Research of the Week

More evidence of admixture with ancient hominids.

Vegan and vegetarian weaning of infants is a real bad idea with potentially lasting effects.

In middle aged people, taking 5 grams of collagen every day improved language function and appeared to alter brain structure.

Using a very-low-carb ketogenic diet to reverse super high triglycerides.

Yogic pranayama breathing exercises have remarkable effects on anxiety and negative effect.

New Primal Blueprint Podcasts

Episode 438: Robb Wolf: Host Elle Russ chats with Robb Wolf about his new book.

Primal Health Coach Radio, Episode 72: Laura and Erin chat with Trudi Lebron.

Media, Schmedia

I always link to anything orangutan-related.

Wine windows are back.

Interesting Blog Posts

How the NBA has changed.

A week on “the bean protocol.”

Social Notes

Genes are not your destiny.

Everything Else

Bats are always arguing.

Modifying the human ACE2 receptor to prevent viral escape (and thus, proliferation).

Things I’m Up to and Interested In

Dire results: A recent study finds that UK women are incredibly deficient in a broad range of essential micronutrients.

I’m not surprised: Type 2 diabetic men with low testosterone do TRT and abolish their T2D.

I thought leaky gut was just a myth though: Restoring gut barrier function extends lifespan.

Article I found interesting: Literate but not numerate.

Drug that might actually help: IL-1 blocker blocks arthritis.

Question I’m Asking

Have you ever been consistent with breathing exercises? What have you noticed?

Recipe Corner

Time Capsule

One year ago (Aug 1 – Aug 7)

Comment of the Week

“But… Forrest Gump got COVID-19!”

-Good point, jeff.


The post Weekly Link Love — Edition 93 appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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The magazines got it wrong. Sure, the promise of “six-pack abs” might be motivating at the airport newsstand. But as soon as your flight’s delayed, it’s an easy goal to forget. Because stress, frustration, and… a conveniently-located Smashburger. (Same as every day, really.) There is a fix, though. If you’re willing to ask—and answer—some hard questions, you can discover a much deeper purpose for change. One that’ll ignite passion and drive you to get the results you want—no matter how badly the airline screws you.


I could already see the pain in Michelle’s eyes as we sat down to talk.

“What are you hoping to achieve by hiring me?” I asked.

Michelle shrugged. “I just want to lose some weight and get fit again.”

After 10 years as a fitness coach, I knew there was more to the story. There always is.

“Have you always been overweight?” I asked.

She looked surprised at the personal question. I didn’t flinch.

After a moment, Michelle told me she’d been fighting her weight for more than 15 years. Now she has prediabetes.

“How does that make you feel?” I asked.

She hesitated again, but then said, “Scared. My mom was overweight and had diabetes, and I feel like I’m following in her footsteps.”

At this point, Michelle stopped holding back; tears trickled down her cheeks.

“It all hit me two weeks ago. My daughter said she didn’t trust me to be alone with my granddaughter because I’m too overweight and immobile to keep up. I was so devastated. So embarrassed.”

Many of us are like Michelle: Ashamed to talk about what’s really bothering us.

But since I started encouraging my clients to dig deep into their pain, their results have skyrocketed.

Why? Because to achieve real, lasting change, many people have to confront the emotional pain that’s making them want that change.

Once they do, their true motivation is crystalized. And that’s often far more powerful than any single exercise plan or diet approach.

The challenge is uncovering it.


You never start with the pain.

When it comes to goals, people usually talk about losing fat or moving better or getting healthy. All fine aspirations, indeed.

But for many of us, these goals aren’t very meaningful in the context of our everyday lives. They’re more like health and fitness clichés.

Our true motivations run much deeper than having a “bikini body” or “sleeve-busting arms” (as the ads and coverlines promise).

That’s the surface level stuff we think we want.

Sure, these types of goals might inspire you to show up for six weeks of training and cut back on alcohol for a while. But for most people, how much do they really matter? How easy are they to give up on?

On the other hand… you know what’s way more motivating?

Michelle wanting to be able to take care of her granddaughter so badly that months of new habits, tiring workouts, and saying no to cupcakes in the break room seemed like the only choice. It wasn’t just a “look better” fitness goal—it was her burning passion.

Discovering why you really want to change gives you resolve.

A wise person (okay, it was Tony Robbins) once said: “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”

There’s just one problem: A lot of us never actually get to the root of what’s bothering us. We don’t face our pain because it’s uncomfortable. As a result, we’re much more likely to stay the same.

Find your pain… to stoke your passion.

Sometimes, pain will be obvious: divorce, a scary diagnosis, the loss of a loved one. This kind of pain is easy to identify. It’s right there in front of you, flagging you down.

Other times, pain can be more subtle: It’s hiding in a dark corner of the basement—always there, even if you aren’t constantly aware of it.

Maybe it stems from all those times you were picked last as a kid. Or from that “harmless” comment a loved one made about your body… or about someone else’s body (who looks like you).

These hits of pain may not feel that impactful in the moment, but over time, they accrue power and influence over your actions and self-worth.

The result? Pain that’s hidden can crop up as:

  • avoiding activities that are fun or good for you, like going to a party or trying that new gym down the street
  • feeling your heart race when someone asks if you’re okay
  • revisiting some mortifying moment over and over, using it as evidence that you’re the worst
  • turning down exciting opportunities because your inner voice says, ‘No way, I can’t do that.’
  • living well into your 20s with the assumption you’ll never find companionship… because you got rejected on the middle school dance floor… and you assumed it was because the boys thought you were too big… so that must mean men don’t like you. (Is that TMI?)

These examples all suggest there’s trouble below the surface. Pain is discouraging you and holding you back. If you can access the source of this emotional discomfort, you can use it to achieve serious change.

Here’s how to do just that, in three steps.

Step #1: Find your true “why.”

Michelle wanted to lose weight, sure.

But more importantly, she wanted to be trusted to take care of her granddaughter. That was her real reason for wanting to lose weight.

In the Precision Nutrition coaching method, we call this “finding your why.”

Your “why” is the reason behind the reason… behind the reason… behind the surface reason you want to make a change in your life.

Finding your “why” is a shortcut to finding your pain.

Because often, your deepest reason for wanting to change your body or habits dredges up yucky stuff.

For example, the shame of having gained 30 pounds after having kids. (‘Why does every other mom seem to have it all together?’).

Or the helplessness of realizing you can’t even bend down to pick up a pencil off the floor.

Or the regret that comes with admitting you’re not the kind of active, inspiring father you want to be.

These are the “whys” that drive change.

Don’t settle for the easy answer.

Getting to your “deepest reason” requires some introspection. An exercise called the “5 Whys” can help kickstart the process.

Here’s how it works: Take your initial reason for wanting to make changes to your nutrition, workout routine, or lifestyle, and use that as a starting point.

Maybe you want to get fit. Now ask yourself “why?”

(If you’re a coach, you can go through this exercise with a client. You ask the questions, but let them do most of the talking.)

Keep asking—remember, it’s called the 5 Whys—until you feel like you’ve identified the real reason you want to change. The illustration below shows what this might look like.

Put in the work.

Some people can define—and confront—their “why” quickly. For others, it requires a little more time and effort.

Practicing meditation and/or mindfulness can help you access uncomfortable thoughts you’ve been avoiding or pushing away. To get started, try this simple mind-body scan.

Find a quiet place. Take 5 minutes and find somewhere you can be without interruptions. This could be just before bed or just after waking. Or in your office, resting on a park bench, or sitting in your parked car.

Notice physical sensations. Scan your body from the top of your head down to your toes, part by part. Note how you feel along the way. Don’t judge or rush to change anything.

Notice emotions and thoughts. Once you’ve done your “body scan,” do the same exercise for your emotions and thoughts. Again, don’t judge or try to make sense of it. Just observe.

Ask yourself 3 questions. Right now…

  • What am I feeling physically?
  • What am I feeling emotionally?
  • What am I thinking?

You may find it helpful to jot down a few notes after each session. (It’s okay if you can’t find the perfect words.)

Over time, you’ll notice feelings, thoughts, and ideas that crop up consistently. These can be important clues to revealing your “why”… and your pain.

Step #2: Turn your pain into action.

Let’s start with an example.

When Nivi Jaswal entered Precision Nutrition Coaching, she was overweight, stressed, and had prediabetes. Through lots of reflection, Nivi uncovered the pain that was holding her back: a deep fear of not being good enough. If she couldn’t do something perfectly, she wouldn’t do it at all. So now what?

Do the hard thing.

Once you’ve defined your pain, you have a framework to experiment with an exercise PN calls “difficult-easy” and “difficult-difficult.” (No, those aren’t typos.)

Difficult-easy describes things you do that are hard, but still within your comfort zone: going to work every day even though you hate your job, for example. Or giving up carbs again even though you love pasta and cookies.

In Nivi’s case, difficult-easy was spending countless hours researching diet and exercise routines, looking for the “perfect” answer.

Difficult-difficult, however, is the stuff that’s truly challenging—the actions you shy away from because they seem overwhelming or even impossible. This is the place where you grow.

Here are some examples:

  • For the mother who always prioritizes her family’s needs over her own, difficult-difficult might be carving out two hours per week for her favorite yoga classes.
  • For the business executive who chooses to work 60 hours a week, difficult-difficult might be hanging out with friends twice a month (to start).
  • For Nivi, difficult-difficult meant making small nutrition and lifestyle changes instead of going all-in. She was skeptical of this approach. It seemed like it wouldn’t work, and she was afraid she’d be wasting her time and effort. That’s what made it difficult-difficult.

Ask yourself:

What are you afraid of? Difficult-easy tasks tend to annoy us. Like when you say “yes” even though you don’t actually have any room on your plate for another task. Because saying “no” is too scary. The things that scare us are usually the difficult-difficult ones.

What would you do if it were Opposite Day? Difficult-easy stuff grinds you down, but you keep doing it anyway. Take a moment to consider: How’s that working for you? What could you do that’s new, that would force you to grow and put you on a new path? That’s your difficult-difficult.

Make one change at a time.

Once you’ve identified your difficult-difficult, chip away at it one small piece at a time. It might sound weird, but focusing on less can help you achieve more.

Pick one small, new habit.

Select one habit that supports progress toward the body and health you want. Make it something simple and reasonable, that you think you can practice every day.

Let’s say you want to get fitter, but you’re terrified of the gym because you feel like an outsider. Your difficult-difficult is hitting the gym on a regular basis.

Consider starting with a habit that gets you closer to that goal, but doesn’t go all the way.

For your first habit, you might choose one of these options:

  • foam rolling for a few minutes every morning
  • taking a 10-minute walk after dinner each evening
  • doing a 15-minute home workout twice a week
  • going to the gym once a week, but only committing to one exercise you’re comfortable with, and then leaving

Maybe one of these seems excruciatingly hard, while another is hard, but doable. Go with the latter.

Practice your habit.

Do your new habit every day for at least two weeks. Some days, it’ll feel like a grueling climb up Everest. Other days it may feel like you’re flying. Eventually, there’ll be more flying days than Everest ones. That’s how you know you’re ready for the next step.

Build on your habit.

Now maybe you’re ready for four home workouts per week, or two exercises when you go to the gym. Practice this new habit for another two weeks. Keep repeating this cycle.

With this practice, your difficult-difficult will become easier. As a result, you’ll get better at facing your pain and fears… and better at changing.

Step #3: Share your pain.

I once had a client named Nadia. Her commitment waxed and waned, and eventually she stopped showing up for workouts—a story any trainer knows all too well.

Two years later, Nadia asked if we could meet up. Over coffee, she explained she has a learning disability, but she’d been embarrassed to tell me about it before. During our workouts, she’d felt lost and anxious.

Armed with this new information, we figured out how to make her more comfortable this time around. She started showing up four days a week and made tons of progress.

Talking to people about your pain can:

  • take some of the pain’s power away (you could realize you’re not at fault)
  • make previously hidden solutions seem more obvious
  • open up new sources of support that weren’t available before
  • help you connect with people who are going through similar changes
  • let others know that you’re open to help, if they’re able to provide it.

Start with the people you love.

Even once Michelle opened up to me, she still had no intention of telling her husband or her daughter about her pain. At first, she didn’t even tell them she had joined a gym.

After a few months, she’d lost some weight, but her motivation started to dwindle, and she was still angry at her daughter. I asked her what she thought might happen if she talked to her daughter about it.

“I was really hoping to avoid conflict,” she said.

What resulted was the opposite. Michelle’s daughter and son-in-law were highly encouraging. In fact, both committed to making nutrition changes with her to show their support. Michelle’s husband even purged all the junk food from their house.

While there are no guarantees, most of the time, if you allow yourself to be vulnerable with the people you’re close to, they’ll rally to support you.

And that can make all the difference in continuing to make progress.

Give yourself permission to take it slow.

If you don’t feel ready to reveal your pain to someone else just yet, you can use the principles of stress inoculation training (SIT) to help you start sharing little by little.

SIT is like a stress vaccination. The basic idea is to slowly get comfortable being… uncomfortable.

Think of it like this: Exposing yourself to small amounts of stress regularly—in levels that don’t overwhelm you—trains you to handle much tougher situations. Just like with exercise.

In this case, tell your story in pieces, at your own pace, until you start to adapt to the stress of sharing. Or maybe reveal your pain in a journal first, then with a stranger, and then with someone you’re close to.

Because you can do this alone, but you don’t have to.

If it feels a little uncomfortable, you’re on the right track.

Remember, we call it difficult-difficult for a reason.

But if you’re willing to dig deep, find your why, and uncover the root of your pain, you may discover the purpose and passion you’ve been missing.

So move past thinking you “just want to get fit” or “can’t lose weight.” And open yourself to the possibility there’s more to the story.

That’s where you’ll find the motivation you really need… for the results you really want.

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, January 13th, 2021.

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

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

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

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

The post Forget bikini bodies and bigger arms: Here’s the real secret for getting motivated to transform your body. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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When it comes to body change, there’s no topic more polarizing than “calories in vs. calories out.” Some argue it’s the be-all and end-all of weight loss. Others say it’s oversimplified and misguided. In this article, we explore every angle of the debate from “eat less, move more,” to hormonal issues, to diets that offer a “metabolic advantage.” In doing so, we answer—once and for all—how important calories in vs. calories out really is. And discuss what it means for you and your clients.  

“You’re either with me, or you’re against me.”

Everyone’s heard this one. But did you know the health and fitness industry has its own version of the saying? It goes: “You’re either with me, or you’re stupid.”

I kid, of course!

But this kind of binary mindset does fuel plenty of heated debates. Especially when it comes to one topic in particular: “calories in vs. calories out,” or CICO.

CICO is an easy way of saying:

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

This is a fundamental concept in body weight regulation, and about as close to scientific fact as we can get.

Then why is CICO the source of so much disagreement?

It’s all about the extremes.

At one end of the debate, there’s a group who believes CICO is straightforward. If you aren’t losing weight, the reason is simple: You’re either eating too many calories, or not moving enough, or both. Just eat less and move more.

At the other end is a group who believes CICO is broken (or even a complete myth). These critics say it doesn’t account for hormone imbalances, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and other health problems that affect metabolism. They often claim certain diets and foods provide a “metabolic advantage,” helping you lose weight without worrying about CICO.

Neither viewpoint is completely wrong.

But neither is completely right, either.

Whether you’re a health and fitness coach tasked with helping clients manage their weight—or you’re trying to learn how to do that for yourself—adopting an extreme position on this topic is problematic; it prevents you from seeing the bigger picture.

This article will add some nuance to the debate.

I’ll start by clearing up some misconceptions about CICO. And then explore several real-world examples showing how far-right or far-left views can hold folks back.

Rethinking common misconceptions.

Much of the CICO debate—as with many other debates—stems from misconceptions, oversimplifications, and a failure (by both sides) to find a shared understanding of concepts. So let’s start by getting everyone on the same page for a change.

CICO goes beyond food and exercise.

There’s an important distinction to be made between CICO and “eat less, move more.” But people, especially some CICO advocates, tend to conflate the two.

“Eat less, move more” only takes into account the calories you eat and the calories you burn through exercise and other daily movement. But CICO is really an informal way of expressing the Energy Balance Equation, which is far more involved.

The Energy Balance Equation—and therefore CICO—includes all the complex inner workings of the body, as well as the external factors that ultimately impact “calories in” and “calories out.”

Imperative to this, and often overlooked, is your brain. It’s constantly monitoring and controlling CICO. Think of it as mission control, sending and receiving messages that involve your gut, hormones, organs, muscles, bones, fat cells, external stimuli (and more), to help balance “energy in” and “energy out.”

It’s one hell of a complicated—and beautiful—system.

Yet the Energy Balance Equation itself looks really simple. Here it is:

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

*Body stores refers to all the tissues available for breakdown, such as fat, muscle, organ, and bone. I purposely haven’t used “change in body weight” here because I want to exclude water weight, which can change body weight independent of energy balance. In other words, water is a confusing, confounding variable that tricks people into thinking energy balance is broken when it’s not.

With this equation, “energy in” and “energy out” aren’t just calories from food and exercise. As you can see in the illustration below, all kinds of factors influence these two variables.

When you view CICO through this lens—by zooming out for a wider perspective—you can see boiling it down to “eat less, move more” is a significant oversimplification.

Calorie calculators and CICO aren’t the same.

Many people use calorie calculators to estimate their energy needs, and to  approximate how many calories they’ve eaten. But sometimes these tools don’t seem to work. As a result, these individuals start to question whether CICO is broken. (Or whether they’re broken).

The key words here are “estimate” and “approximate.”

That’s because calorie calculators aren’t necessarily accurate.

For starters, they provide an output based on averages, and can be off by as much as 20-30 percent in normal, young, healthy people. They may vary even more in older, clinical, or obese populations.

And that’s just on the “energy out” side.

The number of calories you eat—or your “energy in”—is also just an estimate.

For example, the FDA allows inaccuracies of up to 20% on label calorie counts, and research shows restaurant nutrition information can be off by 100-300 calories per food item.

What’s more, even if you were able to accurately weigh and measure every morsel you eat, you still wouldn’t have an exact “calories in” number. That’s because there are other confounding factors, such as:

  • We don’t absorb all of the calories we consume. And absorption rates vary across food types. (Example: We absorb more calories than estimated from fiber-rich foods, and less calories than estimated from nuts and seeds.)
  • We all absorb calories uniquely based on our individual gut bacteria.
  • Cooking, blending, or chopping food generally makes more calories available for absorption than may appear on a nutrition label.

Of course, this doesn’t mean CICO doesn’t work. It only means the tools we have to estimate “calories in” and “calories out” are limited.

To be crystal clear: Calorie calculators can still be very helpful for some people. But it’s important to be aware of their limitations. If you’re going to use one, do so as a rough starting point, not a definitive “answer.”

CICO doesn’t require calorie counting.

At Precision Nutrition, sometimes we use calorie counting to help clients improve their food intake. Other times we use hand portions. And other times we use more intuitive approaches.

For example, let’s say a client wants to lose weight, but they’re not seeing the results they want. If they’re counting calories or using hand portions, we might use those numbers as a reference to further reduce the amount of food they’re eating. But we also might encourage them to use other techniques instead. Like eating slowly, or until they’re 80 percent full.

In every case—whether we’re talking numbers or not — we’re manipulating “energy in.” Sometimes directly; sometimes indirectly. So make no mistake: Even when we’re not “counting calories,” CICO still applies.

CICO might sound simple, but it’s not.

There’s no getting around it: If you (or a client) aren’t losing weight, you either need to decrease “energy in” or increase “energy out.” But as you’ve already seen, that may involve far more than just pushing away your plate or spending more time at the gym.

For instance, it may require you to:

  • Get more high-quality sleep to better regulate hunger hormones, improve recovery, and increase metabolic output
  • Try stress resilience techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and spending time in nature
  • Increase your daily non-exercise movement by parking the car a few blocks away from your destination, taking the stairs, and/or standing while you work
  • Trade some high-intensity exercise for lower-intensity activities, in order to aid recovery and reduce systemic stress
  • Improve the quality of what you’re eating, as opposed to reducing the quantity. This can allow you to eat more food with fewer total calories
  • Tinker with the macronutrient makeup of what you eat. For example: eating more protein and fiber, or increasing carbs and lowering fats, or vice versa
  • Experiment with the frequency and timing of your meals and snacks, based on personal preferences and appetite cues
  • Consider temporarily tracking your food intake—via hand portions or weighing/measuring—to ensure you’re eating what you think you’re eating (as closely as reasonably possible)
  • Evaluate and correct nutritional deficiencies, for more energy during workouts (and in everyday life)
  • Consult with your physician or specialists if consistent lifestyle changes aren’t moving the needle

Sometimes the solutions are obvious; sometimes they aren’t. But with CICO, the answers are there, if you keep your mind open and examine every factor.

Imagine yourself a “calorie conductor” who oversees and fine-tunes many actions to create metabolic harmony. You’re looking for anything that could be out of sync.

This takes lots of practice.

So, to help, here are 5 common energy balance dilemmas. In each case, it might be tempting to assume CICO doesn’t apply. But look a little deeper, and you’ll see the principles of CICO are always present.

5 common energy balance dilemmas.

Dilemma #1: “I’ve been eating the same way forever, but suddenly I started gaining weight.”

Can you guess what happened?

More than likely, “energy in” or “energy out” did change, but in a way that felt out of control or unnoticeable.

The culprit could be:

  • Slight increases in food intake, due to changes in mood, hunger, or stress
  • An increase in the amount of energy absorbed—caused by new medication, an unknown medical condition, or a history of chronic dieting
  • Physiological changes that resulted in fewer calories burned during exercise and at rest
  • The onset of chronic pain, provoking a dramatic decrease in non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)
  • Significant changes to sleep quality and/or quantity, impacting metabolic output and/or food consumed

In all of these cases, CICO is still valid. Energy balance just shifted in subtle ways, due to lifestyle and health status changes, making it hard to recognize.

Dilemma #2: “My hormones are wreaking havoc on my metabolism, and I can’t stop gaining weight. Help!”

Hormones seem like a logical scapegoat for weight changes.

And while they’re probably not to blame as often as people think, hormones are intricately entwined with energy balance.

But even so, they don’t operate independently of energy balance.

In other words, people don’t gain weight because “hormones.”

They gain weight because their hormones are impacting their energy balance.

This often happens during menopause or when thyroid hormone levels decline.

Take, for example, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), two thyroid hormones that are incredibly important for metabolic function. If levels of these hormones diminish, weight gain may occur. But this doesn’t negate CICO: Your hormones are simply influencing “energy out.”

This may seem a bit like splitting hairs, but it’s an important connection to make, whether we’re talking about menopause or thyroid problems or insulin resistance or other hormonal issues.

By understanding CICO is the true determinant of weight loss, you’ll have many more tools for achieving the outcome you want.

Suppose you’re working from the false premise hormones are the only thing that matters. This can lead to increasingly unhelpful decisions, like spending a large sum of money on unnecessary supplements, or adhering to an overly restrictive diet that backfires in the long run.

Instead, you know results are dependent on the fact that “energy in” or “energy out” has changed. Now, this change can be due to hormones, and if so, you’ll have to make adjustments to your eating, exercise, and/or lifestyle habits to account for it. (This could include taking medication prescribed by your doctor, if appropriate.)

Research suggests people with mild (10-15% of the population) to moderate hypothyroidism (2-3%) may experience a metabolic slow down of 140 to 360 calories a day.

That can be enough to lead to weight gain, or make it harder to lose weight. (One caveat: Mild hypothyroidism can be so mild many people don’t experience a significant shift in metabolic activity, making it a non-issue.)

What’s more, women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS (about 5-10%), and those going through menopause, may also experience hormonal changes that disrupt energy balance.

So, it’s important to understand your (or your client’s) health status, as that will provide valuable information about the unique challenges involved and how you should proceed.

Dilemma #3: “I’m only eating 1,000 calories a day and I’m still not losing weight!”

So what gives?

The conclusion most people jump to: Their metabolism is broken. They’re broken. And CICO is broken.

But here’s the deal: Metabolic damage isn’t really a thing. Even though it may seem that way.

Now, their energy balance challenge could be related to a hormonal issue, as discussed above. However, when someone’s eating 1,000 calories a day but not losing weight, it’s usually due to one of the two reasons that follow.

(No matter how simple they sound, this is what we’ve seen over and over again in our coaching program, with over 100,000 clients.)

Reason #1: People often underestimate their calorie intake.

It’s easy to miscalculate how much you’re eating, as it’s usually unintentional. The most typical ways people do it:

  • They underestimate portions. (For example, without precisely measuring “one tablespoon of peanut butter,” it might actually be two, which adds 90 calories each time you do it)
  • They don’t track bites, licks, and tastes of calorie-dense foods. (For example, your kid’s leftover mac and cheese could easily add 100 calories)
  • They don’t record everything in the moment and forget to log it later on
  • They “forget” to count foods they’d wished they hadn’t eaten

Don’t believe this can be a big issue?

A landmark study, and repeated follow up studies, found people often underestimate how much they eat over the course of a day, sometimes by more than 1,000 calories.

I’m not bringing this research up to suggest it’s impossible to be realistic about portion sizes. But if you (or your clients) aren’t seeing results on a low-calorie diet, it’s worth considering that underestimation may be the problem.

Reason #2: People overeat on the weekends.

Work weeks can be stressful and when Friday night rolls around, people put their guard down and let loose.

(You probably can’t relate, but just try, okay?)

Here’s how it goes: Let’s say a person is eating 1,500 calories a day on weekdays, which would give them an approximate 500-calorie deficit.

But on the weekends, they deviate from their plan just a little.

  • Drinks with friends and a few slices of late night pizza on Friday
  • An extra big lunch after their workout on Saturday
  • Brunch on Sunday (“Hey, it’s breakfast and lunch, so I can eat double!)

The final tally: An extra 4,000 calories consumed between Friday night and Sunday afternoon. They’ve effectively canceled out their deficit, bumping their average daily calories to 2,071.

The upshot: If you (or your client) have slashed your calories dramatically, but you aren’t seeing the expected results, look for the small slips. It’s like being a metabolic detective who’s following—perhaps literally—the bread crumbs.

By the way, if downtime is problem for you (or a client), we have just the remedy: 5 surprising strategies to ditch weekend overeating.

Dilemma #4: “I’m eating as much as I want and still losing weight, so this diet is better than all the others!”

This might be the top reason some people reject CICO.

Say someone switches from a diet of mostly processed foods to one made up of mostly whole, plant-based foods. They might find they can eat as much food as they want, yet the pounds still melt away.

People often believe this is due to the “power of plants.”

Yes, plants are great, but this doesn’t disprove energy balance.

Because plant foods have a very-low energy density, you can eat a lot of them and still be in a calorie deficit. Especially if your previous intake was filled with lots of processed, hyperpalatable “indulgent foods.”

It feels like you’re eating much more food than ever before—and, in fact, you really might be.

On top of that, you might also feel more satiated because of the volume, fiber, and water content of the plants.

All of which is great. Truly. But it doesn’t negate CICO.

Or take the ketogenic diet, for example.

Here, someone might have a similar experience of “eating as much as they want” and still losing weight, but instead of plant foods, they’re eating meat, cheese, and eggs. Those aren’t low-calorie foods, and they don’t have much fiber, either.

As a result, plenty of low-carb advocates claim keto offers a “metabolic advantage” over other diets.

Here’s what’s most likely happening:

  • Greater intake of protein increases satiety and reduces appetite
  • Limited food choices have cut out hundreds of highly-processed calories they might have eaten otherwise (Pasta! Chips! Cookies!)
  • Reduced food options can also lead to “sensory-specific satiety.” Meaning, when you eat the same foods all the time, they may become less appealing, so you’re not driven to eat as much
  • Liquid calories—soda, juice, even milk—are generally off-limits, so a greater proportion of calories are consumed from solid foods, which are more filling
  • Higher blood levels of ketones—which rise when carbs are restricted—seem to suppress appetite

For these reasons, people tend to eat fewer calories and feel less hungry.

Although it might seem magical, the keto diet results in weight loss by regulating “energy in” through a variety of ways.

You might ask: If plant-based and keto diets work so well, why should anyone care if it’s because of CICO, or for some other reason?

Because depending on the person—food preferences, lifestyle, activity level, and so on—many diets, including plant-based and keto, aren’t sustainable long-term. This is particularly true of the more restrictive approaches.

And if you (or your client) believe there’s only one “best diet,” you may become frustrated if you aren’t able to stick to it. You may view yourself as a failure and decide you lack the discipline to lose weight. You may even think you should stop trying.

None of which are true.

Your results aren’t diet dependent. They’re behavior dependent.

Maintaining a healthy body (including a healthy body weight) is about developing consistent, sustainable daily habits that help you positively impact “energy in” and “energy out.”

This might be accomplished while enjoying the foods you love, by:

  • Eating until you’re 80% full
  • Eating slowly and mindfully
  • Eating more minimally processed foods
  • Getting more high-quality sleep
  • Taking steps to reduce stress and build resilience

It’s about viewing CICO from 30,000 feet and figuring out what approach feels sane—and achievable—for you.

Sure, that might include a plant-based or a keto diet, but it absolutely might not, too. And you know what?

You can get great results either way.  

Dilemma #5: “I want to gain weight, but no matter how much I eat, I can’t seem to.”

The CICO conversation doesn’t always revolve around weight loss.

Some people struggle to gain weight.

Especially younger athletes and people who are very, very active at work. (Think: jobs that involve manual labor.)

It also happens with those who are trying to regain lost weight after an illness.

When someone intentionally eats more food but can’t pack on the pounds, it may seem like CICO is invalidated. (Surprise.)

They often feel like they’re stuffing themselves—“I’m eating everything in sight!”—and it’s just not working. But here’s what our coaches have found:

People tend to remember extremes.

Someone might have had six meals in one day, eating as much as they felt like they could stand.

But the following day, they only ate two meals because they were still so full. Maybe they were really busy, too, so they didn’t even think much about it.

The first day—the one where they stuffed themselves—would likely stand out a lot more than the day they ate in accordance with their hunger levels. That’s just human nature.

It’s easy to see how CICO is involved here. It’s lack of consistency on the “energy in” part of the equation.

One solution: Instead of stuffing yourself with 3,000 calories one day, and then eating 1,500 the next, aim for a calorie intake just above the middle you can stick with, and increase it in small amounts over time, if needed.

People often increase activity when they increase calories.

When some people suddenly have more available energy—from eating more food—they’re more likely to do things that increase their energy out. Like taking the stairs, pacing while on the phone, and fidgeting in their seats.

They might even push harder during a workout than they would normally.

This can be both subconscious and subtle.

And though it might sound weird, our coaches have identified this as a legitimate problem for “hardgainers.”

Your charge: Take notice of all your activity.

If you can’t curtail some of it, you may have to compensate by eating even more food. Nutrient- and calorie-dense foods like nut butters, whole grains, and oils can help, especially if you’re challenged by your lack of appetite.

3 strategies to game the system.

Once you accept that CICO is both complex and inescapable, you may find yourself up against one very common challenge.

Namely: “I can’t eat any less than I am now!”

This is one of the top reasons people abandon their weight loss efforts or go searching in vain for a miracle diet.

But here are three simple strategies you (or your clients) can use to create a caloric deficit, even if it seems impossible. It’s all about figuring out which one works best for you.

Maximize protein and fiber.

Consuming higher amounts of protein increases satiety, helping you feel more satisfied between meals. And consuming higher amounts of fiber increases satiation, helping you feel more satisfied during meals.

These are both proven in research and practice to help you feel more satisfied overall while eating fewer calories, leading to easier fat loss.

This advice can sound trite, I know. In fact, someday when there are nutrition coach robots, “eat more protein and fiber” will probably be the first thing they’re programmed to say.

But the truth is, most people trying to lose weight still aren’t focused on getting plenty of these two nutrients.

And you know what? It’s not their fault.

When it comes to diets, almost everyone has been told to subtract. Take away the “bad” stuff, and only eat the “good” stuff.

But there’s another approach: Just start by adding.

If you make a concerted effort to increase protein (especially lean protein) and fiber intake (especially from vegetables), you’ll feel more satisfied.

You’ll also be less tempted by all the foods you think you should be avoiding. This helps to automatically “crowd out” ultra-processed foods.

Which leads to another big benefit: By eating more whole foods and fewer of the processed kind, you’re actually retraining your brain to desire those indulgent, ultra-processed foods less.

That’s when a cool thing happens: You start eating fewer calories without actively trying to—rather than purposely restricting because you have to.

That makes weight loss easier.

Starting is simple: For protein, add one palm of relatively lean protein—chicken, fish, tempeh—to one meal. This is beyond what you would have had otherwise. Or have a Super Shake as a meal or snack.

For fiber, add one serving of high-fiber food—in particular vegetables, fruit, lentils and beans—to your regular intake. This might mean having an apple for a snack, including a fistful of roasted carrots at dinner, or tossing in a handful of spinach in your Super Shake.

Try this for two weeks, and then add another palm of lean protein, and one more serving of high-fiber foods.

Besides all the upside we’ve discussed so far, there’s also this:

Coming to the table with a mindset of abundance—rather than scarcity—can help you avoid those anxious, frustrated feelings that often come with being deprived of the foods you love.

So instead of saying, “Ugh, I really don’t think I can give up my nightly wine and chocolate habit,” you might say, “Hey, look at all this delicious, healthy food I can feed my body!”

(And by the way, you don’t actually have to give up your wine and chocolate habit, at least not to initiate progress.)

Shift your perspective.

Imagine you’re on vacation. You slept in and missed breakfast.

Of course, you don’t really mind because you’re relaxed and having a great time. And there’s no reason to panic: Lunch will happen.

But since you’ve removed a meal, you end up eating a few hundred calories less than normal for the day, effectively creating a deficit.

Given you’re in an environment where you feel calm and happy, you hardly even notice.

Now suppose you wake up on a regular day, and you’re actively trying to lose weight. (To get ready for vacation!)

You might think: “I only get to have my 400-calorie breakfast, and it’s not enough food. This is the worst. I’m going to be so hungry all day!”

So you head to work feeling stressed, counting down the minutes to your next snack or meal. Maybe you even start to feel deprived and miserable.

Here’s the thing: You were in a calorie deficit both days, but your subjective experience of each was completely different.

What if you could adjust your thinking to be more like the first scenario rather than the second?

Of course, I’m not suggesting you skip breakfast everyday (unless that’s just your preference).

But if you can manage to see eating less as something you happen to be doing— rather than something you must do—it may end up feeling a lot less terrible.

Add activity rather than subtracting calories.

Are you a person who doesn’t want to eat less, but would happily move more? If so, you might be able to take advantage of something I’ve called G-Flux.

G-Flux, also known as “energy flux,” is the total amount of energy that flows in and out of a system.

As an example, say you want to create a 500-calorie deficit. That could like this:

  • Energy in: 2,000 calories
  • Energy out: 2,500 calories
  • Deficit: 500 calories

But it could also look like this:

  • Energy in: 3,000 calories
  • Energy out: 3,500 calories
  • Deficit: 500 calories

In both scenarios, you’ve achieved a 500-calorie deficit, but the second allows you to eat a lot more food.

That’s one benefit of a greater G-Flux.

But there’s also another: Research suggests if you’re eating food from high-quality sources and doing a variety of workouts—strength training, conditioning, and recovery work—eating more calories can help you carry more lean mass and less fat.

That’s because the increased exercise doesn’t just serve to boost your “energy out.” It also changes nutrient partitioning, sending more calories toward muscle growth and fewer to your fat cells.

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

Win. Win. Win.

To be clear, this is a somewhat advanced method. And because metabolism and energy balance are dynamic in nature, the effectiveness of this method may vary from person to person.

Plus, not everyone has the ability or the desire to spend more time exercising. And that’s okay.

But by being flexible with your thinking—and willing to experiment with different ways of influencing CICO—you can find your own personal strategy for tipping energy balance in your (or your clients’) favor.

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: Calories in vs. out? Or hormones? The debate is finally over. Here’s who won. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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dealing with a difficult partnerOne of the biggest challenges of going Primal (or Keto or anything that goes against the norm of the Standard American Diet) is dealing with people who have no clue why you’d ever do such a thing. Even though there have been tons of studies‘>2

The good news is, it works the other way too. In a trial funded by the National Institute of Health, researchers looked at the ripple effect of healthy behaviors in a household. Participants and their spouses were placed into two groups: an intensive lifestyle intervention (which included a specific diet and physical activity) and a care plan that included only education and support. Researchers weighed the couples at the beginning and end of the trial and found that approximately 25% of the spouses in the intensive intervention lost 5% more of their baseline weight compared to less than 10% of the spouses in the other group.‘>4 In this case, a more gradual approach might be more beneficial if you want your partner to follow your lead.

5. Get your priorities in order

Another thing to keep in mind is that this is YOUR health journey. You’re the one who’s embarking on this change, not your significant other, your spouse, or even your kids. That’s why it’s crucial that you get clear on what message you’re putting out there. Sure, it would be great if everyone in your household ate the same thing (who likes to make two dinners anyway?) and no one ever brought cookies or Halloween candy or artificially colored and flavored juice drinks into your home, but that’s not necessarily realistic. It’s not necessary to your success either.

So, asking yourself: is your partner being difficult because they’re not supporting you? Or because they’re not eating and moving their body exactly how you’re doing it? Good questions to ponder. Someone can be supportive yet choose to not live a Primal lifestyle. And that’s okay.

6. Find common ground

Assuming that your SAD-loving partner would prefer to eat Twinkies and mac-n-cheese all day isn’t just unfair, it’s unproductive. Take a step back and figure out what foods you both enjoy eating (there’s got to be at least one, right?). Maybe you both like eggs or salmon or grilled asparagus. Or a great rare steak. By finding a favorite food in common, you can come up with meals that satisfy both of your eating preferences. Plus, the effort of wanting to find common ground with your partner can reduce the tension of a ‘my way or the highway scenario’.

7. Join a supportive community

If you’re not getting the support you need at home (or not enough support), there are tons of online groups you can engage with. Right now, the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group has more than 200,000 members. Keto Reset has 32,000 members. And Primal Blueprint has more than 20,000 members. If that’s not enough, reach out to a friend, a family member, or one of our expert health coaches.

Participating in a group gives you the opportunity to be with people who have a like-minded purpose. Not only will you be interacting with those who understand what you’re going through, it can help you feel less isolated, less anxious, and less stressed out.

8. Reflect on your own journey

You might be all-in when it comes to your keto or Primal lifestyle now, but think back to the beginning of your health journey. Transitioning away from a morning toast and OJ routine, or sandwich-and-chips-on-the-go isn’t always easy. And it’s not something to take lightly. So, if your significant other isn’t diving into Primal in one fell swoop, relax a little. They may need an approach that feels less scary — where they’re less likely to fail. Just remember that everyone’s journey is different. Even the people who live under the same roof as you.

What’s worked for you? Tell me if you’ve used any of these tactics or other strategies, when dealing with a difficult or unsupportive partner.


The post 8 Ways to Deal with a Difficult Partner (Who Doesn’t Eat Like You Do) appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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Next-Level Lifting coach Candice Lewis-Carter didn’t let PCOS stop her from achieving her fitness goals. Learn about her diagnosis and the adjustments she’s made to keep her health in check.

As one of the world’s most decorated professional figure competitors, you could say I know a thing or two about my body — I know how to eat right, how to exercise, how to get lean, how much sleep I need and how to put all my best angles forward.

That’s why in the months leading up to my wedding in 2014, I couldn’t figure out what was going on with my body: I was feeling unusually tired and couldn’t seem to drop any weight, despite the fact that I was eating clean, doing resistance training and even doubling up on my cardio routine. Also, my periods were irregular and I was having acne flare-ups. What terrible timing!

Still, I figured there was a simple explanation. I was on the brink of turning 30, so I thought maybe it was age-related. Plus, I knew irregular periods were a common side effect of being an athlete and I’d run track in college.

Candice’s PCOS diagnosis answered a lot of burning questions she had about her health in the years leading up to it.

An Unexpected Diagnosis

During a regular checkup with my gynecologist, I was given a pelvic ultrasound exam. The doctor said, “Has anyone told you that you might have PCOS? I can see cysts on your ovaries.” I was freaking out and shocked. Honestly, I was afraid to ask questions until I went home to do some research on my own to find out more.

I learned that PCOS is an acronym for polycystic ovary syndrome, a common genetic hormonal, metabolic and reproductive disorder that affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. According to the Office of Women’s Health, it’s caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones, and that imbalance creates problems in the ovaries — the egg that is typically released each month as part of the menstrual cycle may not develop or may not release properly. PCOS can cause missed or irregular periods, which can lead to infertility and the development of cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in the ovaries.

I then made another doctor’s appointment and had some bloodwork done. Finally, it was confirmed that I have PCOS. Now it all made sense — I had been struggling with severe acne and irregular periods for a while, and these are symptoms of a hormonal imbalance and PCOS. It was odd that none of my other doctors had mentioned this possibility before.

I also learned that PCOS is hereditary; my sister has since been diagnosed, as well. Apparently, a lot of women are dealing with PCOS yet don’t even know they have it.

Adjusting to Life With PCOS

Being diagnosed with PCOS made it even more important for me to stay fit and healthy. Why? According to my research on the Office of Women’s Health website, more than half of women with PCOS will have diabetes or pre-diabetes before age 40. And women with PCOS are at greater risk of having high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, sleep apnea, depression, anxiety and endometrial cancer. Obviously, these are all things I’d like to avoid.

There’s no cure for PCOS, so to keep my symptoms in check, I’ve had to shift my diet. I used to be big on sugar, but once I found out I had PCOS, I had to reduce my carb and sugar intake. So I eat a low-carb diet to help regulate my levels and I eat less dairy, too. Of course, I do still eat cheat meals occasionally on weekends — I love a good burger, sushi, pizza or frozen yogurt — but I need to be careful because even with cheat meals, my levels can still be elevated. And thankfully, sticking to a healthy diet has alleviated some of the symptoms.

As far as fitness, PCOS affects my routine because I have to work out longer than most people in order to get the same results in terms of weight loss or fat burning. Women who have PCOS may build muscle faster, so it’s important to also focus on weightlifting to help burn sugar and carbs off the body before they are stored as fat. Basically, my body doesn’t do a great job at converting sugar and starches into energy — causing insulin resistance and weight gain.

Keeping weight off will always be a constant struggle in my life. I’ve learned so much about my body over the past few years, so the struggle isn’t as hard as it once was because I now know exactly what my body needs in order to be healthy. Although keeping the weight off is a good thing for me, it’s more about fighting off Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and infertility.

September Is PCOS Awareness Month

Is it a coincidence that my Next-Level Lifting program for Oxygen launches on September 21 and September is PCOS Awareness Month? Maybe! But I like to think they share the calendar because I, too, want to help raise awareness about this health problem.

If you suspect you may have PCOS, I urge you to set up an appointment with your gynecologist. They may administer a physical exam, pelvic exam, a pelvic ultrasound and blood tests to help arrive at a diagnosis. But remember, just because there’s no cure doesn’t mean PCOS will prevent you from doing the things you want to do — with the right diet and exercise, and possibly some medication, you can still lead a healthy, active lifestyle.

Have you been lifting for a while? Do you want to push your limits and see just how far you can go? Let Candice Lewis-Carter — a 13-time IFBB Figure champion, seven-time Olympia Figure champion, two-time Arnold Classic Figure champion and two-time Arnold Classic Australia Figure champion — be your guide. She’s partnered with Oxygen to create Next-Level Liftingan exclusive eight-week program for those looking to level up their fitness and their physiques. Sign up today!

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Learn how — and why — to boost your dietary lysine intake.

Lysine is one of nine essential amino acids, meaning that your body cannot make it on its own and that you must obtain it from your diet. Lysine plays a key role in growth and muscle cell turnover and helps mobilize fat cells from storage in your body to be burned for energy. 

Forget cranberry juice — lysine is a better bet to protect against cold sores.

Research also shows that getting adequate lysine can protect against cold sores and reduce their duration, and it also can improve calcium absorption to help strengthen bones. Boost your dietary lysine intake by eating plenty of meat, seafood, fish and dairy, as well as potatoes, avocados, beans and nuts.

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The prognosis was grim, but Cheyann Shaw knew she would triumph — and she did.

“I am sorry sweetie, you have cancer.” It was 2016 when 23-year-old Cheyann Shaw first heard those words. The diagnosis: low-grade serous ovarian cancer. “Ovarian cancer survival is statistically pretty low, but it is even lower for the sub-type that I had,” Shaw says. “But I knew I was going to win, even if the odds were stacked against me.”

Her fighting spirit came as no surprise. Shaw had always been competitive, and growing up she played baseball with the boys, raced BMX (and became a five-time state champion!), played soccer, ran track and field, and earned all-state honors for basketball. An ACL injury ended her basketball career when she was 20, but Shaw never stopped striving for excellence.

From Stage to Surgery

Before her diagnosis, Shaw had seen a friend compete in a bodybuilding competition and was inspired to try it herself. Soon enough, she hit the stage at 130 pounds and 14 percent body fat for her first NPC bikini competition. It was then that she first began to see symptoms of her illness. “I was throwing up, my stomach was cramping and I could hardly walk,” she remembers. She was officially diagnosed the following June and started chemotherapy shortly thereafter.

That fall, Shaw underwent a six-hour surgery during which doctors performed a full hysterectomy and removed parts of her bladder, colon and small intestine. They also completely removed her gallbladder, several lymph nodes, her appendix, her spleen and five cancerous tumors — one was the size of a beach ball and completely filled her pelvis.

“After my surgery, I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror,” Shaw says. “I was 97 pounds and bald, I had an ileostomy bag, and was practically skin and bones. Then I looked at my face and I looked so sad. I decided in that moment that I had to get my smile back. I knew I had to learn how to love myself at all stages of life. I didn’t look like my old self, but I was still me.”

Cheyann Shaw, before beating cancer.

Kicking Cancer’s Butt

For Shaw, the path back to health was about gaining strength — and weight. “After surgery, I was only 2 pounds away from needing a feeding tube,” she says. Working with a hospital nutritionist and a fitness coach, Shaw focused on eating a more plant-based diet in order to gain back some weight.

She also went back to the gym, despite her insecurities. “People kept looking at me — I had no hair and looked like a skeleton,” Shaw says. “But I put my headphones on and felt great. I was ready to kick cancer’s butt.”

Two more surgeries and three years later, Shaw weighed in at a healthy 125 pounds
and was cancer-free. To celebrate, she returned to the competition stage at the Christian Guzman Summer Shredding Classic in the transformation category.
Needless to say she was the victor — in more ways than one.

Cheyann Shaw, after beating cancer.


Location: Seattle

Age: 27

Height: 5’6”

Weight before cancer: 130

Weight after cancer: 125

Occupation: Online personal trainer

Favorite healthy recipe: Sweet and sour tofu with quinoa

Inspirational words: “There is always light in the darkness.”

Favorite moves: “Deadlifts because they hit almost every muscle group in my body and they make me feel so powerful. And for shoulders, the seated dumbbell shoulder press is my favorite.”

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Turn your home or backyard into the ultimate sporting arena.

Ever since the Greeks held the very first Olympics in 776 B.C., human beings have been obsessed with athletic competition. We lift. We climb. We run. We throw. Any manner of physical exertion can become sport, but most competitions target single or specific events, movements and skills — until now. 

Enter DEKAFIT — the Decathlon of Functional Fitness — created by Spartan Race experts. “We wanted to create something that was straightforward and accessible to any range of fitness,” explains Yancy Culp, a Spartan master coach who serves as the DEKAFIT sport development manager. This grueling gauntlet consists of 5,000 total meters of running interspersed with 10 unique events that test strength, endurance and mobility. Your results are tabulated into a “DEKA Score,” which can be used to see your ranking among the worldwide masses, from beginners to weekend warriors to elite athletes. 

Culp created this at-home DIY workout exclusively for Oxygen readers, noting that each DIY Zone should be preceded by a 500-meter walk or run. “Run 250 meters out and back down your street,” Culp suggests. “You can also do a two- to three-minute bike ride instead.” Use this plan to prepare for an upcoming DEKAFIT event or organize a fun friends-and-family weekend competition — loser does the dishes!

Test Your Mettle

How long does it take you to complete the DIY Decathlon?

DIY Zone 1

Weighted Alternating Reverse Lunge

Weighted Alternating Reverse Lunge

Doubles for DEKAFIT reverse lunge with a 33-pound Spartan RAMroller

Reps: 30 (15 each leg)

Equipment: Sandbag, dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plate, barbell or Spartan RAMroller

  • Hold a sandbag across your upper back and shoulders and grasp a handle in each hand. Take a large step backward with one leg and bend both knees to lunge straight down toward the ground. When your legs and hips make 90-degree angles, push off your rear foot and return to the start. Continue, alternating sides, maintaining a  controlled but aggressive cadence.

Training Tip: No weights? Get creative. “I love using a rock because it pretty much pushes all excuses out — we can always find a rock somewhere,” Culp says.

DIY Zone 2

Exercise-Band Squat and Row

Exercise-Band Squat and Row

Doubles for DEKAFIT 500-meter row

Time: 2 minutes

Equipment: Thick exercise band, rope or towel

  • Wrap your band (rope or towel) around a pole or another stationary object that can support your full bodyweight at shoulder height. Take an end in each hand and step away from the anchor point to create some tension. Lean back slightly while keeping your body straight from head to heels with your feet flat and your elbows bent. Bend your knees and hips to lower into a deep squat as you simultaneously extend your arms, then drive your elbows back as you quickly stand up. Repeat for two minutes at a vigorous pace.

Training Tip: This exercise essentially mimics a rowing movement while standing, Culp says. “Picture that in your mind as you’re learning the motion: driving with your feet to give power to your row as you pull with your arms.”

DIY Zone 3

Box Jump Up and Over

Box Jump Up and Over

Doubles for DEKAFIT 24-inch box jump up and over

Reps: 20

Equipment: Box, platform, tree stump or bench

  • Stand facing a stump with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Bend your knees and hips and swing your arms behind you to load up your posterior chain, then quickly extend your legs and hips and swing your arms forward to jump up on top of the stump, landing with soft knees and light feet. Continue over the stump and jump off the other side. Turn around and repeat.

Training Tip: “You can do step-up and overs instead, and if you don’t have a bench or platform, you can substitute stationary knee tuck jumps,” Culp says.

DIY Zone 4

Weighted Sit-Up to Wall Touch

Weighted Sit-Up to Wall Touch

Doubles for DEKAFIT 14-pound medicine-ball sit-up to target throw

Reps: 25

Equipment: Dumbbell, medicine ball, kettlebell, sandbag or rock

  • Lie faceup with your toes tucked into the base of a wall, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell behind your head with your elbows bent. In one fluid motion, lift the dumbbell forward in an arc and sit up, extending your arms and touching the weight to the wall in front of you. Reverse the steps to return to the start.

Training Tip: Make this more challenging by passing the dumbbell to a partner, Culp suggests.

DIY Zone 5

Exercise-Band “Skierg” Pulldown

Exercise-Band “Skierg” Pulldown

Doubles for DEKAFIT 500-meter SkiErg pull

Time: 2 minutes

Equipment: Lightweight exercise bands

  • Anchor two lightweight bands above your head — for example, around the top pole of a swing set. Grasp one in each hand with your arms extended and step away to create some tension. In one fluid motion, bend your knees and drop your hips into a shallow squat as you pull the bands down and around in a circle. Extend your legs as your hands come above your head and repeat, using a steady cadence without a pause or hitch in your motion.

Training Tip: “If you don’t have a band, use a rope or towel wrapped around a sturdy object,” Culp says. “You’ll hold this as you jump off the ground and pull yourself upward using your arms with
each rep.”

DIY Zone 6

Farmer’s Carry

Farmer’s Carry

Doubles as DEKAFIT 40-pound (each hand) farmer’s carry

Distance: 100 meters

Equipment: Two dumbbells, kettlebells or buckets of sand/water

  • Hold a weight in each hand at your sides with your shoulders down and your lats engaged. Take small, quick steps forward, keeping your core tight and your chest lifted to prevent the weights from swinging back and forth.

Training Tip: “This is all about grip strength and endurance, so any sort of weight will do,” Culp says. “I’ve done this by loading up two reusable cloth grocery bags.”

DIY Zone 7

Bodyweight Step-Down with Band Push/Pull

Bodyweight Step-Down with Band Push/Pull

Doubles for DEKAFIT 25-calorie Assault bike ride

Time: 2 minutes

Equipment: Bench, box or platform and resistance-band loop

  • Stand on top of a bench and hold a resistance-band loop with both hands at shoulder height. Step back behind you off the bench and lightly touch your foot to the ground as you simultaneously extend your opposite arm straight and pull your same-side elbow back. Immediately stand back up onto the bench and repeat on the opposite side. Continue, alternating sides.

Training Tip: The upper-body motion should be continuous, as with an elliptical trainer or Assault bike. “Never release tension on the band,” Culp says.

DIY Zone 8

Sandbag Clean

Sandbag Clean

Doubles for DEKAFIT 40-pound medicine-ball clean-and-throw

Reps: 20

Equipment: Sandbag, medicine ball, kettlebell, dumbbells, weighted barbell or rock

  • Stand over a sandbag with your feet shoulder-width apart, legs turned out slightly from your hips. Keep your core tight and back straight as you drop your hips and bend your knees to take a firm grip on the sandbag with both hands, arms straight and chest lifted. Quickly extend your legs and hips and drive your elbows upward to lift the sandbag straight up along the front of your body. When it reaches shoulder level, flip your forearms underneath and “catch” it across your upper chest and clavicle. Reverse the steps to return to the start.

Training Tip: “Try finishing each rep by extending the weight away from you at the top of the clean, as if you were about to toss it without actually letting it go,” Culp says.

DIY Zone 9

Running Wall Push

Running Wall Push

Doubles for DEKAFIT 100-meter “Tank” push/pull

Time: 2 minutes

Equipment: Wall

  • Face a wall and place both hands flat against it at chest height, elbows bent. Lean into the wall as you run quickly in place, driving yourself forward with force as if pushing a heavy object down a field.

Training Tip: To mimic both the pushing and pulling actions of the Tank — essentially a weighted sled — pair the wall push with rounds of the exercise-band squat and row from DIY Zone 2, Culp suggests.

DIY Zone 10

Weighted Burpee

Weighted Burpee

Doubles for DEKAFIT 22-pound RAMroller weighted burpee

Reps: 20

Equipment: Dumbbells, medicine ball, kettlebells or
Spartan RAMroller

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Crouch, place the dumbbells on the ground and jump your feet behind you into a plank. Bend your elbows and perform a push-up, then jump your feet back outside your hands, drop your hips and stand up pressing the weights overhead at the top.

Training Tip: Try using a sandbag for a different kind of stimulus. Culp suggests snatching the bag from the ground to overhead instead of doing a clean-and-press. “That’s the fastest and most explosive way to complete the lift, taking less than one second,” he says.

Make Your (DEKA) Mark

Although the rollout was (understandably) delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spartan organization is hoping to reschedule its DEKAFIT events to launch in the fall of 2020. (Follow on Instagram @deka-fit for more info.) Should you choose to accept the challenge, here is what to expect:

  • A standardized, climate-controlled indoor venue to eliminate the uncertainties of terrain or natural interference.
  • Tiered waves of 20 individual competitors running at one time.
  • Ten fitness stations (DEKA Zones) to test all manner of strength, endurance, balance, coordination and mobility.
  • Five events with resistance-based exercises scored by completion time, and five events using weighted implements and a prescribed number of reps.
  • A running track around the perimeter of the event area on which to run 1.5 laps (500 meters) at the contest start and in between DEKA Zones.
  • An overall DEKA Score encompassing 21 individual time splits: 10 laps of 500 meters each, 10 individual DEKA Zone times and a Zone transition time. 

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