Fascinating video on how digestion and absorption influences your health and fitness. It’s one of the 18 new video lectures included in the PN Level 1 Certification program. Each lecture acts as a supplement to the accompanying textbook chapter, helping you better learn the material… and better retain what you’ve learned.

The post [Fascinating Video]: How Digestion Affects Your Health And Fitness. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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If you love nutrition, health, and fitness — or you’re already a professional in one of these fields — you probably get a LOT of diet- and nutrition-related questions from friends, family, clients, and/or patients. 

That’s why we created this cheat sheet, with evidence-based, easy-to-understand answers to the most common questions, all of which are covered in our newly updated Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification program.

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If you’re a health and fitness professional, no doubt you get a ton of diet- and nutrition-related questions.

Heck, even if you’re just really passionate about health and fitness, you’re probably getting questions all the time.

Coming up with the right answers can be difficult, because:

  • The right answer depends on who the asker is. Young athlete? Middle-aged man? Sixty-something woman? Whether you’re actively coaching, or you just have a diverse social network, the questions will run the gamut.
  • There are so many facets of nutrition. Macronutrients, micronutrients, supplements, pesticides, GMOs… where do you start?
  • There’s a TON of confusion about nutrition “truths”. Is red wine saving your life, or killing you? What about red meat? Eggs? And how ’bout that new plant-based diet?

The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to any nutrition question.

However, if you build a strong foundation of nutrition knowledge, you can:

  • learn how to accurately determine each person’s individual needs,
  • understand how targeted nutrition can support their goals, and
  • get better results for them, confidently and reliably.

With this article, you’ll start to build that foundation.

Here we’ll cover:

  • what’s really behind the most common nutrition questions,
  • why each person’s unique physiology matters,
  • how each person’s situation can help determine your response,
  • how to handle diet trends (Paleo, carb-phobia, etc.), and
  • how you can incorporate this knowledge… starting today.

Of course, this “cheat sheet” is just a start. There’s so much more you can learn.

That’s why devote the entire first unit of our newly updated Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification — 300 pages, 8 chapters, 8 comprehensive video lectures — to the most crucial elements of nutrition science.

That includes the most up-to-date findings in cell physiology, digestion, energy transfer, nutrient biochemistry, and more.

And, in case you’re wondering, the other 300 pages, 9 chapters, and 9 video lectures are devoted to the art of nutrition coaching.

That includes the most up-to-date findings in change psychology and the latest things we’ve learned having coached over 100,000 clients.

So…

If you want to learn, we’re here to teach.

If you feel excited and inspired by what you learn today, and you’d like to learn more about the program, please put your name on our Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification presale list below.

We’re excited and inspired too.

We recently updated the program with the latest research, and enhanced it with a new workbook/study guide, over 35 new client assessment forms and questionnaires, and 17 brand-new animated videos.

The program opens up on Wednesday, October 3rd.

Since we only take a limited number of students, and the program sells out every time, we recommend adding your name to our presale list below. When you do, you get the chance to sign up 24 hours before everyone else. Even better, you’ll save up to 33% off the general price of the program.

Double win.

For now, let’s get started with some of the most common nutrition questions, including:

Question #1: “I’m new to this whole nutrition thing. Where do I start?”
Question #2: “What’s the best diet to follow?”
Question #3: “Is counting calories important for weight loss?”
Question #4: “Should I avoid carbs?”
Question #5: “Should I avoid grains?”
Question #6: “What (and when) should I eat around my workouts?”
Question #7: Should I drink less alcohol?
Question #8: “Does the Paleo Diet live up to the hype?”
Question #9: Should I do a detox or juice cleanse?
Question #10: “Do sleep habits and stress really affect nutrition?”
Question #11: How should I eat to get six-pack abs?”

Question #1
“I’m new to this whole nutrition thing. Where do I start?”

Answer:
Let’s start by eliminating nutritional deficiencies.

This one is always interesting, because no one ever wants to believe they have nutritional deficiencies.

People might not want to hear it at first, but nutrition beginners don’t need a major diet overhaul on day one. They don’t need to “go Paleo” or “eliminate sugar”.

As their coach, your first step should be to open newbie clients’ eyes to the fact that they probably have one or more nutritional deficiencies (seriously — more than 80 percent of the population has at least one).

Until nutritional deficiencies are removed, the body simply won’t function properly — and that makes any health or fitness goal a lot harder.

So, to eliminate deficiencies, your first order of business is to help the person find workable strategies for rounding out the diet, so they get:

  • a bit more protein,
  • ample vitamins and minerals,
  • sufficient healthy fats, and
  • more water.

Tell them that you’re going to help them establish optimal eating habits one step at a time. Then talk through some strategies: Find out which of the nutritional areas listed above will be most challenging for them (for example, some of the beginners we work with don’t know how to cook meat). That’s the problem you’re going to help them solve first.

Once nutritional deficiencies are addressed, you can start to focus on things like food quality and portions.

What to say when the person seems impatient? Explain: “This process isn’t slow; it’s systematic. It focuses on the things that are in your way right now. Once they’re eliminated, progress happens fast.”

READ MORE:

Question #2
“What’s the best diet to follow?”

Answer:
There is no “best diet”.

As you emerge as a health, fitness, and nutrition expert, everyone’s going to want to know: Which dietary “camp” do you belong to?

The best coaches maintain a neutral position on this. If you can, strive to be a nutritional agnostic: someone who doesn’t subscribe to any one dietary philosophy.

Why? All dietary protocols have their pros and cons. What works best for one person won’t work best for another. Also: A diet that has worked best for someone in the past won’t necessarily be what works best for them moving forward.

Tell your client or patient that you’re going to help them find the approach to eating that works best for them right now, whether it be Paleo or vegan, high-carb or low-carb, tight budget or unlimited funds — or some blend of all of these.

The truth is, the human body is amazingly adaptable to a vast array of diets, so the best diet is the one that:

  • matches the person’s unique physiology,
  • includes foods they enjoy enough to follow consistently, and
  • is realistic for them in terms of life logistics and budget.

Indeed, you can make people lean, strong, and healthy on a plant-based or a meat-based diet. You can help improve their health with organic, free-range foods and with conventional foods. They can lose weight on a low food budget or an unlimited one.

It just takes a little know-how and a system for using the best practices across all diets.

READ MORE:

Question #3
“Is counting calories important for weight loss?”

Answer:
For many people, calorie counting may be more of a hassle than it’s worth. The good news: There is a better way.

Weight management is a simple equation: Eat more than you burn, and you gain weight. Eat less and you lose weight.

But the physiology behind “calories in, calories out” is actually much more complex and dynamic than most people realize. Plus, it’s imprecise; we estimate that there’s typically an error of up to 25 percent on the ‘calories in’ side, and on the ‘calories out’ side.

Beyond that, counting calories is an external system (outside of your body). In essence, people who count calories are less likely to see lasting results because they’re outsourcing appetite awareness to the food-label gods. To really win at portion control, coach your clients or patients on tuning into their internal hunger signals.

For these reasons, and more, we tell our clients that for most people, counting calories is a lot of work for very little benefit.

(Interestingly, most clients become elated when they realize they can get the body transformation they want without ever counting calories again.)

Instead of calorie counting, we recommend a hand-measure system for portion sizes. Here how it works:

  • Your palm determines your protein portions.
  • Your fist determines your veggie portions.
  • Your cupped hand determines your carb portions.
  • Your thumb determines your fat portions.

This system counts your calories for you, and gets your macronutrients lined up too, without having to do any annoying food-label math.

Plus, your hands are portable — they go wherever you go, making portion-sizing very convenient. In addition, your hands are generally scaled to your size — the bigger you are, the bigger your hands, so the more food you need and the more food you get.

Clients typically get the hang of this system within a week of learning it; then we help them monitor results and tweak as needed.

READ MORE:

Question #4
“Should I avoid carbs?”

Answer:
No; but let’s make sure you’re getting the right kind of carbs.

Ask almost anyone what they need to do to lose a few pounds, and they’ll probably say: “Cut back on carbs.” As a professional in a health/fitness field, you’ve probably heard it dozens of times.

However, most folks would do best eating a moderate amount of quality carbs—whole grains (when tolerated), fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans and legumes, etc. (We emphasize moderate, of course).

For men, this usually means about 1-2 cupped handfuls per meal. And women, about 1 cupped handful per meal.

Of course, the needs of each individual may differ, based on their size, activity level, goals, and genetics.

But, bottom line, carbs are not inherently fattening, especially whole food sources. And getting adequate carbs can help most clients exercise harder and recover better, optimizing progress.

Yep, this is a controversial position to take. But it works. And while avoiding carbs may facilitate rapid weight loss initially, we’ve found that it’s not practical (or necessary) for long-term success for most people.

READ MORE:

Question #5
“Should I avoid grains?”

Answer:
No; most people trying to stay lean do best with a reasonable amount of whole grains.

Grain discussions are really trendy right now, as many people have suggested they’re dietary enemy #1 and should be completely eliminated. This is hot news as, just ten years ago, they were supposedly one of the healthiest foods on the planet.

From our perspective, grains aren’t as evil as they’ve been made out to be by the Paleo and Whole30 camps. At the same time, they aren’t the superfood vegans and macrobiotic eaters suggest either.

Bottom line: While you don’t need to eat grains, unless you have celiac disease or a FODMAP intolerance, there is absolutely no need to avoid them. (And even in those two scenarios, it’s only specific grains you need to worry about).

Most people follow a better, more health-promoting diet if they’re allowed grains in reasonable amounts, along with a wide array of other non-grain carb sources like fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, etc.

Remember, it’s the ability to follow a diet consistently over time that provides the greatest results, regardless of what that diet is. And unless you’re intolerant, there’s no good reason to totally exclude certain foods, especially foods you enjoy.

READ MORE:

Question #6:
“What (and when) should I eat around my workouts?”

Answer:
It depends on your goals. Let’s talk about those… then we can come up with specific recommendations for you.

If you train athletes, this is a really common question. But lots of non-athletes are curious too.

Contrary to popular media, most folks are best served by eating good quality whole foods in reasonable amounts, without having to focus on specific workout nutrition products or protocols.

So you can advise non-athlete level clients to eat a normal, balanced meal 1-2 hours before and after exercise. This will provide adequate protein and carbs to both fuel the workout and maximize recovery/adaption.

However, if you coach advanced, hard-training clients or athletes, tell them you’re going to help with their unique workout-nutrition needs.

Endurance athletes, bodybuilders, or those looking to maximize muscle gain could add a protein and carbohydrate drink during their workout. We usually recommend about 15g of protein and 30g of carbohydrate per hour of exercise.

Physique competitors, as well as people trying to maximize fat loss, could add branched chain amino acids (or essential amino acids) during their workout. We usually recommend 5-10g of BCAA or EAA per hour of exercise.

In the end, rather than having one stock answer here, you need to be clear about who you’re working with.

READ MORE:

Question #7
Should I drink less alcohol?

Answer:
If optimal health and fitness is your priority, consider reevaluating your drinking habits.

People may balk at that answer initially, but once you lay out the facts and make it clear that you’re not telling them not to drink, their ears will open.

There’s a lot of confusion about whether drinking is good for you or not. That’s mainly because the news media likes to play up new studies revealing the possible cardiovascular benefits of alcohol.

But the truth is, no one really knows who will benefit from light to moderate alcohol consumption. Meanwhile, any level of drinking (even “moderate”) comes with health risks that should be considered.

Heavy drinking — more than 7 drinks a week for women and more than 14 per week for men — increases the risk for a long list of health problems involving the heart, brain, immunity, hormones, liver, and metabolism.

But even light to moderate drinking can affect sleep, appetite, and decision making — which absolutely can have a negative impact on your clients’ health and fitness goals.

Still, drinking is an undeniable part of culture, and when enjoyed reasonably it can be delicious and fun.

Tell your clients or patients that you’re going to help them sort out their priorities to determine the best level of drinking for them. Then encourage them to track their drinking habits — and how their drinking habits make them feel physically and psychologically — for a couple weeks.

Most drinkers consume a lot more alcohol than they think, and when they stop to evaluate, many decide on their own that it would feel better to cut back.

READ MORE:

Question #8
“Does the Paleo Diet live up to the hype?”

Answer:
Mostly, yes. But not for the reasons you think.

The Paleo Diet is one of the most popular nutrition approaches in the world right now. There’s no doubt that it works for many people. However, the reason it works has little to do with the story the Paleo proponents tell (evolutionary adaptation, inflammation, etc.).

Here’s the deal. Paleo does work for a lot of people because it emphasizes mostly whole-food sources of lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats.

However, while Paleo is starting to incorporate more high-quality carbs, grass-fed dairy, red wine, and other things that used to be “off limits” — the diet can still be too restrictive for some folks.

In the end, Paleo likely gets more right than wrong. And if people want to follow it, you can help them do it in a sane, reasonable, sustainable manner.

But for most, it’s unnecessary to follow such a strict dietary ideology. You can take the good from the Paleo approach and get rid of the silly dogma.

READ MORE:

Question #9
Should I do a detox or juice cleanse?

Answer:
Probably not; most popular detox diets don’t remove toxins or lead to fat loss.

Lots of people are worried about the effect of modern lifestyle factors like poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, stress, and environmental pollutants on their health.

So you probably get a fair number of questions about detox diets and juice cleanses, which have come into vogue as an efficient way to (supposedly) lose weight and rid the body of impurities.

But detox diets don’t clean out toxins or help you lose body fat. In fact, detox diets can work against these goals by bypassing the body’s natural detoxification systems and creating a feast-or-famine cycle of eating.

Among many problems, detoxes and cleanses often:

  • are protein deficient,
  • are extremely low in energy,
  • cause unhealthy blood-sugar swings,
  • cause GI tract dysfunction, and
  • lead to a yoyo of restrictive eating and overcompensation.

If doing a juice cleanse or detox diet helps a person get ready to make further helpful and sustainable changes in their life, OK. Just coach them through a cautious and monitored protocol.

However, we prefer helping them build life-long skills and incorporate daily practices to improve their health, performance, and body composition without extreme (and unsustainable) things like detoxes and cleanses.

READ MORE:

Question #10
“Do sleep habits and stress really affect nutrition?”

Answer:
Yes, but those effects vary from person to person, as do the best sleep and stress management strategies.

Sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise when it comes to improving your health, performance, and body composition.

Clients and patients should be coached through:

  • creating a sleep routine, including having a regular schedule,
  • limiting alcohol and caffeine, especially in the afternoon/evening,
  • choosing de-stressing activities before bed,
  • setting an appropriate room temperature for sleep,
  • making the room dark,
  • keeping the room quiet, and
  • waking up appropriately, with light exposure and soft noise.

As for stress, it’s all about finding the sweet spot. Too much stress, or the wrong kind, can harm our health. Yet stress can also be a positive force in our lives, keeping us focused, alert, and at the top of our game.

It all depends on what kind of stress it is, how prepared we are to meet it — and how we view it.

Since stress affects the mind, body, and behavior in many ways, everyone experiences stress differently. Each of us has a unique “recovery zone,” whether that’s physical or psychological, and our recovery zone depends on several factors.

It is critical to teach people strategies and skills to view and handle their own stress load appropriately. The following can increase stress tolerance or diminish stress load:

  • meditation or yoga
  • outdoor time
  • snuggling a pet
  • listening to relaxing music
  • deep breathing
  • drinking green tea

READ MORE:

Question #11
How should I eat to get six-pack abs?”

Answer:
First let’s explore whether a six pack is worth the trade-offs.

To answer this one, you first have to know if six-pack abs are really what your client wants. (And if they’re prepared to do what it takes.)

Getting ripped abs is a much bigger undertaking than most people realize. There are definite benefits to getting that lean (<10 percent for most men, and <20 percent for most women), but there are real trade-offs too.

Alcohol, processed foods, and desserts all need to be severely limited if you’re trying to lose fat and show off a washboard stomach. Social situations often become difficult. Other interests and hobbies may need to decrease.

However, if clients really want to get a six-pack in the healthiest possible way, they’ll need to follow these principles 90-95 percent of the time:

  • eat protein and vegetables at every meal,
  • include healthy fats at most meals,
  • eat a small amount of carbs post-workout only,
  • limit carbs at all other meals,
  • exercise intensely 4-5 times per week, and
  • get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.

Armed with this information, you can have an honest conversation about whether your clients want the six-pack badly enough. (Or if they’d settle for moderately lean and healthy without giving up some of the other things they enjoy).

READ MORE:

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In the end, yes, it’ll take some time to master these answers on the fly with a wide variety of people, but the only way to get started is to dive right in.

Remember: While you’re expected to know all the answers, you can’t be expected to know everything about every single person.

So use the answers in this cheat sheet as a starting point (I recommend that you do the deeper reading first), and then learn more with strategic questions about their particular needs and goals.

In the end, being the go-to coach for nutrition questions is about — yes — knowing the facts. But it’s also about meeting people where they’re at and garnering experience while you make the journey together.

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 — including how to manage energy balance — is both an art and a science.

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

What’s it all about?

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

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

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

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

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 33% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018.

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

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 33% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

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

The post How to answer the most common nutrition questions like a boss: Plus a sneak peek at PN’s newly updated Level 1 Certification. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Lots of people looking to improve their eating think meal plans are the answer. The only problem? Meal plans usually suck… and they rarely last. So, instead of prescribing yet another doomed eating regimen, check out these 6 ways to transform any diet in a sustainable way.

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“Do I get a meal plan?”

This is the most common question we get from folks who are considering, or just started out in, our nutrition coaching programs.

The answer: No, we don’t do meal plans.

But we can’t blame people for asking.

Sure, meal plans have long been a staple of the fitness and nutrition industry. Coaches are taught to create them. Clients are taught to expect them.

Unfortunately…

Most of the time, meal plans don’t work.

You see, traditional meal plans are explicit prescriptions.

Eat this exact thing, in this exact amount, at this exact time.

For example, you’ll often see:

Breakfast – 7:30am
3 eggs, scrambled
1 cup vegetables
1 piece whole grain toast
1 cup coffee
1 glass water

Morning snack – 10:00am
1 protein bar
1 handful mixed nuts

Lunch – 12:30pm
4 oz chicken
2 cups salad
1 handful seeds
1 glass water

After exercise – 4:30pm
1 scoop whey protein
1/2 cup frozen fruit
1 tsp omega 3 oil
12 oz water

Dinner – 7:00pm
4 oz steak
1 cup cooked veggies
1 baked potato
1 glass water

You (or your clients/patients) might be thinking, “Good! I want a plan. I’m sick of trying to figure all this stuff out! Just tell me what to eat!”

Unfortunately, when we try to follow rigid prescriptions like this, lots can (and often does) go wrong.

For example:

Scenario 1: You just don’t stick to the plan.

No matter how enthusiastic you are, meal plans can be tough to follow.

This is normal. Life can get in the way.

  • People get busy,
  • we’re not always prepared,
  • kids get sick,
  • bosses expect you to work late,
  • it’s always someone’s birthday (or a special holiday), and
  • sometimes you just don’t feel like having a protein bar at 10am.

What’s more, even if you’ve actually paid to have someone make your plan, you might find yourself rebelling against it in subtle (or not-so-subtle) ways.

This is also normal.

Unfortunately, it means you might not get the results you hope for. For instance, a meal plan you hoped would help you lose weight could actually encourage you to gain weight instead.

Scenario 2: You follow the plan perfectly.

In fact, you follow it too well and for too long.

Most meal plans are meant to be temporary.

They’re designed to help a person get to a specific short-term goal, like dropping a few extra pounds before a wedding, learning to manage blood sugar, or cutting weight for an athletic competition.

Our bodies can usually adapt to a rigid way of eating for a short period of time.

But if you’re too strict for too long, you could wind up with disordered eating habits and lasting health (mental, metabolic, hormonal, etc) consequences.

Scenario 3: You follow the plan for a little while but it sucks.

It isn’t sustainable. It doesn’t make you feel better. It doesn’t keep you sane.

Maybe you see some short-term results (or not). But you hate living and eating this way. You never want to see another stupid piece of lettuce or 4 ounces of chicken.

Eventually, you get so turned off by the process that you regress or quit altogether. You conclude that “eating healthy” sucks.

And you miss your big chance to learn how to make healthier, more enjoyable, more lasting and real changes.

Another reason meal plans fail.

One of the biggest (yet generally unacknowledged) problems with traditional meal plans is their focus on “nutrients”.

Real people don’t eat “nutrients”. We eat food.

We eat meals, often with other people.

We eat meals that match our cultural background and social interests.

And we rarely measure things precisely.

Sure, sometimes an explicit prescription is necessary.

For instance, professional athletes or bodybuilders (in other words, people who make money off their bodies and athletic skills) use meal plans to prepare for training and competition.

A prescribed meal for someone in that situation might look something like this:

  • 1/4 cup dry oats
  • 3 oz turkey breast
  • 1 cup steamed broccoli
  • 5 almonds
  • 1 omega-3 supplement
  • 1 cup green tea (unsweetened)

But most of us don’t need that level of surgical precision.

We don’t normally eat “ounces” of things, or refer to food by their nutrients (like “omega-3 fatty acids”).

Instead, we eat foods like:

  • hamburgers
  • tacos and burritos
  • salads
  • pasta and noodles
  • sandwiches, wraps, pitas and rotis
  • stews and curries
  • cereal and granola
  • stir-fries
  • casseroles

Bottom line: If you want to eat better, you don’t have to get weird about things.

You don’t need to weigh and measure everything, or count out your almonds.

Ask yourself: “Is someone paying me to do this?” If the answer is no, you likely don’t need this kind of approach.

You just need to think about what you’re already eating, and how you could make it a little bit better.

This means fiddling and adjusting.

Making small changes and improvements to what you already normally eat and enjoy, one small step at a time.

Think about a spectrum of food quality rather than “bad” or “good” foods.

Welcome to the meal transformation game.

When you play with the idea of a food spectrum or food continuum, you get to experiment with variables like:

  • what you eat, and
  • how you eat it.

Think of this as a game.

How can you play “make this meal just a little bit better” in every situation?

In which situations is that easier or harder?

When your choices are limited (for instance, when you’re traveling, or eating at a workplace cafeteria), how can you shoot for “a little bit better” while still being realistic, and without trying to be “perfect”?

(Hint for coaches: this is a great game to play with the people you work with.)

Let’s transform breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Here’s how that “food spectrum” might look in daily life, with a sample day of eating.

Transforming breakfast

Stage 1

Let’s say that your go-to breakfast is a whipped-cream coffee drink and a chocolate croissant.

You pick it up in the drive-thru, and wolf it down on your way to work.

This is your starting point. It’s not “bad”. It’s just no longer working for you.

You’re getting indigestion from rushing, the croissant doesn’t hold you at all, and you’ve just spilled the coffee on your crotch while changing lanes.

Now your game is to improve your breakfast just a little bit, starting with what you already have or do.

Stage 2

Your opening moves in the meal transformation game:

  • You might replace the croissant with a whole grain muffin.
  • Instead of a “dessert in a cup”, you get a regular coffee with a single cream and sugar.
  • You grab a yogurt cup on your way out of the house for a bit of protein.

Naturally, you’re still rushed and busy… so you eat your breakfast with some distractions, while scrolling through emails at work.

But this is a solid start. Well done.

Stage 3

Next level of game play:

  • You switch the muffin to granola with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt.
  • You switch the cream in your coffee for 2% milk. (Or even go right to black coffee, you meal player you!)
  • You add some colorful fruit.
  • You’re now eating out of dishes on a table, instead of out of takeout packages off the dashboard of your car.

Of course, you’re still checking out the news headlines while you eat…

No problem. We’re keeping it real.

Stage 4

Now you are seriously playing like a pro.

  • You’ve changed “rushing and panicked” to “set aside a little extra time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast”.
  • You cleverly prepped an egg frittata with veggies in advance on your food prep day.
  • The coffee’s become green tea, since you noticed that too much coffee was tweaking you out.
  • The protein plus colorful fruit and veg have become the stars of the meal.
  • You’ve discovered you really like lemon water. (WHAT? You don’t even know you anymore!)
  • You eat mindfully, feeling relaxed, while watching the sun rise.

Ahhh.

Transforming lunch

Stage 1

At this point, starting out, the idea of a sit-down lunch feels flat out ridiculous.

“Eat slowly? Who has time for that during a busy workday? Grab a burger and go!”

Another “car dashboard” meal. Another stomach ache and regret.

You decide you might want to play with this meal too.

Stage 2

To improve this meal a little bit:

  • You go to a higher-end burger place where you’re pretty sure they use real meat.
  • You get a side salad with that burger, and maybe just a few potato chips.
  • You choose a diet soda instead of regular.
  • You don’t eat in your car, but you do eat by your computer.

That’s OK. You’re progressing.

Stage 3

At this stage, you’re doing a little prep work:

  • You whipped up some burgers in advance so they are handy and ready to take to work.
  • You also grabbed some nice cheese and whole grain buns from the local market on shopping day.

For lunch, all you have to do is take your homemade burger and its fixins to work.

You still grab a diet cola from the vending machine to wash it down.

You move from your desk to the lunchroom, where you socialize with co-workers. This slows you down a bit and helps you digest and relax.

Stage 4

You’re having the burger without the bun, alongside a nice pre-prepped salad.

Instead of staying at your desk or in the office, you take a break.

You sit outside and get some fresh air while you enjoy your meal.

For a drink, water’s all you need.

Transforming dinner

Stage 1

It’s 8pm. You’ve just gotten home after an insane day at work.

All you want to do is put food into your face and zone out in front of the TV.

You can’t even imagine making anything more complicated than boxed macaroni ‘n’ cheese right now.

Ketchup and hot dogs are as fancy as it gets.

Stage 2

Same concept, but:

  • You’re adding some extra protein with the help of a rotisserie chicken leg that you grabbed at the grocery store on the way home.
  • You’ve added a side salad, just grabbing a few handfuls of pre-washed greens out of a bag.
  • You’ve whipped up your own pasta.

Work is still on your mind, and a couple drinks will take the edge off.

Stage 3

Things are getting fancy.

  • You’re upping the protein with a little more chicken.
  • You’re having a little less pasta.
  • You’ve also added a nice big salad to the mix.
  • You’ve cut the booze to 1 drink.

Plus, you’re sitting at the dinner table, instead of flopping down on your couch or standing over the sink.

Stage 4

Again, we’re playing at pro level here.

With your meal planning and prep strategies, even a weeknight dinner looks good.

  • You can whip up a delicious salad in 3 minutes flat and you have some pre-cooked quinoa on hand.
  • That rotisserie chicken is still a fast, convenient option, but now it’s got some healthy buddies.
  • You’re indulging in a single glass of good wine these days, and you take time to savor it.

Meal transformation is not about reaching perfection.

If you’re at stage 1, all you have to do is shoot for stage 2. Or stage 1.5.

If you’re in stage 2, play with getting to stage 3.

And if you’re stage 3, heck, you can stay where you are.

You might never get to stage 4. Or it might only happen at times when you’re relaxed and have a little extra time.

Stage 4 might only happen on Sunday night, whereas the rest of your week is a mix of stages 1, 2, and — if you’re super lucky — 3.

And that’s OK.

How far you progress along the continuum all depends on what YOU want, what YOU need, and what YOU can reasonably do, right now.

Over time, things can change.

Play YOUR game.

Success secret: Have a food prep ritual.

You might look at these photos and think, “How can people possibly do all that?”

One success secret: Having a food prep ritual.

The idea is simple:

Practice planning and preparing healthy food in advance.

This makes healthy eating convenient and easy.

It also makes decisions easier: You don’t have to make a choice when you’re rushed and hangry.

Your food prep ritual can include:

  • shopping (or arranging to have food delivered)
  • menu and meal planning
  • washing and chopping vegetables
  • cooking/preparing protein (e.g. cooking up some chicken breasts)
  • cooking meals in bulk (e.g. casseroles, soups, stews, chili)
  • preparing the dry ingredients for things like Super Shakes or healthy muffin mix
  • soaking grains/beans beforehand so that they’ll be ready to cook later
  • sorting foods into smaller containers or baggies
  • freezing and refrigerating food for later
  • planning healthy meals that someone else cooks (e.g. using a meal delivery service, deciding in advance what to order at a restaurant, etc.)
  • looking ahead to ensure healthy eating strategies during the next few days, especially during difficult times (e.g. a busy week, traveling, dealing with a family crisis, etc.)

Mix and match any of these to find what works for you.

Experiment with systems, skills and strategies that work for YOU and YOUR life.

The real goal of a meal plan is to stop using a meal plan.

Fit, healthy people who have a good relationship with food don’t need other people to tell them exactly what to eat at all times.

Living a fit and healthy life doesn’t require perfection, either.

If you are using a meal plan:

That’s OK.

Some people like prescription, especially if they are working towards a specific short-term goal, like cutting weight to compete in wrestling, making sure they get enough nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy, or fueling their triathlon performance.

Keep it short-lived.

Meal plans are supposed to be temporary, working towards a short-term goal.

Keep it real.

As much as possible, try to make the meal plan fit your real life, not the other way around.

If you’re a parent, a worker, a student, or anyone else living in the real world, most of your meals will fall somewhere in the stages 1 through 3 spectrum. That’s perfectly OK. Just experiment with being a little bit better, wherever you can.

Remember all goals require trade-offs.

If you want to achieve a high level of performance or exceptional body composition, understand what you are prioritizing and sacrificing.

Getting very lean, for instance, comes with costs.

Make sure it’s working for you.

If your meal plan is making you feel:

  • overwhelmed
  • anxious and fretful
  • guilty
  • regretful
  • bad
  • overly rigid and/or preoccupied with food…

or any other negative, unproductive emotion…

…and if you find that meal plans result in you:

  • “falling off the wagon”, hard
  • getting obsessive and compulsive about food
  • restricting foods and food groups, or
  • doing “all or nothing”, usually ending with “nothing”

…then consider trying another approach.

What to do next

1. Consider where you sit on the spectrum of meal “stages”.

Where’s your food game at?

What level are you playing at?

What level would you like to play at?

Given your goals and your current situation, what is realistic?

For example, if you currently eat at stage 1, your goal might be to eat at stage 2 for most meals.

Or, if you eat at stage 3 most of the time but find yourself dipping into stage 1 or 2 meals more often than you’d like, aim to stay at stage 3 a little more consistently.

(Hint for coaches: you can walk people through these questions and help them arrive at their own answers.)

2. Start small. One step at a time.

Pick one meal to transform and focus on that.

For instance, you might leave all your other meals at stage 1, and focus on getting lunch to stage 2.

Concentrate on improving that one meal each day.

Using the examples above, you might think about things like:

  • adding protein
  • adding veggies or fruits
  • eating less processed food
  • eating more nutrient-dense, whole foods
  • drinking less alcohol or fewer sweet drinks
  • drinking more water
  • eating in a calmer, more relaxed setting, and/or
  • eating more slowly and mindfully

Of course, don’t try to do all these at once.

Try just fiddling with one or two, and see which ones work best for you.

3. Add things slowly.

Once you’ve improved one meal a day, try another.

If you feel like lunch is a solid stage 2 or 3, play with moving breakfast, dinner, or snacks along the spectrum.

Or, once you’ve improved one factor in a meal (e.g. adding more protein), try another.

For instance, if you’re getting more protein, now try switching out your sugary soda for some soda water. Or adding a little more veggies.

Be patient; small steps add up.

4. Set yourself up for success.

Notice what makes it easier and simpler for you to eat better.

Then figure out how to do or get more of that.

For instance:

  • Is planning helping you? How could you do more of that?
  • Is a healthy meal delivery service making it easy? Could you set aside a little more cash to get two meals a day instead of one?
  • Is setting aside time on Sunday afternoon to cook some protein a good idea? Great, keep on doing that. Book it in your calendar.

There’s no “right” way to do this. Do what works for YOU.

5. Enjoy your meals.

Meal plans don’t usually address how you eat.

Before you change what you eat, you can also try changing how you eat. For example, you could:

  • slow down
  • breathe between bites
  • relax
  • savor your food
  • sit at a table if you can, and/or
  • use real dishes if you can.

Give yourself some time and space to appreciate those tasty concoctions you put together.

Meal time is YOUR time.

6. Work towards being your own boss.

Sometimes you might just want someone to tell you what to do.

That’s fine, and helpful, especially if you’re juggling a lot. But only for a while.

Over time, look for ways to help yourself intuitively and wisely make better choices, rather than just following the rules.

(Coaches, much more than serving up prescriptions, this is your job too: to help the folks you work with arrive at a place where they feel good about making decisions for themselves.)

Think long-term. What do you want to happen over the next few months? Year? 10 years? Do you want to be on a meal plan for the next few decades?

Today, if you were to take one small step towards the “better” end of the meal spectrum, what might that look like?

How can you start playing the “meal transformation game” today?

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 — including helping them with meal transformation — is both an art and a science.

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

What’s it all about?

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

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

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

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

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 33% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018.

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

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 33% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

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

The post Meal plans usually suck. Here are 6 better ways to transform your diet. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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WWE 'Raw' Recap: Brock Lesnar Hits Kurt Angle with an F5, Puts Paul Heyman In a Chokehold
Courtesy of WWE

For a universal champion, Brock Lesnar doesn’t show up to WWE events very often.

On Raw this week, Universal Championship contender Roman Reigns started the show by pointing out that Lesnar seems more interested in his upcoming UFC match than the WWE Universe.

While Lesnar’s “advocate” Paul Heyman arrived to belittle Reigns, Lesnar was suspiciously nowhere to be found. Heyman explained that while Lesnar was in the arena, he had no interest in going out into the ring.

With Brock Lesnar advertised as the main event of this week’s Raw, general manager Kurt Angle was fed up with Lesnar’s stubbornness and gave Heyman an ultimatum: If Lesnar didn’t show up in the ring Monday night, Heyman would be fired on the spot.

Heyman tried his best to appeal to Lesnar, but it appeared to be completely ineffective. Despite their years-long partnership, Lesnar had zero interest in Heyman’s pleas and made it abundantly clear that he just wanted to be left alone.

As Monday’s Raw came to a close, Lesnar was nowhere to be found and Angle was furious at Heyman for failing to follow through on his promises. Heyman could do nothing but try to explain to Angle that Lesnar can’t be reasoned with.

But when all hope seemed lost, Lesnar appeared—and he wasn’t happy.

First, Lesnar went face-to-face with Angle and delivered a devastating F5 to the general manager. But as Heyman chered him on, Lesnar grabbed Heyman and nearly choked him.

It appears “The Beast” will be going into Summerslam without any allies. While Lesnar has defeated Roman Reigns before, his lack of recent in-ring experience may give Reigns the advantage he needs.

Summerslam will air live from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on August 19 only on the WWE Network.

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