“What can I actually eat on a plant-based or vegetarian diet?”

It’s natural to wonder about your options.

Carrots and broccoli are givens—of course. But are all plant-based foods “okay” to eat?

So often, our clients want to know things like:

  • Is peanut butter a decent source of protein?
  • How often should I eat soy products?
  • Since I don’t eat fish, how do I get enough omega 3 fats? 
  • Are plant-based burgers okay?
  • Can I eat pasta on a plant-based diet? (Please say yes…?)

It can also be tricky to figure which plant-based foods fit into which macronutrient categories.

Take chickpeas, lentils, and veggie burgers. Are they mostly protein? Carbohydrates? Fat? (HELP!)

Questions like these are why we created this handy, visual food list for plant-based and vegetarian eaters. 

Fair warning: We’re not going to tell you that some foods are “good” and “bad”—or tell you there’s a “right” way to eat.

That’s just not our style. But we will show you how to think about foods on a spectrum from “eat more” to “eat some” to “eat less.”

This approach promotes one of the most crucial philosophies of our nutrition coaching method: Progress, not perfection.

Use our continuums to make choices that are “just a little bit better,” whether you’re browsing the grocery store aisles, cooking a homemade meal, or ordering from a menu.

Plus, learn how to:

  • Incorporate a mix of plant-based proteins, vegetables, carbohydrates, and fats.
  • Strategically improve your food choices—based on what you eat right now—to feel, move, and look better.
  • Customize your intake for your individual lifestyle, goals, and (of course) taste buds.

As a bonus, we’ve provided space to create your own personal plant-based foods continuum. That way, you can build a delicious menu of healthy foods that are right for you—no questions asked.

(And if you want a FREE plant-based nutrition plan that’s personalized for your body, goals, and lifestyle, check out the Precision Nutrition Calculator.)

Download this infographic for your tablet or printer and use the step-by-step process to decide which foods line up with your (or your clients’) goals.

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 circumstances—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.

<!—Snippet to hide

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.


The post ‘What should I eat?!’ How to choose the best vegetarian and plant-based foods for your body. [Infographic] appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

The Basics | Research | Pros | Cons | How to Coach It | Food List

First popularized in the 1970s, the Paleo Diet encourages the consumption of foods ancient humans are thought to have eaten hundreds of thousands of years ago—before the dawn of modern agriculture. Think: roots, seeds, fruits, fish, game, and other morsels people could easily gather or club to death.

What are the benefits of this diet? The risks? And is it right for you?

This article will provide those answers.

That way, you can maximize the diet’s benefits while minimizing the diet’s pitfalls. (And yes, they ALL have pitfalls.)

So if you or your clients want to try Paleo—but don’t know where to start—keep reading. You’ll learn:

Paleo Diet Basics

The Paleo diet—also referred to as the Paleolithic diet, Primal diet, and Ancestral diet—is based on two central ideas.

Idea #1: Humans adapted to eat particular kinds of foods.

According to Paleo enthusiasts, our ancient human genetic blueprint doesn’t match our modern diet and lifestyle.

Until about 10,000 years ago, humans ate what they hunted (meat, fish) or gathered (fruit, vegetables, roots, tubers, nuts, seeds, eggs, honey).

Then most of the world figured out agriculture. We moved from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic period. Planting and farming provided us with a consistent and relatively reliable food supply, without which modern civilization could never have developed.

Fun fact: The 10,000-year time frame since the dawn of the Neolithic period represents only about one percent of the time we humans have been on Earth.

Idea #2: To stay healthy, strong, and fit—and avoid the chronic diseases of modern times—we need to eat like our ancestors.

Paleo enthusiasts claim that eating like our ancient ancestors will improve your health and our well-being.

The Paleo diet also makes some key evolutionary assumptions:

  • Paleolithic hunter-gatherers were robust and healthy. If they didn’t die young from accident or infectious diseases, they lived about as long as we do now.
  • When Paleolithic hunter-gatherers shifted to Neolithic agriculture, they got relatively sicker, shorter, and spindlier.
  • Modern hunter-gatherers are healthy, and their health declines when they switch to a modern diet.

Paleo Diet: The Truth

So you might have noticed that we attributed the two central ideas to “Paleo enthusiasts.”

And that phrasing was intentional.

Because there are some issues with both ideas.

Hunter-gatherers were not pristine models of health.

To begin with, they harbored various parasites. They were also subject to many infectious diseases.

What’s more, a study in The Lancet looked at 137 mummies from societies ranging all over the world—from Egypt, Peru, the American Southwest, and the Aleutian Islands—to search for signs of hardening of the arteries (a condition known as atherosclerosis).

They noted probable or definite atherosclerosis in 47 of 137 mummies from all four geographical regions, regardless of whether the people had been farmers or hunter-gatherers, peasants, or societal elite.

The deciding factor? It was age, not diet. Mummies who were older than 40 when they died tended to have hardening in several arteries, compared to mummies who’d died at younger ages.1,2

There wasn’t just one Paleo diet—there were many different ones.

Our ancestors lived pretty much all over the world, in diverse environments, eating varied diets.

And some of them did indeed consume foods that are typically shunned on the Paleo diet.

Like grains.

Like cereals.

Like beans.

Ancient humans may have begun eating grains and cereals before the Paleolithic era even began—up to three or even four million years ago, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.3 And not only did our Paleolithic ancestors eat legumes, these were actually an important part of their diet, several research reviews reveal.4-6

In other words, the idea that Paleolithic humans never ate grains, cereals, and beans appears to be a bit of an exaggeration.

Modern fruits and vegetables aren’t like the ones our ancestors ate.

Early fruits and vegetables were often bitter, much smaller, tougher to harvest, and sometimes toxic.

Over time, we’ve bred plants with the most preferable and enticing traits—the biggest fruits, prettiest colors, sweetest flesh, fewest natural toxins, and largest yields. We’ve also diversified plant types—creating new varieties such as hundreds of cultivars of potatoes or tomatoes from a few ancestral varieties.

For example, over many years, farmers selectively bred Brassica oleracea—also known as wild mustard—into plants with bigger leaves, thicker stalks, or larger buds. This eventually created the many different vegetables of the Brassica family: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and kohlrabi.

These vegetables seem quite different from one another, but all originated from the same plant species.

Most modern animal foods aren’t the same.

Beef (even if grass-fed) isn’t the same as wild game such as bison or deer meat. Because wild game move around a lot more than domesticated animals, they’re leaner and their meat contains less fat.7

This doesn’t make modern produce or modern meat inherently inferior or superior. It’s just different from nearly anything available in Paleolithic times.

So the claim that we should eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and meats because we’re evolved to eat precisely those foods is suspect. The food we eat today didn’t even exist in Paleolithic times.

No matter how you slice it, Paleo proponents’ evolutionary arguments don’t hold up.

But that doesn’t mean the diet itself is bad.

Maybe it’s good for completely different reasons than they say.

(For a deeper dive into the science, see The Paleo Problem.)

Paleo Diet Pros

Despite our qualms with the historical underpinning of Paleo, the diet likely gets more right than it gets wrong.

Paleo-style eating emphasizes whole foods.

This is a massive improvement over the average Western diet. The top six calorie sources in the U.S. diet today are grain-based desserts (cake, cookies), yeast breads, chicken-based dishes (and you know that doesn’t mean a grilled chicken salad), sweetened beverages, pizza, and alcoholic drinks.

Those aren’t ancestral foods—nor foods that, when consumed in abundance, promote good health. So when proponents of the Paleo diet claim that our modern Western diet isn’t healthy for us, they’re absolutely correct.

Paleo-style eating has been extremely effective for improving several chronic diseases.

According to several studies, the Paleo diet can help improve blood pressure, glucose tolerance, inflammation, thyroid levels, and blood lipids.8-11

Paleo will likely leave you feeling satisfied.

The Paleo diet may be more satiating per calorie than some other eating styles.12,13

Why? Paleo encourages the consumption of vegetables and meat—two food groups that dampen hunger and increase post-meal satiety.

Vegetables contain relatively fewer calories than other foods. Meat is rich in protein, which helps to trigger the release of appetite-regulating hormones.

Paleo Diet Cons

All restrictive diets, including Paleo, share two potential pitfalls: inconsistent compliance and nutritional deficiency.

We’ll start with compliance.

Paleo can be tough to maintain.

Restrictive diets like Paleo can be easier in the short term because you don’t have many decisions to make. It’s simple—just eat the foods the diet says to eat. Don’t eat the foods the diet says not to eat.

No thinking. No measuring.

But long term? It’s harder—because not everyone in your life is following Paleo.

Not every restaurant serves Paleo meals.

Plus, some of the foods on your “don’t eat” list may be foods you love.

Like fresh-baked bread.

Like most desserts.

Like pumpkin lattes.

This is why strictly following a list of “good” and “bad” or “allowed” and “not allowed” foods tends to be problematic for many people. It’s less effective over the long-term—because ultimately, it decreases our consistency. (Read more: The problem labeling foods as “good” or “bad.”)

So it makes a lot of sense that people struggle to remain consistent on Paleo over the long term.

In a study of 250 people, only 35 percent of dieters stuck with the Paleo diet for a full year, compared to 57 percent of people on the Mediterranean diet and 54 percent of people who tried intermittent fasting. When compared to the two other diets, people who tried Paleo lost less weight, too.14

Restrictive diets make deficiency more likely.

Anytime you cut out foods and food groups, you must work harder to replace what you lose. It takes more effort to get the nutrients you need.

In the case of Paleo, you’ll have to work harder to get enough of these nutrients:

Calcium: Dairy offers a rich source of highly absorbable calcium. As the chart below shows, our bodies take up 97 percent of the calcium from cheese, yogurt, and milk—but much less from non-dairy sources.15

This chart shows the calcium content and absorption of common foods, starting with the highest (the first number is calcium content; the second number is how much is absorbed): Cheddar cheese (1.5 ounces): 361 mg/350 mg; Yogurt: 332 mg/319 mg; Milk (1 cup): 311 mg/299 mg; Tofu (3/4 cup): 230 mg/187 mg; White beans (3/4 cup, boiled): 141 mg/35 mg; Spinach (1/2 cup cooked): 129 mg/77 mg; Bok choy (1/2 cup cooked): 84 mg/36 mg; Chinese cabbage (1/2 cup shredded): 79 mg/75 mg; Broccoli (1/2 cup cooked): 33 mg/7 mg; Spinach (1 cup chopped, raw): 31 mg; 2 mg

To get enough calcium while on Paleo, make sure you’re eating at least a fistful of dark leafy greens (collards, kale, bok choy) every day.

Riboflavin and Thiamin: These B vitamins are present in high amounts in cereals, grains, beans, and milk—all foods that are off limits on Paleo. To make sure you’re getting enough, consume plenty of green veggies, fish, mussels, and eggs.16

Carbohydrate: If you train intensely, you may struggle to get enough carbohydrate on the Paleo diet. If you exercise intensely on a regular basis, the modified Paleo diet (see next section) may be a better option.

Fiber: Early humans actually ate a lot of fiber—as much as 100 grams a day.17 Many health organizations recommend somewhere between 25 and 35 daily grams—and most people consume half that amount, even when they’re not omitting fiber-rich beans, legumes, or grains for the Paleo diet.

To make up for the fiber from those foods, consume high-fiber produce several times a day. Good options include beets, apples, figs, berries, spinach, okra, Brussels sprouts, pears, and avocados. See the “Top Paleo-Approved High-Fiber Foods” below.

Top Paleo Approved High-Fiber Foods

Food Soluble Fiber (g) Insoluble Fiber (g) Total Fiber (g)
Avocado (medium, California) 3 6 9
Guava (1 cup raw) 2 7 9
Raspberries (1 cup) 7 1 8
Hubbard squash (1 cup cooked) 4 3 7
Jicama (1 cup raw) 3 3 6
Brussels sprouts (1 cup, cooked) 2 3 5
Pear (1 medium) 2.5 3 5.5
Broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi (1 cup cooked) 3 2 5
Turnip, mustard, or collard greens (1 cup cooked) 2 3 5
Cabbage (1 cup cooked) 2 2 4
Apple (1 medium) 1 3 4

Enter the Modified Paleo Diet

Because of the pitfalls we just mentioned, the Paleo diet has evolved to include moderate amounts of starch (especially sweet potatoes, but also white potatoes and white rice), as well as some dark chocolate, red wine and non-grain spirits (such as tequila), and limited amounts of grass-fed dairy.

Beyond making life more pleasant, these additions make social situations a lot easier to navigate.

They also make healthy eating more attractive and achievable.

In the end, moderation, sanity, and your personal preferences are more important than any specific food list.

How to Coach Someone on Paleo

Maybe you’re a big believer in Paleo.

Or perhaps you don’t believe in it at all.

Or… you’re agnostic about the whole thing.

Regardless of which camp you’ ve decided to set up a tent, remember that your client’s wishes come first.

So rather than spending a lot of emotional energy thinking about how to talk your client into Paleo (or out of it), get curious about helping your client do Paleo—or any other diet—even better.

Here we’ve included sample conversation openers and advice for situations that will likely come up. (You can use these questions on yourself, too.)

The situation: In looking over your client’s food log, you’ve noticed a pasta dinner here, a cookie there.

As the weeks go on, you see more and more non-Paleo foods.

Bring it up, with non-judgement and warmth. You might say:

“Hey, based on your food logs, it doesn’t seem like you’re strictly following Paleo anymore. Which is totally okay. But I’m wondering: Is this something you want to continue to try doing?”

The situation: Your client tells you, “I really want to do Paleo, but I’m struggling. I don’t think I can stick with it.”

Explore why your client is struggling. You might say:

“Okay, so what does that mean to you? What does struggling look like? What parts are harder for you? When is it easier for you?”

Depending on what your client reveals, you can work together to find solutions to help your client overcome obstacles.

The situation: Your client says, “I know I should get back to it. I really should do this for my health. I know that. But. I don’t know. I feel so stuck.”

The word “should” indicates that your client may like the idea of Paleo, but may not truly want to follow the diet. To dig deeper, you might ask:

“So why do you think you should do this? Can you tell me more about that? Why do you feel this diet would help you progress toward your goals?”

Your client’s answer may either reveal that following a strict diet actually doesn’t align with their values anymore, or they may revive a more compelling reason to keep going. Either way, you have a clearer sense of how to continue.

(For even more guidance, check out this article: How to talk to your clients about the latest Netflix documentary.)

The Paleo Diet: What to eat

Traditionally, the Paleo plate includes:

  • animals (meat, fish, reptiles, insects) and usually, almost all parts of the animal, including organs, bone marrow, and cartilage
  • animal products (such as eggs and honey)
  • roots/tubers, leaves, flowers and stems (in other words, vegetables)
  • fruits
  • raw nuts and seeds, coconut, avocados, and olives

Many Paleo proponents have recommended that eaters start with the above, then slowly gravitate to the modified Paleo diet by introducing grass-fed dairy (mostly yogurt and other cultured options), and small amounts of legumes that have been soaked overnight.

With that in mind, consider how you could move along a spectrum, starting from your current eating pattern to choices that are more Paleo-aligned.

For a complete guide that includes how much protein, carbs, fat you should eat, plug your info into our macros calculator. (It’s FREE and gives you a customized plan based on your diet preferences and goals.)

Please keep in mind…

There is no one-size-fits-all Paleo diet.

You’ll find NUMEROUS “eat this / not that” Paleo lists all over the internet, but even Paleo experts aren’t all in agreement.

Our advice: Focus on minimally-processed whole foods while also keeping your overall fat intake in balance.

If you’re a coach, you may have clients who follow a wide range of food lists—and that’s okay. The important part: helping them to stay successful based on whatever list they choose.

Don’t try to be perfect.

Doing a few good things pretty well (like eating more veggies or protein) is much better than trying to get a lot of things perfect (and then giving up completely because it’s impossible).

And by introducing small changes slowly over time, you increase your chances of long-term success.

Modify Paleo to fit your lifestyle and needs.

For example, if you’re following the Paleo diet and you’re also fully plant-based, to reach your protein requirements, you’ll want to include some soy. You may also want to prioritize nuts and seeds.

Paleo diet: Does it work—for you?

There’s really only one proven way to know if the Paleo diet works for you:

Try it.

Treat it like an experiment. Go all-in—for at least two weeks.

Then, after at least 2 weeks, use this assessment—Quiz: How’s that diet working for you? — to decide if your eating strategy is working.

No matter your results, remember this: it’s all okay.

Even if you never quite master the Paleo diet and instead gravitate toward a “Paleo Lite” style of eating (80-90% Paleo, 10-20% non-Paleo), you’ll most likely still see benefits.

That’s because just slight shifts toward the “eat more” foods and away from many of the “eat less” foods can make an enormous difference.

How do we know?

We’ve seen it happen with client after client after client.

And if you decide that Paleo isn’t for you? No biggie. It’s not the only eating style around. There are many other ways to eat—Mediterranean, vegetarian, fully plant-based (vegan), Keto, carb cycling, reverse dieting—that can also help you reach your goals.

Keep experimenting with new foods, new strategies, and new eating styles. Adopt what works. Deep six what doesn’t.

Eventually, you’ll discover the ultimate best diet—for you.



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

1. Thompson RC, Allam AH, Lombardi GP, Wann LS, Sutherland ML, Sutherland JD, et al. Atherosclerosis across 4000 years of human history: the Horus study of four ancient populations. Lancet. 2013 Apr 6;381(9873):1211–22.

2. David AR, Kershaw A, Heagerty A. Atherosclerosis and diet in ancient Egypt. Lancet. 2010 Feb 27;375(9716):718–9.

3. Wang C, Lu H, Zhang J, He K, Huan X. Macro-Process of Past Plant Subsistence from the Upper Paleolithic to Middle Neolithic in China: A Quantitative Analysis of Multi-Archaeobotanical Data. PLoS One. 2016 Feb 3;11(2):e0148136.

4. Sponheimer M, Alemseged Z, Cerling TE, Grine FE, Kimbel WH, Leakey MG, et al. Isotopic evidence of early hominin diets. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A [Internet]. 2013 Jun 3; Available from: https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/05/31/1222579110.abstract

5. Cerling TE, Manthi FK, Mbua EN, Leakey LN, Leakey MG, Leakey RE, et al. Stable isotope-based diet reconstructions of Turkana Basin hominins. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jun 25;110(26):10501–6.

6. Cerling TE, Chritz KL, Jablonski NG, Leakey MG, Manthi FK. Diet of Theropithecus from 4 to 1 Ma in Kenya. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jun 25;110(26):10507–12.

7. Davidson B, Maciver J, Lessard E, Connors K. Meat lipid profiles: a comparison of meat from domesticated and wild Southern African animals. In Vivo. 2011 Mar;25(2):197–202.

8. Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC Jr, Sebastian A. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Aug;63(8):947–55.

9. Lindeberg S, Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjöström K, et al. A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia. 2007 Sep;50(9):1795–807.

10. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, Branell U-C, Pålsson G, Hansson A, et al. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009 Jul 16;8:35.

11. 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.

12. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahrén B, Lindeberg S. A paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease. Nutr Metab. 2010 Nov 30;7:85.

13. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Lindeberg S, Hallberg A-C. Subjective satiety and other experiences of a Paleolithic diet compared to a diabetes diet in patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutr J. 2013 Jul 29;12:105.

14. Jospe MR, Roy M, Brown RC, Haszard JJ, Meredith-Jones K, Fangupo LJ, et al. Intermittent fasting, Paleolithic, or Mediterranean diets in the real world: exploratory secondary analyses of a weight-loss trial that included choice of diet and exercise. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Dec 27; Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqz330

15. Miller GD, Jarvis JK, McBean LD. The importance of meeting calcium needs with foods. J Am Coll Nutr. 2001 Apr;20(2 Suppl):168S – 185S.

16. Genoni A, Lyons-Wall P, Lo J, Devine A. Cardiovascular, Metabolic Effects and Dietary Composition of Ad-Libitum Paleolithic vs. Australian Guide to Healthy Eating Diets: A 4-Week Randomised Trial. Nutrients. 2016 May 23;8(5). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu8050314

17. Eaton SB. The ancestral human diet: what was it and should it be a paradigm for contemporary nutrition? Proc Nutr Soc. 2006 Feb;65(1):1–6.

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 circumstances—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.

<!—Snippet to hide

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.


The post The Paleo diet: Your complete how-to guide. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Types of Diets | Benefits | Risks | Coaching Tips | What to Eat | Diet quiz

Pop quiz: Which of the following is a plant-based diet?

  1. The Mediterranean diet
  2. The vegetarian diet
  3. The vegan diet
  4. The flexitarian diet

The answer: All of the above.

If you’re surprised by that revelation, know this: You’re 100% normal.

After all…

When it comes to plant-based diets, there’s a heck of a lot of confusion.

In this article, we’ll attempt to clear things up by exploring several questions.

Plus, you’ll find a quiz that can help you test your diet.

What are plant-based and vegetarian diets?

Let’s start with the debate about plant-based diets and meat.

Some plant-based eaters include meat—and some don’t.

This even includes people who identify as vegetarians.

Imagine a continuum, with 100% carnivore at one end and 100% vegan (no animals or animal products) at the other.

On that continuum, plant-based eaters fall closer to vegans than they do carnivores, eating more plants than meat. But, as the graphic below shows, “more plants than meat” allows for lots of variations.

Graphic that shows the variation of plant-based diets, placing foods on a scale from low to high Meatiness of Plantiness.

▶ Strict vegans fall into the “plant-based” bucket, as the “plantiness” of their diet is 100 percent.

▶ Generally, vegetarians don’t eat meat or seafood, but do sometimes consume animal products such as eggs and dairy. Though their food choices are less plant-focused than a vegan’s, they’re still plant-based eaters.

▶ Flexitarians, semi vegetarians, or part-time vegetarians tend to consume meat and seafood—either occasionally or in small amounts. But because they eat more plants than meat, they also fall into the plant-based bucket.

▶ People who follow Mediterranean or Paleo diets might eat meat as often as every day. But they tend to also eat a lot of whole plant foods. As long as plants make up a significant portion of what they eat, we’d consider them plant-based, too.

This chart (see below) shows what different plant-based eaters are willing to eat and not eat.

Chart shows what different types of plant-based eaters are willing to eat and/or do. 1) Flexitarian: red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy, plants, buy leather/furs; 2) Pollo-vegetarian: poultry, eggs, plants, buy leather/furs; 3) Pescatarian: seafood, plants, buy leather/furs; 4) Lacto-ovo vegetarian: eggs, dairy, plants, buy leather/furs; 5) Lacto-vegetarian: dairy, plants, buy leather/furs; 6) Ovo-vegetarian: eggs, plants, buy leather/furs; 7) Fully-plant based: plants, buy leather/furs; 8) Vegan: plants

The above only paints a partial picture—as many plant-based eaters don’t fit into just one box. There are pescatarians who eat seafood, eggs, and dairy—as well as pescatarians who eat seafood, but no other animal products.

Similarly, some vegetarians and fully plant-based eaters are okay with products made from animals (such as leather or fur), while others are not.

Still other people allow animal products into their lives sometimes—but not other times. For example, one of our clients sees herself as a vegan who never eats animal products in any form—except for cupcakes. If she’s in a bakery and no vegan options are available, she’ll enjoy whatever looks delicious.

Pros of Plant-Based and Vegetarian Diets

Plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Gallbladder disease 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

However, plant-based eaters may be healthier not because they eat less meat—but rather because of the following reasons:

Reason #1: Plant-based diets attract health-conscious individuals.

Generally speaking, plant-based eaters are the kind of people who floss their teeth, exercise, take the stairs, sleep 7 to 9 hours, and get regular check ups.6

In other words, they might be healthier not only because of what they do and don’t eat, but also because of their overall lifestyle.

Reason #2: Plant-based eaters tend to eat more plants. (Duh.)

Plant-based eaters tend to score pretty high on something called the Healthy Eating Index, which is a measure of dietary quality.

Because plant-based eaters usually consume more minimally-processed whole plant foods that have known health-protective effects, they drive down their risk for disease.7

Reason #3: Minimally-processed plant foods tend to be nutrient-dense.

Just one example: A cup of broccoli, berries, or black beans contains more nutrients than a slice of pizza, for much fewer calories. Depending on the plant food, these nutrients can include:

  • Antioxidants, which help protect our DNA from free radical damage.
  • Phytonutrients, plant chemicals thought to promote good health.
  • Myconutrients, health-promoting compounds found in mushrooms.
  • Fiber, indigestible plant material that bulks up stool (reducing constipation), as well as helps regulate appetite and control cholesterol and blood sugar.
  • Healthy fats like the monounsaturated fats found in avocados and the polyunsaturated fats found in seeds and nuts.

Reason #4: Minimally-processed plant foods tend to fill us up, crowding out processed foods.

Plants contain a lot of water, which adds weight and volume to food, without adding calories. They also contain fiber to slow digestion.

End result: They’re pretty dang filling.

So when people consume more plants, they tend to eat fewer ultra-processed refined foods like chips, cookies, and mac and cheese. 8, 9

(If you’ve ever had a “salad baby,” you know how hard it is to follow up with a milkshake or a bag of chips.)

The Cost of Restricting Food Groups

Whenever you make a dietary change, you face some tradeoffs.

See the chart below: As dietary restrictions increase, time-commitment and nutrient deficiency risk go up, too.

On the other hand, as consumption of highly-processed foods increases, time-commitment drops—while deficiency risk rises.

This chart is titled “The Continuum of Nutrition.” At the top of the chart is a horizontal green bar: On the left end it reads, “Greatest Nutrient Variety”; on the right end, it reads, “Greatest Deficiency Risk.” On the left side of the chart, there’s a vertical orange bar. On the bottom end it reads, “Harder to Maintain”; on the top end, it reads, “Easier to Maintain.” Types of eating styles are plotted based on where they fall on both continuums. “Whole food omnivore” ranks well on “easier to maintain” and “greatest nutrient variety.” “Whole food pescatarian” is a little harder than that in both categories, but still scores well overall. “Whole food vegetarian” and “whole food vegan” both move farther away on both continuums, with “whole food vegan” being the hardest to maintain and having the least nutrient variety of the aforementioned approaches. However, all of these approaches provide great nutrient variety than the processed food version of each approach. Those fall in the same order, but are each at progressively greater risk of nutrient deficiency.

Reason #5: Strict food rules can work.

It takes work—label reading, food prep, menu scrutiny—to follow a well-rounded plant-based diet, which leads to healthier choices. Plus, if someone’s a strict vegan or vegetarian, the “don’t eat” list can eliminate less nutritious, high-calorie foods, like wings and pork rinds.

(Learn more: The modern diet dilemma: Is it better to eat meat? Go vegan? Something in between? The truth about what’s right for you.)

Is it possible to eat enough protein on a plant-based diet?

Despite popular belief, many plant foods contain decent amounts of protein.

So, protein deficiency among plant-based eaters isn’t as common as you might think.

Check out how plant proteins stack up.

FOOD PROTEIN (in grams)
Animal-based protein sources Per palm-sized portion*
Skinless chicken breast, grilled 31
Cottage cheese 25
Greek yogurt, plain 22
Shrimp, cooked 21
Eggs 12
Plant-based  protein sources
Seitan, cooked 22
Tempeh, cooked 18
Tofu, drained and cooked 16
Plant-based fat sources Per thumb-sized portion*
Pumpkin seeds 2
Peanut butter 3.5
Plant-based carb sources Per cupped hand*
Cooked lentils 8
Bread, multigrain 5
Pasta 4
Non-starchy vegetables Per fist*
Broccoli 3
Spinach 1
Carrots 1

* Palm-sized = 3-4 oz cooked meat / tofu, 1 cup cottage cheese / Greek yogurt, 2 whole eggs; Cupped handful = 1/2-2/3 cup cooked grains / legumes, medium-sized fruit / tuber;
Thumb = 1 tbsp; Fist = 1 cup

A couple of caveats:

▶  Whole foods are important. Clients who regularly consume tempeh, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds will have little trouble meeting their protein requirements.

On the other hand, clients who eat mostly refined pasta, refined bread, vegan cupcakes, and toaster pastries may struggle.

▶ Plant-based proteins are generally not as rich in essential amino acids—nor are they as well-absorbed—as animal-based proteins.

For folks who rely solely on plants, protein needs slightly increase, compared to omnivores, to account for this protein quality discrepancy. See our article about plant-based proteins to learn more.

The Cons of Plant-Based Diets

Here’s the bad news…

Anytime you omit entire groups of foods, you must work harder to get all the nutrients your body needs. This is especially true if someone:

  • Is fully plant-based or vegan.
  • Tends to eat a diet rich in highly-processed foods.

To reduce the risk for deficiencies, aim for a diet composed of 80 to 90 percent whole, minimally-processed foods.

Also, consider the following nutrient-specific advice.


In addition to keeping bones and teeth strong, calcium helps muscles—including your heart muscle—work properly.

Dairy products offer a particularly rich source, with each serving supplying nearly a third of the 1000 to 1200 milligrams the typical person needs every day.

To get enough calcium from non-dairy foods, use this advice:

▶ Consume several servings of high-calcium plant foods a day. Calcium-rich plant foods include leafy greens (collards, turnip greens, kale), calcium-set tofu, sesame seed butter, blackstrap molasses, okra, broccoli, figs, beans, almonds, edamame, soy nuts, and fortified plant milks. To increase absorption, cook calcium-rich greens rather than consume them raw.

▶ Cut back on salt, alcohol, and soft drinks. When people consume a lot of alcohol, salt, and soft drinks, they tend to take in fewer nutrient-dense, minimally-processed whole foods. For example, when someone chooses a soft drink, they’re not choosing a calcium-enriched plant milk. When they sit down with a bowl of salty chips, by default they’re not having broccoli or figs. 

▶ Exercise. Weight-bearing exercise stimulates bones, helping them to increase their density and reduce risk of fractures.

Vitamin B12

Our bodies need B12 to make DNA, strengthen blood vessels, and keep nerves working. Because B12 is involved in red blood cell formation, deficiency can lead to anemia.

Though a few plants contain substances that the body can convert to B12, we don’t absorb and use these substances as readily as the B12 present in animal products.10 Plus, many people over age 50 are already deficient, whether they eat meat or not.

That’s because, as we age, our stomachs make less acid (which breaks down B12) and intrinsic factor (which helps the body absorb B12). And some medications—such as acid blockers—reduce absorption even more.

For these reasons, a daily B12 supplement is a good idea for:

  • People over 50.
  • People who take medications that interfere with vitamin B12 absorption, such as those used to treat reflux, ulcers, and diabetes.
  • People who are partially or fully plant-based.

Even with supplements, some people might show signs of deficiency: fatigue, dizziness or loss of balance, and reduced mental function.

In those cases, their health care provider can check their B12 levels with a blood test and potentially prescribe intramuscular (injected) B12, which is better absorbed than oral (including sublingual) supplements.

Omega-3 fats

These fats are helpful in preventing heart disease as well as important for the development of eye, nerve and brain tissue (especially in fetuses and babies).

Omega-3 fats come in a few forms:

▶ Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA):
The richest sources of EPA and/or DHA are found in sea vegetables (such as seaweed) and seafood, especially fatty varieties like salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines, and oysters.

▶ Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): 
Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, soy, dark leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables are all rich sources of ALA.

Our bodies must convert ALA into EPA or DHA before using it. About 90% of the ALA fat is lost during the conversion. In other words, if you consume 2.5 grams of ALA from plants, your body will only convert and use only about 10 percent, or .25 grams.11

Bottom line: Non-seafood-eating clients will want to include legumes, nuts, flaxseed oil, hemp, ground flaxseed, walnuts, and other ALA-rich foods daily.12


Because iron carries oxygen around the body, low levels can lead to fatigue.

Animal products are a particularly rich source of a type of iron called heme that our bodies absorb more easily than the non-heme iron found in beans, peas, lentils, and other plants. (Your body absorbs about 15 to 35 percent of the heme iron you eat, but only about 2 to 20 percent of non-heme iron.)

To help boost iron intake and absorption, use this advice:

▶ Increase absorption by consuming iron-rich plant foods with foods high in vitamin C. Use the chart below for ideas. Maybe you make a tofu stir fry with broccoli or a bean salad with tomatoes, peppers, and a squeeze of lime.

Rich in iron Rich in vitamin C
Pumpkin seeds Citrus fruit and juices (ex: oranges)
Tofu Cantaloupe
Tempeh Strawberries
Edamame Broccoli
Lentils Tomatoes
Beans Peppers
Peas Winter squash
Sunflower seeds Watermelon
Nuts Guava
Hummus Kale
Almond butter Kiwi
Leafy greens Potatoes
Fortified foods
White and oyster mushrooms
Dark chocolate

▶ Cook with cast iron cookware. Research shows it can increase the iron content of the food you eat.13

▶ Don’t drink coffee or black tea with food. These drinks contain tannins that inhibit the absorption of iron.

People who thrive on plant-based diets

Some people jump right into plant-based eating with gusto and stay immersed for life. They look and feel amazing, so much so that they can’t understand why everyone else doesn’t eat this way.

Other people? They struggle. They don’t feel good and/or just can’t get in the hang of it.

What makes the difference?

People who do best on plant-based diets:

✓ Have an open-minded “I’ll try anything once” approach to eating. Sea veggies? Slimy fermented soy? Bring it.

✓  Embrace minimally-processed whole foods such as vegetables, beans, and lentils.

✓ Have the time and inclination to search out vegetarian recipes, restaurants, and meal-delivery options.

✓ Have support from family/friends who may also follow their lifestyle.

✓ Have a deep “why” for being plant-based, such as “I just can’t stand the idea of harming animals” or “I want to do everything possible to shrink my carbon footprint.”

✓ Are flexible about their plant-based identity. They’re okay consuming eggs, dairy, seafood, or meat from time to time, if no other options exist.

People who struggle on plant-based diets:

Cook for picky eaters who either love meat or hate plant-foods—or both.

✓ Prefer highly-processed refined foods over minimally-processed plant foods.

Lack a strong “why” for going plant-based.

Lack the time and energy to investigate new recipes or restaurants.

How to coach clients on plant-based diets

To help clients succeed, consider this advice.

Strategy #1: Don’t assume you know what clients mean when they say, “I’m a vegetarian” or “I’m plant-based.”

As we mentioned earlier, there are many types of plant-based and vegetarian eaters. So ask questions like:

  • What does “vegetarian” or “plant-based” mean to you?
  • Could you tell me a little more about what foods you enjoy eating and what foods you choose to eliminate?
  • What do you eat and how often?

Clients have given us a wide range of answers to those questions.

Some say they’re vegetarian before dinner. Pre-dinner they eat no meat. During dinner, however, they’ll have whatever everyone else is having.

Others eat vegetarian while at home, but anything goes in social settings.

Strategy #2: Understand their why.

Different people have different reasons for adopting a plant-based diet—and some of those reasons are more powerful drivers of motivation than others.

It’s probably easy to see how someone who is allergic to eggs could easily stop eating them for the rest of their life.

But let’s say someone has a vague notion that “meat is bad”—based on a documentary they watched. And they happen to love bacon. And burgers.

Sure, their vague “meat is bad” perception might motivate them… for a while. But as the memory of the documentary fades, they’ll probably find that bacon and other beloved foods creep back in.

(BTW, if nutrition fads leave you frustrated, check out: How to talk to clients (and your mother) about the latest Netflix documentary.)

In these cases, we like to use an exercise called “the 5 Whys.”

Originally used by the Toyota Motor Corporation and adapted for nutrition coaching by Precision Nutrition, it cuts to the core of why we want something.

Ask your client: Why do you want to go plant-based?

Then, based on whatever the client offers, ask why again.

And so on, up to five times.

Here’s an example from one of our vegetarian clients. It took 4 whys to get to his true reason:

Coach: So, tell me a little more about your reasons for being a vegetarian. Why do you want to do this?
Client: Well, I grew up vegetarian. In my religion, we don’t eat meat.
Coach: That’s really interesting. Tell me a little more about that. Why do you believe you shouldn’t eat meat?
Client: {Laughs} I don’t personally believe that. My religion says that.
Coach: Okay, I see. But why do you do it if you don’t really believe it’s bad?
Client: See, it’s my family. My siblings and parents are more devout than I am. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still religious. I’m just not as religious as they are. And I don’t want them to think badly about me.
Coach: I can understand why you’d want to remain close to your family. I’m curious: If you’re only a vegetarian because you don’t want your family to think badly of you, why do you remain vegetarian when they’re not around?
Client: Truthfully? I don’t. I mean, I don’t eat a lot of meat, mostly because of guilt. But, if my family isn’t around, I’m happy to go to rib fest, you know?

This conversation helped this client to understand that he was probably going to eat meat from time to time. His “why” just wasn’t powerful enough to help him completely abstain.

Plus, he was okay with eating meat—as long as his family didn’t see him do it.

Strategy #3: Talk about likely obstacles.

Work together to brainstorm situations likely to arise—and how clients plan to deal with them.

  • What will they do when they’re out with friends who encourage them, “Oh come on, just have one wing”?
  • How will they respond when grandma says, “I know you love meatloaf. That’s why I made this—just for you honey”?
  • How will they handle restaurants with little to no plant-based or vegetarian options?

After talking through some of these likely situations, ask clients: How comfortable are you with flexibility?

In other words, do they want to choose plant foods no matter what? Or are some animal products okay… in certain situations?

Remind clients that:

An imperfect plan done consistently beats a perfect plan done rarely.

Some of our clients have said that an imperfect plan means they’re okay eating:

  • Commercially-prepared soups made with chicken broth, but not if they contain chunks of meat.
  • Meat, if a friend serves it to them, but not if they’re home preparing their own meals.
  • Salads, even if it comes with small bacon bits sprinkled on top.
  • Wings, if it’s a special occasion.
  • Turkey, stuffing, and/or gravy at a holiday meal with extended family.

Flexible clients can think about health habits being like a volume dial.

If they’re new to plant-based eating, they might want to start with the dial pretty low. Maybe it’s at a 1, with them consuming a plant-based meal once a week or even once a month.

Over time, they might want to up the dial to a 3, with all of their breakfasts 100-percent plant-based.

They might decide that a 5 is as far as they want to go. Or they may want to keep increasing the volume, eventually ending up at a 10, with every single meal coming from plants.

But just because they get to a 10 doesn’t mean they need to stay there.

Some days, it’s easy to eat at a 10. Other days, many people find they must lower the “volume,” allowing for a little meat or animal products.

By turning the volume down and up as needed, people can continue to embrace plant-based eating consistently.

(To learn more, check out this infographic: How to use the “dial method” to improve your diet, fitness, and health.)

Strategy #4: Brainstorm ways to shape their environment.

Plant-based eaters live in the same environment as everyone else—which is to say, chances are good they’re:

  1. Surrounded by highly-processed food options.
  2. Often choose foods based on convenience.

This environment will influence their food decisions.

You’re more likely to eat food that’s close and easy to grab than food that’s farther away or out of sight.

And you’re less likely to eat food that requires work to prepare—washing, peeling, slicing—than food that can go straight from the fridge or cupboard and into your mouth.

To eat enough minimally-processed whole foods, clients will want to make those foods easy to eat. At that same time, they’ll want to make highly-processed refined foods harder to eat. To accomplish this, they might:

  • Always have ready-to-munch sliced veggies in the fridge.
  • Soak beans and/or lentils every Sunday.
  • Buy bagged, prewashed salad mix.
  • Store highly processed snacks on a high shelf, out of sight.

By making these tweaks, they’ll be much more likely to grab and eat the foods that help them meet their nutrition requirements.

The Plant-Based Diet: What to eat

Traditionally, a vegetarian’s plate is filled with a lot of plants: vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, and oils. Depending on the person, there might also be some dairy, fish, or eggs.

Using the food lists shown in this infographic—a visual guide to plant-based eating—consider how you could move along a spectrum, starting from your current eating pattern to choices that are more whole food and plant-based, and less processed.

For a complete guide that includes how much protein, carbs, fat you should eat, plug your info into our macros calculator. (It’s FREE and gives you a customized plan based on your diet preferences and goals.)

Plant-based diets: Do they work—for you?

There’s really only one proven way to know if a plant-based diet works for you:

Try it.

Treat it like an experiment. Define what plant-based means to you. Then dive in—for at least two weeks.

After at least 2 weeks, take this short quiz—it’ll help you assess if your eating strategy is working. You can come back to the quiz time and again—and for any diet approach—so you might want to bookmark it.

No matter your results, remember this: It’s all okay.

As we mentioned earlier: You can always turn down the “volume.” Rather than eating plants for most meals, you might try for half of them. Or for just breakfasts. Or one dinner a week.

Or whatever other option feels doable to you.

This isn’t about earning awards for plant-based perfection. It’s about being consistent—with whatever incrementally better habits you can manage.

And if you decide that plant-based eating just isn’t for you? No biggie!

There are many other ways to eat well. (You might consider Mediterranean, Keto, Paleo, reverse dieting, or intermittent fasting as other options).

Or try the “anything” diet laid out in our Precision Nutrition Calculator. Keep experimenting and trying new things. Eventually, you’ll land on the best diet—for you.



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

1. Rizzo NS, Sabaté J, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Fraser GE. Vegetarian dietary patterns are associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome: the adventist health study 2. Diabetes Care. 2011 May;34(5):1225–7.

2. Melina V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Dec;116(12):1970–80

3. Huang R-Y, Huang C-C, Hu FB, Chavarro JE. Vegetarian Diets and Weight Reduction: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Gen Intern Med. 2016 Jan;31(1):109–16

4. Yokoyama Y, Nishimura K, Barnard ND, Miyamoto Y. 22 – Blood Pressure and Vegetarian Diets. In: Mariotti F, editor. Vegetarian and Plant-Based Diets in Health and Disease Prevention. Academic Press; 2017. p. 395–413

5. Oussalah A, Levy J, Berthezène C, Alpers DH, Guéant J-L. Health outcomes associated with vegetarian diets: An umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Clin Nutr [Internet]. 2020 Mar 11; Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2020.02.037

6. Espinosa A, Kadić-Maglajlić S. The Mediating Role of Health Consciousness in the Relation Between Emotional Intelligence and Health Behaviors. Front Psychol. 2018 Nov 8;9:2161

7. Clarys P, Deliens T, Huybrechts I, Deriemaeker P, Vanaelst B, De Keyzer W, et al. Comparison of nutritional quality of the vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diet. Nutrients. 2014 Mar 24;6(3):1318–32

8. Lee-Kwan SH, Moore LV, Blanck HM, Harris DM, Galuska D. Disparities in State-Specific Adult Fruit and Vegetable Consumption – United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017 Nov 17;66(45):1241–7.

9. Martínez Steele E, Baraldi LG, Louzada ML da C, Moubarac J-C, Mozaffarian D, Monteiro CA. Ultra-processed foods and added sugars in the US diet: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study. BMJ Open. 2016 Mar 9;6(3):e009892

10. Watanabe F, Yabuta Y, Bito T, Teng F. Vitamin B12-Containing Plant Food Sources for Vegetarians. Nutrients. 2014 May;6(5):1861.

11. Swanson D, Block R, Mousa SA. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Adv Nutr. 2012 Jan;3(1):1–7

12. Gebauer SK, Psota TL, Harris WS, Kris-Etherton PM. n-3 fatty acid dietary recommendations and food sources to achieve essentiality and cardiovascular benefits. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jun;83(6 Suppl):1526S – 1535S.

13. Geerligs PDP, Brabin BJ, Omari AAA. Food prepared in iron cooking pots as an intervention for reducing iron deficiency anaemia in developing countries: a systematic review. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2003 Aug;16(4):275–81.

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 circumstances—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.

<!—Snippet to hide

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.


The post Plant-based nutrition: A complete guide for vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians, and more. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Is your current way of eating working for you?

And how do you know?

Let’s say you’re following a Paleo or vegetarian diet.

Or maybe you’re practicing mindful or intuitive eating.

Or you’re adding back carbs after doing keto for a few weeks.

Or you’re switching from strict calorie counting to using hand portions.

How do you know if those efforts are REALLY paying off?

Yes, you could just go by the scale or your measurements. But that doesn’t tell you much about your energy level, ability to think clearly, or how you feel.

It also doesn’t tell you whether the benefits you’re noticing outweigh any mental, physical, emotional, or social costs they might come with.  Because even if a diet gets you super pumped or lean, it may or may not be worth it to you if it means giving up nachos for the rest of your life.

(Watch this video to learn more about the kind of costs we’re talking about.)

That’s why we developed this quick and easy 16-question quiz.

It can help you decide whether to keep doing what you’re doing, make a few dietary tweaks, or abandon the approach altogether (ideally, for something that works way better for you).

How and when you use the quiz depends on the current state of your eating affairs. Consider which of the following describes you:

1. You’re wondering if your status quo is okay.

Maybe you’re not on a specific diet at all. You just eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Is that working?

Take the quiz now to find out.

2. You’re thinking about starting a new diet.

Bookmark this page. (People still do that, right?) Start the diet, keeping notes on what you eat, how you feel, and any issues or frustrations that pop up.

After at least two weeks, come back and take the quiz.

3. You’ve recently started a new eating approach or diet.

Maybe you’re counting macros, using hand portions, increasing your consumption of whole foods, or something else.

If you’re at least two weeks in, go ahead and take the quiz now.

4. You’ve been following a diet or new approach for a while.

Many weeks or months (or years!) in, you’re wondering: Is this eating plan meeting ALL of my needs? Can I stay on this plan long term and remain healthy, energetic, and happy?

Take the quiz now to find out.

The self-assessment

Choose the number that best matches how strongly you agree with the following statements.

On a scale of 1 (never) to 10 (always), most of the time…

1. When I eat this way, I feel pretty good in general.



2. When I eat this way, I have reliable, sustained energy without crashing.



3. I try to choose the best quality foods available.



4. This way of eating is easy to do and fits into my everyday life.



5. I know what kinds of foods to choose and eat.



6. I feel confident and capable cooking and preparing food and meals.



7. When I eat this way, I rarely struggle with food cravings or urges to overeat.



8. When I eat this way, I digest my food well.



9. I’m performing and recovering well.



10. On social occasions, such as going out with friends to a restaurant, I can almost always find something I enjoy and feel comfortable eating.



11. I truly enjoy the taste and experience of what I eat.



12. I feel calm and relaxed about my food choices. It’s no big deal, just part of my life.



13. The way I’m eating matches my specific goals for health, fitness, and performance.



14. The way I’m eating measurably helps me progress towards my goals.



15. The way I’m eating reflects my deeper values, or the way I want to live.



16. Even if other people pressure me to do something differently, or my style of eating doesn’t match others around me, I’m able to follow my own cues or goals.



Total score:

128 and above: Crushing it!

This way of eating is working beautifully for you. Keep on doing your thing.

104 to 127: This is promising.

Overall, things are going well with your eating experiment. You might consider making some small changes, but it looks like you’re moving in the right direction.

80-103: Mixed results.

This approach might be working well for you in some areas, but you’re probably struggling in others. Consider if there are any tweaks you could make that would make it feel more sustainable.

Less than 80: This isn’t working for you.

Based on this assessment, you’re experiencing some issues. But don’t feel bad about that. Instead, think of it as an experiment that helped you understand something important: This eating approach may not be for you—at least not right now.

Where do you go from here? That ultimately depends on you.

Success depends on a plan you can stick with consistently that has trade-offs you’re comfortable with. (To learn more about what we mean about trade-offs, check out: The cost of getting lean.)

With that in mind, you might decide to:

Read up on other diets.

Maybe you’re interested in learning about:

Or perhaps you just want to follow a well-balanced diet that allows you to consume a wide range of foods—with no hard exclusions. (In that case, use our Nutrition Calculator and check out “the anything diet.”)

Get a customized plan.

Plug your info into the Precision Nutrition Calculator. This FREE macro calculator provides you with an individualized plan based on your personal diet preferences and goals.

Make one small change.

For example, you might:

Whether you make a big change or a small one, keep an experimentation mindset. Try something that seems like it might work for you. Test it out for a couple of weeks. Use the above tool to evaluate how it went—and keep moving forward from there.

Over time, you’ll keep some strategies and jettison others.

Eventually, you’ll arrive at the best diet—for you.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—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.

<!—Snippet to hide

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.


The post Best diet quiz: Is that diet REALLY working for you? appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Basics | IgG TestsFree Tests | Accuracy | Downsides of IgG Tests | Meal Planning

Do expensive food sensitivity tests work?

Are there lower cost (or free) ways to root out food sensitivities?

And, perhaps most important, what should people do with their results?

In this article, you’ll learn the answers to those questions (and more!), including:


Why get a food sensitivity test?

When people decide to get a food sensitivity test, they’re usually desperate to feel better. For years they’ve been bothered by stomach upset, bloating, embarrassing gas or belching, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and/or brain fog.

Despite giving up any number of foods—gluten, dairy, onions, garlic, this list goes on—their problems persist.

So, when they learn about food sensitivity tests that require only a finger prick’s worth of blood, they’re relieved. They can’t wait to find out what’s wrong—and finally get back to living without an unpleasant digestive emergency lurking around the corner.

How do I know this?

As a registered dietitian, I’ve counseled hundreds of people with mysterious and maddening GI woes. 

Plus, I was practically born with an upset stomach.

During my childhood, my mom took me from one specialist to another. Medical experts suggested I might be sensitive to gluten. Or maybe dairy.

Or gluten and dairy?

No matter what I stopped eating, I just couldn’t shake my digestive issues.

By the end of high school, I had the runs nearly every day.

If you can imagine that, then you can no doubt understand why I decided to major in nutrition and eventually become a registered dietitian. I was looking for answers to help me solve the problem once and for all.

Maybe you can also understand why, during my freshman year in college, I found myself in the waiting room of a naturopathic physician who offered food sensitivity testing.

Despite what the test revealed that day, it would take me years to unravel what was really wrong. And that long search taught me many important lessons.

The best ways to identify and deal with food sensitivities.

Most people can test for food sensitivities and intolerances at home—no needles, blood work, or special kits required. 

Though at-home options like food journaling and elimination diets aren’t as easy as pricking your finger and sending your blood off to a lab, they’re more accurate and effective.

And there’s this: Some people—myself included—can clear up their symptoms without giving up a single food.

Put another way, millions of people are convinced that they can’t eat dozens of foods when, in reality, few (and, in some cases, none) of those foods are actually a problem for them.

I’ll explore all of that in this article, diving deep into the latest science as well as my personal experiences.

It’s my hope that what you’re about to learn not only helps you understand what’s actually going on, but also allows you to enjoy eating a wide variety of foods again, without fear. (Related: ‘What foods should I eat?’ Your three-step guide to choosing the best foods for your body.)

Let’s start with a few definitions.

What are food sensitivities?

Some people use the term “food sensitivities” as a catchall to describe a wide range of adverse symptoms that can be brought on by eating certain foods.1

Other people define sensitivities more narrowly.2 For them, food sensitivities are what’s left over when the following problems are ruled out

  • Food allergies: When the immune system mistakenly treats a component in food as if it were a germ. This can lead to a wide range of allergic responses: hives, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, and life-threatening drops in blood pressure.
  • Food intolerances: The inability to process or digest certain foods. For example, someone who is lactose intolerant doesn’t have adequate amounts of the digestive enzymes needed to break down lactose, a sugar present in dairy products.
  • Celiac disease: An autoimmune reaction that triggers gut inflammation and diarrhea when someone consumes gluten, a protein found in many grains, most notably wheat.

Still other people use the word “sensitivity” interchangeably with “intolerance.” They throw around the term IBS (short for irritable bowel syndrome)—trying to indicate that something in the diet is making someone feel sick, but they’re unsure of the culprit.

It’s all pretty confusing, so let’s make it simple.

For the purposes of this story, I’ll borrow a definition from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: “A food sensitivity occurs when a person has difficulty digesting a particular food.”3

Types of food sensitivity tests: What works?

Alrighty, so let’s circle back to what I started to tell you at the beginning of this article—about the day I underwent food sensitivity testing.

The naturopath pricked my finger and sent a few drops of my blood off to a lab.

About a week later, the doctor handed me a 10-page report that, she said, revealed I had a “weakened” immune response to dozens of foods: sugar, dairy, cooking oil, gelatin, baking powder, cornstarch, chocolate, butter, cheese, popcorn, pretty much all grains, veal, liver, beef, tree nuts, corn, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.

As I glanced over the report, I considered the food typically served at the campus dining hall.

I’d wanted clear answers and a workable plan to put into action. Instead, I left feeling overwhelmed and helpless. How could I possibly eliminate all of those foods for the rest of my life?

Is IgG food sensitivity testing accurate?

With food sensitivity testing, a lab analyzes how immunoglobulin G (IgG), an immune system antibody, reacts to roughly 100 different foods. The idea is that elevated IgG levels signal a food sensitivity.

This premise seems logical.

After all, that’s similar to the premise of food allergy blood testing, which measures a different antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE).

When levels of IgE are elevated, it indicates someone’s immune system is pumping out substances that trigger parts of the body to swell up, break out in a rash, shut down, and/or eject things from the GI tract (a.k.a. vomiting).

Though IgE tests can deliver false positives, they’re relatively accurate, correctly diagnosing allergies 70 to 90 percent of the time.4 This is how you can know if you have, say, a nut allergy.

Unlike IgE tests, IgG tests are unregulated and unproven.

The few studies that seem to support IgG testing have been criticized for a variety of design flaws.5

(To learn what to look for in a study, see How to read scientific research.)

The premise behind IgG tests has also been called into question. That’s because elevated IgG probably isn’t a bad thing. Most experts consider it a normal immune response.

Our bodies likely develop IgG antibodies to all the foods we eat.

These antibodies may even be how the body marks a substance as “safe.”

As the chart below shows, when IgE is high, someone likely has a food allergy. But when IgE is low and IgG is high, it’s a sign that the body has become tolerant to a particular food.6

Likely food allergy High Low
Likely food tolerance Low High


Put another way, if your blood reacts with IgG to a specific food, it probably doesn’t mean you’re sensitive to it. Rather, it may mean you’ve eaten that food somewhat recently.5,7

As a result the following organizations all strongly recommend against taking IgG food sensitivity tests:

  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology3
  • The Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology8
  • The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology7

As the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology put it:

“The inappropriate use of this [IgG food sensitivity] test only increases the likelihood of false diagnoses being made, resulting in unnecessary dietary restrictions and decreased quality of life.”

3 big downsides of IgG tests

Maybe you’re thinking: So what if IgG tests are unproven? Does it really matter if someone wastes money on a test that doesn’t work?

It does matter—for at least three important reasons. An inaccurate food sensitivity blood test may mean that:

  1. You continue to eat foods that could be the source of your issues—because those foods didn’t react to the IgG in your blood.
  2. You stop eating a lot of foods that are perfectly okay for you to eat. That’s no fun. Worse, you could develop nutrient deficiencies.
  3. You fail to diagnose the true problem. This was the case with me. Roughly fifteen years after my IgG test, I underwent a colonoscopy. It revealed a rare, incredibly slow-moving, genetic ovarian tumor—one I’d likely had since birth. The tumor had grown outside of my ovary and through the wall of my digestive tract. Once I had my cancer removed, my digestive problems vanished.

Important note: All three of these downsides—especially the risk of nutritional deficiencies—intensify when children are involved.

On top of the drawbacks listed above, when young children are coddled and prevented from exposure to various foods, they’re more likely to develop allergies and/or sensitivities to those very foods as they get older.9

All this begs the question: How can you find out whether you really have food sensitivities? And if you do, what should you do about them?

6 problems that mimic food sensitivities

I thought I had food sensitivities. In reality, I had cancer—a tumor that had invaded my digestive tract.

My situation, however, is incredibly rare. Most people with bloating and frequent diarrhea don’t have cancer. Much more common, however, are the following:

1. A tendency to gulp down dinner

When we eat quickly, we swallow air bubbles, which lead to a puffy, bloated, gassy feeling.

And because it takes some time for the “I’m full” signal from the stomach and intestines to reach the brain, fast eating often triggers overeating, which only compounds that uncomfortable post-meal sense of unease.

(If you want a strategy that could be helpful here, check out the 30-day slow eating challenge.)

2. Too much fiber too quickly

Some people experience stomach pain, gas, and bloating after suddenly increasing their fiber intake.

For example, a client might decide to start eating nine servings of vegetables for a New Year’s resolution. If they hadn’t eaten many veggies before, this sudden change will overwork the GI tract’s peristalsis muscles as well as disturb the flora that live in the gut.

When they temporarily reduce their fiber intake and then slowly increase it, they feel a lot better.

3. Not enough fluids

Water is also incredibly important, as it helps to move stool through the digestive tract. Getting enough becomes essential if someone is increasing fiber intake.

A good general rule: When adding a serving or two of fiber, up your water consumption by 1-2 glasses.

4. Gut flora imbalance

Antibiotics can wipe out levels of friendly gut bacteria, allowing more problematic bugs to take over, leading to diarrhea and other symptoms.

Starting Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (for children) or Saccharomyces boulardii (for adults) within two days of your first antibiotic dose may help reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.10

5. Stress and lack of sleep

Stress diverts blood flow away from the GI tract, making it harder for the body to digest food effectively. End result: gas, pain, and bloating.

Before meals, I encourage my clients to try a Box Breathing sequence:

  • Inhale for 4 seconds.
  • Hold for 4 seconds.
  • Exhale for 4 seconds.
  • Hold for 4 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 to 5 times.

This short breathing exercise helps trigger relaxation, sending blood flow to the GI tract, priming it to digest the food about to be eaten. It can also help people to slow down.

End result: the heartburn, stomachaches, and bloating eases.

(For more strategies on how to reduce stress, read: How stress prevents weight loss.)

6. Food aversion

Sometimes the mere thought of a food may make someone sick, though the mechanism isn’t fully understood.

These aversions often occur in young children who’ve gotten sick—for example, from food poisoning or stomach flu—after eating a particular food. Their brain then seems to link the nauseated sensation to the food.

Zero-cost ways to test for food sensitivities—at home

When clients come to me with GI symptoms, I use two different tools to help them connect what they eat with how they feel.

Tool #1: Food journaling

For roughly a month, my clients keep track of:

  • What they eat and drink
  • How they eat (for example, wolfing down fast food while driving to an appointment vs. slowly savoring a home-cooked meal)
  • How much they eat (until just satisfied versus stuffed)
  • How they feel, and especially bothersome symptoms such as diarrhea, headaches, bloating, and stomach pain
  • How they sleep
  • Their stress level 

Once they have 30 days of data, we take a look at their journal entries in search of patterns.

To highlight those patterns, I like to bring a client’s attention to days when they experienced vexing symptoms, such as stomach upset. Then I ask:

“What do you notice in your journal in the 2 to 3 days leading up to that flare up? See anything interesting?”

If applicable, I also draw attention to any stretches of time when they had no symptoms at all—and I’ll ask the same question:

“What do you notice in the days leading up to this good stretch? Did you do anything differently during those days that you didn’t do in the days leading up to the flare up?”

This journaling exercise helps people identify sensitivities as well as see they may not have as many sensitivities as they thought.

For example, after looking over their journal, a client might say, “Whoa, I accidentally had dairy on Sunday, and I didn’t have any diarrhea the next day. That’s really weird. But I did have diarrhea just about every day this other week—and I was eating perfectly then. But I was super stressed out. Do you think there’s a connection?”

Want to try this with yourself or a client? Download this free Food and Feelings Journal to get started.

An illustration of a food journal you can use to help identify food sensitivities. Each day, the journal has you track how many hours you slept and to rate your stress levels from 1-10. It has space to enter the time you ate each meal, what you ate, how you ate (for example, slow and mindfully or fast over the sink), and what you noticed (for example, a stuffy nose an hour after eating or nothing, felt okay).

A simple way to start identifying food sensitivities.

Tool #2: The elimination diet

Elimination diets work a lot like a science experiment to help people identify foods that lead to a wide range of bothersome symptoms. And they do pretty much what the name suggests: exclude certain foods for a short period of time—usually three weeks.

After three weeks, clients then slowly reintroduce specific foods one at a time, each reintroduction spaced a few days apart. As they do so, they monitor their symptoms for possible reactions. Unlike food sensitivity blood tests, elimination diets are the gold standard for identifying food sensitivities.

The problem with elimination diets? They take time and effort.

Do I wish I had a fancy, high tech, super science-y way (like a blood test) to give clients a definitive answer? Absolutely. I do. Because a fancy blood test is easier (for most people) than food logs and elimination diets.

Right now, however, this trial and error approach to testing out different foods is the best we’ve got.

But… we have a tool that makes it easier: Precision Nutrition’s  FREE ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Elimination Diets.

This easy-to-use resource includes extensive food lists, recipes, and complete how-to instructions—everything you need to know to try an elimination diet with yourself for a client. (And like I said, it’s 100 percent free.)

How to talk to clients about food sensitivity testing

If you’re a nutrition coach, maybe you’ve had this experience: A client tells you that a food sensitivity test just revealed they can’t eat 47 different foods.

Maybe it’s a young parent who’s already at wit’s end trying to find dinners that all three kids will eat.

“It’s hard enough to cook for my family and make it nutritious and now I have 47 things on my list that I can’t eat anymore,” the client says. “What am I supposed to do?”

Despite my reservations about food sensitivity blood tests, I never start by debunking someone’s test results. That would just make them feel more confused, and possibly alienate them.

Instead, I say something like this:

“If you want to jump in and cut those foods out, we can start there. But, if you don’t mind, I’d love to talk about where you’re eating, why you’re eating, and how you’re eating. Because it’s all connected to what you’re eating and how you feel..”

From there, I usually ask clients a lot of questions:

  • How long does it take you to eat your meals?
  • What’s your sleep like?
  • Do you usually eat at home… or do most meals happen somewhere else, say in the car?
  • How would you describe your stress level?

This conversation often opens the door to food journaling. That’s key, because, as I mentioned earlier, a food journal can help clients see—for themselves—what triggers symptoms, and what doesn’t.

For people with multiple food sensitivities, this tool makes meal-planning easy.

Let’s circle back to the parent I mentioned in the previous section. How do you help someone who—legit or not—has a “can’t eat” list that includes 47 foods?

Shine a spotlight on everything they can eat rather than emphasizing what they can’t.

To do so, I print out lists of foods in the following categories: lean proteins, veggies, smart carbs, and healthful fats. Working together with a client, we circle all of the foods they can eat.

Then I ask clients to pick their favorite 10 to 15 in each category.

Once they know their favorites, they can scour cookbooks and cooking sites for recipes and meal ideas that feature those ingredients. (Psst: The local library often stocks all the cookbooks they need.)

Knowledge really can be life-changing.

I’m happy to tell you that my latest scans detected no evidence of cancer in my body. Even better, I now know I can safely eat many, many foods that I once thought were off-limits for me.

Like Brussels sprouts, which happen to be one of my all-time favorite vegetables. Oh, and chocolate. I’m definitely happy that food has come back into my life.

This bears repeating: Most people with digestive problems don’t have cancer. Unlike me, they may have a food sensitivity or two.

Or maybe they don’t have a food sensitivity at all—but rather one of the six (common) issues that mimic food sensitivities.

Our psychological state and our ability to manage our stress has a much bigger impact on digestion than most people realize.

And whether they have a sensitivity or not, many people might be avoiding a lot of foods they could be eating. And they’re living in fear that the meal they just consumed might have them racing to the nearest bathroom.

For these people, food journaling and elimination diets can not only save them money, they can be illuminating, and empowering. These free tools can help them enjoy eating (and life!) all over again.



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

1. General Information on Food Allergies and Sensitivities. University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

2. Campos M. Food Allergy, Intolerance, or Sensitivity: What’s the Difference, and Why Does It Matter? Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical Schoo.

3. Food Tolerance Definition. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

4. Abrams EM, Sicherer SH. Diagnosis and management of food allergy. CMAJ. 2016 Oct 18;188(15):1087–93.

5. Kelso JM. Unproven Diagnostic Tests for Adverse Reactions to Foods. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2018 Mar;6(2):362–5.

6. Jones SM, Pons L, Roberts JL, Scurlock AM, Perry TT, Kulis M, et al. Clinical efficacy and immune regulation with peanut oral immunotherapy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Aug;124(2):292–300, 300.e1–97

7. Stapel SO, Asero R, Ballmer-Weber BK, Knol EF, Strobel S, Vieths S, et al. Testing for IgG4 against foods is not recommended as a diagnostic tool: EAACI Task Force Report. Allergy. 2008 Jul;63(7):793–6

8. Carr S, Chan E, Lavine E, Moote W. CSACI Position statement on the testing of food-specific IgG. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2012 Jul 26;8(1):12.

9. Chin B, Chan ES, Goldman RD. Early exposure to food and food allergy in children. Can Fam Physician. 2014 Apr;60(4):338–9

10. Blaabjerg S, Artzi DM, Aabenhus R. Probiotics for the Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea in Outpatients-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Antibiotics (Basel). 2017 Oct 12;6(4). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/antibiotics6040021

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 circumstances—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.

<!—Snippet to hide

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.



The post Food sensitivity tests: Which ones REALLY work? appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

What is carb cycling? | Potential benefits | Quiz: Will carb cycling work for you? | Carb cycling plans

There’s a reason carb cycling is so popular.

According to people who are most enthusiastic about this method (often very fit-looking folks), it’s the perfect diet. They say carb cycling can help you:

  • Get the accelerated fat loss that comes from a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet… while still eating carbs and… without sacrificing exercise performance.
  • Avoid frustrating fat loss plateaus by better regulating hormones like leptin and insulin.
  • Gain muscle without gaining much fat.

But are these claims true? And even if so, will they hold true for YOU?

This article is going to help you decide if you should give carb cycling a try, or if instead, you might get better results with other strategies first.

(Strategies that might be more effective—for you personally—and require a lot less effort.)

Before we get started, though, let’s get one thing out of the way: Here at Precision Nutrition, we’re neither pro-carb cycling nor anti-carb cycling.

We’re pro-sustainable results. 

So we’re here to help you learn:

  • What carb cycling is
  • How carb cycling works (and how well it works)
  • Whether or not carb cycling is the right strategy for YOU (we’ve got an interactive quiz with your name on it)
  • How to carb cycle (if you decide to go for it)
  • How to determine if your carb cycling plan is actually working—so you can get the results you really want

Now get ready: Your crash course in carb cycling starts now.

Want the most important carb cycling information at your fingertips?

Download our carb cycling PDF guide, which includes: 

  • A carb cycling cheat sheet for quick and easy reference
  • A pre-carb cycling assessment
  • A step-by-step plan for figuring out if it works for you

Want to get it right now? Download the PDF carb cycling guide here.

If you’re a coach, these will be great to use with clients. And if you’re trying carb cycling yourself, you’ll have the info you need at the ready.


Okay, so what is carb cycling?

Carb cycling is when you fluctuate between eating low-carb foods and high-carb foods.

The most common carb cycling approach is to eat fewer carbohydrates on some days and more carbohydrates on other days.

People who carb cycle usually end up calorie cycling, too. This means they eat fewer calories on their “low-carb days” and more calories on their “high-carb days.”

For example, a typical carb cycling schedule might look like this:

  • Non-workout days: low carb, low calorie
  • Workout days: high carb, high calorie

But that’s not the only way to cycle your carbs. Some folks carb cycle within a single day.

So they’ll eat high-carb foods around their workout, but have low-carb foods the rest of the day.

Because a typical carb cycling schedule requires counting macros or hand portions—and a good amount of nutrition planning—we consider it an intermediate to advanced nutrition strategy. Read: It’s kind of a pain to do and can pretty challenging for most people to do well.

As a result, it tends to work best for those who are highly-motivated: amateur and elite athletes, bodybuilders, and people who are paid based on how they look and perform.

You might be wondering… 

Why focus only on carbs and not protein or fat?

First and foremost, varying your carbohydrate intake may have a positive impact on many important hormones (we’ll dig more into that in a minute).

Fluctuating your fat and protein intake, on the other hand, won’t affect hormones for the better.

There’s also this:

Not-so-great stuff can happen when you don’t get enough protein or fat.

For example, if your fat intake stays too low, your menstrual cycle might halt. And if your protein intake stays too low, you can lose muscle and experience mood swings.

You’re probably not interested in any of that, let’s just keep this conversation about carbs.

.pncta-l1-banner {
width: 90%;
max-width: 90%;
min-height: 262px;
padding: 0;
display: block;
margin: 1rem auto 3rem;
box-shadow: rgba(0,0,0,.08) 0 0 6px 0;
box-sizing: border-box;
background: #2b363e radial-gradient(circle at 78% 56%,#435360,#2b363e 53%);
overflow: hidden;
height: auto;

.pncta-l1-shape {
position: relative;
width: 65%;
height: 70px;
margin: -40px auto 30px auto;
background: #00bbe3;
text-align: center;
border-radius: 15%/50%;
padding-top: 45px;
box-sizing: border-box;

.pncta-l1-shape:after {
content: “”;
position: absolute;
top: -95%;
bottom: -15%;
right: -5%;
left: -5%;
background: inherit;
border-radius: 15%/50%;

.pncta-l1-over {
position: relative;
z-index: 200;
color: #fff;
padding: 0;
margin: 0 auto;
font-size: 14.5px;
font-weight: 200;
text-align: center;
width: 100%;

.pncta-l1-over > strong {
font-size: 23px

.pncta-l1-row:after {
content: “”;
display: table;
clear: both

.pncta-l1-content {
position: relative;
display: flex;
margin: 15px 27px;
flex-direction: row;
align-items: normal;
overflow: hidden;
background: url(https://www.precisionnutrition.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/img-book-ipad.png) no-repeat;
height: 100%;
width: auto;
background-size: contain;
background-position: 100% 0;
min-height: 180px;

.pncta-l1-info {
padding: 0;
margin: 0;
text-align: left;
width: 60%;
overflow: hidden;

.pncta-l1-info h3 {
font-size: 23.5px;
font-weight: 700;
font-stretch: normal;
font-style: normal;
line-height: normal;
letter-spacing: normal;
color: #fff!important;
padding: 0 0 10px;

.pncta-l1-info p {
text-align: left;
padding: 0 0 15px 0;
margin: 0;
font-size: 14.5px;
font-stretch: normal;
font-style: normal;
line-height: 1.37;
letter-spacing: normal;
color: #c6cbce;
font-weight: 400;
width: 90%;

.pncta-l1-img {
width: 40%;
position: relative

.pncta-l1-img > img {
display: none;
margin: 0;
position: absolute;
top: 1em;
right: 0;
left: 0;
max-width: 100%;
margin: 0 auto;
z-index: 2;

.pncta-l1-btn {
color: #f4f4f4 !important;
width: 180px;
height: 34px;
text-transform: uppercase;
font-size: 13.5px;
font-weight: 600;
font-stretch: normal;
font-style: normal;
line-height: normal;
letter-spacing: normal;
text-align: center;
min-width: 180px;
background: linear-gradient(to bottom,#00bbe3 2%,rgba(41,151,186,.96)),linear-gradient(to bottom,#1fd8ff,rgba(31,216,255,0) 6%);
line-height: 0;
border-radius: 2.4px!important

a.pncta-l1-addbanner:active, a.pncta-l1-addbanner:hover, a.pncta-l1-addbanner:link, a.pncta-l1-addbanner:visited {
color: none !important;
text-decoration: none!important;
outline: 0!important

@media only screen and (max-width: 768px) {
.pncta-l1-banner {
min-height: 232px;

.pncta-l1-over {
font-size: 13px;

.pncta-l1-over > strong {
font-size: 21px;

.pncta-l1-content {
min-height: auto;
margin: 15px 27px 25px;

.pncta-l1-info h3 {
font-size: 21px

@media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {
.pncta-l1-btn {
font-size: 14px;

.pncta-l1-shape {
width: 75%

.pncta-l1-banner {
min-height: 232px

.pncta-l1-over {
font-size: 13px;

.pncta-l1-over > strong {
font-size: 17px

.pncta-l1-content {
min-height: auto;
background-size: 44%;
margin: 15px 35px

.pncta-l1-info h3 {
font-size: 17px

.pncta-l1-info p {
font-size: 13px;

@media only screen and (max-width: 580px) {
.pncta-l1-shape {
width: 80%

.pncta-l1-banner {
min-height: 232px

.pncta-l1-over {
font-size: 13px

.pncta-l1-over > strong {
font-size: 17px;

.pncta-l1-content {
min-height: auto;
background-size: 50%;
margin: 15px

.pncta-l1-info h3 {
font-size: 14px

.pncta-l1-info p {
font-size: 13px

@media only screen and (max-width: 500px) and (orientation: portrait) {
.pncta-l1-content {
background: 0 0;

.pncta-l1-banner {
width: 100%;
margin: 1rem auto;
min-height: 380px;
max-width: 100%

.pncta-l1-shape {
position: relative;
width: 75%;
height: 80px}.pncta-l1-info p,.pncta-l1-over{font-size: 13px;
display: table}.pncta-l1-info h3,.pncta-l1-over>strong{font-size: 17px;
line-height: initial!important;
font-weight: 600;

.pncta-l1-content {
flex-direction: column;
align-items: baseline;
margin: 0 auto;
text-align: center;
padding: 0 15px;
width: 100%;
height: 320px;
background-size: 50%;
background-position: bottom center}.pncta-l1-img,.pncta-l1-info,.pncta-l1-info p,.pncta-l1-info>h3{width: 100%;
display: block;
text-align: center;
margin: 0 auto}.pncta-l1-img>img{display: block}.pncta-l1-content: after{content: “”;
display: inline-block;
width: 0;
height: 0;
border-style: solid;
border-width: 0 100px 50px 100px;
border-color: transparent transparent #00bbe3 transparent;
z-index: 0;
transform: scale(3.5);
left: 0;
right: 0;
position: absolute;
bottom: 0;
margin: 0 auto;
text-align: center

Nearly 100,000 health & fitness professionals certified

Save up to 30% on the industry’s top nutrition education program

Get a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

What does carb cycling do, exactly?

In theory, it can do quite a few things. So we’ll give you a rundown of the top five potential benefits of carb cycling.

But before we do, it’s important to know: There’s hardly any human research on carb cycling.

Mostly, we have anecdotal reports about how carb cycling works, along with a few hypotheses based on biochemistry.

Those are valuable, but on a 1 to 10 scale of scientific confidence, carb cycling ranks closer to a 1 than a 10.

So keep that in mind when you hear or read claims about carb cycling.

Okay, enough with the disclaimers. Here’s what carb cycling might do.

#1: Carb cycling may help keep your metabolism humming during fat loss.

When you eat less—say, to lose fat—your body responds in a variety of ways. For example:

  • Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) drops
  • You expend less energy when you exercise
  • Your daily activity outside of workouts tends to decrease naturally (you move around less without even realizing it).

So as you lose weight, you have to continue reducing how much you eat in order to keep seeing results.

Example: Let’s say you start a 2,000 calorie a day diet and lose weight steadily for a while. Over time, you might find that stops working. So you might have to cut back to 1,800 calories to kickstart weight loss again.

This is called metabolic adaptation, and you can no doubt see why it’s a problem.

The more your metabolism adapts, the more you have to restrict your food intake.

As a result, the harder it’s going to be to achieve your goal—and maintain your weight loss down the road. (Learn more: Can eating too little actually damage your metabolism?)

But carb cycling proponents say the approach can prevent metabolic adaptation.

The rationale: Regularly mixing in high-carb, high-calorie days “jumpstarts” your metabolism and keeps it from adapting.

Again, there’s no strong evidence to support this claim, but it also hasn’t been refuted.

(By the way, metabolic adaptation is the same principle behind reverse dieting, another advanced nutrition strategy.)

#2: Carb cycling may help regulate hormones affected by fat loss.

Intense dieting can mess with your hormones. Specifically:

  • Leptin
  • Thyroid hormones
  • Reproductive hormones (testosterone and estrogen)

If you’re trying to lose fat, leptin’s a particular concern. (Even though thyroid hormones, testosterone, and estrogen seem to get all the press.)

Released by fat tissue, leptin plays a key role in hunger and metabolic adaptation.

The more body fat you have, the more leptin in your blood. Your brain uses leptin levels to make decisions about hunger, calorie intake, nutrient absorption, and energy use.1

That’s a lot of factors related to fat loss.

Now here’s where it gets interesting: When you reduce calorie intake, even just for a few days, leptin levels drop.2

This tells your brain you need to eat to prevent starvation.

The takeaway: Leptin is one of the reasons you feel so hungry when you consistently eat less. 

Leptin is also considered the “master controller” of other hormones, meaning that when leptin drops, so do thyroid and reproductive hormones.

Okay, so what does this have to do with carb cycling?

The idea is this: By periodically eating more calories from carbohydrates (known as “refeeding”), our leptin levels will temporarily rise.

Hypothetically, this would tell your brain that you’re well-fed, causing a temporary decrease in hunger and appetite.

And because of this little high-carb, high-calorie break, it might feel easier to stick to a lower calorie intake on low-carb days. Plus, you could be less likely to experience the negative effects of not having enough of other important hormones.

There’s some evidence for this, though it’s very limited. What’s more, the “refeeds” involved are usually longer than one day.3

Still, there may be very real psychological benefits.

When you’re generally eating lower-carb and lower-calorie, getting in a higher-carb, higher-calorie day on purpose can feel really good physically and mentally. (Who doesn’t love a “cheat” day?)

#3: Carb cycling may make it easier to stick to a low-carbohydrate diet.

Low-carb diets can be effective for fat loss, especially for people with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.4 (It should be noted, though, that they’re not necessarily more effective than low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets.5 6)

What counts as low carb? You might call any diet that provides fewer than 30 percent of your daily calories from carbs a “low-carb diet.” (Experts often debate the exact percentage here, with some saying it’s 20 percent and others saying it’s even less.)

The ketogenic diet, a popular form of low-carb eating, is more specific. It’s very low in carbs, and very high in fat (usually <10 percent carbohydrate and >60 percent fat).

(To understand more about the differences between keto and low carb, see: The ketogenic diet: everything you need to know.)

Though low-carb and ketogenic diets can be effective for fat loss, most people can’t stick with them over a longer period of time. (This also goes for any other kind of restrictive eating style.)

So it’s been suggested that alternating between lower-carb and higher-carb days may better help people maintain a lower-carb eating style—and their results—long-term. In the case of someone doing keto, this is referred to as a cyclical ketogenic diet.

You could think of it this way: You eat a ketogenic most of the time but have little mini-breaks—that last a day or two—where you can enjoy higher-carb meals.

#4: Carb cycling may support athletic performance on a low-carb diet.

The ketogenic diet is also sometimes used by athletes who want to be fat adapted. Being fat-adapted allows you to burn greater amounts of fat at higher exercise intensities, according to several studies.7 8 9

Burning more fat always sounds like a good thing, of course. But how might it help with exercise performance?

That deserves a little more explanation.

Here’s the background: To fuel long bouts of endurance exercise, your body normally relies heavily on carbohydrates stored in the form of glycogen.

Unfortunately, your body can only store so much glycogen at a time. So if you exercise long enough, you’ll run low on carbs and have to slow down.

That’s why endurance athletes usually consume 60 to 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour during competitions. It gives them more fuel so they can keep going hard.

This is where being fat-adapted may come in handy.

As many of us know all too well, it’s easy for your body to store lots of fat in the form of fat tissue.

Even very lean people have 15 times more energy available from stored fat than from stored carbohydrate.10

So if you become fat-adapted, your body relies more heavily on fat—instead of carbs—to fuel long endurance exercise.

That would mean you wouldn’t have to deal with the inconvenience (and potential GI distress) of consuming an energy gel every 90 minutes during a longer exercise session.11 Plus, it might make you less likely to “bonk.”

Some have even suggested being fat-adapted could help improve exercise performance and recovery, too, though this is debated by researchers.12

Now, keep in mind: All of the above is only referring to how a ketogenic (low-carb, high-fat) diet might benefit endurance performance.

So how does carb cycling fit in?

The idea is this: You get fat-adapted by eating a ketogenic diet for several days. But then you cycle in a couple of high-carb days.

These high-carb days allow you to max-out your glycogen stores. The hope is that you can do this without disrupting the hypothetical performance benefits of the ketogenic diet.

Combined, this could give you the best of both worlds: Lots of energy to burn, from both carbs and fat.

It’s important to note, though, that the evidence doesn’t currently support the performance benefits of a ketogenic diet on a wide scale.

So based on what we know now: For most people, adopting a cyclical ketogenic diet specifically because you want to perform better is most likely more trouble than it’s worth.

#5: Carb cycling may promote muscle gain without fat gain.

Fat gain almost always accompanies muscle growth.

But some carb cycling enthusiasts say the key to gaining muscle without gaining much fat is the hormone insulin.

Whenever you eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar rises, and insulin is released.

Insulin helps regular your blood sugar levels. It also plays a key role in muscle growth and glycogen storage.

The hypothesis goes:

  • If you eat high carb on days you resistance train, you can take advantage of insulin’s muscle-building and recovery properties
  • If you eat low carb on rest or conditioning workout days, you can simultaneously lose fat and improve insulin sensitivity, making the high-carb days even more effective

That’s the high-level version. But the reality? It’s a lot more complicated than that, and there aren’t any diet studies that support it.

(Learn more: The truth about carbs, insulin, and fat loss.)


Remember: We’re not totally sure carb cycling works.

What are we more confident about?

The big rocks.

Imagine your time as a jar that can be filled with a finite number of rocks, pebbles, and grains of sand.

The big rocks are the eating and lifestyle practices most necessary to see results. (You can read more about these in our article on the 5 universal principles of good nutrition.)

The pebbles are things that’ll help but aren’t totally necessary.

The sand is purely “bonus” stuff. It may help, but it’s not crucial, and it won’t have a big impact.

Carb cycling is a sand habit.

Illustrations showing how different health and fitness habits, including carb cycling, impact body composition. Big rock habits make the most impact, pebble habits make a little impact, and sand habits (like carb cycling), make minimal impact.

Carb cycling might make a small difference, but it doesn’t come close to big rock habits in terms of impact.

So… does carb cycling work?

If you mean, “Can carb cycling help me lose fat and improve body composition?”, the answer is yes. As long as, overall, you’re expending more calories than you’re consuming.

It might even work great for you, if it’s a good fit for your eating preferences and lifestyle.

But if you mean, “Is it superior to other methods?”, that’s hard to say. Because lack of evidence.

Our take: If it provides any incremental benefit, it’s minute. For most people, it’s a high effort, low impact deal.

(The key term here is most people. For example, if you’re an athlete with more than one competition in a day, nutrient timing is a whole lot more important.)

Who should try carb cycling?

Though carb cycling isn’t right for everyone, it can work for specific types of people.

You’re most likely to benefit from carb cycling if…

▶ You have your big rock habits down. 

You’re already eating lots of minimally-processed whole foods and little highly-processed fare. You’re exercising. You’re getting plenty of quality sleep. And you’re eating mindfully.

And because these big rocks are already in place, carb cycling becomes something to experiment with—instead of being the primary method of achieving results.

Since we aren’t 100 percent sure carb cycling works in all scenarios (in fact, not even close to 100 percent sure), this is an important box to check before getting started.

▶ You’re already very lean but want to get leaner. 

When you’ve already gotten super lean, your body will start to fight every last bit of fat loss. Cycling calorie and carb intake might help stave off the metabolic adaptation that often occurs with a chronic, ongoing calorie deficit.

Plus, cycling intake can make a calorie deficit feel like less of a grind. That’s because it lets you block off “eat less” days into small, manageable units instead of several weeks of miserable, hungry slogging.

▶ You want to manage training and nutritional stress (and are already implementing other key strategies).

If you’re concerned about how the stress of hard training and a chronic calorie deficit is affecting your hormones, you might consider carb cycling.

Provided you’re also doing other things to manage their total stress load—like sleeping enough, meditating, and practicing self-compassion—periodically “topping off” energy and carbohydrate stores can tell your body that everything’s okay, and starvation isn’t imminent. This is particularly useful for:

  • Women (whose central hormonal regulation systems may be very sensitive to nutritional deficits, which is one of the reasons intermittent fasting isn’t always so great for women)
  • Leaner people (who usually have less circulating leptin)
  • Anyone who doesn’t tolerate stress well or who already has a high stress load

▶ You’re trying to cut weight or change the appearance of your physique for competition.

Carbohydrate intake affects fluid balance in the body, which can impact both weight and appearance on competition or shoot day.

▶ You’re aiming for incremental gains. 

Let’s say you’re an advanced lifter. You’re already in great shape, and you’re pretty close to your genetic ceiling. Carb cycling might be the difference between you gaining one pound of muscle versus three pounds of muscle in a year. For an advanced lifter, that’s awesome progress.

But let’s say you’re a beginner lifter, and you’re just starting to make gains.

Carb cycling probably won’t make a big difference for you. And it might distract you from consistently implementing the big rocks that are going to push you forward.

In fact, it’d be smart to keep this strategy in your back pocket in case you need it later on, when you’re more advanced and no longer benefiting from newbie gains.

▶ You don’t tolerate carbs well. 

People with underlying metabolic issues (such as poor blood sugar control or elevated inflammation) may not feel great (think: bloated and tired) after eating large amounts of carbohydrates.

This group may nevertheless be able use carbs effectively when active. So they may benefit from getting the bulk of their carb intake around workouts.

(Even better, with time and sustained activity, they may become more metabolically healthy, which means improved overall carb tolerance and more dietary flexibility.)

▶ You have a solid handle on other aspects of their health. 

Changing your habits always comes at a cost. (This is something we cover in-depth in our article, The cost of getting lean).

For example, carb cycling might cause you to interact less socially because of stricter rules around mealtimes.

Or let’s say keeping track of how much and when you’re supposed to eat makes you feel stressed and overwhelmed. In that case, carb cycling could have a negative effect on your mental health.

For some people, these trade-offs may be worth it. For others, not so much. (We’ll help you figure out which category you fall into in the quiz below.)

▶ You find it an enjoyable way to eat. 

When it comes to nutrition, it’s what you do consistently that matters most.

And you’ll be much more likely to do what you enjoy. But if you hate an eating approach? It’s probably not going to last long.

So whether you carb cycle or eat low-carb, low-fat, Paleo, plant-based—it doesn’t really matter. If you can follow an eating style consistently, it fits the life you want to live, and you enjoy it, you’ll get results.

What about “carb cycling kickstart” challenges?

Usually, we don’t recommend carb cycling as a first step to better eating habits. 

That’s because popular carb-cycling challenges are often hyperspecific, requiring you to eat exactly five meals a day and adhere to precise macronutrient ratios.

Few people can stick to something like that for very long.

So is it likely that a 14-day carb cycling challenge will change your life forever?

Not really.

But it’s possible. 

We know that action leads to motivation. So if doing this kind of program helps you get motivated to take more steps to improve your nutrition habits, that’s awesome.

People who see early success with their nutrition efforts are more likely to continue making progress thanks to the motivation boost.

But if you choose this route, we’d like to offer one helpful nugget of advice: Have some sort of transition plan in place to help you get to a more sustainable eating pattern afterward.

Where to start? You can increase your chances of long-term success by picking out some “big rock” habits to focus on afterward.

Should YOU try carb cycling?

Let’s find out.

Use this handy quiz to determine if carb cycling makes sense for you.

1. Do you know what you hope to get out of carb cycling?
Consider: Do you want to lose fat? Gain muscle? Better regulate stress or your hormones?

No idea
100 percent clear


2. Are you looking for a major body transformation or smaller incremental gains?
Consider: Is this the first step of your nutrition journey, or one of the last?

Smaller gains


3. Have you already tried less advanced strategies (example: eating more veggies) to accomplish your goal?
Consider: Is there anything less complex you could try first?

No previous steps
Tried everything else


4. Are you already consistent and confident with your “big rock” habits?
Consider: Will you be able to keep up with your fundamental nutrition practices while you carb cycle?

Not consistent at all
Super confident


5. How comfortable are you with rigid eating rules?
Consider: How do you feel about needing to eat exactly 5 meals or exactly 6 portions of lean protein each day, for example?

Flexibility is very important
I’m okay with rules for now


6. Do you feel comfortable treating carb cycling as an experiment?
Consider: Are you okay trying carb cycling even if, ultimately, your experiment determines that this style of eating isn’t for you?

No, I need to be sure it’ll work
I’m all for experimenting


7. Are you okay with making tradeoffs to follow a specific eating style?
Consider: How would carb cycling impact the way you eat at social gatherings or family meals? Are there foods you might have to skip out on that you normally enjoy?

Not okay
Totally comfortable


8. Will following a super-specific eating plan stress you out?
Consider: Does the idea of not being able to “wing it” with your nutrition—in a restaurant or when you’re running low on groceries, for example—sound stressful?

Extremely stressful
I’m good with a specific plan


Total score:

32-40: It’s a go!

Sounds like you’re in a great place to give carb cycling a try. You’re clear on your goals, your big rocks are in place, and you’re willing to make the tradeoffs.

24-31: Proceed with caution.

Carb cycling may or may not make sense for you. If you’d still like to give it a try, use outcome-based decision making (using the data you collect about your experience to decide what to do next) as you experiment with one of the protocols below.

Basically, that means checking in with yourself and being honest about how it’s going for you.

0-23: Consider keeping carb cycling in your back pocket. 

It looks like you’d benefit from less advanced nutrition and health practices. (That doesn’t mean you should never try carb cycling in the future.)

These fundamental practices include eating lean protein with meals, choosing minimally-processed whole foods most of the time, consuming several servings of colorful veggies each day, getting restful sleep, and reducing stress, among many others.

If you’re still interested in carb cycling after getting those big rock habits in place, retake this quiz, and see how you do.

How to carb cycle for fat loss or muscle gain

Here at Precision Nutrition, we use a variety of carb-cycling methods depending on a person’s goals and nutrition experience.

Below, we’ve outlined the two carb cycling methods we use most often. Before we dive in, though, let’s go over two key points.

1. Customize your carb cycling schedule. 

To adjust these carb cycling plans for your goals and body, you’ll want to use the Precision Nutrition Calculator. This will help you determine your baseline nutrition needs (in calories, macros, and/or hand portions).

Ultimately, no matter which cycling strategy you use, total calorie and macronutrient intake for the week should remain the same as if you’re not cycling.

For example, let’s say you’re looking to gain muscle, and the calculator determines you need a daily intake of:

  • 7 palms or 210 g protein
  • 6-8 fists of veggies
  • 8 handfuls or 250 g carbs; and
  • 7 thumbs or 100 g fats.

On a “typical” diet, that’s what you’d try to eat every day. To apply these numbers to carb cycling, start by multiplying the recommended daily carb intake by 7. That’s your total carb intake for the week.

Based on your carb cycling method, you’ll adjust your carb intake for a given meal or day. You’ll eat the same amount of carbs as you would without carb cycling, but distribute them a little differently throughout the day or week. Your fat and protein amounts will be the same every day. (Don’t worry: The complete directions are below.)

2. Treat carb cycling as an experiment.

As we covered above, carb cycling isn’t a super reliable method for getting results. That means it may or may not work for you.

And because carb cycling requires a decent amount of energy and attention, it’s important to treat it like an experiment until you understand how well it fits into your life.

We place a heavy emphasis on self-experimentation here at PN because it’s one of the best ways to find out what works for you as an individual. (Learn more about nutrition experiments here: 3 diet experiments that can change your eating habits—and transform your body.)

To set up your carb cycling experiment, consider:

  • What’s the goal you’re trying to achieve?
  • How will you know if you’re making progress? Will you measure your weight, body composition, girth measurements, exercise performance?
  • How often will you check in to determine whether you’re making progress or not?

We’d recommend using either of the methods below for at least two weeks before evaluating. Then, complete the carb cycling self-experimentation assessment below to see how things are going.

Carb cycling plan #1: Use high/low days.

This carb and calorie cycling approach is very simple and is based on your level of daily activity. Remember, first calculate your average daily needs using the Precision Nutrition Calculator. Then you’ll fluctuate your daily carb intake as follows.

  • On days with minimal physical activity: Eat mostly protein, vegetables, and healthy fats with minimal carbs (about 25-50 percent of your estimated daily carb need from the calculator, whether in grams or cupped handfuls).
  • On days with physical activity and/or planned exercise: Add starchy carbs to the baseline diet (about 150-175 percent of your estimated daily carb needs, whether in grams or cupped handfuls).

And that’s pretty much it.

To put this in context, let’s assume you were estimated to need an average of 8 handfuls or 250 g of carbs daily. On your days with minimal activity you’d aim for about 2-4 handfuls or 62-125 g of carbs. And on your days with lots of physical activity, you’d have about 12-14 handfuls or 375-435 g of carbs.

Carb cycling plan #2: Use post-workout/anytime meals.

Another approach is to put the bulk of a day’s carbohydrate intake in the meal that follows physical activity (post-workout), while minimizing carbohydrates at other meals (anytime).

For a visual of what a Post-workout (PW) or Anytime (AT) meal could look like, see below.

Illustrations showing two different types of meals you could use on a carb cycling schedule. An anytime meal has protein, veggies, and fats, and a post-workout meal has protein, veggies, fruit, and starches.

Alternating between Anytime and Post-Workout meals is a simpler approach to carb cycling.

An AT meal, as its name implies, can be eaten any time outside of exercise.

An AT meal:

  • Has serving of lean protein (about 1-2 palms, or as calculated)
  • Has a serving of healthy fats (about 2-3 thumbs, or as calculated)
  • Fills out the remainder with non-starchy vegetables (ideally colorful ones)

An AT meal can also include a small portion of high-fiber, slow-digesting carbohydrates, such as beans, lentils, or fruit (generally fewer than 25 percent of the total calories for that meal).

The PW plate is for meals that take place after physical activity. This meal type helps us take advantage of the body’s metabolic response to exercise, and the improved glucose tolerance that occurs during the post-exercise period (or any period following higher amounts of physical activity).

A PW meal:

  • Has a serving of lean protein (about 1-2 palms, or as calculated)
  • Is lower in healthy fats (about 0.5-1 thumb, or as calculated)
  • Has a large serving of carbohydrates (generally at least 50 percent or more of the calories for that meal, or about 3-5 cupped handfuls or as calculated)

On non-workout days choose one meal to be post-workout. Breakfast and dinner are the most common options.

Here’s a sample schedule:

Monday: workout day Tuesday: No workout but still physically active Wednesday: No workout and not physically active
Meal 1: Anytime Meal 1: Anytime Meal 1: Post-workout
Workout Ride bike to work and work physically active job
Meal 2: Post-workout Meal 2: Post-workout Meal 2: Anytime
Meal 3: Anytime Meal 3: Anytime (possibly Post-workout if extra calories needed) Meal 3: Anytime
Meal 4: Anytime Meal 4: Anytime Meal 4: Anytime

A quick note on advanced carb cycling methods

More advanced forms of carb cycling can be used by people like elite amateur and professional athletes, people whose income is tied to their appearance (like models), and bodybuilding and figure competitors.

If you’re a coach and you’re interested in learning more about these advanced protocols, we cover them in-depth in our Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

If you’d like to try advanced carb cycling yourself, we’d recommend doing so with the assistance of a qualified nutrition coach.

Carb cycling: How’s it REALLY working for you?

After you’ve been carb cycling for at least 2 weeks, use this assessment to decide if the eating strategy is working for you.

Think about your recent experiences with carb cycling. Then, choose the number that best matches how strongly you agree with the following statements.

On a scale of 1 (never) to 10 (always), most of the time…

1. When I eat this way, I feel pretty good in general.



2. Compared to how I was eating before, I feel better when carb cycling.



3. When I carb cycle, I have reliable, sustained energy without crashing.



4. Carb cycling feels doable, and fits into my everyday life.



5. When I carb cycle, I feel good mentally and emotionally.



6. I feel confident and capable cooking and preparing meals while carb cycling.



7. When I carb cycle, I feel I am consistently keeping up with the other nutrition, fitness, and health practices that make me feel my best.



8. When I carb cycle, I rarely struggle with food cravings or urges to overeat.



9. When I carb cycle, I digest my food well.



10. I’m performing and recovering well while carb cycling.



11. On social occasions, such as going out with friends to a restaurant, I can almost always find something I enjoy and feel comfortable eating.



12. I feel calm and relaxed about my food choices. It’s no big deal, just part of life.



13. Even if other people pressure me to do something differently, or my style of eating doesn’t match others around me, I’m able to follow my own cues or goals.



14. Carb cycling is helping me eat in a way that matches my specific goals for health, fitness, performance, etc.



15. I feel I can still truly enjoy food, how it tastes, and the experience of eating.



Total score:

120 and above: Crushing it!

This way of eating is working beautifully for you. Keep on doing your thing.

105 to 119: This is promising. 

Overall, things are going well with your carb cycling experiment. You might consider making some small changes, but it looks like you’re moving in the right direction.

76 to 104: Mixed results. 

Carb cycling might be working well for you in some areas, but you’re probably struggling in others. Consider if there are any tweaks you could make that would make it feel more sustainable.

Less than 75: Carb cycling is not working for you. 

Based on this assessment, you’re experiencing some issues with the carb cycling protocol you’re currently following. Success depends on a plan you can stick with consistently that has minimal tradeoffs.

And don’t feel bad about this. This experiment helped you to understand something important: Carb cycling may not be for you—at least, right now.

Carb cycling may or may not work for you.

No matter what happens during your carb cycling experiment, remember this: It’s all okay.

You might learn that you just can’t stick to a carb cycling regimen.

Or that you feel terrible when carb cycling.

Or maybe you feel great.

Or perhaps you learn that carb cycling is your favorite way of eating.

Or that it’s just not worth all the effort.

Or something else.

It’s all good.

The key is to keep an open mind and go with the best available evidence: your own personal experience (based on the assessment above).

Collect your data and then reflect on how things are going. If you stick to the facts, you can’t go wrong.



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

1. Pandit R, Beerens S, Adan RAH. Role of leptin in energy expenditure: the hypothalamic perspective. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2017 Jun 1;312(6):R938–47.

2. Jenkins AB, Markovic TP, Fleury A, Campbell LV. Carbohydrate intake and short-term regulation of leptin in humans. Diabetologia. 1997 Mar;40(3):348–51.

3. Dirlewanger M, Vetta V di, Guenat E, Battilana P, Seematter G, Schneiter P, et al. Effects of short-term carbohydrate or fat overfeeding on energy expenditure and plasma leptin concentrations in healthy female subjects. Int J Obes. 2000 Nov 1;24(11):1413–8.

4. Kelly T, Unwin D, Finucane F. Low-Carbohydrate Diets in the Management of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes: A Review from Clinicians Using the Approach in Practice. Int J Environ Res Public Health [Internet]. 2020 Apr 8;17(7). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17072557

5. Brouns F. Overweight and diabetes prevention: is a low-carbohydrate-high-fat diet recommendable? Eur J Nutr. 2018 Jun;57(4):1301–12.

6. 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.

7. Marquet L-A, Brisswalter J, Louis J, Tiollier E, Burke LM, Hawley JA, et al. Enhanced Endurance Performance by Periodization of Carbohydrate Intake: “Sleep Low” Strategy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Apr;48(4):663–72.

8. Yeo WK, Paton CD, Garnham AP, Burke LM, Carey AL, Hawley JA. Skeletal muscle adaptation and performance responses to once a day versus twice every second day endurance training regimens. J Appl Physiol. 2008 Nov;105(5):1462–70.

9. Lane SC, Camera DM, Lassiter DG, Areta JL, Bird SR, Yeo WK, et al. Effects of sleeping with reduced carbohydrate availability on acute training responses. J Appl Physiol. 2015 Sep 15;119(6):643–55.

10. Volek JS, Noakes T, Phinney SD. Rethinking fat as a fuel for endurance exercise. EJSS. 2015;15(1):13–20.

11. Yeo WK, Carey AL, Burke L, Spriet LL, Hawley JA. Fat adaptation in well-trained athletes: effects on cell metabolism. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2011 Feb;36(1):12–22.

12. Ma S, Huang Q, Tominaga T, Liu C, Suzuki K. An 8-Week Ketogenic Diet Alternated Interleukin-6, Ketolytic and Lipolytic Gene Expression, and Enhanced Exercise Capacity in Mice. Nutrients. 2018 Nov 7;10(11). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu10111696

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

<!—Snippet to hide

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

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



The post Carb cycling: Is this advanced fat loss strategy right for YOU? (Take the quiz.) appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

It’s not breaking news that vitamins and minerals are essential to good health.

Most of us have been told that since we were in diapers.

Heck, even Lucky Charms brags about being “fortified with 12 essential vitamins and minerals.” So they must be important!

But why, exactly?

How many vitamins and minerals are there, and what do they actually do? What foods contain them? And if you have a deficiency, how do you know?

Also, is there more nutrition in a grape-flavored Fred Flinstone chewable vitamin than in an orange-flavored Wilma?


We’ve got your answers.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What vitamins and minerals are
  • Why we need them to stay healthy
  • How you absorb and use them

Plus, we’ll give you a complete list of all the vitamins and minerals, what they do, how much you need, signs of deficiency, and what foods to get them from.

If you’re only interested in a specific vitamin or mineral, use the list below to jump right to it.

Otherwise, scroll on by these quick links, and we’ll dive into everything you need to know about vitamins and minerals.

What are vitamins and minerals?

We know that vitamins and minerals come from our diet and also supplements, but what are they?

Well, they’re molecules. Or—in the case of minerals—elements.

But there are also a few other (more practical) things we know…

Vitamins and minerals prevent disease, but also help us feel energetic and healthy.

Years ago, medical professionals noticed that certains symptoms and diseases seemed to be directly related to food intake.

Some people got sick even when they were eating adequate calories and protein while others didn’t. Scientists determined that the types of food people ate—or more accurately, didn’t—seemed to be the difference.

The most famous example (which you’ve no doubt heard before):  Sailors on long sea voyages were prone to developing scurvy—unless they ate citrus fruit. Turns out, all it took was the occasional lemon slice to keep their bleeding gums at bay.

From that and other examples, scientists reasoned that there must be important compounds in foods that prevent—and perhaps even cure—diseases.

These compounds were vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins and minerals come from food (and maybe supplements).

Some nutrients can be created in the body—for example, some of the B vitamins can be made by bacteria in the gut—but some can’t.

So we have to get our vitamin and mineral requirements from nutritious foods (or supplements), eaten regularly.

Whole, minimally-processed foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, dairy, and animal proteins are rich sources of vitamins and minerals. Our bodies rely on them to support normal physical functions like digestion, reproduction, growth, and energy production.1,2

If you don’t consume enough of a vitamin or mineral, you’ll develop a deficiency.

Sometimes, if diet quality or calorie intake is low, or digestion and absorption is compromised, we don’t get enough of a vitamin or mineral to meet our body’s needs.

If this goes on long enough, we can develop a deficiency.

Specific vitamin and mineral deficiencies will cause specific symptoms (more on that below), and can even cause or exacerbate chronic health conditions.  

Nutrient deficiencies are common. Over 30 percent of Americans have some kind of micronutrient deficiency.3

That’s a clinical deficiency we’re talking about. Clinical deficiencies are often the endpoint of a prolonged vitamin or mineral insufficiency and usually have pretty obvious symptoms.

However, milder forms of deficiency, often of multiple micronutrients, are much more common.4,5 These milder forms of deficiency are called subclinical deficiencies.

For example, it’s estimated that about 20 percent of the world has a subclinical magnesium deficiency. In certain populations—like people with poorly-controlled type 2 diabetes—it might be as high as 75 percent.6

Subclinical deficiencies are harder to recognize, as they don’t always have clear, predictable symptoms. But it’s likely that suboptimal levels of any vitamin or mineral—or multiple micronutrients—will have negative effects on the body. (Even if there’s no obvious outward symptoms.)

Here are the most common deficiencies in the US, according to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)7:

Micronutrient Prevalence of Clinical Deficiency
Vitamin B6 11% of the total population
Iron 10% of females aged 12-49, and 7% of children aged 1-5
Vitamin D 9% of the total population (31% of non-hispanic Blacks)
Vitamin C 6% of people over the age of 6
Vitamin B12 2% of the total population

What’s more, deficiencies are particularly common among certain populations:

  • The elderly, who may have trouble preparing, chewing, or digesting foods
  • Women (aged 19-50), particularly if pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Athletes, who have higher nutrient requirements because of the extra demands on their body
  • People with darker skin tones, who may be particularly at risk for vitamin D deficiency8 (overall, many people—about 24 percent of Americans9, 37 percent of Canadians10, and 40 percent of Europeans11—have suboptimal levels of vitamin D12)
  • Chronic dieters or people who struggle with disordered eating, due to restricting specific food groups or calories overall
  • People with lower socioeconomic status, who may have challenges accessing fresh, nutritious foods

So, now that we know how important vitamins and minerals are, let’s find out more about what each nutrient does, and which foods contain them.

(If you want to jump over the details here, and get to practical advice for optimizing your vitamin and mineral intake, go ahead and click here.)


Vitamins serve a variety of roles in the body. One of the most important things they do is when they act as coenzymes.

Coenzymes enhance the action of enzymes and help carry out reactions in the body, for example, contracting a muscle.

Vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble.

Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed with dietary fat. If we don’t eat enough dietary fat, we don’t properly absorb these vitamins. That’s why a very low-fat diet can lead to deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins.

We can excrete fat-soluble vitamins through our poop, but we can also store them in our fatty tissues. Fatty tissues include things like body fat stores, but also cell membranes, which are made up of fat. Because we store them, we don’t necessarily have to eat these vitamins every day.

Water-soluble vitamins don’t require fat to be absorbed. However, they’re also generally not stored in high amounts in the body and can be excreted in the urine. As a result, we need to eat them more often.

Water-soluble vitamins

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Vitamin B1 is involved in producing energy, as well as synthesizing DNA and RNA, the nucleic acids that carry our genetic material.

Vitamin B1 Deficiency: Symptoms include burning feet, weakness in extremities, rapid heart rate, swelling, lack of appetite, nausea, fatigue, and digestive problems.

Toxicity: None known.

Vitamin B1 Food Sources: Sunflower seeds, asparagus, lettuce, mushrooms, black beans, navy beans, lentils, spinach, peas, pinto beans, lima beans, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, tuna, whole wheat, soybeans

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 helps produce red blood cells and metabolize toxins in the liver. (It’s also what turns your pee bright yellow when you take a multivitamin!)

Vitamin B2 Deficiency: Symptoms include cracks, fissures and sores at corner of mouth and lips, dermatitis, conjunctivitis, light sensitivity (photophobia), inflammation in the mouth, anxiety, loss of appetite, and fatigue.

Toxicity: Very rare. Excess supplementation can cause liver damage.

Vitamin B2 Food Sources: Almonds, soybeans / tempeh, mushrooms, spinach, whole wheat, yogurt, mackerel, eggs, liver

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3 plays a role in repairing DNA, keeping nerves healthy, and controlling cholesterol levels.

Vitamin B3 Deficiency: Symptoms include dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, and inflammation of the stomach.

Toxicity: Very rare from foods. Supplemental nicotinic acid (a form of niacin) may cause skin flushing, itching, impaired glucose tolerance and digestive upset. Taking high doses for months at a time can cause liver cell damage.

Vitamin B3 Food Sources: Mushrooms, asparagus, peanuts, brown rice, corn, green leafy vegetables, sweet potato, potato, lentil, barley, carrots, almonds, celery, turnips, peaches, chicken meat, tuna, salmon

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

Vitamin B5 helps to form acetyl-CoA, an important molecule involved in energy production. It also helps keep skin healthy.

Vitamin B5 Deficiency: Very unlikely. Only in severe malnutrition may one notice tingling in feet.

Toxicity: Possible nausea, heartburn, and diarrhea with high-dose supplements.

Vitamin B5 Food Sources: Broccoli, lentils, split peas, avocado, whole wheat, mushrooms, sweet potato, sunflower seeds, cauliflower, green leafy vegetables, eggs, squash, strawberries, liver

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Vitamin B6 is involved in glycogen breakdown, nervous and immune system function, and the formation of neurotransmitters and steroid hormones.

Vitamin B6 Deficiency: Symptoms include inflammation of the skin and digestive system, sleeplessness, confusion, nervousness, depression, irritability, and anemia.

Toxicity: High doses of supplemental vitamin B6 may result in painful neurological symptoms.

Vitamin B6 Food Sources: Whole wheat, brown rice, green leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds, potato, garbanzo beans, banana, trout, spinach, walnuts, peanut butter, tuna, salmon, lima beans, chicken

Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Vitamin B7 is involved in energy production, as well as DNA replication and transcription.

Biotin Deficiency: Very rare in humans. Note that raw egg whites contain avidin, a protein that binds to biotin and prevents its absorption. Regularly eating raw egg whites can cause biotin deficiency.

Toxicity: Not known.

Biotin Food Sources: Green leafy vegetables, most nuts, whole-grain breads, avocado, raspberries, cauliflower, carrots, papaya, banana, salmon, eggs

Vitamin B9 (Folate / Folic acid)

Folate helps to form new proteins and is also involved in fetal development.

Folate refers to the naturally occurring form found in foods. Folic acid is the synthetic form of the vitamin, used in most supplements and fortified foods.

Vitamin B9 Deficiency: Anemia (macrocytic / megaloblastic), low white blood cells (leukopenia), low blood platelets (thrombocytopenia), weakness, weight loss, cracking and redness of the tongue and mouth, and diarrhea. In pregnancy, there is a risk of low birth weight, preterm delivery, and neural tube defects.13

Toxicity: None from food. Large doses of supplemental folic acid can mask an underlying vitamin B12 deficiency.

Vitamin B9 Food Sources: Green leafy vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, citrus fruits, beans and legumes, whole grains, green peas, avocado, peanuts, organ meats

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 is involved in DNA synthesis, and also helps to form and maintain healthy blood and nerve cells. Vitamin B12 needs “intrinsic factor” (a compound secreted by the stomach during digestion) to be absorbed. We can store decades worth of this vitamin in our body—but it should still be consumed regularly.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Symptoms include pernicious anemia, neurological problems, mouth inflammation. Strict vegans and plant-based eaters may be more at risk.14

Toxicity: Extremely rare, even with supplementation. Only a small amount is absorbed orally, thus the potential for toxicity is low.

Vitamin B12 Food Sources: Liver, trout, salmon, tuna, haddock, egg, dairy. Vitamin B12 isn’t found in plant foods.


Choline is a nutrient often grouped together with the B vitamins. It’s involved in building cell membranes and neurotransmitters (like acetylcholine, an essential neurotransmitter for muscle impulses). It may also help lower inflammation.

Choline Deficiency: Symptoms include problems with thinking and memory, muscle and nervous tissue damage, or even liver and kidney disease.

Toxicity: Toxicity is rare from food, but excess supplementation may lead to low blood pressure.

Choline Food Sources: Colorful fruits and veggies, organ meats

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C is probably most famous for its role in supporting the immune system. However, it also helps build collagen, keeping skin and joints healthy; synthesize norepinephrine, an adrenal hormone; and metabolize cholesterol.

Vitamin C Deficiency: Symptoms include bruising, lethargy, dental cavities, tissue swelling, dry hair, skin, and eyes, bleeding and infected gums, hair loss, joint pain, delayed wound healing, and bone fragility. Long-term deficiency results in scurvy.

Toxicity: Possible problems with very large vitamin C doses include diarrhea and a higher risk of kidney stones.

Vitamin C Food Sources: Most (fresh, raw) colorful fruits and vegetables

Fat-soluble vitamins

Vitamin A (Retinoids and carotenoids)

The vitamin A family includes animal sources (retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid) and plant sources (carotenoids). They help maintain eye health, and support immune function and wound healing.

Vitamin A Deficiency: Difficulty seeing in dim light and rough/dry skin.

Toxicity: Hypervitaminosis A is caused by consuming excessive amounts of preformed vitamin A (found in supplements but also in animal products, like liver). Preformed vitamin A is rapidly absorbed and slowly cleared from the body. Nausea, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, dizziness, and dry skin can result. Excess intake while pregnant can cause birth defects. Carotenoid toxicity is rare.

Vitamin A Food Sources: Liver, egg yolks, carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, green leafy vegetables, squash, cantaloupe, bell pepper, beets

Vitamin D (Ergocalciferol / cholecalciferol)

Vitamin D is actually a group of prohormones (hormone precursors). The plant form of vitamin D is called ergocalciferol (vitamin D₂) and the animal form is called cholecalciferol (vitamin D₃). Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, immune system function, and regulating glucose tolerance.

Vitamin D Deficiency: In children a vitamin D deficiency can result in rickets, deformed bones, delayed growth, and soft teeth. In adults a vitamin D deficiency can result in low bone density and tooth decay. People with darker skin are at higher risk of deficiency.

Toxicity: We can’t get too much vitamin D from the sun; only excess supplementation. Too much vitamin D will elevate blood calcium levels and may cause loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, excessive urination, itching, muscle weakness, joint pain, and calcification of soft tissues.

Vitamin D Food Sources: Although it’s not a food, the most available and “natural” source of Vitamin D is from sunlight exposure. It’s also in fortified foods, mushrooms, salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, shrimp, egg yolks, and beef liver.

Learn more about Vitamin D here: All About Vitamin D

Vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols)

Vitamin E is not actually a single vitamin, but a family of eight compounds: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. The vitamin E family are potent antioxidants, and are also involved in cell-to-cell communication.

Vitamin E Deficiency: Symptoms include muscle weakness, impaired vision, acne, red blood cell damage, and problems with muscle coordination (ataxia).

Toxicity: There is a potential for impaired blood clotting.

Vitamin E Food Sources: Green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, olives, avocado

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a family of vitamins that includes vitamin K₁ (the plant-based form) and vitamin K₂ (the animal-based form). Vitamin K is involved in normal blood clotting and also plays a role in keeping bones healthy.

Vitamin K Deficiency: Tendency to bleed or hemorrhage, and anemia.

Toxicity: May interfere with blood-thinning medications No known toxicity with high doses.

Vitamin K Food Sources: Broccoli, green leafy vegetables, parsley, watercress, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, green beans, green peas


Our bodies and the foods we eat contain minerals. Most minerals are considered essential (meaning: we need to get them regularly from our diet).

However, certain molecules found in food can change our ability to absorb minerals. This includes compounds like phytates (found in grains) and oxalates (found in spinach and rhubarb), both of which inhibit mineral absorption. Proper cooking can reduce these compounds, and thus, increase mineral absorption.

Minerals are categorized as macrominerals or microminerals.

Macrominerals are required in larger amounts and include minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

Microminerals are required in small or trace amounts. They include minerals such as iron, chromium, and zinc.



Calcium is the most common mineral in our body. It’s involved in muscle contraction, teeth and bone formation, and hormone secretion.

Calcium Deficiency: Long-term inadequate intake can result in low bone density, rickets, osteomalacia, and osteoporosis.

Toxicity: Will cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, dry mouth, thirst, increased urination, kidney stones and soft tissue calcification.

Calcium Food Sources: Dairy, green leafy vegetables, legumes, tofu, molasses, sardines, okra, perch, trout, Chinese cabbage, rhubarb, sesame seeds


Chloride is involved in digestion and absorption (it helps make up hydrochloric acid in the stomach), as well as cell functioning.

Chloride Deficiency: Extremely rare, but may happen in cases of excessive fluid loss (through vomiting and/or diarrhea).

Toxicity: Not known.

Chloride Food Sources: Almost all whole foods contain chloride (e.g. fruits and vegetables, lean meats)


Phosphorus is the “P” (phosphate) in “ATP”, the body’s principal form of energy. Phosphorus plays a role in energy transfer, bone formation, enzyme production, and oxygen regulation.

Phosphorus Deficiency: Very rare, except in cases of severe malnutrition.

Toxicity: Very rare.

Phosphorus Food Sources: Legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, eggs, fish, buckwheat, seafood, corn, wild rice


Along with sodium, potassium helps to maintain the electrochemical gradient, which is what determines how ions move across a cell membrane.

Potassium Deficiency: Usually caused by protein wasting conditions, or excessive use of diuretics, which can cause loss of potassium in the urine. Low blood potassium can result in cardiac arrhythmias or even cardiac arrest.

Toxicity: Symptoms include tingling of extremities and muscle weakness. High dose potassium supplements may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Potassium Food Sources: Sweet potato, tomato, green leafy vegetables, carrots, prunes, beans, molasses, squash, fish, bananas, peaches, apricots, melon, potatoes, dates, raisins, mushrooms


Magnesium has hundreds of roles in the body. Some of those include: Metabolizing carbohydrates and fats, synthesizing proteins and DNA, and helping to relax and repair muscles.

Magnesium Deficiency: Symptoms include muscle cramps and twitching, nausea and loss of appetite, abnormal heart rhythms, and problems with thinking, mood, and memory. Magnesium deficiency is fairly common and may also play a role in hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.

Toxicity: Excessive supplementation can lead to diarrhea (magnesium is a known laxative), impaired kidney function, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, and shortness of breath.

Magnesium Food Sources: Legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, dark leafy greens, potato, cacao (dark chocolate)


Along with potassium, sodium helps to maintain an electrochemical gradient across the cell membrane. It’s also involved in regulating body fluids, blood volume, and blood pressure.

Sodium Deficiency: Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, cramps, fatigue, and disorientation. Athletes who sweat a lot and hydrate without added electrolytes might be at risk of sodium imbalance.

Toxicity: Excessive intake can lead to increased fluid volume (edema), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. High blood sodium usually results from excessive water loss.

Sodium Food Sources: Any processed foods, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables


Sulfur is abundant in the body and is part of three important amino acids: cysteine, methionine, and taurine. It’s also involved in liver detoxification and collagen synthesis.

Sulfur Deficiency: Deficiency is rare unless someone is on a strict, low-protein diet (or has some type of malabsorption syndrome).

Toxicity: Unlikely from food consumption.

Sulfur Food Sources: Foods high in protein (like meat, eggs, seafood), garlic, onions, cruciferous vegetables



Iron helps to form hemoglobin, red blood cells, and blood vessels. It’s essential for helping transport oxygen throughout the body. Dietary iron comes in two forms: heme iron (from animal foods) and non-heme (from plant foods). Consume iron with vitamin C to enhance absorption.

Iron Deficiency: Low iron can lead to anemia with small and pale red blood cells, and lowered immunity. In children, iron deficiency is associated with behavioral abnormalities. Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency in the world. Menstruating women, pregnant women, and strict plant-based eaters are most at risk.

Toxicity: Common cause of poisoning in children. Excessive intake of supplemental iron is an emergency room situation. Too much iron is associated with an increased  risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Iron Food Sources: Red meats, organ meats, molasses, lima beans, kidney beans, raisins, brown rice, green leafy vegetables, seaweed, pumpkin seeds, dark poultry meat, fish


Zinc is involved in growth and development, neurological function, reproduction, immunity, cell structure and function, and more.

Zinc Deficiency: Symptoms include growth impairments, lowered immunity, skeletal abnormalities, delay in sexual maturation, poor wound healing, taste changes, night blindness and hair loss. Those at risk for deficiency include the elderly, alcoholics, vegans, and those with malabsorption.15

Toxicity: Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Chronically taking too much zinc can result in copper deficiency.

Zinc Food Sources: Mushrooms, spinach, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, green peas, baked beans, cashews, peas, whole grains, flounder, oats, oysters, chicken meat


Copper is an antioxidant and is also involved in energy production, collagen formation, and protein synthesis.

Copper Deficiency: Anemia that doesn’t respond to iron therapy, loss of hair and skin color (hypopigmentation of skin and hair is also noticed), low white blood cell count.

Toxicity: Rare. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Long-term exposure to lower doses of copper can result in liver damage.

Copper Food Sources: Mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, barley, soybeans, tempeh, sunflower seeds, navy beans, garbanzo beans, cashews, molasses, liver


Chromium plays an important role in glucose and fat metabolism and supports the role of insulin. High-sugar diets can increase chromium excretion in urine, which means people may need more chromium.

Chromium Deficiency: Symptoms include impaired glucose tolerance and elevated circulating insulin

Toxicity: Generally limited to industrial exposure. Long-term supplement use may increase DNA damage.

Chromium Food Sources: Lettuce, onions, beef, organ meats, whole grains, potatoes, mushrooms, oats, prunes, nuts, nutritional yeast


Iodine is essential for healthy thyroid function and the production of the thyroid hormones T₃ and T₄.

Iodine Deficiency: Impairs growth and neurological development. Deficiency can also result in decreased production of thyroid hormones and enlargement of the thyroid. (Click here for more about impaired thyroid, and what to do.)

Toxicity: Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, burning mouth / throat / stomach, and enlargement of the thyroid.

Iodine Food Sources: Sea vegetables, iodized salt, eggs, dairy


Selenium is an antioxidant, and also plays a role in thyroid hormone metabolism.

Selenium Deficiency: Can contribute to arthritis, or juvenile cardiomyopathy (heart disease). Can also limit glutathione activity, increasing oxidation.

Toxicity: Multiple symptoms including skin problems, hair and nail brittleness, gastrointestinal disturbances, fatigue, and nervous system abnormalities.

Selenium Food Sources: Brazil nuts (but not too many—just six Brazil nuts can provide 800 mcg of selenium, exceeding the upper limit of the recommended intake!), mushrooms, barley, salmon, whole grains, walnuts, eggs


Manganese is an antioxidant and is also involved in carbohydrate, amino acid, and cholesterol metabolism.

Manganese Deficiency: Not typically observed in humans.

Toxicity: Generally from industrial exposure.

Manganese Sources: Green leafy vegetables, berries, pineapple, lettuce, tempeh, oats, soybeans, spelt, brown rice, garbanzo beans


Molybdenum plays a role in nutrient metabolism, as well as the breakdown of drugs and toxins.

Molybdenum Deficiency: Extremely rare.

Toxicity: More likely than deficiency. Still very rare.

Molybdenum Food Sources: Legumes, whole grains

3 things to know when addressing your (or your clients’) nutrient needs.

Whether you want to feel your best, or you’re helping clients do the same, making sure your basic nutrient requirements are being met is essential.

For guidance on the right amount of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins (in other words, macronutrients), check out our super cool tool: The Precision Nutrition Calculator.

You can use the above list of vitamins and minerals to get a general idea of what nutrients do and where to get them. But when evaluating your own (or a client’s) specific micronutrient needs, consider these three points…

1. People differ (a lot) in their vitamins and mineral requirements.

Many factors—body size, sex, health conditions and medications, stage of life, activity level, and others—can affect people’s micronutrient needs, as well as how they absorb and use them.

That’s partly why we didn’t include a “recommended daily intake” range for the above nutrients. It just varies too much. Consider the needs of a menstruating Crossfit athlete versus the needs of a sedentary, elderly male on multiple medications.

(If you still want a reference, the FDA has this handy chart. Remember that these are just estimates, and don’t necessarily reflect optimal amounts for all people.)

Generally, though, people have deficiencies for three reasons:4

  • Insufficient intake due to low appetite, restricted diets, illness, or any other situation where certain food groups or calories are reduced or not absorbed properly
  • Increased need due to illness, injury, surgery, intense physical training (like athletes), or periods of growth (like pregnancy)
  • Increased loss due to excessive sweating, diarrhea, bleeding, or medical conditions or procedures that lead to a loss of nutrients through urine or other body fluids

If any of these reasons apply to you or your client, be extra wary of deficiencies. Of course, always work with a qualified medical professional when addressing medical issues or clinical deficiencies.

2. Don’t supplement willy-nilly.

If you suspect micronutrient excess or deficiencies in yourself or your clients, get testing to know for sure.

Work with doctors and/or pharmacists when considering supplements, or want to know if your or your clients’ health status or medications interfere with micronutrient absorption and use.

While many supplements are safe, and most people benefit from a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement, other supplements (see iron, above) may be harmful if taken when they’re not needed.

3. When addressing a potential deficiency, prioritize whole foods.

It’s hard to go wrong with whole foods. (Ever heard of a broccoli overdose?)

Also, most benefits from micronutrients seem to come from a well-balanced diet, rather than supplementation.4

As much as possible, choose whole, minimally-processed foods (like the ones we’ve included in our list) when filling nutritional gaps.

You’ll want to include foods like:

  • colorful fruits and vegetables
  • mushrooms
  • herbs and spices
  • lean proteins such as red meat (particularly organ meats), wild game, poultry, fish, seafood, and eggs
  • beans and legumes
  • whole grains
  • dairy

These foods are the most vitamin- and mineral-rich, but they also contain other nutrients whose benefits we’re only just starting to understand. These other nutrients include:

  • Phytonutrients, found in plant foods, and can act as antioxidants, lower inflammation, and even influence hormone function
  • Myconutrients, found in mushrooms and edible fungi, and can help fight bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens
  • Zoonutrients, found in animal foods, like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and creatine, which can help us lower disease risk, build strength and muscle, and preserve brain function

Nutrition science is a relatively young field, and we’re still learning how foods and nutrients affect us.

But that old “apple a day” saying? There’s something to it.



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

1. Higdon J. An Evidence-Based Approach to Vitamins and Minerals. The Linus Pauling Institute. 2003.

2. Krause’s Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy. L. Kathleen Mahan, Sylvia Escott-Stump. 2003.

3. Bird JK, Murphy RA, Ciappio ED, McBurney MI. Risk of Deficiency in Multiple Concurrent Micronutrients in Children and Adults in the United States. Nutrients. 2017 Jun 24;9(7).

4. Shenkin A. Micronutrients in health and disease. Postgrad Med J. 2006 Sep;82(971):559–67.

5. Bailey RL,West Jr. KP, Black RE. The Epidemiology of Global Micronutrient Deficiencies. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2015;66(2):22-33.

6. DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH, Wilson W. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart. 2018 Jan 13;5(1):e000668.

7. CDC’s Second Nutrition Report: A comprehensive biochemical assessment of the nutrition status of the U.S. population.

8. Taksler GB, Cutler DM, Giovannucci E, Keating NL. Vitamin D deficiency in minority populations. Public Health Nutr. 2015 Feb;18(3):379–91.

9. Schleicher RL, Sternberg MR, Looker AC, Yetley EA, Lacher DA, Sempos CT, et al. National Estimates of Serum Total 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Metabolite Concentrations Measured by Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry in the US Population during 2007-2010. J Nutr. 2016 May;146(5):1051–61.

10. Sarafin K, Durazo-Arvizu R, Tian L, Phinney KW, Tai S, Camara JE, et al. Standardizing 25-hydroxyvitamin D values from the Canadian Health Measures Survey. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Nov;102(5):1044–50.

11. Cashman KD, Dowling KG, Škrabáková Z, Gonzalez-Gross M, Valtueña J, De Henauw S, et al. Vitamin D deficiency in Europe: pandemic? Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Apr;103(4):1033–44.

12. Cashman KD. Vitamin D Deficiency: Defining, Prevalence, Causes, and Strategies of Addressing. Calcif Tissue Int. 2020 Jan;106(1):14–29.

13. Shah PS, et al. Effects of prenatal multimicronutrient supplementation on pregnancy outcomes: a meta-analysis. CMAJ 2009;180:E99-E108.

14. Craig WJ. Health effects of vegan diets. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89:1627S-1633S.

15. Tuerk MJ & Fazel N. Zinc deficiency. Curr Opin Gastroenterol 2009;25:136-143.

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

<!—Snippet to hide

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

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


The post All About Vitamins & Minerals appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

As a holistic nutritionist for the past 10 years, I’ve had some pretty cool gigs.

I launched and ran my own private nutrition practice.

I’ve taught cooking classes to kids and adults.

I’ve given lectures on nutrition.

I’ve developed over 200 recipes for various companies.

I’ve interviewed super-smart health experts and translated those conversations into articles, video scripts, cartoons, and infographics.

I’ve helped friends and family make better health choices and improved my own health tremendously.

And to think…

I used to hate my job.

Twelve years ago, I worked a pretty standard office job.

I loved my officemates, but the work was unstimulating and didn’t connect to my values. I also felt totally replaceable.

My job dissatisfaction also seemed to mutate into physical symptoms: I was achy, lethargic, pimply, and bloated.

Because of this general malaise, I was constantly Googling health topics:

Always bloated why

Sitting but no energy

Does stress cause acne


Everything I learned fascinated me.

And whenever friends and family brought up nutrition or food, I was rapt. I always wanted to know what people ate, how they ate it, and how they felt.

One day, when a girlfriend mentioned her bowel habits—and I wanted to know all the details—I knew I was getting really weird.

But like, weird in a non-creepy way.

Weird in a way that maybe I could harness for good.

Then, like a little sunlit path splitting off from the road-to-doom, I had a vision:

I wanted to become a health coach.

I wanted to help people eat healthier and feel better. And yes, poop better too.


What is a holistic health coach, exactly?

The word “holistic” might make you think of homemade granola, tie-dyed socks, and herbal remedies.

But really, “holistic” just means “comprehensive.”

A holistic health coach helps people achieve health goals by using a “whole picture” approach. 

This approach acknowledges that physical health is deeply intertwined with every facet of a person’s life: relationships, mindset, spirituality, and more.

And heads up! Terms and titles can get confusing, so let’s clear it up here:

“Holistic health coaching” is more of an umbrella term rather than a specific, recognized designation.

It describes a style of health coaching that has a holistic perspective.

All holistic-style coaching certifications are going to include nutrition. Similarly, “holistic nutrition coaching” certifications aren’t really different from “holistic health coaching” certifications.

I went to holistic nutrition school, and my official designation is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), but I’m still considered a holistic health coach.

Holistic coaches address the whole person, in the context of their life.

For example, let’s say a 50-year-old woman wants to stop eating junk food and improve her fitness.

Some health professionals may address this in a very clearly-defined, isolated way: Eat better and exercise more. (They’re not wrong!)

A holistic health coach might do things a little differently. They might wonder about the reasons the client is eating junk food in the first place, and if there are any barriers to exercising more:

  • Is she lonely and food is her only comfort?
  • Do her grocery shopping and food prep skills need some work?
  • Is she so busy and overwhelmed that she feels she doesn’t have time to cook or exercise?
  • Does she feel so crappy about her body that she’s terrified of setting foot in a gym?
  • Are there people in her family who cry every time she tries to introduce a vegetable at the table?
  • Is she sleep-deprived and having trouble finding the energy to exercise?

So instead of giving someone a plan that focuses only on diet and/or exercise, a holistic health coach may help a client with their:

  • Life skills: food shopping and meal prep; communication with family about health priorities; time-management; mindfulness and self-awareness
  • Habits, systems, and behaviors: sleep or bedtime routines; stress-management practices; weekly or daily meal prep routines
  • Beliefs: dealing with body image issues; breaking down the “good” food vs. “bad” food dichotomy; addressing negative associations with exercise or “dieting”; digging up meaningful reasons to change

And more.

Why I went holistic.

Through my own experience it was clear:

How you feel isn’t just about what you eat.

My diet had always been pretty healthy. My version of “junk food” was a rice cake topped with peanut butter and honey.

And yet I was anxious, overweight, and tired all the time. I got stomach aches after every meal, and my skin was worse than it had been as a hormonal teen.

Small tweaks in my diet made some difference. But I knew that how I felt also had to do with my sedentary job, the heartbreak I was nursing after a bad breakup, and the sense of purposelessness I felt in my career.

In order to really feel better, I realized I’d have to change a bunch of things—not just my diet.

I also knew that if I wanted to help coach other people to feel better, I’d want to consider more than their diet too.

Interestingly, this is also how Precision Nutrition coaches. But instead of calling it “holistic health coaching,” we call it “coaching for deep health.

How holistic or “deep health” coaching helps people.

Coaching for deep health (or holistic health coaching, if you prefer), is about looking at a client’s whole life, and asking: What’s really keeping you from feeling deep alignment with your health and fitness?

What’s the problem… behind your problem?

Where do you most need help, right now?

And what are you already good at, that we can build on?

(At PN, we use this chart to “measure” a client’s deep health, and figure out the answers to these questions.)

The answers help us decide where you should focus first. It might be nutrition or exercise, but as I said earlier, it could also be your sleep quality, your stress levels, or even your mindset.

Because they’re all connected: Each one can improve the others—and multiply your ability to both make and maintain progress.

We teach “deep health” coaching here at Precision Nutrition, and it’s how you’ll learn to help clients if you become a holistic health coach.

How do you become a holistic health coach?

Once I made up my mind to trade my stable income (with benefits!) for an unknown—but potentially more fulfilling—future, I knew I needed to get certified. I just had to decide where.

Depending on where you live, you’ll find a number of institutions that offer holistic health coaching certifications, either in-person or online.

Picking a school or certification program is a big commitment, and it’s a choice that will affect your future opportunities too.

My advice: Research well and choose strategically.

In my opinion, there are several criteria you’ll want to consider when evaluating your options…

How long will it take to get certified?

Most programs will take between six months to a year of full-time study, or a year to two years of part-time study. 

Expect about three to six hours of class and/or lecture time per week, and at least the same amount of time for studying, reading, and assignments.

Because I was working when I got certified, I opted to be a part-time student initially. Eventually, I decided to transition to being a full-time student. I wanted to immerse myself fully in my studies, and I was so ready to leave my aforementioned job. Let someone else keep my swivel chair warm.

How much does it cost to get certified?

Programs vary quite a bit in cost. Some certifications are as low as $800 USD, and others are closer to $7,000 USD.

Many courses include all the materials you need to complete the course work, but others may require you to pay for textbooks and readings out-of-pocket, which can add up to a few hundred dollars on top of tuition.

Think of these costs as an investment.

Do you have a clear sense of the potential return?

You’ll want to think about:

  • Will you have to take on any debt to complete a given program?
  • What will your income potential be after earning your certification? (More on that in a bit!)
  • How long will it take you to recoup the money spent on tuition?

For instance, if you’re planning to run your own business, it can take some time to really get going. So it would be wise to factor this consideration into your financial planning.

What title or designation will you earn?

If you want to be able to call yourself a certain title after getting certified, this is an important detail.

Depending on your school or program, the regulating body you choose to associate with, and your clinical standing and experience, you might be called:

(This is just a small selection of the options—there are dozens of other holistic titles out there.)

Can you become a holistic health coach through PN?

Not by title.

Here’s the thing:

While titles like “dietician” or “physiotherapist” are regulated, “holistic health coach” is not. 

To use the former designations, you have to graduate from an approved college or university that provides standardized curriculums and testing.

But to call yourself a holistic health coach, you don’t actually need any formal education.

Someone who’s read a few nutrition books can call themself a holistic health coach, see clients, and (for better or for worse), run a business.

We really don’t recommend you do that. But some people do it. Which is why it’s always important to check someone’s credentials before you trust what they’re saying, even if they have a cool-sounding title.

The programs we’ve linked to above emphasize a holistic (or whole picture) approach to health coaching, and they’re all regulated. But as you might have noticed, graduates of these programs earn slightly different titles.

All of them provide a great education that teaches you a holistic framework, but you won’t necessarily be certified as a “holistic health coach” when you graduate.

Graduates of Precision Nutrition’s Level 1 and Level 2 certifications will also learn to coach within a holistic framework, but you won’t be called a “holistic health coach.” You’ll be called “Precision Nutrition Certified”—or PN1 or PN2 for shorthand.

What will you learn?

I looooved going back to school.

Perhaps for the first time in my life, I looked around at my peers and felt, “These are my people.”

In my program, we focused on the fundamentals of nutrition: what nutrients are in what foods, and how the body metabolizes them. That’s one thing that most holistic coaching programs will have in common.

But I also learned about various disorders and diseases like diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and cancer. As a holistic health coach, you’re not legally qualified to diagnose or treat diseases, but you’ll still likely learn how they might develop, and what nutritional approaches support goals like balanced blood sugar, weight management, or immune health.

I learned about health modalities such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, hydrotherapy, and herbal medicine.

We learned to build health using a toolkit of nutritious food, exercise, and lifestyle practices.

When I graduated, I felt I had a ton of information that I could use to help my future clients.

So when choosing a certification program, I’d encourage you to think about what specifically you want to learn.

  • Do you only want to learn the nuts and bolts of practical nutrition?
  • Do you want in-depth knowledge of biochemistry and physiology?
  • Are you interested in learning about the psychology of behavior change?
  • How about other modalities, such as herbal medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Depending on your goals, you may favor a program with a heavier emphasis on science and nutritional theory, or one with an emphasis on the practical application of health behaviors (like eating more vegetables and moving more).

A very personal opinion on what I missed in holistic nutrition school.

My first ever (paying!) client session was… enlightening.

During the intake, I felt I developed a clear understanding of my client’s “problem,” and what I could propose to help.

I shared my recommendations, and then my client said, “Well, I know a lot of that stuff. I just don’t know how to keep doing it.”

‘Oh.’ I thought. ‘Crap.’

As I fumbled through the rest of that appointment, I realized that with all my knowledge of nutrition, body systems, and disease pathology, I actually didn’t know much about helping people change their behavior, especially when they already knew what to do. 

Those first years of coaching were really, really hard. I learned painfully, slowly, and awkwardly. My nutrition program hadn’t “let me down,” but I did feel like something was missing.

Years later, when I began a coaching internship with PN and completed the Level 1 and Level 2 certifications, I felt like I found the missing link. 

With their emphasis on change psychology, the L1 and especially L2 curriculums taught me not just the “what” of change, but also the “how” of change.

I finally felt like I had a clear method of how to:

  • clarify clients’ goals
  • come up with the first action steps
  • assess progress, and
  • continue moving forward, even through setbacks.

I felt more confident as a coach and much less anxious.

My clients got better results, and the whole experience felt so much more rewarding. 

I’ll never regret getting certified as a holistic nutritionist, but over the years, I’ve realized that, in practice, I don’t actually use a lot of the deep nutrition knowledge I learned in school.

Because in reality, most people struggle with the basics. Most people improve immensely when they master just a few fundamentals: consistently eating nutrient-dense foods, moving regularly, and sleeping well.

The trickiest (and most interesting) part of coaching is helping people to actually do those habits.

What’s the school or program’s reputation like?

Name recognition isn’t everything, but understanding how a program is regarded in the health and wellness world (especially within the area you’d like to work in) can help you make an informed decision. Some questions you could consider to assess this are:

  • Have you heard of the school or program you’re considering before?
  • Do you know people who are graduates or people who have been clients of graduates?
  • Does the school you’re considering have any “superstar” graduates, whose careers and integrity you admire?
  • Are graduates ever featured as experts in reputable publications?

How do graduates rate their experiences?

Relatedly, I strongly recommend talking to graduates of whatever program you’re considering. Most schools have a list of alumni that they can connect you with for this purpose.

Talking to alumni will not only tell you about the experience of being a student, but it will also give you a sense of your options after graduating. During these conversations, you might ask:

  • What’s it like to work as a holistic health practitioner?
  • What does the process of building a business look like?
  • Are there any extra courses they found useful after graduating?

In my experience, the alumni I spoke with were surprisingly candid; I felt clear about the benefits and the shortcomings of the programs I was considering. When it was time to pick a school, I felt I was making an informed choice.

What will your scope of practice be?

You’ll also want to consider what you can legally do with your certification once you graduate.

Are you eligible for insurance coverage? Are your clients?

Can you recommend specific diets or hydration techniques, supplements, or exercise programs?

Programs should tell you upfront what you can, and perhaps more importantly, what you can’t do. 

If you really want to practice a certain modality (say, acupuncture) or work with a specific population (say, people with diabetes) make sure in advance that you’re getting a designation that qualifies you to do so.

What do holistic health coaches do?

The short answer: It depends—a lot!

For six years, I ran an in-person nutrition practice out of my home, and also worked part-time at a busy health food store.

At the health food store, I saw a high volume of people, which gave me an immediate connection to health trends and concerns. In my private nutrition practice, I saw fewer people but developed deeper relationships with them, and was able to follow their progress.

Later, because of my education and experience, I was chosen to intern as an assistant coach with PN’s Coaching Program. While I interned, I got my Level 1 and Level 2 certifications and did some writing for the company’s blog and educational materials.

I also had opportunities to speak at community events, represent health food brands, and teach cooking classes.

Today, I’m so grateful for these experiences; my holistic nutrition certification opened a lot of doors for me. 

Holistic health coaches can work directly with clients.

If you’re a “people person” and want to work with clients directly, you can do so in a number of different settings:

▶ Home practice: You see clients in a space in your home, or travel to clients’ homes. You can host sessions in-person or virtually.

▶ Private clinic: Many multi-modal clinics want a practitioner devoted to health coaching. This can complement the services of other practitioners at the clinic, like naturopaths, chiropractors, and massage therapists.

▶ Gyms / Yoga studios / Spas: Many of these facilities have in-house nutrition and health coaches.

▶ Retreats: Offering retreats can be a great way to provide intensive group coaching in a supportive setting. Retreats led by holistic health coaches usually offer a combination of lectures or workshops, cooking demos, nutritious meals, and guided exercise.

▶ Retail: Health food stores, supplement stores, and natural beauty stores hire health coaches to educate customers and help them make informed purchases.

▶ Corporations: Increasingly, companies are realizing that employee health is literally good for business, and are implementing employee wellness programs or offering incentives for healthy lifestyle changes. A health coach may be hired for a series of workshops, or may have “office hours” at regular intervals (weekly or bi-weekly) to have one-on-one sessions with employees.

If working with clients isn’t your thing, there are (many) other options.

If you have a passion for health, but the intimacy of working directly with people makes you itchy, there’s still a place for you!

Here are some options for holistic health coaches that aren’t client-facing:

▶ Writer: Whether doing contract work for publications, being a staff writer for an organization, or just blogging for your own personal site, you can communicate your health expertise through articles, video scripts, or even write a book!

▶ Teacher: Online or in-class, you can teach health-related topics to other students looking to get certified, practitioners wanting to upgrade their skills, or just regular folks looking to empower their own health decisions.

▶ Personal chef: If making nutritious meals is your jam, there are tons of time-pressed people looking to scratch cooking off their to-do list without resorting to frozen burritos three meals a day.

▶ Product creator: Some health experts make stuff intended for the mass-market, whether that’s a genius healthy cookie, a protein supplement, or a natural deodorant (that actually works).

▶ Event speaker: Either as an add-on or as your primary gig, speaking at events can be a great return on investment. If you’re an engaging performer and love public speaking, you can nerd out and share your nutrition knowledge on-stage or virtually.

What are you not qualified to do as a holistic health coach?

Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT)—which involves giving nutrition advice to treat or cure diseases like diabetes, autoimmune disorders, or cancer—is out of scope unless you’re specifically MNT-accredited. You won’t be qualified to do this with a nutrition or health coaching certification alone, and you should never try.

Depending on where you live, rules and regulations vary on what people with health coaching certifications are allowed to do.

For instance, in some states in the US, the only people who can provide meal plans are registered dieticians. But in these states, health coaches can still help people with their eating as long as they’re not telling people exactly what they should and shouldn’t eat.

If you take a Precision Nutrition certification, you’ll learn that meal plans, deeming foods “off limits,” and telling people exactly what to eat aren’t our style anyway. In our nutrition certification, you’ll learn how to get results without using these tactics.

How much will you make as a holistic health coach?

I found meaning and purpose in both my retail and my nutrition coaching job.

Later, on top of these jobs, I started taking on writing and recipe developing contracts with multiple companies.

My certification as a holistic nutritionist and later as a PN2 certified coach not only allowed me to be a better coach, but it also increased my base rate as a retail consultant, writer, and recipe developer. 

At one point, I had five jobs. The sum of these income sources meant that I was making decent money, but I was working all the time, my brain felt scattered, and I was starting to burn out.

Gradually, I began to pare down my projects. Eventually, I focused solely on writing for PN (where I’m now a full-time employee). I still see clients occasionally, but I don’t formally seek business there.

Focusing on one area really served me. And rather than limiting my options and my income, it actually expanded them.

Like me, many coaches will start out saying “Yes!” to almost every opportunity that comes their way. That’s not a bad thing. It’ll help you figure out what you love and what you’re awesome at, and also what you never, ever want to do again. (For one of my recipe projects, I had to butcher and cook an octopus. Never again.)

Multiple factors can increase your hourly rate.

Interestingly, when we interviewed 1,000 health coaches and asked them about what they earned, many coaches had similar experiences to mine.

In our poll, the highest earners were more likely to…

  • Have a nutrition degree or advanced certification such as Precision Nutrition Level 2 Master Class  (Coaches with a Level 1 or 2 Precision Nutrition certification earn $12 more per hour than those with a single, non-Precision Nutrition certification.)
  • Have more than two certifications
  • Have at least 3-5 years of experience 
  • Work in a more specialized environment, such as a medical practice or in corporate wellness
  • Tailor their services to special populations, such as the elderly, new moms, or youth athletes
  • Offer both in-person and online coaching as well as nutrition seminars
  • Work in nutrition coaching full-time (rather than as a side-hustle)

The average wage for the certified coaches polled was $65/hour. (Note that these coaches were all PN-certified. If you end up going with a different certification, the numbers might be comparable, but we can’t say for sure.)

How long does it take to earn a steady income?

How much you make usually depends on how many clients you have (unless you’re hired as an in-house, salaried writer, educator, or counselor). Unlike many conventional jobs, you’re not going to get paid for scrolling through Instagram during work hours.

Honestly, this can be great motivation to work hard, but it can also be really tough. Especially when you’re first starting out and you’re trying to build a healthy roster of regular clients. We have a few tips for getting new clients, but it does take time to settle into a stable income.

In the survey mentioned above, most coaches with one to four clients had two or fewer years of experience.

Coaches with 20 or more clients, on the other hand, were much more likely to have more than three years experience. About a quarter of coaches who were “booked-solid” had six or more years experience.

(Want to learn how to make a living doing what you love? Check out our FREE e-course, How to Succeed in Health and Fitness.)

Yes, you totally need to make money, but my holistic coaching certification was “worth it” in other ways too.

When my elderly neighbor’s wife was recovering from abdominal surgery, I was able to help her stay hydrated and find foods she could digest, allowing her to gain some much-needed weight back.

When my father-in-law had a scary cardiovascular event, and his doctor recommended a special diet to help him lose weight and balance his blood lipids, I was able to coach him to follow his diet, and also to start a regular exercise program.

When my daughter started eating solid foods, I felt confident about what to feed her, and how to prepare it in ways that she would actually eat (okay, and sometimes mash into her hair).

My nutrition certifications continue to bolster my career as a health writer. But mostly, I’m grateful for the countless ways that my knowledge has supported my family, my friends, and my community.

For the record, with my job-hating days behind me, I’m feeling pretty good too.

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

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

The post Becoming a holistic health coach appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Most plant-based coaches have a story.

For Jennifer Ernst, MSCN, PN1, it started at age 10—when her grandfather had a heart attack. It shook the family up, and they decided to eat in a more healthful way. So they became plant-based—they just didn’t know to call it that.

Most of their meals revolved around home-grown produce. “We lived on a farm and grew our vegetables,” she says. “Except we had chickens and cows, too.”

As Ernst got older and moved away from the farm, she grew uncomfortable buying meat that wasn’t coming from her backyard.

She didn’t have a problem with eating meat overall, but without knowing where it came from or how it was raised, it just didn’t feel right for her.

The moment Scott Burgett, CSCS, PN1 officially decided to become fully plant-based happened while watching a Netflix documentary.

He’d been gradually working his way towards a more plant-based lifestyle for a couple of years.

But when the documentary showed the heartbreaking fate of male baby chickens in the egg industry (they’re usually killed at one day old since they can’t lay eggs), he knew it was time switch to a fully plant-based diet.

Both Ernst and Burgett are now successful plant-based nutrition coaches. And their stories signify pivotal moments in their lives when their values became impossible to ignore. Those moments put them on the path they’re on today.

If you’re reading this article, chances are you have a story of your own. 

But while personal stories are impactful and inspiring, they don’t always help others change their behavior. Mastering plant-based eating for yourself and helping other people do it are two totally different things.

That’s why we spoke to established coaches about the process of becoming a plant-based nutrition coach, and how you too can help clients benefit from this way of eating.

In this article, we’ll share:

  • What plant-based nutrition coaches do
  • How to become a plant-based nutrition coach
  • How to know if you need a plant-based certification
  • How much plant-based nutrition coaches make
  • The biggest challenges plant-based nutrition coaches face and how to tackle them
  • Why now is the best time to get into plant-based nutrition coaching.

So, put on your plant-pants and let’s get started.


Question #1: What is a plant-based nutrition coach, anyway?

“Plant-based nutrition coach” is more of an umbrella term rather than a specific designation. It describes a person who practices a style of nutrition coaching that focuses on plant-based eating.

That doesn’t mean a plant-based coach has to be vegan or vegetarian. Or that they only coach people who want to be vegan or vegetarian.

The definition is much looser than that.

Simply put: A plant-based nutrition coach helps people eat more plants.

But let’s break it down a little more.

Eating more plants isn’t just about eating more fruits and vegetables. “Plants” is a broad category of foods that also includes grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and plant-derived fats.

The table below is a non-exhaustive list of plant-based foods, but as you can see, there’s plenty to choose from.

Plant-based foods

Proteins Carbohydrates Fats Vegetables
Split peas*
Black-eyed peas*
Plant-based protein powders
Textured vegetable protein
Soy yogurt
Black bean burgers
Traditional veggie burgers
Plant-based meats
Plant-based protein bars
Beans and lentils*
Wild rice
Whole grain rice
Black rice
White rice
Fresh and frozen fruit
Sweet potatoes
Granola bars
Bagels, breads, muffins, and wraps
Canned, dried, and pureed unsweetened fruit
Vegetable juices
Fruit juices
Hemp seeds
Peanuts and peanut butter
Pumpkin seeds and pepitas
Almonds and almond butter
Sunflower seeds and sunflower seed butter
Flax seeds
Chia seeds
Olive oil
Walnut oil
Avocado and avocado oil
Coconut meat
Brazil nuts
Sesame oil
Peanut oil
Canola oil
Flaxseed oil
Dark chocolate
Coconut oil and coconut milk
Snap peas
Brussels sprouts
Green beans

* These foods are considered proteins if there isn’t a more protein-rich food in a given meal. Otherwise, they’re considered carbohydrates.


Now here’s the thing: There are lots of ways to be a plant-based eater. And this is good news, because it means there are lots of ways to be a plant-based nutrition coach.

For instance, you might coach any or all of the following:

  • Plant-curious eaters: People who are considering eating more plant-based foods, and are wondering how to do it. (It doesn’t mean they have to stop eating meat.)
  • Plant-forward or plant-centered eaters: People whose diets are made up of mostly plants, but who might still eat some non-plant foods. These might be pescatarians, vegetarians, or folks who occasionally eat meat.
  • Fully plant-based eaters: People who only eat plant-based foods. This includes vegans, who usually eschew all animal products. (Not just food but also leather, fur, personal care products tested on animals, and so on.)

Successful plant-based nutrition coaches vary in their approaches.

For example, Ernst eats mostly plant-based, but she won’t turn down a restaurant meal that contains milk. With her clients, she focuses on gradually moving them toward a more plant-based diet, based on their starting point.

“If a client’s currently eating all takeout food, I don’t think jumping into a fully plant-based diet is fair,” says Ernst. “They rebound the other way too quickly.”

Burgett takes a different approach. He’s vegan, and his business is called Evolution Vegan Academy. As you can probably guess, he only coaches vegans and aspiring vegans.

In particular, he works with vegans who are interested in athletic performance.

We’ll delve deeper into how to define your plant-based coaching niche below, as well as the benefits that draw people to plant-based eating.

But the takeaway: There are many ways to be a plant-based nutrition coach.

Question #2: How do I become a plant-based nutrition coach?

It’s possible to get a certification in plant-based nutrition, but there’s no official entity that deems you a qualified plant-based nutrition coach.

That’s actually kind of exciting, because it means how you become one is largely up to you.

A logical first step, established coaches say, is to get the education you need to really help people. 

And according to the plant-based coaches we talked to, there are a variety of ways you can do that. In fact, many of them used a combination of the tools below to get themselves established as coaches.

Tool #1: Get a plant-based nutrition certification.

There are only a few certifications out there that focus exclusively on plant-based nutrition.

And as we mentioned, no certification will give you the official title of “plant-based nutrition coach.” Most often, they offer a “certificate of completion” in plant-based nutrition.

Ernst has taken two of the most well-known courses in this space.

The first is the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies Plant-Based Nutrition eCornell Certification Program. This is a six-week online course that costs $1,260 (USD).

Because Ernst had recently been in school for nutrition when she took this course—she went to college at 37 and completed a master’s degree in nutrition shortly after—she’d covered nutrition science thoroughly already. However, this plant-based certification provided an in-depth look at two areas: the ethics of plant-based eating and the potential health benefits.

Ernst also did a program with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. This organization offers courses for physicians, health coaches, and allied health professionals who want to introduce their patients or clients to whole-food plant-based eating. Courses range in length and price—from $300 USD to over $1,000, depending on which one you choose.

What these courses lack, Ernst says, is guidance on the art of coaching, including how to:

  • effectively communicate with clients
  • draw out their deepest motivations
  • understand the various factors that make it harder or easier to change their habits

This is one of the reasons that, despite her deep knowledge of the science of nutrition, Ernst ended up getting value out of the Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification (more on this below).

Also, plant-based nutrition certification courses don’t usually have information on how to coach non-plant-based clients.

So depending on your target clientele, they may or may not provide all the information you need to get started.

Tool #2: Get a general nutrition certification.

A standard nutrition certification will give you the tools you need to coach clients who follow a variety of eating styles.

We talked to a number of plant-based coaches who (full transparency!) are also Precision Nutrition certified, to get a better picture of how a “general” nutrition certification compares to a plant-based certification.

(Note: Graduating from of our Level 1 certification qualifies you to take our specialized course, “How to Coach a Plant-Based Diet.”)

“One of the things that really grabbed me about the Precision Nutrition certification was that it was more well-rounded,” says Renée Rolls, PN1, EIF Master Trainer, CF-L1, who improved her own health through exercise and plant-based eating.

She’d already done a lot of plant-based eating research, so felt she already had the information she needed in that area.

“When you’re used to doing something a certain way, it’s beneficial if you can start seeing different points of view,” she says.

For Rolls, it was key to learn how to coach all types of eaters, even though she wanted to focus on plant-based nutrition coaching. “I can still have my own way of eating and coach a variety of different ways of eating,” she says.

Emilie Rice, MS, RDN, LDN, CPT, PN1, chose to get a PN certification as part of her continuing education as a dietitian. She liked that the program offered guidance on the specifics of how to coach, especially explaining nutrition concepts for the average client.

“I was looking for ways to simplify how I teach when I’m coaching nutrition,” she says. Rice loved learning the hand portions system, which is an easy, accessible way clients can regulate and track food intake.

Of course, there are lots of other general nutrition certifications out there. To learn more about them, check out our resource on how to choose the right nutrition certification for you.

Tool #3: Go the self-taught route.

At first, Burgett opted to learn about plant-based nutrition on his own rather than getting a nutrition coaching certification. Because he had a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and worked as a strength coach for a professional baseball team, he was already comfortable with science-heavy material.

But rather than jumping right into nutrition coaching, he took his time to ensure he had the knowledge he needed before getting started.

When he first became vegan in 2017, Burgett gathered as much information as he could from books, documentaries, YouTube videos, and more.

He also started a popular plant-based blog, where he answered common questions. (Think: Is it okay to eat tofu? How much protein do plant-based eaters really need?) He also created recipes from scratch.

As he learned to answer his audience’s questions, Burgett developed the expertise he needed to start a plant-based coaching business. But it wasn’t until 2019 that he debuted his online offerings and started offering plant-based nutrition coaching.

There are a couple potential drawbacks here: That’s a solid two years of self-education, which is significantly longer than most formal certification courses will take.

Plus, unless you have a background in science or health like Burgett did, it might be difficult to figure out what information you need and where to get it.

On the other hand, this option is probably less expensive than a course, and is a nice complement to any other educational tool you choose.

Whether or not you decide to go this route, Burgett has some advice: Seek out educational sources that you agree with, but also ones you don’t agree with. (For instance, you might pick up a book on the Paleo or carnivore diet.)

“Expose yourself to different philosophies so you get a well-rounded background,” he says.

Tool #4: Experiment on yourself.

Self-experimentation is one of the cornerstones of Precision Nutrition’s own coaching program.

Why? There’s no better way to figure out what works for YOU. And while every person’s nutrition preferences and habits will differ, it’s important to have experience with plant-based eating yourself if you want to be a plant-based nutrition coach.

This is particularly true if you want to work in the fully plant-based or vegan space, Burgett says.

“Vegans and people in the plant-based world are just different from omnivorous clients. Their ‘why’ and their values are different, and they want to be able to trust that the person on the other end is living their values.”

Burgett’s advice for new coaches looking to get into this space: “Try things, talk to people, practice it yourself. Ultimately, you’ll learn what works, and what doesn’t.”

Rolls says this is good advice even if you want to take a more flexible plant-based approach.

“I did my CrossFit certification in February, and they have their own way of eating, which was really difficult for me as a plant-based eater.” (CrossFit enthusiasts often eat a Zone diet, which tends to favor animal proteins.)

Even though it didn’t work well for Rolls, the experiment was worth it: “Just being able to go into that open-minded and see how it worked was valuable.”

Key points: Educational tools for plant-based nutrition coaches
Plant-based nutrition certification
  • Includes specific information about plant-based eating
  • Doesn’t usually include info on the art of coaching
  • May not help you learn what you need to know to help clients who aren’t fully plant-based
  • Fewer options to choose from
General nutrition certification
  • Helps you learn how to coach all types of clients, including plant-based ones
  • Ideal if you already know a lot about plant-based eating
  • You might need to supplement with plant-based course if you don’t already know a lot about it
  • More options to choose from
  • May be a good fit if you already have a background in science or health
  • Can be a larger time investment than a formal course or program
  • May be a smaller financial commitment than a course or program
  • Great complement to any other educational method
Self-experimentation with plant-based eating
  • Especially important for coaches in the fully plant-based and vegan spaces
  • Valuable experience for all plant-based coaches
  • Can be combined with any other educational tool

Question #3: What do plant-based nutrition coaches do?

Most plant-based nutrition coaches provide one-on-one nutrition coaching.

Others coach groups, create online programs, or speak at events. In fact, there are a ton of options for what a plant-based nutrition coach’s day-to-day job can look like.

Burgett’s coaching business is completely online. And because of his background as a strength coach, he also provides all of his clients with personalized workout programs.

When he’s not programming or talking to clients via phone or video calls, he’s consulting with the assistant coaches who work under him, tending to his active Facebook community, or creating content for his social media accounts.

Ernst primarily does one-on-one nutrition coaching, both in-person and online. Pre-COVID, she also taught in-person plant-based cooking courses a couple of times a month.

These courses helped her connect with potential clients in her community, and provided her existing clients with the skills they need to be successful with plant-based eating.

“People know a carrot’s better than a Cheeto, but they don’t know how to eat that carrot,” she says. “Kale tastes kind of terrible unless you massage it, or use little lemon to break down some of the plant walls.” In other words, Ernst helps people actually enjoy the foods they know they should be eating.

Aside from having their own nutrition coaching businesses, plant-based nutrition coaches might also work as:

  • Health coaches in doctors offices, hospitals, or wellness centers
  • Consultants in health food, natural beauty, and supplement stores
  • In-house nutrition coaches at gyms, spas, and yoga studios
  • Wellness consultants in corporate settings
  • Chefs or recipe developers for private clients, meal-prep services, or plant-based restaurants
  • Speakers, bloggers, or social media influencers in the plant-based space

What are you not qualified to do as a plant-based coach?

Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT)—which involves giving nutrition advice to treat or cure diseases like diabetes, autoimmune disorders, or cancer—is out of scope unless you’re specifically MNT-accredited.

You won’t be qualified to do this with a nutrition or health coaching certification alone, and you should never try.

This is especially important to understand in the plant-based world.

Sometimes plant-based eating is presented as a way to help improve health conditions like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

While plants have tons of health benefits, and you can still provide clients with ideas about how to make their diet more plant-based, be sure you’re not “prescribing” a plant-based diet for a health issue unless you’re MNT-accredited.

Depending on where you live, rules and regulations vary on what people with nutrition certifications are allowed to do.

For instance, in some states in the US, the only people who can provide meal plans are registered dietitians. But in these states, nutrition coaches can still help people with their eating as long as they’re not telling people exactly what they should and shouldn’t eat.

If you take a Precision Nutrition certification, you’ll learn that meal plans, deeming foods “off-limits,” and telling people exactly what to eat aren’t our style anyway. In our nutrition certification, you’ll learn how to get results without using these tactics.

Want a taste of how we do it? Check out our FREE e-course, Food Changes That Save Lives.

Question #4: How much do plant-based nutrition coaches make?

Based on the information we gathered for this article, certified nutrition coaches might charge anywhere from $40 to $100 per hour.

And some coaches believe that within the plant-based world, there’s more income potential for coaches than elsewhere.

“I’m a firm believer that plant-based is where the world’s heading,” Burgett says. There are several reasons for this. Environmental destruction is at its highest, and people are starting to get more clued-in to how their food choices could impact the environment, explains Burgett.

So while plant-based eating might be trendy, Burgett doesn’t see interest in it fading anytime soon. “If you’re thinking about it, now’s time to get into it.”

Ernst agrees that now is a great time to be a plant-based coach. Even with COVID, she’s busier than ever.

“Fiscally, I’m up this year,” she says. And that’s after reducing her prices to make her services more accessible to clients during the pandemic. She’s had to press pause on her in-person cooking classes, but she’s more than made up for that with virtual one-on-one client sessions.

So what does this mean for you?

Okay, it’s great to know that plant-based coaches can be successful financially. But how do you leverage the interest in plant-based eating to become a high-earning coach?

You can start here: A full report—Nutrition coaching: How much should you charge?—we created that details what we learned from a survey of 1,000 nutrition coaches, including tips on what you can do to earn top-tier rates.

Why plant-based coaching could help maximize your income

There’s an old saying: There are riches in niches. It’s become a fitness industry cliche, to be sure, but getting clarity on who you’re most passionate and skilled at helping can enable you to better attract the right clients.

Burgett only coaches vegans and aspiring vegans who are into fitness. After initially being open to all types of eaters, he decided to refer out anyone who didn’t want to be vegan.

His reasoning: Burgett wants to stay true to his mission: “To create the best community of fit vegans on this planet.” And he partially credits his business success to finding and sticking to a niche.

Similarly, Rolls primarily works with moms.

“A lot of them have had one or two kids and they’re just finding that they don’t have as much time to look after themselves, and so things aren’t looking and feeling the same as they used to in their body,” she says.

Plant-based eating that focuses on adding more whole plant foods rather than subtracting animal foods is particularly good for this clientele, Rolls has discovered.

Not just because it provides flexibility and results, but also because of the message it passes along to kids.

“Kids copy everything that we do. So when we’re chopping up produce in the kitchen and trying all sorts of different grains and vegetables, that just naturally passes down to kids.”

Question #5: Why do people become plant-based nutrition coaches?

At Precision Nutrition, we often talk about finding your “why,” or your deeper reason for doing something.

People don’t usually commit to plant-based coaching as a career because it’s trendy, or because it sounds cool.

Instead, plant-based nutrition coaches often have a deep passion for what the eating philosophy can do for people, animals, and the planet.

For Rice, one of the most compelling aspects is the health benefits associated with eating more plants. And as a plant-based dietitian who works with athletes, she’s also interested in emerging research about plant-based diets and athletic longevity (the portion of an athlete’s life where they can continue to perform).

For many plant-based coaches, sustainability and animal welfare are critically important, and the two actually go hand in hand.

“When I think of a sustainable diet, a big part of that is obviously ecological sustainability,” says Ryan Andrews, MS, MA, RD, RYT, CSCS, a plant-based dietitian and nutrition adviser for Precision Nutrition. “But under that umbrella is everything else, like individual health, animal welfare, farmer welfare, and food equity in general.” For our food system to be truly sustainable, we need to address all of these things, he says.

That starts with eaters making dietary changes, according to Andrews. “But I also want to be cautious and not place all the burden on individuals. Because right now, it’s not that easy to always make new choices with how we eat.”

That’s where you come in as a plant-based nutrition coach. 

It might seem like a small drop in the bucket, but each person who makes small changes (subbing lentils for meat three times a week, or switching from whey protein powder to pea protein powder) adds up.

Andrews thinks of the global shift towards eating more plants like a morning traffic jam: “If one person doesn’t drive one day, there’s probably still going to be a traffic jam. But if collectively, everybody starts to make modifications, then it changes traffic patterns.” The same goes for plant-based eating.

Question #6: What do you need to know before you become a plant-based coach?

When we talked to plant-based coaches for this article, we asked them what they wished they knew when they got started, and what they think other plant-based nutrition coaches should know. Here’s what they said.

There are a lot of myths about plant-based eating.

Burgett says for him, dispelling myths about plant-based eating and certain foods, like soy, has been one of the biggest challenges he’s encountered.

Another myth that seems to be pervasive: The idea that protein isn’t important for vegans.

“A lot of people in the plant-based vegan space, even doctors, just kind of disregard protein,” he says.

It’s not that he’s obsessed with protein, Burgett says, but it’s an important macronutrient for anyone, especially if they’re active.

So with his clients, Burgett always works to educate about the importance of protein and choosing diverse plant-based protein sources.

People also worry that plant-based eating is expensive, Ernst says. “But it’s actually a very inexpensive way to eat.”

This is an important myth to address with potential clients, she adds. “I think some people might have hesitations about signing up with a plant-based nutrition coach if they think it’s too expensive.”

There’s a growing interest in plant-based sports nutrition.

Rice has chosen to work with plant-based athletes as her niche, due to her personal interest in athletics and the fact that there’s a growing community of plant-based athletes where she’s based, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

While there’s a lot of buzz in this area, Rice says there are some things you need to know if you want to go into this niche. Therefore, getting specialized knowledge through a certification or mentorship may be necessary.

For instance, eating too much fiber, which can happen with a fully plant-based diet, can cause feelings of early satiety (fullness), and possibly lead to (unintentional) undereating, which can put athletes at risk for relative energy deficiency in sport (known as RED-S), Rice explains.

RED-S can affect athletic performance, as well as an athlete’s overall health.

“This is one reason plant-based diets must be balanced, without too much of one nutrient (fiber, fat, carbs, or protein),” she says.

Be aware of disordered eating.

Plant-based eating is often seen as a “healthy” way to eat. That perception can be a driver for people with disordered eating and orthorexia to choose it, Rice says. (Orthorexia is an eating disorder where people become so consumed by “healthy eating” that they damage their own mental and/or physical health.)

For the record, this can happen with any specialized way of eating; it’s not specific only to plant-based eating.

But it’s important for plant-based coaches to be aware of, Rice says. “As a coach, I want to know the reason why you’re choosing plant-based.”

Clients might choose the eating style for health, sustainability, long-term athletic development, among other reasons, she says. But if they dig deeper and discover it’s related to disordered eating or even just bragging rights, Rice encourages clients to reevaluate.

This is one of the reasons it’s smart to set up a referral network. If you encounter a client or potential client in this situation, you can refer them out to a qualified mental health professional.

In many ways, plant-based coaching is the future.

There’s no one best way to eat. That’s for sure. “But what’s different about a plant-centered, plant-forward, or plant-based diet is that it’s not a single dietary pattern,” Andrews says. “It’s just working towards including more plants in somebody’s diet, wherever they are.”

Emphasizing plants in our diets is one of the biggest adjustments we can make towards a more sustainable food system, Andrews points out. It’s also one of the most powerful things we can do to reduce our risk of disease and ensure we get the nutrients we need. (For more, check out The 5 principles of good nutrition.)

So becoming a coach who helps people eat more plants in some way, shape, or form? That’s something you can be really proud of.

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

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

The post Plant-based nutrition coaching: What you need to know appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

When COVID hit and her gym closed in the spring of 2020, Christina Relke initially thought she’d just been given a vacation. She happily reacquainted herself with her couch, the remote, and everything Netflix had to offer.

“I thought I’d just go home, figure things out, and then go back to work,” says Relke, BA, CPTN, PN2, FMS, a Mississauga, Ontario-based personal trainer and nutrition coach.

But two weeks became four, then six.

With her savings dwindling and the virus proving anything but predictable, Relke pivoted—to launching an online coaching business. 

She faced a series of obstacles.

Fear nagged at her.

The increased foot traffic of the gym had brought clients to Relke, somewhat effortlessly. Outside of the gym, how would she get the word out?

Could she even train people online? How would she correct someone’s form or pick up on a clients’ nonverbal cues… through a computer screen?

And could she teach herself a range of new skills—say video production or social media marketing—in mere weeks?

Despite those challenges, over the course of just a few months, Relke built a solid business.

Precision Nutriton Grad and Nutriton Coach, Christina Relke .

Given that so many nutrition coaches and personal trainers are facing the same challenges, we wanted to know more. So we asked Relke:

If you’re exploring nutrition coaching as a career, her answers might help you determine if a nutrition certification is right for you. And if you’re already coaching, Relke’s experiences and advice could give you lots of ideas for growing your business.

Why did you become a certified nutrition coach?

As a certified personal trainer at a gym, one problem kept dogging Relke.

“People had the perception that I was a one-stop shop,” she says.

Sure, they posed questions one might expect:

  • What’s the best training program for weight loss?
  • How can I do squats without hurting my knees?
  • What’s more important: weights or cardio?

But they also voiced lots of other concerns, especially about food.

“I felt uncomfortable answering their nutrition questions,” Relke says. “I realized I was out of my scope.”

Initially, Relke thought the only solution was to go back to school, study nutrition, and complete the internship, exams, and licensure to become a registered dietitian.

But then she connected with a former classmate who suggested she look into a nutrition coaching certification.

Why did you choose Precision Nutrition as your nutrition certification program?

The former classmate that we mentioned above? He was Jeremy Fernandes, PN2, a coach at Precision Nutrition.

“He’s someone I respect,” says Relke.

Fernandes explained that, as a nutrition coach, Relke wouldn’t be able to offer medical nutrition therapy or give people meal plans, as registered dietitians did. But she would be able to have the conversations she wanted to have with her clients. (For more about what nutrition coaches can and can’t say, read “Can coaches give nutrition advice?”)

Plus, back in university, Relke’s focus was psychology. “The PN Certification will help you to apply what you learned for your degree,” Fernandes pointed out.

“I’m a sucker for figuring out why people do the things they do,” says Relke.

As soon as Fernandes explained Precision Nutrition’s heavy emphasis on change psychology, she was sold.

How did getting the nutrition certification impact your career and life? How did your income change?

After earning her Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification in 2017 and PN Level 2 Certification in 2018, Relke changed how she worked with clients.

“Not only did those certifications improve my confidence, they added credibility to everything I said between sets, especially in relation to food and nutrition,” she says.

The two certifications also helped her do something powerful: Explain complicated nutrition and exercise topics in a way folks could quickly grasp.

As a result, more clients requested her and told other people about her, allowing her roster to grow. And grow. And grow.

Her ability to explain complex topics eventually earned her a promotion at the gym where she worked—to metabolic specialist, a managerial position that came with a team to oversee and a pay bump.

(To learn how much of a pay boost tends to come with a new nutrition certification, read: How much should you charge?)

“I don’t think I would have gotten the position had it not been for the nutrition certification—and I can say that confidently,” Relke says. “Not only could I administer metabolic testing, but I could explain the results to clients in a way they could understand.”

Then March 2020 came—along with COVID.

Her gym closed, and Relke was furloughed.

How did your nutrition coaching certification help you rebuild your career after COVID?

Relke now faced a daunting goal: Build on online business from zero clients to somewhere between 25 to 30 regulars.

Thankfully, she had access to a huge group of helpers: Her Precision Nutrition Certification gave her lifetime access to a Facebook community of more than 45,000 nutrition coaches (and counting), many of whom have experience with online coaching.

Based on what she learned, she decided to build her business using the following steps, which you could try to.

Step 1: Understand your superpower.

Remember earlier when Relke mentioned she was “a sucker for figuring out why people do the things that they do”?

That deep curiosity drove her to lean into her background in psychology and behavior change. She decided to create a coaching business focused on individually-tailored programs—paying as much attention to clients’ emotions and behaviors as to their form, reps, and sets.

“That’s my biggest strength,” she says.

Step 2: Define your ideal client.

Rather than throwing a big net and working with anyone who surfaced, Relke decided to specifically zero in on people with simple goals, such as feeling and looking better.

At Precision Nutrition, we call these Level 1 clients. They’re people who need support with the fundamentals, such as eating without distractions, getting enough sleep, or consuming more veggies and other whole foods consistently. (To learn more, check out Food Secrets That Change Lives, our essential guide to helping anyone eat better.)

If you’re thinking that describes just about everyone, you’re right. Level 1 clients make up about 90 percent of the population.

Step 3: Plan and build the business.

Relke found software that allowed her to host video chats, on-demand workouts, and more. Then she nailed down the services she would offer, how she would offer them, what she thought they were worth, and how she would market them.

Step 4: Learn from others.

At the gym, Relke had mostly trained, coached, and mentored staff.

Now, she suddenly felt like she needed to become an expert in a wide range of topics: marketing, business development, and the list goes on. So she studied successful companies (including Precision Nutrition), connected with top online coaches, and signed up for a number of virtual workshops and seminars.

You can study the “PN business formula,” too, with our FREE 5-day course: How to Succeed in Health and Fitness. (It was created by our co-founder, Dr. John Berardi.)

Step 5: Tell the world.

In August 2020, with her business plan, website, and social profiles in place, Relke started advertising online.

After about eight weeks, she’d already racked up 20 clients—two thirds of the way to her goal.

What kind of health and fitness work are you doing now, as an online coach?

Relke offers virtual nutrition coaching and personal training, working with clients one-on-one as well as in groups.

She occasionally partners with chefs, registered dietitians, and other professionals to offer group seminars and challenges.

Her clients include a wide range of people, such as:

  • a new mom who’s trying to get back to her pre-pregnancy body
  • a single dad who wants help pushing the intensity of his workouts
  • a nurse who runs triathlons for fun
  • a busy small business owner who needs help squeezing in fitness
  • a young professional who started drinking soda during the pandemic—and wants to get back to water

Though her clients vary in age, profession, and surrounding circumstances, one thing links them all together:

They’re learning to adjust—to home workouts, 24-7 parenting, home schooling, uncertainty, upheaval, and a slew of other new stressors.  

How does online nutrition coaching compare to coaching in a gym setting?

In the gym, Relke loved working closely with clients.

“I like getting in there, poking and prodding,” she says.

Not only did the close, personal interaction help Relke correct form, it also allowed her pick up on subtle body language cues. A blank expression might reveal that a client wasn’t into high-intensity workouts, for example.

Another plus: She didn’t have to put much effort into marketing. It seemed like every time she taught a Pilates class, her personal training roster grew.

Relke saw as many as 10 clients a day, taught classes, and ran nutrition seminars. On top of that, in a typical week, she spent up to 7 hours in meetings or organizing professional development opportunities for her staff.

“I often found myself scheduled back-to-back, so finding half an hour to catch my breath was rare,” she says.

Like many gym-based fitness professionals, Relke worked a range of hours—some shifts starting at 7 a.m. and lasting until 9 p.m., with a several hour break in the afternoon. During that break, she went home to walk her dog, answer work emails, or nap.

“You would think that I’d want to work out during that time but I was averaging three to five hours of sleep at night,” she says. “I was just so tired that I wanted to sleep.” (If you’re feeling the same way, read: How to transform your sleep.)

The pace left her drained, something she didn’t fully comprehend until after the gym closed.

With online coaching, Relke’s in control of her schedule. By keeping her client roster below 30, she’s able to cap sessions at 4 to 6 per day. This opens up time for other tasks, such as continuing education as well as dog walking, reading, and exercise.

“I was nervous about switching from in-person training to an online business,” Relke says. “I worried my quality of work would suffer. I thought I needed to be next to people as they were working out. Now I’m seeing that they don’t need me to hold their hands. That allows me to have lengthier discussions and to maintain personalized programming.”

A Typical Day of Online Coaching

7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Relke schedules this time for herself.

She takes her husky, Jenney, for a long walk, has breakfast, reads or watches videos, meditates, and stretches.

9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Relke reserves this time for backend business tasks, which include:

  • Responding to client messages.
  • Creating short marketing videos
  • Taking classes in business development, video production, SEO, and more
  • Crafting content for social media
  • Prepping for seminars

11 a.m. to Noon

She has a leisurely lunch and takes Jenney for walk #2.

1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

During the afternoon, Relke meets with clients virtually, either one-on-one or as a group.

Though each client meeting lasts 30 minutes, Relke books clients an hour apart. That gives her a cushion, so it’s no biggie if a client meeting runs long. The 30 minutes of unscheduled time also allows her to complete any needed post-session tasks, like sending follow-up materials or tinkering with client programs. Plus she can take a breather, if needed, as well as prepare for the next session.

4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Now it’s time for walk #3 with Jenney, which serves as Relke’s warm up for her own strength training or mat Pilates session.

5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Relke spends this time following up with clients, building her social media presence, reading and filing intake forms, answering messages, and building client programs.

7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

If she’s not running a virtual seminar or group workout, it’s dinner and relaxation time with her boyfriend and Jenney.


What’s your favorite part?

In a word: autonomy.

“There’s a freedom to running my own business,” she says. “I love being an entrepreneur and being able to assert myself and coach in a way that resonates with my values.”

A big part of those values: coaching holistically.

Holistic coaching involves taking the whole person into account, homing in on the decisions behind their food and lifestyle choices, and tailoring practices to their individual needs.

In addition to talking to clients about food and recipes, for example, Relke  highlights other topics, ranging from sleep to stress to relationships and more.

This whole-person approach allows Relke to blend her undergraduate degree in psychology with her post-college certification studies in nutrition and fitness.

“Holistic thinking is part of who I am as a professional,” she says.

What’s your advice for folks hoping to get certified and break into online nutrition coaching?

Earlier in this story, Relke outlined the five steps she followed to go from zero online clients to 20 in just a couple of months. Beyond that five-step formula, however, Relke has, time and time again, based her business decisions on one driving force: What gets her out of bed in the morning.

For Relke, excitement comes from understanding her clients and helping them achieve real, lasting change. 

For you, meaning might come from somewhere else—and that’s okay.

The point: Know what drives you, and use that knowledge to figure out whether a coaching program is a good fit as well as how to set up your business once you’re certified.

Relke’s second piece of advice: Clients need much more than a program to follow, especially right now.

Many are homeschooling their kids—but don’t want to. They’re working at home, with lots of distractions. They’re exercising at home, with minimal equipment, and often with children and pets interrupting their every move. Cookies, chips, and other highly palatable convenience foods have crept back into their lives. (Learn more: How to deal with problem foods.)

They’re often stressed, tired, and frustrated.

“Try to understand why they make the choices they do,” she says. “People want someone who is real, who can address what is specifically challenging about these times,” she says.


In the beginning, Relke’s jump to online coaching was an act of self preservation, a temporary stopgap. But now she sees it differently.

When the pandemic ends and life returns to normal, Relke now has options.

With a thriving virtual business, she doesn’t have to go back to a full-time gym atmosphere. She could keep doing what she’s doing right now.

“Even if I were to go back, I could continue to coach people outside of my district or who aren’t comfortable returning to a gym setting,” Relke says. “I’ve created something that I can sustain.”

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

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

The post Precision Nutrition Certification Grads: Spotlight on Christina Relke appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

The advice and tools you need to help anyone eat healthier, get the results they want, and enjoy the foods they love (100% guilt-free).

The post Course | Food Secrets That Change Lives appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

As Lili finished her workout, it felt like everyone was staring at her.

Because they were.

It took her longer to complete the group session than everyone else, and the coach made a point of having the whole class stick around and encourage her.

Afterward, the coach and classmates approached Lili to say: “It’s really great that you’re exercising. Good for you.”

She understood everyone was trying to be inclusive and nice. But, deep down, Lili also knew she was being singled out for her 300-pound frame. It made her feel incredibly self-conscious.

So she never went back.

Ranjan had a similar experience. He struggled with binge eating, and felt ashamed when his coach said, “It’s not that hard to avoid fast food,” and “Unless you’re about to run a marathon, there’s no reason to ever eat a bagel.”

He quit two weeks into a 12-week group diet challenge—even though he’d already paid in full.

Angele ghosted her coach, too, after months of great progress.

She’d originally signed up to feel stronger and more in control of her body. And though her trainer knew weight loss wasn’t her goal, his compliment about how fit she looked was met with a blank stare.

Turns out, Angele was struggling with the trauma of an assault that happened years before. Comments about her body were majorly triggering.

These coaching scenarios? They’re all inspired by real client stories.

The coaches who made these mistakes never knew what went wrong. Or how much pain they’d inadvertently caused.

But the underlying reason for each is the same:

Many health and fitness professionals tend to focus too much on weight loss and body size.

If reading that made you feel like putting your fist through the screen, hear us out: We’re not suggesting that helping clients lose weight is wrong.

Many of your clients WILL absolutely want to lose weight, for various reasons.

But there’s a difference between helping clients who come to you for weight loss and assuming all clients want to lose weight.

This is especially important to understand if you work with clients in larger bodies—many of whom may not want to lose weight right now, or ever.

Here’s the most important thing to know: Regardless of whether a client wants to lose weight or not, the way you talk about weight, body image, and fat loss can make or break the coach-client relationship.

It affects how freely clients share information—and ultimately whether they’re able to succeed.

This is particularly true with clients who:

  • have trauma and/or negative feelings around their body or weight
  • are in a body that doesn’t fit the norm of what their culture considers “fit and healthy.”

(FYI: It’s pretty likely that many of your clients will fall into one, if not both, of these categories.)

In this article you’ll find:

  • 5 strategies for forming strong, lasting relationships with clients of all body sizes.
  • Dozens of resources that can help you understand clients on a deeper, more personal level.
  • What to say (and not say) to clients who are struggling with body image, guilt, and shame.

(Note: This article isn’t intended to “fix” complex issues like weight stigma. But it can help you avoid reinforcing harmful ideas about weight, weight loss, and what health truly means.)


5 ways to respectfully support all clients—no matter what kind of body they’re in.

It’s not a coach’s job to tell a client how their body should be. 

Here at Precision Nutrition, we believe all clients:

  • Get to decide their own goals, whether that’s weight loss or anything else.
  • Deserve to feel safe and supported sharing their goals and decisions with their coach, whatever those goals and decisions are.
  • Benefit from being informed about ways they can improve their health—including options that have nothing to do with weight or size.

Okay, so what does that look like in practice?

We’ll show you.

Are we talking about body positivity here?


But also, not really.

Originally, the body positivity movement was a safe space for people in the most marginalized bodies—people who are treated as “other” for how their bodies looked.

These days, you might associate the term “body positive” with Instagram photos of people highlighting their cellulite, stretch marks, and stomach rolls.

Ironically, these types of posts have become especially popular among people in relatively fit, conventionally-attractive bodies. In other words, the movement has been co-opted by the mainstream.

That’s why some of today’s activists, particularly ones within the nutrition and fitness world, use terms like body liberation, body neutrality, and anti-diet instead.

If you want to learn more about weight stigma/bias movements like Health at Every Size, how fatphobia is intertwined with other “isms” like racism or ableism, and other related topics, you’ll find boxes throughout this article that provide further resources to explore.

#1: Give every client the blank slate treatment.

See if you can spot what goes wrong in this coach-client interaction.

Martha is a 48-year-old woman. She’s always lived in a larger body. In the past year, she’s struggled with chronic back pain. She thinks making some changes to her exercise and nutrition habits might help, so she contacts a coach she found on Facebook.

In the initial consultation, Martha introduces herself in her customarily lively, outgoing way. The coach says:

“I’m so glad you reached out to me. In your email, you mentioned you’re dealing with back pain. I think we can definitely make some changes that’ll help with that! How much weight do you want to lose? It’s so smart of you to be proactive about this!”

Martha’s utterly deflated. This coach won’t be hearing from her again.

Why? Two big problems:

  1. Martha never mentioned wanting to lose weight.
  2. She said she’s dealing with back pain, but that’s all the coach knows about Martha’s health.

What the coach in this scenario didn’t know was that Martha has struggled with her weight for what feels like her whole life. She’s often felt too big, too bulky, too awkward in her body.

Now in her late 40s, she’s starting to feel at peace with herself. After all, this body has been home for nearly five decades.

So when Martha hears what this coach has to say? She feels those old emotions creeping back. She’s frustrated, angry, and fed-up with people—like this young, genetically-predisposed-to-be-fit coach—assuming she can’t possibly be happy with her body.

This isn’t just a rookie coaching mistake, by the way. Experienced coaches do stuff like this, too.

Thanks to our cultural conditioning, many of us have hidden biases in this area. So it’s important to be conscious of not equating:

  • weight with health
  • desire to improve health, fitness, or food choices with weight loss

Because when you’re fine with your weight but someone assumes you’re not… or they imply you shouldn’t be… it stings.

Even the most confident people will likely feel a pang of, ‘Wait, is my body okay? Am I okay?!’ Or even: ‘I was right. This fitness stuff just isn’t for me.’

The takeaway: Don’t assume your clients want to lose weight.

Check your assumptions. Consider what you don’t know about your clients, and how you might learn more about them.

Wait for them to tell you what they want. 

Otherwise, you risk damaging your relationship—and causing your client pain—before you even get started.

Why is fat activism a thing?

… and why should you care about it as a coach?

People in smaller bodies are often shocked to learn what life can be like for people in larger bodies. 

For instance, one client in a larger body told us that if she appears to be buying “junk” food for herself at the grocery store, she braces herself for comments from the cashier, other people waiting in line, and even people passing her in the freezer aisle.

And those comments? They can range from “are you sure you want to buy that?” to “better not buy that ice cream, fatty.”

If you’re a straight-size person reading this—that is, a person who can walk into any store and find clothes that fit—you may be shocked to learn this ACTUALLY HAPPENS.

Imagine not being able to buy your stinking ice cream in peace. Now imagine that’s the least of the prejudice you experience on a daily basis. (Especially if you’re also white, cisgender, and heterosexual—so you’re really not used to it.)

And if you’re in a larger body—or ever have been—you might be thinking ‘Do people really not know this happens?!’

People in larger bodies are discriminated against all the freaking time. We know this from real-life experiences and research. For example, people in larger bodies are more likely to:

  • Receive a lower standard of health care because their doctors are biased (either consciously or unconsciously) 1 2 3
  • Get fewer preventative health services and screenings, which can mean not discovering life-threatening health problems in time 4 5
  • Avoid making doctor appointments because they’re afraid of being judged or mistreated 6 7
  • Be unfairly passed over for jobs, promotions, and educational opportunities 8 9
  • Deal with mental health challenges, potentially related to discrimination. 10

These are just some of the disadvantages people in larger bodies experience. And for Black and brown people—especially women—they’re compounded by racism. This is particularly true in the area of health care. 11 12

These problems are part of why body positivity, fat activism, and other related movements exist.

But these movements are about more than helping people defend themselves from discrimination and stigma.

They’re also about helping people shift from feeling ashamed—and like they’ll never fit in—to feeling actively proud of their bodies. 

Not in spite of being big. But because they’re big.

If fat activism’s existence doesn’t quite add up to you, consider this: What if no matter how you feel about yourself, society tells you there’s something wrong with your body and it’s all your fault? In this situation, reclaiming the narrative for yourself is one of the most powerful things you can do.

Learn more: Body positivity and fat activism

Learn more: Health at Every Size and the Anti-Diet movement

Health at Every Size and the anti-diet movement both reject the idea that purposeful weight loss is healthy, and that weight and BMI are reliable indicators of health. 

Both communities advocate for only making changes to your diet, exercise routine, and lifestyle based on preference and quality of life improvements that aren’t related to weight.

#2. Dig deeper—even when a client’s goal is as simple as “I want to lose weight.”

About half of Americans say they want to lose weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 13 (And that trend is likely to translate to other similar cultures.)

There’s also this: Some clients say they want to lose weight simply because they feel that’s the only societally acceptable option for their body. Or because they’re living in a culture that tells them losing weight will automatically make them happier and healthier.

Plus, clients often have important secondary goals, in addition to weight loss. For instance, our Precision Nutrition Coaching clients are almost always interested in fat loss. But that’s not all they’re after.

On a 1 to 10 scale, clients commonly rank the following as a 9 or higher:

  • looking and feeling better (81 percent), which may or may not have anything to do with weight loss
  • developing consistency (75 percent)
  • maintaining their healthy habits (74 percent)
  • gaining energy and vitality (59 percent)

Over time, these goals may become more important than weight loss.

Talk with your clients to clarify their goals and motivations so:

  1. They understand that weight loss isn’t the only option available to them.
  2. You get the information you need to help your clients succeed.

The following strategies will help you do just that.

Present a variety of goals that are all treated as equally valid.

One way PN Master Coach Kate Solovieva normalizes all types of body goals: giving clients options.

For instance, whether she’s working with a 75-year-old woman or a 25-year-old man, Solovieva might ask: “What are you hoping to achieve through coaching? Do you want to gain weight, lose weight, feel stronger, move without pain, love how you look naked?”

By letting your clients know they have lots of different choices, they’re more likely to feel safe telling you what they really want. You might even open their eyes to the fact that weight loss isn’t their only way forward.

Ask this secret-weapon question.

Here’s a powerful coaching question for any client who wants to lose weight, courtesy of Precision Nutrition’s Director of Curriculum, Krista Scott Dixon, PhD:

“What else is going on for you right now?”

Just ask it, and let your client talk.


“Being ‘on a diet’ is an A+ way to avoid all the other crap in your life,” says Dr. Scott-Dixon. Sometimes when people realize they don’t have anything to fill the void, they decide going on a diet will help them feel better and more fulfilled.

Your client might reveal that they’re going through a divorce, dealing with a sick parent, or feeling unhappy in their job.

Losing weight won’t fix those problems.

This is why it’s a good idea to…

Always ask why.

We often use an exercise called The 5 Whys with our clients.

It starts with a simple question: “Why do I want to change my eating and exercise habits?”

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

You can use this worksheet to get started.

This exercise helps clients move past motivations that focus on comparing themselves to others.

Sometimes, when people can’t come up with a compelling deeper reason to lose weight, they realize weight loss might not be what they’re really after. 

(And sometimes it IS weight loss. That’s okay, too.)

#3. Understand that body image exists on a spectrum.

“If you work with clients enough, you know that almost everyone has some kind of body angst. It doesn’t matter what shape they have,” says Dr. Scott-Dixon.

As a coach, you can help people develop more productive, deep-health promoting experiences of themselves in their bodies.

Why should you care? “We know objectively that the more you hate yourself, the worse your life is,” Dr. Scott-Dixon says.

Struggling with body image:

  • Makes it harder to do well academically (especially for women), which can shut down future educational opportunities and chances at landing your dream job 14
  • Increases the likelihood of disordered eating, as well as eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia, making anything related to food feel like an uphill battle 15 16
  • May make you feel afraid to date or get romantic with someone. (Think: turning off the lights so they can’t see you, or never speaking up about your romantic feelings for someone out of fear of being rejected) 17
  • Can lead to generally feeling like your life sucks (officially, this is called “poor quality of life”), along with having a difficult time going through the motions of daily life, including interacting with other people 18
  • Means you’re less likely to work out or be active, maybe because the idea of going to the gym or moving your body feels super uncomfortable or intimidating 19
  • Increases risk of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem 20

Many people believe that criticizing themselves will help them excel at changing their habits and living better, healthier lives.

But constant self-criticism and being “down” on yourself can make it much, much harder to adopt healthy habits. 

For example, clients in larger bodies who also struggle with body image sometimes tell us they don’t feel comfortable entering gyms and other fitness or wellness spaces. Often, it’s because they don’t feel these spaces are meant for people who look like them.

While it’s true some gyms aren’t particularly welcoming to people of all body sizes, improving body image can make finding a supportive fitness space and developing regular exercise habits feel much more manageable.

How to respond to body negativity

Chances are, you’ve heard a client say something like:

  • “Ugh, I hate my fat legs!”
  • “I really need to lose this belly fat. It’s disgusting.”
  • “I hate my body right now.”

What can you possibly say to make someone feel better?

According to Precision Nutrition Super Coach Lisanne Thomas, the most impactful thing you can do is ask productive questions.  

You might frame it like this:

“Can I ask you a question about that?”

If they say yes, proceed with something like…

“Imagine your best friend/partner/child just had that thought about themselves. How might you respond to them if they shared that thought with you?”


“Imagine someone speaking to your loved one like that while in your presence. How might you show up for your friend/partner/child in support and response to those words?”

These questions can help people recognize just how unkind they’re being to themselves. 

In a recent Facebook Live, Chrissy King, a writer, speaker, powerlifter, and strength and fitness coach shared her strategy for challenging what our bodies are “supposed” to look like.

When faced with a comment like, “My stomach rolls are so gross,” question what exactly makes them gross, and what standard you’re measuring against.

“This doesn’t come from a place of judgement or shame,” said King. “There are no right or wrong answers. It’s just that we’re taking the time to really think through it. When we really sit with our feelings, underlying a lot of these things aren’t our own personal beliefs. These are things we are taught. These are things that we see societally.”

So it may be worth asking:

  • “What would it mean if you woke up tomorrow and didn’t have that roll on your stomach?”
  • “What would change about your life?”
  • “Would you be a better person?”
  • “Would you be a happier person?”

People may find that their answers surprise them.

Of course, you can’t just snap your fingers and decide to love your body. So think about body image on a spectrum. 

On one end: Body negativity, or actively disliking your body.

On the other end: self-love.

And body neutrality, or “meh,” as we like to refer to it? Somewhere in between.

Here’s the thing: We might exist on multiple parts of the spectrum at once. Human beings are complex, and body dissatisfaction and positive body image aren’t direct opposites of each other. 21

But the goal is to nudge ourselves up the continuum, so we’re spending more time in the body neutrality and self-love sections than before.

The bottom line: You can’t make a client love their body.

But you can refrain from adding more negativity to someone’s baggage. 

And remember, complete body positivity and absolute self-love aren’t necessarily the goal.

“For many people, getting to ‘meh’ is actually a pretty good goal,” says Dr. Scott-Dixon.

Self-love resources

Precision Nutrition Super Coach Lisanne Thomas often talks about self-love with her clients. “My role as a coach is to help a client love and care for their body and do with it what they want,” she says.

While conversations about self-love can be helpful, sharing articles, videos, books, and more that “speak for themselves” may also help start a productive discussion, or just provide food for thought.

Below are some of Coach Lisanne’s favorite resources.

#4. Use language as a signal.

Here’s another coaching scenario to consider:

Your client tells you they ate a pint of ice cream last night. 

What’s your gut reaction?

Think about it. Then read on.

As much as possible, avoid saying anything that might make your client feel ashamed, Solovieva recommends.

Beware of responses that sound supportive, but are actually criticism, like, “Oh, that’s a bummer. How’d you get so off track?” or even, “No worries! We all slip up from time to time.”

“Clients are always listening to see how you talk about things,” Solovieva says. It helps them determine how trustworthy you are with their most difficult feelings and behaviors.

This is important in many areas, but especially when it comes to food. That’s why, when faced with a client eating a late-night pint of ice cream, Solovieva starts with:

“What flavor was it?!”

She might follow it up with any number of questions, like “How are you feeling this morning?” or “Did you enjoy it?”

These kinds of open-ended, judgement-free questions help clients feel comfortable talking about what’s really going on in their heads.

Normalize all food choices.

People aren’t great at remembering or estimating what or how much they’ve eaten. 22 This is often what’s at play when clients say they’re not overeating (or undereating), but still aren’t seeing results.

But there could be another reason clients aren’t reporting their food intake accurately: They don’t feel safe doing so.

And this can be conscious OR unconscious.

Conscious: Your client chooses not tell you about their late-night pint of ice cream because they fear your response—and how it’ll make them feel.

Unconscious: They underestimate their food intake because they want to avoid being shamed for eating eight ounces (or thumbs) of cheese instead of the “acceptable” serving size of one.

In either case, it’s going to make it hard for you as a coach to see what’s really going on.

One way to normalize food choices, according to Solovieva: Openly talk about foods that people may believe are “off limits.” (Friendly reminder: There are no “bad” foods.)

For instance, you might ask:

“What do you normally eat for lunch at work? Is it more like a salad, or a sandwich, or tacos?”

When talking about food planning for the weekend, you might say:

“What are you having for dinner Saturday night? My family always has pizza!”

From there, you can still encourage clients to make their meals “a little bit better” by adding a side of veggies, or upping the protein content. But normalizing your client’s food choices helps you meet them where they’re at.

Skip body-shaming “motivational” language.

Many coaches don’t realize certain phrases and cues can make people feel “less than.”

Here are some ways coaches might unintentionally be signaling clients that there’s something wrong with their bodies, plus what to say instead.

(Note: Many of these cues have been commonly used for what feels like forever. So we’re not criticizing coaches for using them. We’re pointing out why evolving your language will ultimately help your clients—and your coaching.)

Model healthy, or at least neutral, body image.

You set an example for your clients. In many cases, they look to you for information about what it means to be healthy and fit.

So saying you’re going to “shred for summer” probably isn’t the best way to signal to your client that their post-baby body (or whatever kind of body) is completely fine.

We’re not saying you need to have it all figured out yourself. 

In fact, it’s common for coaches to:

  • feel shame about or have a complicated relationship with their own bodies
  • feel like an imposter for not fitting into a certain body ideal
  • worry they don’t look “good enough” to attract clients
  • have gone through their own body transformation journey
  • have experienced living in a bigger body themselves (whether currently or in the past)

Ironically, coaches who have been through their own process of coming to health and fitness after feeling ashamed about their bodies are often the best qualified to really understand what clients go through, Dr. Scott-Dixon points out. That’s a superpower in itself.

So if you’re comfortable, it may help to share your own body image journey with clients once you’ve gotten to know them.

Showing vulnerability lets clients know they’re not alone.

Plus, people are more likely to be open and honest about their challenges when they feel you can relate.

No matter where you are on the body negativity to self-love spectrum, be conscious of the language you use. This includes what you say around your clients, in your marketing materials, and in your social media posts.

That way, you can ensure you’re not passing any of your own body image struggles onto others—or reinforcing their existing ones.

#5. Be trustworthy.

Trust is a key element in the coach-client relationship.

Here’s the tricky part: “You can’t make clients trust you,” says Precision Nutrition Coach Jon Mills. “You have to be trustworthy.”

So how do you do that, exactly?

The art of coaching is about being trustworthy for ALL your clients, including those who:

  • are in larger bodies
  • have a disability or chronic illness
  • identify as trans and/or non-binary
  • are part of marginalized communities
  • come from cultures different from your own

You might be thinking: “I don’t have any clients like that!” or “I don’t really cater to any of those groups.”

The truth is that you probably do—even if you don’t realize it.

Many disabilities and health issues, like ADHD and diabetes, can be completely invisible from the outside. You won’t necessarily know someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or race from looking at them.

And just because you don’t currently have clients who outwardly appear different from you in terms of body size, race, gender, or in any other aspect doesn’t mean you can’t coach those clients.

What coaches need to know about intersectionality

We can’t talk about weight stigma and bias without talking about race and intersectionality.

Intersectionality is a term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw. It refers to how social and political categorizations like race, class, and gender interconnect to create both discrimination and privilege. 23

Crenshaw pointed out that when it came to discrimination, the legal system wanted to know, for instance, whether a Black woman was being discriminated against because of her gender OR her race. There wasn’t a framework for understanding how it could be both at the same time. Thus, intersectionality was born.

Intersectionality helps us understand that fatphobia and discrimination against racialized, trans, queer, disabled and other marginalized bodies are all deeply intertwined.

So it’s great to be a size-inclusive coach. But that also means understanding that multiple aspects of discrimination and marginalization compound each other, and how this effect may impact your clients.

Learn more: Racism and fatphobia

Learn more: Developing an intersectional coaching practice

It’s not as hard as you think.

Maybe you’re wondering: How can you possibly become an expert in body positive coaching, coaching trans athletes, working with people with disabilities, and anti-racism?!

This may come as a relief: You don’t have to be an expert. 

First, you can turn to plenty of experts for help. Many of these activists have courses, books, and other resources, like the ones listed in the boxes throughout this article.

But what’s even more important, Mills says, is this:

Clients are experts in their own experiences. 

Usually, you can learn directly from them.

That doesn’t mean it’s their job to educate you.

But you can listen to and engage with the lived experience of the person right in front of you, Mills suggests.

“Often, it’s not even that they need you to be really involved in their personal experience as their coach. They just need to know that you’re not going to devalue it.”

We have work to do.

Many of us have hidden biases, body image concerns, and areas where our awareness is lacking.

To grow into more inclusive coaches, according to Mills, we first must lose the “fix it” mindset. We won’t solve weight stigma, racism, or any other type of discrimination by changing the equipment in a gym or taking a course. (Though those can be good action steps.)

“When we try to fix problems, we’re trying to get a sense of control,” Mills points out. “And to meet people where they’re at, you need to lose that desire to control things and be open and receptive.”

And meeting clients where they’re at? That’s what matters most.



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

1. Products – Data Briefs – Number 313 – July 2018 [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2020 Sep 2]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db313.htm

2. Persky S, Eccleston CP. Medical student bias and care recommendations for an obese versus non-obese virtual patient. Int J Obes. 2011 May;35(5):728–35.

3. Foster GD, Wadden TA, Makris AP, Davidson D, Sanderson RS, Allison DB, et al. Primary care physicians’ attitudes about obesity and its treatment. Obes Res. 2003 Oct;11(10):1168–77.

4. Stone O, Werner P. Israeli dietitians’ professional stigma attached to obese patients. Qual Health Res. 2012 Jun;22(6):768–76.

5. Ferrante JM, Ohman-Strickland P, Hudson SV, Hahn KA, Scott JG, Crabtree BF. Colorectal cancer screening among obese versus non-obese patients in primary care practices. Cancer Detect Prev. 2006 Oct 25;30(5):459–65.

6. Ferrante JM, Fyffe DC, Vega ML, Piasecki AK, Ohman-Strickland PA, Crabtree BF. Family physicians’ barriers to cancer screening in extremely obese patients. Obesity. 2010 Jun;18(6):1153–9.

7. Brown I, Thompson J, Tod A, Jones G. Primary care support for tackling obesity: a qualitative study of the perceptions of obese patients. Br J Gen Pract. 2006 Sep;56(530):666–72.

8. Byrne SK. Healthcare avoidance: a critical review. Holist Nurs Pract. 2008 Sep;22(5):280–92.

9. Flint SW, Čadek M, Codreanu SC, Ivić V, Zomer C, Gomoiu A. Obesity Discrimination in the Recruitment Process: “You’re Not Hired!” Front Psychol. 2016 May 3;7:647.

10. Puhl R, Brownell KD. Bias, discrimination, and obesity. Obes Res. 2001 Dec;9(12):788–805.

11. Sabin JA, Greenwald AG. The influence of implicit bias on treatment recommendations for 4 common pediatric conditions: pain, urinary tract infection, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and asthma. Am J Public Health. 2012 May;102(5):988–95.

12. Cooper LA, Roter DL, Carson KA, Beach MC, Sabin JA, Greenwald AG, et al. The associations of clinicians’ implicit attitudes about race with medical visit communication and patient ratings of interpersonal care. Am J Public Health. 2012 May;102(5):979–87.

13. Emmer C, Bosnjak M, Mata J. The association between weight stigma and mental health: A meta‐analysis. Obes Rev. 2020 Jan 10;21(1):68.

14. Fortman T. The Effects of Body Image on Self-Efficacy, Self Esteem, and Academic Achievement. 2006 Jun 1 [cited 2020 Sep 2]

15. Cash TF, Deagle EA 3rd. The nature and extent of body-image disturbances in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: a meta-analysis. Int J Eat Disord. 1997 Sep;22(2):107–25.

16. Markey CN, Markey PM. Relations Between Body Image and Dieting Behaviors: An Examination of Gender Differences. Sex Roles. 2005 Oct 1;53(7):519–30.

17. van den Brink F, Vollmann M, Smeets MAM, Hessen DJ, Woertman L. Relationships between body image, sexual satisfaction, and relationship quality in romantic couples. J Fam Psychol. 2018 Jun;32(4):466–74.

18. Wilson RE, Latner JD, Hayashi K. More than just body weight: the role of body image in psychological and physical functioning. Body Image. 2013 Sep;10(4):644–7.

19. Markland D. The mediating role of behavioural regulations in the relationship between perceived body size discrepancies and physical activity among adult women. Hellenic Journal of Psychology. 2009;6(2):169–82.

20. Sarwer DB, Thompson JK, Cash TF. Body image and obesity in adulthood. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2005 Mar;28(1):69–87, viii.

21. Tylka TL, Wood-Barcalow NL. What is and what is not positive body image? Conceptual foundations and construct definition. Body Image. 2015 Jun;14:118–29.

22. Trabulsi, J., Schoeller, D. (2001). Evaluation of dietary assessment instruments against double labeled water, a biomarker of habitual intake. American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, 281(5): E891-E899.

23. Crenshaw KW. Demarginalising the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of anti-discrimination doctrine, feminist theory, and anti-racist politics. Univ Chic Leg Forum. 2011 Jan 1;140:25–42.

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

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

The post Are you body-shaming clients? How even well-intentioned coaches can be guilty of “size-bias.” appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

“Does anyone else here struggle with imposter syndrome?”

Jamie posed her question to the Precision Nutrition Coaches Facebook Group, wondering if other coaches ever felt the same way.

“I know I am certified and have the information and skills that I need to coach,” she wrote. “But I have that persistent voice in my head that tells me I’m not qualified enough.”

In minutes, Jamie’s post was flooded with responses.

The dozens of answers she received amounted to a collective “Yes!”

Jamie definitely isn’t alone. And if you feel the same way, neither are you.

The good news?

For every coach who struggles with imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and insecurity, there’s also one who’s overcome it (or at least learned to effectively manage it.)

In this article, we’ll pull back the curtain on imposter syndrome, sharing the stories—and strategies—of coaches who’ve been through it. And we’ll offer helpful advice from our own experts.

Then you’ll be on the road to conquering your self-doubt, leveraging your own expertise, and coaching with confidence.

(Side note: Yes, we know most dictionaries spell it “impostor.” But because it seems more people use “imposter”—a spelling that’s also considered acceptable—we chose that version.)


In the Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification, there’s a lesson we call “The Secret.”

In this lesson, we ask our students:

Do you have a secret angst or worry about coaching?

When you think about that secret, what is it like? How does it make you feel?

Coaches aren’t required to share their secrets with us, but lots do.

And, considering the Level 2 Certification is an advanced Master Class, their answers might surprise you.

According to Precision Nutrition Level 2 Master Coach Jason Bonn, “By far the most common response is about imposter syndrome, stemming from not ‘knowing enough’ or not being ‘good enough.’

“Almost everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum of not feeling ‘enough’ in some way,” says Bonn. “Though some feel it much more deeply than others.”

(The second most-common secret? Concerns about one’s own body or physique. Read: Am I fit enough to be a trainer?)

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the nagging feeling that you’re somehow not good enough to do what you’re doing and that eventually, someone will find out.

This often-unfounded yet persistent feeling can interfere with your confidence, mess with your coaching skills, and steal the joy and passion that led you to do this work in the first place. It might even stop you from coaching altogether.

How do you overcome imposter syndrome?

To find out, we spoke with six PN Certified coaches who’ve been through it themselves, and sought advice from our own top coaching experts.

Here are five proven strategies to try.

Strategy #1: Be a coach, not an expert.

Previously a successful chef, Robbie Elliott made a career transition and became a coach in his mid-30s. But the change came with a ton of anxiety.

He feared client questions and positively dreaded having to say the words, “I don’t know.”

“When you don’t know the answer to a question, and you’re supposedly the voice of the professional, it can be really deflating,” says Elliott.

“There were times early on in my career that I would get things wrong simply because I wasn’t sure, but I really wanted to give an answer.”

In time, Elliott learned that “trying to be the person who knows everything is actually really detrimental. Being authentic and honest, and then dedicating yourself to finding the answer is way, way better.”

Elliott’s new mantra? “I might not be the perfect coach, but I can be the dedicated coach.”

Srividya Gowri had a similar revelation. Once hyper-concerned about being perceived as “The Expert,” Gowri eventually realized that “I don’t need to be the expert. I don’t need to know everything. If my clients are getting the results they want, that’s what matters.”

This mental shift relieved Gowri’s imposter syndrome—and changed her coaching style.

“I’m not setting huge expectations and saying ‘I’m this perfect coach and I’m going to get you these results,’” she explains. “No, I’m saying ‘We’re going to try things together, and experiment, and see what works for you’. This eases the pressure for both me and my clients.”

Put it into action

In the Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification program, coaches are taught that while you may be the expert on nutrition, the client is the expert on their experience.

Here are a few ways you can put this into practice.

1. Assume nothing. 

Ask about and confirm every single proposition and assumption you make with a client. Be clear that you’re using a working hypothesis rather than an “expert pronouncement.”

For example, you might say,

“OK, here’s my take on things. Did I get that right?

“Based on my experience, here’s what I’m guessing will work for you, but we may need to test it and see how it turns out.”

“It sounds from what you’re saying like _____ might be a good next action?”

2. Be honest if you don’t know something. 

Saying “I don’t know but let’s find out together” is powerful stuff.

If your client’s experience is different than yours, level with them.

For example, you might say: “I’m going to be truthful with you. I don’t know much about cancer survivors. But I’ve got a good toolbox of things, and I’m prepared to collaborate with you and do what it takes to become informed. I’m on your team all the way. We’ll work through this together.”

3. Build a referral network. 

You don’t need to be (nor should you be) the expert on absolutely everything.

Building up a referral support network can give you an opportunity to help your clients even when their needs are outside your scope—by referring them to someone who can legitimately help. (Start building your referral roster by clicking the image below to get the downloadable form.)

Strategy #2: Gather feedback, intelligently.

Feedback—both positive and negative—can be an effective antidote to imposter syndrome.

For example, Kay Sylvain had been really hesitant to put her qualifications into action and start coaching clients. But once she did, she found that their positive feedback helped a lot.

“Getting positive feedback reminded me that sometimes the way we view ourselves is not necessarily how others view us,” she says.

But even negative feedback can be helpful too. 

“Maybe you do need more time, experience, knowledge, or skills to be the kind of coach you want to be,” says Dr. Krista Scott-Dixon, director of curriculum at Precision Nutrition.

“Imposter-syndrome-type anxieties can reflect a completely valid urge towards self-improvement. The problem with anxiety is that it lives in your head, thriving on isolation and shame.”

Getting clear on how and where you have room for improvement can ease the anxiety.

Take Greg Smith. In his early days as a coach, Smith was terribly worried about coaching “right,” trying to avoid mistakes at all costs.

Now, instead of worrying about doing the wrong thing, or not doing enough, he gathers feedback (or “data”) he can use for small, incremental improvement.

“When my clients are trying something new, I tell them the worst thing that happens is you learn what didn’t work for you. And then you get data to help you do it better or differently next time. The same is true for ourselves,” he says.

According to Robbie Elliot, this “data gathering” approach might be best paired with an added step: data filtering.  

“I try to be obsessively open to feedback. But if you take every little bit of feedback to heart—including from random people on the internet who don’t know you—you’ll be questioning yourself all the time.

Instead, Elliott concentrates on deliberately sourcing feedback from people he trusts. That includes his family, a close group of friends and colleagues, and his PN coaching mentor, Jason Bonn.

Elliott takes critical feedback from that group very seriously. “I know their values, and they know mine,” he says. “I trust they will tell me if I need to look at something or do something better. Their feedback keeps me accountable.”

Put it into action

It’s hard to actively solicit feedback, and use it constructively—if you’re deathly afraid of screwing up.

To help you become more receptive to feedback, try an approach that we at PN call “feedback, not failure.”

First, imagine this. You’re walking on a rocky surface—maybe a beach, or a dry creek bed, or a hiking trail.

If you step on a rock, and it shifts, did you fail?


You just got important information about the next thing to do—try another rock.

You got feedback.

Instead of treating any mistakes or slip-ups as failures, try to see them as feedback, and approach them with curiosity.

For example:

  • Look at the choices you make, and notice what happens.
  • What information did you get? What insight? What data?
  • What does that feedback tell you about what you could do next, or change in the future?
  • Or keep the same? Or do less/more of?
  • What happens when you take action X? What happens when you do Y? What about Z?

Get rid of the words “good” or “bad” and substitute “interesting” or “useful,” as in: “Well, that’s interesting,” or “That’s useful to know.”

With this mindset, you can start to treat all feedback as neutral information that you can use to make decisions—with less fear of failure.

Strategy #3: Question your thoughts and assumptions.

Have you ever felt like other coaches, practitioners and professionals have more or better qualifications than you?

That’s exactly how Heather Lynn Darby used to feel. Earlier in her coaching journey, she compared herself to “other professions that are licensed.”

In particular, she worried that nutrition coaching would be seen as “less legitimate” than a registered dietician (RD), doctor, or psychologist. Maybe clients wouldn’t respect her credentials or see the true value she had to offer.

Rather than letting her assumptions take over, Heather Lynn practiced some critical thinking.

“I asked myself, ‘Why would someone come see me instead of a registered dietician? What’s the unique value I bring that’s different from an RD?‘”

She came up with loads of answers: like being able to offer more personal and frequent contact to clients, something clinicians like RDs aren’t always able to provide their clients.

“That differentiation helped me discern my unique value and concentrate on that,” she explains.

In addition, Heather Lynn challenged her fears by asking: “Is this true?”

“The process goes like this: If you’re assuming something negative about yourself or your situation, ask yourself the question: ‘Is that true? Are your achievements fake? Did you or did you not complete those certifications? Was it really just luck that got you where you are now?’”

You might discover the answers by reflecting on your past. 

That’s what Srividya Gowri did.

In her early years as a coach, Gowri felt “like a fish out of water. I worried, do I know everything? Do I have the talent and skills to actually help someone who’s so different from me? What if it doesn’t work? Are people going to call me out and say, ‘Hey, you’re fake. Your coaching didn’t work on me?’”

To challenge her fears, Gowri took a step back. She reflected on all the changes she’d made in her life, the challenges she’d worked through, and the successes she’d had.

This led to a profound lightbulb moment.

“When I looked back I realized: You know what, maybe nutrition coaching is new for me, but learning something new is not new. I have learned. I have succeeded. I have been able to do very well. And there’s a lot I’ve overcome with grit and resilience.”

Put it into action

When uncomfortable thoughts or feelings crop up, try writing them down, says Karin Nordin, PhD(c), behavior change coach and curriculum advisor to Precision Nutrition.

“You might find it helpful to explicitly write down: What is it that you think makes you an imposter?”

Once your thoughts and assumptions are on the blank page in front of you, consider them critically.

“Ask yourself, ‘Do I actually believe that’? From there you can start that metacognitive process to consider and challenge your own thoughts.”

As an added step, try taking a page out of Gowri’s book. Make a list of your previous accomplishments and a list of challenges you’ve overcome. How did you make it through those difficult times? What strengths, skills or assets have those experiences given you?

By looking back and re-familiarizing yourself with your own history, you might realize you’re more prepared and capable than you thought.

Strategy #4: Seek improvement and mastery rather than trying to avoid failures.

Do you tend to focus on avoiding mistakes? Or on making improvements?

According to Nordin, if you have imposter syndrome, your focus is likely on avoiding mistakes—as opposed to being awesome.

“Research suggests that people with imposter syndrome tend to focus on performance-avoidance—trying to avoid mistakes—rather than improvement or mastery,” says Nordin.

This can translate to thoughts like, ‘I’m a fraud, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m afraid of messing up in front of everyone,’ rather than thoughts like, ‘How can I get better at this?’

The solution?

Try to shift towards mastery goals (goals focused on improvement), rather than performance-avoidance goals (goals focused on preventing mistakes).

For Chaquita Niamke, this was a significant mental shift.

Earlier in her career, if Niamke made a mistake with a client, she felt so embarrassed, she didn’t want to show her face. (She even found herself ducking a previous client in the grocery store.)

But in time, she became more focused on working towards her bigger goals and the things she needed to do to get there.

“I know when I have a plan and a process, the imposter syndrome is not as prevalent,” she says.

Niamke also learned to “embrace the road to mastery, with all its lumps and bumps along the way.”

“I came to realize the process is the process,” she adds. “You have to go through it in order to be refined.”

Put it into action

To get out of your imposter syndrome mindset, try shifting your focus towards improving the things you want to master, rather than focusing on avoiding the things you’re afraid of.

To do this, Nordin suggests a “thought bridge.”

“Suppose you think you’re not the best coach right now,” she says. “Rather than saying, ‘I’m not a great coach,’ try telling yourself, ‘I’m not the best coach, but I can get better.’”

From there, Nordin recommends focusing on the things you’d like to improve.

For example, you might say to yourself: “I really want to master motivational interviewing. So in this client session, I’m going to focus on my motivational interviewing skills.”

Or you might say, “I really want to be a compassionate coach. So in this session, I’m going to practice being as compassionate as I can.”

These stepping stones can build a path to confidence, while helping your brain think more productively and creatively.

“After a while, you might say, ‘Hey, I’m a pretty great coach after all, because I’ve worked really hard at it. And I know I can always get better.”

Strategy #5: Put in the reps.

There’s no getting around it.

Gaining confidence, developing your skills, and feeling solid in who you are and what you offer… these kinds of things take time, effort, and experience.

“If you don’t get your reps in, the imposter syndrome just stays there,” says Niamke. “You have to go through it.”

Greg Smith agrees. As a young coach, he constantly worried whether he was “doing  it right.” But looking back, he now says, “I practiced coaching just like the clients have to practice their eating habits. It doesn’t happen overnight. You need to put in the reps.”

But sometimes, it can be really hard to get started.

After receiving her PN Level 1 Certification, Kay Sylvain was still hesitant. “I was like, ‘Okay, I passed the test, but I’m not really ready to coach.’”

Her imposter syndrome kept telling her to wait. So she got more certifications and more training.

“And I still wasn’t doing anything with it. Just hoarding knowledge, reading books. I came to a point where I said to myself, ‘Am I really going to start this or am I just going to keep taking courses?’”

Sylvain finally realized that she wouldn’t magically feel confident enough. So she chose to get started anyway.

“I said to myself: Either you’re going to do this, or you’re not,” says Sylvain. “After that, I filed all the paperwork, set things up, and finally started my business in the span of a week.”

Put it into action

“Put in the reps” might seem like obvious advice. But sometimes we forget about it (or don’t take it) because we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves.

For a re-set, try this thought experiment from Dr. Scott-Dixon.

Suppose a client comes to you. They’re about 25 pounds overweight, especially in their midsection.

They tell you they want visible abs.

And they want them in one week.

You try to reason with them. Explain the physiology. Show them examples of other clients so they can set their expectations accordingly.

In turn, your client says, “That’s all well and good for other people. But I’m different. I should be able to get abs in a week.”

What would you think?

You’d probably be shaking your head (at least on the inside).

“If you’re just starting out and expecting to be successful, confident, even perfect overnight, you’re basically asking for ‘abs in a week,’” says Dr. Scott-Dixon. “In other words, you’re not thinking realistically about what it really takes to meet a goal.”

Instead of worrying about whether you’re good enough (or not), get clear about your goals, and set a realistic plan to achieve them.

To get started, try the PN “Goals to Skills to Practices to Actions” method. (We call this GSPA.)

First, take out a piece of paper and write down your goal. Make it as specific and concrete as possible.

Then, reverse-engineer what’s required to achieve that goal. Ask yourself:

  • What skills do I need to develop to meet my goal?
  • What practices will help me develop these skills?
  • What actions do I need to take, and when?

Clarifying what you want to improve will allow you to make progress, and see concrete, measurable improvement as you go.

Bit by bit, progress by progress, rep by rep, you’ll probably stop feeling like an imposter. And you’ll start to see yourself becoming the coach you always wanted to be.

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

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

The post 5 ways to beat imposter syndrome: Health and fitness pros tell you how they did it. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

If you’ve ever (briefly!) thought about duct-taping your kid to a chair while you wedge a forkful of spinach into their mouth, you know the frustration and anxiety many parents experience around kids’ nutrition.

“Are they eating enough?”

“Are they getting the right nutrients?”

“Why won’t they eat anything green??”

“Am I failing as a parent???”


We feel you.

The good news: It is possible to help kids get the nutrients they need without everything being perfect. Because let’s face it: When does that ever happen?

We’ve worked with over 100,000 clients—many of whom are parents and guardians looking to bring more peace to mealtime and more greens to their fridge.

Here’s what we tell them: You don’t need to win the Best School Lunch contest, make the world’s healthiest family dinners, or demand your kids eat a heaping plateful of vegetables.

Instead, we recommend another approach: Be gently persistent, and take the long view.

When kids have some choice and control, a basic understanding of why nutrition matters, and a safe, low-stress environment to try some food experiments… a lot can change. (For the better.)

Check out the infographic below for nine ways to help your little ones make healthier food choices on their own.

Plus, five recipes that draw on family-favorite foods that most kids will love. No duct tape required.

Download the tablet or printer-friendly infographic to share it with friends, family, or (if you’re a coach) clients.

Nutrition for kids can feel like advanced algebra thanks to picky eaters and hectic schedules. Try these low-stress strategies, plus 5 kid-friendly recipes.

Don’t forget to download and save this infographic so you have low-stress strategies for kids’ nutrition when life gets busy.

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

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

The post Level 1: 9 ways to take the anxiety out of nutrition for kids. [Infographic] appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

What do a doctor, dietitian, licensed clinical social worker, side-hustling nutrition coach, and personal trainer all have in common?

No, this isn’t the beginning of a terrible joke…

The answer: We interviewed people in each of these careers, and they all said getting a nutrition certification was worth it. 

But is a nutrition certification worth it, for you?

In this article, we’ll explore that question.

The truth is, a nutrition certification’s worth-it score depends on your situation.

To help you weigh all the pros and cons, we put together this comprehensive guide, complete with a free self-assessment tool to help you make the decision for yourself.

In this article, you’ll also find:

  • The essential questions to consider before getting a nutrition certification.
  • 5 unexpected side benefits of getting certified.
  • Why a nutrition certification often translates into greater client success.
  • How a nutrition certification can boost your income potential.
  • Insights from seven successful certified nutrition coaches from a wide range of professions.


5 questions that’ll help you decide if a nutrition certification is worth it

Figuring out whether a nutrition certification is worth it can be tricky. In part, because we all define “worth it” differently.

For instance, is a nutrition certification worth it if you:

  • Gain knowledge you need to achieve your career goals?
  • Earn more money because of it?
  • Get more clients or new opportunities afterwards?
  • Learn something that changes your nutrition philosophy?
  • Create connections with like-minded people in your industry?

Consider the following questions to define what “worth it” means to you.

How to use this quiz to make your decision

Each section below ends with a question. You’ll rank your response on a scale from 0 to 5. (Just click the number on your screen, and your results will automatically populate at the end of the quiz.)

Once you’ve answered all five questions, you’ll get a worth it/not worth it result.

If you’re not sure how to answer one or more of the 5 questions (or just want to consider it from multiple angles), you’ll find boxes labeled “dig deeper” with prompts for further reflection.

Our advice: Keep a journal handy. Jot down your thoughts so you’ll have something to refer to when making your decision.

Question #1: Does a nutrition certification fill a gap in your knowledge?

A nutrition certification is worth it if it helps you gain key knowledge or skills, according to the coaches we interviewed.

Here are a few real-life examples of how a nutrition certification can fill knowledge gaps.

The personal trainer who wanted to master nutrition

The release of a massively popular Netflix nutrition documentary, coupled with a resulting deluge of client questions, made personal trainer Tyler Buckingham, PN1, PPSC, realize the full extent of nutrition misinformation.

He wanted to better understand the discussion as well as be able to answer client questions with authority. “I was like, okay, it’s time to get certified in nutrition,” says Buckingham, who trains a group of former athletes.

Since getting certified, he’s much more adept at answering the nutrition questions clients lob his way—especially tricky ones with no clear answer.

“I like having that flexibility and being able to say, ‘Hey, you could try this, or you could try that. What do you want to do? Let’s have a conversation about it.’”

In the end, Buckingham knows his clients are getting answers to their questions, and the actionable advice they need to keep moving forward.

The doctor who wanted to give better advice

A family medicine resident and CrossFit Level 1 coach, Kristina Hines, DO, PN1, felt confident talking to patients about exercise. But the few hours of nutrition education she got in medical school just weren’t cutting it.

“I didn’t really know what to tell patients nutritionally,” she says.

Her patients often had specific questions about how to eat, whether various diets were right for them, and what foods calmed their symptoms.

Dr. Hines wanted a deeper level of nutritional understanding, so she decided to pursue a nutrition certification.

Thanks to the certification course, Dr. Hines now feels comfortable answering just about any nutrition question patients come up with.

The registered dietitian who wanted to learn about behavior change

Jennifer Broxterman, MS, RD, was already a dietitian when she got her nutrition certification. But she wanted to learn more about the psychology of behavior change and motivational interviewing.

“As a university professor, I like to see different teaching methods and different learning styles,” she says.

For her, getting a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification meant gaining perspective on how behavior change actually works, so she could better implement it with her clients.

Will a nutrition certification fill a gap in your knowledge?

already know everything
have a major knowledge gap


Dig deeper

  • What are you hoping to learn from a nutrition certification? How will the certification help you learn it?
  • What skills would help you reach more people, or improve your work with them? Could a nutrition certification help?
  • How do you feel when nutrition questions come up? How does that compare to how you’d like to feel?

Question #2: Will a nutrition certification bring you additional and valuable benefits?

People often cite benefits of becoming certified that go beyond their initial reason for doing so, such as:

  • enhanced credibility
  • more confidence
  • improved communication skills
  • opportunities to learn from peers and experts in the field
  • a healthier relationship with food

Below, we’ll cover each of these benefits in detail, so you can decide if they’re worth it for you.

Benefit #1: Enhanced credibility

After Vivian Gill, MA, RN-BC, CPT,  earned her nutrition certification, she noticed something that surprised her: “My credibility increased,” says the registered nurse, personal trainer, and lifestyle coach. “Clients know I’m evidence-based and not biased, and they’ve felt the difference.”

Gill saw that lots of other trainers in her community pushed dieting, counting macros, and detoxing. Her nutrition certification helped her realize that a different approach would resonate more with her clients.

“I’ve decided to be the voice of reason and grace,” she adds.

Benefit #2: More confidence

What does Buckingham see as the biggest hidden benefit of getting certified? “Definitely the confidence I have now,” he says.

Not long ago, a client came to him wanting to lose weight. During their intake, Buckingham learned the client had already lost several pounds. Clearly, the person was doing a lot right.

In the past, Buckingham would have felt pressured to deliver a completely different program—for the sake of it. Thanks to what he learned from his certification, however, he confidently encouraged his client to keep going with some of the same strategies.

Buckingham also feels more at ease talking about nutrition’s gray areas.

Instead of claiming to know it all, he feels comfortable saying: “Hey, I don’t know the answer to this question, but I’ll find out,”  or “Why don’t we see if it works? Then after a week, we can see what happened, and take it from there.”

Benefit #3: Improved coaching and communication skills

Some nutrition certification courses, like Precision Nutrition Level 1, include information on the art of coaching as well as nutrition science. In other words, part of the course trains you to talk to your clients more effectively. (Want to see what we mean? Check out our FREE Nutrition Coaching e-course.)

Josh Chang, PN1, a dietitian and owner of Mycro Nutrition, says getting a certification was worth it for him because it taught him how to talk to clients about their barriers.

“Dietitians are trained to use a little bit of motivational interviewing and empathize with clients, but Precision Nutrition teaches you to take that one or two steps further—to get to know the client and how to dig into why they might be saying what they say or doing what they’re doing.”

“A nutrition certification may be worth it if you need a little help strengthening those communication or rapport building skills,” he adds.

Benefit #4: Opportunities to learn from peers and experts in the field

Some nutrition certifications offer Facebook groups, online forums, and even in-person events. These resources provide coaches with a chance to connect with like-minded health professionals, get input from others on challenges and, in some cases, access top experts in the nutrition field.

Having a large community of coaches at his fingertips was one of the biggest unexpected benefits for Chang.

“Once you enroll in PN Level 1 or 2, you get invited to a Facebook group. I particularly enjoy seeing how different coaches respond when people post questions. Some coaching suggestions are just so out of left field, in a good way. I’m like, ‘I would’ve never thought of that, but it’s brilliant.’”

Benefit #5: A healthier relationship with food

Jenna Ashby PA-C, PN1, an oncology physician assistant, decided to become a nutrition coach after overcoming disordered eating.

Though Ashby primarily uses her nutrition certification in her side job at Breathe CrossFit in Derry, New Hampshire, she also came away from the experience with some personal takeaways.

“It helped solidify what I’ve been building upon the last few years, and it helped me find more peace with myself,” says Ashby. “I now know, without a doubt: I can love my body, be okay with my body, and appropriately nourish it.”

“That’s huge because I once thought that, if I wanted to eat, I had to exercise, or vice versa. Now, that mentality is reversed: In order to be strong and feel strong I need to nourish myself. The PN certification really solidified that for me,” she says.

Will a nutrition certification bring you additional and valuable benefits?

not valuable at all
massively valuable


Dig deeper

  • How would you like clients to view your knowledge about nutrition, and how do you think you’re currently measuring up to that?
  • How confident do you feel about your nutrition recommendations when working with clients? When you aren’t sure about something, how do you handle it?
  • How would you rate your current coaching and communication skills? When you talk to people about nutrition, how does your message seem to be received?
  • Where do you currently connect with peers and experts in your field? How might you benefit from additional opportunities?
  • How would you describe your current nutrition philosophy and your relationship with food? Is there room for improvement here?

Question #3: Does a nutrition certification line up with your career goals?

A nutrition certification enables you to make nutrition recommendations to otherwise healthy clients. 

With a nutrition certification, you’ll be qualified to:

  • Give the right nutrition advice at the right time
  • Develop an action plan your clients will actually follow
  • Help people transform their bodies and their health

These qualifications can be useful in a variety of careers.

What are your career opportunities with a nutrition certification?

People often wonder if they need to go to (or go back to) a university to get started with a career in nutrition. For certain jobs (such as registered dietitian), you need a specialized degree and training.

But there’s also a lot you can do with a nutrition certification alone. Coaches in our community have job titles like:

  • Nutrition coach
  • Sports nutrition coach
  • Weight loss coach
  • Weight management consultant
  • Corporate wellness educator
  • Nutrition program manager at a gym or other health facility
  • High-performance consultant
  • Stay-at-home parent and part-time nutrition coach

If you already have additional certifications or degrees (or plan to get them), there may be other career options. Some PN-certified coaches are also:

  • Registered dietitians
  • Sports nutritionists
  • Personal trainers and strength coaches who do nutrition coaching
  • Physical therapists who do nutrition coaching
  • Doctors, nurses, and physician assistants who do nutrition coaching
  • Psychologists, psychotherapists, and social workers who do nutrition coaching

What are you not qualified to do?

It’s important to note that Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT)—which involves giving nutrition advice to treat or cure disease—is out of scope unless you’re specifically MNT-accredited. You won’t be qualified to do this with a nutrition certification alone, and you should never try.

Depending on where you live, rules and regulations vary on what people with nutrition certifications are allowed to do.

For instance, in some states in the US, the only people who can provide meal plans are registered dietitians. But in these states, nutrition coaches can still help people with their eating as long as they’re not telling people exactly what they should and shouldn’t eat.

If you take a Precision Nutrition certification, you’ll learn that meal plans, deeming foods “off-limits,” and telling people exactly what to eat aren’t our style anyway. In our nutrition certification, you’ll learn how to get results without using these tactics.

Does a nutrition certification line up with your career goals?

don’t line up at all
yes, they completely line up


Dig deeper

  • How can nutrition coaching fit into your current job? Or are you looking to pursue a new career in nutrition?
  • Take a look at the job titles listed above. Which ones sound interesting to you and/or resonate with your career goals?
  • Do you need a nutrition certification to be qualified (or feel confident enough) to hold the job titles you listed in the previous question? Why or why not?

Question #4: Will a nutrition certification help the clients you work with (or want to work with)?

Our grads say a nutrition certification can help you provide a better service to your clients (or potential clients). This service can not only focus on what they eat, but also how they think, feel, and go about their daily routine. (We call this “deep health” coaching.)

This allows you to figure out what’s really holding clients back from making the lasting changes they really want.

That’s important since many people get a nutrition certification, at least partly, because they want to help people—even if it’s their friends or family members. So it’s worthwhile to consider how getting certified will help the people you work with (or eventually want to work with).

For instance, Buckingham now includes nutrition coaching his personal training clients as an added value service. “If you’re meeting me in person, I’ll often say, ‘Hey, let’s talk nutrition. Let’s make sure that you get those questions answered,’” he explains.

Getting a nutrition certification may also improve client experiences. “I think it’s made me a better practitioner,” Dr. Hines says.

Developing her motivational interviewing skills, she says, helped her approach conversations about nutrition in a way that makes patients feel more at ease.

“Now, I’m able to meet my patients where they are instead of having them feel like I’m just lecturing them. I really try to empower patients to know that they have a say in this. It’s not just me telling them what they have to do.”

Lastly, a nutrition certification may help clients get better results.

For example, Kelly Lynch, LCSW, EMT, CPT, PN1, a therapist who specializes in treating first responders, began suggesting clients talk to their physicians about blood work and other diagnostic tests, especially when she suspected their mental health symptoms might be related to (or exacerbated by) nutritional deficiencies, GI dysfunction, or hormonal issues.

When one of her clients described worsening depression along with digestive issues, Lynch thought of a condition she’d learned about during her certification that could contribute to these symptoms: SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). She encouraged the client to ask their doctor about it.

Sure enough, testing revealed Lynch’s hunch was correct, and the client’s depression improved once the SIBO was treated.

Will a nutrition certification help your clients?

won’t help at all
will help majorly


Dig deeper

  • What additional value would your clients receive if you got a nutrition certification?
  • How would more knowledge and better coaching/communication skills improve clients’ experiences?
  • In what way would nutrition and coaching expertise help your clients get better results?

Question #5: Will a nutrition certification boost your income potential, or provide other financial benefits?

Based on our survey of 1000 nutrition coaches and additional independent research, coaches with a nutrition certification earn slightly more per hour than coaches without one.

If you have two to three certifications, you’ll earn an average $12 more per hour than coaches with just one.

And coaches with a Precision Nutrition certification earn 11 percent more than people with other certifications.

So it’s safe to say that, on average, certified coaches earn more.

For Chang, getting a nutrition certification was the impetus to start his own coaching business, getting him out of a hospital nutrition setting and into the driver’s seat of his own career and earning potential.

Lynch experienced greater interest in her therapy services after sharing that she’d gotten certified in nutrition. It also helped her launch a coaching side business, providing an additional revenue stream.

For some, a nutrition certification might be an avenue to saving money. In addition to enabling her to start a side job as a nutrition coach, Ashby says getting certified meant she no longer felt like she needed to pay for nutrition coaching from someone else. Now, she feels totally confident adjusting her own eating habits.

Will a nutrition certification boost your income potential, or provide other financial benefits?

not at all
yes, absolutely


Dig deeper

  • Will getting a nutrition certification allow you to charge clients more than you are currently, or offer new services?
  • How might getting certified in nutrition increase interest in your services? Could it help expand your client base?
  • How might getting a nutrition certification potentially save you money, in terms of services you’ll no longer need or outsourcing you’ll no longer have to do?

So is a nutrition certification worth it?


Now find your score range to see if a nutrition certification is worth it.

20 and above: Yes, a nutrition certification is worth it for you!

Based on your answers, it sounds like a nutrition certification will pay off. By getting certified, you’ll level up your:

  • nutrition science and coaching knowledge
  • career opportunities and coaching services
  • ability to help clients
  • income potential
  • and so much more.

6 to 19: A nutrition certification might be worth it for you.

Based on your answers, it sounds like a nutrition certification will pay off in some ways, but might not in others.

The big question for you to consider: Do the likely benefits outweigh the costs?

To answer that, take another look at your quiz answers, specifically at the ones where you scored a 4 or 5.

Compare the benefits with the cost associated with getting certified.

For example, let’s say you ranked high for a certification filling a knowledge gap as well as for it likely bringing in more income. For costs, maybe you already have the money set aside as well as the time to take and pass a course. In that case, you’ll likely decide that a certification is worth it.

On the other hand, let’s say you picked 5 for a certification lining up with your career goals. For all of the other questions, you choose a 3 or lower. On top of that, you’d have to borrow money to pay for a certification. And you’re already working two jobs. Oh, and you’ve got a baby on the way. Well, a certification might not be worth it to you—not right now anyway.

5 and under: It doesn’t seem like a nutrition certification is worth it for you.

Based on your answers, it’s not clear that you’ll find a nutrition certification to be worth it. That said, there are always exceptions.

You might be interested in getting a certification just for your own personal benefit—not for your career. You may not want to work with clients, earn money through nutrition coaching, or change jobs, and that’s totally legit.

No matter what you decide, it’s important to have a clear picture of your reasoning. Hopefully, that’s what you’ve gained through this self-assessment.

Where to go from here

If you decide to get a nutrition certification, you have quite a few programs to choose from.

For guidance, check out this in-depth article: How to choose the right nutrition certification program for YOU.

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

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

The post Is a nutrition certification worth it? 5 questions to ask yourself before signing up. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Can you determine if a nutrition certification program is reputable, a good fit, and something that will boost your career—before you actually sign up?

Absolutely! To do so, you’ll need to:

This article gives you all the answers.

But they’re not just based on what we here at Precision Nutrition think. Because… we’re a little biased. (We offer the #1 rated nutrition certification worldwide, according to a third-party industry report.)

That’s why we asked five outside nutrition certification experts to help you weigh the pros and cons—so you can choose the best nutrition certification program for you with confidence.

Maybe you’re wondering:

What the heck is a nutrition certification expert? 

They’re health and fitness industry professionals who have so much experience with certifications they’ve earned the right to be called experts. A couple of them have dozens of certifications.

One is the 2017 IDEA Health & Fitness Association Personal Trainer of the Year.

Three have Master’s degrees. Two others are registered dietitians, one of whom has taught on the university level.

Put simply: When other professionals are considering a nutrition certification, they turn to these people for advice.

You’ll hear from…

Michael Piercy, MS, CSCS, a former professional baseball player who owns The LAB in Fairfield, New Jersey. Named IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year in 2017, Piercy has collected 34 advanced certifications from a variety of health, fitness, and nutrition organizations.
Jennifer Broxterman, MS, RD—a London, Ontario, Canada-based Registered Dietitian and founder and CEO of NutritionRx—got certified as a nutrition coach after she completed her 1800+ hours of training for her dietetic internship. She’s completed Monash University’s low-FODMAP diet training as well as taken courses in eating disorders, food sensitivities, pregnancy, sports nutrition, nutrition supplementation, and motivational interviewing.
Deana Ng, a Sherman Oaks, California Pilates instructor, has certifications from a wide range of organizations: Precision Nutrition, National Pilates Certification Program (NPCP), TRX, Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), Buff Bones, The MELT Method, and Osteo-Pilates.
Vivian Gill, MA, RN-BC, CPT—a Granite Bay California-based registered nurse, personal trainer, and lifestyle coach—holds more than a dozen certifications in everything from yoga to nutrition, including ones from NASM, the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the Strozzi Institute, AFAA, Les Mills, and the Yoga Alliance.
Kathleen Garcia-Benson, RDN, LD, an El Paso, Texas-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with Iron MVMNT, studied nutrition at Texas A&M University, completed hundreds of hours of training for her RDN through Oakwood University, and began her career as a dietitian in a teaching hospital before shifting to an online practice.

This team of experts has experienced it all.

Many reported that their certifications catapulted their business—helping them attract clients, improve their success, and, as a result, generate more referrals and positive reviews.

Have they ever felt like they wasted their money on a nutrition certification? Um, yeah. And, in this article, they reveal three powerful tactics that can help you avoid the same mistake.

Here, you’ll learn what they look for in health, fitness, and nutrition certifications, how they decide if certifications are worth it, and the strategies they use to steer clear of shady companies.


When choosing a nutrition certification, ask yourself these questions.

This probably won’t shock you: No one certification is right for all people.

So how do you zero in on the right one for you—right now?

According to our team of nutrition certification experts, you’ll want to carefully consider 8 questions.

1. Why do you want to get certified?

At age 15, Michael Piercy, MS, CSCS, had read every fitness book he could find at a store at his local mall. Still, a nearby gym wouldn’t hire him. “We only hire certified trainers,” they told him.

That might have been the end of his prospects had it not been for his “never take no for an answer” mother, who called certification company after company, in search of one that would enroll her 15-year-old. She eventually found a program that welcomed Piercy.

Later, with his new certification in hand, he reapplied and got hired. (Aren’t moms the best?)

Back then, Piercy’s “why” was obvious: It’d help him get a job.

But getting a job is just one of many important reasons to get a certification.

Jennifer Broxterman, MS, RD, took a nutrition certification to dive deep into the science of behavior change.

Vivian Gill, MA, RN-BC, CPT, wanted to expand her personal training and life coaching businesses.

And Kathleen Garcia-Benson, RDN, LD, sought out her nutrition coaching certification so she could brush up on behavior change and motivational interviewing skills.

What do you want your certification to do for you?

Here’s a list of what the right nutrition certification could help you accomplish:

✓ Acquire new clients

✓ Retain existing clients

✓ Gain new strategies to help clients succeed

✓ Get hired by someone who requires a nutrition certification

✓ Improve nutrition knowledge

✓ Feel qualified to coach nutrition clients

✓ Add nutrition as a service

✓ Break into the health, wellness, and fitness field

✓ Reach the next level in your career

✓ Improve your ability to communicate with clients

✓ Overcome problems with difficult or resistant clients

✓ Boost your credentials

✓ Set yourself apart from your peers

✓ Increase your rates

✓ Build credibility and/or confidence

✓ Fill a knowledge gap

✓ Dive deep into a specific aspect of nutrition (for example, pregnancy nutrition)

✓ Learn about successful behavior change

✓ Be more respected by your peers

All of the above? They’re great reasons to undergo certification—but not all certifications address all those reasons, which brings us to the next important question to consider.

2. What are your values?

You might be tempted to just skim past this question, thinking, ‘What does THAT have to do with my nutrition certification?!’

The answer: everything.

Here’s why:

Your strongly held beliefs about nutrition, health, and fitness will affect which nutrition certifications feel like a good fit—and which ones just don’t. 

For example, maybe you:

  • Don’t believe in diets—for anyone. Like ever.
  • Follow a strict fully plant-based diet for both spiritual and ethical reasons—and only want to work with clients interested in that style of eating.
  • Deeply resonate with the concept of holistic health.

None of those values are universally right or wrong for all people.

But they might be deeply right or wrong for you—and you’ll want your certification to reflect that. Otherwise, you’ll feel like an outsider.

Take Gill. In her nursing career, she’d noticed that, for patients who struggled with wellness, detailed meal plans or sets of food rules didn’t work. These patients had too many other things getting in the way. Like stress. Like insomnia. Like rage eating. Like loneliness. Like lack of support.

As a result, Gill wasn’t remotely interested in:

  • One magical weight loss diet. She only wanted a certification experience that showcased a range of ways to eat.
  • Lists of universal good foods and bad foods.
  • A heavy focus on nutrition science but very little on stress, sleep, and other deep health factors that affect eating behaviors.

Like Gill, Broxterman wanted an open-minded program that taught nutrition in a nonjudgemental way, without heavy bias against specific diets or foods.

“I get turned off by food advocates who go deep down just one rabbit hole,” she says.

Your values may differ from Gill’s or Broxterman’s—and that’s okay.

The point: By knowing your values, you’ll know what you want your certification to cover. 

If you want to get an idea of what the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is like, you can try our FREE Nutrition Coaching e-course.

3. What does the nutrition certification cover?

Questions #1 and #2 will lead right into question #3.

Based on your why and your values, you might want a nutrition certification that covers holistic health coaching, plant-based diets, intuitive and mindful eating, and/or any number of other close-to-your-soul topics.

At the same time, you may not want a certification that focuses too heavily on one or more areas.

In addition to your why and your values, our experts suggest you ponder three additional points.

Assess your nutrition know-how.

If your understanding is pretty basic, you’ll benefit from a course that hits on the fundamentals: how digestion works, the role of vitamins and minerals, and the types of foods that contribute to good health.

On the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who reads nutrition journals for fun, an overemphasis on fundamentals may put you to sleep.

For example, during one of Deana Ng’s fitness certification courses, an instructor spent hours explaining how to do squats, planks, and other basic moves—all stuff Ng already knew.

The information wasn’t wrong or bad. Other people in the class got something out of it. But Ng stood there thinking, “Why did I waste my money on this?”

Consider how to level up your skills.

If you learn about the neurological impact of aging, for example, could you better attract older clients? Would a digestion-specific nutrition certification help you stand apart from other coaches? If you deepen your knowledge of plant-based diets, could you better serve existing clients who are interested in that style of eating?

Examine your level of confidence.

Maybe you’re the kind of person who would ace the nutrition category on Jeopardy. But when it comes to people skills? You freeze.

In that case, you might want a certification that focuses more on behavior change and less on the nuts and bolts of nutrition.

Many people who come to Precision Nutrition, for example, don’t come just to learn about food.

They seek out our Level 1 and Level 2 certifications for guidance on how to help clients change their behavior. After all, clients usually know what they’re supposed to eat, Piercy says. They just lack the skills to actually do it.

This is especially true right now, says Gill, because clients are struggling with stress, sleep, and mental health—all things that intensify hunger and cravings.

4. What’s the reputation of the nutrition certification company?

This is one of the top questions our clients say they consider when choosing a nutrition certification. To vet nutrition certification companies, our experts suggest you do five things.

Read up on the nutrition certification program and the experts who created it.

Broxterman decided to undergo nutrition certification with Precision Nutrition, in part, because the person who created it, John Berardi, PhD, frequently spoke at a nutrition and fitness summit at Western University in Ontario, Canada.

“He got invited back year after year because of his credentials, background in science, leadership, and knowledge of the business. I felt like I could trust what he created.”

But let’s say you haven’t had the opportunity to hear a lecture from one of the company’s higher-ups. What else can you look at? Our experts suggest a quick Google search to learn more about the company, its founder, and its curriculum team. Try to learn about:

  • Educational background: Do the founder and curriculum team have degrees in the nutrition, fitness, and/or health field? Do those degrees match up with the expertise the company claims to have?
  • Research background: Have the company and/or its employees published anything that appears on PubMed.gov?
  • Presentation background: Do large, reputable organizations invite members from this company to talk to their students, clients, attendees, and/or employees?
  • Employment background: Where have high-level employees worked—and how might those experiences have influenced them?
  • Recreational and social background: How do high-level company employees spend their free time? Do they walk the talk?
  • Company background: Do you see yourself—race, age, class, hobbies—reflected in the bios, photos, and credentials of the people who work for the company? And does the company tend to hire highly-qualified people with advanced degrees and training, such as Registered Dietitians or people with Master’s degrees or Doctorates?

“I looked at a lot of companies,” says Garcia-Benson. “What really helped me feel comfortable with the certification company I chose: They had Registered Dietitians on staff. For me, that was really important. It helped me to know that, as a Registered Dietitian, I would be welcome and the program would be science-based.”

Make sure the company mentions scope of practice.

Scope of practice was a biggie for Garcia-Benson. She’d seen people throughout the fitness industry who were prescribing supplements to treat complex health problems, putting people with diabetes on questionable diets, or continuing to work with clients with orthorexia rather than referring them to professionals qualified in medical nutrition therapy.

For her, this was an ethical issue.

Garcia-Benson only wanted to learn from a company that made it clear what a certified nutrition coach could or could not do—both legally and ethically.

Check the company’s blog and social feeds.

Look for companies that focus on educating others at least as much as on making money.

Vet the quality of the materials, too, checking to see if they:

  • Include research to back up nutrition claims, along with footnotes and links to sources.
  • Feature advice from people with bonafide nutrition credentials.
  • Are clear and easy to understand.

Piercy looks for companies that make everything really simple.

“That way I know I can communicate that information to the people I train and coach,” he says.

Search out people with the certification.

Read reviews from people who have undergone the company’s certification program. Talk to other people in the field, too. When available, check out third-party industry reports that rank certifications and offer pros and cons.

5. How much will it cost?

Whether your certification costs a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, the price must match the rigor. 

You might expect a weekend course, for example, to cost a couple of hundred dollars—but certainly not a couple of thousand. On the other hand, for a year-long certification course that’s recognized by people throughout the industry? A few grand might feel like a bargain.

“This is what I tell the trainers who work for me,” says Piercy, “Any certification you get has to pay for itself within the first few months.”

Will a reputable nutrition certification help you earn more money?

In a word: yes.

Based on our survey of 1000 nutrition coaches as well as additional independent research, coaches with:

  • One nutrition certification earn slightly more per hour than coaches with none.
  • Two to three certifications, earn an average $12 more per hour than coaches with just one.
  • A Precision Nutrition certification earn 11 percent more than people with other certifications.

To decide whether a new nutrition certification is worth it, use this advice.

Check to see if the same material exists for less money.

Could you learn everything the course provides from freely available videos? Or by reading a book? Sure, many certifications consolidate all of that information in one convenient place. But worth-it certifications should offer more value. “It has to be about more than just consuming knowledge,” says Piercy, “because you can consume knowledge for a lot less money than it costs to get a certification. It has to help you apply that knowledge.”

Do a cost-benefit analysis.

Revisit your “why” and consider how a certification will improve your life. If it does any of the following, you’ll likely feel happy about the money spent:

  • Helps you get new clients
  • Improves how you teach
  • Boosts your confidence
  • Allows you to reach a new client population
  • Makes you a stronger component in the healthcare system

Look into hidden costs.

Consider whether the company will ask you to pay more, in the future, to recertify and/or undergo continuing education.

If the company requires re-testing, re-certifying, and/or professional development, vet the quality of those future professional development options. If few, if any, of the future professional development offerings will help you improve your coaching skills, these recertifications can feel like a money-making scheme, says Ng.

Is that nutrition certification worth it? What an IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year wants you to know.

When people ask for advice on whether to sign up for a new certification, Michael Piercy, MS, CSCS, offers a lesson he learned as a professional baseball player.

When searching for hitting advice, Piercy knew he couldn’t absorb any one baseball player’s philosophy 100 percent—because their gifts and strengths weren’t necessarily the same as his. At the same time, he usually gleaned one or two pointers that helped him connect with the ball more powerfully.

When applied to certifications: Any new nutrition certification should teach you one or two things you can start using immediately.

“If you learn something that changes how you coach or train, that’s a game-changer,” says Piercy.

6. How long will it take?

You won’t get as much market credibility from shorter certification courses as you’ll get from longer ones.

“My education was a couple of years of my life and hundreds of documented hours,” says Ng. That’s completely different than someone who is teaching after taking just a weekend workshop—and clients get it, she says.

7. What is the online learning experience?

When choosing an online experience, consider four factors: how you learn, the level of difficulty, how you’ll be tested, and the support you’ll receive.

How you learn

Think about whether you’re the kind of person who needs a deadline for motivation versus someone who thrives in a self-paced program.

Similarly, do you learn more from reading than from watching videos—or the other way around?

And consider how virtual group discussions make you feel. Do you look forward to connecting with others? Or do you cringe every time an instructor says, “Okay, let’s pair up. Please find a partner”?

There are no right or wrong answers here. The point: Your learning style will affect whether an online learning experience feels like a good fit.

The level of difficulty

The honest truth: A program’s percentage of successful graduates drops as standards rise.

Why? Reputable companies with high-standards tend to create certification opportunities that require:

  • A few weeks to several months worth of learning.
  • Reams of reading.
  • Interactive activities, worksheets, and quizzes that force students to think deeply about their answers.

In other words, you have to get through a lot of material. No one is forcing you to study. Therefore, students who don’t put in the time tend to struggle.

In the end, a certification is only worth what you put into it.

How you’ll be tested

For Ng, what she learns is more important than how she’s tested because that’s what matters to clients. They don’t care if you can name every bone in the body or describe the digestive system in intricate detail. They care that you know how to help them change, she says.

The support you’ll receive

In addition to the online learning experience, consider added value services, such as:

  • Member’s only virtual communities for students and graduates
  • Online materials and handouts to share with clients
  • Tangible resources you can highlight, if it suits you to do so

8. What is the quality of the curriculum experience?

Granted, you may not find out what the curriculum experience is like until after you’ve already handed over your credit card, but these tactics can help you get a solid sense of things.

Check out what the company puts out for free.

We mentioned this investigative tactic earlier, as a way to assess a company’s reputation. “I look for companies that are educating generously—not offering a tiny little nugget and then quickly pivoting to a sales pitch,” Gill says.

Also, clear, easy-to-grasp free materials most likely signal that the company’s curriculum materials will be just as clear and easy to grasp.

If you want examples, here’s a shortlist of free resources that Precision Nutrition offers. (It’s also where our bias comes in, but hopefully, you’ll find it valuable.)

Consider any bonus resources that the company bundles with the certification.

Years after your certification, you may no longer remember every detail. That’s why it’s helpful if the certification company allows lifetime access to materials so you can refresh your memory, says Ng.

“One of the reasons I decided to get certified at Precision Nutrition: There’s just so much information for free. Not all certifications do that,” says Ng. “You’ve got this whole arsenal, a library of stuff. There are so many tools. It’s like a superpower that allows you to do your job to the best of your ability. It makes you feel like a badass.”

Look for certifications that teach you how to coach with confidence.

Some coaches learn and learn and learn—but never actually take the plunge to start coaching. So advanced certifications that pair them with a mentor and allow time for role play can be helpful for building confidence, says Gill.

What to look for in a good nutrition certification program

We just told you—a lot. Chances are, you won’t remember it all. That’s why we boiled down all of the key points in the handy checklist below. Screenshot it. Print it out. Or just bookmark this page.

Use it to vet certification companies so you can get your money’s worth.

Your Complete Nutrition Certification Program Checklist

Look for nutrition certifications that:

✓ Help you take the next step in your career.

✓ Cover the nutrition topics that interest you the most.

✓ Boost your confidence.

✓ Match your values, level of knowledge, and learning style.

✓ Are highly regarded by other health, fitness, and wellness professionals.

✓ Publish easy-to-understand, evidence-based materials.

✓ Demystify scope of practice.

✓ Offer validation for their graduates, so clients can check to see if their certification is legit and current.

✓ Teach you one to two skills you can use immediately.

✓ Will pay off within six months.

Avoid nutrition certifications that:

✓ Focus on a narrow “flavor of the month” skill that will quickly become dated.

✓ Are promoted by companies that are 100 percent focused on the “hard sell.”

✓ Are priced much higher than similar courses based on rigor and reputation.

✓ Do not staff credentialed experts.

✓ Use social media to spread debunked nutritional claims.

Whether you ultimately decide to get certified by Precision Nutrition or another company, we’re sincerely rooting for your success. (The world needs more great coaches.)

The post How to choose the right nutrition certification program—for YOU appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Elimination diets can help people understand food sensitivities and intolerances. This free ebook gives nutrition coaches tools to help clients through elimination diets with confidence.

The post Ebook | Coach Clients Through an Elimination Diet appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

When you think about sports nutrition, what comes to mind?

  • The lean, ripped bodies of professional athletes.
  • Advanced macro ratios that are “administered” and closely monitored.
  • Biochemistry, nutrient timing, and cutting-edge supplementation.
  • All of the above.

Answer A, B, C, or D (everyone’s favorite)? That’s pretty typical.

There’s just one problem: Even collectively, these responses represent only a small slice of what sports nutrition is really all about.

That’s why…

It’s time we redefine sports nutrition. 

And that’s exactly what we’ve done, based on our years of experience coaching elite athletes and active people.

In this article, we’ll show you how to use our new rules of sports nutrition to:

  • Create nutrition plans that are truly personalized for each client.
  • Implement sports nutrition with more clients than ever before.
  • Develop a reliable coaching method for optimizing client results—every single time.

And most importantly? We’ll explain how this new perspective on sports nutrition doesn’t just get your clients to perform better. It can also help them live more balanced and fulfilling lives.

Because peak performance is great. But combined with a healthy, vibrant life? Now you’re truly winning.


The 5 new rules of sports nutrition.

New rule #1: Don’t treat all athletes the same.

In some ways, all athletes are the same. All human bodies who move share the same general needs and basic biology.

But in other ways, all athletes are different. 

For instance:

  • A high school athlete in their teens isn’t the same as an experienced elite in their 20s.
  • A professional athlete isn’t the same as a “regular person” who works out hard in the gym four to five times a week but also has a full-time job and two kids.
  • A person with a heavy manual labor job where their body is their livelihood—such as tactical personnel in the field—isn’t the same as a person who plays a sport for fun.

Traditionally, sports nutrition has focused on the science of nutrients and making prescriptive, idealized recommendations. This typically includes designing a plan based on: 

  • sport type 
  • body weight and height
  • exercise duration
  • exercise intensity
  • current training cycle and competition schedule

These are all crucial factors to consider. They’re something we think about a lot, in fact. (Can we interest you in a fascinating discussion of how protein needs are determined in the lab? Wait… come back.)

But in our experience, nutrients, simple body measures, and sports-based factors aren’t enough.

There’s more to a person than their stats and training schedule. 

Even two people who have similar body sizes and the exact same training schedule will have important differences to account for.

Here’s an example. Derek and Vishal are youth soccer athletes. They share some key characteristics. They’re both 14, are on their school’s soccer team, and are around the same weight.

But Vishal and Derek are on a different schedule of physical and psychological development and maturity.

Check out their profiles below: Can you spot why giving them the same exact nutrition recommendations might not work so well?

Let’s take a look.

Vishal’s profile

Vishal hit puberty young. That’s given him an edge in soccer, since he’s got much longer legs and a significantly more muscular body composition than many of his teammates.

He loves playing soccer, but he never really thinks about his future in the sport. In fact, Vishal doesn’t think much about his future at all. For now, he’s just enjoying high school. After all, he’s only 14.

Derek’s profile

Derek hasn’t grown much in the past couple of years. His appetite has increased recently, but he isn’t growing at a pace to match, which means he’s gained some fat over the past few months. His dad keeps telling him, “I was a late bloomer myself.”

Derek is a fast sprinter and a talented dribbler, so he’s maintained his spot on the team’s starting lineup. He also thinks a lot about where soccer might take him. Derek hopes it’ll be his ticket to the university of his dreams, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to ensure he gets in peak shape.

Okay, those are the details. Got your answer? See how it compares to ours.

Vishal and Derek: Why their nutrition plans should differ

Though their bodies follow the same physiological laws, and they have similar athletic demands, Vishal and Derek have different…

  • Mindsets: Vishal is looking to enjoy his time on the field. Derek has a can-do attitude when it comes to eating to maximize his performance. In both cases, this will likely impact their ability to follow a nutrition plan.
  • Body compositions: Vishal is on the leaner side. Derek has more body fat. This will affect their nutritional needs.
  • Hormonal profiles: Vishal may have an advantage with gaining and maintaining lean muscle mass, since he’s further along in puberty.

For these reasons, if you give Derek and Vishal the exact same sports nutrition plan, they’re not going to get the same results. 

Enter: movement nutrition.

We define this as nutrition that fuels, enhances, and/or promotes recovery from a wide range of activities and movements.

Movement nutrition goes beyond just the science of nutrients or prescriptive recommendations (like “eat X grams of nutrient Y”) to coaching a person in the full context of their life.

It includes:

  • the science of nutrition (of course!)
  • the science of behavior
  • the skills and practices of systematic coaching
  • the context of a client or athlete’s whole life
  • the view of a client or athlete as a complete person
Two Venn diagrams showing the difference between traditional sports nutrition and Precision Nutrition’s movement nutrition concept.

A sports nutrition coach who uses movement nutrition takes the full picture into account.

With movement nutrition, you still use nutrition science. But you expand your perspective to better understand and help each athlete as an individual.

New rule #2: Don’t ignore athletes’ psychological and social health.

Athletes aren’t just moving bodies. They’re real, unique people with real, unique lives.

Take Lorain, for instance—an accomplished powerlifter. Her dad owns a lifting gym, so she was raised between sets of squats.

A Black female powerlifting athlete holding a barbell above her head.

To help Lorain reach her weight class goal, you’ll need to look at more than just her health stats.

Lorain wants to qualify for Nationals, but she knows she has a better chance of making it if she cuts down to the 185-pound (84 kilogram) weight class. That’s why she came to you for coaching.

It sounds simple enough, right? Athletes cut weight all the time, and Lorain is clearly a hard worker. You’ll just gather info about her current height and weight, what she’s eating, how she’s training, and use that to create a plan that’ll get her into a calorie deficit. You’ll chip away at that goal together, slowly and sustainably. Easy.

But after a month, Lorain’s not seeing much progress, and you’re left scratching your head.

Here’s what you didn’t know about Lorain:

  • She’s currently commuting to law school. She spends more time in the car than out of it—which means plenty of fast-food wrappers and empty soda bottles, and not much activity outside her workouts.
  • She stays with her dad on weekends. While he’s super supportive of her powerlifting goals, he’s also a former heavyweight and proponent of the “eat big, lift big” school of thought. So he’s not as supportive of the idea of getting “smaller.” In a way, Lorain feels alone in her quest to reach a lower weight class.
  • Between school, student loans, checking on her dad, and working a part-time job, Lorain is struggling to focus on her health and performance.

All three of these factors are making it harder for Lorain to stick to the plan you’ve created for her.

But you won’t find out about them unless you look beyond the obvious data.

This is where so many sports nutrition coaches go wrong. 

Enter: The biopsychosocial model.

Lorain’s initial weight-cutting plan only took into account biological factors: her physical stats, eating habits, and workout routine.

But the psychological factors and social context are also important parts of the big picture. Lorain’s stressed from school, feeling alone, commuting in a less-than-ideal environment, and getting pressure from her dad.

A Venn diagram showing how the biopsychosocial model works, and what areas of life are included in the three areas: biology, psychology, and social context.

The biopsychosocial model can help you get better results as a sports nutrition coach.

Asking about all aspects of your athletes’ lives will help you collaborate with them to develop customized nutrition plans that set you apart from other “just make a meal plan” coaching approaches.

That’ll improve the quality of their results. And bringing your client’s awareness to the factors that may be limiting their progress? That’s also likely to improve their quality of life.

(Deep health is another useful model for learning more about your active clients’ lives.)

And by the way, this isn’t just a good idea on paper. It comes from our direct experience working with clients.

The bottom line: Learn more about your clients as people. 

That way, you can use your nutrition science knowledge and coaching skills to create a plan they enjoy, appreciate, and most importantly… will actually do.

New rule #3: Expand your definition of the word “athlete.”

Typically, we think of “sports nutrition” as something geared towards people who are “elite” in some way: pro basketball players, competitive marathon runners, and high school sports stars.

Not only does this mentality limit your pool of potential clients, it might also limit your clients’ results. After all, we’re seeing people with more diverse bodies, abilities, ages, and skills training and competing as athletes these days.

Valentina is a prime example. She’s in her 40s and runs a school for young girls and their pursuit of glory in the sport of charrería (Mexican rodeo).

After working with the girls all day, she spends another five to six hours taking care of all the horses, running the barn, and caring for her family.

It wasn’t a big deal when she was younger, but after years of under-eating and body image issues, it takes a bit more than a couple of NSAIDs to get Valentina back into the saddle and recover from a day’s work.

Valentina might not fit the typical definition of an “athlete,” but due to the active nature of her job and life, she could really benefit from a targeted nutrition strategy. One that’ll help support her busy and physically-demanding schedule.

The bottom line:

Elite athletes aren’t the only “movers” you can help.

Generally, there’s some point at which a person moves often and intensely enough to need or want some type of nutritional support.

Rather than lumping all athletes together, we use three categories to think about people who move their bodies and can benefit from targeted movement nutrition strategies.

  • Athletes: Anyone who has the capacities, training, and skills to do a set of physical tasks, usually under specific circumstances (such as a sport with a particular set of rules), and often for the purpose of competition.
  • Exercisers: Anyone who purposely does physical movement to improve and/or maintain health and wellness, function, and/or body composition—or simply for enjoyment.
  • Movers: Anyone who moves their bodies relatively often and/or intensely—whether for work, play, or the demands of daily life.

These categories overlap. All athletes are movers, of course, but not all movers or exercisers are athletes. People can move in and out of different categories.

All athletes are—at the most basic level—movers.

Our point: Most people aren’t professional athletes.

But you can help all active people, in some way, with nutritional support.

This mindset shift can translate to a broader pool of clients and ultimately, better results.

New rule #4: Focus on fundamentals before advanced nutrition methods.

Biochemistry is cool. And when you’ve got the science of nutrition down, it’s tempting to rely on the highest-level, most innovative and cutting-edge protocols you can think of.

But even the most talented athletes aren’t always advanced nutritionally. In fact, they’re often missing fundamental nutrition skills.

Take Stephen, for example. He’s a talented basketball player who’s just been given a college scholarship. Scouts have their eye on him as a future NBA pro.

A young athlete holding a basketball.

Focusing on the fundamentals can help athletes like Stephen stay in peak shape.

Not only is Stephen great on the basketball court, he’s been terrific at every physical activity he tried.

Stephen is what you might call “jacked.” And at 18, he’s nearing his prime physical performance and physique.

So what’s his diet secret? Surprise! It’s Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, and Frosted Flakes. Washed down with a Super Big Gulp from 7-11. In other words, whatever is cheap, fast, and easily available.

Turns out, Stephen’s secret to being ripped, swole, and a top athletic performer is youth, lots of activity, and good genes. Unfortunately, most of those gifts run out during an athletic career, and a poor diet will accelerate the process.

When it comes to athletes, Stephen is closer to the norm than an outlier. 

Don’t knock nutrition basics—even for top-level athletes.

As his coach, you know that if Stephen wants to last through his college and professional seasons, he’s going to have to do some things differently.

But giving him a complicated plan with specific macro ratios? Or an elaborate nutrient timing protocol?

Considering how he’s currently eating, that’s probably not going to work.

So for Stephen and other athletes like him, consider developing fundamental skills like:

  • Making time to plan out some of his meals for the week, so there are fewer last-minute decisions
  • Scheduling meal times and stocking up on healthy, convenient, and budget-friendly options, so fast food becomes less of a necessity
  • Adding more minimally-processed foods (instead of insisting Stephen stops eating fast food altogether)
  • Using the “PN plate” template, to ensure Stephen is getting plenty of protein, vegetables, smart carbohydrates, and healthy fat in each meal
  • Collaboratively building a red, yellow, and green-light foods list over time based on what helps Stephen feel his best during training

The takeaway: Basic nutrition habits can make a real difference—even for elite athletes. 

New rule #5: Use a systematic coaching method.

The first time you meet an elite athlete client can be scary. You might be sitting across from a million-dollar body, and maybe their million-dollar coaches too.

Alternatively, you might be working with special ops military personnel. And they’re depending on you to help them pass selection.

Your newest client could also be a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t just want to run her neighborhood’s annual 5K; she wants to win.

Helping movers achieve their hopes and dreams can be a lot of pressure. 

You need a coaching plan.

And not just any old plan. You need a coaching method. One that:

  • can be a customized for a variety of types of clients
  • provides a roadmap to help ensure you’re meeting each client’s unique needs
  • helps you use the best available evidence to guide your decisions.

This is why we developed the Precision Nutrition Coaching Method. It’s a six-step coaching process that can help ask the right questions, and take the right actions, at the right time.

A visual representation of the six steps of Precision Nutrition’s coaching framework.

All six steps can be used with every single client.

Here are the steps and some questions you might ask in each:

Before you start (step 0): Plan and prepare. 

  • Where and how am I doing this coaching session?
  • What do I already know about my client, and what questions do I need to ask them?
  • What forms, assessments, and measuring or monitoring tools do I need?

Step 1: Assess and gather data. 

  • What activities does my client do?
  • What, exactly, are my client’s goals?
  • What are some basic facts about my client?

Step 2: Understand and explore. 

  • What kind of person is my client?
  • What is their life and daily routine like?
  • What is their deeper purpose, or “why,” for achieving their goals?
  • What are they ready, willing, and able to do right now?

Step 3: Strategize and plan. 

  • What are all the potential paths forward towards the goal?
  • What’s most realistic and possible for my client?
  • What’s one high-impact, low-effort thing my client can do right now?

Step 4: Choose and test.

  • What exactly will you and your client do next?
  • What is ONE task your client is willing to do every day, over and over, no matter what?
  • If you choose a particular action, how will you and your client know whether it “works” or not? How will you define “success” or “progress?”

Step 5: Observe and monitor.

  • Is the client doing the correct actions consistently?
  • What do the data say is occurring?
  • Is this plan demonstrably helping my client?

Step 6: Analyze and evaluate. 

  • Are we getting the results we seek? Why or why not?
  • Is there something we could do differently or better?
  • What should we change (if anything) moving forward?

(If you want to learn more about PN’s coaching method, we teach it in depth in our Level 1 Certification.)

The takeaway: systematize your coaching, and you’ll feel excited when an athlete comes to you with a big goal—not nervous. 

We’re born to move.

Humans start moving well before we’re born. We emerge into the world flailing and grasping, with built-in movement reflexes firing.

Unless we’re constrained, paralyzed, or otherwise actively prevented from movement, we move throughout our lives until we die.

By expanding the idea of what it means to be a sports nutrition coach, we can more effectively understand, plan, and implement good nutrition practices for a wide range of active clients.

Because it’s not just about energy and nutrients. 

It’s about performing and winning… and staying sharp and energetic. And recovering. And having a long, healthy, active life.

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 circumstances—is both an art and a science.

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

The post Level 1: The new rules of sports nutrition: This could revolutionize the way you coach athletes. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

It’s 7 a.m., and you’re already disgusted with yourself.

You planned to go for an early run, but when your alarm sounded, you hit snooze. Then you hit it again. After the third time, your partner told you to “shut that damn thing off!”

Now here you are: About to embark on yet another overscheduled day, and you’ve blown your one chance for some exercise.

And you’re left wondering:

“Why can’t I get motivated to work out in the morning?”

As a sleep scientist and professor of medicine at UCLA, I can tell you with confidence: Repeatedly hitting the snooze button has nothing to do with motivation. The real problem: You’re just not getting enough sleep.

This probably isn’t a revelation, of course. People complain about needing more sleep all the time. But what to do about it? That’s where many folks could use some help.

The good news: Getting a truly restorative night’s rest is within your reach.

The key is understanding the biological factors that influence your (or your client’s) ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake feeling rested.

This article is your how-to guide—for how to sleep better.

It’ll help you optimize your natural 24-hour sleep/wake cycle, so you can feel more energetic, mentally sharp, and emotionally strong—every waking hour of your day.


The biology of sleep

While we often have lots of wants and desires around sleep, we can’t influence it with motivation, willpower, or attitude. (At least not for long.) Anyone who’s ever experienced insomnia or fallen asleep in an embarrassing situation can tell you that.

Sleep is a biological necessity akin to drinking water.

Think about it like charging your phone. You drain your battery power during the day, and you need to recharge at night. (Or else.)

During sleep, a few really important things happen. First, your body restores and rebuilds. Sleep lowers a host of inflammatory biomarkers and boosts recovery hormones.

Sleep is also the time when your brain consolidates information learned during the day and stores it in long-term memory. This is true both for our social and emotional experiences and for “muscle memory.”

In reality, there are likely dozens of unknown biological and psychological benefits to a good night’s sleep that are yet to be discovered.

Ultimately, the biological process of sleep is controlled by three factors.

3 factors that control your sleep

To understand sleep, don’t think about it as an isolated daily event, but rather as a 24-hour sleep/wake pattern.

Day and night are linked in a continuous loop. One night’s sleep impacts the next day’s wakefulness, which impacts the next night’s sleep. And so on.

You can probably relate. After all, everyone’s familiar with the concept of “catching up on sleep” after a late night out. But this oversimplification is what leaves many people dragging.

To fully explain, let’s start with what’s known as the 2-process model of sleep regulation. According to this theory, first proposed over 30 years ago, two main factors interact to orchestrate seamless transitions between sleep and wake:

  • Sleep Drive (Process S)
  • Circadian Rhythm (Process C)

These factors align to the 24-hour light/dark cycle.

Here’s a look at each, along with a third factor, your fight-or-flight response.

Factor #1: Sleep Drive (Process S)

Sleep drive is a biological “hunger” for sleep that accumulates while you’re awake. Quite simply, the longer you’re awake, the more likely you are to fall asleep. We all know that from experience, of course. But the “why” is what’s interesting here.

It starts with an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine [uh-DEN-uh-seen].

A byproduct of cellular metabolism, adenosine lowers your brain activity and makes you feel sleepy. During your waking hours, as cells busily make energy, adenosine levels rise faster than your brain can clear them.

The higher your adenosine, the higher your sleep drive. 

While we sleep, however, adenosine is metabolized and other waste products are cleared from our brains. The result: If we sleep long enough, we wake up feeling well-rested and alert.

Let’s go back to our phone example: Just like your phone’s battery needs a certain amount of time to fully recharge, your body needs a certain amount of sleep to effectively lower your adenosine levels.

Otherwise, you won’t adequately reduce your sleep drive—or “recharge your battery”—and will likely be tired the next day.

If this increased sleepiness nudges you to go to bed earlier, it can be a good thing, especially if you make that earlier bedtime a habit.

On the other hand, it can work against you if, instead, you try to catch up on a weekend by sleeping in until 10 a.m.

Sure, you might wake feeling great because you’ve adequately lowered your adenosine levels, and thus, your sleep drive. But the problem occurs later, when you hop into bed at 10 p.m., aiming to get a good night’s sleep before Monday morning.

No matter how hard you try, you just can’t fall asleep.

Why? You’ve only been awake for 12 hours. For an adult, this isn’t enough time.

After a good night’s rest, most people need to be awake around 16 hours before they feel sleepy. (This number can vary depending on the person, especially if you’re not sleeping well.)

Even if you do fall asleep, you might wake up in the middle of the night, having satisfied your sleep need with just a few hours. (Hello, ceiling.)

Factor #2: Circadian Rhythm (Process C)

Your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour biological clock that controls how alert you feel. It fluctuates throughout the day, sending out “circadian alerting signals.”

These alerting signals can either ramp up and override your sleep drive (keeping you awake) or quiet down and allow you to succumb to it (causing you to feel sleepy).

The chart below shows how these two systems—sleep drive and circadian alerting signals—interact.

Chart shows how sleep drive and the circadian alerting signal interact and fluctuate throughout the day. Sleep drive gradually increases from wake time (6 am) and peaks at 10 pm (bedtime). The circadian alerting signal gradually increases from 6 am (wake time) until 12 pm. It doesn't increase at 2 pm, which allows sleep drive to "overpower" it, causing drowsiness and the "mid-day slump." After 2 pm, the circadian alerting signal begins increasing again and peaks at about 9 pm. At 10 pm, it begins to decrease and allows sleep drive to once again overpower causing you to become sleepy at bedtime.

Both your sleep drive and circadian alerting signals increase gradually throughout the day. Your circadian alerting signal peaks just before bedtime, and then starts to decrease, or quiet down. This is when sleep drive ”overpowers“ it and causes you to feel sleepy. Note that the circadian alerting signal also temporarily quiets down at 2 pm. The result: The dreaded “mid-day slump.”

The biological actions of your circadian clock explain a couple of common experiences.

Experience 1: You’re sleepy after lunch. This typically has nothing to do with food. About eight to nine hours after our usual rise time, our circadian alerting signal quiets down a bit. This can allow sleep drive to temporarily “overpower” it, causing drowsiness. (Even if you’ve had a good night’s sleep.)

In some cultures, people use this as an opportunity for “siesta.” If you lay down in a quiet place, it’s pretty likely you’ll fall asleep. It’s also why many people opt for a caffeine boost. (To learn about the role of napping, read The truth about naps below.)

Experience 2: You get a “second wind” as bedtime approaches. Once you’ve been up for 14 or 15 hours, your internal clock has to work hard to keep you awake. (Since your sleep drive is now very high.) As a result, your circadian alerting signal is at its highest in the last few hours before bedtime.

Yes, that’s counterintuitive.

No one knows exactly why this happens, but one theory is that there’s an evolutionary benefit: Instead of falling asleep right when the sun goes down, your second wind ensures you have enough energy to prepare a safe place to sleep (put wood on the fire, check your environment, make sure your kids are good, cover the opening of your cave).

Ever feel exhausted when you get home from work, but then a bit more energetic later in the evening? That’s your second wind.

But don’t be fooled. Once your alerting signal quiets down, you’ll fall asleep. For instance, at 9:30, you might feel like you can stay awake for a whole movie, but by 10:30 your partner is taking a video of you snoring on the couch.

Factor #3: Fight-or-Flight Response (Process W)

There’s one more factor that plays an important role: your fight-or-flight response. Some experts refer to this as Process Wake, or Process W.

When your brain thinks you’re in danger, it won’t let you fall asleep. Imagine again that you’re a cave-dwelling human in ancient times. Just as you’re settling down for the night, you hear a bear outside making noise.

You start to worry about whether the bear will enter your cave and attack you. You lie perfectly still, but you can’t fall asleep.

In modern times, bears aren’t a big concern. But our modern stressors—work deadlines, kids having trouble in school, credit card debt, or parents who are ill—have a similar effect. Our stress response is the same, and it keeps our brains awake. (Read more: Do you have a Stress Bod?)

6 questions that can transform your sleep

Question #1: How long will you sleep?

Each day, our brain and body accumulate a need for a certain amount of sleep. This isn’t the same for everyone, but the vast majority of healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.

To figure out how many hours you personally need, consider the routine you tend to settle into after a few days of vacation. How many hours do you usually get when you don’t bother to set an alarm clock—and when you wake feeling rested? That’s the number of hours you’ll want to shoot for every night.

Question #2: What time will you (consistently) wake up?

If you want to reprogram your sleep pattern, this question is crucial.

That’s because the strongest signal to your biological clock is when you wake. When your get-up time is consistent, your internal clock will recognize that as the time to start producing circadian alerting signals.

There’s another good reason to start with your get-up time: You have less control over it. Based on your daily responsibilities, there’s probably a limited range of possible rise times. Once you choose one, you can then work backward to figure out your bedtime (Question #3).

In selecting the time you wake up, it’s critical that you consider your own natural tendencies.

If you’re a “night owl,” a 5 a.m. run might not be the best plan. On the flip side, if you enjoy mornings, getting up for a workout might be a great start to your day.

In any case, don’t try to make a drastic shift all at once.

Start with your current usual rise time—that is, the time you actually get up. Then move it a half-hour earlier every three to four days. This approach makes it less likely that you’ll have trouble falling asleep at your new bedtime.

Once you’re awake, expose yourself to light right away.

If you tend to feel sluggish in the morning, combine the light exposure with some movement. It doesn’t need to be a full workout: Walk your dog around the block or just do some simple chores.

Question #3: What time will you go to bed?

After you’ve established your planned wake-up time, think about how much sleep you need.

Take the number of hours of sleep you need to feel fully rested, and count backward from your planned rise time. Let’s say you plan to wake at 5 a.m., and you know you need 7.5 hours to feel rested. That means your bedtime should be 9:30 p.m.

If you get to this point, and think, ‘Are you kidding me? This bedtime is impossible!’, go back to Question #2, and reconsider your rise time.

For example, let’s say you need eight hours of sleep and want to get up at 5 a.m. But there’s a problem: You have to pick your kid up from theater practice at 9 p.m., so the math doesn’t work.

You now have two choices: Find a ride home for your child, or set a later rise time. While getting up later may not be ideal for your goals, it may be the practical tradeoff you need to make.

And if you still can’t make the math work? The truth about naps (below) gives you another option.

The truth about naps

You might’ve heard naps are good for you.

But as usual, the real answer is, “It depends.”

When naps are good: If they’re part of your sleep plan. My favorite example: The South of Spain where they nap every day. Businesses close, people go home, and a daily siesta is a normal part of their lifestyle and culture.

When naps aren’t so good: If they’re used to make up for a tough night of insomnia. This will lower your sleep drive, and make it harder to fall asleep and/or stay asleep the following night.

The big questions: Can you build napping into your routine consistently? And do you need to?

Most people can’t accommodate a daily nap because workplaces don’t shut down, and protecting the time for sleep isn’t easy.

But there are exceptions. For instance, perhaps you’re a personal trainer who sees clients in the mornings and evenings. Your work schedule may make it difficult for you to fully recharge overnight.

Or you might be a parent with young children who nap. Getting up early to work out, and then taking a nap when your kids do, might be a great solution.

So, in some cases, it can be both realistic and smart for you to schedule an afternoon nap as part of your daily sleep routine.

If that’s your situation, take your nap about eight to nine hours after your rise time. Most folks feel better after a short nap (about 20 minutes) or after a long nap (90 minutes), but not in between. (This has to do with sleep stages.)

Remember, though: The longer your nap, the more it will lower your need for sleep that same night. So plan ahead, and use with caution.

Question #4: What can you do to make your bedtime a reality?

When making decisions about how you spend your time each evening, think about how your choices impact your sleep.

One hour before bedtime

Avoid activities that get you energized or “amped up.” For most people, this isn’t the best time to pay bills or read the news.

On the other hand, folding laundry, editing photos, or online shopping are probably fine.

Note: If you plan to use a device during this time window, consider blue-light blocking lenses (or using “night mode” on your devices) to limit blue light exposure this close to bedtime.

You also want to avoid activities that make you fall asleep too early.

The chart below provides some general guidance, but pay attention to your own experiences and act accordingly.

Table shows activities that support healthy sleep. In column 1, it lists activities that may make you fall asleep too early: 1) lying down watching TV in a dark room, 2) reading in bed, 3) drinking alcohol. These should be avoided. In column 2, it lists activities that may keep you awake too long: 1) consuming caffeine, 2) playing video games, 3)watching the news. These activities should also be avoided. In column 3, it lists activities that keep you awake until bedtime but not over-stimulating: 1) watching your favorite old TV show with the lights on, 2) preparing for tomorrow, 3) pleasure reading (not in bed). These activities support healthy sleep.

One half-hour before bed

Develop a routine for winding down and putting the day to rest. You might choose any of these activities:

  • Change into your pajamas
  • Brush your teeth
  • Talk to your partner
  • Read a book
  • Listen to music
  • Set out your clothes for tomorrow
  • Prepare your next day’s lunch

This sends your brain and body a message that it’s time to “disconnect.” During this window, avoid technology as much as you can.

Question #5: Can you stick to this schedule 6 out of 7 nights?

We all make exceptions to our healthy habits. We enjoy cake on our birthday, eat fast food when we travel, and can’t always (or ever) say “no” to Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies.

None of this means we have “bad eating habits.” The most important factor is consistency over time. Think about sleep in a similar way.

If you can stick to your plan six nights a week, it’s okay to make exceptions for a late night out, a sunrise hike, or lounging in bed on Sunday mornings.

But if you find yourself struggling to follow your plan even three or four nights each week, you’ll need to adjust.

Because there’s no point in setting yourself up for failure, try the following exercises before you start.

Confidence test your sleep schedule.

On a scale of 0 (no way) to 10 (too easy), rank your confidence that you’ll follow through on your sleep plan.

If you’re working with a client, emphasize the need for honesty.

Is the answer “9” or “10?” You’re good to go.

But anything less? You need to scale back the proposed plan, and ask again.

“What does it take to get to a 9?”

Write down your “why.”

What are three reasons you want to improve your sleep? Jot them down and remind yourself of them each day. Examples:

  • I’ll be a better parent or partner
  • I’ll get more done at work
  • I’ll feel more energetic
  • I’ll be more likely to exercise
  • I’ll be less likely to binge eat

Mainly, what will sleeping better do for you?

It sounds like a small thing, but based on preliminary research I’ve done, this exercise seems to help people stick to their sleep schedule.

Question #6: Who will be affected by your plans?

Most of us don’t live (or sleep or work) alone. As a result, our decisions about sleep habits and routines impact others. What’s more, their routines impact our ability to sleep.

Start by thinking about your partner. If you plan to change your schedule, how will it affect them? And how will your partner’s sleep schedule affect yours?

For example, if you go to bed an hour before your partner, what can you both do to ensure your partner doesn’t wake you up? And if you get up an hour before, what can you do to ensure your partner continues to sleep?

If you have kids, how does your plan align with their schedule? Will you really be able to go to sleep at 9:30 if your toddler sometimes goes to bed at 8:30—but then sneaks out 23 times to proclaim, “I’m not tired!”?

What commitments can you shift around to create more time in the morning and/or at night?

One way to approach this issue is to share the reasons you’re making these changes. Try saying this:

“I’ve been feeling pretty tired lately, and I think part of the problem is my sleep habits. I don’t consistently get enough, and it makes me [grumpy, frustrated, miss workouts]. I want to try making some changes to my routine for a couple of weeks, and see if it helps. Could you work with me on this for the next two weeks, and then we can re-evaluate?”

Once everyone is on board, you can brainstorm a range of solutions, such as:

  • If you go to bed first, maybe your partner agrees to use the flashlight feature on their phone to guide their way to bed rather than flipping on the lightswitch.
  • If you get up earlier than everyone else, perhaps you quietly close everyone’s bedroom door before you go about your morning. Maybe you also gather up your work clothes the night before—so you don’t have to loudly search for them in the morning while your partner is trying to sleep.
  • You might agree to take morning toddler duty if your spouse handles bedtime, or vice versa.
  • If one of your children struggles with sleep, they might benefit from a good sleep plan, too. Perhaps you can make this a family habit change?

How to sleep better: Your 14-day plan

Using your answers to the six questions above, decide how you’ll change your sleep routine. As a refresher:

Choose what time you’re going to get up. Strive for consistency here, even on the weekends. A few pointers:

  • You might find it easier to get up if you sleep with the blinds open—allowing natural light to stimulate Process C (your circadian rhythm).
  • Get activated early in the day, by making your favorite coffee, taking a shower, walking the dog, or checking social media.
  • If you plan to shift your morning routine by more than an hour, do it in 30-minute increments, every three to four days.

As you shift your wake time, shift your bedtime. There’ll be a delay of a day or so, but they should go together. Otherwise, you’ll be sleep deprived.

Lower your stress levels near bedtime. (No news or work email!)

Line up support from family. Consider what you can do to ensure you can easily stick to your plan six days out of seven, and remember the three reasons why improving your sleep matters to you.

Try the plan for two weeks, and re-assess. Do you fall asleep easily, drifting off within 20 minutes or so? Have your middle of the night awakenings become a rare occurrence? Can you get out of bed without smashing the snooze button countless times? Do you feel more rested and energetic?

If you answered yes to all those questions, great job. You’ve just figured out a sleep routine that works for you.

If you answered yes to some, that’s great, too. Keep up the good work! Some people never feel full of pep when they wake up (especially if it’s still dark), but ideally, you should feel better than before. (And better is better.)

By continuing what you’re doing most of the time, your sleep schedule will stay pretty consistent throughout your life. So even if you experience temporary changes—jet lag, a new job, a newborn—you can get yourself back on track pretty easily by going back to the routine that works for you now.

If you’re still struggling, however, you may need to make a few more changes. We’ll explore what to do in the next section.

What if I’m doing everything right, and I’m still exhausted?

So you made some changes with your sleep, but it didn’t seem to help. Where do you go from here? There are two possible reasons why this might happen.

1. You didn’t go far enough. You may need to get even more sleep than you originally thought. In that case, keep a sleep log for a week, and see how it matches up to your schedule.

If you’re sticking to your plan, try extending your time in bed by 15 minutes. If that doesn’t work, add another 15 minutes. If you’ve added 30 minutes and still don’t feel rested, move on to option 2.

2. There’s a different reason you’re feeling tired. Has your primary care doctor ever asked you how you’re sleeping? Chances are they haven’t. Sleep disorders are under-recognized and as a result, they’re often left untreated. If you feel like you’ve made significant changes to your sleep habits but still feel tired or fatigued during the day, talk to a healthcare provider.

If you’re a coach, this is when you know it’s time to refer out to a qualified professional. The most common sleep disorders are:

  • Insomnia: a condition where people can’t sleep well even if they do everything “perfectly.” It’s best treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • Sleep apnea: a condition in which breathing is interrupted while a person sleeps (even though they may have no trouble breathing when awake). There are multiple treatments, and a sleep medicine specialist can help identify the best ones for a given person.
  • Restless legs syndrome: a condition in which a person’s legs feel “twitchy” and unsettled when they lie down to rest. It’s more common in women because it’s sometimes related to low iron levels. A doctor can check ferritin levels, and discuss medication treatment options.

What to do next

Maybe you’re thinking: All this advice sounds so simple.

Well, that’s the point.

When it comes to sleep, you can often do more by doing less. 

An entire industry caters to people who struggle to fall and stay asleep. Each year, people spend countless dollars on special bedding, sheets, teas, supplements, and apps.

Yet many folks could address their issues more cheaply and effectively—by first aligning their sleep/wake cycle with their biological sleep tendencies.

Often, paying more attention to your sleep habits and routines, then making small sustainable changes, will be enough to get a better night’s rest.

And the real payoff? Every other part of your life gets better, too.



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

1. Basheer R, Strecker RE, Thakkar MM, McCarley RW. Adenosine and sleep-wake regulation. Prog Neurobiol. 2004 Aug;73(6):379–96. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2004.06.004

2. Borbély AA, Daan S, Wirz-Justice A, Deboer T. The two-process model of sleep regulation: a reappraisal. J Sleep Res. 2016 Apr;25(2):131–43. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jsr.12371

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.

The post Level 1: Transform your sleep: The scientific way to energize your body, sharpen your mind, and stop hitting snooze. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

In this 5-day course, Dr. John Berardi—one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the health and fitness industry—shares his formula for career success.

The post FREE E-COURSE: How to Succeed in Health & Fitness appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1