dial method” and our deep health framework
Working towards a specific goal Your source of motivation is obvious Motivation becomes less tangible when pursuing the status quo Find your deep reason, and regularly connect to it

Skill #1: Shift from a place of “no” to “sometimes yes.”

Saying no to every unplanned treat? Sure, you can do it for a short period of time. In the long-term, though, saying “no” too often feeds into something we refer to as the challenge cycle (a.k.a. yo-yo dieting), as you can see in the illustration below.

Graphic shows a 4 step cycle titled "The Challenge Cycle" composed of four steps: inital excitement, period of restrictive eating, short-lived success and return to normal.

This frustrating experience is pretty familiar to most of us.—even for those who’ve lost weight sustainably. (You have to change or restrict your diet in some way to lose weight.)

So how do you break the cycle without regaining the weight? Practice saying “yes” sometimes, but not always.

You’ll probably recognize this as practicing moderation, which can be confusing and hard (and maybe scary).

But we’re about to show you how to ease your way into it. So that it feels totally doable (and not so scary).

Try it: What happens when you say “yes”?

This is a pretty straightforward process of trial and error. Fair warning: It might be uncomfortable at times.

Step one: Say “yes” when you’d normally say “no” because of your weight loss habits.

For example, maybe you say “yes” to:

  • Eating birthday cake
  • Skipping the gym to do something that sounds more fun
  • Having two glasses of wine with dinner
  • Staying out late with your friends

Do any of this too often, and you’ll likely end up regaining the weight you lost.

But these are also the types of experiences that bring color to your life. Avoid them completely, and you may feel like you’re missing out. (And end up sliding into the challenge cycle).

So experiment with saying yes. Each time, write down what happens, including:

  • How did you feel?
  • Would you do it again? Why or why not?
  • What did you learn?

Follow this practice for a couple of weeks. Eventually, you won’t need to write down your reflections anymore.

Each time you say “yes” to something, you’ll get a better feel for what’s worth it—and what’s not.

Over time, it’ll become a new skill that helps you better balance “yeses” and “nos.”

Skill #2: Reframe your habits.

By the time many people reach their weight loss goal, they find themselves getting restless.

They know how to stick to their food and exercise habits, but it’s just not exciting, challenging, or interesting anymore.

The result: They start to let their healthy habits slide.

Here’s where a little reframing can make a world of difference.

Try it: Use the dial method and deep health framework.

Here at PN, we use these two strategies to help people reevaluate their habits and decide how they might move forward.

You could use one or the other, or both, to figure out what your “next level” or next challenge might look like.

The dial method

All of those habits that helped you reach your weight loss goal? They can be “dialed” up or down, depending on what’s going on in your life.

For instance, maybe your weight loss workout routine looked like number six on the exercise dial below: three one-hour gym workouts per week, plus a daily walk.

But perhaps in order to accommodate this, you had to dial down in other areas of your life, like socializing, de-stressing routines, or maybe even sleep.

One way to make healthy living feel more exciting now that weight loss isn’t your number one priority:

Play with the dials. 

Maybe you can dial down your nutrition habits slightly, while dialing up your sleep habits.

That might look like meal prepping for just three days a week instead of seven. Now, you have more time to experiment with a restorative yoga routine before bed and waking up with the sun.

That’s just one example of the virtually unlimited options. For more ideas on how to put this into practice, check out our infographic that shows you how to adjust your “life dials.”

The deep health framework

Health is about the physical elements of your life, but it’s also about how you think, feel, live, and connect to others.

That’s one of the reasons we coach with the goal of deep health.

There are six areas or domains of deep health: physical, emotional, environmental, mental, existential, and relational.

Your weight and body composition fall under the “physical” domain.

But there are five other domains where you can make progress. If you’re looking for a new challenge, this could be it. Simply identify one domain you want to work on and create some new practices there.

If you’re not sure where to start, fill out this deep health questionnaire and do a little self-reflection.

Where does it seem like there’s room for improvement? Where would you most like to grow or do better?

Here’s the coolest part about deep health: Progress in one domain can help improve the others. Sometimes, in ways that make maintaining your weight easier.

For instance, maybe you work on your mental health by finally going to therapy. That might result in reducing urges to binge eat.

Another example: Working out the lingering issues with your mom might mean fewer sleepless nights, giving you more energy to exercise.

It’s all interconnected, and that’s a beautiful thing. Why not take advantage of it and refresh your habits in the process?

The bottom line: Expand your view of health beyond what’s going on with your weight. 

There’s nothing wrong with caring about your weight and body composition. But by the time you make it to maintenance mode, you’re ready for the next level.

Skill #3: Use your deep reason for motivation.

Pursuing the status quo can feel… anticlimactic. 

On New Year’s Day, most people don’t say, “Hey, I think I’ll shoot for no improvement in my life this year!”

That’s how maintenance can feel, especially if you’ve made tremendous progress with weight loss.

The result: People who’ve gotten used to having a clear goal in sight might feel lost, confused, or even a little discouraged.

Whether we’re talking about food choices or workout habits, reminding yourself that your goal is to stay exactly the same isn’t very motivating.

Try it: Connect to your deep reason.

There’s one motivational strategy in particular that can help you keep going when you don’t have a big, shiny, exciting goal.

Identify your deep reason for wanting to maintain your weight—or even just live a healthy lifestyle—and remind yourself of it frequently.

We use The 5 Whys exercise to help clients identify their meaning and purpose.

The 5 Whys starts with a simple question: “Why do I want to accomplish this?”

In this case, you might start more specifically with: “Why do I want to maintain my weight?”

Then, whatever answer you come up with, ask why again. And so on, five times, until you get to the heart of what’s really behind your goal.

You can use this worksheet to get started.

What might your “why” look like? Examples:

  • To be fit and mobile enough play with your kids and grandkids (because that time is precious for all of you)
  • To be able to go on adventures with your partner (because these experiences strengthen your bond)
  • To enjoy a high quality of life for as long as you can (because you saw how poor health affected a family member)

Here’s what’s really cool:

Your meaning and purpose can replace weight loss and become your new big shiny goal. 

Now you have a clear reason to do the hard stuff when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle.

Connecting to this deeper meaning and purpose also helps you avoid getting caught up in day-to-day struggles, like the ups and downs in your scale weight.

You’ll always have a gut check available to help you to decide whether you’re on the right track.

You can ask:

‘Is what I’m doing right now aligning with my purpose?’

And if not… ‘Am I okay with that?’

If you’re not okay with it, you’ve got a pretty compelling reason to circle back on your habits (using the process outlined in skill #2) and adjust as needed.

Together, these 3 skills help you build self-trust.

Developing trust in yourself is a life-long pursuit. It takes some time to develop, and no single experiment or practice can necessarily “get you there.”

Self-trust is the ultimate weight maintenance skill. 

In some ways, it’s the ultimate life skill.

But for life-long weight maintenance (and life-long health management), you’ve got to make the transition from having a regimented plan to facing an uncertain future without one.

That requires something big: being more flexible in your thinking and trusting yourself to course correct as needed. 

You can probably see how practicing the three skills outlined in this article set you up to develop self-trust:

  • Skill #1 helps you get to know what works for you and what doesn’t. It enables you to develop healthy but flexible boundaries.
  • Skill #2 allows you to learn why, how, and when to tweak or evolve your health habits to fit your current needs and goals.
  • Skill #3 keeps you constantly grounded in the reason behind it all—your “why” for even caring about this stuff in the first place.

Combined, these three skills enable you to tackle whatever comes your way.

And as a bonus, you’ll develop an ability to sense your ever-changing needs. Better yet, you’ll be able to do something about them.

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References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Hall KD, Kahan S. Maintenance of Lost Weight and Long-Term Management of Obesity. Med Clin North Am. 2018 Jan;102(1):183–97.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that helps them make progress no matter where they are in their journey—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

The post Level 1: Weight loss vs weight maintenance: Why the strategies that got you results might not help you keep them. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

We first envisioned an article about trauma a few years ago.

Over and over, we’d seen clients who checked out when they ate. Or shut down during workouts.

Or who raged when we made a relatively innocuous nutritional suggestion. (Like, “Consider eating slowly today.”)

Or who panicked. Disappeared. Became distressed. Got paralyzed.

Or seemed unable to cope with overwhelming urges to eat, restrict, purge, binge drink, or do a variety of other unhelpful behaviors.

As their coaches, we looked for individual explanations. 

And we found them.

Painful childhoods with abusive or absent adults. Sexual assault. Emotional neglect. Substance abuse. Military service. Displacement. Miscarriages. Natural disasters. Grief and loss.

But today more than ever, it’s apparent that trauma of all kinds can negatively affect client progress.

Racism, homophobia, poverty, sexism, ableism, transphobia, fatphobia.

Unsafe neighborhoods and communities. Lack of power and resources.

Violence, abuse, and bullying from the people who are supposed to protect them—partners, police, workplaces, health systems, schools, the government.

Economic uncertainty. A global pandemic.

No wonder many of us are having a hard time managing our eating, exercise, and self-care.

Yet remarkably: We still have the capacity to change and thrive.

To that end, this article aims to help—by providing insights and tools that you, as a nutrition, fitness, or health coach, can use to appropriately support clients who are struggling with trauma.

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This article is about eating and exercise. But it’s also much bigger than that.

As humans, we’re called on to help make the world a better place. And to stand as advocates for all people harmed by suffering, injustice, and abuse.

At Precision Nutrition, we support not just the “physical health” of our clients, but their deep health: nurturing all the things that make a complete human. 

That’s because each domain of deep health—physical, emotional, mental, environmental, relational, and existential—affects all other domains.

And trauma? It can have negative and long-lasting effects on any of these domains, making it difficult for clients to experience meaningful progress in their health and fitness.

That’s where you come in.

As a nutrition, fitness, or health coach, it’s outside your scope of practice to ask clients directly about trauma.

But sometimes clients will tell you about traumatic experiences. Or they might do or say things that just don’t seem to add up.

Understanding how trauma manifests can help explain why clients often do puzzling or apparently unhelpful things, such as overeat when they’re also desperate to lose weight or be healthier.

Or neglect their own health and wellbeing even if they take great care of everyone else.

You should know how to respond and support these clients, because—unfortunately—trauma can happen to anyone, and it’s more common than many people realize.

Growth can happen for these clients, even in the face of overwhelming suffering. Humans are astonishingly resilient.

Being a trauma-aware coach can help you: 

  • understand people and their challenges, which will lead to more effective, productive coaching relationships
  • understand why some clients behave “irrationally” or struggle with their eating and exercise habits
  • identify strategies that can help clients get unstuck
  • avoid re-traumatizing people, which is part of being a good person (and is probably smart for your business, too)
  • recognize when a client needs additional support—such as a referral to a therapist—to work through trauma

++++

What is trauma?

Trauma is anything that overwhelms our existing resources and ability to cope.

How is trauma different from stress?

When we experience stress of any type, the body enters an alarm phase. In a normal situation, we eventually recover and get back to our baseline, or maybe even come away stronger and more resilient.

But with trauma, we experience the stressor so intensely that we’re unable to go through all the steps we need to recover. We end up worse off than where we started.

A graph showing how a traumatic event negatively impacts ability to cope with stress over time.

Trauma-inducing stressors can come from many different areas of our lives.

Various types of stress including cultural, mental, physical, social, environmental, psycho-spiritual, financial, emotional.

There are several types of trauma with varying degrees of severity, but they all can affect our health, wellbeing, and ability to care for ourselves.

Big-T trauma

Most people associate the word “trauma” with events like sexual assault, living or serving in a war zone, physical violence, or being in a car crash.

Because such experiences are extremely damaging and objectively terrible, psychologists refer to these as big-T trauma.

Usually, people know if they’ve experienced this type of trauma, although they may not be aware of its far-reaching effects.

Little-t trauma

Other times, traumatic events may seem like “no big deal” objectively, but they still leave a strong and lasting impression.

Little-t trauma refers to the more prevalent indignities, insecurities, injuries, and paper cuts of life.

  • The experience may be something “minor” that hits in a vulnerable moment, like a parent who was largely absent during your teen years.
  • Or it might be something deeply unfair or angering that happens over and over, like systemic racism or homophobia.

Little-t trauma can have lasting effects too. Many people experience it without ever recognizing it as “trauma.”

Collective trauma

We can also experience trauma as a group.

Collective trauma is a psychological effect that destabilizes the foundation of a society or group.1

Bombings, natural disasters, wars, famines, and pandemics are all obvious examples of events that can result in collective trauma.

Collective trauma can also come from violence, abuse, and indignities perpetrated against a specific group. This can happen cumulatively over time.

For example, the imposition of colonialism and residential schools on indigenous people in many countries such as Canada, the US, and Australia has had lasting generational effects.

People living through the collapse of a political regime, or in a general state of heightened awareness of violence—for instance, in a military state where they see guns on a daily basis—also suffer collective trauma.

(People may experience this type of trauma somewhat differently from individual trauma. Although it may feel less personal, trauma is trauma.)

Importantly, we don’t have to experience trauma directly in order to be affected.

For example:

  • Parents may feel traumatized after a school shooting, even if their child doesn’t go to the school where the shooting happened.
  • People who are alive in 2020 may have not experienced slavery directly, but the social scars of it are still “alive.”

This type of trauma can last for generations in our collective memories, and the meaning we find in these memories often goes on to shape society.

Intergenerational trauma

Trauma can be passed down through families in many ways.

First, if a person has experienced trauma, their behavior towards their child may change. 

A parent or caregiver may repeat the traumatizing behavior they experienced, perpetuating the cycle.

Or, they may be so deep in their own coping mechanisms—such as abusing alcohol—they’re unable to provide for their child materially and/or emotionally.

Clients dealing with intergenerational trauma may tell you that their first issues with food appeared early in life when they felt scared, alone, small, angry, or otherwise distressed by what was happening in their families.

Second, the effects of trauma can be passed down via what’s known as transgenerational epigenetics.

Trauma can actually change how our DNA is packaged, and thus how our genes are expressed.

So traumatized people may give birth to babies who are epigenetically (i.e., biologically) predisposed towards mental or physical health challenges, increased inflammation, and/or more chronic disease.2,3,4,5,6,7,8

The most famous example is from research on the descendants of Holocaust survivors, which showed changes to genes in both parents and children.9,10 Other research has correlated a legacy of slavery with elevated stroke risk in African-American populations living in the southeastern United States.11

Similar effects have been observed in other marginalized populations (and in animal research), but this is considered an emerging area of science.12

Trauma isn’t “fact-based,” but perception-based and response-based.

A person’s subjective experience of an event or situation determines whether it was traumatic, regardless of how major or minor it seems.

Let’s say Fatima and Sonal both burned themselves on hot stoves when they were kids.

Neither of them remembers it that well, but they had similar experiences: Mom freaked out. They had to go to the hospital to treat the burn.

For Fatima, the experience wasn’t traumatic. She was upset and scared in the moment, but in the days that followed, she recovered. It didn’t leave any more of an imprint than skinning her knee on the playground.

For Sonal, the experience was traumatic. She already felt vulnerable because her dad wasn’t around, and her mom was always super stressed and working overtime to make ends meet. Though she hardly thinks about it now, the burn left a mental mark.

Now, as an adult, Sonal is wary of cooking. She doesn’t really know why.

She has stories to explain why she doesn’t cook. She’s busy. The stove just kind of seems… complicated. Or something.

But what made the experience traumatic was the context—not the burn itself.

Trauma is probably more prevalent than data indicates.

But here’s what we know: About 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women experience at least one significant trauma in their lives.13

Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child abuse, while men are more likely to experience physical assault, combat, accidents, and disasters.14 Men are also more likely to witness death or injury.

Privilege and power are protective.

People from marginalized groups—such as people from racialized minority groups, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQI* people, people experiencing poverty, and so on—are much more likely to experience trauma.

But many people who’ve had big-T trauma don’t report it. And certainly most people who’ve suffered little-t trauma don’t.

What would they say?

  • “I’d like to report my coworker being a racist or sexist a-hole?”
  • “I’d like to report my mother being emotionally unavailable to me during a crucial point in my development?”
  • “I’d like to report I only go out when it’s daylight so I won’t get harassed?”
  • “I’d like to report a hot, corrosive rush of shame from something someone said, even though they weren’t even talking to or about me?”

For many folks, these types of events are just “how things are.” As famous feminist Gloria Steinem said about sexual harassment and assault in the 1960s and 70s, “We didn’t even have a word for it. We called it ‘life.’”

Many Precision Nutrition Coaching clients—and very likely many of yours, if you’re a coach—are dealing with the effects of trauma.

This can affect their eating and exercise behaviors, their self-care choices, and their ability to regulate their emotions.

Trauma affects how we eat, move, and live.

Although trauma manifests differently in different people, we tend to see common patterns.

Trauma changes our brains.

Often, trauma affects how a person behaves, defines themselves, and communicates with others.

Here’s what that might look like in interactions with clients:

They struggle to identify emotions, needs, and/or physical sensations. For instance, when you ask, “How do you know when you’re hungry?” or “Does that hurt?”, or “How are you feeling?”, they might say they’re not sure.15

They don’t seem to have the best memory. If you ask, “What was food like when you were little?”, or “What time did you eat dinner as a kid?”, they might not remember. They “forget things” like their daily coaching practices.

They often get stuck or paralyzed. The “freeze response” immobilizes us. Clients may say they feel unable to act, they avoid things, and/or they feel powerless. “I don’t know what happened, I just found myself eating… ”

Their story of themselves is deeply negative. “I hate myself. I’m a failure. I’m doomed. I can’t do anything right.” It’s hard for them to imagine that anything could be different or better.

They have a bigger reaction than expected. Seemingly mundane exchanges trigger fight/flight/freeze. Let’s say you suggest that your client try adding protein to their breakfast. They, in turn:

  • Get super angry (fight)
  • Walk away from the conversation (flight)
  • Become very quiet or even completely disengage (freeze)

You might be shocked at what appears to be an over-reaction, but this is a deeply ingrained human response to fear and danger.

They always want to please you. This client might agree to literally every nutrition strategy you suggest. Eventually, it becomes clear they’re not implementing them. It just feels safer to go along with your ideas than to explain why it won’t work for them.

This is called fawning behavior. It’s often learned and employed by victims of abuse: By making themselves as invisible and agreeable as possible, they’re trying to protect themselves from further trauma.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A deeper look

Sometimes, traumatic events result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. We don’t know exactly why, but PTSD is most likely to occur in women16, military veterans17, and people who already have one or more traumas in their past.18

PTSD manifests in a couple of ways:

1. It can disorganize our sense of time, place, and space. 

This affects how we remember a traumatic experience—often making it seem like the event is happening right now—and setting off a series of psychological and physiological responses such as dissociation, panic, and fight/flight/freeze.19

2. It affects how well we can reintegrate the traumatic event. 

When something terrible happens, we may dis-integrate, or fall apart. To heal, we need to “re-integrate” the experience into our life and make meaning from it.

With PTSD, that reintegration never happens. Victims are left with persistent, long-standing cognitive, neurological, psycho-emotional disorganization, that we cannot, without treatment, resolve.

Trauma changes our physical health.

People with trauma may struggle with physical issues including:

● Hormonal problems, like an overactivated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a hormonal feedback loop that’s exquisitely sensitive to things like energy availability and stress.

When the HPA axis is hyperactivated, sex hormones, cortisol, and even brain neurotransmitters can get out of whack. The body may sound an alarm or simply shut the factory down.20

● Elevated inflammation, seen in biomarkers such as C-reactive protein and inflammatory cytokines, perhaps due to an overactivated HPA axis.21,22

This may be a reason childhood trauma is associated with a higher risk of health issues like heart disease, cancer, liver disease, and more.23

People with trauma may also have more chronic illnesses, particularly autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, chronic fatigue, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and allergies.24

● Unexplained pain, like long-standing, nagging pain or tightness that doesn’t seem to have a cause.

Maybe your client’s been X-rayed, MRI’d, CAT-scanned, and seen by every specialist. There’s no sign of injury. But the pain, restriction, and physical limitation persists.

Interestingly, the cumulative effect of stress, HPA axis/hormone dysfunction, and inflammation can actually increase pain perception.25,26 You know how things just hurt more when you’re stressed out? This is part of the reason why.

Stressed and hurting: The Bohr effect and pain

When we’re physically stressed—such as during an intense workout—we tend to inhale quickly and forcefully. Our exhales also get faster.

When we do this, it strips carbon dioxide (CO2) from the bloodstream.

This is an important bodily response. It helps the body dispose of the waste products generated by exercise, and enables us to deliver fresh oxygen to our muscles.

This dynamic relationship between blood CO2 and blood oxygen concentration is known as the Bohr effect.27

But if you’re sitting still and something stressful happens, you may experience the same shift in your breathing—deep inhales, short exhales. (Imagine a person hyperventilating during a panic attack.)

Except because you’re sitting still, there’s no increased oxygen demand in your muscles. If this happens frequently over time the following sequence of events can occur:

  • You’ll have reduced CO2 in your bloodstream.
  • Reduced CO2  in your blood ultimately reduces the amount of oxygen in your muscles.
  • This alters the way you produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is what muscles use for energy.
  • Changes to ATP production alter how muscles contract and relax, increasing baseline tension.
  • Because your muscles can’t fully relax, you may experience chronic tightness.

This tightness is particularly common in postural muscles, such as the ones found in the lower back, neck, and shoulders. So in addition to increased pain perception, people dealing with trauma may also experience pain due to chronic muscle tightness.

The good news?

The tightness caused by dysfunctional breathing patterns can be alleviated, in part, by learning to breathe more efficiently.

In particular, practicing longer exhales can be very helpful in delivering more oxygen to the muscles, which helps them relax.

To learn more about breathing drills and why they work, jump down to helping clients learn self-regulation.

Trauma can change our nutrition, exercise, and health habits.

When people struggle with their behavior around food and fitness for years or decades, particularly with obesity or patterns of disordered eating, there’s a pretty good chance that something happened to them. And it doesn’t even have to be something “big.”

Clients with a trauma history may:

  • Overeat and/or binge.28 Losing themselves in a binge can shut out the world for a while.
  • Compensate after they feel they’ve overeaten. They may purge, or over-exercise, or fast.29 The endorphins released in a punishing workout, or from bingeing and purging, may provide a temporary high.
  • Control and restrict their eating. In fact, they may alternate between this and losing control.30
  • Come up with strict “rules” with harsh consequences. Like “I must work out two hours a day or else I’m a lazy walrus.”
  • Do things that seem confusing or contradictory. Like going on a diet in the morning and binge eating in the evening. Or keeping trigger foods around to “test themselves,” even though they often “fail.”
  • “Check out” or get “brain fog” around food. Like “I don’t know what happened, I sort of woke up and the bag of chips was empty.” Or, “I get paralyzed when I try to decide what to do. It’s just overwhelming.” Or, “I guess I’m just not motivated.”

The more intense the trauma in a person’s life, and/or the more frequent it’s been, the more likely they are to have physical symptoms and/or maladaptive behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs.

One study tracked the relationship of BMI over time, correlating it to trauma history. The graph tells an interesting story.

A graph showing the relationship between PTSD and increased BMI.

The more PTSD-type symptoms a person had, the more likely they were to gain weight over time.

Another study looked at the relationship between exercise tolerance and childhood abuse.

Researchers found that women who’d been abused were more likely to avoid exercise because the higher heart rate and feeling “amped up” evoked the same feelings of anxiety and fear they’d experienced earlier in their lives.32

Trauma can also change us for the better.

As human beings, we can feel about 50 different things at once and not have them be inconsistent. We’re complex.

We can feel horrible because of post-traumatic stress but still be growing.

A person might lose everything but then have that “screw it” moment where they reevaluate their life and decide to dump some crap and clutter overboard. That’s one type of post-traumatic growth.

Post-traumatic growth is when we change and evolve in good and healthy ways as a result of trauma. 

It often involves finding meaning in our pain. For instance, we may vow to help others in similar situations.

It can help to think of post-traumatic growth like kintsugi, a type of Japanese pottery made from broken ceramics. Artists use precious metals to put the pieces back together, and the repaired version is considered more beautiful and desirable than the original item—especially because the process takes quite a bit of time.

If you know how to recognize trauma in your clients, you might just be able to help them take steps towards making repairs. They may find meaning in what they’ve been through. Or even discover the beauty in rebuilding.

7 ways to help your clients break the cycle.

#1: Familiarize yourself with the signs of trauma.

Good news: You’ve already accomplished this by reading this article!

Importantly, the reasoning behind understanding the signs of trauma isn’t so you can diagnose your clients. As noted earlier, that’d be a job for a qualified therapist. So unless you happen to be one of those, it’s important to stay within your scope of practice as a coach.

But knowing what trauma looks like helps you:

  • support your clients and avoid retraumatizing them
  • avoid feeling frustrated when client behavior doesn’t seem to make sense
  • know when it’s time to refer out to a mental health practitioner

Educate yourself and be prepared to handle difficult material sensitively.

If you want to dig into some further reading, consider these resources:

#2: Affirm the validity of people’s feelings.

Don’t say “It’s no big deal.” It obviously is to them.

Don’t say “I understand completely.” You don’t.

Don’t say “Get over it.” They can’t, not without help.

Don’t avoid the topic and say nothing because it’s too icky or you don’t know what to say.

Instead, say: “I’m sorry for what you’re going through. Thank you for trusting me with this. I am here to listen and support you.”

#3: Maintain and respect boundaries.

Care about your clients but don’t become a caregiver for them. Know where you can help, and where you can’t.

Here at Precision Nutrition, we’ve come up with a code of ethics for coaches, as well as best practices for maintaining healthy boundaries with clients.

Familiarize yourself with these concepts. They’re important for all clients, but they can help establish a sense of safety with traumatized clients.

You should pay special attention to:

  • Using open, non-confrontational body language to give off friendly, non-threatening vibes.
  • Using a warm yet professional tone of voice.
  • Establishing consent early and often if your coaching methods require physical touch.

That last point is key.

It may feel awkward to bring it up, which is why a lot of coaches skip it. Don’t be one of those people.

The guidelines here are simple:

  • Any time you want to touch a client, ask: “Is it okay if I touch you here, like this?” Use hand gestures to indicate what you mean.
  • Before you remove your hand(s) from a supportive position (such as helping to position their rib cage during a pushup), ask: “Is it okay if I remove my hands now?”

It might sound strange to ask about removing your hands, but doing so without asking can make a person with body-related trauma feel especially vulnerable.

Asking these questions gives a client ownership over what happens to their body. They can control who touches them, how, and when. And that’s how it should always be.

#4: If your client is open, explain the trauma response.

If you have a client who has disclosed trauma, it can help to share what happens during the trauma response with them. 

Why? People are often really confused about what’s happening to them.

It’s a lightbulb moment to learn that what they’re experiencing is a physiological response to something that happened in their past.

It’s well worth taking the time to explain that their brain and body have learned a pattern of responding, and so what’s happening to them and their health struggles are not their fault.

When your client blanks out in front of the fridge, it’s not because they don’t have enough willpower or they bought the “wrong” groceries.

This realization can make a huge difference for the client and how they define themselves. They realize they’re not a bad person or lazy or that they can’t control themselves. They’re just repeating a pattern they learned long ago.

#5: Help clients learn to calm themselves.

This is a powerful skill that anyone can learn or teach. Here are three approaches to try.

Balloon breathing

“There’s a physical relationship between how you breathe and what your brain is telling your body to do,” says Craig Weller, CPT, PN Master Coach and resident exercise specialist. Exhaling triggers parasympathetic input from the brain, slightly slowing the heart rate.

By extending your exhale, you spend a little bit more time in the parasympathetic, calm-down state. 

Try a longer, slower out-breath, like blowing up a balloon:

  • Breathe out slowly for several seconds. You can count 1-2-3-4-5 if you like.
  • Pause for a few seconds. Again, feel free to count.
  • Then, consciously relax, and let the in-breath happen naturally.
  • Repeat.

Core-engaged breathing

Putting your spine in different positions has differing effects on your nervous system via physical pressure receptors called ganglia.

Extending your spine (think upward dog in yoga) activates sympathetic receptors, turning on “fight or flight” mode.

Conversely, flexing your spine (think fetal position, or a puppy taking a nice nap), takes pressure off the spinal ganglia, producing a calming effect. Long exhales with your ribs and core in this position relieves the pressure even more.

Two versions of core-engaged breathing to consider: fetal position breathing and ribs-down breathing.

Grounding exercises.

These can help a client who struggles with “checking out” by drawing their attention to concrete physical sensations.

Examples of grounding exercises:

  • Focus on the sensation of your feet on the floor
  • Feeling the barbell in your hands
  • Smell the rubber of the medicine ball you’re holding

#6: Have a referral network at the ready.

There may be times when you can’t (and shouldn’t) address all your clients’ needs on your own.

Keep some recommendations for mental health practitioners handy. These can be people you know in your community, or ones you’ve identified through research. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas:

Make a list, and keep it handy. Try our referral worksheet.

Remember, referring out doesn’t mean you stop seeing your client. You can continue to support them in their health habits while they get specialized support in another area.

#7: Serve, but preserve.

There’s no getting around it. This is heavy stuff.

You may yourself have experienced trauma and be dealing with very similar issues as your client.

A lot of people choose to go to a coach over a therapist, for a variety of reasons—from not having health insurance to stigma around mental health.

While you should maintain your boundaries with clients and stay within your scope of practice, there are going to be times when you’re the only person a client can confide in.

But therapists have something coaches don’t always have in place: supervision and advisors. They regularly get together with other therapists to discuss cases, share advice, and get support.

As a coach, you can do something similar by talking with like-minded coaches regularly. Get that support.

Difficult subject matter can be draining. So make sure to harge your own battery.

Because your health is important, too.

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2. St-Hilaire A, Steiger H, Liu A, Laplante DP, Thaler L, Magill T, et al. A prospective study of effects of prenatal maternal stress on later eating-disorder manifestations in affected offspring: preliminary indications based on the Project Ice Storm cohort. Int J Eat Disord. 2015 Jul;48(5):512–6.

3. Fuller-Rowell TE, Homandberg LK, Curtis DS, Tsenkova VK, Williams DR, Ryff CD. Disparities in insulin resistance between black and white adults in the United States: The role of lifespan stress exposure. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2019 Sep 1;107:1-8.

4. Allen AM, Thomas MD, Michaels EK, Reeves AN, Okoye U, Price MM, Hasson RE, Syme SL, Chae DH. Racial discrimination, educational attainment, and biological dysregulation among midlife African American women. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2019 Jan 1;99:225-35.

5. Conway-Phillips R, Dagadu H, Motley D, Shawahin L, Janusek LW, Klonowski S, Saban KL. Qualitative evidence for Resilience, Stress, and Ethnicity (RiSE): A program to address race-based stress among Black women at risk for cardiovascular disease. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2020 Jan 1;48:102277.

6. Farmer HR, Wray LA, Haas SA. Race, gender, and socioeconomic variations in C-reactive protein using the Health and Retirement Study. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci [Internet]. 2020 Feb 17; Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbaa027

7. Williams DR, Priest N, Anderson NB. Understanding associations among race, socioeconomic status, and health: Patterns and prospects. Health Psychology. 2016 Apr;35(4):407.

8. Hidayat K, Du X, Shi B-M, Qin L-Q. Foetal and childhood exposure to famine and the risks of cardiometabolic conditions in adulthood: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Obes Rev. 2020 May;21(5):e12981.

9. Yehuda R, Daskalakis NP, Bierer LM, Bader HN, Klengel T, Holsboer F, et al. Holocaust Exposure Induced Intergenerational Effects on FKBP5 Methylation. Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Sep 1;80(5):372–80.

10. Jawaid A, Roszkowski M, Mansuy IM. Transgenerational Epigenetics of Traumatic Stress. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2018 Jun 11;158:273–98.

11. Esenwa C, Ilunga Tshiswaka D, Gebregziabher M, Ovbiagele B. Historical slavery and modern-day stroke mortality in the United States Stroke Belt. Stroke. 2018 Feb;49(2):465-9.

12. Jawaid A, Mansuy IM. Inter- and transgenerational inheritance of behavioral phenotypes. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 2019 Feb 1;25:96–101.

13. VA.gov | Veterans Affairs [Internet]. [cited 2020 May 27]. Available from: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp

14. Tolin DF, Foa EB. Sex differences in trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder: a quantitative review of 25 years of research. Psychol Bull. 2006 Nov;132(6):959–92.

15. Franzoni E, Gualandi S, Caretti V, Schimmenti A, Di Pietro E, Pellegrini G, et al. The relationship between alexithymia, shame, trauma, and body image disorders: investigation over a large clinical sample. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2013 Feb 18;9:185–93.

16. Kimerling R, Weitlauf JC, Iverson KM, Karpenko JA, Jain S. Gender issues in PTSD. Handbook of PTSD: Science and practice, 2nd ed. 2014;2:313–30.

17. Kang HK, Natelson BH, Mahan CM, Lee KY, Murphy FM. Post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome-like illness among Gulf War veterans: a population-based survey of 30,000 veterans. Am J Epidemiol. 2003 Jan 15;157(2):141–8.

18. Neuner F, Schauer M, Karunakara U, Klaschik C, Robert C, Elbert T. Psychological trauma and evidence for enhanced vulnerability for posttraumatic stress disorder through previous trauma among West Nile refugees. BMC Psychiatry. 2004 Oct 25;4:34.

19. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Exhibit 1.3-4, DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for PTSD. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014.

20. Monteleone, Alessio Maria, et al. Childhood trauma and cortisol awakening response in symptomatic patients with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders Volume 48, Issue 6, pages 615–621, September 2015.

21. Baumeister D, Akhtar R, Ciufolini S, Pariante CM, Mondelli V. Childhood trauma and adulthood inflammation: a meta-analysis of peripheral C-reactive protein, interleukin-6 and tumour necrosis factor-α. Mol Psychiatry. 2016 May;21(5):642–9.

22. Baldwin JR, Arseneault L, Caspi A, Fisher HL, Moffitt TE, Odgers CL, et al. Childhood victimization and inflammation in young adulthood: A genetically sensitive cohort study. Brain Behav Immun. 2018 Jan;67:211–7.

23. Felitti VJ, Anda RF, Nordenberg D, Williamson DF, Spitz AM, Edwards V, et al. Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Am J Prev Med. 1998 May;14(4):245–58.

24. Song H, Fang F, Tomasson G, Arnberg FK, Mataix-Cols D, Fernández de la Cruz L, et al. Association of Stress-Related Disorders With Subsequent Autoimmune Disease. JAMA. 2018 Jun 19;319(23):2388–400.

25. Hannibal KE, Bishop MD. Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation. Phys Ther. 2014 Dec;94(12):1816–25.

26. Blackburn-Munro G, Blackburn-Munro RE. Chronic pain, chronic stress and depression: coincidence or consequence? J Neuroendocrinol. 2001 Dec;13(12):1009–23.

27. Grossman P. Respiration, stress, and cardiovascular function. Psychophysiology. 1983 May;20(3):284–300.

28. Backholm K, Isomaa R, Birgegård A. The prevalence and impact of trauma history in eating disorder patients. European Journal of Psychotraumatology. 2013;4:10.3402/ejpt.v4i0.22482. doi:10.3402/ejpt.v4i0.22482.

29. Brewerton TD, Dansky BS, O’Neil PM, Kilpatrick DG. The number of divergent purging behaviors is associated with histories of trauma, PTSD, and comorbidity in a national sample of women. Eat Disord. 2015 Feb 26;23(5):422–9.

30. Madowitz J, Matheson BE, Liang J. The relationship between eating disorders and sexual trauma. Eat Weight Disord. 2015 Sep;20(3):281–93.

31. Kubzansky LD, Bordelois P, Jun HJ, Roberts AL, Cerda M, Bluestone N, et al. The weight of traumatic stress: a prospective study of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and weight status in women. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014 Jan;71(1):44–51.

32. Dale, Lourdes P., et al. Abuse History is related to Autonomic Regulation to Mild Exercise and Psychological Wellbeing. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback (2009) 34:299–308. DOI 10.1007/s10484-009-9111-4

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that supports the deep health of the whole person—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 30% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 7th, 2020.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 30% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

The post How trauma affects health and fitness: Is it the reason your client can’t make progress? appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Every six months, we get to celebrate the folks who have had the most incredible body transformations in Precision Nutrition Coaching.

They’ve spent 12 months with a personal nutrition coach, completely changing how they eat, move, look, and feel.

They’ve lost weight, gained strength, boosted their health, and inspired their friends and families.

No extreme diets or crazy workout routines. No strict meal plans or off-limits foods. No deprivation. No guilt. No unbreakable rules.

Just a commitment to the program—with results to prove it.

Collage of three female Precision Nutrition Coaching clients.

The transformations we’re celebrating today are as mind-blowing as ever. As you’ll see in the photos below, these 14 men and women lost 338 pounds collectively, shedding pant sizes, food frustrations, and self-doubt.

But this year, the stories of these clients—who started their PN journeys back in July 2019—also feel a little different.

For one, they’re the first coaching group to complete our program during an earth-shattering global pandemic. For that fact alone, their determination deserves serious respect.

They’re also different because PN is transforming, too.

Yes, we’re still featuring our clients’ impressive physical transformations. (They deserve it.)

But we also want to highlight the mental and emotional transformations they’ve experienced. Because they’re every bit as powerful, worthy, and amazing.

In fact, clients often tell us it’s these internal changes that have the deepest and most meaningful impact on their whole lives.

So click the links below to check out these total life transformations. And get ready to feel seriously inspired.
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58-year old CEO with poor health and bad knees drops 35 pounds—and finally climbs a mountain with his wife.

The life-changing realization that helped a 44-year old woman stop struggling with her weight and lose 29 pounds. 

This man learned he could have a six-pack—and eat his cake, too. 

This 38-year old woman banished heartburn, cellulite, and achy joints with three simple words: Just show up.

30 pounds lost in 100 days: How the pandemic helped this man gain the control he needed to transform his body.

This 42-year old mom lost 17 pounds and signed up for a Spartan race.

71 pounds gone: This couple lost weight and found fitness together.

With 4 kids and a business, Stephanie had zero extra time: Here’s how she lost 21 pounds anyway.

From “mac & cheese” on his pizza to choosing fresh pineapple as a treat: How Owen transformed his nutrition and lifestyle habits

How Damian packed on 14 pounds of muscle.

For the first time in years, this woman got below 200 pounds: What happened next shocked her (in an awesome way).

A breakup, a relocation, and COVID-19: It might have been the worst year of this man’s life, yet he still crushed his fitness goals.

This 68-year old woman mastered the Turkish getup and lost 42 pounds. If she can’t inspire you…

++++

58-year-old CEO with poor health and bad knees drops 35 pounds—and finally climbs a mountain with his wife.

Not long before Jeff joined Precision Nutrition Coaching, he and his wife were vacationing in Banff, Alberta.

While she set out to climb Sulphur Mountain (elevation 8,041 feet), Jeff stayed behind—as he normally did on her adventures.

She’d always loved the outdoors. But him? Not so much. More important, though: She was in climbing shape; Jeff wasn’t.

They were used to this arrangement, and it worked for them. Or so he thought.

“After her hike my wife said, ‘You know, it would be nice if we could do that together,’” Jeff recalls. “It hurt.”

At 58, Jeff weighed 250 pounds. He struggled with chronic health issues, including Grave’s disease—which causes overactive thyroid—and sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that can affect the lungs.

He’d also had a double knee replacement after surviving two explosions while stationed overseas years before. When he got down on the floor to play with his dog, it was difficult to get back up.

So climbing a mountain? Not high on Jeff’s to-do list.

Then things got worse: During a routine physical, his doctor told him he was one appointment away from a diabetes diagnosis.

‘You’re on death row,’ Jeff thought. ‘You’ve got to make some changes.’

That’s when Jeff registered for Precision Nutrition Coaching. It was a way to take back some control. It was hope.

As the CEO of a consulting company, Jeff was on the road a lot. Out of necessity, he ate fast food as often as twice a day. He couldn’t help but be skeptical: Could someone this busy follow the PNC program?

“I messaged my coach and said, ‘Look, I’m on the road, all the time. I’m in meetings. I have to go to banquets. I have to eat at restaurants.’”

Jeff’s coach, Jonathan Pope, listened. Then he asked a follow-up question that changed everything: “So you can’t pack stuff to take with you?”

Jeff laughs: “The light bulbs came on. Packing stuff? It was a lot of work, but I could do that.”

On business trips, Jeff took huge bags of veggies wherever he went and stopped at grocery stores for pre-cooked chicken and fresh fruit. He stored everything in the tiny hotel fridge. Now he always had a healthy meal on hand.

Jeff prioritized making time for nutrition and fitness. He began walking his dogs every day—eventually getting up to a 5k loop—and started cycling, too. He bought a squat rack, weights, and resistance bands, and when winter came he invested in a set of snowshoes.

All of this happened during the last year. And his body completely transformed. Jeff’s now 35 pounds lighter and a whole lot stronger. His doctor recently reduced his thyroid medication.

“I feel like I’m 30,” says Jeff.

The 2020 pandemic got in the way of Jeff’s plans to hike Sulphur Mountain, so instead he and his wife tackled a smaller mountain in Saskatchewan.

A common theme we heard from Precision Nutrition Coaching clients this year: “I might not be here today if it wasn’t for this program.”

“It meant everything to me, but it meant the world to her. It actually brought tears to her eyes,” says Jeff… with tears in his eyes.

The life-changing realization that helped a 44-year old woman stop struggling with her weight and lose 29 pounds.

It’s an all-too-familiar scenario: When Sneha was a teenager, family members started to comment that she was “plump.”

For years, Sneha wanted to lose weight. But she struggled to put her needs before others’.

From then and into adulthood, she went through frustrating cycles of losing and regaining weight.

It’s been a long journey. Sneha first enrolled in Precision Nutrition Coaching five years ago. She made progress, but she didn’t achieve the body transformation she was after.

Still, she kept coming back. And this year, she experienced the breakthrough she’d been looking for.

Turns out, Sneha’s struggles to lose weight were tied to her deep commitment to her family.

Namely: It was hard to find time to… exercise, get proper sleep, prepare meals, de-stress and recover…  because she had to take care of others.

Everyone else always came first—another all-too-familiar scenario.

Her PN coach suggested: “How about drawing some boundaries?”

This made Sneha angry. 

“I was thinking, ‘I grew up in an Indian family. How can I draw boundaries? That would mean the end of relationships!’”

But upon reflection, Sneha realized that being everything to everyone wasn’t a core value of her own. It was conditioning from her Indian upbringing.

“I had to ask, ‘Why do I believe this? Where is this coming from?’” Sneha recalls. “It really opened a Pandora’s box for me.”

She used journaling to parse out her true beliefs and identity.

“Now I realize drawing boundaries just changes the nature of relationships. It doesn’t have to end them,” she says.

Sneha no longer feels like a victim. “I’m not allowing other people to walk all over me anymore.”

She also discovered her journey wasn’t about getting a certain body at all. “My primary goal was to change my relationship with myself and my relationship with food. It took me so long to understand that,” Sneha says.

But, through this process, she lost 29 pounds—the lightest she’s been in years.

Funny how that works.

Sneha’s “after PN” photo shoot celebrates the body transformation and self awareness she gained from the program.

“There are many layers in an onion. I guess mine was bigger and had many, many more layers to get through,” she says.

This man learned he could have a six-pack—and eat his cake, too.

A couple of years ago Mickler’s son’s mother invited him to brunch. But…

“Before I could even answer, my son said, “Oh, he’ll never come because he doesn’t eat breakfast.”

It stung.

Mickler, now 29, had been on and off extremely restrictive diets for years. One of them, intermittent fasting, meant he was “Team No Breakfast”—and apparently he’d turned his son down a few too many times.

“In retrospect, my son was just trying to bond with me through food. At the time, I was proud of how disciplined I was.”

Mickler is part of a large, blended family in which much of life centers on celebrations, togetherness, and food.

“Once on my birthday, they got me my favorite cake, a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake,” Mickler recalls. “I wouldn’t eat it because I was on keto.”

Mickler often had the shredded body he wanted—but just as often, he didn’t.

“Summer would come and it was time to be restrictive,” he says. “Then winter would come, and I could loosen up. Then summer came again and I had to restrict again.”

On and on the cycle went.

Mickler cycled on and off restrictive diets for years.

“Eventually I recognized that I couldn’t continually go up and down like that,” Mickler says. “I needed to find a way to be steady, and I recognized there was a hole in my understanding of food.”

Mickler found Precision Nutrition Coaching through a Facebook ad and signed up at first chance.

“Having a habits-based program and a coach was a game changer for me,” Mickler says.

Because the habits are designed to work in any circumstance, Mickler’s family life immediately got easier. “I’d be eating something at a party and they’d be like, ‘Hey, aren’t you on a diet!?’” Mickler remembers with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m on a diet where you can eat whatever you want!’”

Mickler’s Coach, Jonathan Pope, was a source of reassurance through the sometimes tough transitions. Early on, he gently recommended that Mickler try eating breakfast so he could tune into his hunger cues.

Mickler tried it and discovered that being more aware of how he felt when eating was way more effective—and practical—than a “diet.”

“That was a pivotal point in my journey,” Mickler says.

“I could have the body I want but still be present for my family. I could have a better relationship with food and the people around me. I could be free.”

Micker now feels “free” from food rules. He’s also a Precision Nutrition Certified coach.

Now, 26 pounds and the coveted six-pack later, Mickler no longer has to choose between having the body he wants and bonding with his family over brunch or birthday cake.

“My biggest takeaway from the year is my awareness,” he says.” “I can make food choices that aren’t the ‘best’ sometimes, and just learn from them, let them add to my awareness.”

As for what the future holds: Mickler is now a nutrition coach and currently working his way through the Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification Master Class. “Having been a client myself, it helps me guide my own clients.”

This 38-year old woman banished heartburn, cellulite, and achy joints with three simple words: Just show up.

Not too long ago, Kate was a thirty-something “bad girl” by choice. At least, that’s what she liked to pretend.

“Deep down, I was miserable.”

Just barely out of her 20s, Kate suffered heartburn and often felt sick after she ate. And she’d lost mobility—she couldn’t touch her toes.

“I drank too much, smoked too much, and had the diet habits of a long-haul truck driver,” Kate says.

She knew she needed a change. Then, a surprising shift did happen.

“I finally gave way to that tiny voice inside me that had always dreamed of being a dancer.“

Someone told Kate that 80 percent of life was showing up, so that’s what she did, arriving at her first-ever ballet class at age 32.

“I was absolutely horrible. I didn’t know what was going on, I couldn’t balance. At a later class I actually fell on my butt,” Kate remembers, laughing. “Stretching was painful for an entire year.”

Kate in the ballet studio before embarking on a year of Precision Nutrition Coaching.

But she kept showing up, and ended up falling in love with dance.

Still, Kate didn’t feel she’d made all the changes she needed. She wanted a “ballet body”—but in a healthy way.

So she signed up for Precision Nutrition Coaching. “I wanted the tag in my leotard to say “small.”

Just like ballet, Kate just kept showing up.

“When the pandemic hit seven months in, I stayed calm. I had all this experience feeling better, and I knew that all I had to do was stick to the PN habits. The old Kate would have been eating a lot… a lot… of takeout,” she says, with a smile and head shake.

It helped to check in with her coach, Pam Ruhland, and fellow clients. “During lockdown, sometimes you just need to see people who aren’t in your house, and talk to them about how it’s hard to work out, it’s hard to get out of your PJs.”

Now 38, Kate’s transformation has been life-changing.

“My heartburn is gone, my cellulite is gone, I don’t feel sick, my joints don’t hurt. I’m more relaxed and organized. I’m definitely way stronger,” Kate says.

And something totally unexpected happened: “Now when my ballet teacher demonstrates a combination, I can actually remember it. My focus is better. It’s a relief.”

Kate is down 7 pounds from 12 months ago, but hardly remembers her wish about the leotard. “I stopped caring about the tag, and started caring about myself,” she says.

To mark her transformation, and her transition to pointe slippers, Kate enlisted her husband for a photoshoot.

“For the first five years of this journey, I never posted pictures of myself dancing,” Kate says. “I was too embarrassed. I wasn’t good enough, thin enough, flexible enough, or strong enough.”

Now, she’s sharing her photos with the whole world.

Kate celebrated her new life, and her transition to pointe, with a photo shoot in her Toronto condo building.

“I know this is the end of the program, but it feels like a beginning.”

30 pounds lost in 100 days: How the pandemic helped this man gain the control he needed to transform his body.

The day the COVID-19 lockdown hit Phoenix, Arizona in March, Will Spencer was moving into a new apartment with a single piece of furniture: a bed.

Will had just moved back to the U.S, to a city where he had no friends or possessions, after three years of world travel and a devastating failed relationship. Through the stressful months-long breakup, he’d managed to get to the gym somewhat consistently, but he wasn’t watching what he ate.

Now, more than halfway through Precision Nutrition Coaching, Will had actually gained weight, from 202 to 212 pounds.

“My world was melting down,” says Will.

Since he can remember, Will has been attracted to transformative experiences, an interest that set him apart from his family. For the past 20 years, he’s prioritized inner transformation via meditation, travel, and, occasionally, the psychoactive tea ayahuasca.

Eventually, Will realized he had a final frontier: his body.

“My body was the one thing I wasn’t able to transform,” he says. 

“You have to have the right environment. I was in my mid-thirties and I hadn’t known a single fit person my whole life. So moving back to the States and having my own space and a lockdown, I thought, okay, this is the moment.’”

PN’s lessons and habits gave Will a framework he could stick to. “Everything was completely out of control in my life, but I could control my activity and my eating. It’s the only thing I had to hold onto.”

With support from his coach, Jonathan Pope, Will lost 30 pounds in his final 100 days on the program.

Considering the stresses Will was coping with earlier this year, he thinks it’s remarkable where he ended up.

Will’s body was the one thing he couldn’t seem to transform. Now he’s done it.

“Things very easily could have gone a different way,” he says. “But I know this is who I am now, this is part of my DNA.”

This 42-year old mom went from little awareness about nutrition to losing 17 pounds and signing up for a Spartan race.

When Jenny’s husband, Martin, joined Precision Nutrition Coaching two years ago, she considered it his thing.

“I have to confess, when he was doing PN, I didn’t really care about it,” Jenny says.”I supported him, but I wasn’t trying any of the habits.”

Growing up in Colombia, Jenny didn’t have much awareness about nutrition. “For me, it was more important to look after my parents and my sisters, go to uni, and pay the bills. I didn’t see it as important to take care of myself.”

But after her husband’s experience with PN, Jenny had a change of heart. “I said, ‘Well, why not?’ I thought it was a good opportunity for me to do something for myself and see what happens.”

Jenny, 42, didn’t have big hopes for the program. She wanted a smaller belly, but she didn’t think about change on a grand scale.

The early lessons shifted Jenny’s thinking: Maybe it was important to look after herself and her body. As she started to get more consistent with her habits, something amazing happened: Jenny’s 5-year-old daughter Sophie started joining in on the home workouts.

“She’d start jumping and doing squats and pushups,” Jenny remembers. “That motivated me even more.”

Similarly, exploring new foods and meals became a family activity. The food Jenny makes now means something more.

“This food has value because I know it’s going to help my body and make me feel better, not worse. I feel like I’m bringing my family together with food. Now I can speak the same language as my husband.”

It’s a language that’s helped Jenny lose 17 pounds and feel good about the habits she’s teaching—and demonstrating for—her daughter.

One of Jenny’s proudest moments? Her husband asked her to join him in an upcoming Spartan race. (You can probably guess her answer.)

Jenny’s outlook on nutrition and fitness got a total overhaul. Even better? Her daughter has picked up the habits.

71 pounds gone: This couple lost weight and found fitness together.

Doug and Sandrine are a couple who did PN coaching in tandem.

Fitting perhaps, that they first met back in 2007 as bicycle guides.

“At that period of my life, I was fitter,” says Doug. “But I never put any thought into eating or nutrition. I just would go and be outside for eight hours a day, riding my bike. I just had a lot of energy, but I didn’t eat very well.”

In time, their lifestyle changed. And Doug noticed that his nutritional habits were catching up to him.

“My life changed, and I didn’t change. My eating stayed poor, and my exercise went way down. And I started gaining weight over time.”

It wasn’t just the creeping number on the scale that led Doug to think about making a change. In 2018, he was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis, a potentially life-threatening blood clot.

“I had to go on blood thinners for three months after that blood clot,” says Doug. “It made me decide that I had to change, and so that’s what led me to talk to my sister [a previous PN client], and get involved with PN.”

Doug and Sandrine on a trip to Iceland, pre-Precision Nutrition.

When Doug signed up, Sandrine joined him. “[I thought,], it’s easy if the two of us do it together because we can support one another, encourage one another,” she says. “I’ll know what he’s going through and be able to help.”

Much as their reasons for joining Precision Nutrition differed, so did their approaches to the program.

Doug’s approach: “Specific, precise, process,” Sandrine says. “He’ll do his warmup exactly the same way, and he times himself. And he’s not going to deviate from it.”

Doug was also very engaged with his coach, Scott Quick, and the other clients, frequently checking in and even posting videos of workouts to make sure his exercise form was correct.

Sandrine, on the other hand, preferred a lighter touch with the group, and she found she wanted to mix things up. “Three months ago, I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m tired of this warmup routine, I’m going to do what I want.’ And I might do yoga. I might do some dancing. I might do whatever I feel in the moment.”

Where their approaches overlapped: Keeping it simple and doing it together. 

“Our workouts eventually became just an afternoon ritual in a way. We do them together at the same time, pretty much most 99% of the time,” says Doug.

Though their goals and approaches differed, both Doug and Sandrine emerged from the program with deep and lasting change.

Doug lost 55 pounds. “Doing anything outdoors is more enjoyable now. Life is just better, mentally and physically.”

Sandrine lost 16 pounds, but she notes her bigger takeaway is that she now sees health itself as a resource. “It’s going to be an asset in any situation that you encounter, like disease or illness, or growing old, all these things.”

Their advice for anyone going through PN Coaching as a couple?

Doug and Sandrine now: lighter, fitter, and happier. “Health is an asset,” Sandrine says.

“You’re supporting, and you’re creating those rituals and that increased connection. But at the same time, you make it your own experience,” says Sandrine. “You head in the same direction, but you follow your own path.”

With 4 kids and a business, Stephanie had zero extra time: Here’s how she lost 21 pounds anyway.

Stephanie’s life was plenty hectic, even before COVID hit. That’s just how it is when you have four young kids (or even one!) and your own business to run.

“I really just put myself second,” Stephanie recalls. “I knew that I should eat more vegetables or maybe get more sleep, but I found myself just grabbing whatever when I was hungry, even though it wasn’t really filling.“

On some level, Stephanie recognized her approach wasn’t working; she wanted to lose weight and feel better. But she didn’t know how.

“I didn’t know a better way. I was in survival mode.”

She was ready for change. But if she was going to transform herself—she wanted to do it only once.

“I thought, ‘If I do it, then it will be a lifelong thing.’” So she started PN with a simple but bold commitment: Try everything.

One of the most groundbreaking lessons for Stephanie was the very first one: Take a 5-minute action. Starting small, you learn to make time for yourself.

Stephanie was surprised at the impact, both on her own eating and sleeping habits and on her work relationships. “I had people texting me 12 hours a day. I was finally like, okay, I need to have time to get stuff done, too.”

Having time for herself has become an automatic part of her day, and it’s added up to more change than Stephanie expected.

She’s down 21 pounds, but more than that: “I’m moving better than I ever have. Recently I was chasing my kids around the playground and I realized, ‘They can’t beat me!’”

Stephanie with her youngest child in March of 2019 (left) and 21 pound lighter a year later.

From “mac and cheese on pizza” to fresh pineapple as a treat: How Owen transformed his nutrition and lifestyle habits.

When Owen booked the flight for his vacation to Alaska, he was thrilled. But it also prompted a recognition.

“At my weight, it was going to be an absolutely miserable eight hour flight,” Owen says.

The motivation helped him drop 25 pounds before his trip.

Owen on vacation in Alaska, before joining Precision Nutrition Coaching.

“When I got home, I realized that I didn’t want to lose that momentum.”

That’s when he heard PN cofounder Dr. John Berardi on a podcast talking about food as a continuum. It was an interesting alternative to Owen’s usual all-or-nothing approach.

“I’d be in situations where I was trying to explain to my 5-year-old niece that I couldn’t have a piece of cake because it wasn’t a ‘cheat day,’” Owen explains. “Then cut to me three days later, and I’m putting mac and cheese on a pizza.”

Owen signed up for Precision Nutrition Coaching and was struck by the gradual method. “I remember thinking, ‘My workout is to go for a walk. What’s the point of this?’”

Slow and steady nutrition and fitness habits have allowed Owen to stick to his goals.

But after decades of extremes, Owen soon found it refreshing to “not jump in with both feet.” It was allowing him to do something new: Stick with the plan.

Like many of us, the pandemic threw Owen for a loop. But maybe even more so in his case. That’s because he’s a healthcare professional. (A big thank you to Owen and all essential workers out there.)

Yet through it all, he managed to stay the course, losing 28 pounds and two pant sizes.

But he’s not done: Owen’s decided to sign up for another year of Precision Nutrition Coaching. He’s benefitting from the support—and, of course, from the physical and mental transformation.

Owen plans to keep the momentum going with another round of Precision Nutrition Coaching.

“About a month ago, I’d just finished an insane 70-hour work week. At the store, I decided to get myself a treat. I got home and realized that I didn’t get a box of donuts or a bag of chips or a frozen pizza. I got a pineapple. That was a pretty cool moment, realizing just how far I’ve come.”

How Damian packed on 14 pounds of muscle

Damian knew something wasn’t quite right when he went to a Carnival fete with his wife.

“Machel Montano was on stage and he’s singing his song ‘Famalay.’ I remember putting up my hand and singing along, and within 10 seconds I’m tired. Really tired.”

In that moment he recognized he wasn’t truly taking care of himself.

“I wasn’t exercising. I wasn’t eating correctly. I didn’t know what to eat,” he says.

Where Damian lives, in Trinidad, metabolic-related disease is prevalent. Damian wanted to feel better—and he also didn’t want to become a statistic. “I wanted to set the right example for my kids and my wife so they know what healthy lifestyle habits look like.”

When Damian signed up for Precision Nutrition Coaching, he decided to focus on muscle gain and consistency. It wasn’t easy.

“I always had the mindset that sees every challenge as an opportunity for growth,” says Damian. He drew from that resilience to stick with the program no matter what—through work, raising kids, and COVID-19.

The result of his persistent effort: Damian was able to put on 14 pounds of lean mass. He simply followed the program, day-by-day, week-after-week.

That’s how big change really happens.

Damian before (left, center) and after developing 14 pounds of muscle–and nutrition and fitness habits for life.

“What I’m getting from this experience is more than just what the eyes can see. Along the way I developed traits I never even considered—for example, being proactive, consistent, and resilient—which all lead to me being more confident and to do even bigger and better things in the future.”

For the first time in years, this woman got below 200 pounds: What happened next shocked her (in an awesome way).

Leor wanted to slim down for a wedding she’d be attending soon. She’d tried lots of programs in the past, but hadn’t been able to stick to them for long.

“I approached things as a massive change, thinking I have to do it all at once,” says Leor. “I’d have the mindset that, ‘If I don’t do it perfectly, then it’s not worth trying.’”

Leor, 40, knew about the value of slow, mindful eating. She also knew about nutritious foods. Her problem: actually doing it.

She found Precision Nutrition Coaching through a friend and signed up, hoping to fix that. Right away, she knew PN was different. She appreciated that the program felt flexible.

“It wasn’t about perfection at all,” she says.

Leor listened to her lessons while she took a shower each morning. “At the end of the day, I would look back and think, ‘Okay, what did I actually do today? What else do I need to do?’ I started and finished my day with PN.”

And her body started to change.

But then the wedding came and went.

That’s when things got harder.

“After the wedding, it was like refocusing and reframing, trying to find a new goal,” she says.

Her work as an assistant professor at a med school in Barbados got super busy during that time, too. So Leor focused on two practices she could take with her anywhere she went: mindful eating and eating slowly.

It’s not as if those two concepts were new to her. Her grandmother had dieted a lot when she was younger and often tried to eat mindfully. But until PN, those just seemed like logical ideas—she hadn’t actually put them into practice. This time she told herself: “Practice this and give it a chance.”

It paid off.

One day Leor realized she’d hit a milestone. She was below 200 pounds—for the first time in more than a decade.

“The next day, I realized a difference in my mindset,” she says. “Breaking 200 had been this big hurdle. I was so focused on that number that I couldn’t focus on other things. It put me in a different cognitive space to be able to ask, ‘Where else can you put your energy?’ It allowed more things to enter in.”

She decided to get more active, possibly try yoga.

By year’s end, she was down a total of 39 pounds.

Leor before (left) and after Precision Nutrition Coaching. “It was simpler than I thought it would be,” she says.

“I learned small, simple things that I could really do, very easily, and incorporate into my life. I didn’t have to make these massive changes that were going to be super complicated and take me forever to do. With PN, I just focused on a few simple things and, collectively, they made a big difference.”

A breakup, a relocation, and COVID-19: It might have been the worst year of this guy’s life, yet he still crushed his fitness goals.

When Gautham started Precision Nutrition Coaching in July of 2019, life was, relatively speaking, smooth sailing.

He’d lost about 30 pounds over the preceding two years. But he struggled with an all-or-nothing mindset. He wanted health habits he could maintain.

Gautham was crushing it with PN. He decided to learn how to swim and mastered several strokes. He worked out regularly, biked several miles to work every day, ate slowly, and created a sleep ritual that allowed him to wake refreshed and get more done throughout the day.

Then, 2020 showed up. Some years, it seems, are just harder than others.

Suddenly, a serious relationship disintegrated. Not long after, a family member was hospitalized. A couple days after that, on the way to the gym, Gautham saw someone snatch a pedestrian’s purse and chased the guy down. (He got the bag but the snatcher got away.)

“That was all by January 15,” Gautham says.

Uh-oh.

By February, Gautham’s best friends and housemates moved away, which meant Gautham had to find a new place to live.

He’d just settled into his new home when the calendar flipped to March, a pandemic made its way to the US, and a “shelter in place” order went into effect where he lived in Washington DC.

“When you suddenly move to a job that you could, in theory, do from bed—without moving at all—that’s a different challenge,” he says.

Every Tuesday, like clockwork, he made sure to dial into his nutrition coaching video call. It became his anchor. He helped other clients with their challenges, and vice versa.

“You learn so much about yourself by listening to other people,” says Gautham.

Several months into the pandemic, Gautham learned of several family members who had COVID. Some were doing okay. Some weren’t.

He found he couldn’t sleep, which affected his energy levels.

So he turned to his coach, Jonathan Pope, who helped him scale things back.

Gautham went into his workouts aiming only for a 6 or a 7 on a 1 to 10 scale. He didn’t lift as heavy or run as hard. He reminded himself that an intensity level of 6 was a lot better than zero.

Now one year later, Gautham’s body is leaner and 10 pounds lighter. “This is definitely the lightest I’ve ever been, and it makes it easier to move.”

But what’s changed even more: his mindset.

Gautham before Precision Nutrition Coaching (left) and after. He shed 10 pounds and an all-or-nothing mindset.

“There is always going to be life happening. And you just have to find a way to deal with it and make it work,” he says.

This 68-year old woman mastered the Turkish getup and lost 42 pounds. If she can’t inspire you…

Looking at her now, it’s hard to believe that, just one year ago, 68-year-old Donna McKinney spent her days huddled inside her home.

Each morning, she flipped on the TV and plopped down in front of it with her breakfast in hand. She drifted in and out of that room over and over throughout the day.

“I knew I was overweight, and I knew I needed to get in shape, but I was stuck,” Donna recalls.

A holiday visit with her daughter, who appeared much smaller and fitter than before, changed everything.

Donna asked, “What did you do?”

Her daughter told her about Precision Nutrition Coaching and Donna decided to sign up.

Her one goal: to get fit. She had two young, extremely active grandchildren. “I didn’t want to be the grandmother who couldn’t sit on the floor and play games with her grandkids,” she says.

Donna’s body transformed in ways she never expected. The first time she tried to do a Turkish get-up, she couldn’t figure out where her arms or legs were supposed to even go. But slowly, over time, and with a lot of patience, she broke down the exercise into tiny steps.

“One day, it was automatic. I could just knock those out without thinking. That was a breakthrough for me.”

Around the five-month mark, Donna’s hips started to feel stiff and then painful. The feeling traveled to her low back. After seeing a doctor, she had a diagnosis: arthritis and tendonitis.

“I was eating better and working out and losing weight—and now arthritis wanted to take control of my body? That didn’t feel fair,” she says. “Thank God for my coach.”

Coach Pam Ruland helped Donna to focus on what she could do—rather than on her limitations.

”Before I would just push, push, push. Telling myself, ‘I can do this. Don’t be a wimp. Get on with it,’” Donna says. “But I’ve got to find things that work for my body. I can accept that now. It’s helped me to look into myself so much more than I ever imagined.”

Donna before and after her 42-pound weight loss. Now she has no problem getting up off the floor–even while holding a grandkid.

A year later, Donna is 42 pounds lighter.

More important, Donna is filled to the brim with obvious energy. Her eyes sparkle. Her skin glows. Her smile seems ever-present.

And she’s the grandmother she’s always wanted to be. “I still have arthritis, and that’s not going to go away,” she says. “But we run and play and pretty much do anything they want to do.”

And that TV?

“It’s hardly on anymore,” Donna says. “A lot has changed. I feel like a very different person.”

Want help becoming the healthiest, fittest, strongest version of you?

Most people know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for looking and feeling better. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.

That’s why we work closely with Precision Nutrition Coaching clients to help them lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

It’s also why we work with health, fitness and wellness professionals (through our Level 1 and Level 2 Certification programs) to teach them how to coach their own clients through the same challenges.

Interested in Precision Nutrition Coaching? Join the presale list; you’ll save up to 54% and secure a spot 24 hours early.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020.

If you’re interested in coaching and want to find out more, we encourage you to join our presale list below. Being on the list gives you two special advantages.

  • You’ll pay less than everyone else. At Precision Nutrition we like to reward the most interested and motivated people because they always make the best clients. Join the presale list and you’ll save up to 54% off the general public price, which is the lowest price we’ve ever offered.
  • You’re more likely to get a spot. To give clients the personal care and attention they deserve, we only open up the program twice a year. Last time we opened registration, we sold out within minutes. By joining the presale list you’ll get the opportunity to register 24 hours before everyone else, increasing your chances of getting in.

If you’re ready to become the fittest, strongest, healthiest version of yourself with help from the world’s best coaches, this is your chance.

[Note: If your health and fitness are already sorted out, but you’re interested in helping others, check out our Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification program].

The post 14 people. 338 pounds lost. They transformed their bodies and lives. (And so can you.) appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

How do you become a nutrition coach? What do nutrition coaches do? How much do nutrition coaches earn? And what certifications do you need?

In this article, you’ll find the answers to all those questions—and many more.

But, first, a little background. After all, you might be wondering: Why should you trust what we have to say about nutrition coaching?

For starters…

Our Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is recognized by many as the industry’s leading certification for nutrition coaches. And to date, we’ve trained nearly 100,000 health and fitness professionals on the art and science of nutrition coaching.

So get ready: We’re going to tell you everything you need to know to become a nutrition coach. You can read it all, or if you prefer, simply jump right to your most pressing questions by clicking the links below.

What is a nutrition coach?

Nutrition coaches help people build practices that lead to improved health, body composition, and/or performance.

This requires that nutrition coaches have a deep understanding of nutrition science, including:

  • The chemical makeup of macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbohydrates) and the roles they play in the body
  • Vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients (from plants), myconutrients (from fungi), and zoonutrients (from animals)
  • Calories, metabolism, and energy balance
  • Digestion
  • Water, electrolyte balance, and proper hydration
  • Energy transfer, fat storage, and muscle gain

But a nutrition coach’s job is about more than vegetables and macro ratios. 

Nutrition coaching is about people.

How they think. How they feel. How they live. Why they act the way they do.

As a nutrition coach, you work with real people and their real struggles, all within the messiness of their real lives.

In other words, effective nutrition coaching has more to do with behavior change psychology than it does with nutrition science.

Just have a look at the chart below. Every year, we ask thousands of new Precision Nutrition clients about their biggest nutrition challenges. Here’s what they say.

A bar chart showing the most common nutrition challenges that cause people to seek out a certified nutrition coach.

As a certified nutrition coach, you’re qualified to help clients deal with a variety of challenges.

“I don’t know what to eat” doesn’t even make the top 10.

In fact, year after year, people tend to have the same food frustrations, no matter what new “diet revolution” or “no-fail meal plan” comes along.

You might write that off as human nature. But we’d suggest another possibility:

Many nutrition experts and diet programs don’t focus enough on solving the real food problems that prevent people from making progress.

Nor do they help people build the fundamental skills they need to sustain any changes they make.

That’s why we don’t teach nutrition coaches to tell people to “eat better.” Plenty of people can do that.

The real job of a nutrition coach:

  • Help people build lasting habits that allow “eat better” to become easy, consistent, and automatic.
  • Support clients through the entire process, not just calculating their daily calorie needs and giving them an eating plan.

Who do nutrition coaches help?

The types of clients vary from one nutrition coach to another. Many nutrition coaches focus on a particular niche or specialty.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Busy parents who want to improve the health of their whole family
  • Seniors who want to improve their health
  • People who find themselves marginalized or excluded from traditional health and fitness communities
  • Professional, college, and Olympic athletes who are training for a sport or competition
  • Adults who are looking to get back in shape
  • Clients looking to feel better, mentally and physically
  • Models and physique competitors who want to optimize body composition
  • Runners, para-athletes, cyclists, triathletes, powerlifters, and weekend warriors trying to perform their best

Nutrition coaches aren’t limited to just one speciality, though. The principles you learn through a good nutrition coaching certification can apply to any type of client and goal.

What do nutrition coaches do?

Nutrition coaches:

  • help people clarify their health, nutrition, and/or fitness priorities, values, and goals;
  • work with clients to identify skills, practices, and sustainable daily actions for achieving those goals; and
  • support them every step of the way.

Exactly how this looks will vary from one coach to another. Here are some of the key steps we teach nutrition coaches. It’ll give you a good idea of the many different ways nutrition coaches can work with their clients.

Step 1. Assess and gather client data.

At Precision Nutrition, we use an intake form to better understand clients, track their progress, and help them identify and clarify their goals. The data we gather includes:

  • Nutrition and lifestyle knowledge and history: previous weight loss or gain, exercise experience, awareness of healthy behaviors
  • Current nutrition and lifestyle habits: what they normally eat now, their schedule, food preferences, sleep
  • Body composition and measurements: height, weight, body girths, lean mass, body fat, bone density

Step 2: Understand the client and “build the story.”

A nutrition coach takes the information gathered in step 1 and discerns how it fits into the context of a client’s life.

For instance, let’s say someone wants to lose 20 pounds. But several other things stand in their way: a demanding job, crummy sleep, and family stress. If you simply give them a premade 1,800 calorie meal plan, they’ll probably struggle. That’s because the meal plan didn’t address any of those other key factors, which are probably more important to their eating habits than calculating calories.

By exploring a client’s priorities, motivations, and perspectives, you can get a better handle on the small everyday actions that can, over time, result in long-term success.

For example, that client with the demanding job, crummy sleep, and family stress? They may not have the energy or time to stick to a detailed meal plan right now.

In fact, giving them that plan as-is, without additional support or addressing those other more pressing life factors, may actively make clients worse. They may get distracted from developing the skills and practices that would actually help them, and they’ll probably feel like “failures” if they can’t follow the plan.

The role of the nutrition coach: Help the client identify other steps they can take to start making progress toward goals. For instance, maybe that person can eat slowly or incorporate protein at every meal, which brings us to the next step in the process.

Step 3: Create an action plan.

Good nutrition coaches don’t tell clients exactly what to eat or what to do. Instead, they guide and support them to automate habits.

This is what drives lasting change. For someone looking to lose weight, these habits might include:

  • Eating slowly and mindfully
  • Choosing mostly minimally-processed whole foods
  • Including lots of vegetables, especially colorful ones
  • Having lean protein at most meals
  • Eating until just physically satisfied, or what we call “80% full”

While these might sound boring or too obvious, the reality is this: Following this simple advice is not only highly effective for most people, it’s also incredibly hard. After all, how many folks do you know who are consistently doing all five habits well?

The bottom line: Nutrition science is important. But…

Mastering the art of lasting behavior change is what truly makes nutrition coaches successful and in-demand. 

For a deeper dive into our coaching method, check out these articles:

Step 4: Choose and test one action.

People don’t just wake up one day with a new habit.

They form it by consistently practicing a series of small, strategic, simple actions. For example, someone who wants to lose weight might decide to establish a habit of eating slowly, until they’re 80 percent full. To get there, however, they might start by thoroughly noticing their first few bites.

Or let’s say they want to include more veggies at every meal. Their first action might be adding lettuce to the sandwich they usually eat for lunch most days of the week.

Step 5: Observe and monitor what happens.

Once you and a client have agreed on one action to try, you’ve essentially started an experiment. You’re gathering data again, such as:

  • How consistently did your client do the assigned task?
  • How well did your client do the assigned task?
  • Did any challengers or questions come up?
  • Was there anything that went particularly well?

You’re also tracking progress, with indicators such as:

  • Body measurements
  • Lab test results
  • Sleep quality
  • Energy levels
  • Immunity
  • Confidence
  • Pain
  • GI health

Step 6: Use outcome-based decision making.

Together, you and your client look at how well they did on their assigned action.

There is no failure in experiments, only feedback that helps you determine next steps. This is known as outcome-based decision making.

Once you and your client analyze what happened, you’ll work together to choose the next task or strategic direction of the nutrition coaching program. This can include:

  • Adding a new action
  • Changing the original action
  • Shrinking the original action so it’s easier or more manageable (if the client struggled initially)
  • Making the original action more challenging (if the client found it too easy)

You’ll then repeat this cycle, helping clients solve problems, overcome limiting factors, and modify their overall plan, as needed.

Read more: Three Easy-to-Use Coaching Tools

What’s the difference between a nutrition coach and a registered dietitian?

Registered dietitians (RD) undergo more education and training than nutrition coaches do—and this extra training qualifies them to do medical nutritional therapy. They usually work in a medical or hospital setting, in conjunction with other healthcare professionals. Some RDs also work in private practice.

The following chart outlines the sdifferences between coaches and dietitians.

Nutrition Coaches Registered Dietitians
Have usually completed a certification, continuing education, or university coursework in nutrition and/or behavior coaching Have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
Have some background in biochemistry, physiology, and anatomy, along with other relevant subjects Must complete coursework in human physiology, nutrition science, and other sciences, finish a 900-1200 hour supervised internship, pass a comprehensive exam and, in some states, apply for a license to practice.
Not qualified to offer medical nutritional therapy (MNT), but can give clients tools and strategies that help them improve their daily eating. Qualified to offer medical nutritional therapy (MNT) for a wide array of medical conditions, through a tailored diet and close monitoring
Can work anywhere—online, over the phone, and/or in person. Often work with patients in hospitals and other clinical settings. Some work in private practice.
Help people form habits and change behaviors Prescribe specific meal plans

Registered dietitians and nutrition coaches aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, many registered dietitians—especially those in private practice—earn nutrition coaching certifications, too. This helps them develop the coaching skills that improve their effectiveness.

What’s the difference between a nutrition coach and a nutritionist?

This depends a lot on where you live.

In some places, the terms “nutritionist” and “nutrition coach” can be synonymous—and there are little to no regulations about what kind of training someone needs to use either term.

But in other places, the title “nutritionist” is protected by law. To use that title, someone often must undergo specific training, pass a certification exam, and apply for a license. These certification and licensing requirements vary by country and by state.

In the United States, all registered dietitians are nutritionists and can market themselves as RDNs (Registered Dietitian Nutritionists). But only nutritionists who undergo the rigorous training mentioned in the previous section can call themselves dietitians.

Consult a local lawyer to find out how regulations in your area may affect what you can and cannot call yourself.

What’s the difference between a nutrition coach and a health coach?

It depends on the certifications you’re comparing, but typically, they have a lot in common.

People generally hire nutrition coaches for help with… their nutrition. And people generally go to health coaches for help with… their health.

And since health affects nutrition and nutrition affects health, there’s often a lot of overlap.

For example, sleeping too little can trigger intense food cravings that lead someone to eat more. And eating too much for dinner can interfere with sleep.

Another example: A nutrition coach might help a client with stress management—because stress can interfere with fat loss. A health coach also might help a client with stress management—because stress can interfere with energy levels or even disease risk.

In those ways, nutrition coaches are health coaches, and health coaches are nutrition coaches. The difference lies in the framing. In fact, we believe they’re so closely related that for our Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification, we teach nutrition and lifestyle coaching.

Do any laws limit what nutrition coaches can do?

In our Level 1 certification program, we share this Code of Ethics. It lists several best practices for nutrition coaches.

In addition to using those best practices, check the laws in the area where you reside. Though the limits will vary from one location to another, in most places nutrition coaches are allowed to make general suggestions about the kind of food that’s likely to support their clients’ goals.

But depending on your state or country, there are limits to what nutrition coaches, nutritionists, and other non-registered dietitian professionals can say about nutrition. (Learn more.)

That means nutrition coaches can’t:

  • Prescribe anything in order to treat a health condition or symptom. Without medical training, coaches are legally prohibited—and, frankly, unqualified—to give that kind of advice.
  • Diagnose what’s wrong with someone.
  • Treat someone with medical nutritional therapy.

That may sound like a lot of “can’ts.” But nutrition coaches can still do a lot—becoming a key player in someone’s healthcare team. More about that in the section: “Why do people need nutrition coaches?

What kind of jobs can you get as a nutrition coach?

One option: open a private practice. This allows you to make your own hours and be your own boss while doing what you love: helping others.

For some, an online nutrition coaching practice could be the perfect career for these times. Case in point: Nutrition coaches were using video conferencing and online software to coach clients long before the 2020 pandemic.

Earning your nutrition coaching certification can allow you to market yourself as a nutrition coach, sports nutrition coach, weight loss coach, food coach, and potentially a wellness and lifestyle coach, depending on your background.

While some people choose to solely work as a nutrition coach, most who get certified combine nutrition coaching with other health and fitness roles. At Precision Nutrition, graduates of our Level 1 Certification use the nutrition coaching skills they developed in a variety of vocations, including:

  • Personal trainer
  • Strength coach
  • Group exercise instructor
  • Yoga instructor
  • Health coach
  • Physical therapist
  • Nutritionist
  • Registered dietitian
  • Doctor
  • Nurse
  • Dentist
  • Chiropractors
  • Team sport coach
  • Individual sport coach

In these cases, becoming a nutrition coach enhances your ability to help people in other disciplines.

Why do people need nutrition coaches?

Consider what happens when someone goes to the doctor and leaves with a “prescription” to eat more vegetables, stop drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, and start exercising. More than likely, their doctor will quickly explain everything in a matter of minutes.

Which often leaves them with a big question: “Okay, but how do I do that?”

For many, they’re on their own.

For help, they might turn to a knowledgeable friend, a best-selling diet book, or a YouTube video.

Here’s the deal, though: Mere knowledge doesn’t always lead to the kind of long-term changes that allow someone to improve their health.

Imagine, for example, that you want to be more productive. So you decide to start getting up at 3 a.m.

Now, anyone can set their alarm and get up at 3 a.m.—once.

Most of us have done it to catch a flight. But getting up at 3 a.m. every single day, when you’re used to sleeping until 7? Well, that’s a whole different story.

Lots of things in your life might have to change because of it.

It’s the same with nutrition. To implement new, lasting habits, people need help creating routines and strategies. And without that help, they tend to struggle. Even if they eat a few veggies and give up soda for a while, they eventually have a bad day. And then another bad day. And then another.

And then they stop trying.

This presents a huge opportunity for nutrition coaches.

Think about a nutrition coach’s job in two parts: There’s knowing what to tell people, of course. This is the SCIENCE of nutrition.

But the other component? Helping people consistently take action, to the point where they can actually change long term.

This is the ART of nutrition coaching, and it’s even more important than the nutrition science.

When nutrition coaches lean into that art, they can help their clients…

  • Take a big goal, like weight loss, and break it down into smaller, more digestible steps.
  • Overcome limiting factors like a junk-food-loving family, intense cravings for sweets, or that dead-tired feeling that makes people decide to order take out rather than cook.
  • Learn to grocery shop, meal prep, and cook, not just follow a pre-made nutrition plan that may not match their personal preferences.
  • Tune into their own physical signs of hunger and fullness, not just count calories and macros.
  • Figure out how to prioritize and practice helpful lifestyle behaviors like exercise, stress management, and quality sleep.
  • Understand why their hunger strikes so fiercely at a certain time of day—as well as how to alter their meals so they provide more staying power

We could have added dozens more bullets above. But we’re hoping you get the idea. Nutrition coaches aren’t better or worse than registered dietitians or doctors. They merely fill a different and incredibly important role. Doctors and registered dietitians diagnose, treat, and educate patients. Nutrition coaches help people actually do what their healthcare team recommends—on a regular basis, for as long as it takes.

Why do people become nutrition coaches?

We’ve trained nearly 100,000 people to become nutrition coaches.

Many have used our Level 1 and Level 2 certifications to deepen their understanding of nutrition, making their first major steps toward becoming health and fitness professionals.

Some are still in another career, as they work toward becoming more established as a nutrition coach.

Others already work in the health and fitness fields—as personal trainers, Pilates or yoga instructors, chiropractors, mental health professionals, massage therapists—and they hope to use their nutrition coaching certification to catapult their careers to the next level.

Or perhaps, as physicians or registered dietitians, they’re already helping a ton of people—but they know they could be even more effective if they learned coaching skills.

Still other people look to nutrition coaching as a side hustle that they can do from home and online. And we could list many more reasons people decide to become nutrition coaches.

But all of those reasons? They really all boil down to just one.

People decide to become nutrition coaches because they want to change lives for the better.

They know that people are frustrated with…

  • Trying diet after diet and not seeing real results
  • Struggling to “just” put their doctor’s advice into practice
  • Bodies that seem to betray them at every turn

They want to help others—and they know they can help. That’s what a nutrition coach does.

How much money does a nutrition coach make?

Obviously it varies—based on many different factors: education, experience, and client load, to name a few.

But, based on our survey of 1,000 nutrition coaches:  

  • The median hourly rate for nutrition coaching is $65 per hour. In other words, half the coaches we surveyed make less than $65 per hour. Half make more.
  • Some high earners are able to charge $10 to $15 an hour more than the median rate.
  • Some super earners are charging double the median rate—$130 per hour or more.

For very successful Precision Nutrition coaches, $100 to $200 per monthly client is attainable. Some of these well-established coaches work with as many as 50 to 100 clients or more at any one time. (We’ll let you do the math.)

However, these rates vary based on experience, location, and offerings (such as one-on-one vs. group coaching).

Plus, total income also depends on many additional factors, including your levels of interest and motivation, the time you can commit, and the results you can deliver.

How do I become a nutrition coach? What credentials do I need?

If you’re going to talk about nutrition, you really need to know what you’re talking about.

But you probably guessed that part.

You also need to know about coaching, psychology, and behavior change.

While there isn’t one particular certification, it’s best to seek out a training program that:

  • Is rigorous and well-respected
  • Covers nutrition science, biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, and other related topics.
  • Is client-centered
  • Based on the “whole person” approach to a healthy lifestyle
  • Continuously reviewed and updated per the latest findings with real clients and in peer-reviewed research.
  • Includes coaching techniques and change psychology. Because understanding the science of nutrition won’t get you very far if you lack the foundational coaching skills needed to communicate and guide your clients toward change behaviors that’ll actually stick.

When deciding on a program, look for one that will do more than simply give you a certification that you can put on your wall and add to your title. You want one that not only teaches you about nutrition but also sets you up to start coaching, with confidence, on the day you graduate.

We’re obviously biased, but we believe the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the best place to start. That’s because our program checks all of those boxes, teaching you both the science and the art of nutrition coaching.

By the end of the self-paced course, coaches understand cell metabolism, the GI tract, energy balance, macro and micronutrients, fluid balance, and the importance of stress management and sleep quality.

Plus, they know how to use that knowledge to inspire their clients to make consistent changes to what, how much, and how they eat, as well as how they move, sleep, and recover.

We could go on and on about the many benefits of a PN certification. But, like we said, we’re biased.

So how about this? If you’re interested in learning more hop on over to our Level 1 certification page.

And no matter where you ultimately learn how to become a nutrition coach, we’re rooting for you.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, goals, preferences, and lifestlye—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 30% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 30% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

The post Become a nutrition coach: Everything you need to know to get started appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

By the time Tina Cox-Vega hit her highest weight ever, she had a terrifying thought: “I was killing myself with food.” Here’s how she lost 100 pounds—and got her life back.

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Tina Cox-Vega stepped on the scale.

“265,” the doctor said.

Tina’s heart sank. At the time, she was 44. Her weight had been creeping up for years. Still, at 5-foot-6, she never thought it would get this high.

She drove home. Then cried.

“I knew I was on the path to 300 pounds. I felt so heavy and self-conscious. I needed special accomodations everywhere I went.”

Tina felt imprisoned by her body. The extra pounds were intensifying her chronic knee pain. Stairs? Forget it. She couldn’t stand for very long, either, which made it seem as if her life was slipping away without her participation.

Tina looked for excuses to avoid accompanying her family and friends to concerts and amusement parks. She just couldn’t keep up without resting. Plus, the long wait to get on a rollercoaster would be excruciating: When it was her turn to get on, she worried the attendant would say, “I’m sorry ma’am, but the harness won’t close.”

For years, Tina had been telling herself she would fix things—someday.

But that day in the doctor’s office, she knew “someday” had arrived.

So when her close friend Michelle Richards suggested Precision Nutrition Coaching, Tina took the advice seriously.

Michelle gushed about the goals she’d reached with PN coaching. She even offered to cover Tina’s fee, using some of the $25,000 she’d received from winning our body transformation contest.

Tina declined, but not because she wasn’t convinced. She just wanted to pay for it herself.

“I told Michelle: ‘If I don’t have a financial stake in this, I won’t do it.’”

In the first few weeks, Tina did an exercise called The 5 Whys, a method for uncovering the deeper motivation behind a goal. As Tina contemplated the questions, she realized that her motivation went way beyond just wanting to lose weight:

“I wanted to be healthy for my children. But on an even deeper level, I was afraid that I was slowly killing myself with food. I knew I needed help.”

Uncovering those “whys” fired Tina up so much that she committed herself to program. “I quietly read every lesson. I did every habit, every workshop, every workout,” she says.

At first, Tina struggled because of her knee issues. But her coach, Denise Allen, provided her with alternative exercises and, slowly, Tina’s fitness improved.

Adopting the PN approach of looking for ways to do things just “a little bit better,” Tina took small steps toward her goals.

She took the stairs at work instead of the elevator—even though she, at first, got so winded she wasn’t sure if she’d make it. Soon, she was purposely parking in the farthest spot in the lot, her old handicapped permit gathering dust in the glove box.

Next, she stopped relying on TV to lull her to sleep. She used meditation to wind down instead.

Tina was seeing physical results, too. Her weight dropped and her entire body changed. When she looked at photos of herself, she saw a new woman.

But around the program’s halfway mark, something happened that kicked Tina’s results into high gear.

One day, Tina posted in the PN coaching Facebook group, asking for recipes that she could make with her daughters.

Two weeks later, she got a package in the mail. Denise, her coach, had sent her the Gourmet Nutrition cookbook. Inside, Denise had written: “I want you to know you can do this.”

“I was literally in tears,” Tina says. “I was like, ‘Wow she really gives a damn. She wants me to succeed.’”

By the end of the year, Tina had lost 60 pounds and 50 inches. Her crippling knee pain was gone, and the clouds of depression had cleared. For the first time in a long time, she felt happy, empowered, and very much alive.

Tina was no longer afraid of dying. She was too busy living.

That line of thought, popularized by The Shawshank Redemption, rang true for Tina. And she wasn’t done. With Denise’s encouragement, Tina signed up for a second year of coaching.

Near the end of year two, Tina stepped on the scale, looked down, and cried: 165. She’d lost 100 pounds.

“I took a picture of the scale that day, so I could always remember it,” she says.

At times, Tina can hardly believe her transformation. Neither can her kids.

“They drove by and saw their mother, believe it or not, jogging,” she laughs.

Tina’s even playing volleyball again, a sport she loved in high school. “I’ve got my confidence back,” she says.

Perhaps best of all is the newly-strengthened bond with her daughters. Tina can now spend a whole afternoon out and about without needing to take a break or worrying about special accommodations.

“PN has done more than just help me lose weight. It has helped me grow closer to those around me,” Tina adds.

“I’m never going to go back to what I was before. And, honestly, I think PN saved my life.”

Want help becoming the healthiest, fittest, strongest version of you?

Most people know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for looking and feeling better. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.

That’s why we work closely with Precision Nutrition Coaching clients to help them lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

It’s also why we work with health, fitness and wellness professionals (through our Level 1 and Level 2 Certification programs) to teach them how to coach their own clients through the same challenges.

Interested in Precision Nutrition Coaching? Join the presale list; you’ll save up to 54% and secure a spot 24 hours early.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020.

If you’re interested in coaching and want to find out more, we encourage you to join our presale list below. Being on the list gives you two special advantages.

  • You’ll pay less than everyone else. At Precision Nutrition we like to reward the most interested and motivated people because they always make the best clients. Join the presale list and you’ll save up to 54% off the general public price, which is the lowest price we’ve ever offered.
  • You’re more likely to get a spot. To give clients the personal care and attention they deserve, we only open up the program twice a year. Last time we opened registration, we sold out within minutes. By joining the presale list you’ll get the opportunity to register 24 hours before everyone else, increasing your chances of getting in.

If you’re ready to become the fittest, strongest, healthiest version of yourself with help from the world’s best coaches, this is your chance.

[Note: If your health and fitness are already sorted out, but you’re interested in helping others, check out our Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification program].

The post This woman lost 100 pounds. Her story has a lesson for everyone. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Jon McLernon’s heart was racing.

“Go to the hospital,” a voice screamed inside his head. “You’re dying.”

But he wasn’t dying, and he knew it. Years of career changes, international moves, extreme diet and exercise plans, injuries, and trauma from a violent incident overseas were all taking their toll.

He was having yet another panic attack.

He longed for comfort. But it was the middle of the night. His wife was asleep, and he didn’t want to wake her.

Plus, he didn’t want her to know.

He was a man, after all. He was supposed to be strong, right?

That’s why she called him the tin man.

The then-35-year-old quietly shuffled to the couch.

It seemed like the attacks were striking all the time now, despite the medication he took to treat them. Jon, who lives in Red Deer, Alberta, was suffering from so many panic attacks that he stopped going to the public places that triggered them, including the gym.

Instead, he squashed his uncomfortable emotions—guilt, shame, anger—with a familiar friend: food. The emotional eating combined with little to no exercise caused his weight to climb. At the beginning of 2017, he reached  290 pounds.

And he felt like a failure. He’d struggled with his weight since his early 20s, when he’d been sidelined from sports by a motorcycle accident. Since then, 6-foot-1 Jon longed to get back to his old athletic self.

“I looked back at who I was, and who I had become, and I felt so discouraged.”

Over the years, Jon had lost and regained a lot of weight. He’d tried so many diets and exercise strategies: keto, kettlebells, macro counting, HIIT workouts—you name it.

He tended to look for a quick, extreme fix. “I kept thinking, ‘I’ve just got to do this for 12 weeks, and then I’m done.’”

But because he was always all-or-nothing with his efforts, life had a tendency to get in the way, and his weight would balloon back up.

Jon knew he needed to do something before he landed back at his all-time high: 328 pounds. So he figured he’d just do what he’d always done: “white knuckle” through another extreme diet and exercise plan.

“I’ll just keep powerlifting two hours a day. Sleeping five hours a night. Working 14 hours a day. I’ll just beat myself harder, and my body will respond.”

A nutrition coach who helped run a supplement store, Jon knew a lot about health. But despite everything he knew about exercise and nutrition, his tactics weren’t working.

“I thought, ‘How can I know all this stuff and still not succeed?’”

Jon even tried working with two nutrition coaches. But he couldn’t stick to the rigid meal plans they were assigning him, which just made him feel worse: “That really made me almost self-destruct,” he says.

By the summer of 2017, Jon was exhausted and miserable. Luckily, during one of his many nutrition research sessions, he stumbled across Precision Nutrition.

Jon McLernon at the beginning of Precision Nutrition Coaching.

Jon McLernon at the beginning of Precision Nutrition Coaching.

“Maybe they can help me…”

With PN, he immediately realized the approach would be different: Less focus on extreme diets and exercise programs, and more focus on sustainable changes. “They were speaking to me differently than I was used to,” he says.

So he took a leap of faith and signed up for Precision Nutrition Coaching.

Jon was surprised to discover that Scott Quick, his PN Coach, was nothing like his previous nutrition coaches who’d berated him for failing to count and track his macros.

“There was nothing judgmental about his approach. He didn’t talk to me like I was a failure. He didn’t talk to me with this expectation that I was going to let him down.”

Coach Scott met Jon’s efforts with compassion. And Jon wasn’t sure how to handle it. “Even then, I didn’t accept it with open arms,” Jon remembers.

But all that was about to change.

One day, Coach Scott asked Jon to make a list of everything that was important to him.

Then, Coach Scott followed up with a key question: “How far down the list do I have to go before I find Jon?”

The question hit Jon hard. “I was like, ‘Holy crap. Why don’t I love myself?’”

“I sat there and I actually cried,” he says.

Despite everything he’d tried—all the diets, exercise routines, supplement regimens—Jon realized he’d been missing a crucial piece. Until now, he never considered what he needed.

After years of keeping his emotions in a locked box, Jon finally allowed himself to feel. And Coach Scott was there to support him.

“He said, ‘It’s okay to feel these things.’ And that was a foreign message to me,” Jon says.

Jon even decided to tell his wife that he was having panic attacks. “Of course, she didn’t respond at all like I thought she would. She responded with compassion and care and concern.”

Now, Jon was ready to start working smarter instead of harder.

He started focusing on eating his meals slowly and not stuffing himself. He tried to become more aware of the reasons he overate, and better tune in to his body’s appetite signals.

Previously, Jon would have scoffed at simple nutrition strategies like these. But he was committed to letting go of his all-or-nothing approach.

He agreed to follow Coach Scott’s advice and start small, by practicing tiny daily actions consistently—instead of trying to overhaul his whole life at once. “Over time, it started to pay off,” Jon recalls.

His self-awareness grew. He recognized his pattern of emotional eating and sought out other, healthier outlets for his anxiety, like doing a few minutes of meditation each day.

Most of all, Jon started to prioritize himself and his own well-being. No more beating himself up, physically or emotionally.

“I’m not putting excessive demands on myself now,” he says. “Instead of trying to punish my body into health, I’m celebrating what I can do.”

Jon McLernon 60 lb. lighter after 12 months of Precision Nutrition Coaching.

Jon McLernon 60 lb. lighter after 12 months of Precision Nutrition Coaching.

Today, Jon is down 60 pounds since starting with PN.

While Jon’s certainly proud of his weight loss, he’s even happier with his inner transformation.

Jon’s wife no longer refers to him as a “tin man.” The intense and unsustainable diets? Gone. So are the nightly panic attacks.

“I got my life back,” he says. “And my wife got her husband back.”

Jon and his wife in a photo he labels “Not the tin man.”

Even better, Jon has taken what he learned during his PN Coaching experience and applied it with his own clients. He’s now a Precision Nutrition Level 2 Master Coach with a thriving business, Freedom Nutrition Coaching.

“It’s given me the sense of fulfillment I was always looking for—of being a part of something bigger than myself.”

Thriving mentally, physically, and emotionally, Jon has discovered deep health. Not just for twelve weeks, but for life.

Try It Now

One of the most powerful tactics Jon used to lose weight successfully: prioritizing his needs so he could consistently make time for himself.

We’re all busy, and we’re all surrounded by distractions (hello smart phone) along with people and situations that grab our attention. On top of this, many of us want to please and help others, which can make us feel guilty when we take time for ourselves.

Problem is: If we don’t make time for ourselves, we won’t consistently find time to do what’s needed—plan meals, shop for healthy foods, exercise—to reach our goals.

That’s why listing what’s most important to you is such a powerful tactic, says Coach Scott. “It gets very real, very fast,” he says. “It can be humbling, mind-blowing, and mind-opening.”

To try it for yourself, do the following:

  1. Grab a piece of paper and a pen or pencil.
  2. Make a list of every person, activity, and thing you love, value, and hold dear.
  3. Take a look at your list. Where do you fall on it? Do you make the cut?

For some people, this ultra-simple exercise is an immediate game-changer. Other people, however, struggle with their new revelations, wondering, “Yeah I realize I should move myself up the list, but…how?”

If the latter describes you, Coach Scott recommends yet another set of questions: Why do you feel this is a struggle? Why are you hesitating? What’s holding you back?

If you worry about competing priorities (for example, spending time with your kids) or letting others down, consider how you might say “Me, Too” instead of “Me, First,” says Coach Scott. In other words, how do you prioritize yourself and the people you love rather than choosing just one or the other?

For example, perhaps you could:

  • Include your family in your nutrition and fitness activities. For example, during a family celebration, could you say, “I’d like to go for a quick walk. Would anyone like to join me?”
  • Communicate your goals with coworkers and family members so they understand, for example, why you want to make time to prep food or go to sleep 30 minutes earlier than usual.
  • Ask for help. Imagine your daily routine. How might you move yourself—and especially your health and fitness goals—up your priority list while at home, at work, while traveling? What obstacles stand in your way? What small actions might family, coworkers, and friends take to help you overcome those obstacles?

And keep in mind: Yes, this is hard work. Change is uncomfortable. But so is stagnation, says Coach Scott. “It takes courage and discomfort to move yourself up the list,” he says. “But it’s okay to struggle because struggling means it’s important to you.”

Want help becoming the healthiest, fittest, strongest version of you?

Most people know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for looking and feeling better. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.

That’s why we work closely with Precision Nutrition Coaching clients to help them lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

It’s also why we work with health, fitness and wellness professionals (through our Level 1 and Level 2 Certification programs) to teach them how to coach their own clients through the same challenges.

Interested in Precision Nutrition Coaching? Join the presale list; you’ll save up to 54% and secure a spot 24 hours early.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020.

If you’re interested in coaching and want to find out more, we encourage you to join our presale list below. Being on the list gives you two special advantages.

  • You’ll pay less than everyone else. At Precision Nutrition we like to reward the most interested and motivated people because they always make the best clients. Join the presale list and you’ll save up to 54% off the general public price, which is the lowest price we’ve ever offered.
  • You’re more likely to get a spot. To give clients the personal care and attention they deserve, we only open up the program twice a year. Last time we opened registration, we sold out within minutes. By joining the presale list you’ll get the opportunity to register 24 hours before everyone else, increasing your chances of getting in.

If you’re ready to become the fittest, strongest, healthiest version of yourself with help from the world’s best coaches, this is your chance.

[Note: If your health and fitness are already sorted out, but you’re interested in helping others, check out our Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification program].

The post This man gave up extreme dieting and exercise. That’s when he finally lost 60 pounds. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

“But how do you get enough protein?!”

If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or even just a fan of Meatless Mondays, you’ve probably been asked this question.

Plant-based protein is a hot topic for plant-based eaters or anyone whose dietary choices emphasize plant foods as important components.

Much of the controversy and confusion revolves around getting “enough” protein and choosing the “best” sources.

But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to plant-based protein. That’s because:

  • There are lots of different types of plant-based eaters: vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, pescatarians, people who are plant-curious or plant-forward… the list goes on.
  • Getting “enough” protein is relative. A person’s ideal protein intake depends on their individual body, goals, and preferences.
  • The “best” sources of plant-based protein may vary from person to person. Some sources may be higher-quality than others, but intolerances and allergies need to be taken into account, as well as what a person is able to eat on a consistent basis.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about protein for plant-based eaters, including how to answer the following questions for yourself (or your client):

  • Why is protein so important, and how much do you need?
  • What are the best sources of plant-based protein?
  • What should you do if you’re struggling to meet protein needs on a plant-based diet?

Let’s get started.

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Many believe plant-based eaters struggle with protein.

To some degree, that’s true.

Here at Precision Nutrition, we’ve coached over 100,000 people on their eating habits. And every year, we ask thousands of new clients about their biggest nutrition challenges via a questionnaire.

Then, our data wizards analyze the responses to understand the most common nutrition problems.

According to our recent intake data, plant-based eaters were much more likely than non-plant-based eaters to have a lower protein intake.

A bar graph showing that plant-based eats usually have fewer meals with protein per day than non-plant-based eaters.

According to our intake data, plant-based eaters were less likely to include a serving of protein with most meals.

Of course, protein isn’t a problem for all plant-based eaters.

But protein does deserve special attention—no matter what your diet.

Why is protein so important?

We need protein consistently from our diets in order to grow, maintain, and repair our tissues, hormones, and immune system. 

Some people may want to eat more or less protein depending on their preferences and goals, but we all need a bare minimum of protein to prevent issues like:

  • losing muscle mass (which can cause a drop in your metabolism)
  • having skin, hair, and nail problems
  • healing more slowly if you get cuts or bruises
  • experiencing mood swings
  • being more likely to break bones

And unless you have a specific medical reason to keep your protein intake low, most people will benefit from eating more protein.

The specific benefits of a higher-protein diet include:

  • Appetite control: Eating a high-protein diet seems to improve satiety.1,2
  • Weight and body composition management: Higher protein intakes may help people eat less when they’re trying to lose fat, increase the number of calories burned through digestion (the thermic effect of food), and retain muscle during fat loss.3
  • Muscle growth or maintenance: Keeping protein levels high, combined with exercise, helps people gain vital muscle mass and hang onto it over time, especially as they age.4,5
  • Improved cardiometabolic health: High protein diets can help lower blood pressure, improve glucose regulation and blood cholesterol, and more.6
  • Better strength: Higher amounts of protein combined with exercise can also aid in strength gains.7
  • Improved immune function: Proteins are the building blocks of antibodies, and serve several functions in the immune system. People who are protein-deficient are more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.
  • Faster recovery: Higher protein intakes help to repair tissue damaged during exercise, as well as after injury.6

Other folks who need more protein than the bare minimum include those who:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Are growing
  • Have a health issue that causes problems with protein absorption
  • Are eating a 100 percent plant-based diet. (More on that in a minute.)

The good news?

With a little knowledge and planning, it’s not so hard to meet your protein goals on a plant-based diet. This is true whether you’re just looking to hit the bare minimum or you want to try out a high-protein approach.

How much protein do you need?

Your protein needs depend on a variety of factors including your age, weight, activity level, health status, goals, and more.

The simplest way to find out how much protein you need—no matter your eating style—is to use our Nutrition Calculator. It’ll tell you how much protein to eat in both grams and easy-to-track hand portions, along with your ideal intake of fat, carbs, and veggies.

But if you’re looking for some general guidelines…

  • Sedentary people should aim for a bare minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day (Or 0.36 grams per pound.)
  • Adults over 65 should aim for 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. (Or 0.55 to 0.91 grams per pound of bodyweight.) New research shows that most older people need more protein than the bare minimum recommendation to slow down muscle loss.8,9
  • Athletes and active people should aim for between 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. (Or 0.55 to 1.0 grams per pound of bodyweight.) People who are overweight and obese may want to stick to the lower end of this range, since protein needs are not as high relative to their bodyweight.
  • Healthy people who want to change their weight or body composition should strive for 1.6 to 3.3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. (Or 0.75 to 1.5 grams per pound.) Going above the threshold for active people (2.2 grams of protein per kilogram) may not be necessary, but there’s little evidence it’s harmful. Fun fact: Some overfeeding studies have ventured as high as 4.4 grams/kilogram (or 2 grams/pound), with no ill effects after several months.10

It’s likely helpful to adjust protein intake based on goals and current body composition.

If you’re not sure whether you’re getting enough protein, it may help to experiment with tracking your intake using hand portions or macros for a couple of weeks. Based on what you discover, you can adjust as needed.

Is plant protein as good as animal protein?

Some people wonder if humans need animal protein to be healthy. And the truth is, plant and animal proteins are different in some ways.

All proteins are made up of amino acids, which are sort of like different colored Legos. They can be put together in different ways to serve different purposes in the body.

In all, your body uses 20 different amino acids.

Seven of those are non-essential amino acids. That’s because your body can create them on its own.

There are also four conditionally essential amino acids, which your body can make, but not always. For example, your body might have a harder time making enough of them when you’re sick or after a really tough workout.

The other nine amino acids are known as essential amino acids (EAAs). Your body can’t make these, so you have to get them from food.

This is important, because EAAs play key roles in building and repairing tissue—like muscle—but also in building hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), a subcategory of EAAs, are especially important for their role in muscle protein synthesis.

Muscle protein synthesis is the process your body uses to repair and build muscle after exercise. While muscle protein synthesis is much more complicated than just one amino acid, leucine plays an integral role in triggering the process, which makes it probably the most well-known BCAA.

One thing to keep in mind, though: BCAAs are great, but you still need all of the EAAs to maximize the protein synthesis from your protein source.

A Venn diagram showing the types of amino acids, including essential amino acids, branched chain amino acids, conditionally essential amino acids, and non-essential amino acids.

Amino acids can be divided into three categories: essential amino acids, conditionally essential amino acids, and non-essential amino acids.

The reason all this is relevant: because of how complete and incomplete proteins are often at the center of the plant vs. animal protein discussion.

These terms refer to whether a food has enough of all nine EAAs to meet your protein needs if you only ate that food.

So imagine your sole source of food was eggs. You ate eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That’s it. Nothing else.

Would subsisting on eggs alone provide all of the EAAs you require? Yes: They’re a complete protein. (Although you’d fall short in other nutrients!)

Now imagine that your sole source of food was barley (an incomplete protein). You ate barley for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That’s it. Nothing else.

Would subsisting on barley alone provide all of the EAAs you require? No.

This unrealistic example represents the limited value of classifying foods as either “complete” or “incomplete” proteins.

All this to say, as long as you’re not subsisting on only a couple of foods (for instance, you only eat corn and bananas), you likely don’t need to devote mental energy to complete vs. incomplete proteins.

If you’re 100-percent plant based, we do recommend eating at least one cup of cooked legumes—such as chickpeas, edamame, or tempeh—a day. Legumes are high in lysine, an amino acid that’s in short supply when only eating plants.

Do plant-based eaters need more protein?

Because of the way the human digestive system is structured and the varying amino acid profiles of plant foods, we might not absorb protein from some plants as well as animal proteins.

The lower digestibility of protein in plant foods means that if plants are your only source of protein, you’ll need more protein from them in order to get the same benefit and meet your body’s needs. (To learn more about protein digestibility and how it’s calculated, read this article.)

In fact, standard recommendations for protein intake assume that at least 10 percent of a person’s protein comes from animal sources.

So if you eat a 100 percent plant-based diet, you’ll need to consume more protein than someone with the same goals and physical characteristics who eats animal products.

A bar graph showing that people who eat a fully plant-based diet need more protein than those who eat animal protein.

People who eat a 100 percent plant-based diet have slightly higher protein needs than people who eat animal protein.

Which plant-based foods are high-protein?

Below, you’ll find a full plant-based protein foods list—as well as some vegetarian and pescatarian options.

But before we get to the list, a quick explanation of how we created it.

Here at Precision Nutrition, we don’t label foods “good” or “bad.” But some foods are more health-promoting than others. That’s why we look at foods on a spectrum from “eat more” to “eat some” to “eat less.”

We collaborated with our team of nutrition experts to categorize plant-based foods along a continuum, allowing for multiple perspectives and debate. We considered a variety of factors in creating the list you’ll see below, including:

  • Health and nutrition data on a given food, including long-term health outcomes in people who have been eating it for a long time (if that information is available).
  • Recommended daily intakes of various nutrients and how a given food helps fulfill those.
  • Reward and palatability: how enjoyable a food is to eat and how it tastes.
  • Nutrient density, meaning what macronutrients, micronutrients, phytonutrients, and zoonutrients a food contains.
  • Level of processing, because more highly-processed foods are often (but not always!) less health-promoting.

Our intention wasn’t to create a perfect, undebatable list, but rather a practical tool to help plant-based eaters understand their options and progress toward health goals.

It’s also worth noting that there are exceptions everywhere. 

For someone allergic to soy products, tempeh and tofu won’t be in the “eat more” category.

If a plant-based eater values environmental sustainability above all else, resource-intensive foods such as products derived from water-hungry nuts and certain types of fish will be placed in the “eat some” or “eat less” categories.

With that said, let’s get to our plant-based protein foods list.

By focusing on protein-rich foods in the “eat more” and “eat some” categories, you’ll be prioritizing lean, minimally-processed sources of protein. (But that doesn’t mean you can never have foods in the “eat less” category.)

And keep in mind that your own personal spectrum may look a bit different from what’s laid out in the sections that follow.

Protein sources

The following foods can be considered your primary source of protein in a meal.  Depending on your approach to plant-based eating, you may want to stick with the sources in the fully plant-based section, or add options from the vegetarian and pescatarian sections, too.

An infographic with illustrations of the best high protein foods for vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians.

These high protein foods are minimally-processed and nutrient-dense.

Fully plant-based

Soy products: Tofu, tempeh, and edamame are all high in protein and are present in a variety of dishes across various cultures.

Soy has been the subject of much controversy, but the body of research shows that in reasonable amounts, it’s overall safe. Research indicates that:

  • Soy foods and isoflavone (bioactive compounds found in soy) supplements have no effect on testosterone in men.
  • Soy doesn’t increase risk of breast cancer in women.
  • Soy most likely doesn’t have a harmful effect on thyroid health, either, though more research is needed in this area (If you want to get the full story on soy, here’s more info.)

Lentils: Lentils are a type of legume that have a rich and nutty flavor. The most common varieties in North America are brown, green, and red, but there are many others that can be found worldwide. Lentils are highly nutritious: They contain generous amounts of protein, slow-digesting carbohydrates, and fiber.

Beans: There are many types of beans to choose from. For example: black, pinto, navy, lupini, cannellini, and more. Generally, beans are high in fiber and carbohydrates, and provide a moderate amount of protein.

Split peas: Those who have digestive issues with beans and legumes may find that split peas are less irritating.

Black-eyed peas: These offer a similar nutrition profile to beans and lentils.

Vegetarian

Eggs and egg whites: Chicken eggs are considered one of the world’s most versatile foods, and one of the best vegetarian protein sources. A single egg contains about 6.5 grams of protein, plus minerals like iron and folate, and a healthy dose of vitamins A, E, D, and B12.

There’s some debate over whether egg yolks are healthy or not. They won’t increase blood cholesterol or the risk of heart or artery disease—for most people. However, egg yolks should likely be minimized for people with diabetes, heart disease, and or familial hypercholesterolemia.

Plain Greek yogurt: Bacterially produced dairy products—or ones that are made with fermentation—seem to be the healthiest options. Most varieties of yogurt fall into this category, but Greek yogurt is particularly high in protein. (And in case you’re wondering, flavored Greek yogurt and other types of yogurt are considered sources of fats and/or carbohydrates.)

Cultured cottage cheese: Similar to Greek yogurt, cottage cheese is a high-protein dairy option that can be particularly beneficial when made with live cultures. (The product label will note if it’s made with live and active cultures.)

Pescatarian

Fish: There are lots of choices within this category. Examples: cod, salmon, tilapia, herring, bass, snapper, and more. Fish is an ideal source of lean protein and is often rich in other nutrients, such as vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Shellfish: Scallops, shrimp, clams, oysters, and mussels are high in protein and other nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and zinc. Some are rich in iodine, which is key for thyroid health.

An infographic with illustrations of high protein foods for vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians.

Include these in meals occasionally, but not always.

Fully plant-based

Plant-based protein powders: There are many types of plant-based protein powder on the market including soy, pea, rice, hemp, and other vegan blends. There are pros and cons to each type, so it’s best to choose based on your own individual preferences and needs.

A chart comparing different plant-based protein sources found in protein powder.

Weighing the pros and cons of different plant-based protein sources can help you choose the best protein powder for you.

If you choose to use protein powder, 20-40 grams of protein per day (usually 1-2 scoops) from protein powder is a reasonable amount. For most, 80 grams per day (about 3-4 scoops) is a good upper limit of supplemental protein intake.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, just a general guideline.

The main reason: Getting more than 80 grams from protein powder is excessive for most people, as it displaces whole food sources that provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. That’s why it’s in the “eat some” section.

Textured vegetable protein: Also known at TVP, this is a soy product that is derived from soy protein isolate, a processed version of the protein found in soybeans. It has a texture similar to ground meat, which makes it easy to add to sauces, soups, stews, curries, and more. It’s a dense source of high-quality protein, kind of a “food-like” equivalent of protein powder.

Tempeh bacon: Usually made from a combination of tempeh, soy sauce or tamari, and maple syrup or other sweeteners, tempeh bacon can be made at home or bought pre-made. Though it has many of the same benefits as plain tempeh, it falls into the “eat some” category because it contains added sugars and other ingredients.

Soy yogurt, unsweetened: There are many types of plant-based yogurt available, but the only one that has a meaningful amount of protein is soy yogurt. When it’s unflavored, it can serve as a protein source since it has a higher proportion of protein relative to carbohydrates and fat. Flavored soy yogurts and other plant-based yogurts can be considered primarily sources of fat and/or carbohydrates, since they’re usually higher in those two macronutrients than protein.

Seitan: This meat substitute is made from gluten, the protein found in wheat, which means it’s not suitable for people who are gluten free. Because seitan goes through a lot of processing and doesn’t offer much aside from protein in terms of nutrition, it’s not as good of an option as tofu and tempeh. Seitan does have a relatively meat-like texture, which makes it a popular meat substitute in restaurant dishes.

Black bean burgers and traditional veggie burgers: These can be a source of protein, but they’re often more diluted in terms of their protein content. Veggie burger ingredients vary widely across manufacturers, so like all other foods on this continuum, their position isn’t set in stone. Some include lots of vegetables and high-quality sources of protein, while others contain lots of additives and few other nutrients.

Vegetarian

Animal-based protein powders: Similar to plant-based protein powders, there are many varieties of animal-based protein powders. The highest quality protein powders in this category are dairy and egg-based. Similar to plant-based protein powders, limiting protein from animal-based protein powders to 20 to 40 grams per day (with an upper limit of 80 grams per day) is a good guideline.

A chart comparing some of the animal-based protein sources found in protein powder.

Vegetarian protein powders may also be a good option for some plant-based eaters.

(To learn more about all types of protein powders, read this article.)

An infographic with illustrations of less-nutrition high protein foods for vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians.

These foods are high in protein, but should be eaten in moderation.

Fully plant-based

Plant-based protein bars: You can probably guess by now why plant-based protein bars fall under “eat less.” Even if a protein bar is a good source of protein, it’s likely to contain a host of other ingredients that have little to offer nutritionally. Protein bars may be convenient on the go, but there are a lot of other portable snack options to consider (including homemade protein bars, which can be made with any type of protein powder).

Plant-based meats: This category includes branded products and burgers like Impossible, Beyond, Gardein, Boca, and Tofurkey. People are often curious about why these products, particularly some of newer, more innovative ones, are in the “eat less” category.

One reason: Most plant-based meats are made from a highly-processed plant protein, along with added oils, salts, sugars, flavors, and colors. The more meat-like burger products are usually comparable to an 80-percent lean beef burger. That type of meat would also fall into the “eat less” category—something you might eat once in a while, but not every day if your goal is better health.

And in the case of some of the newer, highly-engineered products in this category, ingredients that are brand-new to the human food system are used to create a more meat-like result. We simply don’t know how these ingredients will impact long-term health. Of course, it’s possible we’ll eventually realize they’re not harmful at all. But we might also look back 50 years from now and say, “Wow, highly-processed plant-based meat wasn’t such a great idea after all!”

On the positive side, these products do help normalize plant-based eating. They’re increasingly available in restaurants, and can be an appealing alternative to less palatable plant-based options, especially in restaurants that don’t specialize in this type of cuisine.

Plant-based meat may also be helpful in cases where the plant-based eater might otherwise feel like an outsider.

Vegetarian

Animal-based protein bars: Similar to plant-based protein bars, these usually contain lots of extra ingredients that offer little, if any, additional health benefit.

Pescatarian

High-mercury fish: Eating fish is the major source of mercury exposure for humans. When mercury reaches a certain level in your body, it can cause serious health problems. Predatory fish like shark, tuna, king mackerel, tilefish, swordfish and orange roughy have the highest levels of mercury.

Fish/seafood that aren’t predatory—including sardines, salmon, clams, and shrimp—have lower levels. What’s more, farmed fish generally have the lowest mercury content (though there may be other concerning outcomes with intensive fish farms).

Plant-based carbohydrates and fats that are high in protein

These foods can help boost your protein intake, but are primarily carbohydrates or fats. They’re especially helpful for 100 percent plant-based eaters in increasing protein intake.

An infographic with illustrations of carbohydrate foods that also contain protein.

Add any of these foods to meals to bump up protein content.

Protein-rich carbohydrates include foods like beans, lentils, and grains.

(As noted above, beans and lentils can count as a protein source if you don’t have another source of protein in your meal, but they are higher in carbohydrates than protein.)

Grains like buckwheat, farro, amaranth, quinoa, oats, and wild rice also fall into this category.

An infographic with illustrations of fats that also contain protein.

These fat sources can help increase protein intake.

These fat sources boost protein intake and often add tasty flavor and other healthful nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, while they’re at it.

Various nuts and seeds, peanuts and peanut butter, and some plant milks fall into this category.

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3 common plant-based protein problems, solved.

Problem #1: I’m supposed to be eating all these beans and legumes, but my stomach is a mess.

When you’re all-in on eating more plants, it can be easy to go overboard with beans and legumes. Black bean burrito for breakfast! Yellow dal for lunch! Chickpea stew for dinner! Yum!

But for some people, eating too many beans and legumes too quickly can cause digestive upset.

How to fix it:

Eat slowly. We talk about this a lot at Precision Nutrition, for good reason. Our digestion can be significantly affected by the pace of incoming food, how well we chew it, and the state of our nervous system. When we rush at a meal, we may activate our sympathetic nervous system, which induces the “fight or flight” response and can mess with digestion. By staying calm and eating slowly, we’re more likely to stay in the parasympathetic “rest and digest” state. (Read more: Your Complete Guide to Slow Eating.)

Add beans and legumes gradually, and try a variety. Beans and legumes are good for you—there’s no doubt about that. But they can cause gastrointestinal issues for some people because they contain fermentable fiber. Fermentable fiber is great for your gut and microbiome, but it does cause gas and other digestive problems in some people, particularly those who aren’t used to eating a lot of fiber.

It may help to add them into your diet slowly. Try a spoonful or two of cooked beans or legumes each day, and see how well your GI tract tolerates them. Give your body time to adjust. If things seem okay, add quantity over time.

Also, experiment with different types of beans and legumes. You may find, for instance, that chickpeas are okay, but black beans aren’t.

Consider preparation. Beans and legumes prepared in certain ways may be better tolerated. For example, canned beans and legumes might be easier on your stomach than those prepared from dry. (Just make sure to rinse them before eating!)

If you prepare them from dry at home, make sure to rinse, soak, and cook them well. Not only are undercooked beans and legumes hard to eat and digest, some types of raw, dry beans can be actively toxic. For instance, dry red kidney beans contain a lectin (a type of protein) called phytohaemagglutinin, which can poison us with as few as four or five beans.

Try digestive enzymes. Alpha-galactosidase is an enzyme that helps to break down the bloat-inducing starch in beans. This isn’t a cure-all, but taking this digestive enzyme as a supplement helps some people find relief.

Problem #2: I’m having trouble meeting my protein goals.

Especially if you’re new to plant-forward eating, it may feel difficult to meet protein goals. This can be particularly challenging if you have limited food options because of allergies, intolerances, food aversions, budget constraints, or gastrointestinal problems, such as IBS and IBD.

How to fix it:

Eat a variety of foods. Expanding your protein options can make it a lot easier to hit your protein goals. Review the list of plant-based protein sources and jot down a few new ones to try. Eating a variety of protein sources also means you’ll get an array of amino acids, which as we covered earlier, is key.

Try a protein powder. Some people find the convenience and portability of protein powders to be really helpful in meeting their protein goals. Protein powder shouldn’t be your only source of protein, but it can provide a boost. (Learn more about how to fit protein powder into your diet here.)

Consider including animal protein strategically. If you’re open to it, adding some animal protein—whether from dairy, fish, or meat—may be helpful if eating only plant-based protein isn’t cutting it.

Zoom out. It’s okay to have days of eating lower amounts of protein. The human body allows for some wiggle room. In other words, we can probably meet our basic protein needs over a number of days.

Think about it: You don’t suffer protein malnutrition if you choose to eat french fries for dinner, go to bed, and don’t eat any protein again until the next day. So if you’re low on protein some days and high on protein others, don’t sweat it.

Problem #3: I’ve got a list of plant-based protein sources, but I don’t know how to eat/cook them.

If you’re not used to eating a plant-based diet, it can feel daunting to figure out how to create a meal around plant-based proteins. After all, a list of protein sources can only take you so far if they feel completely unfamiliar.

For some, not knowing how to incorporate plant-based proteins becomes a barrier to trying a plant-based diet in the first place.

How to fix it:

Remember that plant-based eating exists on a spectrum. You don’t have to eat only plant-based protein to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet (unless you want to). Plenty of plant-based eaters include dairy, fish, and even meat in their diet regularly or occasionally. So remind yourself that there are lots of ways to be a plant-based eater, depending on your reasons.

Focusing on what you can add to your diet rather than what you “have to” take away can be a helpful mindset shift. If you’re not ready to remove animal products from your diet completely, you can make your favorite chicken pasta dish and add some chickpeas to it.

“Plantify” your go-to meals. One way to find inspiration is to take some of your favorite meals and swap some animal ingredients for plant-based ones. For example, if you love beef burritos, you could try making tempeh burritos instead. Or just trade the cheese for avocado. If you always order pad thai with chicken, try it with tofu.

As you experiment with different combinations, keep a running list of plant-based protein recipes you enjoyed. Categorize your list by breakfasts, lunches, and dinners so you can refer back to it when you’re looking for meal ideas.

Map out meals ahead of time. Not everyone loves meal prepping. That’s okay. But if you’re open to it, planning and cooking your meals in batches is a great way to ensure you get plant-based protein into each meal.

Plus, having meals ready ahead of time helps banish decision fatigue about food. Since we make so many decisions on a day-to-day basis, it’s nice to not have to worry in the moment whether or not your meals have enough protein.

There are lots of ways to win the plant-based protein game.

Just like there’s no single best diet for everyone, there’s no best way to be a plant-based eater.

Including more plant foods in our diets can offer benefits that extend from personal (reducing the risk of chronic disease) to planetary (creating less of an ecological burden).

Still, many of us face a daily nutritional contradiction. On the one hand, we have protein in our nutritional bullseye. And on the other, we aren’t quite sure how—or if—plant foods can contribute to our daily protein requirements.

But whether you’re avoiding animal products completely, or just want to get some more plant goodness into your diet, plant-based protein will play an important role in your diet.

At first, it may feel daunting to figure out how much protein you need and how to get enough of it. But like anything else, with the right tools, a little bit of practice, and openness to experimentation, you’ll be a plant-based protein pro in no time.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that helps them optimize their nutrition no matter their dietary preferences—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 30% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 7th, 2020.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 30% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

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References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ, Wildman R, Kleiner S, VanDusseldorp T, Taylor L, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 14;14:16.

2. Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, Callahan HS, Meeuws KE, Burden VR, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1):41–8.

3. Halton TL, Hu FB. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Oct;23(5):373–85.

4. Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, Schoenfeld BJ, Henselmans M, Helms E, et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Mar;52(6):376–84.

5. Baum JI, Kim I-Y, Wolfe RR. Protein Consumption and the Elderly: What Is the Optimal Level of Intake? Nutrients [Internet]. 2016 Jun 8;8(6). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu8060359

6. Jakše B, Jakše B, Pinter S, Jug B, Godnov U, Pajek J, et al. Dietary Intakes and Cardiovascular Health of Healthy Adults in Short-, Medium-, and Long-Term Whole-Food Plant-Based Lifestyle Program. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 Dec 24;12(1). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu12010055

7. Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Mar;48(3):543–68.

8. Gorissen SHM, Witard OC. Characterising the muscle anabolic potential of dairy, meat and plant-based protein sources in older adults. Proc Nutr Soc. 2018 Feb;77(1):20–31.

9. Phillips SM, Chevalier S, Leidy HJ. Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016 May;41(5):565–72.

10. Antonio J, Peacock CA, Ellerbroek A, Fromhoff B, Silver T. The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014 May 12;11:19.

11. Hamilton-Reeves JM, Vazquez G, Duval SJ, Phipps WR, Kurzer MS, Messina MJ. Clinical studies show no effects of soy protein or isoflavones on reproductive hormones in men: results of a meta-analysis. Fertil Steril. 2010 Aug;94(3):997–1007.

12. Chen M, Rao Y, Zheng Y, Wei S, Li Y, Guo T, et al. Association between soy isoflavone intake and breast cancer risk for pre- and post-menopausal women: a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies. PLoS One. 2014 Feb 20;9(2):e89288.

13. Bitto A, Polito F, Atteritano M, Altavilla D, Mazzaferro S, Marini H, et al. Genistein aglycone does not affect thyroid function: results from a three-year, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Jun;95(6):3067–72.

The post Protein for plant-based eaters: How to choose the best sources. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Special operations selection courses are designed to weed people out.

In the Navy, the screening test to just qualify for these courses has about a 90 percent failure rate.

From there, anywhere between 60 to 90 percent of candidates don’t make it through the course itself.

Those who do make it, more than anything else, display the ability to just keep going through a painfully discouraging process.

They face a daily onslaught of being pushed to their limits: hypothermia, hypoxia, hypoglycemia, and sand-in-your-everything.

Yet some persevere and ultimately graduate.

How do you stay motivated through something that’s devised to make you feel terrible, day after day?

The answer is more complex than you might imagine.

Contrary to what most people think, accomplishing big-picture dreams has very little to do with feeling motivated from moment to moment.

And it has even less to do with being good at something from the start.

This is true whether you’re trying to get through a grueling selection course, a fat loss journey, a career change, or a marathon training plan.

My story is a prime example.

Right after graduating high school in small-town South Dakota, I joined the Navy.

I volunteered for a Special Operations unit. But when I left for boot camp, I didn’t know how to swim. As you can imagine, swimming is a pretty important skill in Naval Special Operations.

My odds of success were near zero.

I learned to swim by taking the screening test, failing it, and going to an hour of stroke development to practice. I passed that test by seven seconds on my third and final attempt.

Then began two and half years of suffering.

I spent 16 months in preparatory training, and was two weeks from graduating my first Special Warfare Combatant Crewmember (SWCC) selection course when I failed a timed swim. Because I was so far along, I was given the option of repeating the entire course.

But before starting over, I spent four months in a BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) development program. Then I went through SWCC selection again. This time, I graduated.

Along the way, I watched thousands of people—nearly all better swimmers than me—fail out or quit. During this process, I learned the characteristics that help someone succeed. (I also learned the factors that lead to failure.)

What I discovered surprised me: Initial talent was only a small piece of the picture. And physical fitness? It was only one of many factors.

The best athletes often quit early and reliably.

As it turns out, where you start is far less important than where you’re willing to go.

One of the main differences between those who succeeded and those who didn’t was the word “yet.”

“I’m not strong enough. Yet.”

“I don’t know how to do this. Yet.”

“I can’t handle this. Yet.”

Like everyone else in the program, the people who graduated struggled plenty, suffered setbacks, and had bad days. But the difference maker? They were also the ones who managed to consistently do a difficult, discouraging thing for a long time in order to finally reach a long-term goal.

Which then leads us to ask, How?

Here’s the secret:

It wasn’t motivation that got them there.

Motivation is what gets you started. Almost everything after that is just doing what needs to be done in the moment… until you eventually get where you want to be.

Motivation may return at some point—but it’s never guaranteed.

7 ways to keep moving forward when you don’t feel motivated.

Doing the right thing when the right thing is hard isn’t limited to the tiny, bizarre world of special operations. It’s a universal concept.

A new parent getting out of bed at 3 a.m. to soothe a screaming baby for the fifth night in a row isn’t enthusiastic about it.

The entrepreneur spending their Friday night combing through bank statements and receipts isn’t madly in love with do-it-yourself accounting.

The athlete putting in 5 a.m. workouts doesn’t hate warm blankets and sleep.

But if not motivation, then what helps people do the hard stuff? 

People who consistently do the hard thing have several core ideals and practices in common. Here’s how you can adopt them yourself.

#1: Have a deep reason.

When I had my lowest points in training, I fell back to a mental image of my Dad’s snow boots sitting by our front door.

Growing up, we had two cars. My mom was a paramedic and needed one of them. My dad chose to walk to work in the snow every morning so my siblings and I could use the other car to get to school.

The mental image of his snow boots represented the countless little sacrifices my parents made for me over the years. Knowing all these sacrifices gave me a deep reason to persevere: I didn’t ever want to have to tell my parents I’d given up because it was too hard.

A deeper reason is the fail-safe that keeps you going when you’ve got nothing else left in your tank. 

This mental image has to be uncomplicated, because when you’re hitting rock-bottom from stress, you won’t have the capacity to sort through complex, abstract concepts. You need one image that cuts directly to your core, no matter how tired you are.

There’s no surefire way to find that image. Each of our inner worlds is too complicated for this to be an easy exercise. But for a place to start, ask yourself:

  • When you have your biggest successes or failures, who do you want to talk to about them? Why?
  • Think back to a time when someone truly cared about and helped you. Imagine that person watching you in one of your most difficult moments. What do you want them to see?

#2: Find meaning being uncomfortable.

The Latin root of the word passion is patior, which means to suffer or endure. This is where phrases like The Passion of the Christ got their name. Eventually, the word came to mean not just the suffering itself, but the thing that sustains you while suffering.

When we think of people who consistently overcome hardships in order to achieve a big goal, patior is what we see. And it’s easy for us to mistake patior for motivation.

It’s not that these people feel like making small daily sacrifices and trading short-term comfort for long-term happiness. It’s that they have a purpose for doing so. Their suffering has meaning.

In order to keep working towards something big, this purpose needs to be a frequent, daily presence in your mind. 

In Okinawa, where people have the longest, healthiest lifespans in the world, they call this ikigai: Their reason for living.

When surveyed, most Okinawans know their ikigai immediately, just as clearly as you know what you had for lunch.

The ikigai of one 102-year-old karate master was to teach his martial art. For a 100-year-old fisherman, it was bringing fish back to his family three days a week. A 102-year-old woman named spending time with her great-great-granddaughter as her ikigai.

This is different from the deepest reason I described earlier. That deep reason is something rooted in your past, that helps to drive you forward and, as the ancient Greeks used to say, “live as though all of your ancestors were living again through you.”

Your ikigai is more about being and becoming. It’s present and future. It’s defining, through your actions, the words that will be on your tombstone.

Here at Precision Nutrition, we use an exercise called the “5 Whys” to help people identify their meaning and purpose.

Take some time to go through this exercise using this worksheet. It’ll help you clarify your values, define your own ikigai, and identify where in life you derive the most meaning.

#3: Prioritize systems over willpower.

If motivation isn’t the answer, willpower must be what we need, right?

Not quite.

Here’s an example: When I was a student in the early portion of the Naval Special Warfare pipeline, I had to get up at 3 a.m. for workouts. Being late or missing a workout could mean being dropped from the program.

I made it to the workouts on time, but not by making myself promises or being super-duper disciplined every day. I simply put my alarm clock on the other side of my room.

I slept in a top bunk and had roommates, so when the alarm clock went off, I had to literally jump out of bed to shut it off.

I removed the possibility of failure from the path. It didn’t matter if I felt like getting out of bed. I had to.

Essentially, I created a system to help make getting out of bed feel like the obvious path forward—rather than an uphill slog.

Setting the alarm clock across the room was my system.

Systems help us prioritize what to do and when to do it. They also remove a lot of the effort and willpower we think are required to get things done. 

This approach of shaping your environment to help yourself succeed works with any type of habit you’re struggling to stick to.

(To get started with creating your own routines to make difficult tasks easier, learn more about setting up health and fitness systems.)

#4: Separate your feelings from your identity.

In BUD/S, I was once in a support role keeping an eye on other students in the middle of Hell Week. The students were about three days into the week and were given a brief nap in tents on the beach. I was assigned to watch them for medical issues and get them to walk the 100 yards or so to the bathroom—rather than peeing in the same sand we’d be doing pushups in the next day.

One of those students stepped out of the tent and trudged past me toward the bathroom. His uniform was still wet with saltwater, and he shuffled along as if trying to shrink inward to avoid touching cold, wet cotton. He paused briefly in front of me, staring off into the distance, then burst into a full-body shudder.

With his eyes still affixed on the horizon, he said: “F**k I’m cold.”

With that, he resumed his slow, steady walk to the gate.

He was probably as miserably cold as he’d ever be in his life. He was hitting bottom, and he didn’t hide from it. He acknowledged what he was feeling, and set it aside. Being cold was a passing, unpleasant thing, like bad weather. It wasn’t his identity, and it didn’t shape who he was or what he chose to do.

Eventually, he graduated: A newly minted SEAL.

We often assume that our feelings should drive our behavior. 

That if we feel tired or sad or discouraged, we should do tired, sad, and discouraged things. (Of course, expressing and acting on your feelings often does serve a purpose. It’s a release, and it sends a clear message to others.)

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can recognize and accept those feelings in the same way that we grab a  jacket when we see storm clouds passing over.

Our moment-to-moment feelings don’t have to determine who we are or what we choose to do. Simply knowing this can make it easier to carry on when we don’t feel like it.

#5: Use behavior to change negative feelings.

One way to deal with negative feelings—which will inevitably come up when pursuing a challenging goal—is to put behavior first. Over time, this allows us to have more control over how we feel in any situation.

In special operations selection, we used the phrase “quit tomorrow.” When we had particularly bad days, we would tell one another (or ourselves) that we’d just finish out the day. Tomorrow, we could be done with it all and never have to do burpees while soaked in saltwater and covered in sand again.

Inevitably, the next day would come. We’d realize the low point the day before wasn’t that bad, and we’d keep going.

In the long run, this took advantage of a phenomenon called self-herding.1 Self-herding is forming a new behavioral habit by subconsciously referring to what you did in the past under similar circumstances.

By not quitting in our low moments, we built a habit of finding a way to keep going whenever things got really bad. Over time, the urge to quit faded because we repeatedly reinforced that bad days still meant that we’d be okay.

Our choices don’t just reveal our preferences. They shape them. 

If you’re applying this to your own habits, it’s the same process.

When you hit a low point, promise yourself you can quit tomorrow.

After this workout.

After this last round of meal prep.

After this section or chapter or lesson.

Over time, you’ll reinforce the decision and action to “do the thing that’s good for me right now,” and it’ll shape your future impulses and preferences.

#6: Use low moments to your advantage.

When we experience something that disturbs our equilibrium, such as a tough workout or a bad day at work, a subconscious part of our mind rapidly assesses two things:

  1. Do I know what’s happening?
  2. Do I have what it takes to cope with it?

Our perception of both are derived from experience.

The more things we throw ourselves into, whether we succeed or fail, the broader our experiences to refer to when assessing future stressors.

As years of varied experiences accumulate, we can begin to formulate a universal lesson:

No matter how many bad things you went through in the past, you were still alive when they were over. 

This isn’t something you consciously decide. It’s something you teach a deeper part of your brain through practice.

The next time you crash and burn or feel like you keep getting knocked down, remember that even failure provides an opportunity.

It’s an earned experience that helps create a more accurate and effective stress appraisal in the future.

At some point, your mind will know that you’ve been there, done that—even when you’re in the middle of something awful. And you can calmly and rationally move forward with the benefit of hard-earned knowledge.

#7: View life as a series of learnable skills, and practice them.

Refer back to the power of the word “yet.” Resilient, effective people don’t just “try harder.” Rather, they see any process as a skill that can be developed.

Perhaps your self-talk turns toxic when you’re having a terrible day. Don’t just tell yourself to self-talk better. Identify the specific components of that process you can improve upon—and the contextual cues that will trigger you to do so.

Here’s how it might work:

  • Identify a past experience when your self-talk became self-sabotage.
  • Take that apart. What exactly was happening in your mind, and what were you doing?
  • Decide on a specific practice that could be instituted in a similar situation in the future.

Perhaps when you were trying to get up for a 5 a.m. workout, you began mentally complaining and negotiating with yourself about getting out of bed.

Your future practice: Instead of complaining about how tired you are, you replace that dialogue with a different narrative. You tell yourself that you’re supposed to feel tired when you’re waking up. And that this early morning is the path you chose as a necessary step toward doing the thing that you truly want to do.

Or maybe you just replace the negative self-talk with a mantra or meaningful song lyric.

Whatever it is, be specific about what you’ll practice.

Then, in the same way that a runner times their splits on the track, time your ability to maintain this new practice. If you can replace or alter your negative self-talk for five minutes before breaking down, that’s your split. Reset your timer and start over next time.

The starting point doesn’t matter nearly as much as your willingness to improve, little by little.

Motivation, if anything, is an outcome.

You can’t control motivation. It can’t be directly pursued.

What you can control is the series of factors that underpin motivation.

Just knowing this can help you:

  • stop waiting for a green light to get started
  • realize that, even if it’s hard, taking action gets you closer to the goal that keeps you up at night
  • understand that doing the right thing in the moment is totally within your control

With this approach, no matter what happens, you can move forward and make progress on any given day. And that progress, even if small, feels good and can be enough to keep you going… until the next day.

This is how you achieve great things.

Yes, it might be a long, slow, hard journey. But when we look back on our lives, what we remember most will be the things that were worth struggling for—and the way it felt to earn our happiness.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that helps them overcome their biggest obstacles—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 30% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 7th, 2020.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 30% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

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References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Ariely D, Norton MI. How actions create–not just reveal–preferences. Trends Cogn Sci. 2008 Jan;12(1):13–6.

The post Motivation gets you started: Here’s what keeps you going, even when you feel like giving up. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

“Eat whole grains, not refined grains.”

As nutrition rules go, this one needs no explanation. Or does it?

Do most folks know the real difference between whole and refined grains?

And more importantly, are whole grains always the better choice?

Understanding the facts can help you (or your clients) select grains that best match your personal preferences and goals.

Let’s start with the key difference:

  • With whole grains, processing removes only the indigestible outer hull, preserving the nutrition-packed bran and germ, and the endosperm.
  • With refined grains, processing strips away the bran and germ—leaving behind only the soft, easy-to-chew endosperm that’s rich in starch but not much else.

Does this mean refined grains should be universally avoided?

No.

Processing is just one factor to consider.

For example, refined grains are an important part of many food cultures and experiences and can absolutely be part of a healthy overall diet.

What’s more, some refined grains contain more fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals than many people think. This is especially true when it comes to specific varieties of breakfast cereal, bread, and pasta. (Many refined grains are “enriched” with healthful nutrients.)

So rather than sorting grains into “good” and “bad” categories, think of them on a spectrum—and in the full context of your (or your client’s) life.

  • At one end of the spectrum: intact, minimally-processed whole grains like quinoa and brown rice.
  • At the other end of the spectrum: refined, heavily-processed grain-based foods like white bread, pasta, kids’ breakfast cereals, and pastries.

Between those extremes? A whole lot of options for many different circumstances, preferences, and health needs.

Check out this infographic to learn the whole truth about grains.

Download the tablet-friendly version of this infographic to broaden your grain horizons (and/or to help your clients practice good nutrition without being needlessly restrictive).

Download the tablet-friendly version of this infographic to open your mind (and kitchen) to the full spectrum of grain products. 

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and lifestyle—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 30% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 7th, 2020.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 30% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

The post The truth about whole grains vs. refined grains. [Infographic] appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Not all protein powders are created equal.

Some are definitely better than others.

But with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of options out there, it can be hard to know the right protein powder for you (or your clients).

After all, each person has unique goals, physiology, and preferences. So there’s no one single protein powder that’s best for everyone.

There may, however, be a best protein powder for you.

And we can help you find it. 

In this complete guide to protein powder, you’ll learn:

  • Why protein matters so much in the first place
  • When it makes sense to include protein powder in your diet
  • What to look for in protein powder
  • How to choose the right protein powder for you (or help your client choose what’s right for them)

If you’re looking for a quick answer to a specific question, you can jump directly to any of the information below:

Alright, let’s dive in.

+++

How much protein do I need?

Before you can find the protein powder that’s right for you (or your client), it helps to understand exactly why protein matters so much in the first place.

The main reason to use protein powder is to help you hit your protein goals.

(If you’re not sure how much you need, check out our handy Nutrition Calculator, which will give you a personalized recommendation for protein, carbohydrate, fat, and calories.)

Not getting enough protein can cause you to:

  • lose muscle mass (which can cause a drop in your metabolism)
  • have skin, hair, and nail problems
  • heal more slowly if you get cuts or bruises
  • experience mood swings
  • be more likely to break bones

To be clear, though, this isn’t a concern for the majority of folks.

Most people eating the average Western diet aren’t protein deficient.

The bare minimum protein requirement is estimated to be 0.8 grams per kilogram (kg) of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. So at the absolute minimum, a 160-pound person needs about 58 grams of protein to prevent protein deficiency.

For reference, a palm of protein (using Precision Nutrition’s hand portion method) has about 20 to 30 grams of protein. So with 2 to 3 palms of protein—like chicken breast, tofu, Greek yogurt, or legumes—per day, you’d be set.

But eating the bare minimum of protein is different from eating an optimal amount of protein. 

Generally, most active people can meet their optimal protein intake by eating 1 to 2 palms of protein at each meal.

Unless you have a specific medical reason to keep your protein intake low, most people will benefit from eating more protein.

Why? There are plenty of reasons, including:

  • Appetite control: Eating a high-protein diet seems to improve satiety.1,2
  • Weight and body composition management: Higher protein intakes may help people eat less when they’re trying to lose fat, increase the number of calories burned through digestion (the thermic effect of food), and retain muscle during fat loss.3
  • Muscle growth or maintenance: Keeping protein levels high, combined with exercise, helps people gain vital muscle mass and hang onto it over time, especially as they age.4,5
  • Better strength: Higher amounts of protein combined with exercise can also aid in strength gains.6
  • Improved immune function: Proteins are the building blocks of antibodies, and serve several functions in the immune system. People who are protein-deficient are more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.
  • Faster exercise recovery: Higher protein intakes help to repair tissue damaged during exercise, as well as after injury.6

Protein from whole foods is ideal.

Why is protein from whole foods superior? Mainly, it’s because it comes packaged with other nutrients: vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, zoonutrients, and so on, depending on the source. (If you’re not sure which whole foods are good sources of protein, here’s a helpful guide.)

No supplement will be able to imitate those combinations exactly, nor their synergistic effects. And when foods are processed to create protein powder, certain nutrients may be stripped, and others may be added back in—which can sometimes be beneficial, and sometimes not.

Of course, protein powder does digest faster than whole foods. This would be an advantage if you were trying to quickly flood your muscles with protein after a workout.

This is an approach called nutrient timing—or eating certain nutrients at strategic times—and it was all the rage in the early 2000s. But as research advanced, the benefits of slamming a protein shake immediately after a workout proved less important than we once thought.

For most people, here’s what matters most: The amount of protein you consistently eat over the course of the day—not precisely when you eat it. 

That’s not to say that nutrient timing is totally bogus. There’s certainly evidence that in some situations, protein (and carbohydrate) timing matters.7

But unless you’re an elite athlete or pursuing extreme fat loss or muscle gain, you don’t need to worry too much about when you get your protein.

Why use protein powder?

While whole-food protein is best, it’s just not always possible to get all the protein you need from whole foods. Ultimately, there are two big reasons you might want to consider adding protein powder to your diet.

Reason #1: Convenience: In some cases, people just don’t have time to (or simply don’t want to) sit down and eat a whole-food meal. This might happen when a person is:

  • Very busy with work, caregiving, or other responsibilities
  • Aiming for a very high protein requirement and doesn’t have time/desire to eat that much whole-food protein
  • Transitioning to a plant-based diet and still figuring out their preferred whole-food protein sources
  • Trying to meet protein goals while traveling or with limited food options

Reason #2: Appetite: Other times, people don’t feel hungry enough to eat the amount of protein they need. This might happen when a person is:

  • Trying to gain weight and is struggling to increase their intake
  • Sick and has lost their desire to eat
  • Aiming to improve athletic performance and recovery, but doesn’t feel hungry enough to meet their nutrient needs

These reasons are all completely legitimate.

But you don’t NEED protein powder to be healthy. It’s a supplement, not an essential food group. 

If you choose to use it, 20-40 grams of protein per day (usually 1-2 scoops) from protein powder is a reasonable amount. For most people, 80 grams per day  (about 3-4 scoops) is a good upper limit of supplemental protein intake.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, just a general guideline.

The main reason: Getting more than 80 grams from protein powder is excessive for most people, as it displaces whole food sources that provide vitamins, minerals and other nutrients we need.

There are some exceptions, of course, such as for people who are struggling to gain weight.

How to choose a protein powder

If you’ve decided that protein powder is right for you (or your client), here are some considerations that’ll help you evaluate all your options and choose one that’s appropriate.

Question #1: What type of protein makes sense for you?

This is largely up to personal preference. 

Besides ethical considerations—such as whether you prefer a plant or animal source—you might also want to think about food intolerances and sensitivities here. (More on those in a minute.)

Factor #1: Protein quality

For many people, the quality of the protein source is the highest priority. When it comes to assessing quality, there’s a lot of talk about complete versus incomplete proteins.

Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are sort of like different colored Legos. They can be put together in different ways to serve different purposes in the body.

In all, your body uses 20 different amino acids.

Seven of those amino acids are non-essential amino acids. That’s because your body can create those on its own.

There are also four conditionally essential amino acids, which are ones your body can make, but not always. For example, your body might have a harder time making enough of them when you’re sick, or after hard athletic training.

The other nine amino acids are known as essential amino acids (EAAs). Your body can’t make these, so you have to get them from food.

This is important, because EAAs play key roles in building and repairing tissue—like muscle—but also in building hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), a subcategory of EAAs, are especially important for their role in muscle protein synthesis.

Muscle protein synthesis is the process your body uses to repair and build muscle after exercise. While muscle protein synthesis is much more complicated than just one amino acid, leucine plays an integral role in triggering the process, which makes it probably the most well-known BCAA.

A Venn diagram showing the types of amino acids, including essential amino acids, branched chain amino acids, conditionally essential amino acids, and non-essential amino acids.

Amino acids can be divided into three categories: essential amino acids, conditionally essential amino acids, and non-essential amino acids.

A complete protein contains sufficient amounts of all nine EAAs. Incomplete proteins are lacking or low in one or more EAAs.

Here’s why we took the time to explain all of this: People sometimes worry they won’t get all their EAAs if they opt for plant-based protein sources.

That’s because many plant proteins are low in or lack specific amino acids.

For example, pea protein is low in the EAA methionine. But you can still meet your overall protein needs as long as you eat a variety of other plant protein sources throughout the day. For example, tofu, brazil nuts, and white beans are all good sources of methionine.

Also: Some plant-based proteins—like soy protein and a pea/rice blend—offer a full EAA profile.

Oftentimes, supplement companies create blends of different plant-based proteins to ensure all EAAs are included in optimal levels.

Let’s take a deeper look: Protein digestibility

Beyond complete and incomplete proteins, there are several other methods scientists use to assess protein quality.

The main measures scientists look at are digestibility and bioavailability, or how well your body is able to utilize a given type of protein. This can vary depending on a protein’s amino acid makeup, along with other factors.

The Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) is a measure of how much of a given protein is truly digestible. The highest possible score is 1.0. And the higher the score, the higher the quality of protein. (Read this if you want to know more about how PDCAAS is calculated.)

There’s another scale that some prefer, as it may provide a more accurate picture of bioavailability: The Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS). Similar to the PDCAAS, the higher the score, the higher-quality the protein.8

Here’s how several common protein powders stack up according to these scales:

Protein type9,10,11 PDCAAS DIAAS
Whey protein isolate 1.00 1.09
Whey protein concentrate 1.00 0.983
Milk protein concentrate 1.00 1.18
Micellar casein 1.00 1.46
Egg white protein 1.00 1.13
Hydrolyzed collagen & beef protein isolate 0.00 0.00
Bone broth protein 0.00 0.00
Soy protein concentrate 0.99 0.92
Soy protein isolate 0.98 0.90
Pea protein concentrate 0.89 0.82
Rice protein concentrate 0.37 0.42
Hemp protein 0.63 N/A*
Rice/pea blend 1.00** N/A*

*Because DIAAS is a newer measure of protein quality, some values are unknown.
**A 70:30 blend of pea and rice protein closely resembles whey protein, but ratios vary across manufacturers.

As you can see, animal proteins (except for collagen and bone broth protein) tend to score higher than plant proteins.

Similar to choosing protein made from incomplete protein sources, just because a protein powder doesn’t have a PDCAAS of 1.0 or has a lower DIAAS doesn’t mean it’s a poor option. It can still be beneficial as long as you get a variety of protein sources throughout the day.

Factor #2: Plant-based vs. animal protein

Animal protein options can be divided into two categories: milk-based and other animal protein sources.

Milk-based protein powders

The most popular and well-studied protein powders are made from milk. They’re all complete sources of protein.

Whey is usually recommended for post-workout shakes because it’s an incredibly high-quality protein that’s fast-digesting and rich in BCAAs. You’ll commonly see whey protein in concentrate, isolate, and hydrolyzed formulas. (More on what those mean in a moment—or you can jump right to our section on protein processing.)

Casein is often touted as the best type of protein powder to have before bed, since it digests more slowly. You’ll find it mostly in two forms: micellar casein (an isolate) and hydrolyzed casein. Since hydrolyzed casein is more processed and theoretically digests faster, it sort of defeats the purpose of opting for a slow-digesting protein.

Milk protein blends usually include both whey and casein and are marketed as the “best of both worlds.” The reason: They provide both fast- and slow-digesting protein.

Usually, you’ll see them on the label as milk protein concentrate or milk protein isolate. You might also see them listed separately, for instance: whey protein isolate and micellar casein.

Some brands also sell mixtures of concentrate and isolate of the same type of protein. For example, you might see both whey concentrate and whey isolate in the ingredients list.

While this may be marketed as an advantage, it’s largely a cost-saving measure by the manufacturer. (Whey isolate is more expensive to produce than concentrate.) There’s no data to support the claim that this formulation provides a benefit.

If you’re choosing between whey and casein: Select whichever one you prefer, or go for a blend. 

Both are well-studied, meaning they’re reliable choices. Again, it’s your total protein intake across the day that matters most. For most people, the differences in the rates of digestion or absorption aren’t likely to be an important factor.

Of course, if you’re allergic to dairy, these won’t be good options for you. If you’re sensitive to or intolerant of certain dairy products, you may find that you can tolerate whey but not casein, or vice versa.

Other animal protein powders

For those who can’t or prefer not to use dairy products, there are several other types of animal-derived protein powder.

Egg white protein is often a good option for those who prefer an ovo-vegetarian (milk-free) source of complete protein.

Collagen is very popular right now as a skin, joint, bone, and gut health supplement. Collagen peptides, the most common form of collagen in supplements, are usually derived from bovine hide or fish. Some people also use it to boost their protein intake, and there are a few collagen powders marketed specifically as protein supplements.

This is somewhat ironic because until the early 2010s, collagen was considered a “junk” protein. This is partially because collagen is not a source of complete protein.12 It also hasn’t been well-studied as a protein supplement.

Collagen may have some benefits. In particular, type II collagen may support joint health when taken with vitamin C.13 But as a protein source, it’s not ideal. Quality varies, and there are some concerns about heavy metal contamination. So it’s especially important to look for third-party tested options.

Meat-based powders are often derived from beef, but they usually have an amino acid profile similar to collagen. That means they’re generally incomplete, lower-quality proteins. On the other hand, some research has shown that beef protein isolate is just as effective as whey protein powders for increasing lean body mass.14,15 However, more research is needed.

Bone broth protein is made by cooking bones, tendons, and ligaments under high pressure to create a broth. Then, it’s concentrated into a powder. Much of the protein in bone broth is from collagen. So, similar to collagen peptides, it’s not a complete source of protein.

Bone broth powder may be helpful for increasing your protein intake if you can’t have common allergens like dairy and soy, but it’s not ideal for use as a protein powder. This is especially true because bone broth protein tends to be expensive, and it hasn’t been well-studied for use as a protein supplement.

Plant-based protein powders

Not all plant-based proteins are complete proteins. We’re going to share which ones are complete and incomplete for your information, but just a friendly reminder: As long as you eat a varied diet with a mix of different protein sources, you’ll get all the amino acids you need.

Soy protein is effective for promoting muscle growth, and it’s also a complete protein. In fact, research shows soy protein supplementation produces similar gains in both strength and lean body mass as whey protein in response to resistance training.16

It’s also been the subject of much controversy, particularly when it comes to hormonal health. But the body of research shows that soy foods and isoflavone (bioactive compounds found in soy) supplements have no effect on testosterone in men.17

Evidence also shows that soy doesn’t increase risk of breast cancer in women.18 And while more research is needed in this area, it also seems that soy doesn’t have a harmful effect on thyroid health, either.19 (If you want to dig deeper into soy, here’s more info.)

Soy is a fairly common allergen, so that may also factor into your decision.

Pea protein is highly digestible, hypo-allergenic, and usually inexpensive. It’s rich in amino acids lysine, arginine, and glutamine. Although as we mentioned earlier, it’s low in EAA methionine, so it’s not a complete protein.20

Rice protein is also a good hypo-allergenic protein choice, and tends to be relatively inexpensive. It’s low in amino acid lysine, so it’s not a complete protein source.20

Hemp protein powder is made by grinding up hemp seeds, making it a great whole-food choice. Because of this, it’s high in fiber and a source of omega-3 fats. But like rice protein, hemp is low in lysine, so it’s an incomplete protein.11

Blends are common among plant-based protein powders. Often, they’re used to create a more robust amino acid profile, since different protein sources contain various levels of each amino acid. For example, rice and pea protein are frequently combined.

A chart comparing different protein sources found in protein powder.

Weighing the pros and cons of different protein sources can help you choose the best protein powder for you.

Factor #3: Processing method and quality

Protein powders are created through various processing methods and come in several different forms, including concentrates, isolates, and hydrolysates.

Let’s look at each processing method in more depth.

Concentrates: Protein is extracted from animal or plant-based foods by using high heat and acid or enzymes. Concentrates are the least processed and can be 35 to 80 percent protein by weight.21 A protein percentage of 70 to 80 percent is generally the most common (though this can be lower in plant proteins in particular).

The remaining percentage is made up of carbohydrates and fats. So if you don’t mind having some additional calories from non-protein sources, protein concentrate could be a good option for you.

Isolates: Protein isolates go through an additional filtration process, which reduces the amount of fat and carbohydrates, leaving 90 percent or more protein by weight. This makes them slightly faster-digesting, though there isn’t evidence that this results in improved recovery, muscle growth, or fat loss.

Since isolates usually contain a bit less fat and carbohydrates than concentrates, they might be a slightly better choice for those who are carefully limiting their fat or carb intake, or who are willing to pay more just for potential extra benefit, even if not proven.

Whey, casein, and milk protein isolates may also be slightly better for people with lactose intolerance, since more processing removes much of the lactose.

Protein hydrolysates: To create this product, protein undergoes additional processing with heat, enzymes, or acid, which further breaks apart the protein chains into shorter peptides.

The idea is that this extra processing and the resulting shorter chains makes protein hydrolysates even more easily digested and absorbed. So they’re usually marketed to people who want to gain muscle and are drinking protein shakes around their workouts.

While this process makes sense theoretically, the evidence is far from clear that hydrolysates are better than isolates for this purpose.

However, because hydrolysates are essentially pre-digested due to their processing—there’s even less lactose in them—they can be easier on the GI tract for some people.

There are a couple of downsides to hydrolysates, though. First, they tend to have a bitter taste that generally requires a significant amount of added sweeteners and/or sugar to mask.

Second, whey protein concentrates and “non-ionized” isolates retain bioactive microfractions that may improve digestion, mood, and immune function. Whey hydrolysates (and “ionized isolates”) don’t contain these bioactive microfractions. (Casein appears to have some of these bioactive microfractions, too, but is less well studied in this area.)

Price may also be a drawback of hydrolysates, depending on your budget. Typically, the more processed a protein powder is, the more expensive it is.

Three tubs of protein powder show the differences between protein concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate.

Concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate are the three main types of protein powder processing.

Factor #4: Intolerances and sensitivities

If you have a known food intolerance or sensitivity, you’ll want to avoid protein powders containing those ingredients. For example, if you’re intolerant to eggs and dairy, you’ll likely be better off with a plant-based protein powder.

If you’re prone to digestive issues, more processed options, such as isolates and hydrolysates, are usually easier on the stomach.

It’s also not uncommon to experience digestive upset after using a new protein powder. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Use the below checklist to get to the bottom of it.

  • Ingredients: The protein powder you’ve chosen might contain ingredients you’re sensitive to, or be processed in a way that doesn’t agree with you. For this reason, it’s a good idea to check out the ingredient label (we’ll explain how below). You may need to try a few different options before finding the right protein powder for you.
  • Overall diet: Your body’s reaction to a protein powder might also depend on what else you’ve eaten that day. For example, many people can tolerate a certain amount of lactose, but once they get over their threshold, they experience symptoms. If your protein powder contains lactose, it could be pushing you over the edge.
  • Amount: It can also be an issue of quantity. Men are sometimes told to use two scoops of protein powder instead of one. For some individuals, this may simply be too much at once for their digestive tract to handle optimally. Others might concoct 1500-calorie shakes in an effort to gain weight. Most people would have a hard time digesting that. So it may help to experiment with smaller amounts.
  • Speed: Drinking too fast can cause you to swallow excess air, which can upset your stomach. And if you drink a shake with lots of different ingredients, your GI tract needs time to process them. Slow down, and you may find it’s easier to digest.

Question #2: What other ingredients are in the protein powder?

While sweeteners, flavoring, and thickeners are common in protein powders, some contain more than others.

There are exceptions, but you generally want to look for protein powders with fewer ingredients. That said, guidelines like “look for foods with fewer than five ingredients” don’t necessarily apply to protein powders.

Here’s a look at the most common ingredients in protein powders, plus how to make sense of them.

Protein

Because ingredients are listed by weight, the protein source should be the first item listed. Usually, it’ll include the name of the protein source (milk, whey, casein, soy, hemp) and the processing method (concentrate, isolate, hydrolysate). For whole-food protein powders, you might see something like “hemp seed powder.”

Sweeteners

Flavored protein powders will include some type of sweetener. Most often, you’ll see:

  • Nutritive sweeteners, like honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, cane sugar, molasses, and agave. You’ll be able to tell right away if a product has nutritive or “natural” sweeteners by looking at the sugar content. Ideally, choose a protein powder that has less than 5 grams of sugar per serving (especially if your goal is fat loss or better overall health).
  • Non-nutritive / high-intensity sweeteners, like sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, and acesulfame potassium. These are the same type of sweeteners found in diet soda, so you won’t be able to tell if a protein powder contains them from looking at the sugar content; you’ll have to check the ingredient label.

According to the FDA, stevia and monk fruit extract are non-nutritive sweeteners, though they are sometimes listed and marketed as “natural” sweeteners.22 This can be frustrating for consumers, because supplement companies sometimes advertise that their products have “no artificial sweeteners,” yet they contain monk fruit extract or stevia. Since the FDA doesn’t regulate this term, it’s important to check the ingredients list if you prefer to avoid all non-nutritive sweeteners.

  • Sugar alcohols, like sorbitol, maltitol, and erythritol. These are another non-caloric option and are made up of sugar and alcohol molecules—although not the kind of alcohol that causes intoxication. Because sugar alcohols act like dietary fiber in the body, people who are sensitive to FODMAPs may find they cause digestive upset.
  • Refined sugars, like sucrose and high-fructose corn-syrup, are less common in protein powders. But if you’re watching your refined sugar intake, it may be worth checking to see if they’re on the ingredients list.

Flavoring

Flavored protein powders will also contain flavoring agents, which are sometimes listed as specific ingredients. Most often, they’re represented more vaguely on the label as flavors, artificial flavors, or natural flavors.

Artificial flavors are generally recognized as safe when consumed at the intended levels, such as the small amounts found in protein powders.23

The only exception to this would be if you have any allergy to a specific ingredient. If a natural flavor contains one or more of the eight major food allergens, it must be listed in the ingredients. But if you have an allergy that isn’t one of the eight major allergens, it’s important to know that it does not have to be listed on the label.

Thickening agents

Protein powders often include substances that provide bulk for a thicker protein shake. These generally include psyllium husk, dextrins, xanthan gum/guar gum, and inulin.

These are safe in small amounts, so while some people may prefer protein powders without them, seeing thickening agents on the ingredient label shouldn’t cause concern.

Emulsifiers and anti-clumping ingredients

Whole food protein powders usually clump more, which makes them less ideal for mixing by hand. That’s often because they lack anti-clumping ingredients and emulsifiers (which provide a creamy mouthfeel) like carrageenan, lecithins, carboxymethylcellulose, and silicon dioxide.

Similar to thickening agents, small amounts of these ingredients have been shown to be safe.

Vegetable oils may also be added for a creamier texture. They are safe as long as they aren’t hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats). You want to avoid trans fats as much as possible since they can have adverse health effects, such as increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Certain thickeners and anti-clumping ingredients also double as preservatives to help protein powders stay shelf-stable.

Additional supplements

Some protein powders include added supplements, such as creatine, extra BCAAs, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, and probiotics.

These are often touted by marketers as a value-add. But we don’t know how well these nutrients work when formulated along with protein powder.

What’s more, manufacturers often include these additional supplements in inadequate amounts. So it’s generally better to seek out an additional supplement rather than looking for it in your protein powder.

For example, if you want to try creatine, it’s better to take it as a separately-formulated supplement. (Although it would be fine to consume them together in the same shake.)

A side-by-side comparison of the ingredients in two different types of whey protein powder.

When reading protein powder nutrition labels, check out the ingredients list.

Purity and quality: How to know if a protein powder is “clean” and safe

In laboratory tests, some protein powders have been shown to be contaminated with heavy metals. With this information in mind, it’s natural to wonder, are protein powders safe?

Depending on where you live, supplements may or may not be a regulated industry. So it’s important to understand the supplement regulations in your country or region.

For example, while regulations are much more stringent in Canada and Europe, in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t test the effectiveness, safety, or purity of nutritional supplements.

This means it’s possible what’s on the ingredient label doesn’t match up with what’s in the supplement.

Most supplement companies aren’t selling bogus supplements on purpose (although it happens). The main concern is that supplements could be contaminated with other substances like heavy metals (such as lead) or harmful chemicals, and in many cases, no one would know—not even the companies producing them.

It’s also important for competing athletes to know exactly what’s in their supplements, including protein powder, on the off-chance it might contain a banned substance. No protein supplement is worth a disqualification after months of training.

Because of the varying levels of regulation, it’s a good idea to choose third-party tested supplements when possible—particularly if you live somewhere with less pre-market testing.

NSF International does the most comprehensive third-party certification/testing of nutritional supplements for sport. In fact, here at PN, we advise our coaches and clients—even those who aren’t necessarily athletes—to use supplements that have been certified by NSF because of their high standards.

USP is also a reputable third-party tester.

Another organization, LGC Group, runs an independent drug surveillance laboratory providing doping control and banned substance testing for supplements through the Informed-Sport and Informed-Choice programs.

Products that have been tested by these organizations usually clearly state this on their websites and often on their product packaging. These organizations also have databases of approved supplements to choose from.

An important note: Third-party tested protein powders may be more expensive. This is partially because the testing process is quite expensive. At the same time, investing in third-party testing shows that a supplement company is committed to protecting the health and reputation of their customers.

While it’s preferable to opt for a validated supplement, if third-party tested options are outside of your price range, another option is to visit ConsumerLab or LabDoor. These websites are devoted to reviewing purity and label claims for a variety of nutritional supplements on the market today.

Other ingredient concerns

Much like other foods and supplements, protein powders are often marketed with buzzwords like “organic” and “grass-fed.” When choosing a protein supplement, it’s important to understand what these labels truly mean, so you can decide whether or not they’re important to you.

People often prefer organic products to non-organic ones because of concerns about pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, and chemical fertilizers. (You can read more about organic foods and standards here.)

The most recent evidence suggests there may be potential health benefits with consumption of organic foods. However, it’s still too early to conclude that organic food is safer and or more nutritious than conventional food.24,25

So ultimately, whether or not you choose organic comes down to a matter of personal preference.

If you do opt for an organic protein powder, look for the official organic seal of your country or region.

For certain types of protein, such as whey, casein, and beef isolate, being grass-fed is also seen as a plus. Grass-fed cattle only eat grass and forage, with the exception of milk prior to weaning. Certified grass-fed animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture.26

Grass-fed meats are often touted for their health benefits, as they contain more omega-3 fatty acids than non-grass-fed meats, so the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is superior. But because there’s very little fat in most protein powders, this benefit doesn’t necessarily translate from whole food to protein powder.

Also, grass-fed products may still be treated with growth hormone and antibiotics, so if that’s a concern, opting for a certified organic protein powder is a better option.

Finally, if the health and treatment of the animals themselves is important to you, choosing a product that comes from a certified humane producer is your best bet. A product being marked grass-fed and/or antibiotic-free doesn’t automatically mean it was produced humanely.

Question #3: How does protein powder fit into your diet?

Lastly, you’ll want to think about how your protein powder fits into the overall context of your diet.

Be mindful of your goal.

Here’s what you might want to consider depending on your goals, and what you’re hoping to get out of your protein shake.

Weight loss / fat loss: If you’re looking to lose fat, pay attention to the protein-to-calorie ratio of your protein powder. The best protein powder for weight loss will be higher in protein and lower in carbs and fat, since the latter two macronutrients will be more satisfying coming from whole foods.

Muscle gain: To put on muscle, look for a protein powder with a high protein-to-calorie ratio, as the main goal is to consume adequate overall protein. If you’re struggling to get adequate overall calories, a protein powder that’s also rich in carbohydrates can be helpful around workouts.

Weight gain: For those who are looking to gain any type of weight—most often this is due to illness that reduces appetite—consider powders that are high in protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Particularly if you won’t be getting much other nutrition, it’s important to get all three.

Meal replacement: If you plan to use your protein shake as a meal replacement, it’s important to get some other nutrients in there, too. While there are protein powders that come with additional nutrients built-in, we recommend making your own Super Shake instead by incorporating fruit, vegetables, a source of healthy fats, and possibly more. That way, you get all the whole-food benefits of these ingredients.

Recovery/athletic performance: There are a variety of suggested ratios of carbohydrate and protein intake post-exercise to maximize recovery, but there isn’t much evidence showing any particular ratio is optimal. A protein powder with a 2:1 or 3:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio might be beneficial, but ultimately your total macronutrient and calorie intake for the day is the most important determining factor in athletic recovery.6

If you’re an athlete competing in multiple events in one day, consuming a beverage with 30 to 45 grams of carbs, 15 grams of protein, and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) in 600 mL (20 ounces) water for every hour of activity could help with recovery and performance.

Different ways to use protein powder, from a pure protein boost when mixed with water to a meal replacement smoothie.

How to use protein powder for a pure protein boost or as a meal replacement.

Consider how much taste matters to you.

It’s important to choose a protein powder that you’re likely to consume consistently. Enjoying the way it tastes is one way to help ensure that. Of course, the best-tasting protein powder option varies from person to person.

Factors you might want to be mindful of when deciding on a protein powder:

Mixability and texture

Mesh count refers to how fine a protein powder is, which can impact how easily it will mix by hand in a shaker bottle. You won’t be able to see this information on the label, but sometimes you can tell by looking at the powder or touching it.

Plant-based protein powders tend to have a grittier or chalkier texture, which means they often taste better when blended using an electric blender (rather than a shaker cup). Blending with a creamier liquid, such as plant milk, or adding higher-fat items like yogurt and nut butters to your shake can also help smooth out a chalky protein powder. (For ideas on how to make your protein powder taste better, try these flavorful smoothie recipes.)

More highly-processed powders, such as isolates and hydrolysates, are more likely to have a smoother texture.

Flavor

Some people are especially sensitive to the taste of artificial flavors and non-nutritive sweeteners. If that describes you, look for a protein powder made with nutritive sweeteners and/or natural flavors.

Unflavored protein powder may also be a good option if you don’t like artificial flavors, or simply prefer the flavor of whole foods. You can use unflavored protein powder in a variety of ways including:

  • Blended in Super Shakes with other flavorful ingredients
  • Baked into muffins, cookies, and even granola bars
  • Stirred into oatmeal, pudding, soups, and pancake batter

Flavored protein powders also work in many of these non-shake options. (Try this recipe for homemade protein bars that can be made with flavored or unflavored protein powder.)

As we already mentioned, you may have to experiment with a few different flavors and brands before finding the right protein powder for you.

Before you commit to a large package, try to get a sample pack of the protein powder. Larger nutrition supplement companies usually offer these.

If the powder you want to try isn’t available in a single-serve pack, you might be able to get a sample from a local supplement shop, if you ask nicely.

Protein powder isn’t a nutrition essential.

But it is a useful tool.

And here at Precision Nutrition, we’re all about picking the right tool for the job.

So if you’re struggling to meet your protein goals—whether because of convenience or appetite—then protein powder may be exactly what you need.

It’s worth noting you may have to do some experimenting before you find the right one. Our advice: pick one and stick with it for two weeks, and treat this time period like an experiment.

Pay attention to how you feel, and note any changes. Do you have more energy than before? Are you experiencing new, weird digestive issues? Are you feeling less hungry in the hours after your workout? Consider how these changes might be getting you closer to—or further away from—your goals.

If the changes are positive, you may have found your winner. If not, try a different flavor, brand or type of protein.

In the end, choosing the best protein powder for you ultimately comes down to asking the right questions, then experimenting with different options.

And that advice? It’s solid not just for picking a protein powder, but pretty much any decision in the world of nutrition.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s rooted in science and personalized for their unique body, preferences, and lifestyle—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 30% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 7th, 2020.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 30% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

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References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ, Wildman R, Kleiner S, VanDusseldorp T, Taylor L, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 14;14:16.

2. Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, Callahan HS, Meeuws KE, Burden VR, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1):41–8.

3. Halton TL, Hu FB. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Oct;23(5):373–85.

4. Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, Schoenfeld BJ, Henselmans M, Helms E, et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Mar;52(6):376–84.

5. Baum JI, Kim I-Y, Wolfe RR. Protein Consumption and the Elderly: What Is the Optimal Level of Nutrients [Internet]. 2016 Jun 8;8(6). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu8060359

6. Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Mar;48(3):543–68.

7. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Feb 27;15:10.

8. Dietary protein quality evaluation in human nutrition: Report of an FAO Expert Consultation. FAO FOOD AND NUTRITION PAPER [Internet]. Available from: http://www.fao.org/ag/humannutrition/35978-02317b979a686a57aa4593304ffc17f06.pdf

9. Rutherfurd SM, Fanning AC, Miller BJ, Moughan PJ. Protein digestibility-corrected amino acid scores and digestible indispensable amino acid scores differentially describe protein quality in growing male rats. J Nutr. 2015 Feb;145(2):372–9.

10. Phillips SM. Current Concepts and Unresolved Questions in Dietary Protein Requirements and Supplements in Adults. Front Nutr. 2017 May 8;4:13.

11. House JD, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Nov 24;58(22):11801–7.

12. Eastoe JE. The amino acid composition of mammalian collagen and gelatin. Biochem J. 1955 Dec;61(4):589–600.

13. Shaw G, Lee-Barthel A, Ross ML, Wang B, Baar K. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan;105(1):136–43.

14. Valenzuela PL, Mata F, Morales JS, Castillo-García A, Lucia A. Does Beef Protein Supplementation Improve Body Composition and Exercise Performance? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 Jun 25;11(6). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu11061429

15. Sharp M, Shields K, Lowery R, Lane J, Partl J, Holmer C, et al. The effects of beef protein isolate and whey protein isolate supplementation on lean mass and strength in resistance trained individuals – a double blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Sep 21;12(1):P11.

16. Messina M, Lynch H, Dickinson JM, Reed KE. No Difference Between the Effects of Supplementing With Soy Protein Versus Animal Protein on Gains in Muscle Mass and Strength in Response to Resistance Exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018 Nov 1;28(6):674–85.

17. Hamilton-Reeves JM, Vazquez G, Duval SJ, Phipps WR, Kurzer MS, Messina MJ. Clinical studies show no effects of soy protein or isoflavones on reproductive hormones in men: results of a meta-analysis. Fertil Steril. 2010 Aug;94(3):997–1007.

18. Chen M, Rao Y, Zheng Y, Wei S, Li Y, Guo T, et al. Association between soy isoflavone intake and breast cancer risk for pre- and post-menopausal women: a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies. PLoS One. 2014 Feb 20;9(2):e89288.

19. Bitto A, Polito F, Atteritano M, Altavilla D, Mazzaferro S, Marini H, et al. Genistein aglycone does not affect thyroid function: results from a three-year, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Jun;95(6):3067–72.

20. Gorissen SHM, Crombag JJR, Senden JMG, Waterval WAH, Bierau J, Verdijk LB, et al. Protein content and amino acid composition of commercially available plant-based protein isolates. Amino Acids.
21. WHEY PROCESSING [Internet]. Dairy Processing Handbook. 2015 [cited 2020 May 13]. Available from: https://dairyprocessinghandbook.tetrapak.com/chapter/whey-processing

22. Center for Food Safety, Nutrition A. Additional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners [Internet]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2020 [cited 2020 May 13]. Available from: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/additional-information-about-high-intensity-sweeteners-permitted-use-food-united-states

23. Center for Food Safety, Nutrition A. Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) [Internet]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2019 [cited 2020 May 13]. Available from: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-ingredients-packaging/generally-recognized-safe-gras

24. Vigar V, Myers S, Oliver C, Arellano J, Robinson S, Leifert C. A Systematic Review of Organic Versus Conventional Food Consumption: Is There a Measurable Benefit on Human Health? Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 Dec 18;12(1). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu12010007
25. Smith-Spangler C, Brandeau ML, Hunter GE, Bavinger JC, Pearson M, Eschbach PJ, et al. Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: a systematic review. Ann Intern Med. 2012 Sep 4;157(5):348–66.

26. Grass Fed Small & Very Small Producer Program | Agricultural Marketing Service [Internet]. [cited 2020 May 13]. Available from: https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/auditing/grass-fed-SVS

The post “What’s the best protein powder?” Your complete guide to choosing the right supplement for you appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

You know the feeling: One salty crunch turns into 100, and suddenly you’re licking the cheese dust and wondering: What’s wrong with me? 

Actually, it’s normal to feel like you can’t stop overeating certain things. Today’s hyperpalatable food is creating a modern-day food crisis—one that’s leaving us feeling sick, out of control, and constantly craving more.

Here’s how it works, plus 3 ways to overcome it.

++++

It’s happened to us all.

After a frenzy of lustful grabbing and furious crunching, we find ourselves at the bottom of a jumbo bag of chips.

“How did that happen?” we ask fuzzily.

“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I stop?”

But, before going into full-fledged self-loathing mode, consider this.

Processed foods are scientifically engineered to be irresistible and easy to gobble up in large quantities. If you can’t stop, the chips are doing their job.

(In fact, someone at Frito-Lay probably got a promotion for that recipe.)

That’s why, in this article, we’ll explain exactly how junk food is designed to make us respond with compulsive, manic, gotta-have-more snack sessions.

Even better, we’ll arm you with three useful strategies for examining your relationship with processed food and taking control of overeating.

Because, if you feel out of control around certain foods, you’re not crazy.

Even healthy eaters feel out of control around food sometimes. Even if we value nutrition and want to take care of ourselves, some foods can make us feel… kinda possessed.

Know what I mean?

You show up to a potluck with quinoa salad goals and find yourself inhaling a plate of chips, cookies, and some chocolate-peanut-butter-marshmallow thing that some devil, um friend, made.

You reach into the freezer to have one spoonful of ice cream and suddenly you’re mining the caramel swirl, then the nut clusters, then the brownie chunks, and then… your spoon scrapes the bottom.

You just want a bite of your friend’s french fry, but you find yourself elbowing her out of the way so you can steal all the fries, plus the burger too.

Even with the best intentions, the pull of certain foods is so strong that it can leave us feeling powerless.

If you’ve felt this, you’re not alone (and you’re not broken).

Certain foods are actually designed to make us overeat.

If you’re overeating, it’s not because there’s something wrong with you or your willpower.

Here’s the truth: There’s a whole industry dedicated to creating food that’s hyperpalatable—food that’s so tasty it’s nearly irresistible.

Your body and brain are responding exactly as they’re supposed to. It’s supposed to feel almost unnatural to stop eating these foods!

But we’re not talking about food like celery sticks, whole brown rice, or baked salmon filets.

(How often do you hear yourself say, “I ate sooo much steamed asparagus! I just couldn’t stop myself!” That’s right. You’ve never heard yourself say that.)

We’re talking about processed foods.

Processed foods are foods that have been modified from their original, whole-food form in order to change their flavor, texture, or shelf-life. Often, they’re altered so that they hit as many pleasure centers as possible—from our brains to our mouths to our bellies.

Processed foods are highly cravable, immediately gratifying, fun to eat, and easy to over-consume quickly (and often cheaply).

Processed foods will also look and feel different from their whole food counterparts, depending on the degree that they’re processed.

Let’s take corn as an example.

Boiled and eaten off the cob it’s pale yellow, kinda fibrous, but chewy and delicious.

Corn that’s a bit processed—ground into a meal and shaped into a flat disk—turns into a soft corn tortilla. A tortilla has a nice corny flavor and a soft, pliable texture that makes it easy to eat and digest.

But what if you ultra-process that corn? You remove all the fiber, isolate the starch, and then use that starch to make little ring-shaped chips, which are fried and dusted with sweet and salty barbecue powder. They’re freaking delicious.

That corn on the cob is yummy. But those corn-derived ring chips? They’re… well they’re gone because someone ate them all.

Let’s take an even deeper look

The food industry has a variety of processing methods and ingredient additives they use to make food extra tasty and easy to consume…. and over-consume.

Here are a few examples:

Extrusion

Grains are processed into a slurry and pass through a machine called an extruder. With the help of high heat and pressure, whole, raw grains get transformed into airy, crispy, easy-to-digest shapes like cereals, crackers, and other crunchy foods with uniform shapes.

In addition to changing texture and digestibility, the extrusion process also destroys certain nutrients and enzymes, denatures proteins, and changes the starch composition of a grain. This lowers the nutrition and increases the glycemic index of the product.

Emulsifiers

Used to improve the “mouth feel” of a product, emulsifiers smooth out and thicken texture, creating a rich, luxurious feel. Although there are natural emulsifiers, like egg yolk, the food industry often uses chemical emulsifiers like Polysorbate-80, sodium phosphate, and carboxymethylcellulose.

Emulsifiers are often found in creamy treats like ice cream products and processed dairy foods like flavored yogurts or neon orange cheese spreads.

Flavor enhancers

Flavor additives like artificial flavoring agents or monosodium glutamate (MSG) allow food manufacturers to amplify taste without adding whole-food ingredients like fruits, vegetables, or spices. This is useful because artificial flavoring agents are cheap and won’t change a product’s texture.

Coloring agents

Color strongly affects how appealing we perceive a food to be. No one wants to eat gray crackers; add a toasty golden hue and suddenly that cracker is a lot more appealing. Coloring agents, like Yellow #5 (tartrazine) and Red #40 (allura red),  are added purely for the look of food—they don’t add nutrition.

Recently, many large food corporations have been switching to natural foods dyes, like beet powder or turmeric, to color their food products after some correlations emerged linking artificial coloring agents to behavioral problems in children.

Oil hydrogenation

Natural fats eventually go rancid, changing their flavor and texture. In order to render fats more stable, hydrogen atoms are added to fats (usually vegetable oils) so they are less vulnerable to oxidation.

Food manufacturers use hydrogenated oils because it means their products can stay on the shelves for longer without changing flavor or texture. However, the consumption of hydrogenated fats, or trans fats, has been linked to increased rates of heart disease.

How processed foods trick us into eating more than we meant to.

There are four sneaky ways processed food can make you overeat. Often, we’re not even aware of how much these factors affect us.

That’s why, awareness = power.

1. Marketing convinces us that processed foods are “healthy”.

Processed foods come in packages with bright colors, cartoon characters, celebrity endorsements, and powerful words that triggers all kinds of positive associations.

Take, for example, “health halo” foods.

“Health halo” foods are processed foods that contain health buzzwords like organic, vegan, and gluten-free on their label to create an illusion, or halo, of health around them.

Companies come out with organic versions of their boxed macaroni and cheese, gluten-free versions of their glazed pastries, and vegan versions of their icing-filled cookies.

You’ll see chips “prepared with avocado oil,” sugary cereal “made with flaxseeds,” or creamy chip dip with “real spinach.”

The nutrient content of those foods isn’t particularly impressive, but the addition of nutrition buzzwords and trendy ingredients make us perceive them as healthier.

Marketers also choose words that relate more broadly to self-care.

Ever notice how many processed food slogans sound like this?

“Have a break.”

“Take some time for yourself.”

“You deserve it.”

Words like “break” and “deserve” distract us from our physical sensations and tap into our feelings—a place where we just want to be understood, supported, soothed, and perhaps just escape for a moment.

Health buzzwords and emotional appeals can make us perceive a food as “good for me”; it seems like a wise and caring choice to put them in our shopping carts, then in our mouths.

And if a food is “healthy” or “we deserve it,” we don’t feel so bad eating as much as we want.

2. Big portions make us think we’re getting a “good deal”.

People get mixed up about food and value.

We’re taught to save money and not waste food.

We’re taught to buy more for less.

Given the choice between a small juice for two dollars, and a pop with endless refills for the same price, the pop seems like better value.

What we don’t calculate into this equation is something I like to call the “health tax.”

The “health tax” is the toll you pay for eating low-nutrient, highly processed foods. If you eat them consistently over time, eventually you’ll pay the price with your health.

When companies use cheap, poor quality ingredients, they can sell bigger quantities without raising the price.

But what’s the deal?

Sure, you’ll save a buck in the short term, but you’ll pay the health tax—through poor health—in the long term.

3. Variety makes us hungrier.

Choice excites us.

Think of a self-serve frozen yogurt topping bar:

“Ooh! Sprinkles! And beer nuts! Oh, and they have those mini peanut butter cups! And granola clusters! Wait, are those crushed cookies?? And cheesecake chunks??! YES! Now on to the drizzles…”

Before you know it, there‘s a leaning tower of frozen dessert in front of you.

Or think of those “party mixes”—pretzels and corn chips and cheesy puffs and barbeque rings—all in one bag! The fun never ends because there’s a variety of flavors and textures to amuse you forever!

When we have lots of variety, we have lots of appetite.

It’s hard to overeat tons of one thing, with one flavor, like apples.

How many apples can you eat before, frankly, you get bored?

Reduce the variety and you also reduce distraction from your body’s built-in self-regulating signals. When we’re not so giddy with choice and stimuli, we’re more likely to slow down, eat mindfully, and eat less.

4. Multiple flavors at once are irresistible.

If there’s a party in your mouth, you can guarantee that at least two out of three of the following guests will be there:

  • Sugar
  • Fat
  • Salt

These three flavors—the sweetness of sugar, the luxurious mouthfeel of fat, and the sharp savory of salt—are favorites among those of us with mouths.

I never hear my clients say that they love eating spoonfuls of sugar or salt, or that they want to chug a bottle of oil.

However, when you combine these flavors, they become ultra delicious and hard-to-resist. This is called stimuli stacking—combining two or more flavors to create a hyperpalatable food.

For example:

  • The satisfying combination of fat and salt, found in chips, fries, nachos, cheesy things, etc.
  • The comforting combination of fat and sugar, found in baked goods, fudge, ice cream, cookies, chocolate, etc.
  • The irresistible combination of all three—heaven forbid you stumble on a combo of fat, salt, and sugar—a salted chocolate brownie, or caramel corn with candied nuts, or fries with ketchup!

Food manufacturers know: When it comes to encouraging people to overeat, two flavors are better than one.

In fact, when I spoke to an industry insider, a food scientist at a prominent processed food manufacturer, she revealed the specific “stimuli stacking” formula that the food industry uses to create hyperpalatable food.

They call it “The Big 5.”

Foods that fulfill “The Big 5” are:

  • Calorie dense, usually high in sugar and/or fat.
  • Intensely flavoredthe food must deliver strong flavor hits.
  • Immediately delicious, with a love-at-first taste experience.
  • Easy to eat—no effortful chewing needed!
  • “Melted” down easily—the food almost dissolves in your mouth, thus easy to eat quickly and overconsume.

When these five factors exist in one food, you get a product that’s practically irresistible.

In fact, foods developed by this company have to hit the big 5, or they’re not allowed to go to market.

When processed food manufacturers evaluate a prospective food product, the “irresistibility” (the extent to which a person can’t stop eating a food) is more important even than taste!

Just think about the ease of eating whole foods versus processed foods:

Whole foods require about 25 chews per mouthful, which means that you have to slow down. When you slow down, your satiety signals keep pace with your eating and have a chance to tell you when you’ve had enough. Which is probably why you’ve never overeaten Brussel sprouts (also because, farting).

Processed food manufacturers, on the other hand, aim for food products to be broken down in 10 chews or less per mouthful. That means the intense, flavorful, crazy-delicious experience is over quickly, and you’re left wanting more—ASAP.

Restaurants use these “ease of eating” tactics, too.

A major national chain uses this sci-fi-esque trick:

To make their signature chicken dish, each chicken breast is injected with a highly flavored sauce through hundreds of tiny needles. This results in a jacked-up chicken breast with intense flavor hits, but also tenderizes the chicken so it requires less chewing.

In other words, there’s a reason that restaurant chicken often goes down easier and just tastes better than the simple grilled chicken breast you make in your kitchen. Unless you have hundreds of tiny sauce-needles (weird), that chicken is hard to recreate at home.

This is why I rarely talk about willpower when my clients come to me struggling with overeating. If you’re relying on willpower to resist these foods, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

The solution isn’t more willpower. The solution is educating yourself about these foods, examining your own relationship with food, and employing strategies that put you in control.

Let’s take an even deeper look

Our love of certain flavors has very primitive roots.

So does our desire to load up on calories.

Once upon a time, food was not so abundant. Not only was food challenging to obtain—through effortful scavenging and hunting—but it was also not reliably safe.

That leaf over there? Yeah, that could be poison.

Those berries? They might give you the runs or make your throat close up.

Therefore, our ancient ancestors evolved some survival instincts along the way.

For example, sweet foods tend not to be poisonous. Therefore, we stored a preference for sweet, starchy foods in our brains to keep us safe.

Babies and children are particularly attracted to sweet foods, probably because their immature immune systems are less likely to recover from eating a poisonous plant, and their immature brains can’t tell the difference between dangerous bitter green (like hemlock) and safe bitter green (like kale).

Therefore, kids’ attraction to sweet (read: safe) foods is a built-in mechanism to prevent death by poisoning.

Fat is also a preferred nutrient, as it’s high-calorie and would be a jackpot for our often-threatened-by-starvation ancestors.

While most foods our ancestors ate would have been fibrous and low-calorie (roots, greens, lean meats), fat would have been a highly prized treat.

Imagine, as a primitive hunter-gatherer, stumbling on a macadamia nut tree. The yield from that tree might provide enough calories to feed your tribe for days!

As a result, we stored another preference in our brains: fatty, calorie-dense foods = yum / stock up!

Today, of course, we don’t have to run and dig and hike for nine hours to get our food. Instead, we can just roll up to the drive-thru window and order a combination of flavors we’re primed to love—maybe in the form of a milkshake and a cheeseburger—and enjoy it while sitting in our car.

Evolution’s gifts now work against us.

So, now you see why processed foods are so hard to control yourself around.

But what can actually you do about it?

Up next, some practical strategies to put you (or your clients) in the driver’s seat.

3 strategies to find your way back to a peaceful relationship with food.

It’s one thing to know in theory why certain foods are so easy to over-consume, but it’s even more valuable to discover for yourself how food processing, certain ingredient combinations, marketing, and even easy accessibility affect you and your food choices.

So, it’s time to get a little nerdy, try some experiments, and learn some strategies that will help you improve your relationship with food, get healthier, and just feel more sane.

1. Get curious about the foods you eat.

We’ve established that processed foods are designed to be easy to eat.

For a food to be “easy to eat”, it has to be:

  • broken down easily (less chewing), and
  • low volume (doesn’t take up much physical space).

So:

Less chewing + Low volume = More eating

Chewing takes time. The more we have to chew something, the longer it takes us to eat, giving our fullness signals a chance to catch up.

That feeling of “fullness” matters a lot too.

When you eat, your stomach expands. It’s partly through that sensation of pressure that your body knows you’ve had enough. Processed foods deliver a lot of calories without taking up much space, meaning you can eat a lot before you realize you’ve overdone it.

Experiment #1: Observe as you chew.

Yup, that’s right. I want you to count your chews.

Note: Don’t do this forever. I’m not trying to turn you into the weirdo who no one wants to sit next to at the lunch table.  Just try it as an experiment to get some data about how you eat different foods.

First, eat a whole food—a vegetable, fruit, whole grain, lean protein, whatever—and count how many chews you take per mouthful. How long does it take to eat an entire portion of that food? How satiated do you feel afterward? Do you want to eat more?

Then, next time you eat something processed, count how many chews you take per mouthful. How long does it take to eat that serving of pasta, chips, or cookies? How satiated do you feel afterward? Do you want to eat more?

Make some comparisons and notice the differences. Contrast how long eating each of these foods takes you, how satiated you feel after eating each of them, and how much you want to keep eating.

How will you use that information to make food choices moving forward?

2. Notice the messages you’re getting about food.

Food manufacturers use creative marketing strategies to imply processed foods are healthy. And even if you know they’re not, they have other ways of getting you to buy them.

Here’s an example:

Ever notice that the produce section is the first area you pass through in grocery stores?

Grocery stores have found that if they put the produce section first, you’re more likely to purchase processed foods. This is probably because if you’ve already got your cart loaded with spinach, broccoli, and apples, perhaps you’ll feel better about picking up some ice cream, cookies, and crackers, before heading to the checkout line.

Let that sink in: The supermarkets we all shop in several times a month are designed to make you feel better about buying foods that could negatively impact your health goals.

The good news? Simply being aware of this trick can help you bypass it.

Experiment #2: Evaluate your pantry.

In this experiment, you’ll examine the foods you have in your home and the messages you’ve been given about them.

Note: Keep in mind that this is a mindful awareness activity. You’re not doing this to judge yourself or feel shame about the food choices you’ve made.

Look at your pantry with curious (and more informed) eyes.

  • Step 1: Look for “health halo” foods. Do you have any? If so, why did you choose them? Was it the language used to describe it? Was it the packaging? A trendy “superfood” ingredient? Is it organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, Paleo, or something else?
  • Step 2: Read the nutritional information. Once you’ve identified the “health halo” foods, take a closer look. Is your “healthy” organic dark chocolate peanut butter cup all that nutritionally different from that mass-market peanut butter cup? Chances are, it’s just different packaging.
  • Step 3: Count how many varieties of junk foods you have. If you love ice cream—how many flavors do you have? If you peek into your cupboards, are there cookies, popcorn, candy, or chips? Without judgment, count the total junk food variety currently in your home. Generally, the more options you have, the easier it is to overeat.

The takeaway?

You’ll be more aware of the particular types of marketing you’re susceptible to, which you can use to make more informed food choices.

You’ll also have a better idea of which treat foods you prefer, and by reducing the variety of them in your home, you’ll cut down on opportunities to overeat.

3. Look for patterns.

We often use food for reasons other than physical nourishment.

For example, if we feel sad, we might reach for a cookie to comfort ourselves. Temporarily, we feel better.

The next time we feel sad, we remember the temporary relief that cookie brought us. So we repeat the ritual. If we continue to repeat this cycle, we may find our arm reaching for the cookie jar every time we feel blue. We’re not even thinking about it at this point; it’s just habit.

Habits are powerful, for better or for worse. They can work for us or against us.

Luckily, we have control over this.

All it takes is a little time and an understanding of how habits get formed.

All animals learn habits in the following way:

How habits are learnt

This leads us to our next experiment…

Experiment #3: Put the science of habits to work.

If you want to break the habit of overeating, you can use this trigger, behavior, and reward loop to your advantage. Here’s how.

Step 1: identify your triggers.

A trigger can be a:

  • Feeling. We might eat more when we’re stressed, lonely, or bored. Food fills the void.
  • Time of day. We always have a cookie at 11am, or a soda at 3pm. It’s just part of our routine.
  • Social setting. Hey, everyone else is having beer and chicken wings, so might as well join the happy hour!
  • Place. For some reason, a dark movie theater or our parents’ kitchen might make us want to munch.
  • Thought pattern. Thinking “I deserve this” or “Life is too hard to chew kale” might steer us toward the drive-thru window.

When you find yourself eating when you’re not physically hungry, increase your awareness of your triggers by asking yourself:

What am I feeling?

What time is it?

Who am I with?

Where am I?

What thoughts am I having?

Keep a journal and look for patterns.

And remember: Overeating is generally problematic when it’s chronic—those pants are feeling pretty tight after most meals—or when episodes of overeating are particularly intense, like during a binge. So don’t get too worried with isolated episodes of overeating.

To differentiate overeating from binge eating, keep in mind that binge eating feels disassociated, out of control, hard to stop, and usually comes with feelings of shame and guilt.

If, in observing your eating patterns, you discover that you may be dealing with compulsive bingeing behavior, then recruiting a doctor, therapist, or other qualified practitioner to help you navigate your feelings around food is likely the best course of action.

Step 2: Find a new behavior in response to your trigger(s).

Once you’ve identified your triggers, try associating new behaviors with them. These should support your health goals and feel good. If the new behaviors aren’t rewarding, they won’t be repeated, so they won’t be learned as habits.

In order to find the “right” new behavior, it’s helpful to know that when we eat, we’re trying to meet a “need.”

So when you brainstorm new behaviors, find something that meets that need—be it time in nature, some human connection, a physical release, or just a break from your thoughts.

For example, I had a client whose trigger was talking to her ex-husband. She felt angry when she interacted with him, and some furious crunching on chips temporarily made her feel better.

She eventually replaced the crunching with a punching bag session or by stomping up and down the stairs. Both activities were effective at relieving tension, but unlike the chips, they supported her goals.

Step 3: Practice.

Every time a trigger pops up that compels you to eat, replace eating with a healthy feel-good behavior.

Repeat this loop until the new behavior becomes a habit that’s just as automatic as reaching for the jar of peanut butter used to be.

Let’s take an even deeper look

Not all “feel-good” habits are created equal, in terms of their physiological effect on the stress response.

According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress relievers are:

  • exercising / playing sports,
  • reading,
  • listening to music,
  • praying / attending a religious service,
  • spending time with friends / family,
  • getting a massage,
  • walking outside,
  • meditation,
  • yoga, and
  • engaging in a creative hobby.

The least effective stress relievers are: gambling, shopping, smoking, eating, drinking, playing video games, surfing the internet, and watching TV / movies for more than two hours.

Although we may use the second list as “stress-relievers”—because they feel so good in the short term—they don’t actually reduce stress effectively.

This is because these habits rely on dopamine to give us a “hit” of pleasure. Dopamine feels rewarding immediately, but because it’s an excitatory neurotransmitter, it actually stimulates adrenaline and initiates the stress response.

In contrast, the first list of habits boost neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA, and oxytocin, which calm down the stress response and induce a feeling of wellbeing.

Although these activities aren’t initially as “exciting” as the second list, they’re ultimately more rewarding and more effective at relieving stress long-term.

It’s not just about the food

As a dietician, I know how important nutrition is. So it might surprise you to hear me say the following:

It’s not all about the food.

Structure your diet around colorful, nutrient-dense whole foods, but also remember that a healthy life is not about calorie math or obsessing over everything you put in your mouth.

A healthy life is about giving time and attention to our whole selves.

Eating happens in context.

Pay attention to your mindset, your relationships, your work, and your environment.

When we’re well-nourished in other areas of our life, we’re less likely to use food as a cure-all when we struggle.

So if there’s one more piece of nutrition advice I have, it’s this:

Be good to yourself.

Not just at the table, but in all areas of life.

What to do next

1. Be kind, curious, and honest.

When we fall short of our ideals, we think that beating ourselves up is the fastest way to improvement. But it’s not.

Criticism and crash dieting may work in the short term, but can damage our mental and physical health in the long term.

Because overeating is already a painful experience, as you consider how these behaviors show up in your life and how you might address them, please be:

Kind: Be friendly and self-compassionate; work with yourself instead of against yourself.

Curious: Explore your habits with openness and interest. Be like a scientist looking at data rather than a criminal investigator looking to blame and punish.

Honest: Look at your reality. How are you behaving day-to-day around food? The more accurate you are at perceiving yourself, the better you can support yourself to change.

With this attitude of support and non-judgment, you’re more likely to move forward.

2. Use the “traffic light” system.

Precision Nutrition has a great tool for creating awareness around food that I use all the time with my clients. It’s called the “traffic light” system.

You see, we all have red light foods, yellow light foods, and green light foods.

Red means stop.

Red foods are a “no-go.” Either because they don’t help you achieve your goals, you have trouble eating them in reasonable amounts, or they plain old make you feel gross.

Often, red light foods are processed foods like chips, candy, ice cream, and pastries. Red foods can also be foods that you’re allergic / intolerant to.

Yellow means proceed with caution.

Yellow light foods are sometimes OK, sometimes not. Maybe you can eat a little bit without feeling ill, or you can eat them sanely at a restaurant with others but not at home alone, or you can have them as an occasional treat.

Yellow light foods might include things like bread, crackers, pasta, flavored yogurt, granola bars, or seasoned nuts. They’re not the worst choices, but they’re not the most nutritious either.

Green means go.

Green foods are a “go.” You like eating them because they’re nutritious and make your body and mind feel good. You can eat them normally, slowly, and in reasonable amounts.

Green foods are usually whole foods like fruits and vegetables, lean animal proteins, beans and legumes, raw nuts and seeds, and whole grains.

Create your own red, yellow, and green light food lists.

Everyone’s list will be different! You might leave ice cream in the freezer untouched for months, whereas another person might need a restraining order from that rocky road caramel swirl.

Once you have your list, stock your kitchen with as many green light foods as possible. Choose the yellow foods you allow in your house wisely. And red foods are to be limited or eliminated entirely.

At the very least, consider reducing the variety of red light or treat foods.

Take some pressure off your willpower and surround yourself with foods that support your goals.

3. Put quality above quantity.

It’s tempting to buy that jumbo bag of chips because it’s such a good deal.

But remember: Real value isn’t about price or quantity so much as it is about quality.

Quality foods are nutrient-dense and minimally-processed. They are foods that you like, and make sense for your schedule and budget.  

Quality foods may take a little more preparation and be a little more expensive up-front, but in the long run, they’re the real deal, and have a lower “health tax” to pay later in life.

4. Focus on whole foods.

Whole foods will make it easier to regulate food intake and will also improve nutrition.

We can almost feel “high” when we eat processed foods. Whole foods, on the other hand, are more subtle in flavor and require a bit more effort to chew and digest. Instead of feeling high, whole foods just make us feel nourished and content.

Whole foods are generally more perishable than processed foods, so this will require some more planning and preparation. So schedule some extra time in the kitchen—even ten minutes a day counts!

In ten minutes, you can cut up some veggies, boil some eggs, cook some oatmeal, or marinate some chicken breasts to make the following day go smoother.

While this might sound like more work, it’s rewarding. A closer relationship with food often means more respect and care for it too.

5. Find feel-good habits that support your goals.

Make a list of activities that you feel good doing. You might find that you like certain activities better than others depending on your feelings, the time of day, or your environment.

When you feel triggered to eat when you’re not physically hungry, choose an activity from your list.

This could be some gentle physical activity, fresh air, social interaction, playing a game, or a self-care ritual like painting your nails or getting a scalp massage.

The point is simply to disrupt the cycle of trigger > eat > reward, and replace eating with an activity that supports your goals.

6. Slow down.

If nothing else works, and the idea of taking away treat foods totally freaks you out, just do this:

Slow down.

Allow yourself to eat whatever you want, just eat slowly and mindfully.

Slowing down allows us to savor our food, making us satisfied with less. It also lets physical sensations of fullness to catch up, so we know when we’ve had enough.

Bingeing can feel stressful and out of control—by slowing down, we help ourselves calm down and take back some of the control.

7. If you feel like you’re in over your head, ask for help.

Sometimes we need support.

If overeating is especially frequent or extreme, or if you have health problems related to overeating that you don’t know how to manage, seek the help of a coach, nutritionist, dietician, or counselor who specializes in disordered eating behaviors.

There’s no shame in receiving support. The best coaches and practitioners often have their own support team too.

Want help becoming the healthiest, fittest, strongest version of you?

Most people know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for looking and feeling better. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.

That’s why we work closely with Precision Nutrition Coaching clients to help them lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

It’s also why we work with health, fitness and wellness professionals (through our Level 1 and Level 2 Certification programs) to teach them how to coach their own clients through the same challenges.

Interested in Precision Nutrition Coaching? Join the presale list; you’ll save up to 54% and secure a spot 24 hours early.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020.

If you’re interested in coaching and want to find out more, I’d encourage you to join our presale list below. Being on the list gives you two special advantages.

  • You’ll pay less than everyone else. At Precision Nutrition we like to reward the most interested and motivated people because they always make the best clients. Join the presale list and you’ll save up to 54% off the general public price, which is the lowest price we’ve ever offered.
  • You’re more likely to get a spot. To give clients the personal care and attention they deserve, we only open up the program twice a year. Last time we opened registration, we sold out within minutes. By joining the presale list you’ll get the opportunity to register 24 hours before everyone else, increasing your chances of getting in.

If you’re ready to change your body, and your life, with help from the world’s best coaches, this is your chance.

[Note: If your health and fitness are already sorted out, but you’re interested in helping others, check out our Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification program].

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References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

Avena, N.M, Gold, M.S. (2011). Variety and hyperpalatability: are they promoting addictive overeating? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94(2), 367-368. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.020164.

Drewnowski, A., Shrager, E., Lipsky, C., Stellar, E., Greenwood, M.R. (1989). Sugar and fat: Sensory and hedonic evaluation of liquid and solid foods. Physiology & Behavior, 45 (1), 177-183. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(89)90182-0.

Kessler, David A. Your food is fooling you: How your brain is hijacked by sugar, fat, and salt. Roaring Book Press, 2012.

Mozaffarian D, Katan MB, Ascherio A, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC (2006). Trans Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 354 (15): 1601–1613. doi:10.1056/NEJMra054035.

Provencher, V., Polivy, J., Herman, C.P. (2009). Perceived healthiness of food. If it’s healthy, you can eat more! Appetite, 52(2), 340-344. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2008.11.005.

Rolls, B.J., Drewnowski, A., Ledikwe, J.H. (2005). Changing the energy density of the diet as a strategy for weight management. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 105(5S), 98-103. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2005.02.033.

The post Manufactured deliciousness: Why you can’t stop overeating (plus 3 strategies to get control). appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

When someone struggles to lose fat, it can tell you a lot.

It’s like a dashboard indicator that alerts you to problems.

Except, unlike your car’s dashboard, this warning sign doesn’t come with an owner’s manual that helps you pinpoint the precise problem.

The issue, of course, could be lots of things.

Maybe someone is unintentionally eating more than they’re tracking. They’re not realizing, for example, the true size of their portions.

Or, for people who’ve been dieting for a long time, perhaps their metabolism has adapted and a reverse diet could be in order.

But what if the problem doesn’t start with food? 

Let’s say it stems not from what someone’s eating, but rather from how they’re coping with any number of stressors, from anxiety to anger to unhappiness to lack of sleep.

For example:

  • They’re pounding soda all day… because of a high-pressure job.
  • They’re skipping exercise… because of the challenges of new parenthood.
  • They’re binging at night… because of some deep-seated resentment, smoldering just beneath the surface.

There’s almost no way to fix the secondary problem until you’ve addressed the root issue. In fact, lifestyle stressors not only make fat loss harder, they can make it darn near impossible for some.

So much so, they can be the X-factor for fat loss: the one variable that matters most for success.

Many nutrition coaches understand this, of course.

But our clients?

They often see us as people who know a lot about carbs and vitamins and portion sizes—and not as advisors capable of helping them navigate their deeper, more personal problems.

So how do you help clients go there? Without accidentally offending them? Or having them say something like, “You’re a nutrition coach, not a shrink…”?

And how do you translate a conversation about stress into action steps that can kick start fat loss?

Just keep reading. In this article, you’ll find:

  • Coaching scripts for helping clients recognize which stressors are making it harder for them to lose fat
  • 30+ ideas for how clients can lower stress levels, calm anxiety, and, ultimately, make better nutrition and lifestyle choices
  • A simple coloring exercise that empowers clients to come up with their own stress management solutions

All to help frazzled, frustrated clients slow down their lifestyle—and speed up their progress.

The challenge of coaching stressed out people

Most people know that too much stress is bad for them.

But their stressors often live so far upstream that they don’t connect them with their stalled fat loss. 

They might blame it all on a lack of willpower, assuming they just need to try harder, stop being so lazy, eat even less food, or exercise even more.

And as their coach, it’s easy to become trapped in the “this person just needs a little accountability” mindset.

But as you probably know, serving as their nutritional drill sergeant doesn’t generally work—at least not long term.

So, what can you do?

Start by considering whether your client has any of these signs of stress.

Sign #1: They look, sound, and act frazzled.

Some people make it easy. During an intake they might just come out and say, “You know, stress is a big problem for me.”

Or maybe they say, “I’ve literally tried everything. I’m starting to think it might be stress related. What do you think?”

Other clients, however, are more subtle.

They might not communicate their stress with actual words, but rather with their tone of voice, their pinched facial expression, or the flurried way they send texts at midnight. And at 2 a.m. And 3 a.m.

They also might reveal it in their writing style: lots of exclamation points, a generous use of all caps, or a proclivity for angry emojis. For them, it’s almost as if they just don’t have time to bother with punctuation or capitalization. They’re that busy.

Sign #2: Only someone with superpowers could do their life.

Your client might, in passing, mention that they have a full-time job as well as a side hustle. A little later, the same person reveals they’re raising three beautiful children—all under age 5.

And one of them has a chronic health condition.

Oh, and their in-laws just moved in.

Such people might wear stress like a badge of honor. But you’re left wondering: How are they still walking around?

Sign #3: They’re perfectionists at nutrition, health, and fitness.

We often think of “bad” things when we think of stress. Financial problems. Concern for the welfare of friends and family. Anxiety over an uncertain future.

But many things we file into the “good for us” category can become “bad for us” if left unchecked. Things like:

  • Pushing too hard, too often at the gym—without enough rest days. This can break down your body, leading to injuries, fatigue, lowered immunity, drops in performance, a slower metabolism and, ultimately, fat gain.1
  • Extreme, prolonged dieting. Strict, low-calorie diets tend to elevate levels of the stress hormone cortisol.2
  • A preoccupation with “clean eating.” People who are obsessed with eating healthy foods (a condition known as “orthorexia”) tend to have greater body mass indexes (BMIs) and waist circumferences than people who aren’t as obsessed, found one study.3

Any of those stressors can impede fat loss, especially if they’re bundled with other problems such as insomnia, nutrient deficiencies, and food intolerances.

5 different ways stress make fat loss harder, including sleep, low energy levels, slows metabolism, intensifies hunger and cravings, and makes it difficult to keep long term goals in mind.

If your client can’t lose fat, get curious.

Even when clients know they’re stressed out, they rarely think: “You know what I really need? More relaxation. Better coping strategies. A therapist.”

Which puts you in a delicate position as their coach, especially if you’re working with a new client.

For now, ignore any instinct to bring your client’s attention to the stress—because that’s not going to work. 

Instead, focus on building trust and awareness.

How do you do that? Keep reading.

Give trust some time.

The average person generally doesn’t reveal details about their abusive childhood, toxic relationship, or financial worries to just anyone. They often only open up with people they’ve known for a while.

That takes time.

But you can speed things up by leaning into the skills and techniques that already make you a great coach. In other words:

  • Put your client first.
  • Ask curious questions.
  • Listen deeply.
  • Restate what you’ve heard.
  • Empathize.
  • Work on nutrition and fitness goals your client feels ready, willing, and able to do.

Even if you have an inkling as to what’s going on with your client, do your best to show up curious. Adopt a mindset of humility. You might be right that your client really could use a bit of stress management. But you also might be wrong. So work together to sort it all out.

(You’ll find more specifics on exactly how to do this—with sample conversations—a little later in this article).

Use nutrition practices that create awareness.

Try to see this as a game where the goal is to help your client become aware of the problem, without giving your personal thoughts and opinions on the matter.

Maybe you help your client establish any number of nutrition practices that offer the side benefit of building more awareness:

  • Eating slowly to tune into eating behaviors and appetite signals
  • The notice and name technique to generate awareness into thoughts, feelings, sensations, and emotions that can lead to stress eating
  • Behavior awareness to help them see how stress, busyness, thoughts, and surrounding circumstances connect to what and how much they eat
  • Diet experiments to test whether their life circumstances and surrounding environment affect their eating, energy level, and more

Those tasks fit right into your “nutrition coach” toolkit. To your client, it totally makes sense that you might suggest they keep a food journal, for example. And yet this practice can help your client see they tend to dive into a gallon of ice cream only after they’ve had a horrible day at work.

How do you know if you’ve built enough trust to “go there”?

In truth: There’s no definitive test that will allow you to know, for sure, how your client will respond when you bring up their big upstream problem.

But you’re probably in a good space if your client is no longer showing signs of resistance. In other words, during your sessions together, your client continually nods, saying things like, “Yes! Yes! Yes! That’s exactly how it is for me!” And when you go over action steps together, your client consistently puts them right into practice.

If all of that’s happening on a regular basis: You’re ready to try the 3-step process below.

If that’s not happening: Stay with nutrition-centered practices a bit longer. Maybe instead of addressing emotional stress directly, you do it indirectly by helping your client deal with physical stressors such as nutrient deficiencies, food intolerances, or over-training.

Also consider what you might be doing (or not doing) to trigger any resistance. What can you do to help your client feel seen and heard? Are there ways to empathize more with your client’s situation? Could you spend more time listening and restating and less time lecturing?

Step 1: State what you’re noticing.

Any heavy-handed attempt to diagnose a client’s problem and prescribe a solution? It’ll likely backfire.

But you may already know that.

Instead, think of yourself as a mirror that reflects what you’ve noticed. Ask your client for thoughts. Then pause and see if your client can connect the dots.

For example, you might say:

  • “Based on your food logs, it looks like you hit the freezer around 7 pm every single night, like clockwork. What do you make of that?”
  • “Lately, I’ve noticed that you’ve been taking on so much: side gig, baby-duty every night, your in-laws living with you. Wow, that sounds like a heavy load.”
  • “So I hear you saying that you’re training for a marathon, gunning for a promotion at work, and experimenting with intermittent fasting. That’s a lot to tackle all at once. How does this affect you—if at all?”

For some clients, this may be all you need. They may take it and run with it, telling you, “Yeah, I guess my load is kind of heavy.” If you get that answer, move onto step 2.

Other clients might deflect, saying something like, “Nah, it’s really not that bad. I can handle it.”

In this case, back off and redirect your energy toward something else. Maybe you pivot to a conversation about starting a journaling habit, for example.

No matter what you eventually settle on, don’t worry too much. Just by broaching the conversation, you planted a seed—and that’s enough.

Questions are now buzzing in the back of your client’s mind. Eventually the seed will take root.

Step 2: Explore the issue more deeply.

Now that your client has admitted that stress is a problem generally, you’ll want to ask a few questions to help your client make the connection between stress and fat loss.

  • Use open-ended questions that help your client investigate possibilities.
  • Listen to and affirm whatever your client has to say.
  • Ask for permission to fill in any holes in your client’s understanding.
  • Include your client in the solution.

The conversation might go like this:

Coach: Crazy question: You mentioned how stressed you are. Are there any ways it might be affecting your weight or your eating? What are you noticing?
Client: I don’t know. Usually? I eat out more when I’m stressed because I just don’t have time to cook.
Coach: That’s great that you’ve noticed that. You’re spot on. Funny enough, there are lots of other ways that stress affects body weight too. Are you okay if I share those with you?
Client: Sure.
Coach: Well, you already mentioned that it can lead you to eat differently. But lots of people don’t know that stress can also drain your muscles of energy, leaving you feeling tired and achy. And it can also slow metabolism and interfere with sleep. What do you make of all of that? Does any of that seem like it might apply to your situation?
Client: Yeah, yeah. I think you’re onto something. That might be it.
Coach: How do you want to approach this? Is this something that you want to address now? Or do you want to set it aside for a bit and see if we can do other things first?

Now, let’s say the conversation doesn’t quite go as beautifully as the example above. Suppose you bring up stress and your client is like, “Um, nope. That’s not me.”

That’s alright. Just bookmark it for later and switch to another practice that your client is willing to embrace.

On the other hand, if your client does see the connection? You’re both ready to find solutions, which brings us to step 3.

Step 3: Address the stress.

This step is a lot like the last semester of senior year. Once you’ve gotten this far, the hard work is nearly over. You’re ready to brainstorm stress-soothing strategies as well as ways to reduce your client’s overall stress load.

Brainstorm stress-soothing strategies

To identify calming activities your client can try, use the same process listed under step 2 above: Ask an open-ended question, listen to and affirm your client, ask for permission to fill in any gaps, and include your client in the solution. It might go like this:

Coach: “What are some practices you think could help with stress management?”
Client: Um, I don’t know, maybe meditation… walking in nature… taking a hot bath…?
Coach: “Yup. Great job. Those are some of the more popular ones. People have been doing those for a long time with success. What experiences do you have with these?”
Client: “Not many. I’ve just heard that some people do those sorts of things. I don’t know if they’re right… for me.”
Coach: “I get that. Totally makes sense. Maybe some other options might be a better fit for you. I have some more ideas. Okay if I share them?
Client: Nods.
Coach: “Some people like to write in a journal, snuggle with a loved one after a long day, or talk to a friend on a regular basis. And some of my clients have found it super helpful to talk to a licensed counselor. Do any of those stand out to you that might be worth trying? What do you think would be the easiest?”

If your client wants to see a therapist, offer to help find someone, especially if you don’t have a counseling background.

You could say, “I certainly don’t do that, but I can help you search for the right person while we continue to work on these other things. We can work together to find someone who fits well and gives you the support you need.”

(For more stress-soothing ideas, check out “33 ways to calm your mind and body” below.)

33 ways to calm your mind and body

By no means is this list exhaustive. Merely think of it as a jumping-off point for brainstorming. It’s more important to collaboratively explore what a client feels works for them and much less important to serve as a human encyclopedia of stress-relievers.

Quick & free >10-minutes with or without a cost >30 minutes with a paid expert
Breathe deeply. Take a nap, with or without a weighted blanket. Sign up for a massage.
Slowly sip herbal tea. Watch a funny movie. Try acupuncture.
Color or draw a picture. Organize a closet or drawer. See a therapist or counselor.
Call a friend. Exercise. Take a meditation course.
Spoon with a person or pet. Spend time in nature. Get tested for food allergies, intolerances, and/or deficiencies.
Walk barefoot in the grass. Volunteer. See a sleep specialist.
Sit outdoors in the sun. Go to an art museum and sit quietly in front of a masterpiece. Take music lessons.
Mindfully wash dishes, focusing on the smell of the soap, sound of the water, and feel of the dishes. Read the comics. Take a tai chi, qigong, or yin, gentle, or restorative yoga class, (online or in person).
Knit or crochet. Try guided imagery, yoga nidra, or another “relaxation” visualization. Learn self-hypnosis.
Write in a gratitude journal. Buy and use an aromatherapy diffuser with essential oils designed for relaxation (such as one that includes lavender). Investigate flotation-REST (reduced environmental stimulation therapy).
Dance while listening to your favorite music. Sign up for and use a relaxation app. Try reiki.

Reduce the stress load

If your client has a lot on their plate, you’ll want to explore ways to reduce the load to a more manageable level.

Maybe you say, “It seems like you’re really pushing yourself. I’m not sure how you do it. I’m wondering how you feel about dialing down your effort.”

Assuming you get the go-ahead, use the stress web (below) for ideas.

Various types of stress including cultural, mental, physical, social, environmental, psycho-spiritual, financial, emotional.

1. Ask your client to color in the areas with the most stress. (To download, print, and share our stress web, click here.)

2. Take a look at the colored-in areas, asking questions like, “What’s adding to your stress level in that area?”

3. Use the “little bit better” mindset to help your client come up with small shifts toward life balance. That is, what tiny action might help?

The stress web can be seriously eye-opening for clients. Simply doing this exercise can give your client a visual that creates real awareness and leads to productive brainstorming.

No, your client can’t change the fact that they have a newborn baby or puppy. But maybe they’re willing to stop watching the crime dramas that heighten their stress and instead tune into something more relaxing.

Or maybe they cut back on—but not eliminate—social media if that’s one of their stressors.

Or rather than cardio combat everyday at the gym, your client says they’re willing to try a gentle yoga class.

It’s about the journey—not the destination.

That text above^? It’s a cliché.

But people say it for a reason.

As a coach, you may feel super tempted to fixate on the one perfect destination: that mythical set of techniques that’ll transform your client into a calm yogi who never stress eats and, consequently, easily loses fat.

In reality? There’s no one right destination because the best techniques and solutions will vary from client to client. Some work great for some people—and miserably for others.

The magic isn’t created by the specific practice.

Rather it comes from the conversation that builds your clients’ awareness, self-insight, and inner resources.

Be curious. Ask questions. Listen deeply. Care.

Do all of that and your clients will naturally gravitate toward the stress reduction solutions that work like magic—for them.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that helps them overcome their biggest obstacles—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 30% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 30% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

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References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Cadegiani FA, Kater CE. Body composition, metabolism, sleep, psychological and eating patterns of overtraining syndrome: Results of the EROS study (EROS-PROFILE). J Sports Sci. 2018 Aug;36(16):1902–10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29313445

2. Tomiyama AJ, Mann T, Vinas D, Hunger JM, Dejager J, Taylor SE. Low calorie dieting increases cortisol. Psychosom Med. 2010 May;72(4):357–64. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2895000/

3. Grammatikopoulou MG, Gkiouras K, Markaki A, Theodoridis X, Tsakiri V, Mavridis P, et al. Food addiction, orthorexia, and food-related stress among dietetics students. Eat Weight Disord. 2018 Aug;23(4):459–67. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29779146

The post The fat loss X-factor: Learn the lifestyle coaching technique that drives better client results. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

This free exercise library from Precision Nutrition contains men’s and women’s versions of over 400 exercise videos.

It’s designed to be a resource for personal trainers and strength coaches who provide remote or online workout coaching. But it’s also freely available to anyone else who might benefit.

Every exercise video is filmed from multiple angles and provides performance pointers through audio narration and text overlays.

Plus, each video highlights common movement flaws to avoid during each stage of the exercise.

And it’s all organized into a searchable, filterable spreadsheet that allows you to copy and paste video links—and accompanying text exercise cues—right into your own material.

Personal trainers and strength coaches can use this video exercise library to:

  • Include high-quality exercise demonstrations in your workout programs—without having to search the internet or create your own videos
  • Send clients quick and reliable links to any exercise they may have questions about
  • Provide clients with progressions, regressions, or modifications for popular exercises

And absolutely anyone can use this PN video library for expert instruction on how to perform hundreds of exercises safely.
As a bonus, we’ve also included a 14-day at-home workout program, to highlight how we use these movements in our Precision Nutrition programs. Feel free to download it for yourself, or share it with your friends, family members, or clients.

To get the most out of this video exercise library, keep reading. But if you’re ready to jump right to resources, you can click the links below.

How to use this video exercise library

The exercises in this video library are grouped in the downloadable spreadsheet in two different ways:

1. By movement pattern. You can search for any exercise by category. For example, if you’re looking for a regression or progression for a goblet squat, you can search through other squat pattern movements to find bodyweight, dumbbell, and barbell squat variations.

2. By name, alphabetically. We’ve also included an alphabetical list of every exercise in the video library. Plus, you can always do a simple keyword search within the spreadsheet to find the exercise you’re looking for.

Exercise principles for online coaching

You may already have an effective system for choosing the right exercises for your online clients. But if not, consider the advice that follows.

When selecting exercises for online or remote clients, it’s important to recognize this:

The exercises you regularly prescribe to in-person clients might not be appropriate for your online clients.

The reason: Compared to in-person coaching, your understanding of your clients’ movement skills—and your ability to enhance those skills through coaching—may vary significantly along a continuum.

For instance, you may have a range of online clients that include:

A. People you also work with in-person.

  • You know how well they move and which movements they’re skilled in.
  • You know how well they self-monitor their movement quality.
  • You know how well they pace themselves.

B. People you’ve never met in person… but you’ve done a thorough online movement assessment and gotten to know them.

  • You have a good grasp of their physical capabilities.
  • They regularly send you movement videos for feedback.
  • They pay close attention to their form while exercising.

C. People you don’t know well… and with whom you rarely correspond.

  • You mostly send them workouts and nutrition material.
  • You briefly check in with each other once or twice a month.
  • They told you they’ve worked out off and on for a long time, but you’re not sure what that really means.

Depending on where clients are on this continuum, the following principles apply to some degree.

1. There won’t be an immediate feedback loop.

Exercise is a form of skill development.

Workouts metabolically and neurologically challenge motor patterns. This, in turn, elicits the training effects that develop athletic skills and produce results.

The development of any skill requires that you start with a mental model of what “good” is. For instance, ask yourself: What does a “good” squat or “good” pushup look like?

The goal is to then practice that mental model at the edge of your ability. Example: doing a squat for as many reps as you can with “good” form. (Once your form starts to break down, you’ve exceeded the edge of your ability.)

Over time, the metabolic, structural, and neural challenges of this activity drive the training effects we’re all familiar with:

  • stronger muscles
  • better coordination
  • less body fat

Along the way, the quality of the movement pattern you practice—that is, how “good” your mental model is—affects the quality of those results. This also plays a big role in your long-term resiliency and injury risk.

So how do you improve and strengthen the quality of that movement pattern? By making and correcting small errors at the edge of your ability.

And the ability to do that? It depends on a feedback loop: a constant comparison of what you wanted to do, what you did, and how you can do it better the next time.

With in-person training, that feedback loop can come immediately and repeatedly from an expert coach.

For instance, after watching a client squat, you might say:

“Hey, on that last set of squats you started to lift your heels a bit and shift stress more into your knees and lower back. Next time, let’s mentally focus on keeping your heels rooted into the ground when you’re under fatigue. Or we can adjust the weight or reps to keep you in a quality pattern.”

In online coaching, though, that feedback loop can only come from the client. The obvious problem: It’s very difficult for people to self-monitor subtle shifts in movement quality while working out.

This means that small errors—and sometimes big ones—can continue unchecked for a long time. That slows down skill acquisition, and thus, progress. Worse, it can lead to movement dysfunction and frustrating injuries.

This brings us to point #2.

2. It’s important to rely on “high-fidelity” exercises.

Clearly, lack of immediate feedback is a challenge for online coaching.

But there’s a smart way to account for this: Adjust your exercise selection to favor “high-fidelity” movements.

These are exercises that are likely to be executed correctly without feedback and while under fatigue.

Think of two variables when choosing an exercise:

  1. The desired movement pattern (for example, a squat pattern)
  2. The loading necessary to get the desired training effect (for this specific client, at this particular spot in their workout, and at this point in their overall training program)

From here, choose the exercise with the highest likelihood of being executed safely and correctly… without feedback… while under stress and fatigue… and while still meeting conditions 1 and 2.

That’s a mouthful, we know. But the point: Considering each of these factors will help you choose the best exercises for each client.

And keep mind: A high-fidelity exercise for one client may not be a high-fidelity exercise for another client.

But some movements generally meet the standard for most people. Here’s a shortlist of high-fidelity exercises you might prioritize, and low-fidelity exercises you’ll want to program with greater discretion.

High-fidelity exercises 

These exercises can usually be executed relatively reliably under fatigue with minimal feedback.

  • Goblet squats
  • Pushup variations
  • Dumbbell reverse lunge variations
  • Dumbbell rows
  • Weighted carries

Low-fidelity exercises
Typically, you only want to use these exercises with 1) people who you know are highly skilled in performing them and self-monitor effectively, or 2) people that you’re working with in-person—so that you can provide immediate feedback as they train.

  • Kettlebell swings, snatches, and cleans
  • Olympic lifts
  • Overhead squats

3. Adjusting protocols is more effective than varying exercises.

Let’s say you’ve chosen exercises your client can execute safely and correctly… without feedback… and while under stress and fatigue.

Great.

Now where do they go from here?

To improve, you want to add just enough novelty and challenge so that they’re breaking equilibrium and adapting to new stimuli. That is, make them work a little bit harder but without forcing them beyond the edge of their ability.

One way to add novelty is to vary the movement pattern by choosing a new exercise. For instance, moving from a goblet squat to a barbell squat.

This is the default approach for many people.

But remember, the goal isn’t to do the most variations of an exercise; the goal is to get better at the movement pattern itself, in order to accrue the adaptations that come from training progress.

The most effective and efficient way to do that is to adjust the training protocol, not the movement. Specifically, you might adjust:

  • Sets
  • Reps
  • Rest periods
  • Tempo
  • Time durations
  • Exercise combinations

In fact, by manipulating these variables, the nature and magnitude of the stress you can impose on the body with a single exercise is nearly limitless.

Think of all the effective training methods from the past few decades:

And countless others.

What do they all have in common? Most of them can be done with the same dozen exercises.

Here’s the thing: Progress isn’t really about the exercises you choose. It’s about how far you can take those exercises, through strategic programming.

How to Progress Exercises

Here at Precision Nutrition, we think of exercise progression in two ways:

  • Intra-exercise progression: This is done by adjusting the way you perform a specific exercise, a.ka. the training protocol. For example, adding more sets and reps is a form of intra-exercise progression.
  • Inter-exercise progression: This is when you vary the exercise itself, by using a dumbbell instead of a barbell, or by holding the weight in a different position (and so on).

Let’s take a look at both in more detail.

Intra-exercise progression

You can use intra-exercise progression by adjusting these variables:

  • Quality: Improving exercise technique (this is often low-hanging fruit, and must always be considered).
  • Volume: Increasing the numbers of sets and/or reps.
  • Density: Increasing the number of reps performed in a specific time frame.
  • Intensity: Increasing the weight used for an exercise.
  • Complexity: Incorporating constraints on rate of perceived exertion, heart rate, or breathing (e.g. exclusively nose-breathing or using a fixed number of breaths during recovery intervals, such as during a breathing ladder).

If your protocol or program isn’t targeting an increase in one of these variables, you may be distracting yourself from the things that matter.

Inter-exercise progression

Only after you’ve explored the limits of progress you can make from intra-exercise progressions is it typically necessary and beneficial to start with inter-exercise progressions.

For instance, let’s say you’ve been working on squats.

You (or your client) started with a bodyweight squat and pretty quickly mastered that pattern, focusing initially on the quality of the movement.

You’re able to squat deeply with your heels firmly rooted to the ground, with good positioning and movement at your ankles, knees, hips, and spine.

To progress, you could add some density and volume by increasing your total reps and doing them in less time. But for the training adaptations you really want, you need some external load.

Based on that, it’s time to switch to a loaded version of the exercise, such as a goblet squat. This is an inter-exercise progression.

With this change, you can adjust the amount of weight you’re moving, which adds another intra-exercise variable you can progress over time.

Remember, you’re following the same fundamental checklist of criteria: Your heels are rooted, lumbar spine and pelvis are stable, hips are mobile, knees, and ankles track well. This stays with you for every progression.

Keep progressing with these principles.

Once you’ve switched the exercise you’re using, you can return to focusing on intra-exercise progression.

For example, you might work up to goblet squatting a 100-pound dumbbell for lots of reps (volume progression) in minimal time (density progression). Then you could do a high-volume, high-density workout while consciously controlling your breathing (complexity progression).

From here, you may want to add more weight again, but you’re limited by the amount you can hold in the goblet position (or you don’t have a heavier dumbbell). As a result, you need to choose a new exercise variation in this pattern. So you’re back to inter-exercise progression.

In this case, you might choose a barbell squat variation, like a front squat or back squat.

With these barbell lifts, your training intensity can be increased infinitely. Every workout can be made more challenging by putting more weight on the bar.

Most important: You’re ready for this because you’ve built a strong foundation to work from. That’s because you spent time building resilience and work capacity by pushing your limits on intra-exercise progressions.

This process—going from a bodyweight squat to a goblet squat to a barbell squat—could take several months.

Sometimes years.

Some people will never need to squat a barbell because they can accomplish what they need with a dumbbell.

But for those who do progress to barbell squats? The possibilities are endless. They can play with protocol variations that drive intra-exercise progress for the rest of their life.

Figuring out how to do all of this requires a lot of individualization. 

You’ll need to decide which progressions to focus on, in what sequence, and how to monitor them, along with knowing what the specific goals are.

You need to ask questions like:

  • What adaptations are you trying to induce?
  • Are you working with an athlete with specific sport demands? Someone trying to build muscle? Lose fat? Gain freedom from back pain? Get their doctor to stop chastising them?
  • What kind of equipment does your client have access to?
  • What else is going on in their life?
  • How much time do they have to train?
  • What’s their movement background prior to working with you?

Every situation will require a different approach and a different layering of progressions and adaptations.

The progression described above—from bodyweight to goblet to barbell back squat—involves just three exercises, probably over a long period of time. Yet it allows for tremendous progress. (We’re not suggesting a program would only involve squatting exercises, by the way.)

Our point: The art of programming workouts lies much more in how you can build new levels of strength and capacity within a movement pattern than how many different exercises you can come up with.

Of course, you might wonder then…

Why are we providing a video library of 400 exercises?

A few reasons:

  • Clients have different starting points, goals, abilities, and preferences, which calls for a full toolbox of movement options
  • You may need to vary exercises in unique ways in order to increase the load (a feet-elevated pushup instead of a regular pushup)
  • If a client gets injured or has a setback, you may need to modify or regress an exercise
  • There may be a change in available training equipment, like if a client switches gyms or starts training only at home

But no matter how you use this exercise library, we hope you find it—and the accompanying information—to be a helpful resource.

Download Precision Nutrition’s 400+ video exercise library

Click the Google Sheet to download the video exercise library.

Download the 14-day at-home workout program

Click the PDF to download the workout program.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating, exercise, and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s safe, effective, and personalized for their unique body, preferences, and goals—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 30% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 7th, 2020.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 30% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

The post Exercise Library: 400+ Expert Videos with How-To Instructions  appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Some experts—and lots of people on Twitter—believe carbs and insulin make you gain weight. But, they say, the fix is simple: If you eat a low-carb diet, you’ll keep insulin levels low—and lose weight rapidly instead. All without ever having to worry about calories. Here, we look at the science behind these claims and try to answer the real question on everyone’s mind: What really matters most for fat loss?

+++

People used to call pasta “diet food.”

But over the last two decades, carb-phobia has sky-rocketed.

And now? Pasta is more commonly known as “fattening.”

So when folks want to lose weight, they’re often told to eliminate the rigatoni, rotini, and ravioli—along with rice, potatoes, bread, and even fruit.

The reason: Carbs, of course… and the hormone insulin.

It’s all based on a controversial hypothesis known as the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity.

From 30,000 feet, it looks like this:

  • You eat carbohydrates.
  • Your body releases insulin.
  • Then, according to the model, insulin 1) keeps your body from burning fat for energy, and 2) drives fat and sugar from your bloodstream into your fat cells.
  • All this makes your body think it’s starving, causing it to slow your metabolism and increase your hunger.

It’s a beautifully simplistic explanation as to why we have a still-growing global obesity problem.

And many advocates of the carbohydrate-insulin model claim it leads to a beautifully simplistic solution: Adopt a low-carb diet.

With this approach, they say, you’ll create a hormonal environment that gives you a  “metabolic advantage,” allowing you to effortlessly lose fat while eating as much as you want.

No more worrying about calories or portions.

The question is: Does it hold up scientifically?

In this article, we’ll walk you through the science of how the carb-insulin relationship works—for both health and fat loss—and answer these questions:

(Fair warning: We’re going deep, so you may want to grab coffee.)

Insulin and carbs: Partners in crime?

To fully understand the carbohydrate-insulin model, you have to start with some biology. (Skim at your own risk!)

So here we go…

When you eat certain carbohydrates—such as starch and sugar—they’re quickly broken down into glucose and absorbed into your bloodstream. This raises your blood glucose levels. (Also called blood sugar levels.)

The more carbohydrates you eat, the higher your blood glucose rises immediately after that meal.

Your body, however, strives to closely regulate your blood glucose levels.

Ever had your fasting glucose measured? You probably know the “normal” range is 70 to 100 mg/dl.

Your body wants to maintain this level of blood glucose, to keep you healthy and all systems functioning optimally.

(For example, chronically elevated blood glucose levels cause inflammation that can damage your blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, and nerves. This is why diabetes can lead to many health complications.)

Enter insulin.

When you eat carbohydrates, and blood glucose rises, your body—specifically your pancreas—releases insulin. That’s because insulin is your body’s key regulator of blood glucose.

This charts show the blood glucose curve after a carbohydrate load of 75 grams (oral glucose tolerance test).

Normal blood glucose response after consumption of 75 grams of carbohydrate.

Insulin is needed to shuttle glucose from your blood into your muscle and fat cells, where it can be used for energy or stored for later use. 1

Without insulin, your blood glucose levels would stay elevated for a much longer period. And that would be very bad. This is why people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day via injections or a pump.

The bottom line? When blood glucose goes up, insulin goes up.

And remember: If you eat lots of carbs at a meal, your blood glucose and insulin levels go up more than if you eat fewer carbs.

Context matters, too. People respond differently to the same number of carbohydrates based on many factors, including 2,3,4:

  • Fitness level
  • Body fat
  • Genetics
  • Microbiome health
  • Muscle mass
  • How recently, vigorously, and long they’ve exercised
  • Time of day
  • What else they’re eating (for example, fat and fiber—another type of carbohydrate—can slow the absorption of glucose, blunting the insulin response, while certain proteins can increase the insulin response.)

Typically, the leaner and more active a person, the more sensitive their cells are to insulin. (Known as insulin sensitivity.) Meaning, they need less insulin to move glucose out of their bloodstream.

This is one reason why fit people “tolerate” carbs better than sedentary folks. They usually even benefit from more carbs, to aid performance and recovery.

Why insulin can be a problem

As we’ve noted, when your body is functioning normally, glucose and insulin are in lockstep. When blood glucose rises, just enough insulin is released to bring glucose back into the normal range.

But there’s also a scenario where you can have too much insulin. This is generally thought to happen when your cells become resistant to insulin, a condition known as insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

With insulin resistance, a greater amount of insulin is needed to get the same amount of glucose into your cells. And as the condition worsens over time, insulin levels can remain elevated even when you haven’t eaten anything. (This is called hyperinsulinemia.)

We don’t know exactly why insulin resistance happens. It’s mainly thought to be caused by chronically-elevated levels of fatty acids in your bloodstream.5

(Insulin resistance is also related to a host of factors including genetics, ethnicity, sleep, exercise habits, smoking habits, and more.6,7,8)

What we do know is that people who are obese—particularly those with higher amounts of visceral fat (the deep abdominal fat that surrounds several vital organs)—are more likely to be insulin resistant.

We also know losing excess body fat often resolves insulin resistance.

Now that you have the background, let’s dive into the first question… 

Does insulin stop you from burning fat?

Not exactly. But insulin does influence the rate your body burns fat.

That’s because, in addition to insulin’s role as the key regulator of blood glucose, it’s well-known that:

Insulin inhibits lipolysis.

During lipolysis [lie-PAWL-uh-siss], stored fatty acids are moved out of your fat cells and into your bloodstream, where they can be used for energy.

When this process is inhibited—as it is when insulin levels are high—fewer fatty acids are available to fuel your muscles and other metabolically active tissues. Because of this, many people equate insulin spikes with “turning off” your body’s ability to burn fat.

Insulin stimulates lipogenesis.

During lipogenesis [lie-POE-jen-uh-siss], fatty acids are moved from your bloodstream into your fat cells, where they’re stored for later use. This is often referred to as being in “fat storage mode”—something most people try to avoid.

What’s more, lipogenesis can also cause carbs to be converted to and stored as fat (known as de novo lipogenesis, or DNL). It’s important to note, though: DNL only happens in meaningful amounts when there’s an overall surplus of carbs and calories. (That is, you consistently eat more calories than you burn.9)

As a result of all these effects, you might conclude that insulin is a real problem for fat loss.

So it’s worth saying:

Insulin’s purpose isn’t to make you fat.

Insulin inhibits lipolysis because you just consumed nutrients, specifically carbohydrates and/or protein. And it’s more efficient for your body to use those incoming nutrients for energy than to liberate stored nutrients for energy.

Think of it this way: If you have $100 in your pocket, and you want to buy $25 in groceries, you wouldn’t go to the ATM for more cash. You’d use the money already in your pocket.

Similarly, why would your body release stored fat into your bloodstream for energy when there’s plenty of incoming energy already available?

Also, at any given time, there’s a complex interplay of hormones and enzymes that can counteract, limit, or enhance the effect of any single chemical, including insulin.

For instance, while insulin inhibits lipolysis (fat burning), other hormones—which are active at the same time—stimulate lipolysis.10 Examples:

  • Glucagon
  • Epinephrine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Growth hormone
  • Cortisol

Furthermore, while insulin stimulates lipogenesis (fat storage), other active hormones—leptin, growth hormone, and acute increases in cortisol—inhibit lipogenesis.11

These hormones don’t completely disappear from your body in the presence of insulin. They have important jobs, too, and can modulate the effects of insulin.

For instance, while carbohydrate is the major macronutrient impacting insulin, protein also significantly stimulates insulin secretion.12,13 Yet protein is generally thought to contribute positively to body composition improvements.

Some hypothesize this is because protein also stimulates production of the hormone glucagon, thus negating the effect of insulin.14

Whatever the case, the impact of insulin on metabolism isn’t straightforward: It’s tempered by many other factors. (To read another example of this, check out “FGF-21: The “secret” metabolism hormone” below. Or you can skim over the box—or click here—to continue with the main article.)

FGF-21: The “secret” metabolism hormone

Clearly, insulin is the key mechanism of the carbohydrate-insulin model.

But without strong clinical evidence from controlled studies (we’ll dive into this more later), how can you support that mechanism?

Answer: You need a deep understanding of how all the other hormones and metabolic processes work together.

Otherwise, the model can’t reliably predict what will happen in every situation. Which makes it… an incomplete and thus unreliable model.

For example, part of the natural progression of type 2 diabetes is that insulin levels go down over time.15

Based on the carbohydrate-insulin model, this should make it easier for people who’ve had type 2 diabetes for years to lose weight, compared to someone who has pre-diabetes.

But we don’t see this. The pounds don’t suddenly fall off people after they’ve had type 2 diabetes for several years.

If we don’t understand why this contradiction occurs, how confident can we be that the carbohydrate-insulin model is correct?

The reality is this: You can’t just consider insulin. There are many other hormones involved in fat loss, appetite, hunger, and metabolism—plenty of which aren’t well understood.

Take, for example, fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF-21). It’s thought to be an important regulator of whole-body metabolism and energy homeostasis, yet you’ll rarely hear anyone talk about it.

Research shows that FGF-2116,17:

  • Decreases appetite
  • Decreases the rate carbs are burned for energy
  • Increases the rate fats are burned for energy
  • Improves blood glucose control
  • Increases brown fat activity (a metabolically active type of fat)

That’s a pretty strong resume.

Interestingly, eating excess carbohydrates increases FGF-21, but overeating fat doesn’t.18 And under certain conditions, FGF-21 can override insulin to stimulate lipolysis (fat burning).19

This isn’t to suggest that FGF-21 is some secret to fat loss. (Such a secret doesn’t exist.) But rather to ask the question: How does FGF-21 fit into the carbohydrate-insulin model?

Right now, it’s not clear. And that might mean it’s a faulty model.

Instead of thinking about the effects of insulin—or any of these hormones—as an on-off button, picture a dimmer switch.

Your body is constantly adjusting its hormonal dials, not based solely on food intake, but also on thousands of other inputs and processes you aren’t even aware of.

The upshot: When your insulin levels are high, you’ll burn less fat for energy than when your insulin levels are low. But you won’t stop burning fat altogether.

You’ll preferentially burn carbohydrates for energy instead.

So…

The real question isn’t whether insulin stops you from burning fat. It’s whether insulin stops you from losing fat.

Here’s what we can say with confidence: There’s zero scientific evidence to suggest you’ll gain weight if your energy intake is less than your energy expenditure. (Not counting short-term changes in body water, of course.)

Or put another way: Insulin itself doesn’t cause weight gain. You also need to eat more calories than you consume.

Remember, in healthy people, the increase in insulin after a meal only lasts a few hours. Then it returns to baseline, allowing fat burning to throttle up again.

If energy intake is lower than energy expenditure, insulin will stay low for long periods throughout the day and night. This permits fat burning to occur at full effect despite short periods of fat-burning inhibition.

So, if you initiate a diet to lose fat, you can accomplish that with or without carbs.20 (We’ll look at the research that compares the effectiveness of different diets in a moment.)

Does insulin make you hungrier?

One of the key positions of the carbohydrate-insulin model: High insulin levels—thanks to a high-carb diet—make you eat more.

But the evidence to support this assertion is weak.

Here’s the premise: Because insulin signals your body to store fat, it “empties” your bloodstream of fatty acids and glucose, shunting them to your fat cells.

It’s hypothesized that this triggers something termed “internal starvation.”14

By “emptying” your blood of these fatty acids and glucose, your brain thinks you’re starving. And this, in turn, drives you to eat more food.

But do the fatty acids in your bloodstream actually decrease? 

As Stephan Guyenet, PhD points out, research shows people with obesity exhibit normal or even high levels of fatty acids in their bloodstream.21,22,23,24

What’s more, insulin has long been thought to help regulate appetite.25 It’s speculated, based on animal research, that elevated blood insulin levels signal your brain to reduce food intake. (This has been studied directly in primates but not in humans.)

So, in this model, elevated insulin would decrease the drive to eat. 

But just like fat burning and fat storage, insulin isn’t the only hormone involved with appetite regulation. Others include26:

  • Leptin
  • Cholecystokinin (CCK)
  • Ghrelin
  • Amylin
  • Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1)

And that’s just to name a few.

The point: Hunger and appetite regulation is incredibly complicated. 

It’s not likely as simple as reducing insulin or adjusting any one factor.

Which brings us back to the original question: Does the hormone insulin make people hungrier?

There’s no strong physiological evidence that it does. In fact, a new highly-controlled study—which we’ll discuss later in this article—presents data that’s in conflict with this assertion.

Plus, competing mechanisms strongly suggest other factors, such as the hormone leptin, may be of much greater importance than insulin. (To read more about the role of leptin, check out: Eating Too Much? Blame Your Brain.)

Does insulin decrease your metabolism?

Metabolism is highly related to body size. People with larger bodies generally have higher resting metabolic rates than people with smaller bodies.27

So, when people lose weight, their metabolic rate decreases. But typically, this reduction is even greater than what you’d expect from the change in body mass alone.27

This is known as metabolic adaptation (which also seems to be largely driven by leptin), and it’s perhaps one reason it’s hard to sustain weight loss. Your body requires fewer calories to maintain your new weight than someone who’s been that same weight most of their adult life.

According to the carbohydrate-insulin model, high-carb diets—and elevated insulin levels—are responsible for this metabolic adaptation.14

The hypothesis: Because insulin directs fatty acids out of the blood—toward fat cells and away from more metabolically active tissues like muscle—the result is a decreased metabolic rate.

This, however, is in conflict with research that shows insulin increases fatty acid uptake in muscle.28

On the flip side, the hypothesis proposes that low-carb diets—due to their insulin-lowering effect—provide more fuel for metabolically active tissue. This keeps your metabolism stoked, like throwing wood on a fire.

And it’s what advocates for the carbohydrate-insulin model term a “metabolic advantage.”

But is this really what happens? Does a low-carb diet actually increase your metabolism compared to a high-carb diet?

Let’s see what human studies can tell us.

What does diet and metabolism research say?

The most in-depth look into this topic is a 2017 meta-analysis led by Kevin Hall, PhD at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (an institute of the NIH).27

The researchers examined 32 calorie-matched, controlled-feeding studies that directly compared low-carb and high-carb diets and their effects on daily energy expenditure.

“Calorie-matched, controlled-feeding” means both diets contained the same number of calories, and the scientists provided all food to the participants.

These studies also matched protein amounts between diets.

This is important because protein requires more calories to digest (25 to 30 percent) than both carbohydrate (6 to 8 percent) and fat (2 to 3 percent).29

If one diet were to include a substantially greater amount of protein, energy expenditure would likely be higher, regardless of carb intake.

What did the data show?

Energy expenditure was 26 calories higher per day in the high-carb diets versus the low-carb diets.

This conclusion, however, has been criticized by David Ludwig, MD, PhD, a leading proponent of the carbohydrate-insulin model.

That’s because only four of 32 of the studies had durations of at least 2.5 weeks, and according to Dr. Ludwig, it takes two to three weeks for the body to adapt to a low-carb diet, also known as being “fat-adapted.”14,30,31,32,33

Currently, there’s no validated method for objectively measuring if someone is fat-adapted. So while it may indeed take longer than two weeks, no one knows if that’s true or can say how they know when it occurs.

To support their assertion, however, proponents of the carbohydrate-insulin model often cite the results of a 20-week study from Dr. Ludwig’s group, conducted after Dr. Hall’s 2017 meta-analysis.34

A breakthrough study?

In a 2018 study, Cara Ebbeling, PhD, Dr. Ludwig, and their research team first had study participants lose 10.5 percent of their weight by adhering to a calorie-restricted, 45 percent carbohydrate diet for 9-10 weeks. The successful dieters then followed a 20-week maintenance diet that was either:

  • Low carbohydrate (20 percent)
  • Moderate carbohydrate (40 percent)
  • High carbohydrate (60 percent)

The results:

  • Low-carb dieters expended 278 Calories more per day than high-carb dieters.
  • Moderate-carb dieters burned 131 Calories more per day than high-carb dieters.
  • It’s also worth noting that the participants successfully lost an impressive amount of weight prior to adopting the low-carb diet. They dropped an average of 21 pounds in the initial 9-10 week while consuming 45 percent of their calories from carbs.

At the time, it was the best evidence to date that low-carb diets may offer a significant metabolic advantage. (Keep reading for the latest study.)

But it’s also faced intense scrutiny from Dr. Hall and other experts, who’ve questioned the measurement and reporting methods that were used, as well as the statistical analysis.35

And because the study participants were living in their normal environment—not in a lab—it’s possible not all food intake was accounted for.

There’s also this: If low-carb diets truly have a metabolic advantage, people should lose more fat than those on higher carb diets. Dr. Hall’s meta-analysis didn’t show that. In fact, it showed the opposite (by a tiny amount).

But let’s dig deeper into the research.

Do people lose more weight on low-carb diets?

Yes? No? Maybe? Sometimes?

In many studies—ranging from a few weeks to several months—low-carb diets have often outperformed high-carb diets.36,37,38,39,40,41

But is this specifically due to a metabolic advantage? Or do low-carb diets offer other benefits?

One popular and logical explanation is that people eat fewer calories on a low-carb diet versus a high-carb diet.

Most studies that show a low-carb diet leads to greater weight loss aren’t “protein-matched, calorie-matched, controlled-feeding studies.”

Instead, they frequently provide dietary counseling and menus to participants, advising them what to eat, but not monitoring food intake closely.

This is a downside in terms of observing the specific effects of each diet. But it could be a positive when looking at how these diets work in everyday life.

After all, this is how the average person follows a diet plan.

Why might a low-carbohydrate diet cause people to eat less? There are a few potential reasons:

  • Greater intake of protein increases satiety and reduces appetite42
  • Limited food choices cut out hundreds of highly-processed calories they might have eaten otherwise—such as cookies, muffins, and chips—and made room for more nutrient-dense and calorie-sparse foods like produce
  • Reduced food options can also lead to “sensory-specific satiety.” Meaning, when you eat the same foods all the time, they may become less appealing, so you’re not driven to eat as much43
  • Liquid calories—soda, juice, even milk—are generally off-limits, so a greater proportion of calories are consumed from solid foods, which are more filling44,45,46
  • Higher blood levels of ketones—which rise when carbs are restricted—may help to suppress appetite47,48,49

All of which sounds pretty ideal (but still speculation).

There’s a problem, though: Over time, adherence to energy-restricted low-carb diets wanes, just like it does with other diets. So much so, that after a year, weight loss (and fat loss) tends to be either underwhelming or not significantly different between low-carb and low-fat diets.39,40,41

(Plus, 12-month studies on both low-carb and low-fat diets show that participants tend to shift to a more balanced diet over time.)

That’s not a knock on low-carb diets. Instead, it speaks to the difficulty that most people have of maintaining any restrictive eating approach for an extended timeframe.

But while these studies give us an idea of what happens in a free-living environment, they don’t provide a lot of insight into what happens physiologically under highly-controlled conditions.

The best research we have for that?  Two metabolic ward studies conducted by Dr. Hall, published in 2016 and 2020, respectively.31,50

Meet the gold standard

Metabolic ward studies require participants to stay onsite for the duration of the trial. As a result, they’re the gold standard for human nutrition research.

The first study worked like this31:

  • 17 male participants lived in a metabolic ward for two months. Everything they ate and how they lived were under strict control.
  • First, they spent 4 weeks following a high-carb diet.
  • Then, they spent 4 weeks on a very-low-carb ketogenic diet.
  • With both diets, calories and protein were the same. Only carbs and fat went up or down.
  • The diets created a negative energy balance of 300 Calories per day.
  • Each participant had to do 90 minutes of stationary cycling per day to make sure physical activity levels were consistent and equal.

If the carbohydrate-insulin model were true, here are the results you’d expect to see:

  • A drop in insulin output during the low-carb phase
  • A significant increase in energy expenditure during the low-carb phase
  • More fat loss on the low-carb diet than the high-carb diet

What the study found

THE RESULTS
Low Carb (High Fat) High Carb (Low Fat)
Insulin People produced 22% less insulin throughout the day No change in insulin output
Energy Expenditure An increase of 57 (+/- 13) Calories per day No measurable effect
Weight loss On average, 4 pounds lost, 1.16 pounds from body fat On average, 3 pounds lost, 1.29 pounds from body fat

So what does this mean?

  • People lost the same amount of weight and fat (statistically speaking) on both diets.
  • Though people produced less insulin on the low-carb diet, it didn’t result in significantly greater weight or fat loss.
  • A slight increase in daily expenditure was observed, which supports the notion that low-carb diets may offer a small metabolic advantage during weight loss.

A study of “extreme” diets

The more recent study, pre-published in May of 2020 (and not yet officially peer-reviewed), took a slightly different approach and provides new insights worth exploring.50

Again, the researchers compared low carb versus high carb. But this time they examined even more “extreme” versions of the diets.

  • An animal-based, low-carb diet (a.k.a. ketogenic diet)
    74.6% fat, 9.9% carbs, 15.5% protein
  • A plant-based low-fat diet (a.k.a. vegan diet)
    75.5% carbs
    , 10.5% fat, 14% protein

Both diets emphasized minimally-processed foods.

And, as the researchers note in the paper, the diets were more akin to the “exemplary” type of diets that health experts often recommend.

Important note: This wasn’t a weight-loss study.

Instead, the scientists randomly assigned 20 overfat participants (11 men and 9 women) to one diet for two weeks and then had them switch to the other for two weeks.

For each diet, participants were given three meals plus snacks per day, carefully prepared to provide twice the number of calories each individual required. The dieters were then told to eat as much or as little as they desired.

What the study found

People ate 544 fewer daily calories on the plant-based low-fat diet than they did on the animal-based low-carb diet. (This data is only from the second week of each diet, to allow participants time to adapt. For both weeks combined, the difference was even greater: 689 fewer daily calories.)

Energy expenditure was 166 Calories per day higher on the animal-based low-carb diet compared to the plant-based low-fat diet.

Glucose and insulin levels were substantially lower during the animal-based low-carb diet.

Participants rated both diets the same in terms of pleasantness and familiarity. So one wasn’t deemed more palatable than the other.

They also reported no differences in satisfaction, fullness, or eating capacity, even though they ate significantly fewer calories on the plant-based low-fat diet.

Both groups lost weight without intentionally restricting food intake: 3.9 pounds during the animal-based low-fat diet; 2.4 pounds during the plant-based low-fat diet.

Only the plant-based low-fat diet (1.3 pounds) resulted in a significant reduction of body fat. The animal-based low-carb diet showed a significant decrease (3.5 pounds) in fat-free mass, most likely from water and glycogen, but this measurement also includes muscle, bones, and organs.

So what does this mean?

It shows an animal-based low-carb diet may offer a metabolic advantage, but that a plant-based low-fat diet may confer different advantages. Namely, people ate a lot fewer calories (though not necessarily less food) while reporting that they felt just as satisfied.

But instead of just looking at the differences, consider the commonality:

Participants literally ate as much as they wanted and didn’t gain weight on either diet. 

Granted, both of these metabolic ward studies were very small and short term. While that’s a limitation, there’s a good reason for it: Imagine the challenge and expense of getting people to voluntarily live in a metabolic ward for up to two months, let alone six months or a year. (Maybe you don’t have to imagine, given the 2020 pandemic.)

What these studies do give you, though, is quality data, acquired in a highly-controlled environment, to consider for yourself.

Because no one has the “right” answer. We just have a body of evidence that we each have to weigh for ourselves.

Which brings us to perhaps the most important question.

What matters most for fat loss?

No matter if you eschew carbs or eat lots of them, there’s one thing for sure: You can’t separate a calorie from its food source.

Soda contains sugar. So does an apple. Both foods are mostly carbs.

But you can’t eat that apple without also getting some fiber, which slows the absorption of the sugar into your bloodstream. Plus, it’s a solid food that’s dense with other healthful nutrients.

What’s more, an apple isn’t highly-palatable or highly-rewarding, so it doesn’t stimulate your brain towards overconsumption like soda does. (To learn more, read: Manufactured deliciousness: Why you can’t stop overeating.)

All those factors affect fullness and food consumption.

Consider: A large Coke from McDonald’s provides 80 grams of sugar and 290 Calories. It’s relatively easy to consume in one sitting… along with a cheeseburger and fries, too.

But you’d have to eat four small apples (or 2.5 large apples) to consume an equal amount of sugar and calories from that soda. Know anyone that typically does that in one sitting? Or regularly wants to, even though they may thoroughly enjoy apples?

(And if you do, can we agree they’re an outlier?)

Same number of calories. Same amount of sugar. But a very different experience nutrition-wise.

How might this play out across your entire diet?

Dr. Hall conducted a study to gain insight.51

He admitted 20 adults to the NIH’s metabolic ward and randomized them to a diet of ultra-processed foods or minimally-processed foods. They were allowed to consume as much or as little as desired. After two weeks, they switched and did the alternative diet for two weeks.

The result: As you can see in the chart below, participants ate 508 more Calories per day and gained weight on the ultra-processed diet. They lost weight on the minimally-processed diet.

This shows study results of an ultra-processed diet versus a minimally-processed diet. Graphs show that people eating an ultra-processed diet ate more calories and gained weight, while those eating a minimally-processed diet ate fewer calories and lost weight.

Results from Dr. Hall’s study on ultra-processed diets versus minimally-processed diets.

This probably isn’t shocking, but it’s illustrative of how the quality of foods we eat may have a greater impact on our weight than whether we cut carbs or fat. Further, it suggests that quality foods may make it easier to lose weight, without worrying so much about calories or hormones.

In his paper, Dr. Hall characterizes ultra-processed foods as being “typically high in calories, salt, sugar, and fat” and “engineered to have supernormal appetitive properties.”

Not surprisingly, people often refer to these types of foods as “addictive.” (Remember the “you can’t eat just one” slogan from Lay’s potato chips?)

Interestingly, a recent study from the University of Michigan looked at the “addictive” qualities of common foods.52

Take a look at the chart below. It shows the 10 foods that people are most likely to rate as “problematic,” using the Yale Food Addiction Scale.

A chart showing the top 10 most "addictive" foods. In order, they are: 1) pizza, 2) chocolate, 3) chips, 4) cookie, 5) ice cream, 6) French fries, 7) cheeseburger, 8) regular soda, 9) cake, 10) cheese.) All but one of the foods (cheese) are ultra-processed.

Glycemic Load (GL) indicates the impact of the food on blood sugar, due to the amount and type of carbohydrate. A GL of 20 or greater is considered a high glycemic load food. A GL of 10 or lower is a low glycemic load food.

Note that all but one are ultra-processed foods, and most contain some combination of salt, sugar, and fat.

What about the foods, such as soda, that don’t have all three of those ingredients? They tend to contain “drug-like” compounds—such as caffeine and/or theobromine—to enhance their appeal.

Now consider: What foods do you (or your clients) feel are problematic? And what do they have in common?

Likewise, what foods aren’t problematic? That is, foods that you enjoy but can stop eating without overdoing it.

Perhaps an apple? Or salmon or cucumbers or beans? These types of minimally-processed foods all rated low on the scale.

(To test this on yourself or with a client, download our Yale Food Addiction Scale worksheet.)

And carbohydrate percentages aside, simply prioritizing whole foods aligns pretty closely with what low-carb advocate Dr. Ludwig recommends. From his recent paper14:

Dietary Recommendations Based on the Carbohydrate-Insulin Model
Reduce refined grains, potato products, and added sugars—high glycemic load carbohydrates with low overall nutritional quality
Emphasize low glycemic load carbohydrates, including non-starchy vegetables, legumes, and non-tropical whole fruits
When consuming grain products, choose whole kernel or traditionally processed alternatives (whole barley, quinoa, traditionally fermented sourdough made from stone-ground flour)
Increase nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, and other healthful high-fat foods
Maintain an adequate, but not high, intake of protein, including from plant sources

Emphasizing minimally-processed whole foods also seems to lead to better health. For example, in a recent Harvard University study, researchers looked at the effects of eating both “healthy” and “unhealthy” diets on all-cause mortality.53

Their findings: Consuming more minimally-processed foods, perhaps not surprisingly, was associated with greater longevity.

So ultimately…

It doesn’t matter what you believe about insulin, carbohydrates, or fat.

That might sound extreme, but what you believe doesn’t change what’s needed to lose fat and keep it off (or help a client do so):

  • Eat less energy than you expend
  • Develop eating, exercise, and stress-management habits that are sustainable long-term

If a low-carb diet helps you do that, great.

If a low-fat diet helps you do that, right on.

If a diet with a relatively equal balance of carbs, fat, and protein suits you better, that works too.

Paleo, plant-based, Meditteranean, keto, you name it: They’re all viable and can be effective, depending on your personal preferences, lifestyle, and needs.

What to do next…

Look at the big picture.

Obesity and weight gain are multifactorial.

Body fat is absolutely impacted by the kinds of foods you eat, your activity level, and, yes, your hormones.

But humans aren’t robots.

We have to look beyond just physiology and recognize that body fat is also influenced by many other factors, including:

  • Social: stigma around fatness and peer pressure to eat a certain way
  • Economic: the cost of food and exercise, and the pressure to perform at work (which can contribute to a lack of time to eat healthfully and exercise)
  • Media: exposure to food advertising, how bodies are portrayed in the media, and availability of passive entertainment options (think: whether or not you have a Netflix subscription)
  • Infrastructure: the walkability of your living environment, access to outdoor spaces, and whether your job is sedentary or physically active
  • Medical: medications you may be taking, diseases you’re dealing with, or complications from past surgeries
  • Developmental: how important food and exercise were in your family growing up, and the mindset you were raised with

While it’s comforting to think there’s one simple answer, it’s just not realistic.

Losing fat is likely to take a series of small steps to get where you want to go. Our advice: Focus on the “big rocks” before you worry about specific eating styles, nutrient timing, and supplements.

Big rocks include:

  • choosing mostly minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods
  • eating enough lean protein and vegetables
  • getting adequate sleep
  • managing stress
  • moving regularly
  • reducing excessive smoking/alcohol consumption

The big rocks work for just about any diet approach you prefer.

Graphic shows a Venn diagram of five diets: Fully plant-based (vegan), low-fat (high-carb), Paleo, Mediterranean, and keto (low-carb). In the middle (what they all have in common) are these nutrition fundamentals: 1) emphasize whole foods, 2) get enough quality protein, 3) incorporate lots of vegetables, 4) prioritize high nutrient density, 5) eat slowly until satisfied, 6) minimize processed foods.

These key nutrition fundamentals can apply to any diet approach.

By making the first few diet and lifestyle changes around these fundamentals, you can ensure that the changes you (or your client) make provide the most return on the effort.

Be open to testing your hypothesis.

Whether you’re already following a diet or eating style in pursuit of fat loss, or you have a specific one in mind, know that what works best for you might not be the thing you expect.

So no matter where you are in the process, put your scientist hat on and collect some data.

Ask yourself:

“How’s this diet working for me?”

Some signs it might not be working for you include:

  • Difficulty staying consistent
  • Frequently “falling off the wagon”
  • Feeling tired, hungry, and/or cranky most of the time
  • Not seeing results
  • Avoiding social obligations because it’s too difficult to avoid temptation

If any of these resonate, be open to the idea that another approach might get you better results. (Download our Diet Satisfaction Assessment for a complete questionnaire that can provide insights.)

Remember that there’s no “best diet.”

There’s only what works best for you. And that can change over time.

A universal, one-size-fits-all, miracle diet would make good nutrition simpler. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist.

What matters most for fat loss—and any other health pursuit—is finding an eating pattern that feels reasonable, sustainable, and yes, enjoyable.

And surely that’s a model that everyone can agree on.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s rooted in science and personalized for their unique body, preferences, and lifestyle—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 30% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 7th, 2020.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 30% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

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The post Carbs, insulin, and weight loss: What REALLY matters for getting the results you want appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

“How do I get my kid to eat vegetables?”

As nutrition coaches, we get this question a lot from frustrated parents.

And because we’re parents, too, we totally get it. (Geez, do we get it.)

After all, it’s your job to help your children practice good nutrition.

Yet you can’t make kids like their vegetables. Or embrace new foods. Or eagerly choose healthy snacks.

So what can you do?

Put the focus on helping your kids—not on making them.

If it sounds like we’re quibbling over semantics, trust us: The word “help” can make a world of difference—in their attitude, and yours.

We know because we’ve used this “help not make” mindset to guide thousands of adults toward healthier eating habits and better food choices.

And at home, we’ve used it to help our own kids eat their vegetables (voluntarily!), reach for fruit (enthusiastically!), and develop a healthy relationship with food (dessert isn’t bad!).

The technique works on kids of all ages, and we’re going to share it with you in this article.

Try it yourself, or use it with your clients. You might find food really can bring your family closer together. Just like it’s supposed to.

+++

No one likes to be told what to do.

This is a fundamental fact of human psychology, and it’s true of almost everyone, including kids.

Whether age 2 or 92, humans respond in pretty similar ways when they’re ordered around. 

They:

  • Stop listening.
  • Refuse to comply.
  • Lose their tempers.

They might even do the opposite of what they’ve been told.

The reason: Being bossed around can make you feel minimized, unseen and unheard, as if no one cares about your thoughts or opinions.

And that’s just from an adult’s point of view. Now imagine being a kid.

Make no mistake: Kids need direction. Left to their own devices, they’d have to learn way too many lessons the hard way. And potty training could take years.

But that doesn’t mean they need parents to always tell them what to do. 

There’s an alternative that tends to work better, and it’s particularly effective when it comes to food: Help them figure out what to do for themselves.

How?

  • Ask them curious, reflective questions about their choices.
  • Deeply listen to and consider their answers.
  • Use their responses to guide them.

This one shift—away from directives and over to questions—can transform parenting. And though it may sound a bit abstract right now, we’ll show you five ways to start using this technique today.

But first, let’s start with a few ground rules.

Rule #1: Practice the behavior you want to see.

Kids naturally trend toward doing what they see you doing. So model the behavior you want them to emulate, such as:

  • eating slowly
  • having meals at a table rather than in front of the TV
  • enjoying vegetables
  • taking time to prepare and cook food
  • stopping eating when you’re satisfied or full, not stuffed

Before giving kids more power, you’ll want to consider:

What are you teaching your kids by example? 

Because when your actions don’t match your words, kids notice.

Dom Matteo with his family. The kids are holding jars of sauerkraut and pickles they helped to make.

Dom Matteo with his family. The kids are holding jars of sauerkraut and pickles they helped to make.

Rule #2: Do your part—and trust them to do theirs.

This rule allows you to shift more power to your kids without opening the door to full-on mutiny.

Consider using the Satter Institute’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding (sDOR) framework.

It’s slightly different depending on the age of a child, but it involves splitting nutritional responsibilities into two categories:

What the parent does:

  • Shops for food
  • Prepares the food
  • Provides regular meals at set times
  • Makes eating times enjoyable

What the child does:

  • Decides whether to eat
  • Decides which of the available foods to eat
  • Decides how much to eat

This framework allows you to maintain control over what foods come into the house. If you don’t want ice cream—maybe because it’s a red light food for you—then no ice cream.

If your kids get ice cream elsewhere, say at a friend’s home, try to sort that into your “no biggie” mental box.

Why? According to the framework: You don’t control what they eat outside the home. They do.

The Satter method also helps you to focus on the experience of eating.

You might have a “no electronics at the table” rule—because that falls right into your role as a parent. But you don’t spend your meal cajoling your kids to eat their veggies; that’s their choice, not yours. (More about what to do instead later in the story.)

Adam Feit with his family in their garage gym that they all use to get fit together.

Adam Feit with his family in their garage gym that they all use to get fit together.

Rule #3: Remain neutral.

Neutral involves asking genuine questions, with curiosity, and being okay with your child’s response. 

Neutral is not: “I’m going to ask you a question that only has one right answer: My answer.”

It’s also not celebrating your kids’ choices with comments like “Yay! You ate your veggies! Good job!” Nor is it bemoaning their choices by saying things like, “You’re eating THAT for a snack?”

This can be super hard at first. After all, you care a lot about your kids and the state of their arteries, pancreas, and overall health.

But it’s this neutrality, coupled with the rules that we already mentioned, that allow questions to work.

The more you model the behaviors you want to see, hold up your end of the bargain, and remain neutral, the more likely your kids will actually do the thing you want them to do—no yelling required.

The 30-day snack bin experiment

If you’re worried what will happen if you give your kids the power to choose, consider trying this 30-day experiment. And yes, it might take a leap of faith. But remember, you’re just testing it out. You can always revert back to your old approach after it’s over.

Step 1: Shop for snacks.

Before heading to the grocery store, ask your kids to list what snacks they want from several categories of foods:

  • 1-2 proteins (Greek yogurt, eggs, meats)
  • 2 fruits
  • 2-3 vegetables
  • 1-2 healthy fats (nuts, peanut butter, cheese, guacamole)
  • 1-2 packaged “snack” items (chips, granola, jerky, crackers, whatever they love)

This example provides a good ratio, but it’s okay to change the limits on how many items they can list, especially for financial reasons.

But try not to control which items they add to the list, beyond the boundaries you’ve set. That’s their responsibility.

Step 2: Create snack bins.

Designate a bin in the fridge for perishables (such as fresh fruit and veggies) and a bin in the pantry for nonperishables (such as crackers and peanut butter). If you have more than one child, designate bins for each of them and have them write their names on them.

Step 3: Each evening, fill the bins with snacks for the following day.

Each kid chooses items from the grocery store snack stash, putting 1-2 items in their perishable and non-perishable bins.

Step 4: Kids eat (or don’t eat) their snacks.

The following day, let them choose which snacks to eat and when to eat them.

Continue to do this for at least a month, taking note of how their eating choices naturally change.

Yes, at first, your kids might eat everything right away—and may not be all that hungry for lunch or dinner.

That’s okay.

Be patient, stay neutral, and have them sit down with you for meals, even if they’re not hungry.

Over time, as they learn that the snacks will always be available, they’ll naturally learn to spread them out—eating only when truly hungry.

Questions that can transform meal time

Now that you know the ground rules, let’s explore how to use questions to transform your children into vegetable eaters.

First, however, a little advice.

People say, “there’s no such thing as a bad question.” But that’s not entirely true—because certain types of questions work better than others.

Disempowering questions have a tone of authority, reinforcing your position as a parent and of you being right. They are “what I say goes” statements formed as questions. When you use them, your kids feel attacked and minimized.

Empowering questions help people feel seen, heard, and welcome to make their own choices.

You can see the two types, in action, in the chart below.

Disempowering Conversation Empowering Conversation
Parent: Are you going to eat your vegetables?

Kid: Nope.

Parent:  Why the heck not?

Kid: I don’t like how you cooked them.

Parent: Well that’s how we always cook them.

Kid: Silence.

Parent: Silence.

The tension builds and dinner stops being fun.

Parent: Are you going to eat your vegetables?

Kid: Nope.

Parent: Hmmm…Would you be willing to tell me why?

Kid: I don’t like how you cooked them.

Parent: Really? That’s interesting. Could you tell me more about why you don’t like them?

Kid: They’re mushy. And you put lots of stuff on top of them.

Parent: Gotcha! Sounds like I cooked them too long and added too much seasoning. Is that right?

Kid: Yup.

Parent: Now I’m curious! How do you like to eat them the best?

Kid: When you made them that one time on the grill. They were crunchy. And you didn’t put so much stuff on top of them.

Parent: That’s super helpful. So, if I grill them and don’t put herbs on top of them, do you think you might be willing to eat them?

Kid: Yeah, probably.

Parent: Thanks. I appreciate knowing that.

Maybe you’re thinking: It’s one thing for nutrition coaches—who are trained to ask questions—to do this with their kids.

It’s another for non-coaches to figure it out.

That’s why we created the following cheatsheet. Though there are dozens of types of questions, these are the ones our coaches use the most with their kids. Once you understand them, it’ll be easier to apply them to your family life.

Question #1: Hold a brainstorming session.

How to do it: Ask open-ended questions. Then pause, and let your kids fill in the answers.

Examples:

  • I‘m going to the grocery store tomorrow. What would you like to add to the list this week?
  • Hey, let’s take a look at different types of vegetables. Which ones do you think you’d be willing to try?
  • We’ve been into a rut lately with dinner, eating the same 3-4 meals over and over. Would you be willing to flip through a cookbook with me, and let me know which meals you want to try?

Why it works: This technique helps you honor and respect your children’s food preferences without being over-determined by them. Use it to understand what your kids like and don’t like.

How to help a picky eater

Got a picky eater? Use this exercise to guide your child toward a few more options. Ask your child for help filling in each of three categories:

  • Foods you always like to eat
  • Foods you sometimes like to eat
  • Foods you will definitely not eat—not even two bites

You can also make the exercise more specific, for example, asking about fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, and protein foods your child is willing to eat always, sometimes, or never.

#2: Create a cornucopia of options.

How to do it: In The Hunger Games, the participants could choose a weapon from the cornucopia, but the game designers chose which weapons were actually available. Cornucopia questions function much in the same way—but without all the death.

List or present a range of choices, including at least one you know your child will love.

Examples:

  • Okay, for our main course tonight, this is what’s available in the fridge right now: roasted chicken, burgers, or fish sticks. Which one do you vote for?
  • I would love some help with cooking. It’s so hard for me to do this all myself. Would you be willing to help by setting the table? Making a salad? Finding recipes?
  • After placing dinner—fish, rice, veggies—on the table, ask: What foods do you want to put on your plate?

Why it works: A list of options gives your kids a sense of control, but simultaneously creates guardrails that prevent kids from driving off the cliff.

Maybe you’re wondering: What do you do if your kid goes exclusively for the same option repeatedly? For example, let’s say you try the third example we’ve listed above, and your kid goes straight for the rice and eats nothing else.

First, try not to react with negativity.

Second, play around with including different foods in the rotation—say, instead of white rice, you might have potatoes or whole wheat pasta or even broccoli. Or, play around with making their favorite a little bit healthier, perhaps by mixing white and brown rice together.

Second, try question #3.

#3: Add something new.

How to do it: Often when kids want to eat the same food, over and over, parents try subtraction: How do I stop my kid from eating x, y, or z?

With this approach, you do the opposite. Rather than taking away their favorite option, you add to it. Don’t fuss about what your kid wants to keep doing. Instead shift the focus to what new, healthy food or habit you could add.

Examples:

  • Great. You want fries for dinner for the third night in a row. Do you think you could add a fruit to that?
  • Mac and cheese again? You sure do love that. I’m wondering: Could we mix something else into it? Let’s look at this chart together. What do you think would taste great when added to mac and cheese?
  • In addition to grilled cheese, I’m curious: Would you be able to try just two bites of these carrot sticks? You don’t have to like it. I’d just like to see what you think.

Why it works: New foods and experiences can be scary. This technique helps picky eaters feel safe because their favorite food is still available.

#4: Ask for help.

How to do it: Imagine you’re trying to do something—and you can’t get it done because your family just keeps getting in the way. Say, for example, you keep skipping your workouts because you have to drive your kids to activities.

Or, maybe you really want to keep certain foods out of the house—to stop yourself from overeating them—but these are the very foods your kids love.

For this technique, you’ll encourage your kids to help you solve your problem.

To do it, first acknowledge the current situation, how it makes you feel, and the benefits of a change, as well as the downsides of not changing. Then ask for their help. The most important thing: Make them feel included and important.

Example 1: “I’ve gotten to a point where I’m not as healthy as I want to be, and we’re going to make some improvements to the way we do things so I can become more healthy. I want to involve you in that.

There are certain foods I just can’t have in the house right now. If they’re here, I’ll eat too much of them. One of them is ice cream.

I’d really like to not buy it, but I know you guys love it. Could you help me solve this problem? I could really use your help.”

Example 2: “I’ve noticed when we go out to eat so often [or “at certain places” or “more than once a week”], I don’t always feel good the next day. And when I don’t feel good, I can’t play outside with you as much as I want.

Do you think you can help me cook some of our favorite foods at home to help me feel better?

Plus, I think we’ll save some money that we can put toward that new _____ you’ve been talking about.”

Another approach: “This doesn’t happen for everyone, but when I go out to eat, I tend to eat more than my body needs, and I don’t always feel good afterward.”

*** Important note: The idea isn’t to suggest that eating out is “bad” but to express why it may not be the best approach for you in a way that doesn’t demonize restaurant food or make it entirely off-limits.

Example 3: “I heard that you had a guest speaker at school who talked about the importance of fruits and veggies.

Do you think you can share with me what you talked about and help me find them at the grocery store?”

Why it works: This question helps kids see the merits of a desired behavior, as well as the downsides of not doing a desired behavior. It works best with school-age kids who can reason out pros and cons.

#5: Give up and let them win.

How to do it: Ever feel like, no matter what you say, your kid is going to dig in—even if the whole conversation makes literally no sense?

Maybe, for example, your kid is telling you that everything you cook tastes like “bacteria.” Pushing back against such a comment? It’s a recipe for outside voices, tears, and slammed doors.

So do the opposite: Let your kid win the battle.

For obvious reasons, use this technique with caution.

Example 1: “What I hear you telling me is that you’re not hungry for dinner because you spent the afternoon snacking on chips with your friends—and that friend time is really super important to you.

Of course, you shouldn’t give up ALL those types of snacks and sweets that you love to eat with your friends. Having fun with friends is important.

And you also don’t have to eat dinner if you’re not hungry. That’s your choice, but I would appreciate it if you sat here with the family. Would you be willing to do that?”

Example 2: “It’s totally fine that you don’t like what I cooked. Would you like to find something else to eat from the fridge?”

Example 3: “I’ve seen you cook on the weekends for you and your friends. If you don’t like what we’re having for dinner right now, maybe you can cook something else?”

Why it works: Sometimes, especially with teens and toddlers, the only way to get past resistance is to create a void. That way, they have nothing to push back against.

7 ways to make nutrition fun

  • Play “two-bites” Bingo. Create a Bingo board with fun eating challenges in each square, like: Dip your least favorite veggie in peanut butter, chocolate, or whipped cream. The whole family must take two bites of any food creation. Once you do enough food challenges to earn a Bingo, award a prize.
  • Award points for trying new foods. Maybe kids get 5 points for trying a new veggie, 10 points for trying it with another food (such as carrots on a salad), or 20 points for preparing and trying the new veggie. Once they get to 100 points, award a prize.
  • Designate a “You’re in Charge” night: Each family member gets a night to be in charge and pick dinner for the whole family. If a kid picks pizza, that’s totally fair. (Hint: Parents can make healthier choices on their nights.)
  • Make dinner a roll of the dice: Everyone works together to brainstorm six dinner ideas. Assign each dinner a number from one to six. Then, designate one night a week as “game night.” For that night, you pick dinner by rolling dice.
  • Give fruits and veggies their own spirit days. On “red” day, you eat red produce. On “yellow day” yellow produce, and so on.
  • Ask kids for help planning, shopping, and preparing dinner. Tasks from setting the table to flipping the pancakes helps to involve kids, teach them important kitchen skills, and, ultimately, makes them more likely to eat what you’ve prepared.
  • Stage an experiment. While shopping with you, ask kids to find produce the family has never tried before. Agree to sample it as an experiment. You might even have kids “review” the food with a starring system.

What to do next

Ready to put the technique into practice?

You could start by slipping questions into everyday situations, here and there, gaining confidence with the technique over time.

Or, if you want to be more methodical, consider holding a family meeting and talking openly about some change you need the whole family’s help to make.

But don’t try to do too much at once. One new action is plenty. In fact, you could use this simple process with your family:

  1. Choose and test. If you had to start with only one action, what would it be? How will you know if it worked? Or didn’t?
  2. Observe and monitor. How is this working? Not working? What thoughts, feelings, and behaviors come from this process?
  3. Analyze and evaluate. If what you did worked, keep doing it. If it didn’t, work together to strategize and come up with a new action.

With this approach, everyone can buy into a change, helping get kids on your side—no yelling, threatening, or door-slamming required.

The post End the family food fight: How to get your kid to eat healthier appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Let’s start with the hard truth.

You can’t fully control whether you catch a cold, the flu, or COVID-19.

You also can’t control how your body will react once it’s exposed to a pathogen.

There are many different factors that determine your body’s response. Some you can impact, like nutrient deficiencies. Others you can’t do anything about, like your age.

But even among the factors you can influence, no single tweak or “hack” can control such a complex system. (Short of a proven vaccine or drug therapy.)

No magical supplement, superfood, diet plan, or exercise routine can ensure you’ll stay healthy. 

There is good news, though: When it comes to your immune system, your daily actions can make a meaningful difference.

By consistently practicing healthy behaviors, you can:

  • reduce your exposure and susceptibility
  • help optimize your immune function over time
  • better prepare your body to fight off foreign invaders

Plus, focusing on constructive behaviors might help you feel just a little bit more in control. And that could help ease the anxiety and stress that come with all the uncertainty.

Our suggestion: Prioritize the “big rocks,” or pillars, of a healthy lifestyle.

  • Eat mostly minimally-processed whole foods
  • Get enough protein, fruits, and vegetables
  • Consume an appropriate number of calories (to avoid or lose excess body fat)
  • Move regularly
  • Reduce smoking and/or excessive alcohol consumption
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Manage stress

With all this in mind, we’ve created this immunity-focused infographic to give you (or your clients) a game plan for taking action.

Importantly, you don’t need to do everything we suggest in this infographic. 

Eating protein at every meal is hard enough on its own, and your grocery store might be sold out of the kind you like right now. (You might also have less money for groceries than before.)

Some people have way less time to work out than they used to, since they’re busy homeschooling or working double shifts. Others have MUCH higher stress levels than before.

So pick and choose the strategies that make the most sense and feel doable to you right now. You can always incorporate others later.

And remember: There’s nothing wrong with starting small. That’s where great progress often begins.

++++

Download the tablet or printer-friendly version of this infographic to share with family, friends, or clients looking for answers on how to stay healthy.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s rooted in nutrition science and helps people focus on what really matters—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 30% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Monday, March 30th, 2020.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 30% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

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References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Simon AK, Hollander GA, McMichael A. Evolution of the immune system in humans from infancy to old age. Proc Biol Sci. 2015 Dec 22;282(1821):20143085.

2. Kanneganti T-D, Dixit VD. Immunological complications of obesity. Nat Immunol. 2012 Jul 19;13(8):707–12.

3. Travel to Mass Gatherings | Travelers’ Health | CDC [Internet]. [cited 2020 Apr 14]. Available from: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/travel-to-mass-gatherings

4. Bermon S, Castell LM, Calder PC, Bishop NC, Blomstrand E, Mooren FC, et al. Consensus Statement Immunonutrition and Exercise. Exerc Immunol Rev. 2017;23:8–50.

5. Nieman DC, Wentz LM. The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. J Sport Health Sci. 2019 May;8(3):201–17.

6. França TGD, Ishikawa LLW, Zorzella-Pezavento SFG, Chiuso-Minicucci F, da Cunha M, Sartori A. Impact of malnutrition on immunity and infection. J Venom Anim Toxins Incl Trop Dis. 2009;15(3):374–90.

7. Kahn E. Prognostic criteria of severe protein malnutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 1959 Mar;7(2):161–5.

8. de Onis MBM. Malnutrition: Quantifying the health impact at national and local levels. Available from: https://www.who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/publications/MalnutritionEBD12.pdf

9. Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients [Internet]. 2017 Nov 3;9(11). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu9111211

10. Martineau AR, Jolliffe DA, Hooper RL, Greenberg L, Aloia JF, Bergman P, et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ. 2017 Feb 15;356:i6583.

11. Prasad AS. Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Mol Med. 2008 May;14(5-6):353–7.

12. Li K, Huang T, Zheng J, Wu K, Li D. Effect of marine-derived n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on C-reactive protein, interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis factor α: a meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014 Feb 5;9(2):e88103.

13. Shahidi F, Ambigaipalan P. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Their Health Benefits. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2018 Mar 25;9:345–81.

14. Calder PC. n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jun;83(6 Suppl):1505S – 1519S.

15. Kampf G, Todt D, Pfaender S, Steinmann E. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. J Hosp Infect. 2020 Mar;104(3):246–51.

16. CDC. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – Transmission [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020 [cited 2020 Apr 14]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html

17. CDC. Four Simple Steps to Food Safety [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020 [cited 2020 Apr 14]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/keep-food-safe.html

The post 8 ways to optimize your immunity and protect your health. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

More than 60 percent of our incoming clients say they struggle with emotional or stress eating.

And that was before the global pandemic.

Whether out of stress, anxiety, sadness, boredom, or grief, it’s understandable why we turn to food for comfort.

Food offers a pretty great—if very temporary—solution to our suffering.

Eating feels good.

It sets off a cascade of pleasurable sensations that make it easier to forget about uncomfortable emotional experiences.

Think of it this way: When you stress eat, you’re using food to solve a problem. Only it’s a problem that food can’t solve. 

What’s more, most people who experience emotional eating feel trapped and guilty afterward, which just perpetuates the behavior.

So whether you’re a coach trying to help clients with their stress eating—or you’re looking for solutions for yourself—we have three not-so-obvious strategies that might help.

Not just for right now but long after this crisis is over, too.

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3 unexpected strategies for dealing with stress eating.

One of the following ideas might resonate with you more than the others. But we encourage you (or your clients) to try all of them.

Each does something crucial and different:

  • #1 develops awareness around what triggers your overeating
  • #2 provides tools to help when your triggers are activated
  • #3 helps you understand that your behavior around food doesn’t define you as a person

The result: A variety of methods that work together to tackle a complex problem. And hopefully, help put you back in the driver’s seat when you feel out of control.

Strategy #1: Go ahead and overeat.

Our brains like patterns.

Many of our thoughts, emotions, and actions actually happen on autopilot. They’re parts of sequences our brains know well from years of practice. Those sequences just need triggers in order to take place.

In the presence of a trigger, your brain dictates a given behavior—like stress eating—without requiring any conscious decision-making on your part. (Food cravings also work the same way.)

The physical sensation of hunger is the most obvious trigger. That stomach-grumbling, slightly shaky, even-Brussels-sprouts-sound-good sensation is one you can trust to tell you it’s time to eat.

But stress eating usually comes after other types of triggers, like certain sights, smells, people, and emotions.

For example, you might find yourself hitting the Girl Scout Cookies hard every Saturday afternoon. You’re always left wondering how it happened, and why you feel so crappy about it.

The process is so automatic you often don’t have any idea what’s triggering it.

But if you really started paying close attention, you might have an epiphany: It’s  also the time you talk to your mom every week.

Mystery solved.

So here’s a crazy idea: Give yourself permission to overeat.

It’s going to feel counterintuitive at first.

Uncomfortable even.

But view it as a learning experience—a necessary step in the process. (Plus, there are worse ways to learn.)

How to try it

Next time you get the urge to stress eat, treat it as an experiment. 

Use our Behavior Awareness worksheet to document what happens and how you feel before, during, and after.

Important note: This is a judgement-free zone. 

This process will help you identify triggers, but it’ll also start removing—or at least, lessening—any guilt or shame you feel around overeating.

Often, if you’re “allowed” to overeat, it suddenly doesn’t feel as urgent.

When it’s no longer forbidden, the intense craving for a whole box of cookies sometimes turns into a more manageable desire for just one or two.

So try to observe your experience as neutrally as possible. If you’re having trouble, imagine you’re a scientist collecting data on someone else.

Afterward, review the worksheet. What do you notice? 

Are there any patterns or ‘aha’ moments that stick out to you?

Maybe you notice you head for the snack cupboard right after getting off a stressful, two-hour-long conference call.

And you realize you’ve been doing that almost every day for… weeks.

It’s possible you’ll have to do this experiment a few times before the trigger(s) becomes obvious. That’s okay.

If this happens, do your best not to obsess about the decision to eat or not eat.

Instead, try to focus on learning more about your own behavior, and keep your worksheet notes handy so you can add to them as needed.

Once you’re aware of the trigger, decide what to do about it.

If it’s something you can avoid, great. (If the smell of baking cookies is too much for you to handle, you could take a break from baking for a while.)

If your trigger isn’t something you can change or avoid, sometimes just being aware that you’re experiencing a trigger can help.

That’ll signal it’s time for strategy #2.

Strategy #2: Create a nourishment menu.

PN Master Coach Jen Cooper uses a Precision Nutrition Coaching technique to help her clients, and even herself, deal with stress eating:

Pick a thing before the thing. 

That might sound odd, but do just that: Pick an action (a thing) that you’ll always do before you engage in stress eating (the other thing).

Ideally, it’s multiple actions—like a “menu” of choices for yourself.

These actions disrupt the trigger/behavior cycle. But there’s more to it than that.

“I call it the nourishment menu because we’re deprived of so many things that nourish us on many different levels right now,” says Cooper.

Examples: as much fresh air as we want, social interaction, free movement.

“Food is an easy way to fill some of these voids we’re feeling,” she says. “That’s why it’s important to have ideas of things that can nourish you in other ways.”

For example, before deciding to eat you could:

  • Take three deep breaths
  • Drink a big glass of water
  • Mentally check for signs of physical hunger
  • Play with your pet for five minutes
  • Do some quick stretches
  • Listen to a favorite song or a few minutes of a podcast
  • Go for a short walk
  • Spend a few minutes on housework (like folding your clothes or organizing your desk)

The most effective nourishment menus include actions that line up with your goals and values. They’ll be more likely to offer the same feeling of relief you were hoping—consciously or not—to get from food.

For example, if you deeply value your close friendships, calling or texting a friend could be one of your menu options.

How to try it

You might be thinking, ‘Sure, that sounds nice… but I won’t actually do it.’

And it’s true: The trick with the nourishment menu is that you actually have to use it.

Here are three ideas that might help.

1. Make it as easy as possible on yourself.

Ensure the items on your nourishment menu feel doable and reasonable.

At maximum, they should take you 15 minutes to complete. For instance, a quick journaling session could qualify here.

Ideally, you want to have one or two options that’ll take a minute or less. Like writing down three emotions you’re feeling in the moment (this emotion word wheel might spark some ideas), or giving your partner a hug.

You’ll also want to keep any materials you’ll need handy.

If drinking a glass of water before eating is on your menu, always keep it at your desk (or wherever you are).

If you’re supposed to write something down before you head for the pantry, keep a notepad and pen on your kitchen counter.

If you want to eat a serving of vegetables before having any other type of snack, keep washed, cut-up options at eye-level in your fridge. (Learn more smart strategies for setting up your kitchen.)

2. Put your nourishment menu somewhere visible.

Post it on your fridge, kitchen cabinet, or anywhere else you’re likely to see it before eating. You’re less likely to ignore it if you can see it.

And if you ignore it occasionally, it’s not such a big deal. The key is to get a little bit better over time, not be perfect.

So if you use the nourishment menu once every third time you want to stress eat, you’re still making progress.

For the record, just doing one action from the menu is often enough to break the cycle, Cooper says.

You don’t always have to work your way through the whole list. But it’s good to have multiple actions to choose from for variety.

And if you try a couple actions and still want to eat? That’ll happen.

But remember: You’ve already done some really good things for yourself in the process. So go ahead and have that snack.

Cooper’s advice if you go that route: Treat it like a meal.

Portion out the amount you want to eat in a bowl or on a plate, sit down at a table without distractions, and enjoy it slowly and mindfully.

3. Keep track of how often you use your nourishment menu.

Plus, record what happens when you do (on your phone or a Post-It note).

Let’s say over the course of a day, you get the urge to snack four times.

  • Twice, you use your nourishment menu and avoid eating.
  • Once, you use the nourishment menu and end up eating something slowly and mindfully.
  • Another time, you skip the menu altogether and end up overeating.

Why do this?

“At the end of the day, you can look back and see which actions helped you stop the stress eating cycle,” Cooper explains.

Then, you can start proactively taking those actions regularly throughout your day. This is how you make progress.

Strategy #3: Take a self-compassionate approach (for a change).

Nothing about this pandemic situation is normal.

It makes sense you might not be eating (or exercising, or working, or living) the way you normally do.

But feeling bad about being out of your routine can make stress eating worse. (If you need help getting back into a health and fitness routine, check out: What to do when staying in shape feels harder than ever.)

So, in many ways, now’s the perfect time to start practicing self-compassion.

Self-compassion is an attitude of generosity, honesty, and kindness towards yourself.

If that’s feeling a little woo-woo for you, bear with us for a second.

Lots of people who deal with stress eating have negative self-talk running through their heads before, during, and afterward.

Some of this might sound familiar:

“I guess I’m going to hit up my snack stash again now, like I always do. Why can’t I ever learn?”

“Ugh, I’m such an idiot for doing this. Again.”

“I just had to finish the ice cream, didn’t I? Nice work, me.”

But here’s something surprising: “There’s evidence that negative self-talk, the opposite of self-compassion, signals your brain to release dopamine,” says Krista Scott-Dixon, PhD, director of curriculum for Precision Nutrition.

“Dopamine is involved in habit formation and the addiction pathway. So that’s not great. As a result, the cycle of negative self-talk, stress eating, and feeling bad about it can become a never-ending loop.”

(Are you noticing a theme with how our brains work?)

Self-compassion is a tool that can help interrupt that cycle.

And no, we’re not trying to trick you into joining some commune where we spend our time holding hands and being nice to ourselves (although, would that really be so bad…?).

There’s research to support this approach.

What do these studies suggest? That practicing self-compassion can help reduce the “screw it” feeling that happens right before a person starts emotional eating.1,2

So yeah, you can work on your stress eating by being nice to yourself. 

Importantly, self-compassion doesn’t mean giving yourself a free pass to eat whatever you want.

Self-compassion is… Self-compassion is not…
Giving yourself a break Giving yourself a permanent “get out of jail free” card
Being honest and seeing the big picture Ignoring your problems
Being kind to yourself Letting yourself off the hook

How to try it

So what does self-compassion look like in practice?

There are three main elements to focus on:

  • Mindfulness: This is when you’re aware of what you’re doing, thinking, feeling and experiencing, but you’re not judging yourself for it.
  • Common humanity: Acknowledging that you’re not alone—that everyone goes through what you’re dealing with at some point.
  • Self-kindness: Being generous and decent to yourself.

When you’re about to stress eat, try to interrupt the cycle with some self-compassion and kindness.

Here’s what that might look like:

  • Mindfulness: “I’m so anxious being cooped up in my house right now. And those chips are really calling my name…”
  • Common humanity: “That’s okay. Plenty of people have a hard time saying  ‘no’ to chips.”
  • Self-kindness: “Take a deep breath. Whether or not I choose to eat right now, it’s going to be okay.”

It works during and after stress eating, too:

  • Mindfulness: “I’m feeling pretty guilty right now. This sucks.”
  • Common humanity: “A lot of people are probably feeling this way right now that we’re all spending more time at home.”
  • Self-kindness: “Alright, shake it off! So you ate some chips. It happens. That doesn’t mean anything about who you are deep down.”

A key distinction here is that self-compassion isn’t an excuse to stress eat. Its purpose is to help remove some of the guilt you might feel about stress eating.

That’s important, since that guilt can just lead to more overeating.

So give it a try. Even if it feels a little squishy at first, it might just be the thing that works.

It’s totally normal to be feeling all the feelings right now.

And remember: It’s understandable to look to food to deal with those feelings.

Food provides us with joy, comfort, and sustenance. 

We associate it with good memories, big life moments, and meals shared with loved ones.

We might even use food to help define ourselves—in our jobs, cultures, and even relationships.

But the more we use food to bury how we feel, the worse those uncomfortable feelings get.

It’s like Robert Frost wrote: “The best way out is always through.”

Is it the easiest path? No.

But it’s the only one that will provide relief. And that’s something we could all use more of right now.

Our brains (and lives, for that matter) tend to work in cycles.

But the stress eating cycle? It’s one you can opt out of.

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References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Rahimi-Ardabili H, Reynolds R, Vartanian LR, McLeod LVD, Zwar N. A Systematic Review of the Efficacy of Interventions that Aim to Increase Self-Compassion on Nutrition Habits, Eating Behaviours, Body Weight and Body Image. Mindfulness [Internet]. 2018 Apr 1;9(2):388–400. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0804-0

2. Adams CE, Leary MR. Promoting Self–Compassionate Attitudes Toward Eating Among Restrictive and Guilty Eaters. J Soc Clin Psychol [Internet]. 2007 Dec 1;26(10):1120–44. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2007.26.10.1120

The post Solutions for stress eating: Get better at saying “No, thank you” to ice cream, Cheetos, and Pop-Tarts. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

A healthy lifestyle is never effortless.

Only for many of us, it feels unusually hard right now.

Shockingly so, perhaps.

Yes, stress, overwhelm, and depression may all be contributing factors.

But there’s also a good chance something else happened:

The pandemic just broke your “system.”

We know: That sounds like a plot twist from Westworld.

Stick with us, though, because it’s about to make a lot of sense.

In this article, we’ll show you why your broken system is making it harder to:

  • regularly exercise
  • eat appropriate amounts of nutritious foods
  • engage in other healthy behaviors

More importantly, we’ll help you build a new health and fitness system—one that’s better designed for your (or your client’s) current situation.

But only when you’re ready. Because it’s also okay to grieve for what you’ve lost before even considering taking steps to move forward.

This article will be here when you need it.

+++

You have lots of systems already.

In fact, you probably use systems to organize just about every part of your life.

Systems help us prioritize what to do and when to do it—so we can complete the actions efficiently and effectively.

Take grocery shopping.

We all do it our own way, but most of us have a method—such as planning meals, compiling a list, shopping on a certain day, clipping coupons, or navigating the aisles in a specific order.

And that structured step-by-step process? It ensures we don’t run out of essential items when we need them. Like, say, toilet paper.

Before COVID-19 turned our lives upside down, these systems helped many of us fit workouts and nutritious meals into incredibly busy schedules.

Then everything changed. 

As a result, our systems were disrupted.

And that’s causing many of us to struggle to maintain certain actions.

Like exercise.

Like meal prep.

Like sleep hygiene.

Like any semblance of productivity.

The anatomy of system disruption

Take one of my clients. We’ll call her Jane.

She once had a fitness system that involved a series of steps.

  • Each night, before bed, she packed a gym bag.
  • She put it by the door, where she’d literally trip over it in the morning.
  • The following day, she grabbed the gym bag as she raced out the door.
  • She dropped her kids at school.
  • Then she hit the gym before heading to work.

That system worked for her. It got her from home to the gym, without creating a series of “Nah, I don’t need to work out today” moments.

Until:

  • She no longer had to get up early to take her kids to school or get to work.
  • The gym closed.
  • She stopped packing her gym bag at night.
  • She stopped setting her alarm to get up.

Now, she actually has more time to exercise.

But she’s not doing it.

Instead, she’s binge-watching Tiger King and Ozark.

Plus, she’s plowing through the gallon of ice cream that didn’t used to be in her kitchen freezer.

And she’s feeling frustrated.

If this all sounds painfully familiar, know this: You’re not the problem. But your system probably is—because it’s no longer working.

Why systems matter now—more than ever

It’s pretty easy to understand the importance of a system during “normal life.” But it may be even more important now, for three reasons.

Reason #1: Stress powers down our “thinking brains.”

These times are stressful, especially if we’re worrying about the unknowns:

  • When will grocery stores ever restock their empty shelves?
  • Is my job secure?
  • How long will this last?
  • Will the kids ever go back to school?
  • Will my loved ones survive?

Most people know that stress fires up the emotional fight-flight-freeze part of the brain. But it also simultaneously shuts down the thinking-planning-decision-making prefrontal cortex.

All that makes it harder to keep our priorities front of mind. Instead, our emotion-driven reflexes take over. (This doesn’t usually turn out well.)

It can also just make us feel drained.

Without a system in place, we’re nudged in a direction we don’t want to go. 

Reason #2: We can only make so many good decisions in a day.

Think of your prefrontal cortex—your decision-making command center—as the weakest muscle in your body.

The more decisions you make, the more fatigued this part of the brain becomes—making each successive decision a little bit harder.

And you’re probably making more decisions these days than you realize.

  • What’s the best way to check in on my parents? Phone? Video chat? Standing outside and yelling through a window?
  • Should I get out of bed right now? Or just sleep a while longer?
  • I wore this yesterday. Wear it again today? Hmmm.
  • Should I use my paycheck for rent? Groceries? Utilities?
  • Should I check the news? Or will it make me too anxious?
  • Where can I work without so many interruptions?
  • Lunchtime! Should I eat something from the freezer? From the fridge? Or…. from the emergency stash?
  • How do I get my kids to do their schoolwork?
  • What should I watch tonight?

After a certain number of decisions, your prefrontal cortex fatigues.

Rather than carefully weighing short-term desires against longer-term priorities, the brain spits out, “I don’t know… whatever.”

And once that happens, short-term desires win.

Reason #3: The pandemic wiped out some of our anchor habits.

An anchor habit is something you do every day—without thinking about it.

For example, brushing your teeth is probably an anchor habit.

For many people, it’s the first step in a bedtime routine. And when they don’t brush their teeth, it feels wrong to go to bed, as if something is missing.

Before the pandemic, many of us had several anchor habits that functioned like the first domino in a series. Once that one domino tipped over, many other dominoes fell right after it, without much effort or thinking.

Let’s say someone—we’ll call him Gary—set his alarm for 6 a.m. every day (the first domino).

He got out of bed and…

  • wrote in a journal (second domino)…
  • before his kids woke (third domino)…
  • then he made them breakfast (fourth domino)…
  • and got everyone out the door for work and school (fifth domino).

But now? There’s no work or school to go to, so Gary’s not setting his alarm. And without that first domino, his journaling? It’s also not happening.

Now his entire routine is disrupted.

Build your new health and fitness system

These questions can help you repair old systems and create new ones.

Question #1: What’s important to you right now?

Over the past few weeks, many people have been pondering deep questions.

One of them: Does any of this still matter?

Although that question sounds fatalistic, it’s an important one to consider.

For example, the extra five pounds that used to seriously bug you? They might not seem like a biggie right now.

But maybe other things have moved way up the list, like connecting with loved ones or doing everything possible to avoid getting sick.

So take a moment to consider: What are your priorities? 

In other words, what’s most important to you? What’s dropped in importance? And what’s so low on the list it’s not worth putting effort into at all?

Also worth mulling: Do your current actions line up with those priorities? In other words, are you putting effort into what you feel is most important?

If everything lines up: Rock on. You’re doing great.

If not, let’s take a look at what was once working for you (your old system) to see if there’s anything we can use there.

Question #2: What was your old system?

Take a moment to think about how your daily life looked pre-pandemic.

What were you doing consistently to stay healthy? Were you…

  • Exercising?
  • Connecting with others?
  • Eating produce with every meal?
  • Getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night?
  • Other stuff?

What systems once helped make it easier for you to do all of that?

For example, to make vegetables happen, did you….

  • Block out time to research new recipes?
  • Plan your meals for the week?
  • Prep veggies ahead of time?
  • Organize your kitchen so vegetables were easier to see and grab?

And what order did all of that happen?

Certain steps may seem trivial. But don’t discount them. They might be a critical domino. 

While the example above may not match one of your processes, you can use this approach to troubleshoot any helpful routine, habit, or behavior that’s been disrupted.

For example, in the past, maybe you kept certain foods out of the house because you knew you’d eat them.

But then, as your life completely changed, you might have gotten what personal trainer and Precision Nutrition Level 2 coach Jhonatan Ramirez calls a “snowstorm mentality.”

“During a storm, we tend to stay home and indulge,” says Ramirez, who runs the online coaching business Beyond Gym Selfies.

The sight of empty shelves triggered several of Ramirez’s clients to toss all sorts of things in their carts that they didn’t normally buy: chips, cookies, ice cream, cupcakes, brownie mix, crackers, crescent rolls.

And once those foods were in their kitchens, his clients started reporting issues with “eating too much.”

If you can relate, you might decide to re-evaluate what you’re putting on your grocery list. (You can do this by identifying your “red light” foods and implementing a kitchen makeover system. Learn how here.)

Question #3: What systems do you need now?

Now that you’re aware of your old system, you’re ready to think about which parts of that system you want to re-prioritize, what parts you no longer need, and what new habits you might want to add.

What should you hold onto?

How might your old system help you…

  • Feel more secure?
  • Get going in the morning?
  • Make it easier to live a healthy life?

For example, maybe you should still:

  • Lay out your fitness clothes before bed (to prompt you to exercise first thing in the morning)
  • Pack your lunch the night before (even though you’ll be eating at home)
  • Connect with friends over video (since you can’t meet them out)
  • Create a workout space in your garage, basement, or bedroom—and exercise at the same time you used to go to the gym. (Here’s a 14-day at-home workout to get you started.)

What can you let go of?

Some tasks may not be worth the effort or even make sense anymore.

Maybe you suddenly don’t care as much about the body comp goal you set for summer. So you quit weighing and measuring your food.

Or perhaps you stop using your workout journal because the details seem pretty meaningless right now.

If you simply don’t have the capacity for something, it’s okay to release your grip on it.

You might also need to shift more attention to another area of your health.

For example, take a look at the “deep health” graphic below. Even though healthy nutrition and lifestyle behaviors are often associated with physical health, the reality is this: All the areas of deep health are interconnected.

Suppose you’re lonely and feel disconnected from others (see: relational health). You might eat or drink more to comfort yourself, which negatively affects your physical health. And that might lead to feelings of anxiety or anger, which challenges your emotional health.

So in this case, taking more time to connect with the people you care about (even if remotely) might mean less time for other actions. But ultimately, it could provide a bigger benefit to your overall health.

To better understand how to use the deep health wheel to figure out where you should focus, check out this deep dive into deep health.

What new systems do you need?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, your need to go to work or shuttle kids to school probably served a reliable anchor that organized your entire day. Now, without that anchor, you may need a new one.

To find one, think about your day from beginning to end.

What would make staying active, eating nutritious foods, restful sleep, and other priorities easier and more automatic?  Consider your:

  • Daily schedule: Could consistent wake times, meal times, exercise times, meditation time, or bedtime help?
  • Surroundings: What changes could you make to your kitchen, workout space, and other aspects of your physical environment?
  • Reminders: How might setting alarms, using a to-do list, or time-blocking (more about this below) make things easier?
  • Planning: Would you benefit from a two-week meal prep and grocery shopping plan?
  • Support: Could you lean on people around you for motivation, accountability, and help? How about trying exercise or playtime with your family, so all of you can stay fit together?
  • Routines: How might you stack healthy habits on top of something you already do? For example, could you take work calls while going for a walk?

The power of time blocking

Jhonatan Ramirez first turned to time blocking during a hectic time of his life. In addition to managing a gym and coaching clients online, he was also studying for his Precision Nutrition Level 2 certification.

To stay on track, he blocked out time to study, work, read, journal, exercise, and even eat lunch.

End result: He got more done and spent less time on things that weren’t important to him.

And while the time-blocking technique’s upside is pretty clear for busy people, this method can be just as helpful—perhaps more so—when you have lots of free time, he says.

“It’s even more important right now because I wake up with a purpose,” he says.

Ever feel dissatisfied on a day off when you get nothing done? ‘Where did the time go?’ you might think. Well, that’s what can happen on any day that’s not structured. Thus, time-blocking.

To try it, create a schedule for your whole day, starting from the moment you wake to the moment you go to sleep.

Include everything you want to get done, even meals and especially personal time. Read: It’s not all about getting work done; it’s about making use of your time in a way that makes you feel good at the end of the day.

For inspiration, check out one of Ramirez’s time-blocked schedules below (no technology needed).

Think of your new system as an experiment

The only way to know for sure whether your new system will work?

Try it.

Give it seven days. See what happens. After seven days, reassess.

Ask yourself: “How’s that working for you?”

This can help you determine if you need to make an adjustment.

If it worked great, keep it up. If it didn’t work, see what you can learn.

Make a few changes and test again.

Besides helping you get back on track and be more consistent, the structure and familiarity of a routine can help you feel more grounded.

This weird, scary, unprecedented time will eventually come to an end. 

When it does, your new practice of building and testing systems will help you transition back to work and other old “normals” much more smoothly.

And wouldn’t that be a welcome change?

The post Is your health and fitness routine broken? What to do when staying in shape feels harder than ever. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Every single one of us has gone through difficult times in our lives.

But sometimes, something comes along that shatters everything.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re collectively facing something we’ve never experienced before.

For many of us, nothing feels safe or stable any more—simple activities, human interaction, our daily routines, even the air we breathe.

People are getting very sick and dying.

People are losing their jobs, businesses, and livelihoods.

We all want to stay safe and healthy, and help others do the same.

Yet right now, we may not be able to do everything we want for our bodies.

Indeed, it might feel trivial to think about staying in shape or eating healthy. Or it may feel crucial. Or overwhelming. Or simply… impossible, if you can’t even find or buy food at stores with empty shelves.

Each of us will have a different relationship with our physical health. Some of us will be lucky enough to enjoy and preserve it. Others won’t. We can’t control everything that happens to our bodies.

We at Precision Nutrition can’t fix things. 

We can’t take away the uncertainty or the pain.

But after coaching over 100,000 clients (who are often going through periods of great difficulty), there is some stuff we do know.

We’ve learned a lot from the people we’ve coached.

As humans, we tend not to consider change until not changing feels too painful to endure. Coaching by definition often involves walking the path with our clients during times of crisis, transition, and loss.

Many of us are familiar with post-traumatic stress. Fewer of us know about post-traumatic growth—discovering and cultivating our strengths during and after difficult times.

The reality we’ve seen in coaching over 100,000 clients is:

  • Suffering and flourishing can occur together. As a lyric from the famous musical Fiddler on the Roof goes, “Life has a way of confusing us, blessing and bruising us… be joyful even when our hearts lie panting on the floor.”
  • Like physical health, much of mental and emotional health comes from what we practice.
  • Also like physical health, small practices add up.

So, we can’t tell you how to fix things. (Again, sorry.) But we can…

  • Tell you what we know about supporting human hearts and minds through periods of change and difficulty.
  • Help you care for your inner world.
  • Support you in building the resilience you already have.

That’s why we wrote this article.

To be clear: This isn’t a list of things you have to do.

We don’t want to give you more well-meaning “advice,” chores, or obligations. We don’t want to add more “stuff” to your already-full plate.

But tiny steps forward—even the teeniest and tiniest of efforts—can make things a little more manageable and help you keep going in times of great uncertainty and hardship.

So please, think of these as ideas. Possibilities. Stuff to mess around with—kind of like that at-home science experiment you did with the kids that exploded over the kitchen counter this morning.

As much as possible, go easy on yourself. Try to embrace a “progress not perfection” motto.

We promise: The small things really do add up.

1. Focus on what you CAN control.

There is so much we can’t control.

This feels really scary sometimes. We desperately want to know what’s going to happen in the future. (Preferably, that everything will be okay.)

It can be really easy to spiral into a frenzy of uncertainty, panic, and/or frustration over stuff we have zero control over. Or double-down on our attempts to control harder.

Yet you probably have more control than you realize.

There are factors and elements that you CAN control in healthy and productive ways. You can show up for those things, own them, and take an active part in shaping them.

Focusing on those things that you can control can help you feel calmer and more capable of carrying on.

Illustration of the spheres of control. The most inner sphere is labelled "total control" includes my actions, my mindset, and my effort. The middle sphere is labelled "some control" includes my schedule, anticipating daily challenges, and my home and work environment. The outside sphere labelled "No Control" includes weather, shoe size, and body size.

Here’s what this can look like.

Jennifer Broxterman, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and CEO of NutritionRx, puts it this way:

“We have no control over the virus itself. And we can’t control what our governments or politicians are saying or what laws they’re mandating.

We might have some control over influencing others around us to practice proper hand washing or keeping a proper physical distance.

What do we have total control over?

Things like:

  • How we make use of the foods we do have
  • Moving our bodies (by doing home workouts or going for walks if possible)
  • Managing stress (by practicing habits like the ones you’re in this article)
  • Washing our hands
  • Our mindset and attitude, or the story we’re telling about what things mean
  • Connecting with people we care about
  • Helping those in need
  • Keeping our physical distance
  • Following public health directives

It’s important to bring our focus, mindset, and actions within the sphere of total control, because this is where you’re going to be most impactful.”

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed:

  • Make a list of the things that are within your control right now.
  • Consciously commit to focusing on and acting on those things, rather than the ones are beyond your total control.
  • Take a moment to grieve the loss of control, if you need to. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that much of the world operates without us as general manager.
  • And, honor the fact that you tried. It probably shows that you really care and want the world to be a better place.

2. Have a “clean slate policy.”

Let’s be honest: When the stuff hits the fan, so can a lot of our habits.

Maybe the ice cream and beer is disappearing from the freezer and fridge a little faster. Or maybe you’re in the throes of a full-on, multi-day binge.

Guess what?

It’s okay.

Seriously. We still like you. We understand you more than you might realize.  (Uhhhh… don’t look in our recycling bins.)

You’ve still got this.

You’re not screwed up or broken. In fact, you’re working beautifully.

Coping mechanisms—overeating, bingeing, drinking, smoking, staying up all night playing video games, huddling in bed under a blanket—have a purpose. They offer comfort, solace, distraction, and emotional anesthesia.

Think about this:

Even if you’re not coping well, you are coping. Or at least trying to. That’s kind of awesome.

Whatever you’re doing, as silly, crazy, or dysfunctional as it might seem, is a sign that your body and brain are trying to help you feel better.

You’re trying to alleviate your own suffering.

Pause and reflect on what a lovely thing that is, and what elegant mechanisms our brains have to help us relieve pain.

It might not be the ideal way to cope, especially long-term, but it’s important to acknowledge that this is an attempt at self-compassion and self-soothing.

Do not do further harm to yourself by beating yourself up afterwards.

You’ll only cause yourself more pain and stress, which causes you to cope harder… and so on. Self-criticism just amplifies the stress-coping loop.

Instead, try this: 

  • Gently acknowledge what happened in a factual way.
  • See if you can identify the thoughts and feelings you’re having. (If you can’t, that’s OK.)
  • Recognize: This is normal.
  • Then—move on.

Clean the slate.

At every moment, you can wipe the board clean and start fresh. In life you get infinite erasers.

Each moment is fresh. Whatever happened yesterday—or one hour ago—is irrelevant to your NOW.

Right now, only THIS moment matters. Every single day, every hour, even every minute, you can wipe the slate clean and move forward.

The Clean Slate Policy means that you don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes. You don’t wallow. You don’t call yourself names. And you don’t say “F-it, I’m screwed forever” and give up.

Instead, you put the past in the past, and move forward. And, ideally, be kind to yourself as you do it.

How do you move forward? May we suggest: Take a 5-minute action.

3. Take a 5-minute action.

One of the most fundamental practices in our coaching programs is the 5-minute action.

There’s nothing special about 5 minutes. It could be 10 seconds, or 1 minute, or 10 minutes.

The point is:

  • It’s something that is very, very small.
  • It’s an action—something you do.
  • It’s something that feels easy and simple.
  • It moves you in the direction you want to go.

In his book Tiny Habits, behavior change expert and Stanford University researcher BJ Fogg, PhD suggests a simple ABC formula for building and reinforcing a small action:

  • Anchor Moment: Something specific in an existing routine that “triggers” you to do the new behavior. For instance, “After I brush my teeth, I will…”
  • Tiny Behavior: The very small action you’ve chosen to take.
  • Celebration: Consciously reinforcing your new action and being proud of your success. It’s important to use a celebration that works for you—something that makes you feel happy and successful.

For example:

  • I’ll leave a water glass on my bathroom counter. After I wake up in the morning and use the bathroom (A), I’ll drink one sip of water (B) and then high-five myself (C).
  • I’ll keep prepackaged cut vegetables in my fridge. At dinner (A), I’ll eat a handful of them (B) and make them extra-special with the salsa I love (C).

As Dr. Fogg’s adjective “tiny” implies, these 5-minute actions should be very simple, small, and doable. Like:

  • Step outside your house, or onto your balcony, or open up a window and take 5 deep breaths of fresh air.
  • Make your bed.
  • Tidy up one shelf or drawer.
  • Play a 1-minute game of catch with your kid and the last roll of toilet paper.
  • Send a text message to someone.
  • Slowly enjoy a glass of wine. (Just kidding. Sort of.)
  • Do a mind-body scan. (We’ll show you how to do that in a minute.)

And so on.

If it seems too simple, we assure you, it’s not. Small actions over time add up. Do what you can, when you can. We promise you it’s enough.

(To hear more from Dr. Fogg, check out our conversation with him here.)

How can I maintain my health and fitness at a time like this?

Maybe you were just starting to improve your exercise and nutrition, or perhaps you had your healthy habits down to a fine art.

And then, KAPOW. Life was totally disrupted.

What now?

Your gym routine? Forget it. Perfectly planned meals? Nope. A good night’s rest? Ha!

At a time like this, it can be really easy to just press pause—to say, “I’ll come back to this later when things are less of a sh*t show.”

But now more than ever, it’s important to stay in the game. 

Even if that just means showing up and taking a five minute action, as we described earlier.

You may be thinking that this “isn’t the time” to be working on your health and fitness.

We’d argue it’s exactly the time to show up for YOU.

In fact, this is a perfect opportunity to take radical action on your own behalf. Even if radical action just means a few deep breaths when before you might have just freaked out.

So, how to keep going? Try the “dial method.” 

Think of your health and fitness habits as a dial.

When you’re completely on your game, you can dial things up. You can work out more, or pursue more challenging goals.

But during times when you’re already stressed and taxed, you can dial those same habits way down—by doing less, simplifying things, and/or doing a smaller/easier version of what you usually do.

The trick is to never turn them “off” completely.

Zach Pello, owner of Pello Fitness and a member of our Coalition of Health and Fitness Leaders, offers an example of how he uses this method for himself.

“I meditate pretty much every day. Well, right now, I still meditate—but I’m only doing five minutes a day. I keep doing it because I know that when I come out of this, I’ll be able to reinvest more time in that when the time is ready. So, try to shift your efforts, but don’t totally neglect them either.”

(For more on using the dial method and avoiding pressing pause on your health and fitness habits, check out: How to never press “pause” on your health and fitness again.)

4. Breathe. (Really.)

How are you breathing right now?

Short and fast, or long and slow?

Are you breathing from high up in your chest, or from deep in your belly?

When we get anxious and stressed, our breath tends to respond; your chest might feel constricted and your breathing might become short and fast.  You might even find yourself holding your breath, gasping for air, or even feeling like you’re on the verge of a panic attack.

The good news is that simply paying attention to your breath can be an amazing antidote to stress, sending the message to your body that you’re in a relaxed, safe state. In turn, your body and brain can start to calm down.

Michael Gervais, PhD, creator and host of the Finding Mastery podcast, mindset trainer for the Seattle Seahawks, and a member of the Coalition of Health and Fitness Leaders, recommends breathing exercises to anyone suffering from stress and anxiety.

“When you feel tight, when you feel your heart skip a bit, when you feel your breathing rate change, when you feel nervousness or that internal ‘scratchy feeling,’ breathing is a massively helpful skill,” he explains.

Why does it work so well? “A long exhale sends a signal to our ancient brain that we’re safe,” says Dr. Gervais. “It sends a signal to the brain that says, ‘Hey, there’s no saber tooth tiger right now. You’ve got the luxury of a nice, deep, relaxing breath. So chill out, dude.’”

Here’s a simple way to practice this:

  • Blow up an imaginary balloon very slowly, trying to empty out your lungs.
  • Then, relax your body and let the in-breath naturally occur.
  • Blow up a balloon again.
  • Relax and let the in-breath happen again.
  • And so on.

For a slightly more advanced version, Dr. Gervais suggests something called box breathing. Here’s how that works:

  • As you inhale, practice breathing in for 4-5 seconds.
  • Then, hold that breath for 4-5 seconds.
  • Slowly breathe out for another 4-5 seconds.
  • Then hold your breath for 4-5 seconds more.

You can then repeat this as many times as you like. Dr. Gervais suggests doing this for 12 breaths, though you can start with as little as one slow breath.

Want some help tuning into your breath? (Or just calming down?) Try a mind-body scan.

A mind-body scan is like a simplified meditation technique that helps you sense inwards and connect with your body. Want to give it a try? Check out this free  mind-body scan worksheet.

And if all else fails… 

Take a breath.

Then another.

Just keep breathing.

You’ve got this. 

The post “How can I cope RIGHT NOW?” These self-care strategies might help you feel better. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

We have a workout experiment for you.

It’s simple. It’s effective. And it’s tailor-made for people who work from home.

If that’s your situation right now, there may be no better time to try it.

Give it a shot, and it might help you:

  • Move more frequently throughout your day for better overall health
  • Make working out seem “easier” while improving your fitness
  • Do lots of exercise—without needing an hour of uninterrupted time
  • Take short work breaks that invigorate your mind
  • Have fun trying out a new approach to exercise

+++

Let’s start with the background.

Most well-rounded workouts last about an hour and total around 100 to 200 reps at most.

Okay, that might not be what most people do on their own. But as the exercise program director here at Precision Nutrition, it’s how I design workouts for our clients.

In one of these workouts, you’ll do about 25-50 total reps of primary exercises—movement like squats, deadlifts, pullups, and presses.

You may do 10 sets of three, five sets of 10, or the ole reliable “5×5” template (or any variation in that range). A very high-volume workout might feature 10 sets of 10 repetitions.

After this, you might do some accessory work: core exercises, lunges, or some isolation work for your arms or hamstrings.

These are typically lighter movements done to provide more total work.

Overall, you’re looking at a total training volume of about a hundred reps or so for any single workout. All wrapped up in about an hour.

But what happens after this hour of hard work? 

Chances are, you go sit in your chairs for the rest of your day.

Chairs? As in plural?

Well, yes.

There’s probably the chair where you do your work and the chair where you eat your meals. And the chair where you relax in front of your TV. (Or don’t relax, if you’re watching the news.)

And before quarantine, you probably had even more chairs, like the one you commuted to work in.

We can cram a lot of movement into an hour of exercise.

But that one hour is still a brief intermission in a day that’s otherwise defined by stillness. 

Modern workers can spend as much as 15 hours per day in a chair.1 This takes a toll on our bodies and our minds.

Some research has shown that even an hour of intense exercise isn’t enough to counteract all the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.2

What would happen if we reversed this?

What if we spent most of the day physically moving, with only an hour or two of stillness in the middle?

What if we moved continuously and did thousands of reps of movement over the entire day? 

This may sound ludicrous, but think of people who do manual labor for a living.

Construction workers, furniture movers, military personnel and agricultural workers regularly see long days of almost continuous movement. Professional and Olympic athletes may spend much of their day training.

Our bodies can handle an incredible volume of work. 

I know first hand.

Several years ago, I found myself testing out an absurd version of this idea.

When we created the Precision Nutrition exercise library of over 400 exercises, we spent 2.5 weeks professionally filming every movement and pose.

Each exercise was filmed from multiple angles, with both demonstrations of good repetitions and flawed repetitions from each angle.

For every shot, we’d do a few practice reps first, and we’d usually need multiple takes. We averaged about 35 exercises a day.

This worked out to around 1,000 repetitions per day on the low side and as much as twice that on longer days.

We used real weights for all the dumbbell-based exercises. So most of my reps were done with 50-pound dumbbells.

(Despite this, the worst single day was when we did bodyweight-only movements and filmed all the ab stuff.)

To review, that’s 1,000+ repetitions per day of different exercises, spread over about 10 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 2.5 weeks.

Fortunately, I was able to eat well (a PN specialty, you might say) and get quality sleep during this time. If those two pieces weren’t in place, things would have gone much differently.

So, what happened? 

Here’s me at the start of the shoot, in all my double-chinned glory:

And here I am on one of the last days of the shoot:

My body went through quite a transformation in a short amount of time. I gained muscle and got leaner, and even after a few rest days, my work capacity was through the roof.

The obvious conclusion: If you’re serious about getting in shape, you should quit your job and spend 10 hours per day working out.

I’m kidding, of course.

But…

What can we learn from this, and what can you take from it that can be used today, in a realistic way?

Let’s run through some of the factors at play here:

  • I reversed the standard formula. Instead of an hour of exercise squeezed into an otherwise full day of inactivity, I spent most of my day doing physical work punctuated by occasional stillness.
  • My activity was intermittent. We filmed male and female versions of each exercise, so each of us rested while the other was on camera.
  • I wasn’t “working out.” I didn’t do a single pushup or carry a dumbbell around because I wanted to induce physiological stress. It was the opposite. I did that stuff to finish the day’s filming. Plus, I had the mental perspective of trying to make every repetition cost me as little as possible.
  • The movement was open-ended. There was never a fixed number of repetitions. I was never doing a set of 5 or 10 reps because that was in my plan or because it was all I could do. I just did reps until the videographer told me to stop. In other words, I went on as long as I had to.
  • I was using submaximal loads. Yes, I did a ton of reps. But most were with a weight that was generally less than half of what my max effort would be (for the dumbbell-based movements).

Let’s take a closer look at these.

Why reversing the formula works

Physical activity produces a lot of changes in the body, even after a relatively short time.

Muscles contract, circulation increases, nutrients are shuttled into cells, and energy expenditure climbs. The body’s management of insulin improves, and we also see changes in hormonal function and energy metabolism.3-5

The benefits don’t stop at your muscles.

Our brains also change in response to movement. Physical activity, ranging from traditional gym exercise to simple walking, can improve mood and cognitive function, and helps reduce the effects of aging on the brain.6-10

In one study—which we discussed in this article about the benefits of reverse dieting—a group of people were fed an extra 1,000 calories above their baseline for eight weeks.11

Based on simple calorie math, they should have each gained 16 pounds by the end of the study. Instead, some gained as much as 9.5 pounds, while others added less than a pound.

The main difference? The people who gained the least weight compensated for the extra calories by moving more throughout the day.

This doesn’t mean they went to the gym for longer. 

Instead, it was “non-exercise physical activity” that made the difference.

The people who gained the least weight did the most fidgeting and walking spread throughout the course of their day.

Remember, our bodies are in a state of constant flux. We’re always adapting to whatever we’re doing in a given moment.

So if we’re sitting still for hours on end, we’re getting better at… sitting still for hours on end.

But if we’re moving around a lot—and then recovering from that movement—we’re getting better at that instead.

The real beauty of open-ended workouts

It might be tempting to think the body is sort of like a car: When we “run out of gas,” we stop moving. But our perceptions of effort and fatigue—and our ability to do physical work—are actually far more complex.12,13

Fatigue is essentially a complex emotion derived from an ever-changing milieu of past experience and current data.

During activity, our brains take into account things like:

  • our hydration status
  • the ambient temperature and humidity
  • our blood glucose levels
  • body temperature

Then it compares these factors against our prior experiences under similar circumstances.

It uses this information to regulate how much effort we can produce and how tired we feel.

For example, runners on a hot humid day will begin their race at a slower pace than they would on a cool, dry day—even though they haven’t yet accumulated mechanical fatigue.

Our minds are constantly referring to what we did in the past to decide what we can do today.

Most exercise is done using fixed, known quantities, and there’s generally an element of “chasing” pain or fatigue involved. (Read: You’re trying to exhaust your muscles.)

When we plan to do five sets of five squats, it creates an association in our minds: “This is a reasonable estimate of the most squats we can do.”

In the case of five sets of five squats, completing 25 total reps is known, safe territory. More than that is unknown and therefore potentially threatening.

But when physical activity is shifted away from fixed quantities—and into open-ended performance (that is, it goes on for as long as it has to)—these associations change.

Your brain no longer sees your effort level as “this is the most I can do for X time or Y reps.” It sees your effort level as being set at “sustainable for as long as necessary.”

This altered association changes your stress response. Not just in the moment, but also in the future—when your brain reflects on past experience to decide how hard an activity should feel.

As an example, imagine how you’d feel if someone told you to do alternating step-ups on a box in the gym for as long as you could.

Now compare that to someone asking you how long you’d be willing to hike up a steep mountainside in a beautiful forest.

You may spend hours happily doing a similar movement on the hike, but if you were counting numbers in the gym, you’d quickly be miserable (or at least bored out of your mind).

And you’d likely feel far more exhausted in the gym.

How to use stress to your advantage (finally)

The stress response that you’re producing when you exercise—and that you’re teaching your brain to associate with exercise in the future—is an important piece of the training process.

We can think of that stress response as being either distress or eustress.

Distress, as you’re no doubt aware, is thought of as negative stress. It can feel overwhelming. This can break you down.

Eustress is considered positive—it’s usually short lasting and in a “dose” that feels manageable. This can build your resilience.

The division between distress and eustress is driven largely by our perception of two variables: predictability and control.14-17

Predictability is essentially our brain’s answer to the question, “Do I know what’s happening, and do I have the resources to cope with it?”

Control is our perception of how much influence we can exert over a situation.

In a distress state, our sense of predictability and control is low, and the situation is seen as threatening.

Our brain is sufficiently uncertain of our ability to handle it. As a result, it ramps up a strong epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) and cortisol-heavy response.

In a eustress state, we have a strong sense of predictability and control.

Our brain reads the scenario as challenging rather than threatening.

Our physiological response is also different. Rather than epinephrine, we produce predominantly more norepinephrine, and less cortisol.

The response is more accurately matched to the “mere physiological demand” of the situation, rather than the “better safe than sorry” adrenaline response we feel in a threatening situation.

And, once the event has passed, we return more quickly back to baseline.

For an example of a eustress-based response, think of someone who spends their day tossing hay bales on a farm or carrying bricks on a construction site.

Their body will do what it needs to get the work done and no more. There’s no anxiety, no maxed out heart rate—just efficiency. And a huge work capacity.

The vastly underrated benefit of intermittent activity

Pavel Tsatsouline, founder and chairman of StrongFirst, made some aspects of this training approach famous when he coined the term greasing the groove.

Greasing the groove is as much about motor learning and skill acquisition as it is about stress responses and physiological adaptations. It’s a way to strengthen a motor pattern by practicing it more frequently.

Pavel has people practice a strength skill such as a kettlebell swing or a pushup in regular intervals spaced throughout the day.

An important piece of this is that you’re not trying to beat yourself up. You’re deliberately staying relaxed and not training to failure.

You simply mix in sets of technically crisp, high-quality reps throughout your day.

It’s a fantastic way to improve your skill in strength movements.

We used a similar technique in the special operations community. (I spent six years in Naval Special Operations as a Special Warfare Combat Crewman.)

In training, when pushups made up a significant portion of our day, we’d often do pushups on our off days using a timer.

Anywhere from every 10 minutes to every hour, we’d knock out a few easy sets of pushups. We’d slowly build up how many we could do in a set while still making it feel relaxed and easy.

Over time, our capacity for pushups became remarkably high. 

Once we made it through training, this remained a regular feature, but often in the form of a pullup bar.

Most any team house that a unit lives in would have a pullup bar in front of it somewhere, and we’d all make a habit of doing at least a set of pullups every time we walked past.

How to build your own intermittent workout

We call this idea of doing a set or three of an exercise every time you walk past a certain object or are reminded by a timer a trigger workout. (It’s way easier to say than “intermittent.”)

PN coaches have been doing this internally with certain clients for years.

It’s a great way to improve fitness and motor skills. And, as discussed above, it may even be more beneficial for certain aspects of health than a one-hour workout done once per day (if you’re otherwise sedentary).

It’s also a sneaky way to get in a lot of exercise on days when you otherwise wouldn’t have time for a full workout.

Here’s what you do.

Step 1: Establish your trigger.

This can be anything from a timer to an object in your house.

Lately, I’ve been putting a kettlebell on my floor near the stairs. I run into it whenever I’m either going to the kitchen or the bathroom.

Every time I walk by it I do a few sets of swings, snatches, or ab movements.

In the past I’ve had gymnast rings in my garage and would do a few sets of pullups every hour when a timer went off.

Whatever you choose, make it somewhat frequent.

Ideally, you’ll be moving around about once per hour. 

If you’re working from home (like millions of others right now), this gives you enough time to do focused work, while still keeping your body from fusing with your chair.

It also gives you a brief, regular break from the mental demands of work.

Step 2: Pick an exercise.

Generally, choose a movement that works a lot of big muscle groups (sorry bros, not a good place for curls) and that can be done safely without a warmup. Read: It’s not the best time to test your personal best deadlift.

Consider exercises like:

  • Kettlebell swings or snatches (only if you’ve been well-trained in the technique)
  • Goblet squats
  • Bodyweight squats
  • Lunge variations
  • Pushups
  • Dumbbell rows
  • Ring rows
  • Pullups
  • Overhead presses (if your shoulders do well with them)
  • Band movements like pull-aparts or no-moneys
  • Ab movements like roll-outs or planks

You can also mix in some favorite stretches or mobility drills.

Come up with a handful of movements, and try to get about an equal mix of upper and lower body movements.

For the sake of your shoulders, it’s often helpful to do about twice as many reps of pulling movements—such as rows and pull-aparts—as you do pushing movements like pushups and presses.

Step 3: Decide how many reps and sets to do.

The specific number here isn’t critical.

You’re just trying to make physical work feel easy. Stay at a level where you don’t feel a significant “burn,” and you’re nowhere near failure.

As a general rule, it’s better to do multiple sets of lower reps than one long set of a bunch of reps. For most exercises, try starting with 5 reps at a time.

An example day:

8 am: 5 pushups, 5 dead bugs (per side), repeated for 4 total rounds

9 am: 5 goblet squats, 10 kettlebell swings, 5 lunges (per side)

10:30 am: 10 band pull-aparts, 5 pushups, repeated for 3 total rounds

11:30 am: 5 goblet squats, 5 dumbbell rows (per side), repeated for 4 total rounds

1:00 pm: 5 ab wheel roll-outs, 5 banded no-moneys, 5 pull-aparts, repeated for 3 total rounds

2:30 pm: 10-second side plank (per side), 5 dumbbell lunges (per side), repeated for 2 total rounds

3:30 pm: 5 dumbbell rows (per side), 5 single-leg dumbbell deadlifts (per side), repeated for 3 total rounds

5:00 pm: 5 dumbbell overhead presses (per side), 10 band pull-aparts, repeated for 2 total rounds

Total repetitions: 359

Of course, you can also just pick one or two exercises, or a single circuit, and repeat that over the course of the day.

You don’t have to give up other types of exercise altogether.

In fact, don’t.

Where possible, use trigger workouts with some conventional training, and go play outside.

This training method works best when it’s done in combination with the type of maximal strength training and periodic high-intensity work that’s done in a gym (even if that’s your home gym). At least over the long term.

It’s also best when balanced with dynamic, open-ended, and enjoyable activities outdoors. The kind that put you in situations that require more movement variability.

So once in a while (or as often as you can), go for a real hike.

We hear that’s pretty good for you, too. 

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The post This home workout experiment could transform the way you exercise. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1