Nutrition is often seen as a belief system. In other words, the answer to “What should I eat?” is often based on faith, magical thinking, emotional attachments, and/or what feels “truthy”, rather than on real evidence or the scientific method. Until we fix this, nutrition will get more confusing, not less.


Imagine the Google search by someone who wants to eat better.

They might want to lose weight. Or build muscle. Or stay a little healthier so they can play with their grandkids longer.

So they might look for terms like:

Healthy eating.

Healthy diet.

Good nutrition.

The result? Well…

“Healthy eating” gave me 63.6 million options.

“Healthy diet” gave me 188 million options.

And “Good nutrition” gave me a whopping 213 million options.

When I check out some of these search engine results, I notice something.

Each of these websites has a story to tell: A story about which diet, supplement, food, or nutrition practice someone believes is best.

Many of these stories completely contradict each other.

But they have one thing in common: The authors treat nutrition like it’s a set of beliefs, there for their own picking and choosing.

Unfortunately, “nutrition” is often seen as a belief system.

But beliefs don’t necessarily have anything to do with facts.

When we believe something, we choose to accept that it’s true, which may or may not have anything to do with factual certainty.

This approach of “believing” is frequently applied to nutrition.

As in:

“I believe that sugar is poison.”

“I don’t believe that humans were meant to eat grains.”

“I believe in only eating foods that are natural and organic.”

In other words, the answer to “What should I eat?” is often based on faith, magical thinking, emotional attachments, and/or what feels “truthy”, rather than on science.

Yet nutrition is not a belief system.

Nutrition is a science.

I’m a strength coach and Precision Nutrition Certified nutrition specialist.

(I completed the Level 1 Certification in 2013 and I’m now in the middle of the Level 2 Certification Master Class).

Most of my work is with professional and amateur athletes. And my job is to use nutrition (plus strength and conditioning) to get my clients the results they want.

When your meal strategy can be the difference between getting a multi-million dollar contract and not, there is no room for “hoping” the nutrition will work.

I can’t go on faith alone. My clients’ careers literally depend on me doing my job well. Which is why the scientific method, not beliefs, govern my practice.

For example, my client Ronda Rousey, a mixed martial artists, model, and actress, doesn’t care about what I believe about food. She only cares about what I know about nutrition’s effect on her body and performance.

That’s why I need to ensure that my nutrition recommendations are based on measurable, accurate reality. On science. On the best evidence that we have right now.

And physiology is physiology.

Believing something, or wanting it to be true, or feeling it should be true doesn’t mean it is true.

Physiology (like chemistry, like physics) follows certain known principles.

That’s why we research things like macronutrients, hydration, and/or supplementation. That’s why we try to understand the biochemistry of digestion and metabolism. That’s why we learn about things like osmotic gradients and the physical structures of cells and molecules.

It’s why we ask questions like these:

And we use a particular method for determining the answers.

These are just a few examples, of course. As you can imagine, scientists have thousands of questions about optimal nutrition, and they’ve answered some questions more thoroughly than others.

But, in short, we’re trying to understand as much as possible about the biochemistry of digestion and metabolism, so we nerd out about things like osmotic gradients and the physical structures of cells and molecules.

Knowing the science behind the field allows us to make evidence-based recommendations to create a known physiological effect.

Will honey and cinnamon “rev my metabolism”?

Some people believe this (or want others to believe it).

But nobody knows.

Will creatine monohydrate improve my power output?

Now we’re talking.

We know some things about creatine monohydrate and its effect on the body, because it’s been scientifically studied.

Creatine monohydrate has a known chemical structure.

Creatine monohydrate has a known mechanism of action. It increases the phosphocreatine stores in your muscle. This can then be used to produce more ATP (energy), which is a key source of fuel for power, heavy lifting, and anaerobic events.

We know this because we have carefully experimented and objectively measured what happens. We’ve also reproduced those findings over and over.

See how that played out?

One claim is speculation based on, perhaps (I’m guessing) rumors about blood sugar and metabolism along with a few studies about cinnamon as an antioxidant?

The other is fact based on a documented physiological outcome.

The big problem:
Most people start with the internet.

Wondering what to put in your smoothie? What to eat before you work out? How much bacon you should eat?

There are all sorts of answers on Google, not to mention Facebook and Instagram.

You don’t have to look far to discover a charismatic person with an excellent body and sales pitch offering up their own beliefs as a “protocol” or “system”.

These systems tend to include:

  • A set of certain foods and/or supplements to eat. (Like acai berries hand-picked at sunrise.)
  • A set of certain foods to avoid. (Nothing a caveman wouldn’t eat. Nothing that isn’t “natural”. Nothing that’s been sold, bought or processed.)
  • Rules about how much to eat, when to eat (or not eat), and possibly even where to eat. (No food after 6:30 pm!)

If the belief system (or the person who invented it) is compelling or “truthy” enough, it can be pretty tempting to believe them.

After all, many of these “systems” come with lots of reasons to believe, including:

  • Irresistible promises
  • Clever branding
  • Photos, graphics, and other visual “evidence”
  • Testimonials and/or celebrity endorsements
  • Powerful personal stories (“If this guy did it, I can too!”)
  • Sex appeal
  • Scholarly citations pointing to studies that turn out to be poorly designed, fatally biased, or not yet replicated (a hallmark of — you guessed it — actual scientific fact)

Before you know it, you can’t remember the last time you didn’t put honey and cinnamon in your oatmeal…and yogurt…and tea.

We’re not bad for wishing something were true.

Just like Fox Mulder, sometimes we want to believe.

It’s very human, actually.

Belief systems can bring us comfort. Following a clear set of rules can be a huge relief to those of us that find nutrition confusing or overwhelming.

Belief systems can also make us feel like we’re part of something: A community that shares our values, aspirations, and desires. We may feel a sense of importance, identity, and belonging.

Bonus: We’re closer to our goals… together!

Not to mention, these beliefs usually promise the things we desire the most, whether it’s sparkling clean health, glowing skin, freakishly awesome performance, the body we’ve always wanted, or all of the above.

When we buy into a belief system, we’re looking for help. We want to make a change, or finally find a solution to a problem that’s bothered us for a long time.

That’s completely normal and natural.

The people who start or share a belief system aren’t bad, either. Most of them are good, genuine, positive people just trying to make other people’s lives better.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to believe.

Or wishing some things were true.

The problem happens when we base our own health decisions on emotional bias or the rules of a certain philosophy… and either ignore what science has to say about the facts, or perhaps have no idea whether such facts even exist.

Science is anything but simple.

It would be great if there was a single ingredient to cure cancer, or a single exercise to get you ripped.

But physiology isn’t simple, and neither is science. Especially nutrition science.

You might be able to find a study to support nearly any nutrition-related belief you want. This is especially true if the study was small, or sponsored by a particular interest (like a supplement company).

People who read research understand this. They understand the weight that the particular evidence holds, and where it is placed in the hierarchy of nutritional importance.

But a new trainer in the industry, or a mother looking to get back in shape, or a dude who just got a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, may not know the difference. They may assume that if it was demonstrated in one study, it is a fact.

This isn’t how science works, and it’s not how the truth is discovered.

Did you know that drinking alcohol increases muscle tone?

Don’t believe me?

Well, imagine I’m telling you this while shirtless, smiling shiny white teeth, and sporting a six-pack:

“In 2013, a double-blind clinical trial found that men increased testosterone 17% after a low dose of alcohol. In 1987, another study found similar testosterone-increasing results. Finally, a 2000 study showed that alcohol also increases testosterone levels in women.

Understanding that alcohol increases testosterone, and knowing that as testosterone goes up, so does our muscle mass and strength, I conclude that we should all get drunk to get jacked! (Results may vary.)”

Of course this isn’t true though, right?

Because that would be ignoring:

  • Other data that suggest alcohol actually lowers testosterone, and the two studies that show it has no effect.
  • Data on how alcohol can harm our health and fitness.
  • The fact that alcohol contains 7 kcals per gram, which adds up quickly when you get drinking (especially if you add mixes), and then normally increases appetite shortly afterwards, which leads to further snacking. (Street meat anyone?).
  • The fact that I am always fully clothed when telling clients stuff.

Instead of picking just one study, you have to look at all studies on that topic to see where the overall weight of the evidence lies.

But let’s get real.

People are busy.

Health and fitness clients don’t usually have the time, the experience, nor the interest to pore over research. They have jobs and lives.

So it can be easy to fall into the trap of taking one or two studies as gospel — especially if those results are delivered to you by a charismatic speaker with a great body. Enter my new supplement: Buff Booze!

What’s the harm in believing?

In the Precision Nutrition’s Certification programs, they talk about scope of practice. It’s crucial for health and fitness pros to:

  • Know what they know, and what they don’t know.

In other words, to make appropriate, evidence-based recommendations about nutrition, it’s not enough to simply:

  • Have made a big change to your own body (such as losing weight, or succeeding at a new sport).
  • Follow some blogs.
  • Have a stack of health and fitness magazines on the back of the toilet.

These are a great way to begin. I didn’t know stuff when I was new to the field, either. That’s why we learn and practice… and practice and learn… and then practice and learn some more.

But leaning on those methods of “research” — aka believing instead of knowing — can be dangerous.

There’s an old saying:

You know just enough to be dangerous.

For starters, beliefs without evidence can cause physical harm.

Nutrition can affect the human body’s systems dramatically — that’s the amazing power and opportunity, and it’s why we coaches love this field.

The downside is that doing the wrong things can change our bodies in ways we don’t want.

Back in the mid-to-late 1800s, a man named Wilbur Atwater had a Ph.D. from Yale in agricultural chemistry.

He measured the calories and macronutrients in hundreds of foods to eventually come to the conclusion that the only two elements that humans needed to be concerned with when creating their diet were:

  • protein, and
  • total calories.

He wrote newspaper columns, lectured, and told anyone who would listen about his beliefs. He truly believed that this was the solution to human nutrition and even poverty.

He was a well-respected scientist doing real research in a lab. Yet he didn’t have all the knowledge he needed to make the right recommendations.

Instead, he told everyone to eat fewer vegetables (because they were low calorie and low protein), while eating more fatty pork.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, can’t it?

Atwater’s diet eliminates:

Thanks to research, we now know that all of these play their own unique role in health. Cutting out all of these nutrients is downright dangerous.

Now, this is an extreme example, perhaps.

But some of the most popular belief-based diets today have adherents alter their nutrition choices in strange and/or misguided ways. They:

  • Completely give up grains, beans, and legumes
  • Swear off all fat
  • Eat only raw food
  • Base their intake on a single food (e.g. grapefruit, cabbage)
  • Eschew solid food
  • Only drink “detoxing” juices
  • Hold their daily calorie intake to some “magic” number, like 600
  • Replace all carbs with bacon

These diets either selectively use research (for instance, a study in rats showing that grape juice prevents tumors — time for the magic anti-cancer grape juice diet!) or get stuck on small details while missing the big picture.

Also, beliefs without evidence can prevent the health and fitness industry from making progress.

Most people working as health and fitness pros chose this industry to help people change their lives for the better.

Confusing the crap out of ourselves (and clients) with these weird belief-based “systems” does not support that goal.

When we choose belief over fact, we don’t just hold ourselves, and our clients, back. We hold the entire industry back.

Let’s commit to improving everyone’s nutrition knowledge.

Our collective job as coaches is to create the healthiest and happiest people in the world.

How do we do that?

Treating nutrition as a science, instead of a belief system, is a strong step in the right direction.

As is constantly pushing to improve our own knowledge, and thinking critically about our convictions.

Nutrition science is a big field. We can’t know everything, and certainly not all at once.

But we can commit to putting the beliefs away and embracing a lifelong process of learning, studying, thinking critically, and applying evidence-based analysis to every decision and recommendation we make.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition.

1. Practice having an open yet critical mindset.

“Because it worked for me” is not enough evidence to recommend “it” to another person.

Be curious. Ask questions.

Explore the evidence that supports a given position. Be aware of why nutrition science is so complicated. Ask for scientific references, and then scrutinize those.

And, by all means, experiment on yourself (in Precision Nutrition Coaching, we call this writing your Owner’s Manual).

Try different things. Document the effects.

Over time, that’s as legitimate a way of knowing. (Make sure you’re always tracking and revisiting, though — bodies do change!)

2. Live in the middle ground.

Biology rarely operates in extremes. Only in very specific contexts (for example, actual diagnosed Celiac disease) do “always” and “never” have value.

So be suspicious of “always” or “never” language in nutrition talk.

Instead, try “some people” and “sometimes” and “it depends”.

For example, a coach might insist that everything should be “100% natural” or else it’s bad. But just because something has been processed in some way does always not make it inferior.

In some cases, processing can actually improve the desired effect and/or nutritional profile. For example, in 2011 the Journal of Nutrition published a report showing that without supplements or enriched foods:

  • 100% of Americans would not get enough Vitamin D.
  • 93% not enough Vitamin E.
  • 88% not enough folate.
  • 74% not enough Vitamin A.
  • 51% not enough thiamin.
  • 46% not enough Vitamin C.
  • 22% not enough Vitamin B6.

Sure, maybe there’s some “perfect” diet floating around out there, but for most of us, having a few fortified foods and even synthetic vitamins in the roster is probably a good idea. A diet full of processed, fortified foods and synthetic vitamins, not so good.

3. Notice when words and concepts trigger emotions.

Most belief-based nutrition systems are couched in marketing that purposely gets you worked up, maybe by poking at your traumas, insecurities, or ego (the current “clean eating” craze is a good example).

Recognize when you feel “pulled” by a certain idea.

Ask yourself, am I considering this “system” for the right reasons? Am I looking for an “easy” solution because I feel sad/frustrated/lost/stressed today?

4. Scrutinize claims that are tied to financial gain.

For example:

“Eat as much as you like and still lose weight!”
(A real-life claim aimed at selling a diet book.)

“Ripped abs in 1 minute!”
(Real claim. Workout DVD this time.)

“Control insulin levels, decrease blood sugar, speed metabolism, lower LDL cholesterol, burn belly fat and suppress appetite!”
(Real claims from the makers of a cinnamon supplement. That’s right, cinnamon.)

In my teen years, I spent unthinkable quantities of my hard-earned McDonald’s money on ineffective testosterone boosters and nitric oxide products.

Trust me bro, I was getting “jacked”.

In this marriage between beliefs and profit, science didn’t show up to the ceremony.

5. Be skeptical of one-size-fits-all approaches.

Trying to use the exact same macronutrient ratio (for example) serve every human’s needs and goals is a telltale sign that a coach needs more knowledge and/or has an emotional connection with the plan.

Humans are unique, complex systems. They should be treated as such.

There is no one best diet. Any plan should be a system that’s based on evidence, and truly reflects the client’s unique lifestyle, goals, and needs.

6. Get qualified coaching.

If you don’t feel confident reading research or understanding the science, consider finding a Precision Nutrition Certified coach or enrolling in the Certification yourself.

Knowledge is power.

Passionate about fitness and nutrition?

If so, and you’d like to learn more about it, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. Our next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the industry’s most respected education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how nutrition influences a person’s health and fitness.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients, 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 nutrition and fitness pros 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, April 3rd, 2019.

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 to boost your education, and take your nutrition game to the next level, let’s go down the rabbit hole together.


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

The post Nutrition is not a belief system. Why wishful thinking won’t get you results, but science might. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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To get great results with the people who turn to you for advice, it’s important to learn how to talk to them in a way that increases their likelihood of change. Master this and you’ll become a legit client (or patient) whisperer.

Here we’ll teach you Precision Nutrition’s method for doing just that, adapted from our newly updated Level 1 Certification program.


When first starting out with a client or patient, things can feel a little uncertain.

Especially if you’ve had this experience before:

Client shows up, you work hard on them, they disappear (no closer to their goals), you scramble to find another client, they begin, and the process repeats.

What’s gone wrong?

Well, it’s probably not your program.

It’s probably not that people are “lazy” or “unmotivated”.

Often, the problem is “coach talk”.

To achieve better, faster, lasting results — and a thriving coaching practice — you have to learn how to talk to people in ways that help them change.

(By the way, this applies whether you have paying clients/patients or not. When people come to you for advice, good “coach talk” is paramount.)

If you can’t do this now, it’s not your fault.

Almost nobody in health, fitness, and wellness learns this skill in school, or through certification programs. The people who are good at it are often either “naturals” or they develop the skill through trial and error over decades.

Don’t get discouraged.

There is a formula for success.

Learn and practice this formula, and you’ll start:

  • connecting better with clients and patients,
  • keeping those clients and patients longer, and
  • getting better results, reliably.

In this article, we’ll teach you the formula.

We’ll cover:

  • How to know which coaching style to use.
  • How you can be a more engaged and active listener.
  • How you can help people change by changing the way you talk to them.
  • How you can incorporate this in your coaching… starting today.

Of course, this article is just a start.
There’s so much more you can learn.

That’s why we’ve included an entire unit — 300 pages, 9 chapters, and 9 comprehensive video lectures — on these practical aspects of coaching in our newly updated Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification program.

(In case you’re wondering, the other 300 pages, 8 chapters, and 8 video lectures are devoted to the most up-to-date scientific findings in cell physiology, digestion, energy transfer, nutrient biochemistry, and more.)


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.

There’s a lot of awesome new stuff here that you can start using right away to help others eat, move, and live better. So make sure you stock up on reading glasses, coffee, and highlighters. This is a hefty learning experience.

The program opens up on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019.

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, onto the coaching techniques…

Avoiding Awfulness-Based Coaching

The health and fitness fields are full of scary-looking, arms-crossed disciplinarian-type coaches: men and women who look like they’re more ready to punch you in the face than pick you up when you’re down.

Their favorite phrase is “No excuses.”

These types of coaches aren’t really meanies.

They’re just trying to do the right thing. They genuinely want to help.

If you’re working in one of these fields yourself, maybe you’ve occasionally slipped into this mindset, or gotten it from someone else.

We call it Awfulness-Based Coaching.

Awfulness-Based Coaching is built on the idea that people are broken and have to be fixed.

That they’re lazy and weak. That they need a real ass-kicking to be motivated and strong.

This style of coaching focuses on what’s wrong with the person — and how to purge it.

It hunts down “flaws” and “failures”, and focuses on “fixing” them.

It views good nutrition, movement, and health habits as something people have to be shamed into. It tells people to get into the gym and work off sins. It tells people that they deserve to feel bad.

An awfulness-based coach is a drill sergeant and an unrelenting ass-kicker.

With all the yelling-in-the-face and booting-in-the-butt, folks don’t know which direction to run. They just know they need to get away.

Fear of an authority figure — or a constant obsession over fixing what’s broken — can motivate some people… but only briefly.

Extreme approaches and drill-sergeant-style coaching sometimes produces impressive results in the short term, but they almost never work over the long term.

As human beings, we resist being pressured into new decisions. We resist being told we suck, or are broken (no matter how nicely someone says it).

Coach Hardass may try to use coercion. But along the way, he or she will destroy the change process for the people turning to them for advice.

No evidence shows that feeling bad creates lasting behavior changes.

(And honestly… Awfulness-Based Coaching is exhausting. Coach Hardasses usually walk around frustrated and annoyed all the time, because almost no one is doing what they want.)

Embracing Awesomeness-Based Coaching

Awesomeness-Based Coaching, on the other hand, believes that people already have the skills and abilities to change.

That they’re already awesome in some areas of their lives.

That they can use this existing awesomeness to succeed.

This kind of coach helps people find what’s fun and joyful in their lives, and then do more of it. They view nutritious eating, movement, and health habits as a path to living life with purpose.

They talk to folks about getting outside to play. About using what they do well in other aspects of their lives to do well here. They talk about feeling good in their bodies and in their lifestyle, not ashamed or exhausted.

An awesomeness-based coach is a guide, not an authoritarian or expert.

When people are hesitant, the coach empowers by helping them find their superpowers and leveraging them to achieve health and fitness success.

You don’t want people scared of you. You don’t want them to feel like you’re constantly judging them unacceptable, inadequate, weak, or broken.

You want them to feel like you’re on their team.

You want them to feel like working with you is a celebration of health and fitness. You want them to feel stronger when they’re with you.

And the best place to start is with how you use language, ask questions, and provoke gentle self-discovery.

Unlike Awfulness-Based Coaching, Awesomeness-Based Coaching feels great.

It feels exciting. It feels inspiring. It feels energizing.

You are a team and you celebrate successes and joys together.

Even better, people get great results, and they stick with you. That feels great too.

If you want to be an effective coach, here’s how to start: Listen and learn.

As a coach, you want to help people:

  • become aware of what they are doing, thinking, and feeling,
  • examine and analyze their habits and behaviors,
  • explore what’s holding them back, and
  • try some new and better choices.

You also want to help them discover their own existing strengths, resources, abilities, and problem-solving talents, which they can then use to help and motivate themselves.

One of the simplest ways to do that is just asking the right kinds of questions.

Exploring questions:

Open-ended questions help people explore options, values, and possible outcomes, without judgment. They also help the coach learn more about what matters to the person.

  • “What things are most important to you? How does your exercise and eating fit into this?”
  • “What sorts of things would you like to accomplish in your life?”
  • “What would you like to see change?”
  • “If things were better with your eating/exercise, what would be different?”
  • “What have you already tried? What worked/didn’t work?”

Imagining questions:

Imagination (yes, just like in kindergarten) helps folks visualize a new way of living and acting.

  • “Imagine you can X (your goal). Describe your experience.”
  • “Imagine you are already doing more of X. What would that feel like?”
  • “Imagine that you have the body and health you desire. What did it take for you to achieve it?”
  • “If you weren’t constrained by reality — let’s imagine for a minute that absolutely anything is possible — what might you…?”

Solution-focused questions:

Solution-focused language emphasizes how people have already succeeded and helps them expand the awesome.

  • “In the past, when were you successful with this, even just a little bit?”
  • “How could we do more of that?”
  • “Where in your life have you been successful with something like this?”
  • “Did you learn any lessons that we can apply here?”
  • Where is the problem not happening? When are things even a little bit better?

Statements that sense into problems:

Non-confrontational, reflective observations and intuitions help folks explore a problem and feel understood, without fear of judgment.

  • “I get the sense that you may be struggling with…”
  • “It seems to me like you’re feeling…”

Statements that evoke speculation:

Open-ended, speculative statements get people thinking and responding to possible choices.

  • “I wonder what it would be like if you…”
  • “I wonder if we could try…”
  • “I’m curious about whether…”

Questions that evoke change talk:

With these kinds of questions, you get the person talking about change on their own terms.

  • “In what ways does this concern you?”
  • “If you decided to make a change, what makes you think you could do it?”
  • “How would you like things to be different?”
  • “How would things be better if you changed?”
  • “What concerns you now about your current exercise and eating patterns?”

Questions that assess readiness:

If a person isn’t ready, willing, and able to change, they won’t change — no matter how awesome you are as a coach. So, assess their readiness with these kinds of questions (and recognize that sometimes, they may not be ready… yet).

  • “If you decided to change, on a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that you could change, when 1 represents not at all confident and 10 equals extremely confident?”
  • “If you wanted to change, what would be the tiniest possible step toward that? The absolute smallest, easiest thing you could try?”
  • “Tell me what else is going on for you right now, in your life. What else do you have on your plate besides this? Let’s get a sense of what you’re working with.”

Questions that help plan next steps:

These are questions that have folks generate their own solutions as opposed to you telling them what to do next.

  • “So, given all this, what do you think you will do next?”
  • “What’s next for you?”
  • “If nothing changes, what do you see happening in five years?”
  • “If you decide to change, what will it be like?”
  • “How would you like things to be different?”

Careful advice-giving:

These are ways of giving advice without assuming you have permission (and without it feeling like you’re pushing an agenda).

  • “Would it be okay if I shared some of my experiences with you?”
  • “In my work with clients/patients, I’ve found that…”

Use the 80 / 20 rule.

Notice how we’ve given you over 25 ways to actively listen, and only 2 ways to talk about what you think.

You should try to spend about 80-90% of your time listening, understanding, observing and exploring, and only about 10-20% of your time guiding, directing, and offering information.

How might this look in a real situation?

Scenario 1: Use a “change talk wedge”.

1. Validate and affirm the opposite of what they should be doing.

When someone is expressing ambivalence about change, you might start by reflecting on why they might NOT change. (Yeah, it sounds weird.)

You might say something like:

“Wow, it really sounds like you have a lot on your plate. I can see how it’s tough to schedule exercise time.”


“I know it can be hard to resist those homemade brownies. They’re so good.”

Note: Be sincere here. Genuinely empathize. Sarcasm usually backfires and creates hostility.

2. Then wait.

After validating and affirming the opposite, be quiet.

Don’t be afraid to open up the space and let them fall into it. No rush. Be patient, empathetic, and attentive.

Let the person speak first.

This will feel like forever, but might only be a couple of seconds.

3. Listen for “change talk”.

When folks do start talking, they’ll often start telling you why they should change their behaviors.


“Yeah, I know I do have a lot going on. But I really should do XYZ. I know I would feel better.”


“Honestly, I don’t think I really need three brownies. I’d probably be happy with just one.”

4. Drive the wedge into that “change talk” opening.

Once you hear them suggesting change on their own, you’re getting somewhere.

Using their language, reflect and imply (but don’t push) a next action. Focus on concrete to-dos.


“It sounds like maybe you think you’d feel better if you did XYZ?”


“It sounds like maybe 1 brownie would be enough for you?”

Position this in the form of a question. Look inquisitive.

You’re simply reciting what they just said, as if to make sure you heard them right.

5. Wait again.

Stay quiet.

Wait for the person to speak again.

Listen for further change talk.

6. Repeat as needed.

Keep wiggling the “change wedge” in farther and farther, slowly. Go at their speed.

And, once you feel like they’re ready for a next action, you can go there by asking them:

“So, given all this, what do you think you’ll do next?”

But not too fast. Let them arrive there at their own speed.

Scenario 2: Use “the continuum”.

You can use this after listening for change talk. But be sure you understand the situation first.

With this strategy, have people imagine a spectrum or continuum of behaviors from worse (i.e. eating fast food for every single meal) to better (i.e. replacing just one fast food meal today with good quality protein and vegetables).


1. Help them move a “notch”.

Highlight the benefits of doing so.


“OK, so it sounds like you want to do X (i.e. eat less fast food). But going all the way to Y (i.e. eating no fast food) feels like too much, which makes sense. What if you could just move a tiny, tiny bit towards Y instead of all the way? What could you do that would be X+1 (i.e. eating one non-fast food meal tomorrow)?”

Now, scale back as needed:


“X+2 (i.e. eating no fast food tomorrow) is awesome — we’ll get to that. But what about X+1 instead? That seems even more manageable.”

2. Follow up with a strategy for immediate execution.

Since X+1 will be something they proposed, you can validate that it’s a good idea. And then turn it into a next step.


“X+1 sounds like a great idea! How are you going to make that happen today? And how can I help?”

3. Once an action is assigned, book a follow-up.

Now that you’ve agreed on the action plan, make sure there’s some accountability built in.


“OK, text me tomorrow to tell me how you did with X+1. If you try another option, send me a photo! I’d love to see what you chose.”

Scenario 3: Ask “crazy questions”.

If a person is struggling with change, you can also ask a few questions they may not expect.

1. Listen, validate, affirm.

Preface with “I know this is wacky but…”


“It sounds like [reiterate what they just said about their understanding of what they’d like to change].

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

2. Ask your questions.

  • “What’s GOOD about X behavior [where X behavior is the problem behavior they want to change]? In other words, what purpose does it serve in your life? How does it help you?”
  • “What is BAD about changing? In other words, what would you lose or give up if you got rid of X?”

3. Normalize and empathize.

You can begin by normalizing and empathizing with the unwanted behavior first, using the seemingly weird technique of first arguing (slightly) in favor of not changing.


“Wow, yeah, it sounds like there’s lots going on there for you. I think we’d all want a few cookies in that situation!”

Not always, but the client’s natural response will often be the opposite.


“Yeah, but I really should find a better way to deal with this…”

Hey lookee here! They proposed change, not the coach!

4. Allow space/time to grieve the loss of the status quo.


“Well, tell you what. There’s no rush to do this. When you’re ready, why don’t you try…”

  • …moving one “notch” along the continuum?
  • …doing the behavior you proposed?
  • …thinking about how you could more effectively live the values you describe?

5. But don’t let them off the hook.

Follow up in a few days as needed.

Scenario 4: Have them propose their own solution.

1. Affirm, validate, “hear”, normalize.


“Yes, I hear you and understand what you’re thinking/feeling/experiencing, and it’s quite normal. Lots of people go through this.”

2. Ask leading, rhetorical questions.

This isn’t a dialogue invitation; it’s a “tell yourself what to do” question.


“It sounds like you already have a good sense of what some of the key issues are. Knowing this, if you were the coach, what would you recommend?”

In other words: How would you, the client/patient, solve your own problem?

3. Rank confidence.

After they’ve proposed a solution, have them rank their own confidence in doing the solution.


“That’s a great solution, I really like it. Just wondering… on a scale of 0 to 10, zero being ‘no way I can do that every day’, and 10 being ‘of course I can do that every day’, how confident do you feel about X?”

4. Affirm and book follow up.

If they rank 8, 9, or 10 out of 10, tell them you think they’ve come up with a good solution and then ask them to check back in a few days to share their success.

If not, work on shrinking the next action to something they’re confident they can do every day for the next few days. The continuum exercise above is a good approach for this.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

As you can see, in all of these scenarios, the coach’s job is not to play all-knowing expert. (This goes for anyone trying to help others — like friends and family — eat better, too.) Instead:

Awesomeness-based coaches are confident, supportive guides and change facilitators.

A good coach helps folks propose their own solutions — solutions that line up with their values, and that they genuinely believe they can do. Solutions they’re ready, willing, and able to commit to, today.

And this all begins with language.

1. Recognize where you need to grow.

Ask yourself how much time you actually spend…

  • actively listening to people (versus interrupting or waiting for them to finish so you can talk next)?
  • exploring their perspective and trying to understand their point of view (versus assuming you know what they need)?
  • asking them to generate their own potential solutions or next actions first (versus just giving them advice right away)?
  • asking them what they think they could realistically try (versus just giving them instructions to follow)?

How could you move one notch along the continuum toward client/patient-centered, awesomeness-based coaching?

What’s your “X+1”?

2. Practice using some of the questions and ideas in this article.

Now you have a few sentences and phrases that are proven to help you connect with folks and unlock their potential. Tuck them in your back pocket and start using them when new opportunities present themselves.

After each session, make notes on how it’s going:

  • What changes are you seeing in how they communicate with you?
  • What seemed to resonate most?
  • What really got them talking and opening up?
  • What do you want to talk about in your next session, and — most importantly — how?

By practicing and documenting results, over time you will develop the communication skills of a successful, thriving coach.

3. Observe a coach you respect.

Practicing on your own as often as you can is essential.

But just as with athletics, in order to be the best, you probably need a coach.

Working with an expert coach will fast-track your development. So ask to sit in on a couple sessions a month, and buy your mentor a coffee afterward so you can ask follow-up questions about how they communicate effectively with their clients or patients.

Ask them to share stories. Ask for advice on how to talk to a client or patient who’s struggling, but who you really want to help.

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, April 3rd, 2019.

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 Level 1: How to talk to people so they’re more likely to change. Master this coaching skill to achieve better, lasting results. 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.


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.


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, April 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?”

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.”


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

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.


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

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.


Question #4
“Should I avoid carbs?”

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.


Question #5
“Should I avoid grains?”

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.


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

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 15 g of protein and 30-45 g of carbohydrate per hour of exercise.

Physique competitors, as well as people trying to maximize fat loss, could add essential amino acids (or branched chain amino acids) during their workout. We usually recommend 5-15 g of EAA (or BCAA) 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.


Question #7
Should I drink less alcohol?

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.


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

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.


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

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.


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

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


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

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).



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, April 3rd, 2019.

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: A cheat sheet for helping anyone hone their eating habits. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Want to know how you rank as a health, fitness, and nutrition coach? Then take this short coaching skills quiz. Not only will it help you see where you are today, it’ll help you level up for tomorrow.


The best coaches are lifelong learners.

I know this because I’m a coach, and because I’ve been around a lot of good ones. The best coaches I’ve ever seen are the ones who love to ask questions.

They love to try stuff. To play. To show up with an open mind (and heart), looking for fresh ideas and new insight to chew on.

They don’t love to fail (few people do), but they do love the feedback and useful data they get from their mistakes.

You see, great coaching requires us to wonder about the world: About how biology works, about the chemistry of food and nutrients, about biomechanics and human movement.

It also requires us to think about why people do what they do, about how stories shape reality, about what people hope, think, dream, feel, and do… on Tuesday at 3pm when it’s break time.

Plus, the best coaches in the world never shy away from asking smart questions about their own practice.

Questions like:

“How solid are my coaching skills, really?”

There is always something new to learn in coaching: Fresh ways to grow, evolve, and challenge yourself.

New ways to be curious and ask interesting questions that produce enlightening answers (and results).

Of course, mastery takes time and lots of practice. (So, so much practice.)

But this is great news for folks who want a long, lucrative, fulfilling coaching career. Because it means that if you’re dedicated to becoming an excellent coach, you’ll never, ever get bored.

Take this coaching quiz to see how you rate + learn how you can level up.

In our Level 2 Certification Master Class, we break coaching skills down into 14 areas for development and then teach coaches how to grow in each area.

In this quiz, we’ll give you a chance to assess where you are in each domain.

To complete the quiz, give yourself a score (from 0 to 5) on how well you do — consistently — in each of the 14 areas below. For each question, simply click the number that corresponds to where you think you are today.

(Be honest and real. All of us have stuff to work on. It’s rare to be perfect.)

Then read about your score and consider what it means for your career.

(Prefer to print the quiz out? Download a PDF version here.)

Domain #1: Time management

How well can you juggle a client/patient load and not miss anyone?



How well can you allocate and prioritize time properly, using trusted systems?



Do you have time for yourself — your own self-care and development?



How sustainable is your work? Could you do it this way forever?

I’m nearly dead now


Total for this section:

Domain #2: Organization

Do you know exactly how to start and end a session, and why?

No idea


Do you know how to ensure that your clients or patients get the very most out of every session?

No idea


Do you do preparation and follow-up?



Total for this section:

Domain #3: Client-centeredness

Do you understand your clients/patients? How well?

Not at all


Do you know their fears, anxieties, motivations, drives, hopes, dreams, obstacles, stories?

Not at all


How long can you listen to your clients/patients without jumping in to talk?

Just can’t


How well can you give your clients/patients your full attention?

Not at all


Can you easily find and use your clients’ or patients’ strengths and resources?

Not at all


Can you make your program fun? Interesting? Memorable?

Not at all
A blast


Total for this section:

Domain #4: Client assessment

Do you know what to look for when assessing a client or patient?



Do you know how to understand and use any information you collect?



Do you know how to set the level of challenge properly for your client/patient?



Do you know when a client/patient has made progress?



Could you explain HOW you know a client/patient has made progress?

Uh, no
In my sleep


Total for this section:

Domain #5: Understanding data and evidence

Can you read, understand, and properly interpret a research study?



Can you decide what is valid evidence or useful data?



Can you analyze information in order to take action, and help your client/patient do the same?



Can you explain to a client/patient why something works (or doesn’t)?



How well do you understand the basic facts of nutrition and physiology?

Not at all
Nobel Prize


How well can you learn and assimilate new data and information?



Total for this section:

Domain #6: Creating change

How well can you help your clients/patients get motivated to change… and keep changing?

Not at all


Can you recognize when a client/patient is truly ready, willing, and able to change?



How good are you at getting clients/patients “un-stuck”?



What about the “difficult” ones?

Ugh, no
Bring it


Total for this section:

Domain #7: Understanding systems

Effective coaching unearths complex systems — behaviors, causes, and effects with many moving parts that all interact.

How well do you understand the complexity of human bodies and physiology?

Not at all


How well do you understand the complexity of human lives and experiences?

Not at all


How comfortable are you with the idea of complexity in general?

Not at all


Total for this section:

Domain #8: Creating an effective action plan

Can you help a client/patient move from vague goal to specific “do this today” habit?



Can you get your client/patient to “buy in” to what they need to do?



Can your client/patient actually do what you suggest? Every day?



Can you adjust your plan if it isn’t working? Do you know what things to change, and how?



Total for this section:

Domain #9: Skill building and practice

How well can you teach mental and emotional skills relevant to nutrition coaching, such as mindfulness or visualization?

Not at all


How well can you teach physical skills, if you train people?

Not at all


How well can you teach life skills (such as planning and preparation) to help your clients/patients succeed?

Not at all


How good are your own skills in these domains?

No skills


Total for this section:

Domain #10: Communication and documentation

Do you communicate well in writing?

Not at all


When you speak?

Not at all


In images or video?

Not at all


How effectively can you communicate with your body language and other nonverbal cues?

Not at all


How well do you sense what a client/patient is thinking, feeling, wondering about?

Not at all


How well do you explain complex ideas or technical jargon simply and clearly so clients/patients “get it”?

Not at all


How well can you give and take feedback?

Not at all


How well do you document each client’s/patient’s progress as well as other important information about them?

Not at all


Total for this section:

Domain #11: Working with a variety of clients

Are you comfortable working with all kinds of clients/patients, from all kinds of backgrounds, with all kinds of needs?

Not at all


Can you connect and communicate with a client/patient who’s different from you?

Not at all


Total for this section:

Domain #12: Referral and support

Do you know what to do when things get weird, or go outside your scope of practice?

Not at all


Do you have a support and referral network of other professionals?

An army


Do you have your own mentors and coaches?

An army


Total for this section:

Domain #13: Business skills and professionalism

Do you conduct yourself with professionalism, integrity, and courtesy?



Do clients/patients appear to respect and trust you?



Do clients/patients enthusiastically seek out what you’re offering?



Do you have demonstrably ethical business and marketing practices?



Total for this section:

Domain #14: Handling your own stuff

Can you manage your own workload, stress, emotions, and career development?



Can you show up to coaching with integrity and feel genuine, rather than having to “perform”?



How well do you know your true self and values, and how those relate to your coaching?

Not at all


Do you have systems in place for lifelong learning and growth?

Not at all


Total for this section:

Total for the quiz:

How did you do?

We gave you a total score, but we also suggest you review your scores in each domain to see specific areas where you might improve.


You’re just starting out and finding your “coaching legs”. Good for you. Consider building your skills a little more and observing more experienced coaches before you take on nutrition and lifestyle coaching clients.


You’re working on building fundamentals. Keep practicing! Find a great mentor to spend time with, and ask clients/patients for feedback as you progress.


You’ve got a solid foundation, and probably have plenty of good coaching days. Now’s the time to study coaching methods, refine key details, and develop the nuances of your skills.


World-class supercoach!

Want strategies to level up your coaching?

It’s no secret that master coaches develop over time, through education and consistent practice, usually under the guidance of a mentor or coach.

Precision Nutrition is the only company in the world that both works with thousands of our own nutrition coaching clients and teaches health, fitness, and wellness professionals our real-world methods for getting results.

And here’s some great news: Our next Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification Master Class kicks off on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019.

Want to achieve total confidence in your coaching skills? Get (and keep) more clients? Grow and strengthen your practice? If so, the Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification is definitely for you.

It’s designed specifically for Level 1 students and grads who realize that knowing about the science of nutrition isn’t enough.

Part master class, part grad program, part mentorship, it’s the only course in the world designed to help you master the art of coaching, meaning better results for your clients and a better business for you.

Since we only take a limited number of professionals, and since the program sells out every time, I strongly recommend you add your name to our VIP List below. When you do, you get the chance to sign up 24 hours before everyone else. Even better, you get a huge discount off the general price of the program.

[Note: The Level 2 Master Class is only for students and grads of our Level 1 Certification. So if you haven’t yet enrolled in that program, please begin there.]

Interested? Add your name to the VIP list. You’ll save up to 37% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification Master Class on Wednesday, April 3rd.

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

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to get started and ready to gain mastery in their coaching practice. So we’re offering a discount of up to 37% off the general price when you sign up for the Master Class VIP list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the PN Master Class twice per year. Due to high demand and a very limited number of spots, we expect it to sell out fast. But when you sign up for the Master Class VIP list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready to take the next step in becoming a world-class coach, we’re ready to share our knowledge and help you master the art of coaching.

The post How do you rank as a health, fitness, and nutrition coach? Take this short quiz to learn where you’re at and how to level up. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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“What is the best diet?” It’s one of the most common questions in health and fitness — and everyone has an opinion. Here, Dr. John Berardi offers the surprising answer, plus 4 ways to assess if you’ve found the best diet for YOU (or your clients).

The post Level 1 – What’s The Best Diet? Well, You Might Be Surprised. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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With so many conflicting opinions out there, it can be tough to separate fact from fiction. The diet options are endless: Paleo, vegan, keto, low carb, fasting, and more. So how do you figure out what actually works… and what’s pure hype?

The post Best Diet Nutrition Guide – Paleo, vegan, low carb, or intermittent fasting… what’s the best diet? appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Tested with over 100,000 clients, ProCoach makes it easy to deliver research-proven nutrition and lifestyle coaching to anyone who needs it… from paying clients and patients, to family, to co-workers, to loved ones.

Want to coach in-person? Online? A combination of the two? Whatever fits your ideal lifestyle, it’s all possible with ProCoach.

With the ProCoach curriculum, coaching tools, and software, you’ll be able to turn what you learned in the Precision Nutrition Certification into a thriving practice, getting better results with dozens, even hundreds, of people while working less and living life on your own terms.


Wondering how you can handle more clients while still giving them a high-quality experience?

Wishing you could grow your business, work fewer hours from wherever you want, and still be a great nutrition, health, and fitness coach?

I once asked myself these exact questions.

To learn how I answered them, check out this short video. It highlights some of the key frustrations I had as an early coach, the strategies I used to overcome them, and how you can benefit from what I learned.

JB shares his early coaching struggles and how PN went from 20 to over 100,000 clients with ProCoach.

Want to know exactly how the ProCoach software works? Then check this out.

See how other health and fitness pros are using ProCoach with their clients.


The most reliable and effective system for coaching nutrition.

On Wednesday, November 28th, ProCoach becomes available to all Precision Nutrition Certification students and graduates.

With ProCoach you can quickly, easily and effectively deliver — to your own clients or patients — the habit-based nutrition coaching you learned (or are learning) in the Precision Nutrition Certification program.

Maybe you’re an established health and fitness pro looking to go from 20 to 200 clients. Or perhaps you’re just starting out in this business and hoping to get your first few clients, in-person or online.

Regardless of your goals, ProCoach solves a central problem…

How can I coach more people and make more money — while working fewer/more flexible hours, and still helping people get amazing results?

Grow your business and work less.

Whether you want to start a new coaching business, or add nutrition coaching to your current business, ProCoach will help you:

  • Market and sell your services to the people who need it.
  • Coach more people while delivering exceptional results.
  • Work with people in-person or online.
  • Spend less time on the admin things that drive you crazy.
  • Spend more time on the coaching things you enjoy.
  • Work on your own terms, from anywhere in the world.

A proven curriculum, created/organized for you.

ProCoach automatically delivers — to your clients or patients, on your behalf — an online nutrition coaching curriculum that helps them:

  • practice new eating habits,
  • troubleshoot their biggest challenges,
  • stay consistent, motivated, and accountable, and
  • radically improve their nutrition, lifestyle, and health.

With you as their coach — answering questions, offering encouragement, and tracking progress through a special dashboard — ProCoach helps you get more people to their goals, reliably and effectively every time.

Develop your coaching expertise.

ProCoach will also help you:

  • Assess clients quickly and efficiently.
  • Deliver daily habits, lessons, assignments from our curriculum.
  • Review client consistency and habit adherence at any time.
  • Track clients’ physical, mental, behavior changes every week.
  • Communicate clearly and expertly when clients are stuck.
  • Attract new clients with photos, data, testimonials, and straight-up, irrefutable, hard-data evidence of your success as a coach.

Katie Wygant - testimonial card

What’s new with ProCoach?

ProCoach is getting better every single day.

Through our exclusive ProCoach Facebook group, and the regular interviews and surveys we do with ProCoaches, we’re listening closely, responding dynamically, and creating new features every day.

As one ProCoach said: “I’m amazed at how closely you’re listening to feedback and shaping ProCoach in response. You’re saving us time, helping make both our experience and our clients’ experiences better, and much more.”

Indeed, since we opened ProCoach in June of 2016 we’ve released dozens of new features, including the following game changers.

Customized mini-site for every ProCoach

By answering a few simple questions within your ProCoach dashboard we’ll generate a customized mini website for your business, complete with a custom web address.

It’ll lay out your services including the features, benefits, and hopeful future you’re promising.

Not only will this “do the selling for you”, it’ll also position you as the skilled, experienced, and educated coach that clients need to finally reach their goals.

ProCoach generates your own custom sales page and mini-site.

Done-For-You marketing

Attracting new clients is always a challenge. That’s why, with the help of Pat Rigsby, we created a host of online and offline marketing campaigns for you.

We built these to help you save time and make more money. They come complete with design assets, copy, and deployment instructions.

Now you can easily spread the word about your business and attract the right kind of clients without needing to be a marketing guru to do it.

Done-For-You Marketing is now built into ProCoach.

Quick-Start guides

Whenever onboarding new clients (either in-person or into an online program) it’s useful to share something tangible. Both so they feel like they’re getting something amazing for their money and so they can feel like they’re making progress on day one.

That’s why we’ve created these custom Quick-Start Guides. They’ll help set clients up for early success by giving them advice around portion control, workout nutrition, grocery shopping, and meal prep starting on Day 1.

Personalized Quick Start Guides are also built into ProCoach.

Comprehensive Learning Center

Since we first launched ProCoach in June 2016 we’ve made major improvements to our Learning Center.

With articles on every imaginable topic, and an awesome search feature, the Learning Center will teach you everything you need to be successful with ProCoach.

The comprehensive Learning Center included in ProCoach.

$20,000 in prizes for you and your clients

Every year, we invite our ProCoaches to submit photos of, and stories about, their most successful clients. Prize categories include Best Transformation and Best Story, and are organized by age and gender.

Winners in each of the 8 categories take home $2,000 USD — $1,000 to the ProCoach and $1,000 to the client. (Plus, we give away some fun bonus prizes to selected runners-up.)

ProCoach prize money winners.

ProCoach Workouts (optional)

After working with thousands of ProCoaches to deliver comprehensive nutrition and lifestyle coaching, many began asking us to unlock our vault of expert-designed exercise programs so they can deliver a more holistic, single-platform experience.

As Precision Nutrition’s own coaching programs have offered integrated exercise, nutrition, lifestyle advice for years, we decided to make available our 28 client-proven exercise tracks for you to use with selected clients.

You now have 3 options when using ProCoach. For each client, you can:

  1. Use ProCoach for nutrition coaching only,
  2. Use ProCoach for both nutrition and exercise coaching,
  3. Use ProCoach for exercise coaching only.

The choice is yours.

ProCoach Workouts is now an option you can use with selected clients.

Community of like-minded people + top experts

With our ProCoach Facebook group, you can now work alongside an extremely supportive group of more than 2,500 ProCoaches — including trainers, nutritionists, sport coaches, researchers, therapists, and other healthcare professionals from all over the world.

With case studies, lessons, daily tips, and more, being part of this community will help you expand your network, grow your business, and strengthen your coaching skills.

You’ll also get daily access to me, as well as some of our revered experts and coaches like Dr. Krista Scott-Dixon, Kate Solovieva, Craig Weller, Adam Feit, and more. Ask questions, get feedback and advice, and nerd out on all things fitness and nutrition.

My story: Once, I wanted to help more people. But I couldn’t.

As mentioned in the first video above, I started coaching clients about 25 years ago. Back then, there was no such thing as “automated” or “online” coaching.

It was old-school: You met clients in person, you carried a clipboard, and after sessions you’d store handwritten programs on card stock paper in an organizer off to the side of the gym.

I have so many fond memories of my time training clients. But when I think back, there’s one frustration that always jumps out.

I consistently had between 15 and 20 full-time clients. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t find time to add more.

On top of working 45-60 hours every week on the gym floor training these clients, I needed to write programs, organize nutrition habits, do record keeping, manage billing, and nurture new leads.

I needed some time back, but I felt stuck.

I was working my butt off, but not making much money once the gym took their 50% cut of my coaching fees.

I realized that to make even a little more money, I’d have to find more time… which meant sacrificing my own workouts (and health) or the few hours I had left for socializing and sleeping.

After a few years on this merry-go-round, I finally came up with a solution:

I started supplementing my in-person training with online coaching.

It began really well. But whenever my roster reached 25-35 clients, I bumped up against new problems.

Problem 1:

With online clients, I didn’t have much time left for in-person coaching. I ended up doing a ton of administrative work for my online clients: program writing, record keeping, email responses, phone calls, and other routine client management tasks.

I was surprised; online coaching wasn’t the time-saver I had imagined.

Problem 2:

I started losing track of my clients.

Because I had more clients than ever, I started forgetting who was on what program, who had what goals… I sometimes felt like an idiot, asking people “So what program are you on again?” during a session.

The interesting part? Lots of other fitness and health coaches were experiencing the same things. They felt the same frustrations.

I wasn’t a lazy, disorganized, “bad” coach.

I just needed a system.

We all did.

We needed to find ways to do the “human” work of creating programs, listening, connecting with, and motivating our clients.

But we were constantly bogged down by administrative work, like paperwork, scheduling, and receipts.

So I got to thinking:

Couldn’t technology handle much of the repetitive “busywork” of day-to-day administration?

Couldn’t it keep us organized and on track? Monitor clients, even when we were sleeping or doing other things? Send us reminders and alerts?

I started asking: Could I “outsource” all these annoying and time-wasting administrative tasks so that I can take on more clients and do what I do best… coach?

So we built a dream solution to make coaching easier.

One of my best friends, Phil Caravaggio, had an answer.

Trained in systems design engineering, Phil showed me real-life examples of how IBM, Dell, and Apple were using software to simplify and amplify their businesses.

At that moment, I knew exactly what we had to do.

We set out to build a coaching platform that would allow coaches — starting with me — to deliver the highest quality coaching experience to larger numbers of clients.

One year later: Success!

We built a beta version of ProCoach and started testing it with a new batch of clients. Immediately I was able to go from coaching 25-35 clients to 100-150 clients at a time.

All while working the same number of hours — or even less — in a given week.

Chris Poese - testimonial card

15 years later, that early prototype has become ProCoach.

That was the first prototype of Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach.

Since then, we’ve consistently and relentlessly refined the technology, the software, and the curriculum.

We’ve tested its max limits. We’ve broken it on purpose and rebuilt it so it’s stronger. We’ve found all the sweet spots.

For example:

Since we built the beta version of ProCoach, our in-house coaches at Precision Nutrition have coached an average of 5,000 clients per year with the software.

Today we’re able to coach these clients with 20 full-time Precision Nutrition supercoaches (and a group of part-time interns and mentors) who work wherever they want in the world, living life on their own terms.

You’ll notice that’s an average of about 250 clients per coach — and they get amazing results.

What kind of results are we talking about here? Check this out.

See what 365 days of ProCoach can do.

And this video shares some amazing behind-the-scenes client stories.

Bodies, and lives, are changed with ProCoach’s habit-based nutrition coaching.

As you can see, our clients are a diverse bunch. They come in all ages, shapes, and sizes. In fact, they’re probably a lot like your clients.

Which means:

The results you see in the videos above are the exact same results your clients can expect when you start using Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach.

Want to see more? Check these out:

  • Precision Nutrition Coaching – Men’s Hall of Fame
  • (225+ men’s before and after photos. Ages 21-70)
  • Precision Nutrition Coaching – Women’s Hall of Fame
  • (375+ women’s before and after photos. Ages 21-74)

Daniel Hennessey - testimonial card

The ProCoach reviews have been stellar.

In June of 2016, we opened ProCoach up to our Certification students and graduates. We wanted to let them test drive the program in their own businesses.

The response has been amazing.

We sold out all available ProCoach spots in a matter of hours — and the same thing has happened each time we’ve opened up new spots, ever since.

To date, our ProCoaches have:

  • enroll over 100,000 new clients,
  • help them lose over 830,000 pounds (and counting), and
  • collect nearly $50 million in revenue.

Yep, that’s all within just the first two years!

If you want to try this research-proven, client-tested, reliable system for coaching nutrition with your own clients — join us on Wednesday, November 28th.

Erika Volk Gilliland - testimonial card

Save time, increase your effectiveness, get better results, and work on your own terms.

By incorporating ProCoach into your business, and coaching practice, you’ll:

  • Add habit-based nutrition coaching to your existing services, easily.
  • Add a highly profitable revenue stream, immediately.
  • Deliver habits, lessons, assignments from our proven curriculum.
  • Review and track your clients’ consistency and progress every week.
  • Set clients up for long-term, sustainable success.
  • Attract even more new clients with photos, data, testimonials, and straight-up, irrefutable, hard-data evidence of success.

You’ll save time while making more money.

Your clients will get world-class results.

You’ll look like a rockstar coach.

And you’ll feel more in control of your time (and your work) than ever before.

Nikki Strong - testimonial card

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

On Wednesday, November 28th, 2018, ProCoach becomes available to all Precision Nutrition Certification students and graduates.

If you’re interested and want to find out more, I’d encourage you to join our presale list. Being on the presale 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 professionals, because they always make the best students and clients. Join the presale list and we’ll give you 30% off the monthly cost of Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach.
  • You’re more likely to get a spot. Remember, last time we sold out within minutes. But 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 help more people live their healthiest lives, grow your business, and worry less about time and money… ProCoach is your chance.

The post Opening November 2018: Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach. Where expert coaching, world-class curriculum, and innovative software meet. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Sign up for these 4 FREE nutrition coaching lessons and we’ll teach you: how to add nutrition coaching to your practice; the essential skills you need to coach nutrition; how to help clients decide what, how much, and when to eat; the key principles of behavior change; why categorizing clients into nutrition levels is important; how to build a business & make money with coaching; and more.

The post [4 FREE VIDEO LESSONS] Learn to build an EFFECTIVE and PROFITABLE nutrition system. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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As a health and fitness coach it’s easy to feel frustrated when clients share deep concerns that go beyond eating and exercise. It’s easy to think: “I’m a coach, not a therapist!” However, you’re more therapist-like than you think. And, in this article, we’ll help you turn clients’ emotional pain into meaningful change without going outside your scope of practice.


Sooner or later, all coaches experience a certain uncomfortable moment.

A client lays some really heavy duty capital-I ‘Issue’ on you.

Perhaps they just started a new job and are completely overwhelmed at work. Maybe they have a not-so-great relationship with their mom, who has always criticized their weight, and that’s why they’re struggling now. Or maybe they disclose something super serious, like trauma or childhood abuse.

Your client looks at you, expectantly, through tear-clouded eyes.

Can you help them?

Suddenly the room seems small. Your mouth goes dry. Your brain blank. You feel those uncomfortable, difficult, do-not-want feelings start to blossom in the depths of your gut. Anxiety. Panic. Dread. You. Have. NO. Idea. What to do.

This is the moment that new coaches fear. The moment your client expects you to stop being their health/fitness/nutrition coach, and start being their therapist.

Of course, you’re not a therapist.


You’re more like a therapist than you want to believe.

“I’m a coach, not a therapist.”

I’ve heard this refrain thousands of times from coaches. No matter their country, culture, or exact profession, all coaches would like to hereby remind us all that they Are. Not. Therapists.

And coaches, I hear you. It’s uncomfortable when someone lays their problems on you. When they ask for help outside your area of training and expertise.

And you’re right. You’re not a therapist.

(Nor should you try to be. Unless you are, of course, an actual therapist.)

But sometimes, you do need to be therapist-like.

Because therapists don’t let the deep, dark, troubling confessions they hear all day affect their inner lives. Even better, they empower the person who is struggling to do something about it. On their own.

You can’t change the fact that your clients are going to share their issues with you. Everyone’s got ‘em. But you can change how you respond to the issues — and use them for good. And that shift is what can turn you into a supercoach.

That’s why, in this article, I’ll show you:

  • How to turn these awkward, uncomfortable moments into an opportunity to do your best work as a coach.
  • A powerful two-step process for navigating serious problems with clients — and techniques to handle them with skill.
  • How to stop letting clients’ “crap” affect you (without firing them or losing your job).
  • What to do when you’re in over your head.

To begin, see uncomfortable moments for what they are.

When clients come to you with their gut-wrenching dilemmas and emotional car crashes, they’re actually coming to you with an opportunity for change.

Psychologists refer to this dark moment of despair as “creative hopelessness”. This is the moment when things suck so badly, your normal coping mechanisms no longer cut it. You’re forced to try something new.

Therapists and counselors are in the business of helping people work through creative hopelessness to create change. And so are you.

As a coach, change is your game, baby. In fact, while less experienced coaches tend to dread these awkward moments, supercoaches love them.

Take my client who had a high-powered law career.

Her job was amazing — according to everyone else. But what I saw as her coach was that her job was making her miserable. She was incredibly stressed. She was binge eating and drinking. She wasn’t sleeping.

One day, she broke down during a session. The truth came out: She could no longer handle her life.

It turns out, she really wanted to be a landscape designer — something her professional-minded family didn’t exactly approve of.  But she needed this deeply uncomfortable moment of creative hopelessness to realize that something had to change. The overeating and constant stress weren’t working for her anymore. It was time to try something new.

Eventually, she realized she needed to ditch the job she hated to open the door to the life she really wanted to live. Suddenly, what other people thought didn’t matter so much. She knew what she needed to do.

And I stuck with her during that tough, messy period, which only strengthened our coaching relationship.

So remember that the messy moments and emotional breakdowns, when handled properly, can actually become breakthroughs.

Turning points for something new and better.

And opportunities to do your best work.

Great coaches have a system for handling “the stuff”.

When faced with clients’ “stuff”, coaches may want to turn and run.

Shake it off! Get back to squats! Turn up the music to drown out the weeping!

(I call this the DRIP method: Deny, Repress, Ignore, and Pretend. Maybe you recognize it from painfully awkward family dinners?)

Or your default response may be to do everything you can to cheer your client up. Help them see the bright side. Even better, solve their problem for them. Start listing off solutions!

Or maybe you’re so put off by this client and their problems that you’re thinking about firing them. Ugh. Why did they make you “go there” with them?

But none of these actions will actually help your client change.

Great coaches — the ones who lean into these raw and difficult moments gracefully and skillfully — have a better process.

You might be surprised how simple it can be to turn a seat-squirmingly uncomfortable conversation into a powerful change moment.

To do that, you’ll want to do two therapist-like things:

1. Identify and help the client notice this “change moment”.

2. Develop an action plan, once you have fully explored the problem.

Here’s how it works.

Step 1.
Identify and help the client notice this “change moment”.

Your goal in this step is to help your client see the opportunity for change, and move toward action. This doesn’t require a lot of special skills. It does require some basic “human skills” that you probably already have.

Here are some techniques to help you facilitate Step 1.

Stay with the discomfort

We often want to run away from uncomfortable moments. Don’t.

Stay present. Stay checked in. Breathe. Let the moments unfold.

Often, simply staying present and aware of yourself and the situation is the bravest and most effective thing you can do.

Say to yourself:

“Man, this is pretty freaking weird / icky / uncomfortable right now.”

And maybe:

“I have no idea what to do here.”

Acknowledge that reality. And stay in it.

Notice and name what you’re feeling, thinking, and experiencing.

Help your client do the same by being present and sticking with them. They don’t know where to go next, and it’s okay if you don’t either in this moment.

Empathize and connect

You may not identify with exactly what your client is saying, thinking, experiencing, or feeling. But you’re both human. Find the common ground.

Empathize and let the client know you’ve heard and seen them without judgment.

Reflect back:

“Wow. That sounds really tough.”

“I can only imagine what you’re dealing with.”

“That really hit you hard, huh?”

Practice using nonverbal signals such as body language that say: “I’m paying attention, and I recognize this is an important moment for you.”

Listen and observe carefully

Gather information. Ask thoughtful questions to better analyze and grasp the situation. Probe for understanding.

Don’t rush to react. Wait, process, and respond thoughtfully.

Listen for the client’s “scripts” and stories — the ways they explain themselves and the events of their lives.

For example:

“I’m a really selfless person. That’s why people take advantage of me. That’s how I wound up taking on too much, and now I’m a ball of stress and anxiety.”

Your client may, in fact, be a selfless person, but it’s unlikely that that personality trait is the only factor at play.

Also observe your own experiences, thoughts, and feelings as you work through this situation. This is a chance to learn more about your own coaching processes and responses.

Simply listen, to help your client talk it out

Right now, what does your client need?

At this stage, clients often just need us to listen, hear them, and empathize.

As a coach, you’ll eventually want to come up with an action plan. (We’ll talk about that in a second.) But let the bad stuff be heard and understood first before you move on.

Why? If your client is able to talk about their concerns openly and get all of their thoughts and feelings out, they’ll feel safe, supported, and reassured that you’ll stick with them through this difficult time.

You see, when you don’t immediately list potential solutions or jump to how you would solve their problem, you’re actually giving your client a vote of confidence.

When you allow them to truly be heard without immediately talking “next steps”, you’re showing your client that they don’t need you to “fix” them. They’re not broken. They’re just going through something tough.

When you give them this space to sit with their problem without judgment or “fix it” suggestions, you’ll find that clients often start solving it on their own before the session is over.

Even if they don’t, you can simply let them know that you recognize what they’ve given you, and you’d like them to start thinking about potential strategies — which don’t have to be put into action yet.

For example:

“That’s definitely a lot to think about, Rick. I can tell that balancing act between crazy-long work hours, spending time with your family, and making time for your health has really been weighing on your mind. Thanks for trusting me with this.

“Tell you what — right now, let’s not worry about fixing anything. I just want to make sure I really get where you’re coming from. I’m going to ask a few questions here to explore this a little more, if that’s OK.

“Then over the next few days, before our next session, let’s both think about where we can go from here.”

Trust your gut

Don’t just think. Feel. Feel what your Spidey sense and instincts tell you. Yes, some instincts may be yelling “Run away!” but other instincts may be helping you gather information.

You know how sometimes you can just tell someone is lying to you? Not based on any one particular thing they said, but that little tingle of intuition?

The same idea applies here. Gather information not just through what you’re told, but also through what you perceive.

Watch for nonverbal cues such as body language and intonation. Observe their behavior holistically. Notice where things seem “off”, or where the scripts and stories don’t add up (or conversely, where it all makes perfect sense).

Step 2.
Develop an action plan, once you’ve fully explored the problem.

Your second objective is to get to action.

Again, don’t rush this. But once you — and the client — are ready, work on creating an action plan to help the client move forward.

This process takes some exploration.

You and your client will want to consider:

  • What things the client has already tried to improve the situation
  • Whether those things have actually, measurably worked
  • What other options may be available to them
  • What next steps you can develop together

Here are some techniques to help you facilitate Step 2.

Look for patterns

Feeling stuck or hopeless often comes from feeling mired in our old patterns — except we’re often not aware that these are patterns.

So, point out where you notice common themes.

For example:

“As I listen to your description of what happened when you went to CrossFit every day for three weeks, then ended up on the couch eating an entire package of Oreos, I’m struck by the fact that this seems like a recurring theme for you. Does it sound like a familiar pattern to you? What elements here seem to repeat themselves?”

Simply bring the client’s awareness to the pattern itself.

Don’t try to change the pattern yet.

Right now, you just want the client to notice and name their own tendencies, and reframe “bad” individual choices as part of a larger context of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.

Name the monster

Feeling stuck or hopeless is often like being in a tug-of-war with a monster. The monster is always stronger, no matter how much we resist.

And you know how the monster in a horror movie is way scarier when you haven’t seen what it looks like yet? The same applies to real-life monsters.

Have clients identify just what their “monster” is. You can ask:

“What bothers you the most about this situation?”

“What feels like the absolute worst part of this?”

“Weird question — if the problem you were dealing with were a monster, what kind of monster would it be? Could you describe it?”

Noticing, naming, and giving voice or form to the monster is simply an imaginative way of developing a hypothesis that can ground your action plan. It identifies, describes, analyzes, and prioritizes what the foundational issue is.

Drill down till you get a good clear picture of the monster.

If you have a right-brain or visual client, have them draw the monster or the problem, or describe it visually, as if it were a thing.

I even had a client who got one of those “ugly” stuffed dolls to symbolize her monster. She named it Plunky.

This is a counter-intuitive step. It feels like you’re “focusing on the negative”. But by asking clients to identify and describe the sharpest pain point, you’re zeroing in on what is truly bothering them.

Interestingly, you’ll often discover that by simply naming the monster out loud, the client’s perspective starts to change.

“The worst part is this need I have to always be perfect. [pause] But having said that, I now realize I could ease up on myself.”

Help them let go

By trying to exert control, the client is pulling against a monster that will always be stronger.

Let’s say the client’s monster is a strict calorie counting habit, and it’s making them stress over every food choice, maybe even bringing up past issues with disordered eating.

Ask the client what would happen if they just let go. What would it be like?

You might say something like:

“This situation you’re describing is sort of like a tug of war with the problem — the monster, if you will. And the monster will always be stronger. You’re exhausted from struggling.

“Let me just float a possibility here. What if you just let go of the rope? So for example, if you stopped focusing on counting calories, what would happen?”

Letting go can happen incrementally.

This is especially a relief to clients who struggle with all-or-nothing thinking.

“Let’s say you don’t have to let go of everything. Is there something very, very small that you could let go of? For example, what about not counting calories for just one meal a day?”

Envision the worst-case scenario

We are often distressed and anxious because we imagine all kinds of awful outcomes, and deep down assume we couldn’t deal with those outcomes. So we try to control things in order to avoid those outcomes.

Get the client’s fears on the table and test whether they could, in fact, survive it.

“Let’s just say for the sake of argument that you stop counting calories. Let’s imagine you never count calories again.

“What is the worst thing that could happen? On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad would that be? What would you face or have to deal with? Could you survive that worst-case scenario?”

Chances are, they’ll realize they could and would survive, even if the worst case scenario played out. This takes power away from the monster they’re fighting.

Being therapist-like doesn’t mean you take crap from clients.

So to recap: When things get weird you show up and empower clients to navigate their way through the tough stuff.

But that doesn’t mean your clients’ problems are your problems.

When coaches complain they’re not therapists, sometimes what they really mean is they’re tired (quite rightly) of carrying clients’ emotional baggage.

But remember: Taking on other people’s baggage isn’t therapist-like. In fact, it’s actually the opposite of being therapist-like.

If therapists absorbed that pain and suffering themselves, they wouldn’t be very good at their jobs. And they probably wouldn’t live past 35.

Don’t take on clients’ pain.

Clients have pain. Pain is an inevitable — and arguably essential — part of life.

Pain is what brings them to coaching. And as we’ve already covered, as a coach, you can guide a client to use their pain to create positive change.

But things go wrong when you take that pain from them.

You “take the pain” when you try to “fix” or change what they’re going through.

When you try to solve their problems for them. When you take on their “stuff” and hold it, rather than being a witness to it, or a companion on the journey.

You take the pain when you feel responsible for their growth, change, and development.

Taking their pain means you make it about you:

“Clients are supposed to check in every week, and mine don’t. That must mean something about my coaching skills.”

“My client isn’t progressing, so I must be a bad coach.”

Or even:

“My client is so unhappy. I need to fix that.”

Creating rules about the universe and taking responsibility for your clients’ emotional wellbeing won’t make you a better coach. Letting clients keep their pain for themselves will.

Don’t take their poop, either.

Clients give you crap when they’re in pain. We’ll call that “poop”.

You can think of poop as not-so-fun-to-deal-with behavior that is caused by pain — or fear of experiencing pain.

Poop can be:

  • Passive-aggressive type resistance: doing nothing
  • Active resistance: negativity, “this sucks”, “I can’t…”, “I already know that…” etc.
  • “Drama”: frequent problems and negative vibes
  • “Baggage”:  unintentionally taking out whatever is going on in their life on you with harsh words or a bad attitude

People with pain and poop aren’t “bad” or “screwed up”.

They’re probably quite normal.

Indeed, many clients are lovely people who give you their pain and poop simply because they don’t know what else to do.

Having pain and poop inside you sucks. Isn’t it nicer to hand it over to someone else? Of course it is!

(And you’re probably also a lovely person who wants to help! So you grab their bag of painful stuff like an avid poop collector. And at the end of the day, you wonder why you smell so bad.)

But if you “take” their pain and poop — if you internalize the pain, if you let them fling poop at you without calling them out on it — you’re going to exhaust yourself.

And you’ll miss the opportunity to alchemize pain and poop into change.

With the right strategies, you can help clients move toward improved pain/poop processing and greater self-sufficiency.

Start by understanding for yourself whose pain and poop is whose. Clients’ “stuff” stays with them.

Once you have it straight in your own head, you can look at the situation (calmly, objectively) with your client and agree it stinks… but ultimately, it’s theirs.

The key to accomplishing this is to make sure that whatever happens next is determined by the client.

Here’s how.

Poke the pain and poop.

If you live in a big city, you know about pigeons. They nest in crevices and dark places. Their poop is corrosive and can destroy building materials.

So city officials often have a simple solution: pigeon spikes. They line comfortable nesting ledges with little spikes that poke pigeons in the bum so they have to keep flying.

The same concept kind of applies to clients.

Don’t let them nest in their dark places. Poke them a little bit. Let them flap and figure out another, better, sunnier place to go. Keep them moving.

When we see a client resisting a habit, struggling, being upset, or asking “What should I do, coach?” our initial reaction will most likely be to “take their pain” from them.

We might rush to make them “feel better” immediately or give them a solution that will help them avoid discomfort. (Or just get ourselves out of the grossness.)


Change comes when the pain of not changing is bigger than the pain of changing. We need pain for growth and development.

Let them work through the pain.

Again, poke a bit. Explore. Be curious. Invite reflection.

Play around the pain and poop a little, but don’t keep it for yourself.

Offer some gentle, caring prodding that helps your client move forward, instead of letting them settle comfortably into the old familiar place of non-growth and stasis.

Watch their reactions, and be flexible. When you change your approach to dealing with poop, you will change their reaction to you. You control the interaction.

Here are some techniques that can help:

Beware the professional pain and poop dispensers.

Now here’s a more cynical point.

Most clients are, again, normal and good people.

They’re just muddling through the best way they know how.

But, a very small proportion are *professional* pain and poop givers.

They are experts at handing off their poop and pain to others. They smell your kind heart and good intentions, and they exploit those. Sometimes, they are skilled manipulators.

But even if they’re not doing it on purpose, at the very least, they just can’t handle their own shiz. Ever. They NEED to give it to someone else.

Signs you might be dealing with a pro pooper include:

  • They don’t ever seem to be doing well, but rather moving from crisis to crisis.
  • They ask you to go outside the scope of your practice (they want you to help them fix their marriage, for example).
  • Every conversation with them feels like TMI-overload. You know more details about their life than some of your closest friends.
  • You feel like you’re being sucked into a breathless black hole every time you see them.
  • When you decline to solve their problems for them, they say or do things that make you feel like a bad person.

You see, regular, run-of-the-mill, non-professional poop can be resolved by using the techniques outlined above. Being there for the client, empathizing with them, exploring their problem, and maybe moving onto a few actions steps will be enough.

But if you’re dealing with a pro pooper?

Nothing is enough.

They won’t stop at one little turd. They’ll fill up bag after bag of crap for you to carry, draining you of every last ounce of empathy, compassion, and hope you’ve got.

Important: You can’t change professional pain and poop givers. You have to change your own response to them.

Don’t absorb any of that pain or poop for yourself by trying to “fix” them. Instead, use two simple strategies to protect yourself and coach them at the same time.

Set boundaries

Remind them what’s outside of your coaching superpowers. And be extremely. Freaking. Clear.

“Well, marriage counseling is outside of my powers, but what I can speak to is building an action plan to help you eat well during this time.”

“We have half an hour here today, and I have a hard stop at 10:30.”

Do this as frequently as necessary. Stand your ground.

Notice how you’re communicating, and call it out

Coaches are often empathetic people who get confused when other people don’t have the same social skills.

You probably know how to ask for what you want, as well as how to respond when you don’t get it. You also can probably gauge whether something is an appropriate “ask” or not. Many pro poopers lack these skills.

And while pro poopers will often ask you to deal with problems that are “out of bounds”, you will probably find that there are one or two things out of the many issues they bring up that you can actually help them with.

So, when a pro pooper is doing what feels like a never-ending monologue about every single thing going on in their life, just get to the point:

“Do you want to do something about the problems you’re having getting enough sleep, or do you want to just keep talking? Either way, you can pay me, but it’s much more useful if we come up with some actions to help you fix this.”

When you directly call out the fact that a pro pooper is resisting reason, and show them clearly what you’re willing (and not willing) to help with, you provide the best possible outcome for both coach and client.

When is it time to call in an actual therapist?

Most coaches really want to help. It can be tempting — oh, so tempting — to go above and beyond the call of coaching duty.

This is where the border of coaching ends and the Land of Inappropriate Heroic Individual Action begins. It’s an OK place to visit occasionally, but stay only briefly, before handing off your client to a qualified tour guide.

How do I know when I’m in over my head?

What can you handle and what is outside your limits?

When is it time to refer out?

Perhaps despite your best efforts at talking your client through the problem, giving them space to come up with solutions on their own, and supporting them through that process, things just aren’t getting better for them.

Maybe they’ve been feeling down in the dumps for a couple of months, and despite trying a few different coping strategies together, they’re starting to wonder if they might be depressed.

Or even after encouraging them to “let go” of calorie counting little by little, they’re exhibiting disordered eating behaviors like intense restriction, bingeing, and overall preoccupation with food.

Maybe their “monster” is anxiety, and they’re having panic attacks regularly. They expressed interest in learning some breathing exercises, but they’re not making a big enough difference.

These are all situations where you’d want to get an actual therapist involved.

And here’s what you may be feeling if the client’s needs are truly outside your scope:

  • Distracted, preoccupied, and consumed by client dilemmas
  • Anxious about or dreading your email
  • Like you are constantly “putting out fires”, “fixing things”, and “dealing with issues”
  • Constantly overwhelmed or like you’re “in over your head.”

If you recognize these signs, it’s time to call someone in your support network, and/or refer your client to a specialist from your roster.

And remember, there’s no shame in not being able to do it all. Everyone gets stumped sometimes, even supercoaches.

Great coaching is a team effort.

Who’s on your team?

As you develop your coaching practice, you should build a support network. Have a group of trusted professionals to whom you can refer clients when appropriate.

This will ensure that you don’t feel obligated to deal with everything, and that your clients will get the help they need.

Here’s a sample “team roster”:

  • Psychologist and/or psychotherapist (especially one who specializes in body image issues and disordered eating, but who can also handle other common mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, depression, trauma, etc.)
  • Sports medicine practitioner
  • Massage therapist and/or soft tissue therapist (such as an ART or myofascial release therapist)
  • Physiotherapist
  • Medical nutrition therapist (MNT) or registered dietitian (RD)
  • Chiropractor or osteopath
  • MD as well as women’s or men’s health specialist (depending on your client base)

Make a list. Have it ready. Try our referral worksheet.

Think collaboratively.

Some coaches may worry that by referring out to other professionals, they “lose business”. In fact, the opposite is true.

When you get your clients the help they need, they’re more likely to succeed.

They’ll truly feel like you’ve got their back.

And when your clients are well-supported, they’re more able to stick to your coaching plan.

It goes something like this: They feel better. They’re now able to do the work they need to do. They improve. And they think you’re awesome.

Plus, other professionals can refer back to you.

It’s a beautiful symbiotic relationship.

So think collaboratively. Always be on the lookout for well-qualified and like-minded practitioners who have a good track record, and who are willing to work cooperatively.

You can even hold social or educational events where you get together with a few of your professional collaborators, to present a united “dream team” to your clients.

Just remember: You are not alone.

Look for support anywhere and everywhere. And refer clients who need it.

Support yourself first.

You know that saying, “Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting someone else”? Well, that holds true here too.

Your support team doesn’t just help your clients. Your support team can help you too.

Maybe you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the demands of coaching, and could use some anxiety counseling.

Maybe you’re getting into a weird space with your own eating habits, and could use some help working through disordered eating behaviors.

Maybe your low back is killing you and you can barely tolerate sitting down with clients.

Maybe you just need a trusted colleague who can help you bounce some ideas around.

Coaching is amazing but tough work. You can’t do it alone. Whatever you need to be an awesome coach — get that support before you wind up burned out.

Keep your coaching superpowers in good working order.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

1. Pay attention to your own discomfort.

How do you typically react when a client comes to you with a personal problem? Do you run for cover? Try to cheer them up? Take on their problem as if it was your own?

What is it that’s making you feel uncomfortable in the situation?

See if you can simply stay with the discomfort. Sit with it a bit. Be there, with the client, without trying to fix, dodge, or gloss over the problem.

The more you become aware of your own patterns and reactions, the better you’ll be able to help your clients move through the change process.

2. Help clients recognize their change-moments.

Uncomfortable, hopeless-feeling moments are a great opportunity for change. Your first step is to help clients recognize the possibility for that change within their challenge.

Practice asking questions that can help unearth an “A-Ha! moment” in your client’s mind. Try out one or two of the strategies listed in this article.

After you’ve thoughtfully explored the problem, then work together with your client to create an action plan.

Take your time. Resist the temptation to rush through the process.

Remember that pain is a necessary part of change.

3. Sniff out the poop.

Do you have a client that keeps bringing you their pain and poop?

What’s your go-to response when this happens?

If you think you might be taking on clients’ pain and poop, review the table above. Could you try swapping out of one your standard responses for one of the more therapist-like techniques?

Try making one or two swaps and see what happens.

4. Build your referral list.

Put together a list of professionals that you can refer clients to when their needs are out of your scope. This can include therapists, specialized counselors and doctors, registered dietitians, and more.

Actively build your list and don’t be afraid to refer.

If you haven’t already got a list started, try our handy worksheet.

5. Tune into how you feel.

If you’re feeling burned out, constantly frustrated by clients, or perpetually overwhelmed, you might need some added rest and recovery time for yourself.

Pay attention to what you need. Reach out to someone in your support system if you need to: a coach, mentor, paid professional, or good friend.

Taking care of yourself is necessary in order to care for others. The best coaches don’t try to go it alone.

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 is both an art and a science.

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What’s it all about?

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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.]

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The post “I’m a coach, not a therapist!” 9 ways to help people change while staying within your scope. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Forgetting things, feeling incapable, grappling with loneliness, and maybe not enjoying daily life? Aging is inevitable, but these symptoms don’t have to be. Whether you’re noticing them in yourself, or coaching someone who is, here’s what you need to know about the importance of lifestyle and nutrition for seniors — plus 7 effective strategies to live not just longer, but better.


When my grandfather’s health started to decline, a simple intervention transformed his ability to live independently.

I’ve been coaching nutrition for over 10 years, and teaching university nutrition courses for seven. I’ve seen thousands of people benefit tremendously from the health strategies I share with them.

But no transformation has been as dramatic or inspiring my grandfather’s.

A few years ago, in his early eighties, my grandfather began to forget things. He missed appointments and misplaced objects like his keys or reading glasses. His appetite decreased, and he started losing weight.

One day, he suffered a bad fall. He required hospitalization, and his confusion and disorientation worsened during his stay. It was a low point for my family.

A professional medical assessment determined that it was no longer safe for him to live independently at home. He got placed on a waiting list for a long-term care facility.

My grandpa’s diet had been poor for some time. I knew he was living mostly on canned soup, chocolate milk, and the occasional banana. Not nearly enough calories, and not a lot of nutrient-dense, whole foods.

I wondered what effect that was having on him.

So I did some detective work.

After running some blood tests, we discovered that my grandfather was very deficient in a range of B-vitamins, particularly vitamin B1, or thiamine.

The signs of thiamine deficiency?

Low appetite, fatigue, memory loss, and confusion.

I suspected that correcting these deficiencies might help my grandpa function better, so I put him on a high-quality seniors’ multivitamin, and recommended a few simple changes to his diet.

A week later, my grandfather was transformed.

His appetite increased, and he became clear-thinking and lucid. He was released from the hospital, and his medical team approved his ability to keep living independently.

My grandpa’s experience is proof of something many people aren’t aware of:

Simple nutrition and lifestyle changes can dramatically improve quality of life — even in older adults.

That’s why, in this article, we’ll explain what we know about optimal lifestyle and nutrition for seniors: how these habits affect aging; and how to implement healthy changes for yourself, clients, or loved ones.


It’s not just the number of years you live; it’s how you live them.

Modern medicine can help us live longer, so what’s the point of eating the right foods and taking the right supplements?

Well,  we don’t want to just live longer. We want to live longer and live well.

How long you live

How well you live

When we talk about longevity, most of us don’t dream of living for a thousand years in a cryo-chamber hooked up to a bunch of wires that artificially maintain our basic functions.

In addition to a long lifespan, we also want a long healthspan — a high quality of life for as long as possible — a state that allows us to travel and enjoy our retirement, to run around with our grandchildren without aches and pains, and to generally enjoy life feeling good in our bodies, minds, and hearts.

Good nutrition and lifestyle habits are our best tools to improve healthspan.

And while these habits can have a major effect on healthspan if you start them young, making nutrition and lifestyle changes can make a difference even after you’ve noticed signs of aging.

Now, these changes aren’t going to turn you into an ageless bionic superhuman, but they can certainly help you age better and become more resilient.

Which parts of aging are under our control?

From the moment we’re born, our bodies begin to change. These changes continue throughout life.

Yes, change is inevitable…

…but how and when we age is highly influenced by our lifestyle.

Most of us have great bodies at 18 — slim, pain-free, resistant to illness and injury. By 68, we might groan about our soft midsection, our bum knee, or our high blood sugar.

We might call these changes “aging”. But much of what we call “aging” is actually very much an accumulation of lifestyle habits.

The soft midsection, the bum knee, the high blood sugar are often the result of:

  • a chronic sweet tooth;
  • a lifetime of following the “always finish your plate” rule — no matter how big the plate; and
  • lots of sitting, which allowed those knee-supporting muscles to atrophy.

Another 68-year-old who practiced habits like mindful eating, regular movement, strength training, and a nutritious diet might not see those symptoms appear until much later, or perhaps ever.

Let’s take an even deeper look…

Conditions that occur in the elderly

Some health issues occur almost exclusively in advanced age. While many factors contribute to these, lifestyle and nutrition habits can play a role in when, and to what degree, these issues manifest.



Arthritis is characterized by inflammation of the joints. Although there are many types of arthritis, the two most common forms are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the joint tissues. This results in pain, swelling, and redness.

Osteoarthritis occurs due to the chronic wear and tear of joints, resulting in pain that ranges from minor to debilitating. Risk factors include previous joint injury, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Because inflammation lies at the root of both types of arthritis, consuming a diet high in anti-inflammatory omega-3s and antioxidants may help support a healthy immune system response and moderate symptoms.


Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative condition. Brain cells, or neurons, get damaged, which reduces their ability to communicate. This results in memory problems, mood dysregulation, difficulties with language, and sometimes physical disability.

Although Alzheimer’s disease is not fully understood, we know that it tends to run in families, which hints at a genetic link.

Some researchers have suggested that Alzheimer’s could be called “Type 3 diabetes” because chronically elevated blood sugar (and insulin) seems to increase inflammation, as well as influence the size/development of the hippocampus (a brain structure essential to learning and memory).

In order to preserve brain health, take care of the body as a whole: Exercise regularly, consume a nutritious diet, manage blood sugar, and reduce or eliminate smoking and / or excessive alcohol consumption.



Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye gets clouded with clumps of protein or yellow-brown pigment.

Symptoms can include blurry vision, trouble seeing with bright lights, trouble seeing at night, and reduced ability to distinguish colors. In advanced cases, a person with cataracts may have trouble driving, reading, and recognizing faces. If left untreated, cataracts can even result in blindness.

Age increases the risk of cataracts, as does smoking, excessive unprotected sun exposure, heavy alcohol consumption, and diabetes.

Consuming a diet high in antioxidants (which often come from dark green, purple, and orange fruits and vegetables) provides nutrients that keep the eyes healthy.

In older age, good nutrition is more important than ever.

Older age brings with it special nutrition concerns and requirements.

In older age, energy needs decrease but nutrition needs increase.

In general, because of the physical and lifestyle changes that tend to go along with aging, the need for overall calories is decreased.

However, the need for nutrition, in the form of nutrient-dense, well-absorbed foods and targeted supplementation, is more important than ever.


Dehydration risk is higher among older adults. This may be due to side effects from prescription medications, or a reduced sense of thirst (more pronounced in those with Alzheimer’s disease or those who have suffered a stroke).


  • worsens constipation;
  • increases risk of bladder infection and kidney injury;
  • thickens mucus in lungs, aggravating  asthma or lung conditions; and
  • reduces mental performance and increases fatigue.

Older adults should consume 2-3 liters of liquids per day in the form of water (ideally), herbal teas, broths, or liquid-based foods like smoothies and soups. Adjust amounts as needed according to medication requirements, if applicable.

Use the below chart to assess hydration levels.

Note: Certain medications, B-vitamins can darken or change the color of urine.

Tip: To increase water consumption, leave written reminders around the house, or set a timer to go off every 1-2 hours during the day reminding you to drink water. For those with mobility issues (who have trouble getting up to drink) or tremors (who have trouble holding a glass steady), have caretakers make water easily accessible, and use appropriate drinking containers (e.g. cups with spill proof lids, or straws to help those with diminished strength or shaky hands).

Vitamin & Minerals

Studies show that people with a high intake of antioxidant vitamins (especially from nutrient-dense whole foods) generally have a lower risk of major chronic disease, such as heart attack or stroke.

While most vitamin and mineral needs increase with age due to poor absorption or interactions with medications, some needs decrease.

Vitamin A

Absorption of vitamin A increases with aging, so vitamin A (retinol) should be avoided in supplement form. In older individuals, getting vitamin A through foods is best.

Adults should aim to get about 2,000-2,500 IU of vitamin A per day, from retinol rich food sources like liver, dairy products, and fish. For carotenoids, the plant form of vitamin A, see recommendations below.

Vitamin B12

As we get older, we get less efficient at absorbing vitamin B12, which supports brain and nervous system health. Deficiency is confirmed via blood test. Symptoms include: fatigue, dizziness or loss of balance, and reduced mental function.

Adults need 2.4 mcg of B12 a day from food sources like eggs, dairy products, meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, and B12 fortified foods.

If supplementation is needed (which can be confirmed by a blood test), opt for B12 options that get absorbed directly into the bloodstream, like injections, or drops/lozenges that dissolve under the tongue. To correct a deficiency, supplement with 1,000 mcg a day until normal levels are restored.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is involved in immune system, hormone, bone, and brain health. As we age, our synthesis of vitamin D from sun exposure declines. Especially in northern climates, vitamin D deficiency is extremely common. Moderate sun exposure and vitamin D supplements are recommended, as vitamin D does not occur naturally in high amounts in food.

Adults should take between 800 – 4000 IU of vitamin D a day, depending on the degree of deficiency. Because vitamin D is fat soluble, meaning it’s only absorbed in the presence of fat, take supplement with food that contains fat.

Carotenoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E

These vitamins have antioxidant properties and are important for keeping tissues healthy and free from disease. In particular, the lens of eye is easily oxidized, leading to macular degeneration and cataracts.

Especially in the case of vitamin E and beta-carotene, avoid supplements, as they have been shown in studies to be ineffective or even harmful, particularly for smokers and those at risk for heart disease. Therefore, it’s best to get these nutrients from food.

Carotenoids are rich in orange and yellow colored plants, like sweet potato, squash, and carrots, as well as dark leafy greens, such as spinach, beet greens, or kale.

Vitamin E can be found in nuts, seeds, nut butters, and wheat germ.

Vitamin C requirements can be easily obtained by consuming a variety of fresh (uncooked) fruits and vegetables every day.


We need calcium to regulate heart rate and maintain bone mass, but absorption declines with age.

Men and women aged 50 and older should get 1200 mg of calcium per day. Prioritize calcium intake through whole food sources, such as dairy products, cooked greens, and calcium-fortified foods.


Iron deficiency can result in low energy, poor concentration, and dizziness. Iron status generally improves later in life, especially in women after menstruation.

However, iron deficiency is still possible, usually due to low food intake, chronic blood loss from ulcers or hemorrhoids, poor absorption, antacid use, or the use of certain medications.

Men and non-menstruating women should aim to get about 8 mg of iron per day, from red meats; organ meats; clams and oysters; beans and lentils; and cooked dark leafy greens.

If iron deficiency is confirmed, supplementation may be required.

Caution: Before taking an iron supplement, confirm via a blood test that iron is low. Iron taken in excess of requirements is toxic. If iron deficiency is confirmed, adults should take 10-30 mg of elemental iron 1-3 times a day, depending on the degree of deficiency.


Zinc deficiency is common in older people and can depress appetite and blunt sense of taste, making eating less enjoyable. Many medications can worsen zinc deficiency.

Adults should try to get between 8-11 mg of zinc a day, from food sources such as oysters; mussels; meat; pumpkin seeds; and beans, peas, and lentils.

If diet is restricted or if a person is on medications that deplete zinc levels, supplementation may also be appropriate.

Tip: To make things easier, you don’t have to supplement each of these individually. Rather, look for a multivitamin-mineral supplement formulated specifically for seniors, which should exclude vitamin A. Choose liquid formulas if swallowing is difficult or if digestion is impaired.  

For help choosing products, third-party rating sites like Examine and Labdoor provide unbiased, evidence-based suggestions for the most effective supplements and brands.

Protein, Carbohydrates & Fats

Macronutrient needs, and the way our bodies metabolizes macronutrients, change as we get older. The ideal macronutrient balance for someone who is 25 may be different from the ideal balance for someone who is 75.


As we age, we may develop “anabolic resistance”, which is when protein synthesis decreases. In other words, we need more protein to do the same job.

Healthy older people should aim to get 
at least 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Malnourished or ill seniors should aim to get 
1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or more with severe illness.

For a person who weighs 68kg (150lbs), that translates to about 80-100g of protein, or about 4-5 palm-sized servings of protein per day.

The only caution is in those with kidney problems. In those cases, consult with a doctor, Registered Dietician, or other certified nutrition professional, to determine appropriate amounts.

Choose proteins that are soft and easy to digest, such as stewed meats or poultry, soft cooked fish, well-cooked legumes, scrambled eggs, and good quality protein powders.


Good quality carbohydrates help meet energy needs and add fiber to the diet, which prevents constipation.

Aim to get about 25 grams of fiber a day from soft, easy to digest carbohydrates such as well-cooked whole grains and porridges, well-cooked legumes, well-cooked root vegetables, fruits, and powdered fibre supplements.


Fats play an important role in inflammation regulation.

Reduce or eliminate trans fats (which tend to be high in processed foods), and moderate saturated fats (like animal fats) and lesser quality omega-6 fats (like corn or soybean oil).

Encourage good quality omega-6 (like extra virgin olive oil and avocado) and omega-3 fats (from foods like sardines, mackerel, salmon, herring, anchovies, flax, chia, hemp seeds, and walnuts). Aim for about three servings of fat-rich foods per day, from a mix of quality sources.

Tip: Consume a colorful, balanced, whole foods diet. Prioritize nutrient-dense foods first, but don’t be militant about removing all treats; pleasure is important too!

Let’s take an even deeper look…

Evidence-based supplements* that help

There are lots of bottles and potions on the shelves claiming to reverse age, smooth wrinkles, erase pain, and promote longevity.

Many of these supplements are poorly researched and may be at best, a waste of money, and at worst, harmful to one’s health.

Here’s a list of evidence-based supplements that are particularly useful in the older years:

  • Multivitamin (senior’s formula with low or no vitamin A): Promotes general health; reduces the risk of illness and micronutrient deficiency.
  • Probiotics: Improves digestion and immunity.
  • Fiber: Reduces constipation and helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.
  • Vitamin D: Reduces risk of chronic disease, particularly osteoporosis and cancer.
  • Omega 3: Modulates inflammation and contributes to eye, skin, and brain health.
  • Protein & Creatine: Helps preserve lean tissue (muscle and bone mass); decreases frailty.
  • Digestive enzyme: Aids breakdown of food, easing digestion and enhancing absorption of nutrients.
  • Glucosamine: Preserves and builds healthy joint tissue; may reduce pain in osteoarthritis.

*Please note that supplements quality can vary greatly. Shop at stores you trust with high product turnover, and look for supplements that are free of artificial sweeteners, coloring, flavoring, and ingredients that you don’t recognize. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from knowledgeable health store staff. Additionally, third-party rating sites like Examine and Labdoor provide unbiased, evidence-based suggestions for the most effective supplements and brands.

7 habits that can help you age well.

Luckily, we now have research on the specific factors that can help you live a healthy, enjoyable, meaningful life, longer.

In a variety of large-scale population studies, these seven lifestyle habits are consistently correlated with lower disease rates, better mood and well-being, and increased longevity.

The earlier you start, the better, but these habits can make a difference no matter your current age.

Practice these habits consistently, and transform the experience of aging.

1. Keep moving.

For relatively little cost or time (about 30 minutes a day), exercise is one of the most impactful things we can do for our health.

As we age, our metabolism declines and our bodies don’t use nutrients as well.

Exercise signals the body to:

  • use nutrients and balance blood sugar;
  • build and repair bone and muscle tissue; and
  • circulate blood, nutrients, and oxygen, including to the brain.

Regular exercise is correlated with lower rates of:

  • Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity
  • Arthritis and bone fractures
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Fatigue
  • Overall mortality

Additionally, exercise improves mood and well-being. This is especially true if exercise is social, like walking with a friend or attending group classes.

Common challenges seniors face with moving

When muscles aren’t used, they atrophy: Moving around becomes harder, making it more likely that a person will continue being sedentary.

Also, embarking on an exercise program might sound intimidating and inaccessible: Whether due to pain, injury, illness, or just a history of being sedentary, it may be difficult or scary to begin an activity program.

Action steps that can help

  • Start with gentle activities. This reduces the risk of injury or heart attack. Opt for low impact activities, such as swimming, recumbent biking, or walking on grass or dirt rather than pavement. Even when mobility is reduced or compromised, exercise can be made accessible and can benefit health tremendously.
  • Find an activity that feels fun. And one that can be done consistently. This can include: gardening or yard work, walking, swimming, climbing stairs, yoga, tai chi, cleaning the house, or doing light weight circuits.
  • Keep things in perspective. Remember that “moderate to vigorous” is a subjective measure. What a 25-year-old personal trainer defines as “moderate to vigorous” may be very different from how an 85-year-old beginner exerciser defines it. The right level of activity should leave the exerciser feeling out of breath, but still able to hold a conversation.
  • Ease into exercise. About 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day is ideal, but benefits appear after only 10 minutes of movement per day! A good program will incorporate some endurance training (like walking fast), some weight bearing activities (like doing bicep curls with soup cans), and some balance training (like practicing standing on one foot, or doing yoga).

2. Eat healthy meals.

The foods we eat literally make up our bodies. If we are missing important nutrients, our bodies are more vulnerable to damage or illness.

Although all nutrients are important, two get are critical during the older years:

  • Protein is especially crucial because it helps to preserve valuable lean tissue (muscle and bone). Higher lean tissue reduces frailty, falls, and fractures, all of which are associated with poorer quality of life and earlier death.
  • Antioxidants are like the body’s defense team. Aging is partly due to an accumulation of daily attacks from free radicals from pollution, household chemicals, too much sun, or lifestyle habits like smoking, eating lots of processed foods, or excessive drinking.

Antioxidants protect our body from free radical damage, and slow down the aging process. With a regular supply of antioxidants through wholesome meals abundant in colorful plant foods, we’re less vulnerable to cataracts, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and more.

Aim for five servings of vegetables and fruits a day — and choose a variety of colors! Different colors (red, purple, green, orange, etc.) often relate to different nutrient compounds, so the more colorful the “rainbow” you’re consuming, the more nutrients you’re getting.

Common challenges seniors face with eating healthy

Poor appetite can lower food intake and the enjoyment of food: This may be caused by medication side effects, illness, or nutrient deficiencies. If a person has frequent digestive upset, they may be (understandably) resistant to trying new foods or eating anything that has triggered them in the past.

The individual may have dentures or weak teeth: If dentures are ill-fitting (this can happen after extreme weight gain or loss) or teeth are weak, it can be difficult and painful to chew.

It might be harder to shop for or prepare food: Frequent obstacles include trouble walking, carrying groceries, or holding a knife steady due to shaky hands.

Energy or mood is low: Fatigue, anxiety, or depression can make it challenging to find motivation to prepare meals. Elderly living alone and eating in isolation are especially vulnerable.

Many older individuals no longer have an income: That means the highest quality foods may not be accessible to them.

Certain generations may carry strong ideas about nutrition: For example, some may habitually avoid fats, feel they must “clean the plate”, or believe in dessert after every meal, because that’s how they grew up eating.

Action steps that can help

  • Prioritize consumption of whole foods to increase nutrition. These include fruits and vegetables, legumes, meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Focus on soft, well-cooked, or pureed / blended foods. Try scrambled eggs, poached fish, mashed vegetables, avocado, yogurt, smoothies, and soups, which are easier to digest.
  • Try food supplements. Protein powders, green powders, fiber powders, and fish oil can be useful for increasing nutrition.
  • If budget allows, sign up for a grocery or meal delivery service. This can make food preparation much easier.
  • Choose quick and easy to prepare foods when grocery shopping. Opt for pre-made high quality soups, pre-cut fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, or pre-cooked proteins.
  • Don’t forget pleasure. Look for ways to increase enjoyment while eating: Choose foods that appeal; set the table with nice linens, silverware, and flowers; eat slowly and savour food; and allow small treats if desired. A small bowl of hazelnut gelato after dinner a couple times a week makes life just a bit more delicious!

3. Achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

According to research, there is a BMI “sweet spot” for the elderly.

Seniors with a BMI between 25 and 32 have the lowest rates of mortality, and recover better from illness and infection.

Being overweight or underweight can pose a risk.

Too much body fat can be harmful. In particular, visceral fat around our internal organs is associated with higher inflammation, insulin resistance and high blood sugar, eye problems like cataracts or blindness, kidney damage, and cancer.

However, some fat can be protective. Having enough body fat helps a person recover better from wasting diseases like pneumonia, cancer, influenza, and digestive issues. Having some body fat is also correlated with a lowered risk of fracture during a fall.

Common challenges seniors face with finding a healthy weight

Elderly who are underweight may struggle to gain weight: This can be due to low appetite, which can be caused by medication side effects, digestion problems, or zinc deficiency (which reduces sense of taste and can make food taste metallic). Social isolation is also correlated with skipping meals and eating less nutritious meals.

Those who are overweight may struggle to lose weight: Again, medication side effects can contribute to weight gain. Sometimes, seniors are just eating like they did when they were younger — except now, they’re moving less and may have lost metabolically active tissue, like muscle, to use those calories.

The onset of retirement and the “empty nest” stage can change eating habits: More leisure time and less routine may mean eating frequently at restaurants, often accompanied by more alcoholic drinks.

Action steps that can help

If weight gain is needed:

  • Ensure protein requirements are getting met first. This macronutrient offers the biggest “return on investment” in terms of staying healthy and resilient as a senior.
  • Healthy fats are calorically dense and can easily increase calorie intake. Choose fats like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nut butters, and full-fat dairy products like plain whole milk yogurt or aged hard cheeses.

If weight loss is needed:

  • Prioritize whole foods. These include fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and appropriate amounts of healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.

In all cases:

  • Avoid “diet rules” or forcing certain foods. If kale is unpalatable, take it off the table. If you want to have a cookie every now and then, enjoy that double chocolate chunk!

4. Get the right amount of sleep.

As we age, it’s normal to need less sleep, and to sleep less consistently. As a result, older people may have trouble falling or staying asleep, and/or may wake early.

However, at any age, adequate sleep is essential, and helps:

  • brain regeneration, improving memory and focus;
  • hormone and neurotransmitter regulation, keeping mood and appetite stable;
  • inflammation regulation, keeping the immune system healthy and balanced; and
  • recovery from stress, be it from emotional or physical sources.

In the older years, getting anywhere from 5 to 9 hours of sleep a day may be appropriate.

Sleeping enough helps keep us healthy, but sleeping too much can be a sign of illness.

If sleeping over 9 or 10 hours is becoming the norm, consult a physician. Excessive sleep can be a sign of nutrient deficiency (low iron and B12 can both cause fatigue), depression, infection, or serious illness.

Common challenges seniors face with getting the right amount of sleep

Changing sleep patterns throw people off: Although it’s normal to need less sleep in our older years, it may be difficult to adjust to a new sleep schedule.

Side effects from medication interrupt natural rhythms: Some medications may cause fatigue or wakefulness.

Worries about health, finances, or loved ones can also keep us up: If tossing and turning is chronic, get a full assessment of what’s preventing rest, including what’s weighing on the heart and mind.

Action steps that can help

  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Setting up a good night’s sleep doesn’t just happen at night. Turn down the lights and disengage from stimulating activities about an hour before bed. Make your bedroom as dark as possible, and keep it cool (around 67 F / 19 C).
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Avoid napping for more than an hour a day, or napping later in the day.
  • Create a comforting sleep routine. For example, have a bath, read some calming literature, or go for a slow walk outside.
  • Avoid spending time in bed while awake. If you can’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, leave the bed and do some restful activities, like reading or making a cup of tea; return to bed when you feel sleepy again.

Check out this article for more tips on getting a good night’s sleep.

5. Reduce or quit smoking.

To some it may be hard to believe, but many seniors grew up during a time when smoking was promoted as a healthy habit!

However, we now know smoking is undeniably linked to negative health outcomes — primarily lung diseases like asthma, emphysema, and lung cancer; and cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke.

Smoking dramatically increases our exposure to free radicals, which increase inflammation, damage the arteries, and advance physiological age.

The good news is:

It’s never too late to quit and the body begins to regenerate immediately.

Common challenges seniors face with stopping smoking

Cigarettes are addictive and smoking is hard to quit: If this habit has been maintained for decades, a person may find it hard to imagine their life without smoking.

Older people may wonder, what’s the point of quitting now?: This is why it’s important to understand that, no matter what age smoking is ceased, health benefits can occur almost immediately.

Action steps that can help

  • Take it slow. Smoking is often used as a way to cope with stress. Therefore, rather than simply yanking out this behavior, you may have better luck gradually replacing it with more productive coping mechanisms. Incorporate supportive stress management practices like massage, spending time with friends, or engaging in a creative hobby, and use them to slowly phase cigarettes out.
  • Avoid shaming. Whether you’re trying to quit yourself or helping a client quit, don’t resort to shaming or judgement. It‘s common knowledge that smoking is linked to poor health; a person who smokes needs a sense of hope, not a lecture. The body can regenerate at any age! That’s why there’s still value in quitting, and the benefits can be linked to meaningful goals. For example, being able to go on a long, vigorous walk with a beloved pet while able to breathe freely and clearly.
  • Seek support. Individuals trying to quit may also find benefit in joining support groups, seeking counseling, or trying other medical interventions under the care of their physician.

6. Moderate or eliminate alcohol.

Wait a second — isn’t red wine supposed to promote longevity?!

The research on alcohol consumption — even moderate consumption — is mixed. Most experts suggest that if you don’t drink already, don’t start.

Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to health problems in almost every part of the body:

  • Heart: Arrhythmias; high blood pressure; heart disease; stroke
  • Brain: Sleep disruption; depression; neurological damage; epilepsy; dementia; alcoholism (particularly if it runs in the family)
  • Immune system: More prone to infection / illness / lowered immune response; cancer (mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast); increased inflammation / flare-ups of autoimmune disorders
  • Liver and kidneys: Fatty liver; alcoholic hepatitis; fibrosis / cirrhosis; liver cancer; kidney disease
  • Metabolism: Osteoporosis and bone fractures; anemia; pancreatitis; changes to fat metabolism; muscle damage; interference with some medications

The body can’t store alcohol, so must prioritize clearing it. As the liver metabolizes that scotch on the rocks, the side effect is that it may delay or neglect other tasks — like digesting, absorbing, and storing other nutrients like proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

We want to be careful not to overburden the liver, so it’s free to do all the other important jobs it needs to do.

Common challenges seniors face with alcohol moderation

Not knowing what moderate drinking looks like: Many people may be in the “heavy drinking” category without even realizing it.

According to the United States Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, “moderate drinking” means, on average:

  • Women: Up to seven drinks per week, with no more than three drinks on any single day.
  • Men: Up to 14 drinks per week, with no more than four drinks on any single day.

And just so it’s clear what a “drink” is, here’s a guide:

Increased leisure time may mean increased drinking: Going out to restaurants more often may mean having a nice Chardonnay more often — or maybe even the occasional 9-hole beer bash at the golf club!

Alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism: People may drink to blunt chronic pain, loneliness, or anxiety.

Action steps that can help

  • Replace alcoholic beverages. Try water, sparkling water, or vegetable juices instead.
  • Experiment with other stress-reducing activities. If you’re having more than 1 to 2 drinks per night, and you have trouble stopping, try reflecting on how you cope with life stress. Instead of judgement or lecturing, approach this habit with curiosity and compassion. Consider replacing drinking with spending time in nature, getting together with family, or playing with a pet.
  • Don’t go it alone. As with smoking, people trying to quit or reduce alcohol consumption may also find benefit in joining support groups, seeking additional counselling, or trying other medical interventions under the care of their physician.

7. Connect with others.

When people are surveyed about the most meaningful aspects of their lives, they list good marriages, close family relationships, rich friendships, and lively work relationships.

Often, it’s the presence of other people, to love and be loved by, that enhances our reason to live.

Elderly who live in isolation are also most at risk for physical and psychological problems. Living alone may mean that there is no one to help if you fall, no one to talk to about joys or sorrows, and no one to help prepare food. As a result, elderly living alone may be more prone to injury, loneliness, and malnourishment.

All of these factors reduce lifespan, and more importantly, quality of life.

Meaningful human interaction:

  • gives a sense of purpose;
  • decreases subjective age;
  • improves mental health; and
  • makes life more fun and joyful.

Prioritize and enable regular connection with family, friends, and community members.

Common challenges seniors face with social connection

As age increases, individuals are more likely to experience loss: You lose a chance to connect when you lose friends, family members, beloved pets, or a spouse (which is especially correlated with a sharp increase in mortality).

Living in a long-term care facility can be isolating: This can be especially difficult if social connections are not nurtured and enabled.

Eating in isolation is a red flag: When people eat alone, meals tend to be more repetitive, simple, and less nutritious.

Action steps that can help

  • Stay as independent as possible, but still highly connected. This enables both autonomy and support, which means experiencing plenty of meaning, richness, and joy in the later stages of life. Even if an individual has lost a loved one (or many), quality social connections are available and can be developed.
  • Prioritize social activities. Options include family potlucks, group fitness classes, bird watching meet-ups, live theater field trips with friends, or taking a course in a creative or intellectual endeavor with other like-minded peers.
  • Mix generations. Although the elderly may appreciate spending time with people of their own generation, younger generations can provide energy and newness to an elderly person’s life, and an elderly person can provide wisdom and perspective to a younger person’s life.

Reflect on your life, then take action.

My two sets of grandparents were very different.

One set had poor lifestyle habits, suffered from chronic disease, and died in their early seventies in a nursing home.

The other set stayed active, kept a vegetable garden that fed them many meals, and lived in a close community where they were able to help and be helped by neighbors and friends. This set lived well and independently on their farm into their mid-nineties.

When I think about my two sets of grandparents, I see the range of possibilities my genetics offer. Mostly, I see how powerfully lifestyle habits can affect quality of life.

There are lots of things we don’t have control over. But we do have control over many habits that have tremendous impact on our health and how we age.

I don’t aim for perfection, and don’t advocate anyone else does. But I do advocate for being proactive.

If you’re aging — and, ahem, that’s all of us — reflect on your family history, and your current habits. Consult the above list and focus on one thing to promote your healthspan. Practice that habit, and add more when and if you feel ready. All positive actions count, and no healthy step forward is too small.

If you’re a health professional, help your elderly clients or patients take action on these habits. Acknowledge the real-life constraints they have, but more importantly, highlight their strengths. The elderly have superpowers too — they made it here this far, after all!

And for everyone: You have today. What can you do to make the most of it?

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

If you’re elderly:

1. Simplify your life.

The later years are a great time to clarify what’s truly important.

It’s ok to let go of possessions, tasks, and even relationships that no longer bring you joy and meaning.

If you have the means, hire help! Get a trainer to help you move safely and regularly, a meal service to ensure your nutrition needs are being met, or a local youth to take care of minor house repairs and chores you no longer want to do.

This allows you to spend more time on the things you enjoy, hopefully with the people you really love spending time with.

2. Join a community.

Social interactions and good relationships give us purpose, joy, and connection. Connection with others is also linked to better physiological health.

Find like-minded people to connect with regularly, be it with classmates from a course you take, family, or just your neighbors down the street or down the hall.

And don’t be afraid to connect with the younger generation! If you’re not a grandparent by blood, you might be able to volunteer as one!

3. Embrace change.

Change is a constant.

Rather than resist it, learn to embrace it. Support whatever changes arise with compassion, openness, and resilience.

Many people find that developing a spiritual practice is nurturing during times of intense change.

This practice can be anything that supports you and brings you peace, whether it’s a daily walk in nature, regular time with a loved one to talk out hopes and fears, or a mindfulness practice like meditation or deep breathing.

4. Emphasize joy and meaning.

Do stuff you like!

Find ways to incorporate pleasure into your daily life.

Choose foods that you love and can savor. Get a massage or enjoy a special spa treatment. Read books that spark your curiosity and fill your heart with joy. Do something you’ve never tried but you’ve always wanted to do. Appreciate the beauty around you, whether it’s the light in a child’s face or the bright colors of your flower garden.

5. Give back

One of the best ways to feel good is to give to others.

As an older individual, you have a lifetime of perspective and wisdom that you can share with others.

Donate to charity, volunteer, or teach others something you’ve learned in your life. This could mean helping tutor adults in math at your local community centre, or teaching a younger family member how to make the famous family pierogi recipe.

Think of the legacy you want to share, and give it generously.

If you work with the elderly:

1. Do a full assessment of your clients’ health status, needs, wants, and situation.

Look at your client or patient holistically and in context.

Find out what and how they’re eating, what they do (if anything) for activity, what their living situation is like, what kind of support they have, where their mood and motivation is at, and what they do for fun.

If you don’t have access to a lab, work with an individual’s family doctor to get blood testing done to ensure that there aren’t any obvious nutritional deficiencies or abnormal blood markers.

Avoid “one-size-fits-all” prescriptions. There is no one “protocol for healthy seniors”. Just as in other stages of life, every elderly person is unique.

2. Focus on the positive and what can be done.

Working with the elderly may mean working with some limitations.

While these limitations should be respected, they shouldn’t be the focus.

Instead, focus on what a person is ready, willing, and able to do. Add habits that are simple and provide easy “wins” for your client, which can help restore confidence and optimism.

Focus on doing the basics, consistently and well, to add a sense of autonomy and to improve quality of life.

Habits that are high impact, yet simple include:

  • Eating protein at every meal; drinking enough water;
  • Increasing the consumption of colorful fruits and veggies; and
  • Adding 10-30 minutes of movement per day.

3. Treat the elderly with dignity and respect.

Like all clients, assume they are the expert.

Chances are, they’ve been on the earth much longer than you, and have made it pretty far on their own.

So don’t boss them around.

As a health professional, you are there to provide information and support. Offer guidance but also offer options. Make it clear that the reins are in your client’s hands.

4. Know your scope of practice.

Work with other health care providers if your client or patient is facing issues you are not trained to deal with.

When appropriate and with consent, connect with a person’s family doctor, or other health professionals on their team.

Working together, you can all help to best serve a person in their quest to live a long, meaningful, healthy life.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes — at any age — is 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.


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