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…

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What’s it all about?

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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.

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References

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

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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.
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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

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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
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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.

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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.

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37. Mansoor N, Vinknes KJ, Veierød MB, Retterstøl K. Effects of low-carbohydrate diets v. low-fat diets on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Nutr [Internet]. 2016 Feb 14;115(3):466–79. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007114515004699

38. Samaha FF, Iqbal N, Seshadri P, Chicano KL, Daily DA, McGrory J, et al. A low-carbohydrate as compared with a low-fat diet in severe obesity. N Engl J Med [Internet]. 2003 May 22;348(21):2074–81. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa022637

39. Foster GD, Wyatt HR, Hill JO, McGuckin BG, Brill C, Mohammed BS, et al. A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med [Internet]. 2003 May 22;348(21):2082–90. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa022207

40. Gardner CD, Kiazand A, Alhassan S, Kim S, Stafford RS, Balise RR, et al. Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among overweight premenopausal women: the A TO Z Weight Loss Study: a randomized trial. JAMA [Internet]. 2007 Mar 7;297(9):969–77. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.297.9.969

41. Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Del Gobbo LC, Hauser ME, Rigdon J, Ioannidis JPA, et al. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA [Internet]. 2018 Feb 20;319(7):667–79. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.0245

42. Tremblay A, Bellisle F. Nutrients, satiety, and control of energy intake. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab [Internet]. 2015 Oct;40(10):971–9. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2014-0549

43. Wilkinson LL, Brunstrom JM. Sensory specific satiety: More than “just” habituation? Appetite [Internet]. 2016 Aug 1;103:221–8. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2016.04.019

44. Houchins JA, Burgess JR, Campbell WW, Daniel JR, Ferruzzi MG, McCabe GP, et al. Beverage vs. solid fruits and vegetables: effects on energy intake and body weight. Obesity [Internet]. 2012 Sep;20(9):1844–50. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/oby.2011.192

45. Mattes RD. Beverages and positive energy balance: the menace is the medium. Int J Obes [Internet]. 2006 Dec 1;30(3):S60–5. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803494

46. DiMeglio DP, Mattes RD. Liquid versus solid carbohydrate: effects on food intake and body weight. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord [Internet]. 2000 Jun;24(6):794–800. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0801229

47. Stubbs BJ, Cox PJ, Evans RD, Cyranka M, Clarke K, de Wet H. A Ketone Ester Drink Lowers Human Ghrelin and Appetite. Obesity [Internet]. 2018 Feb;26(2):269–73. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/oby.22051

48. Gibson AA, Seimon RV, Lee CMY, Ayre J, Franklin J, Markovic TP, et al. Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev [Internet]. 2015 Jan;16(1):64–76. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obr.12230

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50. Hall KD, Guo J, Courville AB, Boring J, Brychta R, Chen KY, et al. A plant-based, low-fat diet decreases ad libitum energy intake compared to an animal-based, ketogenic diet: An inpatient randomized controlled trial [Internet]. NutriXiv. 2020. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.31232/osf.io/rdjfb

51. Hall KD, Ayuketah A, Brychta R, Cai H, Cassimatis T, Chen KY, et al. Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake. Cell Metab [Internet]. 2019 Jul 2;30(1):67–77.e3. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2019.05.008

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53. Shan Z, Guo Y, Hu FB, Liu L, Qi Q. Association of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets With Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med [Internet]. 2020 Jan 21; Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.6980

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

No one has ever been through anything exactly like THIS.

It’s so universal, we don’t even have to name THIS.

Everyone just gets it.

Of course, we want to tell coaches… “We’re here to help.”

But frankly, that phrase jumped the shark about two days ago.

And you’re probably sick of it.

So what good advice can we offer?

We’re not really sure. The truth is, we’re figuring THIS out as we go, too.

And there’s no cut-and-dried 5-step “how to” article we could create for THIS. (We tried.)

So we won’t presume to tell you we have “the answer.” 

Or any answers.

Instead, we’re going to provide precisely what the COMPLETELY UNCOMPELLING headline of this story promises: a few ideas.

That’s all.

Oh, and a big apology if we say something stupid.

P.S. We really hate THIS too.

+++

Everyone’s canceling… the gym is closed… and now we’re in self-isolation.

This is about you, of course.

But it’s also about every single one of your clients. 

Some can’t wrap their minds around what’s happening in the world and feel completely frozen.

Others have just lost their only source of income and have no idea how they’ll buy food, not to mention pay you.

Still, others are getting paychecks as usual but just got a mandatory “work at home” order. Now they’re going out of their minds trying to balance their new work-at-home life while surrounded by toddlers, dogs, and dirty dishes.

In other words…

It’s hard to know exactly what clients want or need—unless you ask them.

So reach out.

And be human.

Jonathan Goodman, founder of the Online Trainer Academy, says don’t overthink it. Instead, he suggests this “nine-word email” (including the subject line).

+++

SUBJECT: Hey

BODY: What do you need from me right now?

+++

“What you need to do is just be there for people and show up for people,” says Goodman.

He believes some folks will tell you what they need.

Maybe they’ll ask for help with their eating habits. Or home workouts.

It could be they just want you to give them permission to do the bare minimum right now.

Every response is valuable.

That’s because it allows you to build a relationship. That may or may not include a business relationship, but it matters regardless.

Because relationships always matter.

If a nine-word email doesn’t feel right for you…

… consider how you might reach out in your own way.

Jonathan Pope, a Precision Nutrition Level 2 Master Coach and the co-founder of Ethos Colorado, defaults to transparency. Pope had to close his gym, which serve 200 members and has 3 employees.

“We told everyone that their membership fee for April is optional. But we also said that we have employees to support. So if they can afford to pay it, please consider it. If they can’t afford it, please don’t pay it,” says Pope.

“The response has been really positive. Most people opted to keep paying their membership at full price.”

It’s not just a one-way street, though. 

Pope says that those who are taking pay cuts or losing their jobs will be able to train for free when the gym reopens for as long as they need.

That’s living with a “we’re all in this together” mentality.

And yes, that’s another COVID-19 cliché. But it becomes powerful when your actions support it.

If you’re someone who trains clients on your own…

… you might just tell clients how much you love the work you do with them. And offer to continue to help.

You could say something like:

“I got into training because I love to help people reach their goals. I know things are uncertain right now, but my commitment to you hasn’t changed. If you’re still interested in training, I’d love to continue supporting you remotely.

And if you’re not interested in training right now, I totally get it. These times are pretty chaotic, for sure. But know that I’m here if you need me.

Please don’t hesitate to let me know if there are ways I can continue to support you.”

It might also help to show them that you’ve “got this” even if they’re not sure what they need.

“I’ve committed to serving you as a coach, and I want to do that in the way that makes the most sense for you. Do you have any ideas about what that might look like right now? It’s okay if you don’t. I can come back to you with ideas.”

Let your clients’ answers be your guide as you determine what you offer, what to charge, and how to deliver your services.

+++

If you’re looking to transition to online coaching…

… changing the way you operate might be causing you concern and frustration.

That’s normal. Especially if you’re being forced to do it.

When researching this article, we talked to dozens of experienced coaches about making the move from in-person to online coaching.

Everyone said essentially the same thing:

Don’t worry about figuring out the perfect solution right now. 

You can always do that later.

Carolina Belmares—founder of Sweatglow Fitness—who trains clients both in-person and online, shared a simple belief based on her experiences:

“If you know how to send an email, you can coach online.”

“Yes, there’s software and platforms and social media. There are tools and apps you can use,” she says. “But if making decisions on which to choose is freezing you into inaction, this is your permission to let all of that go.”

“Because all you need for effective, impactful coaching is communication.” 

Likewise, Kate Solovieva, a PN Master Coach, has a similar take.

She says that, ultimately, you really just need to do three things to make a living as a coach, whether it’s in-person or online.

  1. Communicate with clients
  2. Share content with clients
  3. Take payment from clients

That’s a pretty simple list, and she advises you keep the tactics simple, too. Ask your client: What’ll work best for you?

Let’s say you’re taking your coaching business remote.

Yes, you can use Zoom or Facetime for video calls.

But you could also communicate through Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, a regular phone call, or get this: snail mail. That might sound ridiculous, but it actually works well for certain clients.

“It’s been used as a real solution for trainers who see older folks in their homes but need to shift to online,” says Solovieva. “Those folks aren’t always tech-savvy, so some coaches send them postcards once a week.”

The same goes for taking payments. Sure, there’s Stripe, Paypal, and Venmo, but some people still write checks. Cash in an envelope works too.

The important thing is the support you offer. Not how you deliver it.

Remember…

What makes you a great coach in the gym will make you a great coach online.

“You may see yourself as a trainer who, until recently, worked at a gym,” says Brad Overstreet, a PN Level 2 certified coach whose gym closed suddenly a few years ago—giving him no choice but to take his clients online.

“But to your clients? You’re more than that. You’re a therapist, a counselor, a confidant, a safety zone.”

Whether they realize it or not, people don’t just hire you for your deep knowledge of nutrition or proper squat form, or for your access to fancy gym equipment.

They hire you for the human-to-human support that only you can offer—because you’re you.

+++

Even if you start simple, there’s no way around it…

… setting up an online business requires some trial, error, persistence, and growth.

You’ll make mistakes, and you’ll learn from them.

Just as you did with in-person coaching. 

And in the short-term, there may be no more anxiety-producing topic than pricing.

If you’ve already sold session packages or if you work with clients whose finances are still steady, you might not have to make any pricing changes right now.

But in other cases, you may need to reevaluate.

If you normally work with clients in a state-of-the-art facility, acknowledge that they’re used to getting a certain experience.

This is one situation where discounting your prices might make sense, says Adam Feit, PhD(c), a PN Master Coach.

You might say something like:

“I’m doing the best I can with online coaching, with the understanding that this may not be what you’re used to. I want to recognize that, and give you a small token of my appreciation by discounting my coaching.”

Your client may not even take you up on it. But consider the good feels you’d have if you were on the receiving end of that approach. It’s considerate and professional, and it also says to the client: “I like working with you.”

Another option, from Belmares, is to let your clients choose their rate. To make this more comfortable for the client, you could have three payment tiers.

You might present it to them like this:

“Given the present situation, would you be more comfortable paying in the $20 to $50 range, the $51 to $100 range, or $100+? Anything you contribute helps me continue offering my services to people who are deeply struggling, so thank you for your choice, regardless of what it is.”

Something else to factor in: You might find, in certain situations, that you’re able to coach more clients in less time online than you could in person. If that’s the case, you may be able to offer your services at a lower cost.

Or, if you have the ability, you could consider adding in something extra—like another session or month of coaching—for clients who are paying full price, says Dominic Matteo, a PN Master Coach.

“Why not make them feel valued, and earn a customer for life?”

+++

Online coaching doesn’t mean out-of-touch coaching.

About 5 years ago Jeremey Fernandes was training clients in a gym.

Then a few clients moved and were too far away to train in person.

So Fernandes created programs for them to do on their own, offering to check in a few weeks later.

That’s when he learned an important lesson (that probably won’t come as a huge surprise).

“Most people would do it for a week or two and then fall off,” he says.

In person, of course, he could tell when a program wasn’t working. As someone was doing an exercise, he could ask, “How does that rep feel?”

But now that he couldn’t see his clients, he had no idea how they were progressing—or even whether they were doing the program at all.

That experience taught him to…

Check in frequently. What’s manageable will depend on your client load. If you have only a few clients, you might have time to check in as often as every day.

If you have 20-40 people, that’s more difficult. Fernandes aims for once a week.

Seek feedback. You might ask:

  • How many training sessions did you complete?
  • How did your sessions feel?
  • How many reps and sets did you complete for each exercise? And what was the load?
  • Did you feel any discomfort?
  • Did you feel stronger? For example, could you go deeper in a squat? Or lift more explosively?
  • What was your energy level during the week?

This human factor is what truly makes coaches valuable. 

The frequent check-ins can help you to keep clients engaged and feeling supported.

That ultimately helps them succeed. As clients adapt to ever-changing circumstances, those check-ins may be even more crucial. (And valuable.)

+++

There’s one more idea we’d like to share.

And it’s this: Focus on relationships.

This advice is from Dan Sullivan, the founder of The Strategic Coach. You’ll probably notice it fits a recurring theme in this article.

What we really like about it: It encourages coaches to do… what coaches do.

We believe, if you build good relationships, you tend to benefit. No matter if it’s in business or your personal life.

Sometimes, in ways you never even imagined.

 

The post Ideas for dealing with client cancellations, gym closures, and the transition to online coaching. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

People have their reasons.

For overeating. Skipping exercise. Ignoring your advice.

And if you want to help clients overcome these types of self-sabotaging behaviors, you need to understand what those reasons are.

This is a universal law of nutrition coaching.

It’s also a powerful concept that can transform you from “frustrated coach” to “client whisperer.”

How so? Let’s explore.

Ever have a client say they desperately want to change—but also seem mired in self-sabotage?

Maybe they’re:

  • having four glasses of wine every night,
  • cancelling workout sessions last minute, or
  • burying a pint of ice cream right before bed.

Clearly, these behaviors are in direct conflict with their goals. It almost seems like they’re doing it on purpose just to make you feel like a failure as their coach, right?

Not so fast.

It could be their way of solving an even bigger problem than the “muffin top” they keep complaining about. 

Maybe a problem you haven’t even considered.

Your client might be drinking four glasses of wine because it helps them temporarily forget that their job sucks.

Or cancelling appointments because of trauma that makes them feel deeply uncomfortable in a gym.

Or pounding Ben and Jerry’s because it soothes their anxiety.

So don’t assume they’re ignoring your advice. Instead, focus on connecting the dots.  

When you understand there’s a deeper reason behind every bad habit, you’ll be able to:

  • have more empathy for your clients
  • feel less bothered when clients don’t do what they’ve agreed to do, and
  • use more effective strategies to help people change their behavior.

Those three things? They’re a formula for making you an awesome coach.

In this article, we’ll give you a step-by-step process for uncovering the real obstacles that are stalling your clients’ progress.

But even better, we’ll show you how to create solutions that actually work.

++++

All human behavior is an attempt to cope with or solve a problem.

Sit with that for a moment.

When we give presentations to coaches, this single piece of information visibly blows their minds.

Sometimes, it’s straightforward:

When you’re hungry (the problem), you eat (the behavior).

But often, it’s more complicated. Because usually, you see the behavior, but you don’t know about the problem.

For instance…

… when you snap at your partner for asking a totally harmless question about tonight’s dinner (the behavior), it’s usually not because of the question your spouse asked. It’s likely due to something else, like that irritating email from your coworker (the problem).

… when your hyperactive kid acts out (the behavior), it’s because she’s trying to release pent-up energy (the problem).

… and when your mom drops in unannounced to do your laundry long after you’ve reached adulthood (the behavior), it’s probably not because she’s dying to fold your underpants. She probably wants to feel needed, and currently, she’s not (the problem).

Similarly, unwanted eating behaviors are frequently related to a deeper problem that doesn’t start with the food.

This presents a challenge, since many nutrition coaches focus exclusively on food: meal plans, macros, organic vs. conventional, supplements, and so on. Which, intuitively, makes sense.

You want to make sure your client is getting the nutrients they need. So the two of you agree that they’re going to try eating more veggies.

But your client’s food log shows a whole lot of ice cream… and not much else. Last time you checked, ice cream wasn’t a veggie. (It feels like someone should invent that… )

So what happened? Why didn’t your client do what they agreed to try? Probably because…

Food isn’t the problem.

It almost never is.

This idea is one of the foundations of Precision Nutrition’s coaching method, which we’ve validated with over 100,000 clients and in three peer-reviewed research studies

To illustrate how this coaching principle works in practice, we’re going to discuss two case studies.

Meet Sam and Min.

Nutrition coaching case studies.

Sam is a 24-year-old medical student with a super hectic schedule. When he’s not in class or in the lab doing research, he’s studying.

He also comes from a culture where family time is extremely important. So he spends a lot of his off-hours with his parents and siblings.

Sam wants to get swole, but regularly binge drinks with his med school buddies (who also happen to be his roommates). That’s causing all sorts of problems with his nutrition, workouts, and recovery.

Min is a 56-year-old mother of two teenagers. She’s also a caregiver to her aging parents. Oh, and she has a full-time office job.

Slim until her mid-40s, Min’s now struggling to get rid of the spare tire around her midsection.

Min sticks to mostly whole, nutrient-dense foods during the day. But she struggles with nighttime snacking. The late-night chips, cookies, and dinner leftovers are making it tough to shed fat.

It might be tempting to tell Min to just stop snacking at night. Or tell Sam to quit the excess drinking.

After all, how hard can it be to just… stop?

But you probably know:

Clients don’t always do what they say they’ll do.

Why? In many cases, if they did what you asked, they’d be left with a problem—stress, feelings of unworthiness, desire to fit in socially—without a solution.

So what’s the best way to approach situations like these? Let’s find out.

5 steps to addressing the problem behind the behavior.

Step 1: Learn more about the behavior.

Let’s take a look at Min’s snacking.

Your task: Explore with Min exactly, specifically, precisely, and concretely the behaviors she’s describing.

You might ask questions like:

  • “In the hours before you end up snacking, what are you usually doing?”
  • “Immediately before you start snacking, what are you thinking about?”
  • “While you’re snacking, how do you feel physically? Is anyone with you?”
  • “After you’re done, how do you feel emotionally?

The answers to these questions will help you better understand what’s going on with Min. But they’ll also help HER understand it.

In fact, the more you probe for details, the more likely it is that Min will identify what’s behind her late-night snacking and develop solutions on her own.

You can use our Behavior Awareness worksheet to facilitate this process with any client. (It would work well for Sam’s binge drinking issue, too.)

Step 2: Figure out the problem.

Once you know the behavior—thanks to step 1—it’s time to identify the problem. This is the fun part.

Sometimes, clients can easily identify their problem. 

After completely the Behavior Awareness worksheet, Min might come right out and say:

“You know, it seems like anytime I have a tough day and feel underappreciated, I start snacking. Between work, taking care of my kids and my parents, and trying to take care of myself, I’m just under a lot of pressure. My mom has cancer, and we’re all having a tough time with it. Plus, she keeps giving me a hard time about why I’ve never made anything of my life.”

Seriously, figuring out the problem (or in this case, problems) is occasionally that easy. And when you hear about all the things going on in Min’s life, her “solution” makes total sense as a way to get immediate (but short-lived) relief.

Other times, clients have no idea what the real problem is. 

So, you get to do a little detective work.

With a mindset of compassionate curiosity, think of this as a puzzle that you and your client will solve together.

One way to do that is by asking what we call “two crazy questions.”

It goes something like this…

“Sam, I’m going to ask you two crazy questions, and I know this is going to sound really weird, but just humor me…”

Question 1: “What’s GOOD about drinking so much on the weekends? In other words, what purpose does it serve in your life? How does it help you?”

Question 2: “What would be BAD about changing? What would you lose or give up if you stopped drinking so much when you go out?”

Sam might reveal that drinking with his friends helps him destress from a long week of academic, work, and family commitments.

He knows drinking less would make it easier for him to eat better and get to the gym regularly.

But Sam also worries that he and his med school buddies won’t have fun if he’s not there with a beer in his hand. Valid or not, that fear is very real for Sam.

So the problem is two-fold:

Sam feels (understandably) stressed because of his demanding schedule, and he also sees himself as responsible for his friend’s ability to have fun together.

What if my client’s problem is out of scope?

Depending on what your client’s dealing with, you may need to refer out another professional.

Let’s say they were emotionally or sexually abused, and they’re dealing with the aftershocks of that.

These issues are way outside your scope. But if you have a good referral network, you can get your client the support they really need.

But that doesn’t mean you should drop them as a client. Rather, your client merely adds a new player with a different skillset to their support team.

Provide accountability, and help your client work on the fundamental skills they’re ready, willing, and able to tackle—while they’re also getting help with their deeper-seated challenges and concerns from a qualified professional.

Often, when someone starts improving their eating, fitness, sleep, or stress-relief habits, their bigger, underlying challenge becomes easier to manage. Because it’s no longer being compounded by feeling bad about their health habits.

By the way, we also suggest having your own referral network (for YOU). Clients’ “stuff” may bring up your personal “stuff,” and you’ll benefit from having your own “stuff support system.”

Step 3: Get on your client’s team.

Here’s where you get to be your client’s biggest fan. You’ll solidify your coaching relationship in the process.

Identify what’s good about your client and their unwanted behavior. 

You want to find the silver lining, even if it’s hard.

Turn their problems into evidence of their strengths and resilience.

Here’s how you might do that with Sam:

“Sam, it sounds like you’re the social glue that’s holding your group together. Everyone’s so stressed out with med school and stuff, and you’re the party guy who tries to liven up everyone’s mood. That’s a real testament to how much you care about your friendships. It’s honestly impressive how you make time to prioritize them.”

Here, it’s particularly important to be aware of how your own experiences and biases may cloud your perspective. 

For instance, if you’ve always been a fit athlete and you’re coaching someone like Min, you’ll need to set aside the idea that staying fit and avoiding trigger foods is “simple.”

Emphasize the positives of not changing, as well as what’s admirable about your client:

“Min, it’s amazing how you’re able to juggle two teenagers, a full-time job, and your parents who, if I’m being honest, sound a little bit challenging to deal with. I can’t even imagine! Gosh, I can’t even call my mom for 15 minutes, and here you are doing it constantly. That says so much about your commitment to family. I really admire that.”

This step might not seem that important. But it assures your client you’re not judging them. It also validates their feelings, making them feel heard and respected. Often, it also gets them to start viewing themselves (and their actions) through a different, more positive lens.

Bring on the warm fuzzy feelings. Because your client’s going to need them to make an important decision, which brings us to step 4.

Step 4: Let your client decide whether to change.

Most people resist change.

No one wants to give up doing stuff they like.

But here’s the funny thing about resistance: Giving someone permission to NOT change can actually make them realize that they DO want to change. 

So ask your client:

“Given all of this, do you want to change? Not changing is perfectly okay.”

This, of course, can require a vomit-inspiring leap of faith. You have to genuinely be okay with them not changing that behavior.

In fact, there are times when not changing their behavior could be healthier than the alternative. 

A client’s 12-hour-a-week exercise habit might seem extreme to you. But it may be helping them cope with their failing marriage.

If you take away (or greatly reduce) the exercise, they might start coping in a way that’s more destructive.

Maybe your client doesn’t want to eat any veggies, like, ever. Think: the carnivore diet.

They understand the health risks. And they’ve established they’re doing it because food is the one thing in their life they can control. So they’re not willing to change.

You have to accept that. (Although you don’t necessarily have to keep working with them.)

Depending on your client’s change vs. no change answer, the next step can go two different ways.

Step 5: Develop strategies together.

Let’s walk through two scenarios. In one, your client 100% embraces change. In the other? Not so much.

Client wants to change: Brainstorm what that might look like.

Min decides she does want to change. She sees what the nighttime snacking is doing for her, but she’s ready to try something different.

Importantly, you don’t want to just throw solutions at her. Instead, get her talking about where she sees opportunity for change.

You might try questions like:

  • “Put your coach hat on. If you were in my position, what might you suggest you do?”
  • “If you could do anything to stop snacking at night—even if that seems crazy—what would you do? Let’s just brainstorm and not worry about reality for the next few minutes.”

Work together to select one new action, making sure it feels super realistic given the confines of Min’s life—even if it’s challenging. 

Maybe, for example, Min starts by reorganizing her kitchen to help her avoid nighttime snacking. She stores trigger foods out in the garage, including the dinner leftovers, which now go straight to the garage mini-fridge. That way, her kids can still enjoy them if they want, but they’re out of sight for Min.

A key step: Ask Min whether she’s ready, willing, and able to incorporate this new habit into her routine. 

If she rates a proposed change at less than an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, find out what it would take to get her fully on board. Often, it’s reducing the intensity of the habit so it feels more manageable. (Our Ready, Willing, and Able worksheet will come in handy here.)

Client doesn’t want to change: Try changing something else.

Sam doesn’t want to change his drinking habits. He understands the tradeoffs, but he’s just not ready to do things differently.

That’s okay.

Say something like:

“Okay, so it sounds like you want to feel fitter and less stressed. But right now, quitting drinking with your friends doesn’t feel like the right solution for you, which makes sense. What else can we do to move a tiny bit towards your goal?”

Maybe Sam would be willing to limit himself to three drinks per social outing, down from his usual five or six.

Or, he might not want to change his drinking habits at all. No big deal.

Rather than see this as a failure, think of it as an opportunity.

Sometimes, you have to look further upstream to solve the problem. 

In other words, maybe Sam won’t be able to stop binge drinking until he changes something else.

For example, take a look at the “deep health” graphic below.

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.

Deep health wheel.

All the areas of deep health are interconnected. By working in one area, you automatically address the others. (Learn more about deep health.)

So in Sam’s case, you might work together to come up with stress-reducing strategies like:

  • taking a daily walk at lunch (physical health)
  • incorporating a 5-minute body scan most days (mental health)
  • developing a self-compassion practice (emotional health)

Although these actions may at first seem like they have nothing to do with nutrition, they often have everything to do with nutrition.  

Implementing one (and eventually more) of these habits could lighten Sam’s stress load. That would make it easier, over time, for him to prioritize working out and healthy eating, getting closer to the swole body of his dreams.

Wherever your client ultimately decides to focus, it’s time to step back and see what happens.

Along the way, monitor how things are going, and assess whether they’re:

  • struggling and need to scale back
  • doing pretty well, but still need to work on the current habit, or
  • mastering the current habit and ready to add another.

Nutrition coaching case studies.

This lesson won’t just change your coaching. It’ll change your whole life.

Understanding the motivation behind unwanted behaviors sets you up to be a pretty dang amazing coach.

And the more you explore the problems behind behaviors, the more you’ll see how this concept sheds light on virtually every sticky situation in life. 

Yes, it applies to your client who’s always late. But also the cranky guy overreacting about the barista getting his order wrong. And your friend who suddenly withdraws from your social circle.

So whether you’re in a position to help them or not, understand that much of what you experience with others isn’t personal.

After all, people have their reasons.

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 addresses the real problems that are holding them back—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, April 8th, 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 “Diet harder” just doesn’t work: Here’s how to REALLY solve the toughest client problems. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

When Susan first came to see me, she wanted an intense diet plan.

She weighed about 260 pounds—and she longed to part with more than 60 of them as fast as possible.

She was ashamed, frustrated, and angry.

“I had my thyroid tested,” she told me. “My doctor said it was low-normal—nothing to worry about. But I think it’s why I’m struggling.”

Her words? I’d heard them before, almost verbatim, from so many women with hypothyroidism (the medical term for an underactive thyroid).

Susan wanted me to tell her how to change her eating habits to lose weight—and she wanted something that would work quickly.

But I knew that until she quieted her negative self-talk, reduced her stress level, made peace with her body, and gained a sense of control, she would struggle with any diet or exercise plan I gave her.

So before suggesting specific nutrition and lifestyle strategies, I set out to help her transform her mind.

Later in this article, I’ll explain exactly how she made this critical mindset shift—and most importantly, how you can help your clients do the same. This new mindset can then form the foundation for those lasting habits that lead to weight loss, energy, and soaring health.

But first, let’s step back and go over some basics.

++++

What is hypothyroidism?

Your thyroid, a tiny gland in the middle of your lower neck, makes hormones that regulate metabolism, energy level, and heart rate, among other things.

When someone has hypothyroidism, the gland doesn’t produce enough triiodothyronine (T3) or thyroxine (T4), so everything slows down. This leads to symptoms like:

  • Cold intolerance
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Forgetfulness
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Fertility problems
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Brittle nails
  • Muscle cramps
  • Low libido
  • Puffiness in the hands and face
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Weight gain

Susan? She dealt with at least half of those symptoms on a daily basis.

No wonder she came into my office feeling tired, frustrated, and betrayed by her own body.

Hypothyroidism is most prevalent in women.

Women are five to eight times more likely to be diagnosed with hypothyroid than men, possibly because oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, and the hormonal shifts that take place during and after pregnancy as well as during perimenopause can all boost risk.

Hypothyroidism affects:

  • 2 percent of adult women
  • 2.5 percent of pregnant women
  • 5 to 9 percent of postpartum women

Hypothyroidism is also underdiagnosed.

Up to 60 percent of people with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition, according to the American Thyroid Association.1, 2

That likely stems from a number of issues, including:

  • The medical community doesn’t agree on what constitutes a truly “low” functioning thyroid or how and when to prescribe medicine.
  • Blood tests for hypothyroid occasionally deliver false negatives.

As for Susan, her blood work put her in a medical gray area. Her thyroid wasn’t making enough T3 and T4 hormones. That was clear.

What wasn’t clear to her doctor: whether her thyroid was slow enough to necessitate medication. He thought the risks of the medicine outweighed the potential benefit.

Susan, of course, felt differently.

Do some people think they have a slow thyroid, but really just… don’t?

Yes. And I usually see this when someone has struggled to lose weight and has hit a stubborn plateau.

I often encourage people to see their doctor and get some blood work done. Because that way, they can find out for sure.

Other than that, however, the process of coaching someone who wrongly thinks they have a slow thyroid is basically the same as coaching someone who really does have one.

In both situations, you want to help the client shift the sphere of control away from the disease and toward what they can personally do: Eat more whole foods, move their bodies, rest and de-stress, and get enough sleep.

There are no toxic side effects to a healthier diet and better self-care. So we’re going to win either way, whether they ultimately have a thyroid condition or not.

Hypothyroidism can lead to a number of serious health problems.

In addition to fatigue and weight gain, a sluggish thyroid can raise risk for:

  • Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol
  • Heart problems
  • Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage, usually in the legs)
  • Infertility
  • Frequent miscarriages
  • Birth defects

This is why people with hypothyroidism benefit from nutrition and lifestyle changes, even if those changes don’t ultimately lead to significant weight loss.

It’s common for people with hypothyroidism to blame their doctors.

After being dismissed by her doctor, Susan was angry, and she wanted to spend a lot of our 60-minute coaching session complaining about her primary care physician.

This, however, wasn’t a good use of her time.

First, regardless of how she felt about her doctor, I knew Susan would greatly benefit from client-centered collaborative care.

When doctors, registered dietitians, nutrition coaches, personal trainers, and other healthcare providers all work together to support a client, the client wins.

Just as important: When people get caught up in placing blame, they tend to resist change.

Susan wanted her doctor to hear her—really hear her—when she talked about her overwhelming fatigue. And rather than scare her with a lecture about diabetes, she wanted him to give her a real solution, specifically a prescription.

But, right now, she couldn’t control any of that.

Instead, I wanted to focus Susan on what she could control:

  • Her self-talk
  • How she respected, cared for, and loved her body
  • What she ate
  • How she slept
  • What she did to de-stress
  • How much she exercised
  • What she did to support her efforts, such as bringing in a nutrition coach and personal trainer to help her achieve her goals

I showed her the “Spheres of Control” diagram below.

“Let’s consider what’s within your sphere of control,” I told her. “Because you’re much more likely to get support from your medical team if you show that you are helping yourself.”

Something clicked. The anger on Susan’s face began to soften. Her shoulders relaxed, and a curious look came over her face.

“Okay, I guess that makes sense. But what would that look like?”

From there, we worked together to list specific changes that fell into the “total control” and “some control” categories. More on those soon.

Weight loss with hypothyroidism can be a lot harder—and it makes some people want to give up altogether.

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) includes the calories your body burns to keep you alive: powering your heart beat, growing and repairing cells, adjusting hormones, and breathing.

It accounts for somewhere between 50 to 80 percent of all the calories a person burns. (The rest comes from exercise, digestion, and minor fidgeting movements, called non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT).

Just how much a sluggish thyroid slows BMR will vary from person to person.

  • Someone with no thyroid at all—due to surgical thyroid removal, for example—may experience up to a 40 percent drop in BMR.
  • Someone with a functioning thyroid may experience a milder slowdown, in the neighborhood of 6 percent.3-5

For some people, this drop doesn’t make much of a difference, especially if they’re taking thyroid medication. They don’t struggle with their weight anymore than someone without thyroid problems.

But for many others, untreated thyroid issues can reduce the number of calories their bodies burn in a typical day by more than 300 calories. That makes successful weight loss a lot harder.

Someone without thyroid issues might drop a pound or two a week, whereas someone with low thyroid might lose only a fraction of a pound—or not even see the scale move for a week or two.

That’s pretty discouraging, which is why I tend to hear a couple phrases a lot: “Why bother?” and  “I don’t even know why I’m trying. It’s hopeless.”

Because of this discouragement, I generally focus on someone’s mindset long before I suggest nutritional or lifestyle changes.

Here’s my step-by-step process.

Step 1: Address mindset.

Despite what many people believe, a number on the scale just isn’t enough to motivate someone long term. The scale’s readout is also super hard to control.

End result: many people rely on brute force, also known as “willpower.” They think, ‘If I just tried harder, I’d be able to get the scale to move.’

So they tackle a new diet—keto, vegetarian, 100 percent whole food—and they may do okay for a while, but inevitably fail.

Why? Because successful weight loss starts in the mind.

To help get this idea across, I showed Susan “The Iceberg of Success.”

An illustration of the iceberg of success. Mindset, environment, habits are below the water and knowledge and willpower are above the water.

As the iceberg shows, mindset creates a foundation for everything else.

Once someone works on shaping their mindset, it’s much easier to shape their environment: the foods they stock in their kitchen or at work, who they lean on for support, and what they allow themselves to look at online.

For example, continually seeing success photos of a certain friend in a bikini? It’s usually pretty demotivating for someone with a low thyroid.

And once they reshape their environment, it’s a lot easier to change habits: what they eat, how much they exercise, and what time they go to bed.

By tackling change in that order, willpower becomes a lot less important.

In fact, some people can be successful without using much of it at all. That’s why, in the Iceberg of Success, you see willpower at the top—above the level of the ocean.

Once I showed Susan the iceberg, she got it, immediately.

Then, to help her shift her mindset, I used four exercises.

Exercise #1: The destination postcard

Precision Nutrition coaches ask their clients to envision their future. What will their body look like? How will they feel? What will they be able to do?

Then PN clients write a postcard from their future self to their current self. The postcards inspire them throughout their journeys and remind them of their eventual destinations.

I asked Susan, “So let’s start with your destination. Where do you want to go?” I wanted her to envision her life after she reached her goal.

“I want to weigh less than 200 pounds,” she told me.

While Susan was clear about where she wanted to go, I knew the number on the scale was somewhat arbitrary, very much outside of her control, and not likely to motivate her over the long term.

I wanted to shift her mindset to a goal that was intrinsically motivating and also more achievable.

“Okay, but what do you want your life to be like? How do you want to feel?”

She was stumped.

“I don’t see what the point of that is,” she told me. “If I don’t lose weight, my doctor says I’m going to get diabetes. I just need to weigh less than 200. It’s that simple.”

The exercise was a good start, but it was clear that Susan needed more to shift her mindset, so I changed direction.

Exercise #2: Imagine your aura

Yes, this technique is more than a little woo woo.

But bear with me: I wouldn’t tell you about it if I hadn’t seen it work wonders.

I asked Susan to close her eyes.

“I want you to picture a glowing ball that represents someone’s inner spirit. What would that glowing ball look like if someone exercised regularly with joyful movement, ate healthy foods because they tasted good, felt energetic, slept well, and rested when their body needed it? Describe to me what you see in that glowing ball.”

“Sparkly yellow,” she said.

“Okay, now I want you to picture someone who beats herself up with exercise—who doesn’t even take a day off when she’s sick. She starves herself and then binges on a cheat day. She never relaxes or spends time in nature, and she will do whatever it takes to fit into a size 4. What color is that person’s inner spirit?”

“Oh awful. The color of sludgy green sewage,” she said.

“Now, we all come in different sized packages. But regardless of the size or shape of the body that holds this spirit, which of those two spirits do you want to feed?”

“Duh, the yellow one,” she said.

“Which one are you currently feeding?” I asked.

She was silent. I could tell she understood it in an abstract way. But I wanted to make it more tangible. So we moved on to a third mindset exercise.

Exercise #3: Imagine self-care

I wanted Susan to tackle habit change from a place of self-respect, self-care, and self-love. 

So I asked, “What would it look like if you respected your body? Talk to me about that. What does respect mean to you?”

“I guess,” she said, “if I respected my body, I wouldn’t try on clothes that are too small every week and then stare at myself in the mirror so I can see my love handles hanging over the top of my jeans. And I’d probably stop weighing my body every day and calling it names based on whatever the scale told me.”

“Great. Okay, now talk to me about what body respect looks like.”

“Well, I’d probably eat better food because it would make me feel better. And I’d probably go to the gym more because it feels good to move my body. But I wouldn’t put pressure on myself. I’d just make it a habit to go regularly. And maybe sometimes I wouldn’t even go. Like, for me, body respect is ‘I don’t want to go to the gym. I want to ride my bike with my son.’”

And then I asked her the same question, but about self-care. She mentioned, among other things, that, if she was caring for her body, she probably wouldn’t raid the vending machine in the afternoon when she was tired.

Then I asked her about self-love.

“If I loved my body, I wouldn’t hate it for the size that it is.”

That was a beautiful and powerful moment.

“Whatever package you come in, you’re going to feel amazing as a human being if you treat your body with love and respect and care and consideration,” I told her.

Exercise #4: If this happens, then I’ll….

Susan was like so many people with messy lives.

She had messy problems.

And those problems kept getting in her way. She’d try to change. She’d do okay for a while. Then her life would… get messy. She’d pause everything. Then weeks later, she’d try again.

For example, Susan wanted to be a person who packed a healthy lunch every day. But she was a single mother with a full-time job and a small child. Her life was busy. Especially on the weekends.

So sometimes she didn’t get to the grocery store.

Which meant that, on Mondays, she often couldn’t pack a lunch because she had nothing to pack. Instead she’d grab fast food. Then she’d forget about packing her lunch—for the rest of the week.

Another messy problem: Frequently, as Susan tried to get to her favorite exercise class, her toddler would melt down—kicking, screaming, hugging her legs, and throwing himself between her and the door.

She’d miss her class—and then she wouldn’t exercise for a while.

More willpower wasn’t going to get her past this.

Instead, we looked at the roadblocks that she kept stumbling over again and again and we brainstormed alternative options for getting around them. We did this by finishing this phrase: If ________________, then ______________.

Here are two examples.

If I don’t pack my lunch then….

… during my lunch break, I’ll run to a grocery store where I can buy chicken with salad.

If I can’t get to my exercise class then….

… I’ll do one of the 25- or 30-minute circuits my trainer created for me to do at home.

By strategizing ahead of time, Susan was able to solve problems as they came up, allowing her to eat healthy foods and exercise more consistently.

Step 2: Build a foundation.

Fundamental skills provide the largest ROI.

Many people with hypothyroidism want to start with fairly intense and specific dietary changes that they’ve read about on the internet.

These often include elimination diets to rule out food intolerances as well as elaborate supplementation protocols to patch deficiencies.

And though such strategies can be helpful eventually, most people can benefit a lot more from a number of simpler and more basic strategies.

These include:

  • Eat more minimally-processed whole foods and fewer highly-processed refined foods. This one strategy can help fix most nutritional deficiencies.
  • Consume more protein, trying to have a palm’s worth at every meal to reduce hunger and increase satisfaction.
  • Prioritize colorful fruits and vegetables, having a serving at every meal, to reduce the inflammation that can signal your immune system to attack your thyroid.
  • Shift away from highly-refined carbohydrate foods to slower-digesting smart carbs like beans, legumes, fruit, tubers, and whole grains. This will help to stabilize blood sugar.
  • Prioritize healthy fats—such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, fatty fish—over other fat sources to help keep inflammation in check.
  • Get regular physical activity. Find your sweet spot between pushing yourself—and enjoying it—versus overdoing it and hating it.
  • Rest and recover, finding enjoyable ways to reduce stress and relax. Examples: You might enjoy spending time in nature, playing with a pet, getting a massage, or taking a leisurely stroll with a family member.
  • Make time for sleep. Create a sleep routine that allows you to drift off quickly, sleep deeply for at least 7 hours, and wake feeling refreshed.
  • Build an environment that makes healthy choices easy, for example, by keeping easy-to-grab nutritious foods on hand, such as sliced carrots, apples, and trail mix.
  • Tune into your internal sense of hunger and fullness by eating slowly and mindfully, recognizing your sense of hunger and fullness, and stopping when you are 80 percent full, or just satisfied.

If the above sounds like the foundational skills from the Precision Nutrition Level 1 coaching program, it’s because they are.

And, sure, these practices might seem like a big “duh.” Maybe you’re even thinking, “Come on. Tell me something… transformative.”

Here’s the thing: These very simple practices are transformative. Yes, they’re straightforward. But straightforward isn’t the same as easy.

Consider this: How many people do you know who could get a perfect score in 8 out of 10 of the bulleted categories above?

Helping someone master the fundamentals also takes time, creativity, lots of listening, and even more patience.

But the payoff? It’s huge.

These strategies alone can help people lose a significant amount of weight, regain energy, and feel amazing.

They also create the foundation that allows someone to move onto step 3 (coming up next) successfully.

Susan, for example, spent 2½ years building and sharpening these foundational skills until she’d mastered them, consistently using them 80 percent of the time. And they paid off, helping her to lose the first 20 pounds in 14 months. That’s a significant amount of weight—roughly 10 percent of her starting body weight.

She still had a long way to go, however, to reach her goal, which brings us to step 3.

Is there such a thing as a perfect hypothyroidism diet?

Not really. The same types of changes that help everyone get healthier—for example, more whole foods, more protein—tend to also help people with hypothyroidism improve their overall health, too.

That said, there are three specific diets that people with hypothyroidism may want to explore.

The autoimmune diet: A modified Paleo diet, the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (or AIP for short) eliminates inflammatory foods and potential allergens: eggs, grains, legumes, dairy, nuts, seeds, nightshades, sugar and sweeteners, alcohol, and several food additives. Emerging research suggests that following an AIP dietary approach may alleviate symptoms in people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid.6

The anti-inflammatory diet: Because inflammation can worsen the autoimmune response in people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an eating pattern that showcases anti-inflammatory foods can be helpful.

The elimination diet: By cutting out certain foods and then slowly reintroducing them, you can quickly get a handle on food sensitivities and intolerances.

Step 3: Target any specific nutrition issues that come up.

Occasionally, an underlying issue stands between someone and continued weight loss. I’ve explored three common ones below.

To determine whether clients have any of these problems, ask them to write down everything they eat for seven days, along with other lifestyle factors:

  • how and when they move their bodies
  • their stress level
  • how they sleep

See “What to Look for in a Food and Lifestyle Diary” (coming up below) to learn how to examine a seven-day food log for clues.

Hidden deficiencies

Several deficiencies can contribute to hypothyroidism. These include:

Iodine: The thyroid gland can’t make enough thyroid hormone if it doesn’t get enough iodine. Thanks to iodized salt, very few people have iodine deficiency, but I do occasionally see it in clients who eat very clean. They usually opt for sea salt, which doesn’t contain as much iodine as iodine-fortified table salt, and eat very little if any processed food, which tends to be a rich source of iodine-containing salt.

Iron: In addition to helping the body make red blood cells, iron is essential in the production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Up to 43 percent of people with hypothyroidism also have iron-deficiency anemia.7, 8

Selenium: This mineral helps the thyroid use iodine to create the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Though deficiency is rare, some people are at a higher risk, including people who’ve had gastric bypass surgery or who have Crohn’s disease or kidney problems.

Zinc: Zinc is found primarily in seafood, which explains why deficiency tends to show up in people who are strict vegans or vegetarians.

Copper: Usually we consume all the copper we need from our drinking water, but someone can end up deficient if they supplement with zinc, for example, by taking a lot of zinc-containing cold medicine. Zinc binds to the same cell receptor sites as copper, so too much zinc can crowd out copper, preventing it from getting where it needs to go.

Tyrosine: This amino acid found in dairy products, meats, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, oats, and wheat, is involved in the creation of thyroid hormones.

No matter which deficiency a person has, I try to help them close the gap by eating whole foods, which are less likely than supplements to create a secondary deficiency.

Goitrogens

Certain foods contain substances called goitrogens that stop the thyroid from absorbing the iodine that it needs to work properly.

These foods include cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and bok choy, as well as peanuts, turnips, grapeseed, cassava, and soy.

It’s important to note that people with hypothyroidism don’t need to avoid goitrogenic foods. They’re not a problem for everyone.

And when they are a problem, the fix is pretty simple. All they need to do is cook these foods, as heating and cooking deactivates most of the goitrogens.

Food intolerances

When Susan hit a plateau at 240 pounds, I suspected a food intolerance, especially because she was consuming a lot of gluten-rich foods as well as complaining about bloating and brain fog.

“Would you be willing to try an experiment?” I asked her. “It seems your body is trying to communicate with you. It’s trying to tell you that gluten doesn’t work.”

She agreed.

And within 8 weeks she was down another 10 pounds.

What to look for in a food and lifestyle diary

To find deficiencies, interolances, and other issues, I ask clients to keep a 7-day food and lifestyle log. Each day they jot down:

  • What they ate
  • A stress rating, using a 1 to 10 scale
  • The number of hours they slept
  • How much and when they exercised

As you and your client look over the log together, consider whether they are:

  • Eating enough high-quality minimally processed whole foods such as fruits and veggies, lean protein, healthy fats, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Managing stress effectively.
  • Finding that exercise sweet spot between pushing themselves just enough—or overdoing it.

And are they doing all of these things consistently, at least 80 percent of the time?

Not everyone gets to their goal—and that’s really okay.

At some point along their journey, most people hit a huge brick wall.

Too often, when this happens, they keep trying to move forward, thinking, “I need more willpower. I just need to try harder.”

Usually, more willpower isn’t what they need, though. Instead, they need to find a path around the wall.

For some people, that alternate route might be hand portions. Or intermittent fasting. Or more exercise. Or more rest and relaxation. Or maybe it’s just finding ways to be consistent with what they are already doing.

For Susan, it was realizing that her original destination wasn’t where she wanted or needed to go.

After hitting 230 pounds, Susan got a bit obsessive for a while. She restricted calories, eating the tiniest of portions. And she punished herself at the gym, never allowing herself a day off.

To a degree, it worked. She got super close to her original goal, with the scale hitting a plateau around 206 pounds.

But she was miserable. Not with the size of her body, but with what it took to maintain that size.

I worked with Susan to find her “best weight,” a term borrowed from Yoni Freedoff, MD, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa and author of The Diet Fix.

Your best weight is whatever weight you reach while you’re living the healthiest life that you actually enjoy.

As it turned out, Susan’s best weight was around 220 pounds. Yes, that was 20 pounds more than her initial goal, but it was also considerably less than where she started.

Is she living in a bigger body? Absolutely. But she’s also incredibly healthy, with normal blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar.

And she’s wicked strong.

It was when Susan nailed a new PR during CrossFit’s Grace workout that she knew, for sure, she’d reached her destination. That day she did 30 clean and jerks in record time, beating everyone else at the gym.

Afterward, Susan walked over to her son, who was playing nearby. She looked down to see a picture he’d just drawn. It was of Susan, holding a giant weight over her head.

That picture is now on her fridge, to remind her of her deepest why: to be a healthy role model for her son.

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 the real nutrition, lifestyle, and mindset obstacles that are standing in their way—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, April 8th, 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. Canaris GJ, Tape TG, Wigton RS. Thyroid disease awareness is associated with high rates of identifying subjects with previously undiagnosed thyroid dysfunction. BMC Public Health. 2013 Apr 16;13:351.
  2. Re: Bad medicine: thyroid disease. 2020 Mar 5 [cited 2020 Mar 5]; Available from: https://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e7596/rr/619446
  3. Welcker J, Chastel O, Gabrielsen GW, Guillaumin J, Kitaysky AS, Speakman JR, et al. Thyroid hormones correlate with basal metabolic rate but not field metabolic rate in a wild bird species. PLoS One. 2013 Feb 20;8(2):e56229.
  4. Mullur R, Liu Y-Y, Brent GA. Thyroid hormone regulation of metabolism. Physiol Rev. 2014 Apr;94(2):355–82.
  5. Yavuz S, Salgado Nunez Del Prado S, Celi FS. Thyroid Hormone Action and Energy Expenditure. J Endocr Soc. 2019 Jul 1;3(7):1345–56.
  6. Abbott RD, Sadowski A, Alt AG. Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet as Part of a Multi-disciplinary, Supported Lifestyle Intervention for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Cureus. 2019 Apr 27;11(4):e4556.
  7. Soliman AT, De Sanctis V, Yassin M, Wagdy M, Soliman N. Chronic anemia and thyroid function. Acta Biomed. 2017 Apr 28;88(1):119–27.
  8. Erdogan M, Kösenli A, Ganidagli S, Kulaksizoglu M. Characteristics of anemia in subclinical and overt hypothyroid patients. Endocr J. 2012;59(3):213–20.

The post Level 1: Low thyroid diet strategies that actually work appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

How can you know if you’re making progress toward a body transformation goal? For starters, spend less time on the scale. Instead, focus on these 7 superior progress indicators. (And, while you’re at it, be sure to download the 4 progress tracking sheets we’ve included below).

++++

“This is the first time I’ve felt full in 5 years.”

I’d been working with my nutrition client, Mary, for all of 24 hours when she sent me that sentence in a text message.

At our first consult, she handed me her food journal. It was full of low-fat, low-calorie, pre-portioned, packaged meals—heavy on carbs and chemicals, light on real food and flavor. Recently, Mary had been supplementing with more prepackaged snacks—and getting nowhere.

We agreed on the following plan: Three times next week, she’d eat a fresh salad topped with chicken, avocado, and olive oil. Protein. Fat. Real food.

The very next day I got the report: “This is the first time I’ve felt full in 5 years.”

Bam.

This was major progress, even though Mary had yet to lose a single pound.

As most experienced coaches know: The bathroom scale rarely marks the milestones along your path to a fitter, healthier body.

Our bodies are complex. They change in many ways—ways that are often intangible or subtle. We feel and function differently, though we can’t always say exactly how.

Long before we lose any weight, small signs of progress sprout and flower.

Like the first yellow crocus poking through the snow, those early signs of progress are motivation gold. They make us feel like we can persist through the last days of winter—through the toughest times of changing our habits, or learning new skills, when it seems like the ice will never melt and our muscles will never grow.

Being a skilled nutrition coach is like being a skilled nature guide. Being a client trying to change your body is like being an explorer in a new territory.

Together, coach and client are seeking the first signs of spring thaw, trying not to be fooled by the feeling that nothing is happening because you can’t see the ice melting yet.

Here’s what over 100,000 clients have taught us.

To achieve your body transformation goals, you must know what small sprouts of progress look like.

You must know…

…how to track them for yourself, if you’re trying to change.

…how to point them out to your clients, if you’re a coach.

And, most importantly…

…how to celebrate them together.

In today’s article, we’ll share 7 ways to know if a nutrition plan is working, most of which are better indicators than your weight.

We’ll also share four downloadable, printable progress trackers from a brand-new packet of assessment forms we use to help Precision Nutrition Coaching clients stay focused on what really matters.

7 ways to know if your nutrition plan is working:

1. You feel satisfied after meals

Does it ever feel like you’re hungry all the time? Like, you know you need to “get control”, but you can’t seem to “find the willpower” to close the bag of candy or stop picking off your kids’ dinner plates?

As we digest our food, the gut sends signals to the brain about how much energy we’ve consumed to trigger satiation (the feeling of fullness) so we know when we’ve had enough.

Unfortunately, it turns out that all it takes to override thousands of years of relationship building between gut and brain is a humble bag of Cheetos.

Processed food, with its extreme energy density and intense salty / sweet / fatty / crunchy / creamy tastes, tells our brain that we’ve hit the calorie jackpot: Eat until it’s gone! Stock up! You’ll have enough energy and nutrients to last for weeks!

Of course, for most people, the junk food never runs out, so you’re left eating and eating and eating with zero satiation (and almost zero actual nutrition).

What progress looks like:

With your new nutrition plan, you’re eating slowly. Choosing fresh foods. Leaving less room in your diet for processed foods that rev the appetite and never seem to fill you up.

Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, beans, and legumes are taking up new space in your body, nourishing you, helping you feel satisfied. They signal to your gut and brain that It’s OK. We are OK. We are safe and comfortable and fed. We can stop now.

Imagine, for the first time, feeling “full”. Not stuffed. Just satisfied. Feeling like you’ve had enough.

Your gut and brain are calm. No panic. No restless pacing to the pantry. You’re just… done. Without any worry.

Yep, this is all possible. In fact, this is what you’ll start to experience once your nutrition (and exercise) plan is on track. It’s an early sign of progress you can sense into even before you lose any weight.

(Quick note: If you’re a smaller — and younger — guy trying to put on muscle, this may not apply to you. Being hungry all the time may be a good thing. Keep eating and lifting heavy!)

Want help tuning into your appetite and hunger cues? Check out our downloadable tracking sheets at the end of this article.

2. You have more energy

Maybe you can’t remember a time when you didn’t feel exhausted. Your alarm is your enemy. You don’t hit snooze; you literally punch the clock to make it shut up.

Mid-afternoon, you need a caffeine and sugar hit to keep your eyelids propped open, and by 8pm you’re crashing in your La-Z-Boy chair in front of the TV. Your brain feels like mush and your body like molasses.

Maybe your brain and body are getting too much processed food and too much sugar; maybe you’re borrowing energy from the future with stimulants.

Maybe you’re not getting enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Even small deficiencies in certain nutrients—which are much more common than you think—can drain your energy and fog up your focus.

What progress looks like:

One day, you wake up one minute before your alarm. Your eyes are actually open. You even feel… kind of… happy?

You don’t need seven shots of espresso throughout the day just to cope with your work inbox. You pay attention, even during the 3pm accounting meeting.

When you take your kids to the playground after dinner, you find yourself clambering up the climbing wall and slithering down the slide along with them. Back at home, your La-Z-Boy feels lonely and your TV abandoned.

A good nutrition plan gives you energy—constant, steady, all-day energy rather than a brief buzz and a crash. If you get it right, you’ll start experiencing this over time. Sometimes even before the scale needle starts to move.

How vitamins and minerals influence your energy levels.

The feeling of having more energy can come from the nutrients in fresh, whole foods, which we need for our bodies and brains to work properly. Try to get these nutrients through your diet, instead of supplementing.

  • Vitamin B1 & B2: We need thiamine (B1) to convert carbohydrates into energy (ATP). Riboflavin (B2) helps release energy in the Krebs cycle (the process by which our bodies generate energy).
  • Vitamin B6: We need vitamin B6’s active form pyridoxine-5′-phosphate (PLP) to make the amino acids L- tryptophan and L-dopa into the feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, both of which are important for cognitive function and focus. Vitamin B6 is also important for our cells’ mitochondria (power plant), helping to regulate the enzymes we use to draw energy from food.
  • Vitamin B12: We need vitamin B12 to protect and preserve the myelin sheath, which covers neurons and helps conduct the electrical signals sent around the body. B12 helps make neurotransmitters and metabolize fats and carbohydrate, your main energy sources.
  • Vitamin C: We need vitamin C to make carnitine, which transports long-chain fatty acids to the mitochondria to be used for energy. Vitamin C also helps us produce catecholamines, a group of hormones and neurotransmitters (such as adrenaline [epinephrine] and dopamine) that are usually stimulants.
  • Magnesium: We need magnesium for metabolic reactions, especially those that convert food into energy. Having more magnesium seems to improve cognitive abilities, while not enough seems to make cognition worse. Without enough magnesium in our cells, insulin doesn’t work as well, which makes it hard for us to use glucose. Many enzymes that help us convert food into energy need magnesium.
  • Calcium: Calcium helps to turn fatty acids into energy; it helps to modulate ATP production (aka our bodies’ fuel). As with magnesium, without enough calcium, our insulin may not work properly. Insulin is one of the main hormones of blood sugar regulation, which affects our energy levels.
  • Zinc: Zinc is a trace mineral, so we don’t need a lot, but we definitely need some. Zinc contributes to at least 100 enzymes in our body, many of which have to do with energy metabolism. When zinc is low, we don’t secrete as much insulin (which then causes problems with glucose metabolism); nor do we metabolize lipids (fats) nor protein well. If we don’t get enough zinc, we don’t get proper energy from food nor build proteins / muscle.
  • Water: Our brains depend on electrolytes—dissolved ions of minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium—to work properly. We need to carefully balance our electrolytes and fluid to send chemical and electrical signals in the brain (aka neurotransmission). If we get enough water, we maintain that balance. If we’re dehydrated, our brain (and our thinking) suffers.

Want help tuning into your energy levels? Check out our downloadable tracking sheets at the end of this article.

3. You’re sleeping better

You know those nights when you just can’t seem to fall asleep? Or when you toss and turn in a weird, hallucinogenic, sleeping-but-not-sleeping state?

Sometimes, Precision Nutrition Coaching clients don’t even know how tired and sleep-deprived they are, because five hours of fitful flailing is their normal.

There can be many reasons for poor sleep: stress, aging, hormonal changes, being a new parent, getting too much light late at night, jet lag, and so on.

Nutrition and exercise can play a role. For instance, if you diet too stringently, over-train (or under-recover), amp yourself up with tough workouts, or over-eat heavy meals late at night, you may not sleep well.

You may drink too much alcohol and caffeine. You may not get enough protein (to make the right neurotransmitters), nor enough vitamins and minerals (ditto).

You may also have disrupted hormones (such as cortisol, growth hormone, thyroid hormone, and sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone) from stress and poor eating habits, all of which are important for good and restful sleep.

What progress looks like:

Now, with your nutrition plan, you’re getting enough good stuff to make the brain chemicals you need.

You’ve switched to half-glasses of wine with dinner, and—thanks to your newfound energy—laid off the afternoon espresso. Speaking of dinner, it’s a smaller portion that doesn’t leave you breathing in little huffs and give you nightmares about being chased by cheese.

In short, your body is no longer in an always-on-battle-stations-go state of chemical panic.

All of a sudden, you seem to wind down an hour before bedtime without a problem. You follow your sleep ritual and conk out easier than ever.

Remember: If you want to change your body and improve your health, sleeping well consistently is crucial. And hey, it just feels good too.

How does nutrition help encourage better sleep?

  • Fresh, whole foods contain more fiber, protein, and healthy fats, which require more time and effort to digest than the refined carbohydrates that make up the majority of processed food. This keeps you satisfied longer, stabilizing your blood sugar and various hormones needed for good sleep.
  • Tryptophan, an amino acid in high-quality protein sources, is a precursor to serotonin, which gets converted into melatonin to encourage sleep.
  • Balancing your energy intake alone can lead to better rest if it helps you lose excess body fat. (Excess body fat can make sleep uncomfortable because of heartburn, lack of mobility, sleep apnea, and other obesity-related problems.)

To find out how your nutrition plan is affecting your sleep quality, check out our downloadable tracking sheets below. 

4. Your clothes feel just a little looser (or tighter)

Today’s the day. You reach into your closet, into the back, for that piece of clothing. You know, the one that almost never fits unless you’re massively dehydrated, wrapped in Saran Wrap, and holding your breath simultaneously.

Wow. It fits. Not just suck-it-in-and-suffer fits. But, like, really fits. It feels good. It looks good. No pulling fabric, no weird wrinkles, no strangling collars, no bulges of buttons or belts or bra straps.

Or maybe you’ve pulled out some other piece of clothing. The one that normally drapes over you like an oversized beach towel over a coat hanger. The T-shirt you can’t seem to fill out, the armholes with room to spare and a flapping curtain where you feel like billowing pecs should be.

Wow again. It doesn’t fit. And that’s great. Because your chest and arms and shoulders and back are now too muscular for it. The shirt is still flapping loose in one area, though: your newly whittled waist.

What progress looks like:

Muscle and bone are denser than body fat. When we build this lean mass, we often get heavier but smaller (at least in certain areas).

If you’re male, you may find your shoulders broadening, chest filling out, back wings fluttering, and a new case of “hockey ass” from muscular glutes… but your waist shrinking.

If you’re female, you may find that your scale weight goes up but your clothing size goes down (and you ace your bone density scan!).

This is why, in addition to tuning into how their clothes fit, we suggest clients use a tape measure to track the circumference of various body parts. To do so, download the Body Measurement Forms at the end of this article.

How does lean mass compare to fat?

Muscle cells are tightly packed with myofibrils. When these contract with enough intensity, the body adapts by generating more myofibrils and sarcomeres (assuming proper training and nutrition), increasing the density (and strength) of the muscle.

Even denser, bone is composed of complex combinations of calcium and phosphorus, heavy minerals that provide strength, flexibility, and support for all the stress we put on them. Bones also contain a significant amount of protein (mostly collagen-type proteins).

Adipose (fat) tissue, on the other hand, is loosely composed of adipocytes, cells that contain light, fluffy lipid molecules (mainly triglycerides). Unlike bone and muscle mass, fat tissue provides unlimited storage all over the body, so it will continue to grow when we over-eat.

This means: Muscle and bone are 18 and 33 percent heavier than fat by volume. It also means that your exercise and nutrition plan can help you look (and function) better without leading to weight loss.

5. You’re in a better mood

Have people secretly nicknamed you Stabby, Grumpy, Angsty, Miserable Cuss, or Party Pooper? Does it physically hurt you to smile?

The phenomenon of “hangry” is so well known that candy bar commercials joke about it, noting that “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry.”

You may also not be your best self when you’re deprived of the nutrients your brain needs to keep you sailing on an even emotional keel, without crashing into the rocks.

What progress looks like:

Improving our mental and emotional outlook with good nutrition can show up in surprising ways. Here are some of the things Precision Nutrition Coaching clients have discovered after consistently improving their nutrition habits.

“I feel…

  • “More confident.”
  • “Like change is possible.”
  • “Better about my choices.”
  • “More knowledgeable.”
  • “Clearer about my goals, and the path to get to them.”
  • “Like I walk tall now.”
  • “Mentally more ‘on’, clearer-headed and less ‘fuzzy’.”
  • “Happier and more positive.”
  • “More open to trying new things.”
  • “Motivated!”

In part, these changes come from the experience of changing habits. When we try something, and succeed, we get a little jolt of inspiration that encourages us to keep going.

These changes also come from the nutrition itself: Our brains and bodies have the nutrients and chemical tools they need to do their jobs—to regulate our emotions, to make our “happy neurotransmitters”, and to send those cheery and calming signals where they should go.

How food influences your mood.

The connection between our food, neurotransmitters, and blood sugar regulation means that how we feel depends a lot on what we eat.

  • Eating too much sugar may make you depressed. One large study on subjects from six different countries found that eating a lot of sugar and feeling depressed were closely related. This may be from chronically elevated insulin—the body’s continuous attempt to clear the constant onslaught of sugar from the bloodstream may cause mood crashes.
  • Having enough omega-3 fatty acids seems to put us in better moods. Include more nuts, fish, and seafood (like salmon, sardines, mackerel, crab and oysters) in your diet to get these happy healthy fats. (Bonus! Oysters are a great source of zinc too.)
  • Consuming too much vegetable oil, hydrogenated fats and trans fats may worsen our moods. These omega-6 fats make it hard for our body’s to process omega-3 fatty acids. Low levels of omega-3s are linked to symptoms of depression, being crabbier, and even being more impulsive. (Which can mean poor food choices—a vicious cycle.) Omega-6s may also increase inflammation, which can affect our brains. Many neurodegenerative disorders and mental health issues are linked to brain inflammation.
  • Eating lean proteins including chicken, turkey, and fish increases your consumption of tryptophan. Tryptophan is a building block of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel relaxed and happy.

To tune into how nutrition influences your mood, check out our downloadable tracking sheets at the end of this article.

6. You’re stronger and have more endurance

Around the time you first start your nutrition overhaul, workouts might feel like a slog. Maybe you feel weak, uncoordinated and slow. Maybe you pick your dumbbells off the small end of the rack. And boy are you sore afterwards.

And then, gradually, you’re less sore. More of an “umph” getting out of bed than an “AAAAAUUUUGHHHH!!!!” You’re more zesty. Perhaps another set! you think, jauntily, suddenly full of beans. You eye the next dumbbell up.

What progress looks like:

  • Your muscles aren’t as sore. Intense exercise and new movements create microdamage—tiny tears in muscle fibers—that we must rebuild. This process of repair is good—it’s what helps us get stronger, fitter, and more muscular—but in the early stages, it hurts. Inflammation goes up; you might get stiffness and swelling from fluid rushing in to help heal the damage. As you progress, and give your body lots of nutrients to rebuild, this inflammation decreases and the repair process speeds up.
  • You can do more work overall. Whether it’s running, swimming, or cycling longer distances; lifting more weight for a longer workout; scrambling up a higher and tougher wall; or playing an extra round of tennis or golf; you’re simply able to do more stuff, more often. Good nutrition has improved your recovery and energy levels.
  • You’re fresher and recover better. Again, you’re giving your body the stuff it needs to do its job of making you stronger, faster, better, and fitter. Your cells are sucking in oxygen, dumping waste products, making more enzymes, and overall high-fiving each other.

To track your performance, check out our downloadable tracking sheets at the end of this article.

7. It feels more like a lifestyle than a “diet”

“Diets” are a chore. They’re another to-do that you superimpose over your busy life, and another boring, strict, overly complicated task you can’t wait to quit.

When we do quit—because of course we do, it’s temporary, right?—we’re back where we started. Back “off the diet”. Back to processed foods, never-ending hunger, frustration, and weight gain.

What progress looks like:

Progress here happens when you’re just… living. You’re in a nice, natural, normal-day rhythm that doesn’t feel like being “on” or “off” anything.

Eating well stops being A Thing and just starts being your daily life.

  • You naturally gravitate toward whole foods. You pick the salmon over the hot dog without even thinking about it. You think, “A fresh salad would be nice”, and you really mean it.
  • You have a plan. Prepping meals in advance and keeping healthy backup options on hand is a regular part of your weekly routine now. You look for challenges and develop strategies for staying on track.
  • You don’t “mess up” anymore. Let me be clear: You still eat the birthday cake and the Christmas cookies and maybe go ahead and snarf the tub of popcorn at the movie theater. You don’t consider this “bad” or “guilt-inducing” any more. They’re just an occasional part of enjoying life. You savor them and then go back to eating mostly fresh, whole foods like you always do. No biggie.

Yep, this is also possible. It’s a natural and normal consequence of eating and exercising in a sensible and sane way. And it’s a sign of progress, regardless of what the scale is doing.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

If you’re tired of being a slave to the scale, here are some ways to start breaking free.

1. Add, don’t subtract.

If you’re in a “diet mentality”, each day feels like a new battle to avoid the “bad foods”. So let’s flip that. Add, don’t subtract.

  • Don’t “avoid” your “junk food”.
  • Don’t “avoid” your prepackaged meals.
  • Don’t “avoid” dessert.

Just add so much healthy stuff—water, lean protein, fresh fruit and vegetables—that there’s less room or desire left over for food that doesn’t support your goals.

And at first, look for what you gain rather than what you lose. Like muscle. Strength. Confidence. Energy. Sanity.

2. Measure—and celebrate—your progress.

Look for signs of progress everywhere. Everything counts, no matter how small.

Track them.

Celebrate them like that first springtime crocus.

3. Focus on little things.

Make mini-goals. Nano-goals, if you want.

For the day. For the week. For the next five minutes. Whatever you need to stay on track and feeling like you can do this.

Each time you hit those tiny goals, reward yourself (in a healthy way).

4. Print, use, share.

Print out these effective progress trackers from the newly updated Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification to make it easier to monitor your progress. No scale required.

Health and fitness pros: I highly recommend sharing these with your clients.

5. Find a coach to support and celebrate your progress.

It’s often a lot easier (and always a lot more fun) to work toward your body transformation goal with help from an experienced nutrition coach. If you’ve been trying to make progress for a while, but just aren’t seeing results, consider getting some extra support.

With the right person in your corner, you’ll develop more effective change strategies and be better able to recognize progress markers and maintain the motivation it takes to make it to the finish line.

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 the real nutrition, lifestyle, and mindset obstacles that are standing in their way—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, April 8th, 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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Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

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http://www.nanotechnologystore.com/(14)The-role-of-vitamins-and-minerals-in-energy-metabolism-and-well-being.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16763894

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20403077

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ben/cpd/2006/00000012/00000020/art00003

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301008202000114

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16765926

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16814759

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/2/707S.short

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19394404

http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/15454864

http://www.nanotechnologystore.com/(14)The-role-of-vitamins-and-minerals-in-energy-metabolism-and-well-being.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2649700/

http://www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273(09)01044-7?_returnURL=http%253A%252F%252Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%252Fretrieve%252Fpii%252FS0896627309010447%253Fshowall%253Dtrue

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2253826

http://www.intechopen.com/books/glucose-homeostasis/role-of-magnesium-in-the-regulation-of-hepatic-glucose-homeostasis

http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/8990965

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15355853

http://www.nanotechnologystore.com/(14)The-role-of-vitamins-and-minerals-in-energy-metabolism-and-well-being.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3057895

Section 4.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-3010.2009.01753.x/full

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24564590

http://www.ernaehrungsdenkwerkstatt.de/fileadmin/user_upload/EDWText/TextElemente/Ernaehrungswissenschaft/Naehrstoffe/Saettigung_Lebensmittel_Satiety_Index.pdf”>http://www.ernaehrungsdenkwerkstatt.de/fileadmin/user_upload/EDWText/TextElemente/Ernaehrungswissenschaft/Naehrstoffe/Saettigung_Lebensmittel_Satiety_Index.pdf

Section 5.

http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-72738-2_7

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165614708001260

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165614708001260

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/71/6/1536.short

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0773.1992.tb01630.x/abstract

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060303205050.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17401057

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0753332202002536

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/68/3/498/

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0753332202002536

http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/ajp.2006.163.6.969

http://www.medical-hypotheses.com/article/0306-9877(91)90272-Z/abstract

http://www.medical-hypotheses.com/article/0306-9877(91)90272-Z/abstract

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006322309012293

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006322309012293

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/da.10054/abstract

Section 6.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/da.10054/abstract

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20508462

http://jap.physiology.org/content/80/3/1006.short

http://jap.physiology.org/content/65/1/1.short

The post When the scale sucks: 7 better ways to know if your nutrition plan is working. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Is wine bad for you?

Sure, some research cautions about an increased risk of cancer. It’s also clearly not something you want to drink before using a chainsaw or driving a minivan.

And some people abuse it.

Then again, wine comes from grapes, which contain health-promoting phytochemicals. And some research points to a potential heart benefit.

What’s more, you might be a person who has the ability to enjoy it responsibly and in moderation.

So the answer is… it depends.

You could say the same about a range of foods, diets, and nutritional strategies.

That’s because, when it comes to nutrition, there’s a lot we don’t know for sure.

Which can make it pretty hard to give cut-and-dry answers on what to eat for better health.

But if you’re a coach, your clients don’t want to hear “it depends” and “we need more research” every single time you open your mouth.

They want real guidance.

That’s why they hired you, isn’t it?

So what nutrition concepts can you really be confident about?

As it turns out, almost everyone agrees on five evidence-based principles.

And we’re pretty sure about one more.

Plus, there’s a reliable process you can use to evaluate everything else. (More about that at the end of the article).

But before we get into what we know with almost 100 percent certainty, let’s explore why and how we know it.

How many studies does it take to confirm a nutritional claim?

We can’t answer that question with a specific number.

Truth is, nothing in science is ever completely certain. But we can get pretty darn close by weighing five main factors.

#1: Quantity

How much research is there? Only a few studies? Or hundreds?

The more vast the body of research, the more confident you can feel about a specific finding or theory.

#2: Quality

We look for research conducted by people at the top of their field and published in well respected, peer-reviewed journals.

Specifically, we want to see:

Randomized controlled trials that test a specific treatment on a group of participants. Another group of people (the placebo group) doesn’t get the treatment. But both groups think they’re getting it.

Systematic reviews that discuss the available studies on a specific question or topic. Typically, they use precise and strict criteria for what’s included.

Meta-analyses that use complex statistical methods to combine the findings of several studies. Pooling together the data from many studies increases the statistical power, offering a stronger conclusion than any single study.

#3: Scope

We look for research that dates back decades rather than studies that just started appearing during the past few years.

#4: Consistency

Our confidence goes up when many studies arrive at the same conclusion rather than opposite ones.

#5: Universality

Studies have looked at how a nutritional concept affects different types of people, under different conditions, in different geographic locations.

(For a deeper dive into all of this, check out: How to read scientific research.)

5 universal principles of good nutrition

So which nutrition claims pass the five-factor test?

Let’s explore.

Principle #1: Weight loss and weight gain come down to one key equation.

Everyone knows this one, though not everyone believes it. It’s the energy balance equation, also known as calories in, calories out (or CICO for short), and it looks like this:

[Energy in] – [Energy out] = Changes in body stores

In other words:

When you take in more energy (or calories) than you burn, you gain weight.

When you take in less energy than you burn, you lose weight.

When you take in the same energy as you burn, you maintain.

So you might be wondering: How do we know this with absolute certainty whereas “wine is bad/good for you” is still up for debate?

First, like gravity, this principle is easy to test. With gravity, you can continually release a heavy object. No matter how many times you try it, the object falls.

It’s the same with energy balance. If you reduce “energy in” and increase “energy out,” you always get the same result: Bodyweight goes down.

Second, the energy balance equation comes from the first law of thermodynamics: Energy can neither be created or destroyed, only transferred from one state to another.

Humans can’t create energy from nothing. We convert it from food. And any excess energy we take in doesn’t magically vanish: Your body either increases “energy out” (often by turning up the metabolism) or stores the excess.

Scientific laws are as close to facts as we can get. Can they be updated over time? Sure. In this case, however, the law has stood firm for well over a century.

So, why do some people say “Not all calories are equal!”?

In a word: confusion.

As you can see from the illustration below, many complex factors influence “calories in” and “calories out.” Your brain, especially, can turn up or turn down metabolism, exerting a massive influence on “calories out.”

To better understand the universality of energy balance, let’s circle back to another law you may have studied in physics class: the law of gravity.

Like energy balance, it’s also represented by the equation F = ma (force equals mass times acceleration). The basic equation applies to every object, dropped from any height. But a lot of factors affect it—like air resistance—making it seem like it’s not true.

Similarly, with food and humans, the basic equation never changes. It’s true of all foods consumed in all situations.

But, lots of factors can affect different parts of the equation.

What does this mean for you?

If someone wants to gain or lose body mass, they’ll want to consider overall energy balance and how to shift it in their favor. Here are a few ways to do just that. (For a deeper dive, check out calories in, calories out).

To reduce calories in: To increase calories out:
Consume more fiber-rich vegetables to reduce the number of calories your body absorbs. Add cardio to burn more calories.
Consume more protein to reduce appetite and therefore overall energy intake. Add strength training to build more muscle, boost overall metabolism, and burn more calories.
Eat slowly so you can tune into hunger and fullness signals, and stop eating when you are satisfied, not stuffed. Increase daily activity by taking the stairs, parking farther from your destination, and/or using an activity tracker to nudge you to take more steps.
Use hand portions to guide how much you eat. Boost protein intake to increase the thermic effect of digestion.
Get enough sleep to reduce hunger and cravings for sweets. Practice self care to reduce stress and improve sleep—both important for a healthy metabolism.

Principle #2: Protein is the most important macronutrient to get right.

Why? Two reasons.

Reason #1: It helps you eat less, without feeling so hungry.

Research consistently shows that protein helps you feel full longer and, as a result, lose weight.

That’s, in part, because it takes longer for the body to break down protein than carbs or fat.

Protein also stimulates the release of satiety hormones in the gut.1,2

So when you eat protein, you naturally tend to eat less.

And it makes a big difference. Doubling your protein intake could help you to spontaneously consume 400 fewer calories a day. For reference, that’s roughly the number of calories in 1 ½ cups of ice cream.3

Test the power of protein for yourself.

On one day, eat 6 to 8 ounces of plain skinless chicken for every meal. Then track your hunger for the rest of the day, rating it once an hour on a 1 to 5 scale.

The following day, eat 1 ⅔ to 2 cups of cooked pasta for each meal. Again track your hunger on a 1 to 5 scale.

Then take a look at your data to see which method resulted in higher hunger ratings over the course of the day.

Reason #2: Protein makes it easier to build and maintain muscle.

Without adequate protein, our bodies just can’t function well. We need amino acids (protein’s building blocks) to produce important molecules like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies.

So when we don’t eat enough protein, our bodies plunder it from elsewhere, like our muscles, resulting in muscle loss. This is especially true if we’re eating fewer calories than we’re burning.

On the flip side, a high-protein diet seems to maximize muscle protein synthesis, which should lead to more muscle gain for people who are strength training and consuming enough calories.

This is probably one of the reasons high-protein diets are better for improving body composition than normal or low-protein diets.

A review of 38 studies found that, for people who are out of shape, consuming extra protein won’t magically build any muscle—no surprises there. But for people who are really pushing themselves in the gym, eating more protein seems to boost their results, helping them gain even more muscle.4,5

What does this mean for you?

The right amount of protein for each person varies on a number of factors such as age, gender, and goals.

Someone interested in packing on muscle for a bodybuilding competition might aim for as many as 50 grams of protein (or about two palm-size portions of meat) at every meal. Someone hoping to work off 20 extra pounds is going to need much less than that.

Our free calorie and macro calculator can help you determine the right amount of protein for yourself or a client. Just plug in your info, and it’ll show you how to use hand portions to get enough protein (and carbs, fats, and calories) to meet your individual goals.

Principle #3: As food processing increases, nutrient density decreases.

Minimally-processed whole foods (such as grains, nuts, eggs, and fish) contain a vast selection of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients (plant nutrients), and zoonutrients (animal nutrients).

Though we’re still unraveling exactly which nutrients do what, a wealth of research consistently points to one resounding conclusion:

Humans are healthier when they consume more whole foods and fewer refined ones. 

This is probably because the greater the degree of processing, the higher the likelihood that a food:

  • Has lost nutritional value, such as fiber, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and zoonutrients.
  • Has gained additives, preservatives, fillers, sugar, sodium, unhealthy fats, and/or refined starch.

This is a lot easier to see when you compare specific whole foods to their more highly-processed equivalents.

As you can see below, the less-processed steak and potato dinner contains about 350 fewer calories and a fraction of the sodium as the fast food burger with fries, as well as a heck of a lot more protein, fiber, and other nutrients.

That’s just one comparison.

But you could analyze any whole food along with its more refined counterpart and see similar differences in calories, sodium, and nutrients.

So it makes sense that a diet rich in minimally-processed whole foods can lead to lower rates of heart disease, cancer, depression, and type 2 diabetes, among other health problems.6-11

Minimally-processed whole foods are also rich in fiber and/or protein—two nutrients that help bolster satiety. And they tend to have fewer calories per serving than highly-processed refined foods.

Both traits make it easier for us to control our weight.

One randomized controlled trial even found that people ate a stunning 500 more calories per day when they consumed a diet rich in ultraprocessed foods compared to a diet rich in minimally-processed whole foods.12 That’s essentially the equivalent of consuming an extra meal a day.

In fact, minimally-processed whole foods may be what all successful diets share in common.

Recent studies have shown that participants experienced the same amount of weight loss—regardless of carb or fat intake—as long as they minimized their consumption of refined sugars, flours, and other processed foods while emphasizing whole foods like veggies.

They also experienced similar improvements in blood pressure, insulin, glucose, and cholesterol levels.13,14

What does this mean for you?

We’re 100 percent confident about the importance of whole foods, but we’re also extremely confident about something else:

Progress is much more important than perfection.

So rather than separating foods into “whole” and “not whole” categories, imagine a spectrum. As you can see from the graphic below, as food becomes more processed and refined, it loses a little bit of its nutritional power.

The goal with whole foods isn’t to get things “perfect.” Instead, focus on making them “just a little bit better.”

A rotisserie chicken from the supermarket may not be a pastured, lovingly hand-raised, heritage Chantecler roasted in a high-end convection oven… but it sure beats chicken nuggets.

(For ideas on how to do this, check out: What should I eat?)

Principle #4: Fruit and vegetables reduce disease risk—and may help you lose weight, too.

Among the various types of whole foods, produce deserves special mention.

Fruits and veggies are loaded with health-promoting antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients.

And a huge body of evidence from the past 20 years definitively shows that consuming more produce can help prevent a wide range of health problems, including diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.

For example, by simply increasing vegetable and fruit intake, experts predict that we could prevent 20 percent or more of all cancer cases, and avoid approximately 200,000 cancer-related deaths annually.15-19

An increasing number of studies also suggest that consuming a diet rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease.20-22

And, when it comes to cognitive performance, food beats supplements. Once nutrients, such as antioxidants, are isolated from produce and inserted into capsules, they seem to lose some (perhaps all) of their power.

Finally, an eating pattern rich in produce can help you more easily control your weight. This effect is thanks to their fiber and water content, which helps fill you up on fewer calories. An entire head of cauliflower, for example, contains only about 150 calories.23,24

What does this mean for you?

No one fruit or veggie is king. Rather than sticking to one magic powerfood—for example, eating blueberries every single day—aim for a variety. Try to eat a wide rainbow of colors everyday, using this chart for guidance.

(Hate veggies? Don’t worry! This infographic will show you how to fall in love with them.)

Principle #5: Sleep affects what you eat—as well as your overall health.

In coaching over 100,000 clients, we’ve seen one issue pop up a lot. People can nail everything with their nutrition but still struggle to reach their goals.

Often, that’s because they’re not getting enough sleep.

And they only make progress once they prioritize sleep. 

What’s the connection?

If you sleep 5 or 6 hours when you really need 7 or 8, you keep your body in a chronically sleep-deprived state, impairing your body’s ability to regulate several key hormones.

  • Ghrelin levels rise, triggering hunger.
  • Leptin falls, so it takes longer to feel full.
  • Endocannabinoids increase, making your perception of foods seem more pleasurable.

End result: You can’t keep yourself away from the cookies.25-27

By not getting enough sleep, you’re just hungrier and you crave sweets more than you otherwise would.

You’re also tired, so you exercise and move less.

And more awake time means more time to raid the kitchen.

Bottom line: Sleep-deprived people tend to eat at least 300 more daily calories than people who get enough sleep.28

In addition to interfering with weight loss, lack of sleep also erodes health.

Just one night of sleep deprivation can lead to increased blood pressure the following day.29-32 Each year, when nearly 1.5 billion people lose an hour of sleep due to daylight savings time, rates of heart attacks jump.33,34

What does this mean for you?

Most of us just aren’t sleeping enough.

Going to bed at midnight and getting up at 6? It’s not going to cut it.

For ideas on how to turn things around, check out our article on hacking sleep.

Bonus principle: Internal appetite regulation is a game-changing skill… for most people.

People often rely on calorie counting to guide what and how much they eat. And while it can be helpful—serving as an external guardrail that protects against overeating—there’s a downside.

When people rely solely on external rules—following strict macros or calorie counts—they tend to lose touch with the internal cues that tell them when to eat and when to stop.35

And while you might assume people need a strict food tracking method to reach their goals, we just haven’t found that to be the case.

This is especially true when they learn to listen and respond to their internal sense of hunger and fullness, a skill known as internal appetite regulation. By relaxing, eating slowly, and tuning into their thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, most people can make phenomenal progress with this one important skill.

Research is starting to back up our clinical experience, too, showing that internal appetite regulation can help people to automatically choose higher-quality foods.36,37

Is more research needed? Perhaps.

But after you’ve worked with over 100,000 clients, as we have, you start to build a database of collected wisdom. And often, there’s stuff that you’ve just seen enough times to know it’s a thing.

Internal appetite regulation is one of those things.

We’re so confident about the importance of internal regulation that it’s the second skill our coaches teach most clients. 

But it doesn’t work for every single person universally.

A very small number of people may not be able to effectively tune in to internal signals at all.

For example, people with Prader–Willi syndrome have abnormally high levels of the hunger-hormone ghrelin. They constantly feel excessively hungry when their bodies don’t need more calories, so asking them to stop eating when they feel full just doesn’t work.

Conversely, some people who are battling cancer rarely feel hungry and might lose too much weight if they didn’t use external guidance on when and how much to eat.

But these situations are relatively rare. With practice, the vast majority of people can eventually get in touch with their hunger and fullness signals.

What does this mean for you?

Sure, there’s not as much research behind internal regulation as there is for the five main principles listed above.

But the benefits of internal regulation far outweigh the scientific uncertainty and potential exceptions. And you really don’t have to take our word for it. You can test it out for yourself. This 30-day challenge will walk you through everything you need to know.

Need to evaluate other nutritional strategies? Use this process.

Beyond the core principles, there’s a lot that depends on the individual.

So what do you do when you want to know (or your client asks): How often should I eat? Should I eat breakfast? Is red meat okay? Should I take a multi? Is keto a good diet?

The answers all depend on a lot of variables, such as:

  • Who the client is
  • Their goals
  • Their food preferences
  • Their health, experience level, and any illnesses or injuries
  • Their existing patterns and habits
  • And so much more.

The best diet, for example, depends on someone’s physiology, food preferences, age, health, budget, and personal beliefs.

Universally, nearly everyone benefits from more protein, more produce, and more whole foods (which is why all three are listed under “what we know for sure.”) But the specifics—how often to eat, what foods to eat, how much to eat, which macros to shoot for—will differ from person to person.

So rather than feeling pressured to have a definitive answer at the ready, in these situations, we like to explore four key questions:

What’s the level of scientific confidence? What is the quality, scope, and consistency of the available research? Of course, finding the answer to this question requires a lot of digging and reading. You’ll also need a bit of research fluency to understand study design, bias, sample sizes, and so on.

If that sounds overwhelming, here’s an easy shortcut: examine.com, a site that analyzes scientific research across a wide range of nutrition topics.

If you’re still struggling, know this: Most nutrition topics are relatively uncertain, and we also can’t always wait around for science to prove everything. In the end, the best way to know whether something will or won’t work for a client may be to try it, as an experiment, to see what happens.

What are the downsides? How might someone struggle to implement this? What are the financial, social, physical, and emotional costs of trying it? Could it potentially cause harm?

For example, some of the downsides of intermittent fasting involve hunger and potentially missing out on meals with family. Similarly, choosing to only eat organic foods comes with a financial cost.

What are the benefits? What are the upsides of trying this approach? How could it help? What are the likely payoffs in terms of health, energy, mood, and fitness? Could the strategy improve someone’s relationships, career, peace of mind, or overall life?

How likely is consistency? Dietary details matter much less than consistent adherence to a particular practice. Is it possible to stick to this nutritional change 80 percent of the time over several weeks, months, and years?

Rank the answers to each question on a 1 to 5 scale.

Scientific confidence

least confident
most confident

012345

Costs

overwhelming costs
few costs

012345

Benefits

few benefits
maximum benefits

012345

Consistency

not possible
absolutely can do this

012345

Total score:

Based on those ratings, you can then decide whether this is a strategy worth trying (or work with your client to help them decide).

0-10
Reconsider whether this is the best change for you.

10-16
It’s a draw. Only you can decide if the benefits outweigh the costs on this one. Consider trying it for a few weeks and see what happens. Worst case scenario: you learn from the experience.

17-20
Go for it!

No matter how perfectly you use the assessment tool, however, you won’t know for absolute certainty whether something will work for yourself or a client—until you try it.

That’s the nature of nutritional uncertainty. There’s no getting around that.

But, thankfully, you can use each experience to gather data and learn.

And you can also lean heavily into the 6 principles we know for sure. Just those alone will make a huge difference.

After all, how many people do you know who are consistently doing all of these things well?

  • Eating an appropriate amount of calories for their body and goals
  • Consuming enough protein
  • Choosing mostly minimally-processed whole foods
  • Getting lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Sleeping enough
  • Eating slowly and mindfully

No, these aren’t exciting or trendy. But for most folks, simply following these basic principles, most of the time, will get them where they want to be. Plus, if they’re not checking these boxes, they’ll likely have a really tough time with the more “advanced” stuff.

So while nutrition science may not yet have all the answers, it may have all the answers most people really need.

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 feel confident they’re focused 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 Wednesday, April 8th, 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.

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  2. Wang S, Wang C. The Effect of Dietary Protein on Weight Loss, Satiety, and Appetite Hormone. Available from: https://www.actascientific.com/ASNH/pdf/ASNH-03-0207.pdf
  3. 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.
  4. Pasiakos SM, McLellan TM, Lieberman HR. The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. Sports Med. 2015 Jan;45(1):111–31.
  5. 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.
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  7. Srour B, Fezeu LK, Kesse-Guyot E, Allès B, Méjean C, Andrianasolo RM, et al. Ultra-processed food intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: prospective cohort study (NutriNet-Santé). BMJ. 2019 May 29;365:l1451.
  8. Rico-Campà A, Martínez-González MA, Alvarez-Alvarez I, Mendonça R de D, de la Fuente-Arrillaga C, Gómez-Donoso C, et al. Association between consumption of ultra-processed foods and all cause mortality: SUN prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2019 May 29;365:l1949.
  9. Adjibade M, Julia C, Allès B, Touvier M, Lemogne C, Srour B, et al. Prospective association between ultra-processed food consumption and incident depressive symptoms in the French NutriNet-Santé cohort. BMC Med. 2019 Apr 15;17(1):78.
  10. Martínez Steele E, Juul F, Neri D, Rauber F, Monteiro CA. Dietary share of ultra-processed foods and metabolic syndrome in the US adult population. Prev Med. 2019 Aug;125:40–8.
  11. Fiolet T, Srour B, Sellem L, Kesse-Guyot E, Allès B, Méjean C, et al. Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort. BMJ. 2018 Feb 14;360:k322.
  12. Hall KD, Ayuketah A, Brychta R, Cai H, Cassimatis T, Chen KY, et al. Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake. Cell Metab. 2019 Jul 2;30(1):67–77.e3.
  13. Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Del Gobbo LC, Hauser ME, Rigdon J, Ioannidis JPA, et al. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018 Feb 20;319(7):667–79.
  14. Shan Z, Guo Y, Hu FB, Liu L, Qi Q. Association of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets With Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med [Internet]. 2020 Jan 21; Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.6980
  15. Wang X, Ouyang Y, Liu J, Zhu M, Zhao G, Bao W, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2014 Jul 29;349:g4490.
  16. Hung H-C, Joshipura KJ, Jiang R, Hu FB, Hunter D, Smith-Warner SA, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of major chronic disease. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004 Nov 3;96(21):1577–84.
  17. He FJ, Nowson CA, MacGregor GA. Fruit and vegetable consumption and stroke: meta-analysis of cohort studies. Lancet. 2006 Jan 28;367(9507):320–6.
  18. Yokoyama Y, Nishimura K, Barnard ND, Takegami M, Watanabe M, Sekikawa A, et al. Vegetarian diets and blood pressure: a meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Apr;174(4):577–87.
  19. Farvid MS, Chen WY, Rosner BA, Tamimi RM, Willett WC, Eliassen AH. Fruit and vegetable consumption and breast cancer incidence: Repeated measures over 30 years of follow-up. Int J Cancer. 2019 Apr 1;144(7):1496–510.
  20. Khaw KT, Bingham S, Welch A, Luben R, Wareham N, Oakes S, et al. Relation between plasma ascorbic acid and mortality in men and women in EPIC-Norfolk prospective study: a prospective population study. European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Lancet. 2001 Mar 3;357(9257):657–63.
  21. Fortune NC, Harville EW, Guralnik JM, Gustat J, Chen W, Qi L, et al. Dietary intake and cognitive function: evidence from the Bogalusa Heart Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Jun 1;109(6):1656–63.
  22. Preventing dementia: do vitamin and mineral supplements have a role? [Internet]. [cited 2020 Feb 27]. Available from: https://www.cochrane.org/news/preventing-dementia-do-vitamin-and-mineral-supplements-have-role
  23. Bertoia ML, Mukamal KJ, Cahill LE, Hou T, Ludwig DS, Mozaffarian D, et al. Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies. PLoS Med. 2015 Sep;12(9):e1001878.
  24. Guyenet SJ. Impact of Whole, Fresh Fruit Consumption on Energy Intake and Adiposity: A Systematic Review. Front Nutr. 2019 May 8;6:66.
  25. Hanlon EC, Tasali E, Leproult R, Stuhr KL, Doncheck E, de Wit H, et al. Sleep Restriction Enhances the Daily Rhythm of Circulating Levels of Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol. Sleep. 2016 Mar 1;39(3):653–64.
  26. Hogenkamp PS, Nilsson E, Nilsson VC, Chapman CD, Vogel H, Lundberg LS, et al. Acute sleep deprivation increases portion size and affects food choice in young men. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013 Sep;38(9):1668–74.
  27. Schmid SM, Hallschmid M, Jauch-Chara K, Born J, Schultes B. A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feelings of hunger in normal-weight healthy men. J Sleep Res. 2008 Sep;17(3):331–4.
  28. Al Khatib HK, Harding SV, Darzi J, Pot GK. The effects of partial sleep deprivation on energy balance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2017 May;71(5):614–24.
  29. Doyle CY, Ruiz JM, Taylor DJ, Smyth JW, Flores M, Dietch JR, et al. Associations Between Objective Sleep and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in a Community Sample. Psychosom Med. 2019;81(6):545–56.
  30. Aggarwal B, Makarem N, Shah R, Emin M, Wei Y, St-Onge M-P, et al. Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Blood Pressure and Endothelial Inflammation in Women: Findings From the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Strategically Focused Research Network. J Am Heart Assoc [Internet]. 2018 Jun 9;7(12). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.118.008590
  31. Calhoun DA, Harding SM. Sleep and hypertension. Chest. 2010 Aug;138(2):434–43.
  32. Meininger JC, Gallagher MR, Eissa MA, Nguyen TQ, Chan W. Sleep duration and its association with ambulatory blood pressure in a school-based, diverse sample of adolescents. Am J Hypertens. 2014 Jul;27(7):948–55.
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  35. Romano KA, Swanbrow Becker MA, Colgary CD, Magnuson A. Helpful or harmful? The comparative value of self-weighing and calorie counting versus intuitive eating on the eating disorder symptomology of college students. Eat Weight Disord. 2018 Dec;23(6):841–8.
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The post The 5 universal principles of good nutrition, according to science. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Borrowed from the bodybuilding world, reverse dieting can, at first, sound like the stuff of internet legends: Eat more food without gaining weight.

Too good to be true, right?

Maybe not.

What is reverse dieting?

Reverse dieting is a method that involves slowly and strategically increasing daily food intake, all in an effort to raise your metabolism.

And while reverse dieting might seem like a one-way street toward weight regain, the technique actually offers a lot of promise—when done right.

Many people gain muscle and lose fat, all while eating more food than they were before.

But how does reverse dieting work, and is it right for you (or your clients)?

Let’s explore.

++++

Generally, we don’t recommend eating like a bodybuilder.

All the macro counting, weighing and measuring, restrictive food options, and precise nutrient timing… it just doesn’t make sense for most people.

In fact, the diets many bodybuilders use to get competition-lean aren’t even sustainable for bodybuilders.

For weeks leading up to a competition, bodybuilders follow super restrictive diets, which gets them abs you could grate cheese on, but has the unfortunate side effect of slowing their metabolisms. (We’ll explain why a little later.)

If they tried to maintain this approach after competitions, the hunger would eventually become overwhelming. Competitive bodybuilders also usually try to pack on as much muscle as they can during the offseason, and that’s nearly impossible when you’re on a low-calorie diet.

But like everyone else, when bodybuilders gorge on all the food they want, they add plenty of fat to go with that muscle.

The alternative: reverse dieting.

Smart bodybuilders slowly reverse their pre-competition diet by strategically and incrementally increasing their portions, an approach first popularized by Layne Norton, PhD.1

Basically, they reverse the steps they took to get competition ready, one nutritional step at a time. And they also usually gradually reduce cardio and focus on strength training.

This allows their metabolism to adjust upward over time. (Again, we’ll go deeper into metabolism in a moment.)

Eventually, they hit a calorie intake where they feel energized, are performing well in the gym, and are gaining some muscle—all while minimizing fat gain.

This doesn’t mean zero fat gain, mind you, and the use of PEDs, or performance-enhancing drugs, is also a factor.

But reverse dieting can leave them in a much better position to compete again in the future—compared to following a “see-food” diet that dramatically balloons their body fat percentage.

And if they never want to compete again? That’s fine too because they’re back to eating a normal and sustainable amount of food.

Reverse dieting may be the exception to our “avoid bodybuilding diets” rule.

You can see how reverse dieting might apply to the general population.

Weight loss is notoriously difficult to maintain. Most people end up regaining what they lost, and sometimes more.2

Why? For many reasons, but here’s just one: When you reduce calories and your body size shrinks, your metabolism eventually slows.

That means you must cut more calories to keep the fat loss going.

And all too often, by the time someone reaches their goal, the amount of calories they can eat to maintain their weight doesn’t translate to a lot of food. It feels paltry and incredibly difficult to stick to.

As a result, additional calories creep back in and the number on the scale starts to rise.

So they diet again.

And on the yo-yo cycle goes.

But if instead they slowly, intentionally, and strategically add the right number of calories over time, they’ll be more likely to maintain their fat loss long-term.

Side-by-side graphs of yo-yo dieting and reverse dieting. The yo-yo graph shows with every successive cycle of yo-yo dieting, weight rises, while metabolic rate drops. The reverse dieting graph shows weight loss and metabolic rate are maintained over time.

How does reverse dieting work?

We know. We know. This all probably sounds a little hocus pocus abracadabra. Bear with us. There’s some science to back this all up, but before we can dive in, we need to cover the concept of energy balance.

Simply put:

  • When you eat more energy (calories) than you burn, you gain weight.
  • When you eat less energy than you burn, you lose weight.

Many people know this concept by another name: calories in, calories out (CICO).

Some people debate whether CICO and energy balance are valid, but only because they misunderstand a key point.

The energy balance equation is simple, but, as you can see below, many factors affect energy in and energy out.

Energy balance scale

Adapted from Alan Aragon’s CICO scale, alanaragon.com

These factors go way beyond food and exercise. Factors people often overlook—food absorption, stress, genetics, and metabolic adaptation (described below)—have the potential to tip the energy balance “scale” in either direction.

Reverse dieting seems to work through one of the factors that can impact energy balance: metabolic adaptation.

One type of metabolic adaptation is known as the body’s “starvation response.” (This is different from the fabled “starvation mode,” by the way, which isn’t really a thing.)

Obesity is a global health issue now, but it wasn’t always that way. Starvation, on the other hand, has been a very real threat to humankind for hundreds of thousands of years.

So when you eat less, your body instinctively starts preparing for famine in several ways:

  • Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) declines. That’s the amount of energy you need to live when at rest. This reduces energy out.
  • Exercise becomes more difficult because you have less available energy. (If you’ve ever tried to do an intense workout on a low-calorie diet, you know what we’re talking about.) So you’re likely to burn fewer calories through activity.
  • You also expend less energy through exercise because, as your body gets smaller, it doesn’t require as much fuel—and your metabolism also adapts to make you more efficient. This also reduces the number of calories you burn through movement, resulting in less energy out.
  • Daily activity outside of workouts (think: pacing while you’re on a phone call, walking to your car, fidgeting) lessens, resulting in reduced energy out from non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).3
  • Digestion slows, so your body can absorb as many nutrients as possible. This increases energy in.

Because of this adaptive response, someone who has dieted down may need 5 to 15 percent fewer calories per day to maintain the same weight and physical activity level as someone who has always been that weight.4

And if someone’s lost an extreme amount of weight? The percent drop in calorie needs becomes more extreme, too.5

(Hey, no one ever said diets were fair).

Infographic showing how diet history influences calories needs in three women with the same body size. Never dieted woman needs about 2,475 calories to maintain weight, first-time dieter needs 2,225 calories to maintain weight and frequent dieter needs 1,980 calories to maintain weight.

The silver lining?

Metabolic adaptation works both ways.

If you increase your calories gradually, your body will adapt in the other direction. This phenomenon is known as adaptive thermogenesis, which basically means your body wastes calories as heat.

When done properly, reverse dieting provides several metabolic benefits:

  • BMR rises, resulting in more energy out.
  • Workout capacity increases thanks to more available energy, increasing energy out.
  • NEAT increases for the same reason, resulting in more energy out.
  • Digestion returns to normal, so your GI tract is no longer squeezing every bit of sustenance from every morsel, decreasing energy in.

Pretty cool, right?

But in order to get this effect, it’s important to add calories slowly. That’s primarily because the body seems to respond differently to varying rates of “overfeeding.” (That’s the word researchers use to describe eating beyond your calorie needs.)

In one study, eating 20 percent above maintenance calories did not significantly increase fat gain, whereas eating 40 to 60 percent above maintenance did.6

In other words, if you maintain your weight on a 2000-calorie diet, you might be able to eat up to 400 extra calories a day without seeing a big impact on the scale.

But an extra 800 daily calories? It’s probably going to weigh you down.

Additionally, some data suggest that the time people need to “recover” from dieting is roughly proportional to the amount of time they spent dieting.7

So if you restrict calories for six months, you may need to give your metabolism six months to adjust.

This is just one of the many reasons…

Reverse dieting isn’t magical.

Reverse dieting has gained miracle status in some corners of the internet as a way to eat more to lose weight.

That makes it seem like reverse dieting flies in the face of the energy balance equation and the laws of thermodynamics. This is not the case.

Can you lose weight while reverse dieting? Yes. 

But it’s still always because increased “energy in” results in increased “energy out.” 

In our experience, reverse dieting can absolutely work—but not for everyone, in the same way, in all conditions, 100 percent of the time.

There are three important caveats to acknowledge here.

Caveat #1: There are no guarantees.

As much as we’d like to think people are spreadsheets and that all of this comes down to simple math, there’s much variability from person to person.

Here’s an example: In one study conducted at the Mayo Clinic, researchers brought 16 normal-weight people into a lab for eight weeks. They served them huge meals that provided 1,000 extra calories each day.

That’s the equivalent of eating about two double cheeseburgers a day on top of your usual noshing. Plus, the participants were instructed not to exercise.8

If you do calorie math, everyone should have gained 16 pounds in eight weeks.

Infographic showing how adaptive metabolism influences weight gain. Sixteen individuals who consume 1,000 more calories than they need per day for 8 weeks gain between .79 pounds to 9.3 pounds. Without adaptive metabolism, each person would have gained 16 pounds.

In reality, they gained anywhere from under one pound to about nine pounds.

The biggest predictor of adaptation, or gaining less weight? Increased NEAT.

Some people’s bumped up majorly, and their weight barely changed. Others had much more modest increases, and they ended up gaining more.

In reverse dieting, the hope is that your body and metabolism will adjust via NEAT and other mechanisms. But the degree of adjustment—and whether any adjustment happens at all—varies from person to person.

Plus…

Caveat #2: Age affects our ability to adapt.

“Wow, I can keep eating more and more and never gain weight?!” said no post-menopausal woman ever.

All jokes aside, metabolism naturally declines with age.

Unless you strength train consistently, you lose five to 10 pounds of metabolically active muscle per decade starting when you’re 25 to 30.9

That continues in a pretty linear fashion.

So the same reverse dieting protocol that worked for a 20 year old isn’t going to work in the same way when they’re 40 or 65.

Caveat #3: Reverse dieting assumes you’re reasonably sure of your calorie intake.

We say reasonably sure because calorie counting is imprecise.

There’s no way to be 100 percent sure of your calorie intake outside of a lab. So the goal is to have a good enough gauge on how much you can currently eat without gaining.

That’s because reverse dieting requires very small changes in calorie intake over time. Often as few as 50 to 100 calories a day. That’s the difference of approximately 0.5 to 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, for reference.

It’s basically impossible to hit those numbers exactly. But anyone who counts calories, macros, and/or hand portions is going to do a much better job than someone who eyeballs it.

Consistency also matters. It’s possible that someone who eats more calories some days than others would be able to reverse diet. But it’d be pretty difficult to get that slow, steady increase in energy needed to do it properly.

To be clear, reverse dieting is a somewhat advanced method.

In order to do it effectively, you need to be willing to:

  • eat roughly the same amount of food each day.
  • measure your food intake.
  • adjust your physical activity up or down, depending on your goals.
  • acknowledge that it may not work for you.

3 situations ideal for reverse dieting

Caveats notwithstanding, reverse dieting might be a good approach in three specific situations.

Situation #1: “I want to eat more without gaining weight.”

We’ve already covered this one. Gradually increasing calorie intake can help to turn up the metabolic heat for people who’ve slashed calories to get the scale to go down.

But can the technique work for non-dieters?

Say someone just wants to be able to enjoy social situations, needs more nutrients for health and performance, and/or wouldn’t mind welcoming more calorie-dense foods (think: avocado, nut butters, coconut cream, the occasional donut) into their lives?

For those people, reverse dieting probably won’t work as effectively as it would for someone whose metabolism has slowed due to long-term dieting.

There are limits to how much metabolism can heat up and cool down. If someone is already pretty metabolically healthy, there’s (theoretically) less room to shift up.

The takeaway: If someone’s been dieting for a long time and is ready to maintain their current level of body fat, reverse dieting can help increase maintenance calories, resulting in a more sustainable way of eating long-term.

Situation #2: “I’m eating 1,200 calories a day and not losing weight.”

Let’s get one thing out of the way: A lot of times, when someone says they’re eating 1,200 calories and not losing weight, they’re not actually eating 1,200 calories. Usually they’re not estimating their calorie intake effectively.

A highly restrictive diet that keeps calories genuinely low for a few days can increase the chance of accidentally overeating on other days. That’s because our brains evolved to nudge our behavior toward survival, not Instagram glory.

The occasional highs average out the steadier lows.

By the end of the week, once you factor in the snacks, weekend drinks, and extra hidden calories, intake may actually average out to maintenance level.

You just don’t notice it because you’re paying attention to the few days when you really did hit those low calorie numbers.

So, to be clear, in this situation, for reverse dieting to work, you or your client must truly be subsisting on very few calories and have reached that “bottoming out” point. This is the point where you don’t feel like you can reduce your calories any more.

Provided you’re already eating mostly high-quality, whole foods, reverse dieting could be really helpful.

(If you’re not already eating high-quality foods, try that first. Read this article to learn more.)

The reasoning here is pretty simple.

Slowly increasing calorie intake can help restore metabolic output.

That means, to some degree, side-stepping the adaptations that come along with a history of dieting.

But to give your metabolism the time it needs to adapt, you’ll want to stay at a higher calorie intake for roughly as long as you spent dieting. Then, after several months of maintaining, that person can start restricting calories again and see the scale start to move.

The takeaway: If you’re truly eating a super low-calorie intake and the scale is stuck, reverse dieting might restore metabolism enough to jumpstart fat loss.

The more likely outcome, however, is this: It allows you to take a break from dieting, without gaining weight, as well as bring much-needed pleasure back into your eating life.

Then, once you’ve psychologically and metabolically adjusted, you can return to dieting and success.

Situation #3: “I want to get ripped.”

Another common use for reverse dieting: to improve body composition. So in other words, losing fat, gaining muscle, and remaining about the same weight.

Interestingly, Precision Nutrition’s co-founder, John Berardi, Ph.D., came up with a similar idea years ago, called G-Flux, also known as “energy flux.”

He observed that highly active people who consume more calories typically have less fat and more muscle. For example, professional athletes tend to eat a lot, exercise a lot, and remain very lean.

G-Flux is similar to reverse dieting, with one key difference.

When bodybuilders reverse diet, they usually dial down their cardio (although not always), while G-Flux assumes you’ll be doing more than before. The G-Flux version tends to work more effectively for muscle gain than the bodybuilding-style approach. Here’s why.

Reason #1: More cardio will help increase your energy out, giving you more flexibility with energy in.

Reason #2: Increased exercise also changes nutrient partitioning, sending more calories toward muscle growth and fewer to your fat cells.

Plus, since you’re eating more food, you have more opportunities to get the quantities of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients you need in order to feel your best.

The takeaway: Provided you have the ability to exercise more than you are now, increasing calories while keeping activity high is a solid strategy for muscle growth.

How to reverse diet in 5 steps

Step 1: Choose your tracking method.

You’ll need a method to track your food intake.

If you’ve been eating in a calorie deficit, you’re likely already using one. If it’s working for you, stick with it. If not, consider switching it up with these options.

Option #1: Calorie and macro tracking

Calorie and macro tracking are the most precise methods available outside of a lab, which makes them a logical choice for the small increases reverse dieting requires. (You can calculate your reverse diet macros using our handy macros calculator here.)

But many people find calorie and macro tracking to be labor-intensive and frankly, unenjoyable. If that describes you, consider option two.

Option #2: Hand portions

In this system—developed by Precision Nutrition—you use your hand as a personalized, portable portioning tool. And because each hand portion roughly correlates to a certain number of calories as well as protein, carbs, or fat grams, this method counts calories and macros for you.

Hand portions to gauge portion sizes of protein, vegetables, carbs, and fat.

Hand portions aren’t as accurate as counting calories and macros, but they’re accurate enough. (Specifically, 95 to 98 percent as accurate, based on our internal research.) And that’s all that matters for reverse dieting.

(For an in-depth breakdown of the methods you can use to track your intake, read this article.)

Step 2: Determine your maintenance calories.

Before you can increase calories, you need to figure out your maintenance intake, which is what you currently can eat to maintain your weight.

If you already know this, great.

If not, use our free Nutrition Calculator. It’s the most comprehensive portion and macro calculator available and is based on NIH mathematical models for bodyweight planning.

Select  “improve health” as your goal and enter the rest of your personal details. The calculator will suggest calorie, macro, and hand portions close to your maintenance intake.

Before adding calories, experiment with your maintenance intake for 2 to 4 weeks, monitoring whether you gain, lose, or maintain. This will help you personalize what the calculator recommends.

Our nutrition calculator is pretty freaking awesome, but no calculator can take your dieting history, genetics, and other qualitative factors into account. Only experimentation can do that.

Step 3: Decide on your macronutrient balance.

It can be easy to get caught up in the ideal macro ratio for your reverse diet.

But the truth is, the most important macro for reverse dieting is protein.

A higher protein diet seems to maximize muscle protein synthesis, which should lead to more muscle gain. This is probably one of the reasons higher protein diets are better for improving body composition than moderate or low protein diets.10,11

More protein also helps increase energy out because your body uses more energy to process protein than it does for carbohydrates and fat.

Our recommendations for optimal protein intake for building and maintaining muscle range from:

  • 1.3 to 3 g/kg (0.6 to 1.35 g/lb) for women
  • 1.4 to 3.3 g/kg (0.65 to 1.5 g/lb) for men

Those aiming to maintain lean mass while losing body fat should shoot for the higher ends of those ranges.

As for carbohydrates and fats, the balance between the two isn’t so important. People can lose weight and/or gain muscle with any reasonable mix, as long as it’s sustainable.

So decide your carbohydrate and fat ratio based on how you like to eat and what you can imagine yourself doing long-term. 

We could walk you through a pretty complicated set of instructions that would show you how to do the calorie math by hand—or you could just use our Nutrition Calculator.

Once the calculator estimates your calorie and macronutrient needs, it automatically converts those numbers into food portions you can gauge with your hands.

The result: You can skip weighing and measuring your food, as well as logging the details of every meal into calorie and macro tracking apps.

Reverse dieting requires accurate measures of food intake over time, and the small changes necessary to make it work can easily get lost in the noise. Using the calculator makes this process much easier and more reliable, so you’re more likely to be successful.

Step 4: Choose your rate of progression.

Your goal—what you hope to achieve by reverse dieting—determines how many calories you add each time you increase your intake. And how often you do add calories will depend on the metrics you track. (More on that in Step 5.)

It’s also helpful to consider how motivated you are to eat more food as well as how much fat you’re willing to gain.

Depending on your situation and preferences, you’ll choose one of the three approaches described below.

In the chart, you’ll probably notice that each calorie bump comes from either carbs or fats. That’s because you’ll keep your protein intake constant throughout your reverse diet, based on what you determined in step 3.

Infographic showing how to apply reverse dieting based on specific goals.

Step 5: Monitor your progress and adjust as needed.

Once you’ve picked your plan, it’s time to get started.

To determine whether a reverse diet is doing what you want it to do, track key metrics along the way. You might:

  • Weigh yourself daily or weekly. (The day-to-day numbers aren’t so important, but keeping record of your average weekly weight gain or loss is useful)
  • Measure your waist, hips, and other body areas, which may reflect changes in body composition better than the scale
  • Snap progress photos, which also may reflect changes in body composition better your scale
  • Gauge workout performance through heart rate monitoring, personal bests, or other metrics that are meaningful in your sport
  • Track energy levels, hunger, and digestive symptoms, and any other subjective measures that are important to you

Based on the data you continually collect, adjust as needed.

Some people may find they’re able to up their intake every week without gaining much fat. Others may need to space out increases over longer intervals.

Increasing every two to four weeks is a solid guideline for most people.

How do you know when to stop reverse dieting? It depends on your goals. A successful reverse diet can take anywhere from a few weeks to many months.

Some signs you may want to continue with your reverse diet include:

  • You haven’t gained much fat, or you don’t mind the amount you’ve gained.
  • You still feel interested in eating more than you are currently.
  • You’ve been reverse dieting for less time than you were in a calorie deficit.

Signs it may be time to stop your reverse diet include:

  • You’ve gained as much fat as you feel comfortable gaining.
  • You don’t feel interested in eating even more.
  • You’ve been reverse dieting for longer than you were in a calorie deficit.

Because reverse dieting requires a bit of experimentation to get right, many people find that their final calorie increase leads to more fat gain than they’re comfortable with.

By tracking metrics, you can catch that early, adjust your calories down one notch, and find your sweet spot (where you can maintain your weight while eating a comfortable amount of food).

Life after reverse dieting

So what happens next?

Reverse dieting is a tool for a specific job—one that requires quite a bit of effort and attention.

Once the job’s done, it’s time to move on.

After closely monitoring how much you eat using external methods—such as calorie, macro-, or hand-portion tracking—consider taking some time to focus on internal methods of regulation, like eating slowly and mindfully.

That doesn’t mean you can’t ever come back to reverse dieting, though.

In fact, you can use reverse dieting as a tool anytime you cut calories for a while. It’s helpful to gradually ramp them back up for all the benefits we covered in this article.

But remember: Despite what you may have seen on social media, it’s key to approach reverse dieting from a realistic perspective and understand when and how it can be used most effectively.

After all, reverse dieting is based on biology—not magic.

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 takes into account each individual’s unique goals, preferences, and challenges—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, April 8th, 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. Norton L, Baxter H. The Complete Reverse Dieting Guide. 2019.
  2. Weiss EC, Galuska DA, Kettel Khan L, Gillespie C, Serdula MK. Weight regain in U.S. adults who experienced substantial weight loss, 1999-2002. Am J Prev Med. 2007 Jul;33(1):34–40.
  3. Lark DS, Kwan JR, McClatchey PM, James MN, James FD, Lighton JRB, et al. Reduced Nonexercise Activity Attenuates Negative Energy Balance in Mice Engaged in Voluntary Exercise. Diabetes. 2018 May;67(5):831–40.
  4. Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Norton LE. Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014 Feb 27;11(1):7.
  5. Fothergill E, Guo J, Howard L, Kerns JC, Knuth ND, Brychta R, et al. Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition. Obesity. 2016 Aug;24(8):1612–9.
  6. Siervo M, Frühbeck G, Dixon A, Goldberg GR, Coward WA, Murgatroyd PR, et al. Efficiency of autoregulatory homeostatic responses to imposed caloric excess in lean men. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Feb;294(2):E416–24.
  7. Pardue A, Trexler ET, Sprod LK. Case Study: Unfavorable But Transient Physiological Changes During Contest Preparation in a Drug-Free Male Bodybuilder. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2017 Dec;27(6):550–9.
  8. Levine JA, Eberhardt NL, Jensen MD. Role of nonexercise activity thermogenesis in resistance to fat gain in humans. Science. 1999 Jan 8;283(5399):212–4.
  9. Sardeli AV, Komatsu TR, Mori MA, Gáspari AF, Chacon-Mikahil MPT. Resistance Training Prevents Muscle Loss Induced by Caloric Restriction in Obese Elderly Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 Mar 29;10(4). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu10040423.
  10. Green KK, Shea JL, Vasdev S, Randell E, Gulliver W, Sun G. Higher Dietary Protein Intake is Associated with Lower Body Fat in the Newfoundland Population. Clin Med Insights Endocrinol Diabetes. 2010 Mar 31;3:25–35.
  11. Layman DK, Evans E, Baum JI, Seyler J, Erickson DJ, Boileau RA. Dietary protein and exercise have additive effects on body composition during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr. 2005 Aug;135(8):1903–10.

The post Reverse dieting: Can you really get better results by eating more? appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

When your eating plan stops working, it’s normal to just feel… stuck. But you can fix almost any diet problem with these 3 steps. (The first one might really surprise you).

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I’ve been working in the fitness and nutrition field for 25 years so I can say with certainty that every eating plan breaks down eventually. Kids come along, jobs get busy, family members get sick… LIFE happens.

It’s easy—too easy—to get lost.

But the exact nature of these nutrition breakdowns can vary. So, over the past few years, I’ve worked hard to come up with a formula that’ll fix almost any diet problem.

See, the nutrition “advice” you usually hear in the media and at the gym is often boiled down to buzzwords and slogans. You know the ones:

  • “Just eat whole foods.”
  • “Only eat food that your grandmother would recognize.”
  • “Eat more fat and fewer carbs.”
  • “If it doesn’t run, fly or swim–or it isn’t a green vegetable–don’t eat it.”

But when you’re a real human in the real world—or a professional helping one—slogans don’t get the job done.

Slogans lead to nutritional wheel spinning, frustration, and fat-loss plateaus—or even unwanted weight gain. They lead to:

Should I just quit already?
Why do I suck at this?
Will nutrition always come with frustration and failure?

It’s time to go beyond the clichés and discuss how to really help clients fix a broken diet and start eating better.

To share how we troubleshoot eating plans when they’ve “just stopped working” and you don’t know what else to try.

And, finally, to show you how to use these powerful and purposeful strategies to improve your own eating. Or to help others do the same.

These steps are proven to work—we’ve now tested them with over 70,000—and some of them may surprise you.

Step 1:
Remove nutritional deficiencies

When diets stop working, most people assume they need a complete overhaul right away.

I have to cut out sugar… and dairy… and carbs… and saturated fat.

Plus I have to eat more protein… more healthy fats… and more vegetables.

I have to start drinking lots of water too.

And exercise… maybe a 6 am boot camp… yeah.

Let’s call it the Mission Impossible approach.

Through lots of frustration and failure in my early career, I realized that the Mission Impossible approach isn’t just difficult; it’s misguided.

Because a complete overhaul rarely addresses what’s keeping most people from eating well in the first place.

The problem is: People feel bad. And it’s really hard to find the effort that’s required for a healthy diet when you feel bad most of the time.

Now, I call the root sources of feeling bad “limiting factors.” Limiting factors are the things that stand in the way of progress. They could be physical, mental, emotional.

Let’s focus on the physical first.

Physical limiting factors could be hormonal imbalances or sleep deprivation or too much lifestyle stress. However, a very common — and very commonly overlooked — limiting factor is actually dietary deficiency: not getting the right nutrients, in the right amounts, to look and feel your best.

Shocking percentages of the U.S. population are deficient in major nutrients.

Graph showing percentage of us population not meeting the rda

When it comes to deficiencies, a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition backs this up: It’s really hard to get all the essential vitamins and minerals from food alone.

This study analyzed 70 athlete diets. Every single diet was deficient in at least three nutrients. And some diets were missing up to 15 nutrients! The most common deficiencies?

  • iodine
  • vitamin D
  • zinc
  • vitamin E
  • calcium

Another study, also published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, showed that people following one of four popular diet plans (including Atkins, South Beach, and the DASH diet) were also very likely to be micronutrient deficient, particularly in six key micronutrients:

  • vitamin B7
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin E
  • chromium
  • iodine
  • molybdenum

Back when I was a graduate student at the University of Western Ontario, I set out to find the mythical “balanced diet.” I analyzed the intake of nearly 600 fourth-year exercise and nutrition undergraduate students.

Shockingly, less than 10 percent met the minimum standards for a “complete, balanced diet.” Like the other studies, these folks were missing such nutrients as:

  • zinc
  • magnesium
  • vitamin D
  • omega 3 fatty acids
  • protein

In situations where populations are fed institutionally (i.e. prison inmates and school children) things can be even worse. But there’s hope.

Research in the British Journal of Psychiatry shows that providing fish oil and a multivitamin to prison inmates reduces aggressive and violent behavior by 35 percent and decreases antisocial behavior by 26 percent.

And a paper published in Nutrition Reviews shows that giving children fish oil and a multivitamin improves both their behavior and intelligence scores.

Bottom line: Dietary deficiencies are very common. Chances are, you’ve got one, no matter how good you think your diet is. At the same time, they’re not that hard to fix.

When you’re deficient in key nutrients, you feel bad.

As discussed above, optimized energy levels, appetite, strength, endurance, and mood all rely on getting enough essential nutrients.

That’s why you can eat clean, go Paleo, avoid meat, lower your carbs, or count calories–you can do “everything right” nutritionally–and still feel awful.

The most common deficiencies we see with new Precision Nutrition clients are:

  • water (low-level dehydration)
  • vitamins and minerals
  • protein (particularly in women and in men with low appetites)
  • essential fatty acids (95 percent of the population is deficient here)

The thing is, in the modern world, fixing a deficiency is pretty easy.

To find out if you (or your clients) are deficient in any area, there are a few options:

  1. Have a dietitian do a diet analysis.
  2. Record what you’re eating and enter it into an online nutritional calculator.

At Precision Nutrition, we like to make it even easier. As soon as clients begin with us, we do a quick survey of what they’re eating. Six questions tell us most of what we need to know. From there, we help them:

  • eat more of the protein-rich foods they prefer;
  • drink more hydrating fluids;
  • supplement with essential fats (fish or algae oil); and/or
  • eat more foods rich in the vitamins and minerals they need most.

As soon as they get these nutrients, they start getting results.

Our clients quickly start feeling better:

  • Immediately energy levels go up.
  • They feel more motivated.
  • They lose fat and gain lean muscle.
  • Their workouts become easier and better.

They start seeing the results that stopped when their diets “broke”.

In the end, the first step to fixing dietary problems is to identify and remove nutritional deficiencies.

Step 2:
Adjust food amount and food type

Once we’re getting all the raw materials necessary for proper functioning (i.e. essential nutrients) we can move on to bigger issues:

  • food amount (what some call calorie intake); and
  • food composition (which includes macronutrient breakdown).

In our coaching programs we help clients get away from using handbooks, websites, databases, spreadsheets, and math when planning meals.

You see, while we know that total food (calorie) intake matters, we’re not really fans of counting calories (for most people, most of the time).

To begin with, calorie counting does nothing to help us tune into our own powerful hunger and appetite cues. By learning how to listen to our own bodies, we have better long-term success in healthy eating.

(Of course, not everyone knows how to do this from the start. It takes a little coaching and some practice.)

Nor does calorie counting help us balance our health goals with our natural human enjoyment of food. In the short term, anyone can turn eating into a numerical and robotic exercise. But, in the long run, this strategy falls apart.

(Just ask anyone who “used to” count calories. You shouldn’t have a hard time finding them.)

There’s another problem with calorie counting: It’s just not all that accurate.

Because of imprecise labeling, lab errors, and differences in food quality and preparation, calorie counts recorded on food labels and websites–even those within the USDA’s nutrient databases–can be off by as much as 25 percent.

Then there’s the fact that human absorption is so wildly variable based on food preparation methods, and even the bacteria living inside your gut.

(If you really want to geek out with me, you can read this killer piece about how metabolism works. There are great sections on both the calories in and calories out sides of the energy balance equation.)

Bottom line: Even if you’re the world’s best calorie counter (and you can avoid the inevitable lifestyle problems associated with it) the math just doesn’t add up.

We teach most clients a different approach to calorie control.

The PN method for estimating portions requires nothing more than your own hand as the ultimate, portable measurement tool.

For example, men might begin by eating:

  • 2 palms of protein dense foods at each meal;
  • 2 fists of vegetables at each meal;
  • 2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods at most meals; and
  • 2 thumbs of fat dense foods at most meals.

And women might begin by eating:

  • 1 palm of protein dense foods at each meal;
  • 1 fist of vegetables at each meal;
  • 1 cupped handful of carb dense foods at most meals; and
  • 1 thumb of fat dense foods at most meals.

First, we help clients see what this looks like. Like, in real life. On a plate.

Then, we adjust actual portion sizes up or down, depending on each person’s unique body and goals. For example:

  • Men who want to add mass fast get an extra thumb of fat or an extra cupped handful of carbs per meal.
  • But men who want to lose fat might scale down to 1 palm of protein, 1 thumb of fat, and 1 cupped handful of carbs per meal, eaten slowly and mindfully to 80 percent full.

Of course, just like any other form of nutrition planning–including detailed calorie counting–this is just a starting point.

You can’t know exactly how your body will respond in advance. So stay flexible and “steer dynamically.” Adjust your portions based on your hunger, fullness, overall activity level, and progress towards your goals.

(To get personalized hand-portion suggestions based on your eating pattern, goal, and several other variables, check out our free calculator.)

Food and macronutrient composition

Most people can simply eliminate nutrient deficiencies and get food portions and quality right, and stop there.

Small adjustments in those two areas—and nothing more—will make a huge difference in how 90% of folks look and feel. Simple. Easy.

However, for those who want to go further—because they have more advanced goals or because they’re already doing the first two and still struggling—let’s talk about food composition.

If you’re anything more than a casual observer of human beings, you might have noticed that—much like breeds of dogs—they come in different shapes and sizes. You’ll see everything from the giant wolfhound to the Chihuahua; everything from the slim and wiry whippet to the muscular bulldog to the rotund little Corgi.

Dog breeds also vary in their body composition, energy levels and metabolic rates… just like humans. Some people seem to be always fidgeting, always in motion; other people tend naturally to be more sedentary.

Different body type groups—aka “somatotypes”—typically include a few general characteristics:

  • morphology and skeletal structure
  • hormonal environment
  • metabolism (including metabolic rate and how nutrients are processed)

If you specialize in a particular sport, especially at an elite level, you’ll often see that certain body types gravitate towards certain activities, or specific positions within sports.

(For a deeper dive into all of this, check out our article on body type eating.)

Step 3:
Fine tune the details

In the grand scheme of things, details like meal frequency, calorie/carb cycling, and workout nutrition–are just minor tweaks. Very minor tweaks. But let’s address them anyway.

Meal frequency

For years dietitians and nutritionists (myself included) thought that the best approach to splitting up your daily food intake was to eat small meals frequently throughout the day.

From early research we assumed that this would speed up the metabolism, help control the hormones insulin and cortisol, and help better manage the appetite. However we now know better.

All the latest research suggests that as long as we eat the right foods in the right amounts, meal frequency is a matter of personal preference.

You can eat lots of small meals each day (i.e. every few hours). Or you can eat a few big meals each day (i.e. with bigger time gaps between them).

Now, my advice is: Listen to your own body and apply the “how’s that workin’ for ya?” test.

If you’re covering all your other bases and your current meal frequency isn’t “workin’ for ya”, try switching it up. Experiment with fewer meals if you eat more frequently. And more meals if you eat less frequently.

Because either approach is valid, you’re free to find the approach that works best for you.

Calorie and carb cycling

Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, see your abs, or get back in shape, carb and calorie cycling can make a real difference.

(Make sure deficiencies are eliminated, calories are controlled, and macronutrients are aligned appropriately–and that you’re doing all of this consistently before considering any of these fine-tuning strategies.)

While it may have a fancy name, carb cycling is simply eating more carbohydrates on some days–usually on high volume or high intensity days–and eating fewer carbohydrates on other days–usually low volume, low intensity, or off days.

We focus on carbohydrates (and not protein or fats) because carbs seem to influence body composition, how you look, and how you feel the most.

By changing carbohydrate and therefore calorie intake on particular days, we can keep fat loss going and metabolic rate humming along, without the ill effects of stringent calorie or carb restriction.

The carb and calorie cycling approach is pretty simple, and based on your activity.

  • On the days you’re not lifting weights–or days you’re just doing low intensity or short duration exercise–eat a baseline diet of mostly protein, vegetables and healthy fats with minimal carbs.
  • On the days you are lifting weights–or you’re doing longer duration high intensity exercise–add starchy carbs to your baseline diet.

And that’s pretty much it. No need to measure grams or count calories. Just follow a baseline diet on lower carb days. And add carbs on higher carb days.

Just remember this: Removing deficiencies, controlling calorie intake, and beginning eating for your body type–and doing this all consistently–must come first. If you haven’t done those first, this strategy usually backfires.

Workout nutrition

What should you have before, during, and after your workout?

If you’re training specifically for maximal muscle adaptation, and/or training with high volume and intensity (potentially multiple times every day), then eating an appropriate meal about 1-2 hours before and after training or competition may be important.

Also, for more advanced individuals, using a branched-chain amino acid drink (which is lower in carbs and calories), or a protein plus carbohydrate drink (which is higher in carbs and calories), during training can make a real difference in terms of adaptation and recovery.

However, if you’re exercising for general health and fitness–or simply to look and feel better–you should only consider the question of workout nutrition once you’ve:

  • eliminated deficiencies;
  • gotten your total food intake in check; and
  • started eating right for your body type.

And—might I gently remind you—done all the above consistently. Yes, every day. Over and over and over.

What to do next:
Tips from Precision Nutrition

If you’re frustrated with an eating plan that’s not working–but aren’t sure what to do about it–hopefully this article has given you something new to consider and try.

1. Remove “limiting factors.”

If you feel bad, no diet is going to work for you. So start by rooting out and eliminating “limiting factors”. This includes addressing any sleep problems and talking to your doctor if you feel there may be a hormone imbalance.

But the most common—and commonly overlooked—problem is nutritional deficiency. And the easiest way to wipe it out is by:

  • eating more protein-rich foods;
  • drinking more hydrating fluids;
  • supplementing with essential fats (fish or algae oil); and/or
  • eating more foods rich in the vitamins and minerals you need most.

2. Calibrate food amount and type

Make sure you (or your clients) are eating the right kind and amount of food.

Use our free calculator to get personalized hand-portion recommendations. (And feel free to print out our infographic on portions for your clients/patients.)

From there, adjust portions based on appetite, meal frequency, activity level, weight goals, and results.

Then, if you feel the diet could be further tailored, consider adjusting portions for your body type.

3. Be consistent.

With these strategies, you should get results relatively quickly in most cases. But not overnight, and not if you’re inconsistent.

The key to staying consistent while fixing a broken diet: accountability. That could mean a food journal, a trainer, a trusted partner or friend, or an experienced nutrition coach.

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—even when life is crazy-busy (read: always)—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, April 8th, 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.

Carlton JB. Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010; 7:24.

Frensham LJ, Bryan J, Parletta N. Influences of micronutrient and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on cognition, learning, and behavior: methodological considerations and implications for children and adolescents in developed societies. Nutr Rev. 2012. 70:10.

Gesch C Bernard, Hammond Sean M, Hampson Sarah E, Eves Anita, Crowder Martin J. Influence of supplementary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behavior of young adult prisoners. Br. J Psychiatry. 2002. 181:1.

Misner B. Food alone may not provide sufficient micronutrients for preventing deficiency. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006;3(1):51–55.

The post The 3 steps I teach trainers and health coaches to help fix any diet problem. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1