Diet challenges are usually all about what you can’t eat. But what if you could see huge results from a self-experiment that doesn’t make any foods off-limits? Instead of focusing on what you eat, our 30-day eating challenge emphasizes how you eat. And the results? They could be transformational.

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“You want the next level stuff?” I asked.

“Do this first, and let’s see if you can handle it.”

The nutrition advice I’d just given Cameron Lichtwer wasn’t what he expected, so I made it a challenge.

As an instructor at the British Columbia Personal Training Institute, a strength and conditioning coach, and a former competitive athlete, Cameron was no stranger to exercise and nutrition. In fact, he thought he’d tried it all.

But my advice? It was so… basic. Wasn’t he far beyond that?

Well, no. Because what I told him can help almost anyone, from the most advanced dieters to those who’ve struggled with healthy eating for a lifetime.

“Eat slowly and mindfully.”

I know: It sounds too ridiculously simple to work.

But guess what? It was exactly what Cameron needed. In two months, his body fat dropped from 13.9 percent to 9.5 percent, the lowest level he’s ever achieved. This was without weighing and measuring food, or following a restrictive meal plan.

Soon after he started, he sent me this text:

“I can’t believe it. I’m losing fat and destroying my workouts. I’m sleeping better. I feel awesome.”

Cameron was surprised by the results he got from such a simple process.

But I wasn’t.

Eating slowly is one of the core practices of Precision Nutrition Coaching.

Because it works.

So why not try the slow-eating challenge yourself?

Practice it for just 30 days, and you may be shocked at what you achieveeven if you don’t change anything else.

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5 ways this 30-day eating challenge will change your body and mind.

When it comes to eating better, most folks worry about the little details:

  • “Are potatoes fattening?”
  • “If I don’t drink a protein shake after my workout, is it even worth exercising?”
  • “Is keto really the best way to lose weight? Or should I be doing Paleo? Or what about the alkaline diet?!”

Yet they eat over the kitchen sink. Or in their car. Or in a daze while in front of the TV.

And who can blame them? We’ve been taught to think about what we eat, not how we eat.

That’s too bad since…

Eating slowly and mindfully can actually be more important than:

  • what you eat
  • when you eat
  • getting anything else “perfect”

Now, this may seem a bit controversial. After all, if you only eat Oreos, the speed at which you consume them isn’t your biggest problem.

But setting aside the extremes, slow eating may be the single most powerful habit for driving major transformation.

Instead of having to figure out which foods to eat, in what frequency, and in what portions—all important factors, of course—eating slowly is the simplest way anyone can start losing weight and feeling better, immediately. (Like, after your first slow-eaten meal.)

That fuels confidence and motivation, and from there, you can always tighten up the details.

Because why go to the complicated stuff right away, when you can get incredible results without it?

Slow eating isn’t just for nutrition newbies. Nutrition nerds can also see big benefits. If you’re like Cameron, for example, it could be the key to unlocking never-before-seen progress. In fact, we’ve seen it work for physique competitors, fitness models, and even Olympic athletes.

Slow eating is like the secret weight loss weapon everyone has access to, but nobody knows about.

That’s because it can help you…

1. Eat less without feeling deprived.

Sure, many popular diets claim this as a benefit. But with slow eating, this phenomenon can occur even if you don’t change what you’re eating.

For example, in one study, University of Rhode Island researchers served the same pasta lunch to 30 normal-weight women on two different days. At both meals, participants were told to eat until comfortably full.

But they were also told:

  • Lunch 1: Eat this meal as fast as you can.
  • Lunch 2: Eat slowly and put your utensils down between every bite.

The results:

  • When eating quickly, the women consumed 646 calories in 9 minutes.
  • When eating slowly, they consumed 579 calories in 29 minutes.

So in 20 more minutes, the slow-eaters ate 67 fewer calories. What’s more, it also took them longer to feel hungry afterward compared to when they were speeding through their lunch.

These effects, spread across every meal and snack, could add up to hundreds of calories saved over the course of a day.

Granted, this is just a single study, but it demonstrates what we’ve seen with our clients over and over.

(Feel free to try this experiment at home right now, if you like.)

Why does this happen?

Reason 1: Physiology.  It takes about 20 minutes for your body’s satiety signals to kick in. Slow eating gives the system time to work, allowing you to better sense when you’ve had enough.

Reason 2: Psychology. When you slow down, and really try to savor your meal, you tend to feel satisfied with less, and feel less “deprived.”

Rachel Levy: Facing fear and anxiety.

Rachel Levy’s initial reaction to this challenge: “I can’t possibly eat slowly. I will die!”

As you can guess, she didn’t perish after giving it a try. In fact, she went on to be the female winner of our July 2018 transformation contest.

How’d she make it happen?

I decided to just try. Just put one foot in front of the other, and only do what was being asked of me—eat just a little bit slower.

“I faced the fear of doing something different.

During her first two weeks of eating slowly, Rachel had one of those “aha moments.”

“I suddenly realized that the reason I ate quickly was actually a feedback loop: I ate quickly to calm my anxiety, but eating quickly was making me anxious.”

The upshot: Discovering this connection immediately made it easy for Rachel to eat slowly.

2. Look and feel better.

Have regular bloating, cramping, or stomach pains? Many of our clients say slow eating helped solve their digestive issues.

Why does speed matter?

Because when you wolf down your food, you take larger bites and chew less.

Your stomach has a harder time mashing those big chunks of food into chyme—the sludgy mix of partially digested food, hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, and water that passes from your stomach into your small intestine.

When food isn’t properly broken down into chyme, it can cause indigestion and other GI problems. We may absorb fewer nutrients, depleting ourselves of valuable vitamins and minerals.

Besides making you uncomfortable (maybe even miserable), shoddy digestion can also affect your mindset.

For instance, if your meal leaves you bloated, burpy, and sluggish, you may interpret this as “feeling out of shape,” and become discouraged about your efforts. On the other hand, slowing down and digesting your food properly may help you “feel leaner.”

3. Learn what “hungry” and “full” feel like.

Ever have a meal because it’s a certain time of day, even if you’re not particularly hungry?

Or clean your plate, though you’re pretty sure you’ll regret it?

These are just a couple of ways people tune out their internal hunger and satiety cues. There are plenty more, but the point is:

Many of us eat when we’re not hungry, and keep eating when we’re full.

Slow eating can help get you right again. With regular practice, it improves your appetite awareness. You learn to recognize —and more importantly, trust—your body’s own internal signals.

Over time, this retrains you to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Not because some rigid meal plan demands it, but because your body (a.k.a. your new best friend) tells you so.

This is the difference between being “on a diet” and learning how to “listen to your body”… a valuable skill that allows you to make healthier choices for the rest of your life.

Voila—lasting body transformation in a way that doesn’t suck.

Nellie Long: Tackling food addiction.

Nellie was already “healthy” when she started Precision Nutrition Coaching. She went to the gym three to five times a week, ate mostly whole, unprocessed foods, and wasn’t really looking to lose weight.

There was just one problem: She struggled with food addiction. “I needed to face the reason I was eating a pound of carrots in one sitting,” she says.

When first introduced to the habit of eating slowly, Nellie was so worried she couldn’t do it, she considered leaving the program. But instead, she accepted the challenge. And although there were setbacks—like the day she ate seven cupcakes—little by little, it started to get easier.

Now, it’s revolutionized her relationship with food. On a recent backpacking trip, Nellie’s friend brought some Fritos along. At the end of their 13-mile day, Nellie started craving those chips.

“Before, I would have pounded them down. But this time, I put one in my mouth and savored it.” She still ate the chips—slowly—but instead of feeling ashamed and overstuffed, she felt nourished and satisfied.

Big lesson for Nellie:

“I’ve learned that when I listen to my body, it tells me everything I need to be successful.”

4. Disrupt patterns that derail your progress.

If you struggle with binge eating, learning to go slow can help.

That might sound odd, since a binge is driven by an overwhelming urge to consume as much food as possible, as fast as possible. (This quality is what differentiates binge eating from run-of-the-mill overeating.)

But the skills you develop from slow eating can help you mitigate the damage, and build resilience over time.

Here’s how: When you’re in the grip of a binge, slow down as soon as you realize what’s happening.

Pause. Breathe. The food will wait for you. Even just one breath between bites will help.

You might not be able to stop eating right away, and that’s okay. How much you eat isn’t as important as getting back into a more thoughtful state of mind.

With this “binge slowly” technique, most people can regain a sense of control. And the more you practice it, the more effective it will be.

If you keep slowing down, even during your most difficult moments:

  • You’ll become more aware of why, where, and how you’re binging (so it won’t seem random, and eventually you can break the chain).
  • You’ll likely eat less and stop sooner.
  • You’ll feel less panicked and powerless.
  • You’ll be able to soothe yourself more effectively, and get back into “wise mind” faster.

In time, this’ll help normalize your eating, boost your physical and psychological health, and improve body composition (or help you maintain a healthy body composition more easily, without restriction-compensation cycles).

5. Gain a tool you can use anytime, anywhere.

We don’t always have control over what foods are available to us. But we always have control over how quickly we chew and swallow.

Think of slow eating as the low-hanging fruit of nutrition: super accessible in any situation.

It doesn’t require specialized meal plans or a food scale. No matter what’s going on in your life, or what’s on your plate, you can practice eating slowly.

Elaine Gordon: Finding a better way.

When Precision Nutrition Coaching client Elaine Gordon started the program, she already knew a lot about nutrition from years of working with coaches and researching on her own.

“I knew the ‘whats’ of eating well, but really benefited from the ‘hows’ that PN teaches,” she says.

“It’s incredible to see how your relationship with food changes when you bring attention and awareness to the process of eating.”

Thanks to her new, more mindful relationship with food, Elaine began to get the results she’d been after all those years. And after seeing how effective it was for Elaine, her husband even started eating slowly. Now they practice the habit together.

The best part? Elaine knows she has this tool at her disposal, no matter where she is or what she’s doing.

“Even if all else fails with my diet, I can always choose to eat slowly.”

How to eat slowly.

Eating slowly and mindfully is simple and effective—but not necessarily easy.

Most people have to work at it.

Thankfully, you don’t have to get it “perfect.” Shoot for “a little bit better” instead. You might be surprised at how effective this can be.

Try one of these tips. You can experiment with them for just one meal, or take on a full 30-day slow-eating challenge, if you feel up to it.

Take just one breath.

Before you eat, pause. Take one breath.

Take one bite. Then take another breath.

Take another bite. Then take another breath.

Go one bite, and one breath at a time.

That’s it.

Add just one minute.

At first, most people panic at the idea of “wasting time” on eating or having to be alone with their thoughts and the sounds of crunching for too long. Plus, life is busy and rushed. Having long leisurely meals may feel impossible.

So, start small. Add just one minute per meal. Or two, or three, if you’re feeling sassy about it.

When you start your meal, start the clock (or use an app like 20 Minute Eating to time yourself).

The game: Stretch out that meal as long as you can. Then try to make your next meal last one minute longer.

Over time, you can gradually build up how long you spend at meals.

Don’t be hard on yourself: If you forget to slow down during one meal, no biggie. Just slow down next time, and notice what happens.

And remember, even one minute better—or one breath-between-bites better—can help.

Put down the remote.

For the next level of challenge, don’t eat while you drive, watch TV, or play with your phone. Sit at a table, not on your living room couch, and for heaven’s sake, don’t eat standing over the sink. Try to relax and experience your meal.

The whole point is to pay attention to your food and body. So, over the next 30 days, do your best to eat in a calm environment with minimal distractions.

Eat foods that need to really be chewed.

Try this experiment: Eat a whole food, like an apple slice, and count how many chews it takes to swallow a mouthful. Then grab a highly processed snack, like a cracker or cookie, and count your chews.

What differences do you notice?

Which food do you think will be easier to eat slowly?

Now act accordingly.

Minimally processed lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes require more effort—and time—to eat.

The more you have to chew, the longer it’ll take you to eat, giving your fullness signals a chance to catch up.

Do something between bites.

Pacing yourself is easier when you have a specific action in mind to break up mouthfuls of food.

Between bites, try:

  • setting down your utensils
  • taking a breath (or three)
  • taking a sip of water
  • asking someone at the table a question

Savor your food.

When you eat… eat. Enjoy it. Really taste it.

Is it salty? Sweet? Does it coat the roof of your mouth? What’s the texture like?

Notice these little details with each bite.

To really tap into this experience, try “wine tasting” your food. Practice chewing slowly, sniffing, and savoring your food, as if it were a fine wine.

Notice what affects your eating speed.

As you experiment, try to identify what affects your eating speed or focus.

Consider factors such as:

  • who you eat with
  • when you eat
  • what you eat
  • where you eat

Once you’ve made some observations, ask yourself:

  • What could you do to improve on what is already working well?
  • What could you change, given what isn’t working well?

Refine your practice.

Pay attention to the eating speed of those around you. Observe the slowest-eating person in the group and match their speed.

If you find yourself rushing, that’s okay. Put your utensils down and take a minute to re-focus. If slow eating isn’t habitual for you, this will take some time to master.

Embrace an experimental mindset and notice what you learn.

Remember: every meal is a chance to practice.

Phillip Wilson: Getting leaner and learning to be present.

Like many others, Phillip was skeptical about eating slowly.

“I never expected it to work. It sounded too easy,” he says.

Eating slowly was more challenging than he expected, but with practice, things started to click, and the results have been major.

“The simple act of making time to eat slowly has gotten me closer to my goals than anything I’ve ever tried,” says Phillip.

And the results aren’t just physical: Slowing down his eating helped Phillip set a more comfortable pace in other areas of his life, too.

“Not only am I leaner, but life doesn’t just pass me by anymore. I’m more aware of the moments that are right in front of me.”

I ate slowly, now what?

At the end of your 30-day slow-eating challenge, tune into what’s different.

You’re probably going to observe some changes in your body—such as how your stomach feels after a meal or how your pants fit. You may also notice mental changes, like what you think about while you’re eating, or how you react to feeling hungry or full.

Look at how much has changed in just 30 days, and imagine:

What would happen if you continued working on this habit… forever?

There’s a good reason to do just that: No matter what other habits you adopt or “next level stuff” you try, eating slowly will always enhance your efforts. And how often can you say that about anything?

But don’t just keep it to yourself: Share the 30-day slow-eating challenge with your friends, family, and co-workers. It could be exactly what they need, but never even knew to try.

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

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

Over the past 15 years, we’ve used the Precision Nutrition Coaching method to help over 100,000 clients lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… for the long-term… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

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

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

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, July 17th, 2019.

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

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

If you’re ready to change your body, and your life, with help from the world’s best coaches, this is your chance.

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

The post The 30-day eating challenge that can blow your mind—and transform your body. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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From ruining your progress to making you feel like a failure, food cravings aren’t your friend (no matter what they say). In this article, we break down the real reasons you can’t stop over-snacking, and explain how to combine smart behavioral strategies with healthy junk food alternatives—so you can finally conquer your cravings.

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Have you ever stared at a pile of crumbs, with a belly full of shame, and wondered, ‘How did I let this happen?’

We can relate. Because almost everyone can relate.

Besides driving you to eat, cravings can drive you nuts—making you feel like an out-of-control failure who can’t keep from overindulging.

But you aren’t powerless against these urges, even if it seems that way.

The secret to winning the cravings game?

It’s not about eliminating your cravings altogether. That’s wishful thinking.

It’s not about building your willpower, either. Relying solely on self-discipline all-too-often ends with a binge (and then a whimper).

No, the way you conquer your cravings is by outwitting them.

How? By understanding why, where, and when they occur and creating a strategic action plan ahead of time.

Think of it as learning junk food jiu-jitsu.

And if you’re ready, you can start today.

Here 5 simple strategies—along with 16 delicious recipes—to help you get off the cravings train for good.

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Dig to the root of your cravings.

No one hates on themselves when they crave a salad, Super Shake, or a grilled chicken breast.

But most cravings are closely tied to junk food and have little to do with true hunger. And each time you indulge these urges you reinforce the behavior, creating a “cravings cycle” that can hijack your progress… and your sanity.

The cravings cycle works like this:

First comes the urge (the craving), followed by the behavior (finding a food that satisfies that craving). Then, you get the reward (eating the food you wanted). That last part is accompanied by a release of dopamine, giving your brain a “hit” of pleasure1.

From there it can snowball: The more often you reward your brain, the more likely it is to stimulate the craving, and the stronger that craving may become.

Find your trigger

Ever had your mouth water at the mere sight of a McDonald’s drive-thru? Or smell that movie popcorn and make a beeline for the concession stand—even though you swore you’d skip it this time?

Cravings are often brought on by environmental cues such as sight, smell, taste, location, or company. So tracking when and where your cravings occur can you help you figure out what triggers them. From there, you can adjust your environment and habits to disrupt the cycle.

Each time you experience a craving, jot down the answers to these questions:

  • What are you craving? (A specific food? A certain flavor or texture?)
  • Where are you? (Note your location, but also any smells or visual cues—like a restaurant billboard or commercial.)
  • What are you doing? (Driving? Working? Watching TV?)
  • What are you feeling physically? (Shaky? Lightheaded? Tense?)
  • What are you feeling emotionally? (Happy? Cranky? Rushed?)
  • What are you thinking? (For instance: ‘I might as well eat this… I’ve already blown my diet.’)
  • Who are you with? (Be very specific.)

This isn’t a one-time exercise. Try it for a couple of weeks so you can see what patterns emerge. And trust us, there are almost always patterns.

To make it easy for you, use this cravings journal, which takes you through the process step-by-step.

Change your patterns.

Let’s say you tend to reach for ice cream an hour after dinner every night. According to your notes, you’re not even really hungry; you’re just craving something sweet, salty, or crunchy… or maybe a combination of the three.

Or perhaps you’ve noticed that every day after your 2 pm conference call, you saunter down to the office cafeteria “just to see if there’s anything new.” (There’s not.) And you end up with a 500-calorie “treat” you didn’t need or even truly want.

You’ve just identified a pattern. Now you can disrupt the cycle with these smart behavioral strategies.

Strategy #1: Give your craving a timeout.

Yes, the strategy traditionally used with willful toddlers can also work with Rocky Road.

Notice your snack urge, and sit with it for five minutes without taking action.

This isn’t about exercising willpower. It’s about pausing just long enough to let your conscious mind say, ‘Hey, I’m in charge here!’ This gives you the chance to evaluate all your options, and make a rational decision, rather than a reactionary one.

Are you actually hungry? Or are you bored or stressed or procrastinating?

Does a steak or baked potato sound good, or is it just those donuts in the break room?

These are the kinds of questions you can ask yourself.

Granted, you may still decide to go ahead and indulge. After all, maybe you’re truly hungry. Or perhaps you’re just not having your best day. (Trigger alert.) And that’s okay.

Don’t consider this a failure.

In your efforts to break your cravings cycle, you won’t be perfect. Simply think of this as an opportunity to gather more data about your cravings, so you better understand them for next time. (And give yourself a pat on the back for taking five minutes.)

But here’s the really important part: You don’t have to choose between giving in to your cravings and depriving yourself.

There’s a space in between the two, and that’s where you can really break the cravings cycle.

Strategy #2: Choose an activity that doesn’t involve chewing.

What happens if you step away from the freezer and go for a walk, clean up your phone’s camera roll, or make a new Spotify playlist?

By immersing your mind or body in an activity long enough, you may run the urge all the way out of your system.

That’s because cravings are often psychological rather than physical. And with the exception of very strong grief or trauma, intense feelings don’t usually last longer than 15 to 20 minutes. If you’re not really hungry, the craving will likely dissipate.

You’ve probably even experienced a form of this “diversion therapy” before. Ever get so involved in a project that you actually forget to eat lunch? Or the afternoon flies by, and you didn’t even think about a snack? Same concept, only this time, you’ll do it on purpose.

Once you sense a craving, choose an activity you can really dig into, such as:

  • working on a project you’re passionate about
  • crossing an item off of your daily to-do list
  • responding to a few emails
  • calling a friend
  • playing an instrument or video game
  • shooting hoops in the driveway
  • coloring a page or two in a coloring book
  • exercising, gardening, or cleaning

Remember, you’re looking to activate and occupy your mind and/or body. So, while different activities may work better for different people, watching TV probably won’t help (and in fact, is often a trigger).

Strategy #3: Try an experiment.

Hunger and cravings tend to come in waves, rising and falling throughout the day.

It helps to understand how this feels. That’s why we often suggest our healthy clients (those without any pre-existing health conditions) try a fasting experiment. For 24 hours, they don’t eat (they’re reminded to stay well hydrated, though). Although some are afraid they’ll be “starving all day long,” that’s not usually what happens.

Yes, they get hungry. Yes, they get cravings. But these feelings come and go, and for many folks, this can be both eye-opening and empowering. In a sense, fasting forces them to “lean in” to urges, and accept “it’s okay to be hungry.”

Do they waste away? No.

Do they collapse from exhaustion? No.

Does the world end? No.

Again, this isn’t about testing your willpower or denying yourself. It’s about giving you a fresh perspective, and reducing the anxiety, discomfort, and urgency you feel the moment hunger or cravings arise.

Strategy #4: Indulge your cravings—under the following conditions.

Really craving a chocolate bar? Okay, have one. But choose a pricey, high-quality chocolate. Eat it slowly, and savor the experience. Though it seems counterintuitive, clients tell us they eat far less of the chocolate (or any craved food) this way. And research shows the same.

Or even better, try this unconventional strategy from Krista Scott-Dixon, Ph.D., Precision Nutrition’s Director of Curriculum. She tells her clients they can have any snack they want, but it has to be purchased—right before eating—from a grocery store that’s 15 minutes away.

She’s discovered that half the time, people decide it’s not worth the effort.

What about clients who do set out for the grocery store? By the time these folks arrive, they sometimes don’t even want the snack because the craving’s gone.

Precision Nutrition Master Coach Dominic Matteo has used a similar method with his clients. It goes like this:

You can eat it, but you have to make it.

That’s right: Potato chips need to be sliced from actual potatoes and cooked in the air fryer. Cake needs to be baked in the oven. Ice cream needs to freeze.

Sound ridiculously impractical? Sure, it does, and that’s the point.

It helps answer this question: How hungry are you, really? Besides, this is exactly what people have had to do for most of human history. (Sans the air fryer, of course.)

One important consideration for both of these strategies: They work a lot better if your kitchen pantry and office desk aren’t full of ready-to-eat temptations.

So remember Berardi‘s First Law (named for its originator, Precision Nutrition co-founder Dr. John Berardi):

If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate will eventually eat it.

Strategy #5: Eat the right foods during the day.

Though cravings can happen any time of day, nighttime cravings and overeating are very common.

At PN, we don’t necessarily like to tell people exactly when or how many meals to eat. It’s okay whether you eat a couple of times a day or several, or if you have most of your food in either earlier in the day or later. So long as it’s working for you, it’s all fair game.

But over the years, our coaches have discovered clients who overeat at night are often restricting their intake throughout the day—knowingly or unknowingly.

For example, they might be skipping breakfast and having a salad with little or no protein for lunch. By dinner, they could be making solid choices rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, but their appetite is already in overdrive. So it’s no wonder they’re feeling snacky before bed.

What you eat during the day matters. Not so much what you eat on any given day, but what you eat most days.

Fiber (especially from low-calorie vegetables) helps fill you up, and protein keeps you full longer between meals. This makes eating a combination of these nutrients, in sensible portions at regular intervals, key for regulating appetite.

Through years of experience, our coaches have found that even small adjustments to eating habits, such as adding a daily breakfast with a healthy dose of protein and veggies—along with reasonable amounts of smart carbs and healthy fats—can help curb after-dinner overeating.

The message here is simple: If you have a voracious night-time appetite, look at what you’re eating the rest of the day. You may find if you do a better job of nourishing your body at other meals, you won’t hear that little “feed me!” voice when you’re about to brush your teeth.

Junk food alternatives: Marketing trick or healthier treat?

Answer: It depends.

“Healthy” snacking options are everywhere, from frozen yogurt to those keto-friendly “fat balls” that keep showing up on your Instagram feed.

These junk food alternatives can be helpful, but there are a couple of caveats to keep in mind.

First, these shouldn’t be your only strategy. There’s evidence2 suggesting that when people purposely choose a “healthy substitute,” they often overeat later.

So in order for junk food alternatives to be helpful—instead of harmful—they need to be used in conjunction with other strategies, like the ones in this article. Otherwise, you’re just continuing the cravings cycle with a different type of food.

Second, not all substitutes are created equal. Though they include labels like “organic,” “gluten-free,” or even “low calorie,” store-bought junk food alternatives are often made with a delicious combination of sugar, fat, and salt or other brain-pleasing ingredients.

In fact, they’re frequently manufactured to be easy to eat in large quantities. So sure, these products might be slightly better choices than straight up junk food. But they’re unlikely to help you avoid overeating when cravings strike.

But hey, it’s not all bad news.

Chosen wisely, healthy substitutes could help change your taste preferences. If you become accustomed to eating homemade, no-sugar-added ice cream, you may start to crave that instead of the store-bought stuff.

After that, maybe the next step is switching to fresh fruit when you crave something sweet. You’re still dealing with a craving, but you’re making progress toward prioritizing healthier foods.

Eventually, you may start to crave fruit itself, and in most cases, craving fruit isn’t too big of a problem for anyone.

For these reasons, choosing junk food alternatives that contain mostly whole-food ingredients, can be made at home, and aren’t extremely calorie-dense is your best bet.

Decide if you want the real thing.

Arguably, truly enjoying a full-fat ice cream in a reasonable portion beats a compulsive, automatically-gobbled pint of a “healthy substitute” that leaves you with a weird chemical aftertaste. And no matter what your goals are, you absolutely have the right to choose to indulge from time to time.

So before opting for a junk food alternative by default, decide whether or not you truly want the “real thing.” Ask yourself:

  • When was the last time you had it?
  • Are you actually hungry? Or do you just feel like eating?
  • Do you think you can eat it slowly, mindfully, and stop when you’re about 80 percent full?
  • Will you be able to feel happy and satisfied after eating it? Or are you more likely to feel guilty and regretful?

If you decide you want to eat the real thing, enjoy it. Savor it, and then move on. (And note all of this in your cravings journal.)

If you decide the real thing isn’t worth it or that you don’t really want it all that badly, go for a swap that’s both wholesome and satisfying.

And remember, not eating anything is also an option. If you’re not truly hungry, you may find doing one of the activities listed earlier helps relieve the craving.

Satisfy your craving with a healthier substitute.

Disrupting the cravings cycle is key, but it takes time and practice to master it.

And no matter how in tune you are with your appetite, emotions, and eating habits, there are going to be times when you have a craving, truly feel hungry, and want another choice.

That’s when healthy junk food alternatives come in handy.

And you won’t find better options than the 16 recipes that follow, created by Precision Nutrition Chef Jennifer Nickle.

Most of these treats can’t be whipped up in just a couple of minutes… and that’s a good thing. Because they take a little time and effort, they may even help disrupt your cravings cycle. And though they taste indulgent, they’re made with fresh, wholesome ingredients.

So go ahead: Enjoy them all… just not all at once.

Recipes: 16 junk food alternatives to satisfy your craving

If you’re craving: Chocolate…

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

prep time: 15 minutes | makes 16 servings

  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 4 tbsp almond butter
  • 4 tbsp cacao powder
  1. Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth.
  2. Divide mixture equally into eight small containers. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Chocolate Avocado Mousse
Kraft®
Chocolate Mousse
Per serving Per serving
Calories 80 Calories 220
Carbs 10g Carbs 17g
Fat 5g Fat 16g
Protein 1.5g Protein 4g
Fiber 3g Fiber 2g

If you’re craving: Spicy potato chips…

Edamame with Wasabi and Sea Salt

prep time: 10 minutes | cook time: 10 minutes | makes 2 servings

  • 2 cups frozen edamame beans (in pod)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ½  tsp wasabi paste or powder
  1. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil.
  2. Add edamame and cook for two minutes.
  3. Drain and toss hot beans in a bowl with coconut oil, salt, and wasabi. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Edamame with Wasabi and Sea Salt
Miss Vickie’s®
Jalapeno Potato Chips
Per serving Per serving
Calories 80 Calories 260
Carbs 9g Carbs 29g
Fat 5g Fat 15g
Protein 7g Protein 4g
Fiber 4g Fiber 2g

If you’re craving: Coffee ice cream…

Espresso and Cacao Nib Ice Cream

prep time: 20 minutes, plus overnight freezing | makes 8 servings

  • ½ cup pitted prunes
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons brandy
  • ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ (14 oz.) can full-fat coconut milk
  • ½ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt (or unsweetened almond milk)
  • ¼ cup cacao nibs
  1. In a blender or food processor, blend the prunes, instant coffee, cocoa powder, protein powder and brandy until a smooth paste forms.
  2. Add the unsweetened almond milk and coconut milk in a slow stream.
  3. Add the yogurt and cacao nibs, and pulse until just combined.
  4. Freeze overnight.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Espresso & Cacao Nib
Häagen Dazs®
Coffee Ice Cream
Per serving Per serving
Calories 98 Calories 250
Carbs 10g Carbs 20g
Fat 5g Fat 17g
Protein 5g Protein 4g
Fiber 1g Fiber 0g

If you’re craving: Fudge…

Spiced Date and Almond Balls

prep time: 30 minutes | makes about 30 servings

  • 2 cups chopped almonds, divided
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1 cup dried figs
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½  tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼  cup warm honey
  1. Using a food processor, blend dates, figs, water, spices and one cup of the almonds into a paste, scraping down the sides as you go.
  2. Form mixture into one-inch balls.
  3. Roll each ball in honey and coat with remaining almonds.
  4. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze for up to three months.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Spiced Date and Almond Balls
Eagle Brand®
Maple Walnut Fudge
Per serving Per serving
Calories 90 Calories 180
Carbs 14g Carbs 18g
Fat 3g Fat 12g
Protein 2g Protein 2g
Fiber 2g Fiber 0g

If you’re craving: Frozen yogurt…

Frozen Yogurt Fruit Pops

prep time: 15 minutes, plus overnight freezing | makes 8 portions

  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups strawberries
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup water
  1. Blend all ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  2. Pour mixture into small paper cups or popsicle molds.
  3. Place popsicle stick into the center of each and freeze overnight.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Frozen Yogurt Fruit Pops
Ben & Jerry’s®
Strawberry Banana Low Fat Frozen Yogurt
Per serving Per serving
Calories 70 Calories 120
Carbs 12g Carbs 23g
Fat 1g Fat 1g
Protein 4g Protein 3g
Fiber 1g Fiber 0g

If you’re craving: Savory potato chips…

Quick Pickled Cucumbers

prep time: 10 minutes plus 30 minutes to marinate | makes 4 to 8 servings

  • 6 baby cucumbers, cut into ½ inch slices
  • ¼ cup rice or wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh dill
  1. Toss all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Mix well.
  2. Chill and marinate for thirty minutes.
  3. Refrigerate up to ten days.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Quick Pickled Cucumbers
Lay’s®
Dill Pickle Chips
Per ½ recipe Per ½ recipe
Calories 25 Calories 270
Carbs 6g Carbs 26g
Fat 0g Fat 17g
Protein 1g Protein 3g
Fiber 1g Fiber 1g

If you’re craving: Strawberry shortcake…

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Cottage Cheese

prep time: 10 minutes, plus 10 minutes to marinate | makes 4 servings

  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
  • Sea salt, for garnish
  1. Mix together strawberries and vinegar. Let marinate for ten minutes.
  2. Top with cottage cheese or yogurt. Garnish with salt.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Cottage Cheese
Duncan Hines®
Strawberry Shortcake
Per serving Per serving
Calories 56 Calories 300
Carbs 5g Carbs 51g
Fat 1g Fat 8g
Protein 7g Protein 4g
Fiber 1g Fiber 1g

If you’re craving: A frozen margarita or daiquiri…

Watermelon “Gazpacho”

prep time: 15 minutes | makes 2 servings

  • 2 cups seedless watermelon chunks
  • 2 cups sparkling water
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint (about 10 leaves)
  • ½ cup fresh raspberries
  1. Combine watermelon, sparkling water, and mint and blend until smooth.
  2. Top with raspberries. Serve ice cold with a soup spoon.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Watermelon “Gazpacho”
Frozen Margarita
Per serving Per serving
Calories 60 Calories 200
Carbs 15g Carbs 30g
Fat 0g Fat 0g
Protein 1.5g Protein 0g
Fiber 3g Fiber 0g

If you’re craving: Chips and onion dip…

Spiced Yogurt and Veggies

prep time: 15 minutes | makes 4 servings

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp chopped dill
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
  • 1 cup vegetable crudites
  1. Mix yogurt, herbs, and salt in a small bowl. Chill and refrigerate for up to four days.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with raw vegetable crudites.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Spiced Yogurt and Veggies
Ruffles®
Onion Dip & Regular Chips
Per serving Per serving
Calories 66 Calories 340
Carbs 8g Carbs 28g
Fat 2g Fat 23g
Protein 3g Protein 4g
Fiber 2g Fiber 2g

If you’re craving: Chocolate ice cream…

Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

prep time: 20 minutes, plus overnight freezing | makes 12 servings

  • ½ cup blanched hazelnuts
  • ½ cup pitted dates
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cocoa powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt (or unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder
  • 2 cups 1% chocolate milk (or chocolate unsweetened almond milk)
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate chunks
  1. In a blender or food processor, puree hazelnuts, dates, cocoa powder, and salt until a chunky paste forms.
  2. With blender running, slowly add yogurt, protein powder, and chocolate milk until everything is combined; stop blender.
  3. Add dark chocolate chunks and pulse.
  4. Freeze overnight.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
Häagen Dazs®
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Per serving Per serving
Calories 103 Calories 300
Carbs 12g Carbs 26g
Fat 4g Fat 19g
Protein 5g Protein 5g
Fiber 2g Fiber 2g

If you’re craving: French fries…

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Prep time: 10 minutes | cook time: 20 minutes | makes 2 servings

  • 1 (½ lb) sweet potato, skin on, cut into ½ inch batons
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp coconut or extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl until evenly coated. Spread onto baking tray in a single layer.
  3. Bake for about twenty minutes, turning once, until golden brown.
  4. Let cool for ten minutes on tray before serving.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Baked Sweet Potato Fries
McDonald’s®
French Fries
Per serving Per serving
Calories 126 Calories 350
Carbs 20g Carbs 46g
Fat 4.5g Fat 17g
Protein 1.5g Protein 4g
Fiber 3g Fiber 4g

If you’re craving: Peanut butter cups…

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chia Pudding

prep time: 20 minutes, plus overnight chilling | makes 12 servings

  • 3 cups water
  • 10 dates, pitted
  • 4 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 10 Tbsp Chia seeds
  1. Blend water, dates, peanut butter, cocoa powder, and salt in a blender until smooth.
  2. Add mixture to a large bowl with chia seeds. Whisk well.
  3. After ten minutes, whisk again. Ladle mixture equally into six small containers.
  4. Chill overnight.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chia Pudding
Reese’s®
Peanut Butter Cups
Per serving Per serving
Calories 148 Calories 220
Carbs 22g Carbs 24g
Fat 6g Fat 13g
Protein 4g Protein 5g
Fiber 7g Fiber 2g

If you’re craving: Cookies…

Almond oatmeal cookies

prep time: 20 minutes | cook time: 10 minutes| makes 12 cookies

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup protein powder
  • ½  cup almond flour
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • ½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • ½ cup almond butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl, and wet ingredients in another large bowl.
  3. Combine dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix well until incorporated.
  4. Form twelve small balls and place onto a baking sheet, evenly spaced apart. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.
  5. Bake for ten minutes.
  6. Remove from tray and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week, or freeze for up to three months.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Almond oatmeal cookies
Pepperidge Farm®
Oatmeal Cookies
Per serving Per serving
Calories 175 Calories 195
Carbs 10g Carbs 33g
Fat 10g Fat 8g
Protein 12g Protein 3g
Fiber 3g Fiber 1g

If you’re craving: Bar food, like Buffalo chicken wings…

Tandoori roasted cauliflower bites

prep time: 25 minutes | cook time: 25 minutes | makes 6 servings

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp store-bought tandoori spice paste
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Lime wedges, for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Mix yogurt and tandoori paste together in a large bowl until combined. Add cauliflower and toss to coat well.
  3. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast for twenty-five minutes or until dark and crispy. Garnish with lime wedges.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Tandoori roasted cauliflower bites
Perdue®
Buffalo Style Chicken Wings
Per 140g serving Per 160g serving
Calories 70 Calories 320
Carbs 8g Carbs 2g
Fat 3g Fat 20g
Protein 4g Protein 36g
Fiber 2.5g Fiber 0g

If you’re craving: Italian ice or sorbet…

Mango and lime granita

prep time: 1 hour | makes 8 servings

  • 2 ripe mangos
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup apple sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced & zested
  1. Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour mixture into a shallow tray and freeze.
  3. After thirty minutes, scrape the partially frozen mixture using a fork. Scrape again every thirty minutes until frozen and flaky.
  4. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to three months.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Mango and lime granita
Häagen Dazs®
Mango Sorbet
Per serving Per serving
Calories 40 Calories 150
Carbs 10g Carbs 38g
Fat 0g Fat 0g
Protein 0g Protein 0g
Fiber 1g Fiber 0g

If you’re craving: Vanilla ice cream…

Ginger, Saffron, and Vanilla ice cream

prep time: 20 minutes, plus overnight freezing | makes 8 servings

  • 1 ½ (14 oz.) cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 ½ tablespoons grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon saffron threads
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons arrowroot starch
  • ½ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt (or unsweetened almond milk)
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the coconut milk and add the honey, ginger, saffron, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk ½ cup of coconut milk mixture with arrowroot starch until smooth; pour back into the pot, whisking as you go.
  3. Squeeze out and remove the vanilla bean, and pour the mixture into a food processor or blender; add the yogurt and salt and slowly blend until thick and frothy.
  4. Freeze overnight.

Nutrition Facts

Precision Nutrition
Ginger, Saffron, and Vanilla ice cream
Häagen Dazs®
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Per serving Per serving
Calories 140 Calories 330
Carbs 9g Carbs 25g
Fat 12g Fat 22g
Protein 2g Protein 7g
Fiber 0g Fiber 2g

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

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

Over the past 15 years, we’ve used the Precision Nutrition Coaching method to help over 100,000 clients lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… for the long-term… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

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

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

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, July 17th, 2019.

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

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

If you’re ready to change your body, and your life, with help from the world’s best coaches, this is your chance.

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

References

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

The post Conquer your cravings: Break the sinister cycle that makes you overeat. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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If you’re new to health, fitness, or nutrition coaching you’ve probably worried — at least a little — about how you’re going to get clients. Especially in this age of paid search, Facebook ads, and more. Well, worry no longer. These simple, fast, and free client acquisition strategies will help you get your first few clients. Or, if you already have a few, they’ll help you get a few more.

++++

After coaching over 50,000 health, fitness, and wellness professionals through the Precision Nutrition Certification program, I’ve learned that new coaches (or coaches going out on their own for the first time) struggle most with one thing:

Getting new clients.

That’s totally understandable.

Beyond the early discomfort many new pros feel around learning “sales” and “marketing”, it’s also easy to get a little intimidated when looking at established brands and seeing the big audiences they’ve built, the content they’re creating, or the ads they’re running.

“JB, how can I compete?”

“I don’t even know the first thing about marketing funnels.”

“And who’s got that kind of money to invest in ads?”

While I can totally empathize with these feelings, I’ve got some good news:

You don’t have to compete!

Instead, you have to start at the beginning, just like those companies did. You start by going from zero to a few clients. Then you go from a few clients to a few more.

Even better news?

Getting your first few (or your next few) clients is cheap and easy.

You don’t need to master SEO, or spend money that you don’t yet have on Facebook ads, or build a big Instagram following.

Yes, those are the things getting attention today. But, for someone just starting out, they’re a distraction from the real work, which I’ll share below.

Indeed, use any of the three strategies I’m about to share and you’ll be shocked and amazed at how cheap and easy it is to attract your first few clients.

But, before the strategies, do you even know what you’re selling?

If I pressed, you’d probably give me a bunch of really smart answers:

“JB, of course I know what I’m selling!”

“I’m selling evidence-based nutrition coaching!”

“I’m selling my thousand years of education and master-level expertise!”

“I’m selling my slick, efficient online coaching platform!”

And I’ll say:

No you’re not.

Here’s something that might sound confusing at first, but will change the way you view your business, and how powerfully you attract clients.

No one wants nutrition, exercise, or lifestyle coaching.

No one wants daily practices, new habits, or lessons and thought exercises. No one wants custom workouts. No one wants diets, meal plans, or menus.

No one wants the product or service you’re selling.

What people want is to become a better version of themselves.

This image (from this excellent post) says it all:

You see, people don’t buy a university degree or certification, they buy the promise of ending up more knowledgeable, smarter, and (maybe) more employable.

People don’t buy canvas shoes or fancy sunglasses, they buy the idea of looking cooler, having special things, and making a fashion statement.

Likewise, people don’t buy nutrition coaching, they buy a hopeful vision of their future, one where they are healthier, stronger, and happier.

In other words, you’re not the subject of sales pitch, your client is.

Make them the hero of the story.

In essence, it’s your job to show them how working with you will turn them into an “Awesome person who can do rad stuff!”

(For more on this, with lots of examples, check out: How to sell sustainable coaching in a world of ‘overnight abs’. 6 strategies for better client buy-in and a stronger coaching business.)

For now, onto your “get a few new clients” strategies.

Strategy #1:
Survey Selling

Survey selling is something we do extensively, and very effectively, at Precision Nutrition. But we do it in a more complex, “scaled-up” kinda way.

You probably don’t need all that.

Which is why I love sharing this simpler way of doing survey selling from my friend Jon Goodman, of the Personal Trainer Development Centre and OnlineTrainer.com.

Jon’s strategy involves creating a simple survey (using Google Forms) that you can post on social media to attract the exact kind of client you’re after.

Here’s how to do it.

First, think about the type of person you want to serve.

Write down your ideal client’s:

  • Age range
  • Gender
  • Specific goal
  • Potential limitations

Here are two examples of what you might come up with:

My ideal clients are 20-30-year-old guys who want to lose a bit of fat and put on 5-10 lbs of muscle and have no serious injuries.

My ideal clients are 45-55-year-old females who want to lose no more than 10 lbs of fat but feel like they’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work.

Next, create a Google Form.

(If you don’t know how to make a Google form, click here for a tutorial.)

When starting a new survey, according to Jon’s method, you’ll need to create:

  • a title
  • a compelling description,
  • a few demographic + contact info questions

Here’s an example of what you might come up with:

Feel free to copy the exact format above, adjusting the title and description to match what you’re offering.

When it comes to the description, here’s the formula:

“I’m looking for {number of people}  {gender} ages {age range} who live in {your location} and are looking to {goal}. If this is you, please fill out the form below.

All eligible applications will be contacted by phone.”

Once you’re happy with the form, click “Send” at the top right and select the link icon in the pop-up window. This will give you a direct link to your form.

Be sure to save that link somewhere.

Finally, enable notifications so that you’ll be emailed every time a prospective client submits a completed form. To do this, go to your Google Drive, select your form, and click on the header titled “Responses”.

Then click the “Create spreadsheet” icon, which will redirect you to a Google spreadsheet.

In the spreadsheet page, click “Tools” at the top and select “Notification rules”.

A window will pop up with an option to have the system email you whenever users submit, either immediately, or collected into a daily digest. Select your preference.

Finally, share your survey on Facebook, Instagram, wherever.

For example, on Instagram change your description link to your survey link and upload a pic saying that you’re taking on clients (specific to the type) and use the script below, which directs people to click the link.

And, on Facebook you’ll share a status update with the same script (below) that links to your form. Here’s your script:

***I’m looking for {number of people} {gender} ages {age range} looking to {goal} that live in {location}.***

I am looking for {gender} who want to:

-{benefit 1}

-{benefit 2}

-{benefit 3}

Spots are extremely limited and I’m only looking for {number of people} who are ready to make a change today. To apply, fill out the quick survey below and I’ll be in touch if you meet the requirements:

===> {link to your Google form}

The benefits you include will vary but they should speak to the hopeful future I described earlier. In other words, list things that help them envision becoming an “Awesome person who can do rad stuff!”

Again, for lots of examples of this, check out my new article: How to sell sustainable coaching in a world of ‘overnight abs’. 6 strategies for better client buy-in and a stronger coaching business.

Note: You can use this method on any platform, via email, whatever. Just get the message out there and send people to your survey.

Be sure to call them right away.

Ideally you’ll call people within 20 minutes of them filling out your survey. I don’t care what you’re doing. Strike while it’s hot.

Go through the same process that you would on any other sales call.

(If you’re not sure how sales calls should go, check out Jon’s article: Selling Personal Training in 5 Steps).

Keep following up.

If they answer, it’s a great call, and you sell/book them in for an appointment, and they show up… go ahead and dance your happy dance.

If they don’t answer, if they answer but don’t book an appointment, or if they answer and book an appointment but don’t show up… keep following up once a week for the first month. And once a month after that until they become a client or ask you to stop calling.

And, folks, that’s pretty much it.

If you decide to try this method, you’ll be up and running with your first post, for free, inside of 30 minutes. And, most people who try it, report getting 1-3 new clients within a day or two.

No joke.

Even if you think this is too simple, or couldn’t possibly work, try it anyway. People constantly tell me that they would have never expected something like this to help them… but that it did, big-time.

Strategy #2:
The “Tell People What You Do” Challenge

In our ProCoach Facebook group we recently did a 2-week challenge. Coaches were encouraged to do something incredibly simple (yet radical in 2018, it seems).

They were asked to talk to people.

You know, like, real people. In real life.

Specifically, we asked them to tell one person a day what they do. That person could be anyone: the barista that frothed the milk on their latte, the cashier at the grocery store, or the lady sitting next to them on their commuter train.

The goal was to develop a “script” about what they do, get comfortable talking about it, and maybe even get a new client or a referral.

Our coaches went nuts. It kinda blew everyone’s minds.

Some of our coaches felt that icky stretch feeling you get when growth is happening. ProCoach Melissa Dow found she had to override her usual instinct to wait for people to come to her. “It was uncomfortable, but that’s where learning begins, right?” she says.

Many found they got better at it along the way, like ProCoach Beth Balcezak Daugherty who found that although she often felt hesitant before reaching out, most people thanked her afterwards. “It got easier!” she reassures us.

ProCoach Jen Kates also found it got easier: “IT DOESN’T SUCK, AND IT’S ACTUALLY A LOT OF FUN ONCE YOU GET OVER THE HURDLE!!!”  (Note: The caps and exclamation points are hers.)

At the conclusion of the challenge, many coaches remarked on the tremendous potential of this simple act.

“The biggest takeaway from this process for me was just how many opportunities there are hidden in plain view.” said ProCoach Simon Dannapfel.

Interested in trying this challenge yourself?

Here’s how to do it:

Build your elevator pitch.

Begin by making sure you can actually describe what you do without rambling and without boring listeners with irrelevant details.

A simple way to do this is to fill in the following blanks.

“I help {kind of person}

to {action/benefit}

so that they can {brighter future/more inspiring benefit}.”

Here are some examples of what you might come up with:

“I help {new moms}, to {get active and eat better}, so that they can {drop their baby weight and feel more energy}.”

“I help {busy executives}, to {find time in their schedule for healthy habits}, so they can {finally get their health under control}.”

“I help {young athletes}, to {improve their movement quality}, so that they can {dominate on the playing field & injury-proof themselves}.”

“I help {people in their 60s and 70s}, to {begin a new movement practice}, so they can {walk, jump, run, & play with their grandkids}.”

Next, pick a person (any person) every day to talk to.

Approach folks however you like to get the conversation started.

If you’re not sure how to do that without coming off creepy, break the ice with something like this:

“Hey!

I’m doing this 2 week challenge where I have to tell someone about what I do, and you’re who I chose today!”

“Is that cool?”

Then lay the elevator pitch — or something like it — on them.

And, if they seem interested, expand on it.

If you make a genuine connection, ask if you can follow up.

The conversation could end pleasantly but without any real interest on their part. That’s totally fine. You will still benefit from the practice.

However, should they express real interest, keep the conversation going with something like:

“Hey, thanks for listening today. Mission accomplished on the contest!

Before I roll, you seemed kinda interested in {some aspect of what you talked about} and a really cool resource just popped into my head that I’d love to share.

Could you write down your email address so I can send it over?
(Alternatively you can get their cell number, FB page, or whatever).

Just so you know, “no” is a fine answer here. After all, we just met. However, I do think you’ll dig it. And I promise not to bug you beyond that.”

Then give them something awesome!

If they share their email address, wait a day and follow up with a cool article, some recipes, an infographic, an inspiring YouTube video, whatever you think will be helpful and is in line with what you talked about.

It doesn’t have to be your own content. Just something that’s high quality and will be genuinely helpful.

“Hi!

It’s {your name], we met yesterday at {place} and we talked about {topic}.

Wanted to follow up with {the thing I promised}, which I think you’ll like.

Here’s the link:

{link to the thing here}

No obligation to {watch it, read it, etc}. I just thought it might help.”

If they respond, remind them about your services.

If they follow up, reply with a casual reference to your services.

“Thanks for the note!

I’m so glad you liked {the thing you sent}!

I don’t know if you, or anyone you know, would be interested in this… but I’m running this program that starts in two weeks.

I’ll be working with {number of people} {gender} ages {age range} looking to {goal} that live in {location}.

Spots are extremely limited and I’m only looking for {number of people}.

Let me know if you’re interested by filling out this super-quick survey below.

===> {link to your Google form}

Again, no pressure. Just sharing this in case you, or a friend, might be interested.”

So there you have it.

A step-by-step guide on how to talk to people, and how to follow-up in a non-creepy, not-overly-pushy kind of way.

The point of this exercise is to show you that there are potential clients everywhere.

You just need to speak up so they know you’re there.

Strategy #3:
Leverage Your Existing Communities

Many of us belong to one group, or a host of them, either online or in-person.

These are often unrelated to health and fitness, which — in this case — is a good thing as it gives you the opportunity to share what you do with a novel audience.

For example, you might be part of:

  • A Facebook group for new moms, because hey! You have spit-up on your shirt too!
  • A Saturday morning bring-your-dog-and-hike group. People who love dogs and all-terrain boots??! Your tail is wagging.
  • An online forum for people who dig classic cars. Mustang Fastback? I’m all in.
  • A faith community where you worship once a week plus participate in community service activities together.
  • A weekly online mastermind group of career-change-entrepreneurs. You all have great stories about the day you broke free from corporate shackles.

If you do it right, these groups can be an amazing source of new clients.

ProCoach Carolina Belmares has a great story of how she used this method.

Carolina is from Mexico, but currently lives just outside of Toronto, Canada. She joined a Facebook group for Mexican women living abroad.

Carolina was genuinely excited to connect to this group of women and took her time getting to know them. She responded to people’s posts, and posted her own successes and woes living abroad as a Mexican woman.

She took note of the tone and “vibe” of this group, and generally just tried to be kind, helpful, and supportive to the other members without talking much about what she does for a living.

After a while, she posted about her coaching work.

It was more of a “this is my life story” kind of post, but she also happened to mention that she was an online nutrition coach and dropped some information about a program she was running that was starting soon.

In Carolina’s words, “The response was beyond insane.”

Not long after she posted, her tally was:

714 reactions to the original post

181 comments asking for more information

259 new “Likes” on her personal coaching Facebook page

83 brand new subscriptions to her mailing list

Too many private messages to count

Not bad for a free group that you were interested in hanging out with anyway.

To try this method yourself:

Consider the groups you’re currently a member of (online or in person).

If you’re not a member of any, consider whether there are any groups you’d like to be a part of and would be good candidates for your coaching. (Remember, it’s better if they’re not fitness or nutrition groups).

Engage with the group in an authentic, helpful, supportive way.

Don’t just go joining groups to make your elevator pitch as “pitching” in groups is universally frowned upon. Instead, become a real part of the community and only talk about what you do if it’s relevant to the conversations already going on.

If a fitness or nutrition topic comes up, bingo!

Be the biggest keener in the room. Help answer questions. Offer support. Send people helpful links, articles, videos, and other resources. But, still, hold back a little on mentioning your services.

After you’ve built some trust and genuine connections, mention your services.

Have your information easily available if people want it, but don’t be pushy about it. If you need a ratio to work with, then let’s say for every 10 genuine, non-work related comments, you can slide in something about your coaching.

In the end, joining a group is one of the most mutually beneficial methods for building your practice. You’ll have access to a wide audience to which you can extend help and support, but you’ll also connect with “your people”.

Bonus Strategy:
Send People To The Right Place

So you’ve employed one or more of the free strategies above… and your prospect list is growing. Awesome!

These prospects will likely have questions about your expertise, experience, the services you provide, and — most importantly — how you’ll help them improve their habits, health, and body.

Answering these by chatting one-on-one works. In fact, it’s one of my favorite options since it offers a personal touch. However, if you’re an online coach, or your prospect list is booming, you may need something more scalable.

That’s where a “landing page” comes in.

Your landing page lets people know who you are, what you’re offering, what your credentials are, who you’ve worked with, and how you can help them live the hopeful future they’re dreaming of.

With Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach we automatically generate this for ProCoaches. After answering a few simple questions within their ProCoach dashboards they get a customized mini-site for their business, complete with a custom web address. It lays out their services including the features, benefits, and hopeful future they’re promising.

Not only does this “do the selling for them”, it also positions them as the skilled, experienced, and educated coaches their clients need to reach their goals.

Example custom mini-site we generated for one of our ProCoaches.

Whether your landing page is a Facebook profile, a single web page, or a full-blown mini-site is up to you. The key is to make sure you have a place to send prospects that’s clear, compelling, and increases their desire to work with you.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

In this article we’ve outlined a few highly effective strategies for getting a few new clients, or the next few after that. Begin with…

Knowing the “why” of what you’re selling, not just the “what”.

Spend time thinking about what prospective clients want their lives to be like. And how you can start connecting your coaching to those outcomes.

Again, you’re not selling your superstar nutrition knowledge, your sleek online program, or even health coaching.

You’re selling possibility to your clients: the possibility to feel, look, and move better; to gain more confidence, strength, and resilience; to have a better life.

Refine your elevator pitch.

Come up with a concise way of describing how you help people.

“I help {kind of person}

to {action/benefit}

so that they can {brighter future/more inspiring benefit}.”

Pick a challenge, any challenge.

The above strategies only work if you practice them. Not just once, but consistently. (Remember, they get easier the more you do them!)

So pick one of the client-attracting methods above. Any one will do.

And get started today.

I mean, like, right now.

Even if you don’t know how to do it perfectly yet, start anyway. Because perfection is often the enemy of action.

Stay consistent.

Once you deploy one, or more, of the methods above, challenge yourself to stick with it for at least a month.

For extra points, use a calendar to track your consistency and your results. At the end of the period, evaluate your progress. Did it work? If not, was there something about the way you executed it that could be refined?

Practicing these methods will show you precisely where you need to grow.

Does your voice shake every time you talk to a new person? No sweat, that just means you need more practice talking to strangers.

Did your Google Form get zero clicks? Maybe you need to work on your written communication.

Did someone call you a know-it-all jerk on your Facebook group? Maybe you need to practice coming off as less judgmental and more compassionate.

Failure isn’t possible here. Everything you get back from this practice is simply feedback to inform future growth.

Learn to follow up.

In all of these methods, following up is key.

Remember that when people are considering change, they often start out with ambivalence. They’re kinda interested in taking the leap, but also kinda scared and inclined to stay safe under the covers.

Following up with people can gently move them towards ready-to-take-a-leap.

But selling without looking sleazy is an art. If you push too hard with people, it can have the opposite effect.

In your early follow-ups with someone, aim simply to be useful and offer support. Send them cool content, ask them about their challenges, and encourage them.

When you sense some interest, subtly mention your services, in a “no pressure” kind of way. Let them know you’re available when they’re ready.

Ready to build a thriving coaching practice?

Tested with over 100,000 clients now, Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach makes it easy to deliver the sustainable, research-proven nutrition and lifestyle coaching discussed in this article 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.

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

On Wednesday, June 5th, 2019, 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 hours. 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 3 simple, fast, free strategies for getting coaching clients… even if you don’t like marketing. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Most people working in health and fitness want to take on more clients while still delivering amazing results — without having to work 100-hour weeks or being a slave to their clients’ schedules. Could coaching online be the answer? Here are the pros, the caveats, and — most importantly — 5 steps to creating a successful online coaching business.

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Most people working in health & fitness eventually ask themselves:

Isn’t there a better way to do this?

More specifically, they’re asking:

How can I maximize client numbers and income while still maintaining control of my schedule and helping people get the best results?

And a lot of them wonder:

Is coaching online the answer?

If you’ve ever considered whether it’s possible to handle more clients while still giving them a high-quality experience… or wished you could work fewer hours from wherever you like while still being a great coach, this article is for you.

In it we’ll talk about:

  • The problem with traditional fitness coaching and how we solved it.
  • How online coaching is a great option for growing your business, working less, and becoming a better coach… if you do it right.
  • 5 systems that are crucial to taking your coaching business online (these will be the difference between success and failure).

Before digging in, however, I wanted to let you know that Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach — the most effective system for delivering nutrition coaching, in-person or online — is opening very soon.

Tested with over 100,000 clients, ProCoach makes it easy to deliver world-class, proven nutrition and lifestyle coaching to your clients.

It’ll help you grow your business while working less, getting better results, and living life on your own terms.

Want to coach online? Or a combination of online and in-person? Whatever fits your ideal lifestyle, it’s all possible with ProCoach.

To understand ProCoach you first need to understand why it was created, and the key problems it helps health and fitness professionals overcome.

John Berardi 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.

 

 

In summary, ProCoach delivers — to your clients, on your behalf — a total coaching solution, complete with daily lessons, habits, check-ins, and more.

Plus, as their coach, you’ll be able to support them by answering questions, offering encouragement, and tracking progress through the special ProCoach software.

The good news? On Wednesday, June 5th, we’ll be opening ProCoach to our PN Certification students and graduates around the world.

For now, though, if you want to learn more about online coaching and consider if it’s right for you, read on.

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Loving what you do doesn’t always pay the bills.

If you’re a coach or personal trainer, you probably got started because you’re passionate about health, fitness, and nutrition.

For starters, that’s awesome. Important too.

However, at a certain point, you have to accept the fact that your business is also a business. It has to be run professionally. It has to be sustainable.

And sustainable means it provides you with a decent income — enough to meet your wants and needs — without requiring you to work 100-hour weeks and sacrificing your own health, your relationships, and your sanity.

Unfortunately, for many health and fitness pros, life looks more like this:

  • Working a ridiculous number of hours each week.
  • Getting sick a lot, missing your own workouts and wishing you had time to take care of your own health.
  • Feeling like you have no “life.” Vacations? Out of the question.
  • Hustling your butt off, yet still finding it tough to pay the bills.

If you can relate, here’s what you need to know:

This problem is solvable.

And there are a host of ways to solve it.

Online coaching, when planned and executed correctly, just so happens to be one of my favorite ways because it allows you to:

  • help more people,
  • help people outside your immediate area,
  • work more efficiently,
  • save time,
  • make more money, and
  • enjoy a more flexible lifestyle.

I know this because it’s the exact approach we’ve taken at Precision Nutrition.

Each of our 20 in-house coaches works with, on average, 300 online clients a year.

They do it while working from locations all over the world with flexible schedules that allow them to do things that are important to them outside work — like traveling, attending interesting events, or spending time with loved ones.

Plus, they accomplish all this while working less than they did as in-person coaches and while still delivering amazing results.

Even cooler? Since we first launched ProCoach in June 2016, our ProCoaches have gone on to:

  • enroll over 100,000 new clients,
  • helped them lose over 965,000 pounds (and counting), and
  • collect nearly $57 million in revenue.

Of course, online coaching isn’t a quick career fix. It’s no magic bullet to solve your problems. Great coaching, online or in-person, takes hard work.

But hard work isn’t enough.

Success also requires the right mindset and the right systems.

Is online coaching right for your business?

Wondering if online coaching is for you? Here’s what you can expect:

Pros

  • Money. Let’s be real: Money’s an issue for many coaches and trainers. In that 40 – 60 hour per week model, there’s only so many people you can train and only so much money you can make. But, without the limitation of “hour-long sessions,” you can expand your client base. Instead of only being able to train 20 to 40 people, that number may become 200 to 400. Of course, this depends on your ability to both sell and deliver great service. But the capacity is there when you’re not bound to the side-by-side model of training.
  • Varied and/or niche clientele. Not limited by geography, you can train anyone — from an athlete in your own town to an out-of-shape middle ager halfway around the world. This gives you access to two smart business strategies: 1) broadening the number of people you help; and/or 2) zeroing in on a niche market that you’re uniquely qualified to serve.
  • Control over your schedule. When your clients are online, you’re not forced to be at the gym at odd hours — before or after the times most people are working. You can do your job when you want to, which gives you a lot of opportunity to plan your life around your desires, rather than around the schedule of others. You can also be much more efficient with certain aspects of your coaching, meaning fewer hours overall with no drop in results (actually, most online coaches’ results improve).
  • Lifestyle flexibility. For many trainers, life is on the gym floor. But when you work online, you can do your work anytime, anyplace. You get to arrange your life and work around what’s most important to you. For some, this means living life on a tropical island. (Forget the beach screen saver — these folks have the real thing as their daily backdrop.) For others, it means walking their kids to and from school each day. Some use the freedom to indulge their wanderlust and travel the globe. Others use the time to write books, participate in athletic competitions, or enjoy waking up without an alarm clock. Truly, any lifestyle is possible with online coaching.

Caveats

  • A flexible schedule requires a new way of working. It’s wonderful to be able to work from wherever you like, whenever you like. However, if you don’t carve aside time (and a physical location) for uninterrupted work, you’ll struggle. Many people who go from structured work environments to remote/virtual work find this out the hard way. To help avoid it, be prepared by reading up on virtual work dos and don’ts. From there, begin to develop a plan for how you’ll govern your workday and create an ideal working environment for you.
  • You’ll need to set clear boundaries. If “work” is now done from your laptop or mobile phone, your “workplace” is everywhere and anywhere. If “work” is now done online, every time you’re online you’re “working”. That’s why, to succeed in remote work, you have to set clear boundaries for yourself and clients. Yes, your clients will reach out when it’s convenient for them. (That’s as it should be). However, to avoid overwhelm for you (or annoyance from them) set expectations on when you’ll work (and won’t) each day, and when clients will (and won’t) hear back from you.
  • Take care with your admin setup. If not properly managed, you can spend a ton of time on administrative tasks for online clients: program writing, record keeping, email responses, phone calls, and other routine client management tasks. If you don’t decide to outsource this, then plan to spend a few weeks on your initial business configuration. Then be prepared to iterate on it over time. Your first draft won’t be your last.
  • You’ll have more to keep track of. Once you take on more clients, it’s easy to start forgetting the details, like who’s on what program, what each client’s goals and challenges are, etc. If you’re setting your online coaching business up on your own, you’ll need to put a lot of thought into the nature of your average client’s needs, and a good system for managing all the details. Dedicating time and resources to this up front will be crucial to your success.

There are more pros and more caveats. But hopefully this gives you a good sense of what you’re getting into before you begin.

5 success systems for coaching online.

At this point, if you’ve decided that you’re ready to take your coaching business (or a portion of it) online, you’ll want to consider the following success systems.

System #1.
Centralizing your daily work and communications.

You’ll likely use all the basics — calendar, spreadsheets, emails, even texts. But you’ll want to organize and integrate those tools so you can be more efficient, personal, and responsive in your interactions.

First, decide which tools you’ll use. You need a centralized suite that includes email, calendar, documents, spreadsheets, and perhaps instant messaging/texting. Choose one (Google? Microsoft?) and stick with it.

Next, integrate the tools. Make sure your calendar is connected to your email (for automatic updates); your calendar to your computer and phone (for meeting reminders); etc.

Next, clearly communicate with your clients how to get in touch with you, and when. Should they email you? Text? Call? When should they expect a response? When and how will you reach out to them?

Finally, stick to your system. Hold firm to your plan so there’s never any question of how or when you’ll work. You can’t work on your own terms if you’re reinventing the wheel every day.

(Although, to the last point, your first draft will likely require iteration as you learn more. So, if something is not working, keep tinkering until it does.)

For more on remote/online systems, check out the book Remote: Office Not Required. It had a huge influence on how we established our work practices at Precision Nutrition.

System #2.
Automating repeatable tasks.

If you can set yourself up to automate recurring tasks, you can save yourself loads of time, while still delivering a great coaching experience.

Here’s the 4-step formula we originally developed to coach more people to better results in less time. (It’s also the formula that underpins ProCoach, which you can use in your business too.)

  • Take a look at where you’re spending your time. Look for your “time wasters”. (Ask yourself: Am I reinventing the wheel every time I write a workout program or answer an email about peanut butter?)
  • Automate every “time waster” you can. (For example: gather samples and templates of all your emails, info, FAQs and other repeatable tasks and keep them in a handy file.)
  • Now that you have templates and automation, you can personalize things when required. (For example: adapting a baseline program to a particular client’s needs; adding a personal line or two to a standard email.)
  • Put your saved time toward “time warriors” (and a long-awaited vacation).

For more on this 4-step system, including an exploration of “time wasters” and “time warriors,” check out my article: How top-earning health and fitness coaches save time, increase their effectiveness, and work + live on their own terms.

System #3.
Managing clients and tracking results.

How are you going to keep track of your clients, their goals, their status in your program, and their progress?

For example, at any given moment, you’ll want to know:

  • Are they practicing the healthy habits you discussed with them?
  • How consistent have they been with the exercise program? With the nutrition practices? Have there been any recent changes?
  • What has their overall engagement with their nutrition and fitness program been? Have they been active and responsive? Or are they checked out?
  • What previous discussions/interactions have you had? What questions have you answered for them in the past? What are their concerns, goals, and challenges?
  • How have they been progressing? How are their measurements changing? What do other indicators, such as energy levels, mood, or habit consistency, tell you?

Assuming you’re doing this manually (i.e. without coaching software), you’ll need a way to collect and organize the data (i.e. spreadsheets for notes and measurements, organized folders with their nutrition/workout program specs, before/after pictures, etc).

For more on how we do this at Precision Nutrition (hint: our method is totally automated), check out my article: How Precision Nutrition coaches, and how you can coach this way too.

System #4.
Attracting new clients.

If you’re used to working in an in-person environment, chances are you’ll have to up your client acquisition game… big-time. This is the top thing people miss when trying to go online! When you’re working from a beach or mountain cabin, clients don’t just saunter in looking for a coach.

So, yes, you’re going to need to learn marketing.

A good marketing plan has three components; I call this the “Tripod Marketing Formula”. Assuming you know who you want to serve, it’s quite simple:

Step 1: Know what your audience really wants and needs.

What are their main problems/challenges? How can you help solve them — even before they start paying you?

Step 2: Do something awesome to deliver that solution.

You might put together a free nutrition course, or a collection of articles that addresses your target audience’s main challenges. Or you may even create your own content — articles, infographics, posters — to really stand out from the crowd.

Step 3: Go out and tell everyone (in your target audience) about it.

Where are the people you’re trying to reach? Find them and tell them what you’re up to.

For more on the Tripod Marketing Formula, check out my article: 3 powerful ways to get more health and fitness clients. Plus, Precision Nutrition’s “Tripod Marketing Formula” exposed.

System #5.
Becoming a world-class coach.

Online coaching is most effective when it’s done around a carefully planned, cumulative curriculum.

At Precision Nutrition, our curriculum involves 50 weeks of habits/practices. Clients practice each one for 2 weeks. And each new one builds on the last.

These habits/practices are:

Simple: When we ask a client, “On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that you can do this every day for two weeks?” — we want the answer to be a 9 or 10.

Segmental: The practice breaks a larger skill down into its component parts.

Sequential: The practices should take place in an appropriate order, starting with “thing 1”, then onto “thing 2”, etc.

Strategic: Our practices leverage the client’s strengths to address the barrier that’s in the way right now.

Supported: We provide teaching, coaching, mentorship, and accountability around the habits. So the things we need them to read/do/practice are automated. And our coaching is in place to support that.

With a great (and automated) curriculum in place, coaches can pour their energy into being more client-centered.

This means having time for deeper exploration into the client’s wants and needs, meeting the client where they’re at, and collaborating on next actions.

For more on how we integrate client-centered coaching + curriculum, check this out: The Precision Nutrition Formula: A radical shift in your coaching. A revolution in your business.

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You can bring your coaching skills to an online environment. You just have to do it right.

Online coaching does require the development of new skills, skills that each coach must learn as they make the transition from in-person to online.

Everything from marketing and sales, to time management and admin are different enough that you have to look before you leap.

With that said, online coaching is similar to in-person coaching in that it demands that you to bring your best coaching skills to the table.

(It’s one of the reasons why we only offer ProCoach to PN-trained Level 1 Certification students and grads.)

Interestingly, as some coaches consider the transition, their #1 worry is whether online coaching will have the same satisfaction as in-person coaching.

In my experience, it does.

Most online coaches I’ve met say it’s even more satisfying. Because online coaching allows you to help with your clients’ nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress, and more. As a result, you become much more invested in the big picture of your clients’ lives.

Couple that with more freedom and flexibility in your own life, and it’s a win-win.

Ready to build a thriving coaching practice?

Tested with over 100,000 clients now, Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach makes it easy to deliver the sustainable, research-proven nutrition and lifestyle coaching discussed in this article 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.

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

On Wednesday, June 5th, 2019, 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 hours. 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 Coaching online: 5 steps to helping more people, getting better results, and living + working on your own terms. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Will protein help me lose weight? Should I eat it at every meal? Could too much damage my kidneys? At Precision Nutrition, our inbox is filled with questions about the pros and cons of eating more protein. In this article we’ll set the record straight, so you can finally separate the facts from the fiction.

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Maybe you’re a protein promoter.

You buy protein powder in “bucket with a handle” format. You know the protein counts of every food you eat.

After every workout, you jam those amino acids into your cells. You swear you can feel them getting swole.

Or maybe you’re a protein avoider.

Maybe you’ve heard bad things.

Like: Protein will damage your kidneys.

Or: Protein will give you cancer.

Or simply: We all eat too much protein.

Maybe you want to lose fat. Or gain muscle. Or be healthy.

You just want to do the right thing and eat better. But with conflicting information about protein, you don’t know what to think.

Or, if you’re a fitness and nutrition coach, you’re wondering how the heck to clear up the confusion about protein among your clients.

Let’s get into it.

In this article, we’ll explore:

  • What are high-protein diets?
  • What does the evidence say about high-protein diets and health?
  • Does protein source matter?
  • How much protein is right for me?

How to read this article

If you’re just curious about high-protein diets:

  • Feel free to skim and learn whatever you like.

If you want to change your body and/or health:

  • You don’t need to know every detail. Just get the general idea.
  • Check out our advice at the end.

If you’re an athlete interested in performance:

  • Pay special attention to the section on athletic performance.
  • Check out our advice for athletes at the end.

If you’re a fitness pro, or interested in geeking out with nutritional science:

  • We’ve given you some “extra credit” material in sidebars throughout.
  • Check out our advice for fitness pros at the end.

Why protein?

A quick intro if you aren’t a nutrition pro:

  • Protein is one of the three main macronutrients that makes up the food we eat. (The other two are fat and carbohydrate.)
  • Protein itself is made up of amino acids.
  • Amino acids are the building blocks for most stuff in our bodies. They’re like Legos that can be broken down and re-assembled in different ways.
  • Unlike extra fat (which we can store very easily on our bums and bellies), we don’t store lots of extra amino acids. Protein is always getting used, recycled, and sometimes excreted.
  • If we don’t get enough protein, our body will start to plunder it from parts that we need, such as our muscles.
  • So we have to constantly replenish protein by eating it.

We need protein.

Protein is so important that without it, we die or become seriously malnourished.

(This protein-deficiency disease is known as kwashiorkor, and we often see it in people who have suffered famines or who are living on a low-protein diet.)

All your enzymes and cell transporters; all your blood transporters; all your cells’ scaffolding and structures; 100 percent of your hair and fingernails; much of your muscle, bone, and internal organs; and many hormones are made of mostly protein. Hence, protein enables most of our bodies’ functions.

Put simply, you are basically a pile of protein.

No protein, no you.

How much protein do we need?

Short answer: It depends.

Let’s look first at the current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).

The RDA for protein is  0.8 g/kg (0.36 g/lb) — the more you weigh, the more protein you need:

  • A 150-lb (68 kg) person would need 68 x 0.8, or about 54 grams of protein a day.
  • A 200-lb (91 kg) person would need 91 x 0.8, or about 73 grams of protein a day.

That generally works out to about 10 percent of daily calories coming from protein.

However.

RDAs were originally developed as a way to prevent malnutrition — to represent the minimum amount of a nutrient we need to not die (or get sick).

“You’re not dead” is not the same thing as “You’re kicking ass.”

The RDA for surviving may be different than what we need to thrive.

The RDA is also a very general recommendation. It doesn’t take other things into account, such as:

  • How much total energy (i.e. calories) we eat or need
  • Our carbohydrate intake
  • When we eat the protein
  • Our biological sex
  • Our age
  • How active we are
  • What activities we do
  • How “eco-friendly” various protein sources are

The Institute of Medicine (US) suggests a huge range in individual protein requirements — from 0.375 g/kg to 1.625 g/kg body weight (0.17 to 0.74g/lb body weight).

In other words, our hypothetical 150-lb person might have protein needs ranging from 26 to 111 grams per day.

Well that narrows it down nicely, doesn’t it!?

Let’s take a deeper look: Amino acids

Protein in our food is made up of many different building blocks, or amino acids.

Most people focus on Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for total protein, but they don’t think about how much of each amino acid they might need.

If your diet isn’t varied enough, you may be eating enough total protein, but not enough of a specific essential amino acid.

Every day, you need this much of these essential amino acids:

  • 14 mg/kg of histidine
  • 19 mg/kg of isoleucine
  • 42 mg/kg of leucine
  • 38 mg/kg of lysine
  • 19 mg/kg of methionine + cysteine
  • 33 mg/kg of phenylalanine + tyrosine
  • 20 mg/kg of threonine
  • 5 mg/kg of tryptophan
  • 24 mg/kg of valine

Of course, you don’t need to spend hours in your kitchen with an eyedropper of lysine solution, carefully calibrating your intake.

Just eat a variety of protein-rich foods and let nature do the rest.

What does a high-protein diet look like?

People often assume that “high protein” means “low carbohydrate”. In fact, you can eat more protein without making any drastic changes to other things in your diet.

Many types of diets can be considered high-protein. “High protein” is a bit of a relative concept; there’s no clear rule.

The average protein intake for adults in the US is about 15 percent of calories coming from protein.

The Institute of Medicine suggests that up to 35 percent of total calories is an OK proportion of protein for healthy adults.

And most researchers would say that once you get more than 25 percent of total calories from protein, you’re in “high protein” territory.

Here’s what high- and low-protein diets might look like for a given meal.

2016.08-Pn-Low protein-American-Meals-1

The upper tolerable limit (UL) of something tells you how much you can eat without having health problems.

Currently, there’s no established UL for protein.

Does that mean you can eat as much protein as you’d like without any negative side effects? No. It just means researchers haven’t figured it out yet.

But we do know that eating up to 4.4 g/kg (2 g/lb) body weight didn’t cause any short term health problems in clinical studies.

Let’s take a deeper look: Calculating maximum protein

The Institute of Medicine suggests that high protein intake, where about 35 percent of your calories comes from protein, is safe.

What does that mean in grams per kilogram body weight (or g/lb body weight)?

Say you’re 74.8 kg (165 lb) and reasonably active. You need about 2,475 calories per day to maintain your weight.

If you get 35 percent of your total energy intake from protein, you’d be eating about 866 calories from protein each day.

1 gram of protein has 4 calories. So 866 calories is around 217 grams of protein per day.

That’s about 1.3 grams per pound of body weight, or 2.9 g/kg.

Will eating a high-protein diet hurt me?

For years, people have been concerned with the safety of eating too much protein.

Will eating too much protein explode my kidneys?

How about my liver? My left femur?

The most common health concerns of eating more protein are:

  • kidney damage
  • liver damage
  • osteoporosis
  • heart disease
  • cancer

Let’s explore these.

Claim: High protein causes kidney damage.

This concern about high protein and kidneys began with a misunderstanding of why doctors tell people with poorly functioning kidneys (usually from pre-existing kidney disease) to a eat a low-protein diet.

But there’s a big difference between avoiding protein because your kidneys are already damaged and protein actively damaging healthy kidneys.

It’s the difference between jogging with a broken leg and jogging with a perfectly healthy leg.

Jogging with a broken leg is a bad idea. Doctors would probably tell you not to jog if your leg is broken. But does jogging cause legs to break? No.

That’s the same thing with protein and kidneys.

Eating more protein does increase how much your kidneys have to work (glomerular filtration rate and creatinine clearance), just like jogging increases how much your legs have to work.

But protein hasn’t been shown to cause kidney damage — again, just like jogging isn’t going to suddenly snap your leg like a twig.

High-protein diets do result in increased metabolic waste being excreted in the urine, though, so it’s particularly important to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Verdict: There’s no evidence that high protein diets (2.2g/kg body weight) cause kidney damage in healthy adults.

Claim: High protein causes liver damage.

The liver, like the kidneys, is a major processing organ. Thus, it’s the same deal as with kidneys: People with liver damage (such as cirrhosis) are told to eat less protein.

Yes, if you have liver damage or disease you should eat less protein. But if your liver is healthy, then a high-protein diet will not cause liver damage.

Verdict: There’s no evidence that high-protein diets (2.2g/kg body weight) cause liver damage in healthy adults.

Claim: High protein causes osteoporosis.

Eating more protein without also upping your fruit and vegetable intake will increase the amount of calcium you’ll lose in your pee.

That finding made some people think that eating more protein will cause osteoporosis because you’re losing bone calcium.

But there is no evidence that high protein causes osteoporosis.

If anything, not eating enough protein has been shown to cause bone loss. Bones aren’t just inert sticks of minerals — a significant proportion of bone is also protein, mostly collagen-type proteins.

Like muscle, bone is an active tissue that is constantly being broken down and rebuilt. And like muscle, bone needs those Lego building blocks.

Women aged 55 to 92 who eat more protein have higher bone density. So eating more protein improves bone density in people most at risk of having osteoporosis.

(Eating more protein plus adding resistance training: Double win for bone density.)

Verdict: High protein diets do not cause osteoporosis, and actually may prevent osteoporosis.

Claim: High protein causes cancer

Unfortunately, we still don’t have conclusive human studies on the cause of cancer and the role of protein.

There are studies that asked people how much protein they ate over their lifetime, and then looked at how often people got cancer. The research shows a connection between protein intake and cancer rates.

But these studies are correlational studies and don’t prove that protein is the cause of cancers. Plus, some researchers have gone so far to say that studies relying on subjects to recall what they ate are basically worthless because human memory is so inaccurate.

A big part of the proposed cancer and protein link comes down to confounding factors, like:

  • where you get your protein from — plant or animal
  • how you cook your protein (i.e. carbonized grilled meat)
  • what types of protein you’re eating (e.g. grass-fed steak versus a hot dog)

And so on.

In other words, we can’t say that any particular amount of protein causes cancer.

Verdict: Limited evidence that protein causes cancer; many other confounding factors.

Let’s take a deeper look: Protein and cancer

A study from 2014 looked at protein and cancer risk. It was widely misinterpreted as proof that eating a lot of protein caused cancer.

First, it was actually two studies, one asking people questions and following them for years; and one that fed mice a high-protein diet and implanted them with cancer.

With the human study, researchers looked at people’s self-reported protein intake and their rates of cancer over the following 18 years.

They found that people aged 50-65 who ate diets high in animal protein (≥20% of total calories) had a 4-fold greater risk of dying of cancer over the next 18 years compared to people who ate a moderate amount of protein (10-20% of total calories).

(Just so you get an idea, smoking increases your risk of cancer by 20-fold.)

Then, it gets more interesting, because for people over 65, eating more protein decreased cancer risk by more than half. In summary:

Eating more protein from 50-65 years old was associated with a higher risk of death from cancer, but over 65 years old that association was reversed.

The second part of the study is where people really misunderstood what the study had proven.

Researchers fed mice a high-protein diet (18% of total calories), then implanted cancerous cells. They found that the high-protein diet increased tumor size. This is not a surprise, since protein increases IGF-1 (an anabolic protein) that stimulates growth in pretty much all tissues, including cancerous tissue.

Higher protein diets stimulated cancerous growth in mice.

So, while eating more protein might increase the size of existing tumors (depending on what treatment someone is undergoing), this study does not show that high-protein diets cause cancer.

Claim: High protein causes heart disease.

Eating animal-based protein daily is associated with an increased risk of fatal coronary heart disease (70 percent for men and 37 percent for women), whereas plant-based proteins aren’t linked to higher rates of heart disease.

This suggests that where you get your protein from may matter more than how much protein you eat.

However, just like cancer, the link between heart disease and high-protein diets is from questionnaires rather than a double-blind randomized study (the gold standard in research).

There are many confounding factors. For one, consider the type of animal — does seafood cause the same issues as red meat, for example?

We don’t yet know the whole story here.

Verdict: Limited evidence that protein causes heart disease and the source of protein is a major confounding factor.

Let’s take a deeper look: Protein source

A new study in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) looks not only at protein intake, but where people got their protein from.

More than 131,000 people were asked:

  • how much protein they ate; and
  • if it came from animals or plants.

This study took over 35 years to do (starting in the 1980s).

What they found:

Eating more animal protein was associated with a higher risk of death… if you were also doing something else that was a risk factor.

Such as:

  • smoking
  • being overweight
  • not exercising
  • drinking alcohol
  • history of high blood pressure
  • low intake of whole grains, fiber, and fruits and vegetables

Eating more plant protein was found to be associated with lower risk of early death.

What does this mean?

You might think at first glance that you should eat less animal protein, since this study seems to say that animal protein is bad for you.

But there’s more to it.

If you’re doing everything else “right”, then eating more animal protein doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Likely, it’s not the animal protein on its own but a lot of lifestyle things that come with eating more animal protein.

For instance, this study began in the 80s. At that time, nearly every doctor told their patients to eat less fat and meat, and to avoid eggs.

So if you were a somewhat health-conscious person, then you’d likely be eating less animal protein compared to someone who was less health-conscious (or if you went against your doctor’s advice) — but you’d also likely be engaging in a bunch of other health-supporting decisions and activities.

The problem with these types of studies, called correlational studies, is that you can never be sure whether the associations are caused by one onto the other or if they’re simply happening at the same time.

Protein quality matters

Most people think about how much protein, but they don’t think all that much about the quality of the protein they’re eating.

There are huge differences in the chemical makeup of a given protein source, and how valuable that protein is nutritionally.

The higher a protein’s quality, the more easily it can give your body the amino acids it needs to grow, repair and maintain your body.

The two big factors that make a protein high or low quality are:

  • Digestibility:
    • How easy is it to digest?
    • How much do you digest — and absorb and use?
  • Amino acid composition:
    • What amino acids is it made of?

A high-quality protein has a good ratio of essential amino acids, and allows our body to use them effectively.

Amino acid composition is more important than digestibility.

You can have way more protein than you need, but if the protein you’re eating is low in an important amino acid (known as the limiting amino acid), it causes a bottleneck that stops everything else from working (or at least slows things down).

High-quality proteins have more limiting amino acids, which means the bottleneck is lessened and our bodies can use that protein source better.

Let’s take a deeper look: Measuring protein’s worth

Scientists use many ways to calculate protein quality, or how well we might digest, absorb, and use a given protein.

Here are a couple.

Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS)

PDCAAS is calculated using a ratio of limiting amino acids and a factor of true digestibility to give you a value that lets you know how much of a given protein is digestible.

The higher the score, the higher the quality of protein.

PDCAAS is the current gold standard for measuring protein quality, but there are a few other protein quality scoring methods that we cover in the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification program.

Indicator amino acid oxidation (IAAO)

When we don’t have enough of a particular indispensable amino acid, then all the other amino acids, including that indispensable one, will be oxidized (i.e. essentially wasted) rather than used for stuff like repairing tissues.

It’s kind of like a team sport: You can’t play without the goalie, so all the players sit around twiddling their thumbs, even though they’re all great players in their own right.

But if we’re getting enough of that particular amino acid, then we won’t see all that oxidation. We have a goalie and the rest of the players can play.

So, you want the IAAO score to be low, indicating that all your amino acids are doing their jobs to rebuild you.

Thus far, the IAAO method seems like a very useful way to judge the metabolic availability of amino acids from different protein-containing foods, and to determine total protein requirements for all kinds of people.

New assessment techniques like IAAO are giving us a more precise idea of protein use, which means that we may see recommendations change in future.

Most likely, based on these recent findings, the RDA for protein will increase — i.e. doctors may tell us to eat more protein.

“Complete” and “incomplete” proteins

Back in the day, scientists used to talk about “complete” and “incomplete” proteins.

If you had a plant-based diet (i.e. vegetarian or vegan), you were told that you had to eat a mix of incomplete proteins (i.e. protein from a variety of plants) at each meal in order to meet your needs.

We now know this isn’t true.

As long as you eat a mix of different protein sources, you’ll get all the amino acids you need. No need for mealtime protein algebra to make sure you’re getting all your amino acids.

That being said, many plant-based sources are less protein-dense than animal sources. So if you choose not to eat animal products, you’ll have to work a little harder to get more protein from a wide variety of plant sources to make up the difference and meet your protein needs.

2016.08-Protein per serving chart-1.1-01

Animal vs. plant proteins

More and more, it seems that where you get your protein has a huge impact on your health.

Eating a high-protein plant-based diet improves health outcomes compared to low-protein diets and high-protein animal-based diets. Again, it comes down to the quality of your protein more than how much protein you’re eating.

If you’re a diehard carnivore, no worries — just add some more plant protein to your diet. Diversity is good. Hug some lentils today.

Why might you eat MORE protein?

Since we need protein to grow, maintain, and repair our tissues, hormones and immune system, there are times we need more protein.

The standard RDA of 0.8 g/kg is great if you’re sedentary and not building or repairing your tissue.

But you may need more protein if you are:

  • physically active, either through workouts or your job
  • injured or sick
  • not absorbing protein normally
  • pregnant / breastfeeding
  • younger (and growing)
  • older (and potentially losing lean mass)

Higher protein diets can also:

  • lower blood pressure;
  • improve glucose regulation;
  • improve blood cholesterol; and
  • improve other indicators of cardiometabolic health.

Win all around.

Here are some specific scenarios that might call for more protein.

Protein for athletes

Athletes and active people should eat more protein, but we don’t know exactly how much more.

The current recommendations vary from 1.2 to 2.2 g/ kg of body weight.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition says a range of 1.4-2.0 g/kg is safe and may help with recovering from exercise.

It looks like 2.2 g/kg (1g/lb of body weight) is the highest recommendation, but this shouldn’t be confused with the idea that more than 2.2 g/kg is unsafe.

More may not be necessary, but there is little evidence that more is unsafe.

Protein for aging

As you get older, you lose lean mass — both muscle and bone. This affects how long you live, as well as how functional and healthy that life is.

New research shows that most older people, particularly women over 65, need more protein than the current recommendations to slow down muscle loss.

Experts now recommend over 2.0 g/kg of body weight for people older than 65.

Protein for building muscle

The more protein in your muscles, the bigger and stronger your muscles can get.

Bodybuilders have long known that there is an “anabolic window” after a workout (24-48 hours) during which muscles are especially greedy for amino acids.

So, if you’d like to build muscle, make sure you eat a protein-rich meal within a few hours after training. Some advanced folks also like to add branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) or essential amino acids (EAAs) as a during-workout or after-workout supplement.

Here, it seems that a fast-digesting animal protein supplement (whey) is better at getting your body to make more muscle compared to plant-based protein (soy). Of course, you can also just eat “real food” after working out.

Protein for losing fat

Eating protein helps with losing fat, for a few reasons.

1. When you eat more protein, you tend to feel fuller longer.

Protein stimulates the release of satiety (stop-eating) hormones in the gut. So when you eat protein, you naturally tend to eat less, without feeling hungry.

(You can test this theory if you want. Go and try to eat an entire plain skinless chicken, or a few pounds of lean fish.)

2. Protein makes your body work to digest it.

Not all nutrients take the same energy to digest. Fat and carbohydrates are pretty easy for your body to digest and absorb, but protein takes more energy to digest and absorb.

If you eat 100 calories of protein, you’ll only use about 70 calories of it. (This thermic, or heat-producing, effect of protein is why you sometimes get the “meat sweats” after a big protein-heavy meal.)

3. Protein also helps you hang on to lean mass while you’re losing fat.

When you’re in a significant energy deficit (i.e. eating less than you burn), your body tries to throw out everything — fat, muscle, bone, hormones, etc. — all the stuff you need. It doesn’t tend to throw out just fat and keep muscle… unless you eat lots of protein.

Let’s take a deeper look: Protein, lean mass, and energy restriction

A recent study at McMaster University in Canada explored what would happen if people who were on a very low-calorie diet (about 40 percent less than normal energy needs), ate a lot of protein, and worked out hard.

For 4 weeks, a group of young men in their 20s were basically starved, but on a high-protein diet — about 2.4 g/kg.

So, for instance, a 200 lb (91 kg), relatively active young man whose energy needs would normally be 3000 calories per day might get:

  • 1800 calories per day (40 percent less than normal)
  • 218 grams of protein per day (2.4 x 91 kg)

This means that out of those 1800 calories per day, about 48 percent of them were from protein.

The men trained hard — lifting weights and doing high-intensity intervals 6 days a week.

After 4 weeks, on average:

  • The men gained about 1.2 kg (2.6 lb) of lean body mass (LBM).
  • They lost about 4.8 kg (10.5 lb) of fat.

The fact that they lost fat isn’t surprising, though that amount of fat loss in 4 weeks is pretty impressive.

What is surprising is that they gained LBM.

There was a control group, who ate more of a normal-protein, low-energy diet — about 1.2 grams of protein per kg (so, for our 200 lb / 91 kg man, that would be around 109 grams per day). This group, on average:

  • Gained 0.1 kg (0.2 lb) of LBM
  • Lost 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) of fat

This study was only 4 weeks long, and on a specific population group under close supervision, but it’s a cool experiment that suggests protein might be able to do some nifty things even under difficult and demanding conditions.

It’s particularly useful because it’s a randomized controlled trial. In other words, it’s not a food questionnaire where you try to remember what you ate last year — it’s a direct comparison of two similar groups whose food parameters are being closely monitored.

We don’t recommend a highly restrictive, high-protein diet combined with a Spartan-style workout plan as a long-term strategy, but if you want to try something crazy for 4 weeks, see if you can replicate these results!

Why might you eat LESS protein?

Protein and longevity

Everybody is looking for the elixir of life; from 17th-century chemists to Monty Python.

And for years, living in a semi-starvation state has been shown to increase lifespan in nearly every animal from flatworms to rats to humans.

Looking into it more closely, it looks like restricting protein rather than calories, is the key to longevity.

Protein is anabolic: It triggers your body to build more tissues and other body bits. This is great if you want to build muscle, but there’s seems to be a downside: Eating protein triggers the body to release and make more IGF-1. In some people, this decreases longevity.

There’s a lot of work on lower IGF-1 and longer lifespan in animals (flatworms, rats and mice mostly) and some in people.

But it’s more complicated than saying that less protein leads to less IGF-1, which means living longer. There’s a genetic component. Some people do better with more IGF-1. In their case, more IGF-1 later in life actually increase lifespan.

And in terms of quality of life and functional longevity, a higher protein intake is probably still better. A semi-starved body may indeed live longer… but probably not better.

Age-related muscle loss alone could have serious consequences for metabolic health and mobility.

So: It’s difficult to say whether this is a good idea, despite interesting data. We probably need more research to say for sure.

What this means for you

If you’re a “regular person” who just wants to be healthy and fit:

  • If you’re over 65, eat more protein.
    This helps slow down age-related muscle loss, which improves long-term health and quality of life.
  • If you’re a plant-based eater: Plan your meals carefully.
    Without animal products, you’ll probably have to work a little harder to get enough protein. You might consider adding a plant-based protein powder to help yourself out.

If you’re an athlete:

  • Follow our PN portion recommendations.
    We suggest a portion of lean protein at every meal, to keep that protein pool full and ready to help your body repair and rebuild. You may need more than this if you are especially active.
  • Boost your protein intake around exercise.
    Eating protein around workouts may improve your body’s response to exercise. If you can tolerate whey protein, that’s one of the best options. Or, stick with real food.
  • Increase plant-based protein sources.
    The more the merrier.

If you’re a fitness professional / nutrition coach:

  • Help people understand as much as they need to understand in order to make an informed choice, with your guidance.
    Your clients will likely have questions. Prepare your answers in advance.
  • Refer out as needed.
    If you think a client might have an underlying health condition, work with their doctor to make sure they don’t have kidney or liver disease that a high-protein diet should be avoided.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s evidenced-based and personalized for their unique body, goals, and preferences—is both an art and a science.

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

What’s it all about?

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 2nd, 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.

References

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Academic studies aren’t going to top any “best summer reads” lists: They can be complicated, confusing, and well, pretty boring. But learning to read scientific research can help you answer important client questions and concerns… and provide the best evidence-based advice. In this article, we’ll help you understand every part of a study, and give you a practical, step-by-step system to evaluate its quality, interpret the findings, and figure out what it really means to you and your clients.

+++

Twenty-five years ago, the only people interested in studies were scientists and unapologetic, card-carrying nerds (like us).

But these days, everyone seems to care what the research says. 

Because of that, we’re inundated with sensational headlines and products touting impressive sounding, “science-backed” claims.

Naturally, your clients (and mother) want to know which ones have merit, and which ones don’t.

They may want your take on an unbelievable new diet trend that’s “based on a landmark study.”

Maybe they’re even questioning your advice:

  • “Aren’t eggs bad for you?”
  • “Won’t fruit make me fat?”
  • “Doesn’t microwaving destroy the nutrients?”

(No, no, and no.)

More importantly, they want to know why you, their health and fitness coach, are more believable than Dr. Oz, Goop, or that ripped social media star they follow (you know, the one with the little blue checkmark).

For health and fitness coaches, learning how to read scientific research can help make these conversations simpler and more well-informed.

The more you grow this skill set, the better you’ll be able to:

  • Identify false claims
  • Evaluate the merits of new research
  • Give evidence-based advice

But where do you even begin?

Right here, with this step-by-step guide to reading scientific studies. Use it to improve your ability to interpret a research paper, understand how it fits into the broader body of research, and see the worthwhile takeaways for your clients (and yourself).

++++

Know what counts as research, and what doesn’t.

People throw around the phrase, “I just read a study” all the time. But often, they’ve only seen it summarized in a magazine or on a website.

If you’re not a scientist, it’s okay to consult good-quality secondary sources for nutrition and health information. (That’s why we create Precision Nutrition content.) Practically speaking, there’s no need to dig into statistical analyses when a client asks you about green vegetables.

But for certain topics, and especially for emerging research, sometimes you’ll need to go straight to the original source.

Use the chart below to filter accordingly.

Okay, so how do you find the actual research?

Thanks to the internet, it’s pretty simple.

Online media sources reporting on research will often give you a link to the original study.

If you don’t have the link, search databases PubMed and Google Scholar using the authors’ names, journal name, and/or the study title.

(Totally lost? Check out this helpful PubMed tutorial for a primer on finding research online.)

If you’re having trouble finding a study, try searching the first, second, and last study authors’ names together. They rarely all appear on more than a handful of studies, so you’re likely to locate what you’re looking for.

You’ll almost always be able to read the study’s abstract—a short summary of the research—for free. Check to see if the full text is available, as well. If not, you may need to pay for access to read the complete study.

Once you’ve got your hands on the research, it’s time to dig in.

Not all research is created equal.

Be skeptical, careful, and analytical.

Quality varies greatly among publishers, journals, and even the scientific studies themselves.

After all, is every novel a Hemingway? Is every news outlet 100 percent objective? Are all your coworkers infallible geniuses?

Of course not. When it comes to achieving excellence, research has the same challenges as every other industry. For example…

Journals tend to publish novel findings.

Which sounds more interesting to read? A study that confirms what we already know, or one that offers something new and different?

Academic journals are businesses, and part of how they sell subscriptions, maintain their cutting-edge reputations, and get cited by other publications—and Good Morning America!—is by putting out new, attention-grabbing research.

As a result, some studies published in even the most well-respected scientific journals are one-offs that don’t mean all that much when compared to the rest of the research on that topic. (That’s one of many reasons nutrition science is so confusing.)

Researchers need to get published.

In order to get funding—a job requirement for many academics—researchers need to have their results seen. But getting published isn’t always easy, especially if their study results aren’t all that exciting.

Enter: predatory journals, which allow people to pay to have their research published without being reviewed. That’s a problem because it means no one is double-checking their work.

To those unfamiliar, studies published in these journals can look just like studies published in reputable ones. We even reviewed a study from one as an example, and we’ll tell you how to spot them on your own in a bit.

In the meantime, you can also check out this list of potentially predatory journals as a cross-reference.

Results can differ based on study size and duration.

Generally, the larger the sample size—the more people of a certain population who are studied—the more reliable the results (however at some point this becomes a problem, too).

The reason: With more people, you get more data. This allows scientists to get closer to the ‘real’ average. So a study population of 1,200 is less likely to be impacted by outliers than a group of, say, 10.

It’s sort of like flipping a coin: If you do it 10 times, you might get “heads” seven or eight times. Or even 10 in a row. But if you flip it 1,200 times, it’s likely to average out to an even split between heads and tails, which is more accurate.

One caveat: Sample size only matters when you’re comparing similar types of studies. (As you’ll learn later, experimental research provides stronger evidence than observational, but observational studies are almost always larger.)

For similar reasons, it’s also worth noting the duration of the research. Was it a long-term study that followed a group of people for years, or a single one-hour test of exercise capacity using a new supplement?

Sure, that supplement might have made a difference in a one-hour time window, but did it make a difference in the long run?

Longer study durations allow us to test the outcomes that really matter, like fat loss and muscle gain, or whether heart attacks occurred. They also help us better understand the true impact of a treatment.

For example, if you examine a person’s liver enzymes after just 15 days of eating high fat, you might think they should head to the ER. By 30 days, however, their body has compensated, and the enzymes are at normal levels.

So more time means more context, and that makes the findings both more reliable and applicable for real life. But just like studying larger groups, longer studies require extensive resources that often aren’t available.

The bottom line: Small, short-term studies can add to the body of literature and provide insights for future study, but on their own, they’re very limited in what you can take away.

Biases can impact study results.

Scientists can be partial to seeing certain study outcomes. (And so can you, as a reader.)

Research coming out of universities—as opposed to corporations—tends to be less biased, though this isn’t always the case.

Perhaps a researcher worked with or received funding from a company that has a financial interest in their studies’ findings. This is completely acceptable, as long as the researcher acknowledges they have a conflict or potential bias.

But it can also lead to problems. For example, the scientist might feel pressured to conduct the study in a certain way. This isn’t exactly cheating, but it could influence the results.

More commonly, researchers may inadvertently—and sometimes purposefully—skew their study’s results so they appear more significant than they really are.

In both of these cases, you might not be getting the whole story when you look at a scientific paper.

That’s why it’s critical to examine each study in the context of the entire body of evidence. If it differs significantly from the other research on the topic, it’s important to ask why.

Your Ultimate Study Guide

Now you’re ready for the fun part: Reading and analyzing actual studies, using our step-by-step process. Make sure to bookmark this article so you can easily refer to it anytime you’re reading a paper.

Step 1: Decide how strong the evidence is.

To determine how much stock you should put in a study, you can use this handy pyramid called the “hierarchy of evidence.”

Here’s how it works: The higher up on the pyramid a research paper falls, the more trustworthy the information.

For example, you ideally want to first look for a meta-analysis or systematic review—see the top of the pyramid—that deals with your research question. Can’t find one? Then work your way down to randomized controlled trials, and so on.

Study designs that fall toward the bottom of the pyramid aren’t useless, but in order to see the big picture, it’s important to understand how they compare to more vetted forms of research.

Research reviews

These papers are considered very strong evidence because they review and/or analyze a selection of past studies on a given topic. There are two types: meta-analyses and systematic reviews.

In a meta-analysis, researchers use complex statistical methods to combine the findings of several studies. Pooling together studies increases the statistical power, offering a stronger conclusion than any single study. Meta-analyses can also identify patterns among study results, sources of disagreement, and other interesting relationships that a single study can’t provide.

In a systematic review, researchers review and discuss the available studies on a specific question or topic. Typically, they use precise and strict criteria for what’s included.

Both of these approaches look at multiple studies and draw a conclusion.

This is helpful because:

  • A meta-analysis or systematic review means that a team of researchers has closely scrutinized all studies included. Essentially, the work has already been done for you. Does each individual study make sense? Were the research methods sound? Does their statistical analysis line up? If not, the study will be thrown out.
  • Looking at a large group of studies together can help put outliers in context. If 25 studies found that consuming fish oil improved brain health, and two found the opposite, a meta-analysis or systematic review would help the reader avoid getting caught up in the two studies that seem to go against the larger body of evidence.

PubMed has made these easy to find: to the left of the search box, just click “customize” and you can search for only reviews and meta-analyses.

Your evidence-based shortcut: The position stand.

If you’re reading a research review and things aren’t adding up for you, or you’re not sure how to apply what you’ve learned to your real-life coaching practice, seek out a position stand on the topic.

Position stands are official statements made by a governing body on topics related to a particular field, like nutrition, exercise physiology, dietetics, or medicine.

They look at the entire body of research and provide practical guidelines that professionals can use with clients or patients.

Here’s an example: The 2017 International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand on diets and body composition.

Or, say you have a client who’s older and you’re wondering how to safely increase their training capacity (but don’t want to immerse yourself in a dark hole of research), simply look for the position stand on exercise and older adults.

To find the position stands in your field, consult the website of whatever governing body you belong to. For example, if you’re a personal trainer certified through ACSM, NASM, ACE, or NSCA, consult the respective website for each organization. They should feature position stands on a large variety of topics.

Randomized controlled trials

This is an experimental study design: A specific treatment is given to a group of participants, and the effects are recorded. In some cases, this type of study can prove that a treatment causes a certain effect.

In a randomized controlled trial, or RCT, one group of participants doesn’t get the treatment being tested, but both groups think they’re getting the treatment.

For instance, one half of the participants might take a drug, while the other half gets a placebo.

The groups are chosen randomly, and this helps to counteract the placebo effect—which occurs when someone experiences a benefit simply because they believe it’ll help.

If you’re reading a RCT paper, look for the words “double blind” or the abbreviation “DBRCT” (double blind randomized controlled trial). This is the gold standard of experimental research. It means neither the participants nor researchers know who’s taking the treatment and who’s taking the placebo. They’re both “blind”—so the results are less likely to be skewed.

Observational studies

In an observational study, researchers look at and analyze ongoing or past behavior or information, then draw conclusions about what it could mean.

Observational research shows correlations, which means you can’t take an observational study and say it “proves” anything. But even so, when folks hear about these findings on the popular morning shows, that part’s often missed, which is why you might end up with confused clients.

So what’re these types of studies good for? They can help us make educated guesses about best practices.

Again, one study doesn’t tell us a lot. But if multiple observational studies show similar findings, and there are biological mechanisms that can reasonably explain them, you can be more confident they’ve uncovered a pattern. Like that eating plant foods is probably healthful—or that smoking probably isn’t.

Scientists can also use these studies to generate hypotheses to test in experimental studies.

There are three main types of observational studies:

  • Cohort studies follow a group of people over a certain period of time. In fact, these studies can track people for years or even decades. Usually, the scientists are looking for a specific factor that might affect a given outcome. For example, researchers start with a group of people who don’t have diabetes, then watch to see which people develop the disease. Then they’ll try to connect the dots, and determine which factors the newly-diagnosed people have in common.
  • Case control studies compare the histories of two sets of people that are different in some way. For example, the researchers might look at two groups who lost 30 pounds: 1) those who successfully maintained their weight loss over time; 2) those who didn’t. This type of study would suggest a reason why that happened and then analyze data from the participants to see if might be true.
  • Cross sectional studies use a specific population—say, people with high blood pressure—and look for additional factors they might have in common with each other. This could be medications, lifestyle choices, or other conditions.

Case studies and reports

These are basically stories that are interesting or unusual in some way. For examples, this study reviewed the case of a patient who saw his blood cholesterol levels worsen significantly after adding 1-2 cups of Bulletproof Coffee to his daily diet.

Case studies and reports might provide detail and insight that would be hard to share in a more formal study design, but they’re not considered the most convincing evidence. Instead, they can be used to make more informed decisions and provide ideas about where to go next.

Animal and laboratory studies

These are studies done on non-human subjects—for instance, on pigs, rats, or mice, or on cells in Petri dishes—and can fall anywhere within the hierarchy.

Why are we mentioning them? Mainly, because it’s important to be careful with how much stock you put in the results. While it’s true that much of what we know about human physiology—from thermal regulation to kidney function—is thanks to animal and lab studies, people aren’t mice, or fruit flies, or even our closest relatives, primates.

So animal and cell studies can suggest things about humans, but aren’t always directly applicable.

The main questions you’ll want to answer here are: What type of animal was used? Were the animals used a good model for a human?

For example, pigs are much better models for research on cardiovascular disease and diets compared to mice, because of the size of their coronary arteries and their omnivorous diets. Mice are used for genetic studies, as they’re easier to alter genetically and have shorter reproduction cycles.

Also, context really matters. If an ingredient is shown to cause cancer in an animal study, how much was used, and what’s the human equivalent?

Or, if a chemical is shown to increase protein synthesis in cells grown in a dish, then for how long? Days, hours, minutes? To what degree, and how would that compare to a human eating an ounce of chicken? What other processes might this chemical impact?

Animal and lab studies usually don’t provide solutions and practical takeaways. Instead, they’re an early step in building a case to do experimental research.

The upshot: You need to be careful not to place more importance on these findings than they deserve. And, as always, look at how these small studies fit into the broader picture of what we already know about the topic.

Bonus: Qualitative and mixed-method studies

We haven’t mentioned one research approach that cuts across many study designs: qualitative research, as opposed to quantitative (numeric) research.

Qualitative studies focus on the more intangible elements of what was found, such as what people thought, said, or experienced. They tell us about the human side of things.

So, a qualitative study looking at how people respond to a new fitness tracker might ask them how they feel about it, and gather their answers into themes such as “ease of use” or “likes knowing how many steps taken.”

Qualitative studies are often helpful for exploring ideas and questions that quantitative data raises.

For example, quantitative data might tell us that a certain percentage of people don’t make important health changes even after a serious medical diagnosis.

Qualitative research might find out why, by interviewing people who didn’t make those changes, and seeing if there were consistent themes, such as: “I didn’t get enough info from my doctor” or “I didn’t get support or coaching.”

When a study combines quantitative data with qualitative research, it’s known as a “mixed-methods” study.

Your takeaway: Follow the hierarchy of evidence.

There’s a big difference between a double blind randomized controlled human trial on the efficacy of a weight loss supplement (conducted by an independent lab) and an animal study on that same supplement.

There’s an even bigger difference between a systematic review of studies on whether red meat causes cancer and a case report on the same topic.

When you’re looking at research, keep results in perspective by taking note of how strong the evidence can even be, based on the pyramid above.

Step 2: Read the study critically.

Just because a study was published doesn’t mean it’s flawless. So while you might feel a bit out of your depth when reading a scientific paper, it’s important to remember that the paper’s job is to convince you of its evidence.

And your job when you’re reading a study is to ask the right questions.

Here’s exactly what to look for, section by section.

Journal

High quality studies are published in academic journals, which have names like Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, not TightBodz Quarterly.

To see if the study you’re reading is published in a reputable journal:

  • Check the impact factor. While not a perfect system, using a database like Scientific Journal Rankings to look for a journal’s “impact factor” (identified as “SJR” by Scientific Journal Rankings) can provide an important clue about a journal’s reputation. If the impact factor is greater than one, it’s likely to be legit.
  • Check if the journal is peer-reviewed. Peer-reviewed studies are read critically by other researchers before being published, lending them a higher level of credibility. Most journals state whether they require peer review in their submission requirements, which can generally be found by Googling the name of the journal and the words “submission guidelines.” If a journal doesn’t require peer review, it’s a red flag.
  • See how long the publisher has been around. Most reputable academic journals are published by companies that have been in business since at least 2012. Publishers that have popped up since then are more likely to be predatory.

Authors

These are the people who conducted the research, and finding out more about their backgrounds can tell you a lot about how credible a study might be.

To learn more about the authors:

  • Look them up. They should be experts in the field the study deals with. That means they’ve contributed research reviews and possibly textbook chapters on this topic. Even if the study is led by a newer researcher in the field, you should be able to find information about their contributions, credentials, and areas of expertise on their university or lab website.
  • Check out their affiliations. Just like you want to pay attention to any stated conflicts of interest, it’s smart to be aware if any of the authors make money from companies that have an interest in the study’s findings.

Note: It doesn’t automatically mean a study is bogus if one (or more) of the authors make money from a company in a related industry, but it’s worth noting, especially if there seem to be other problems with the study itself.

Abstract

This is a high-level summary of the research, including the study’s purpose, significant results, and the authors’ conclusions.

To get the most from the abstract, you want to:

  • Figure out the big question. What were the researchers trying to find out with this study?
  • Decide if the study is relevant to you. Move on to the later parts of the study only if you find the main question interesting and valuable. Otherwise, there’s no reason to spend time reading it.
  • Dig deeper. The abstract doesn’t provide context, so in order to understand what was discovered in a study, you need to keep reading.

Introduction

This section provides an overview of what’s already known about a topic and a rationale for why this study needed to be done.

When you read the introduction:

  • Familiarize yourself with the subject. Most introductions list previous studies and reviews on the study topic. If the references say things that surprise you or don’t seem to line up with what you already know about the body of evidence, get up to speed before moving on. You can do that by either reading the specific studies that are referenced, or reading a comprehensive (and recent) review on the topic.
  • Look for gaps. Some studies cherry-pick introduction references based on what supports their ideas, so doing research of your own can be revealing.

Methods

You’ll find demographic and study design information in this section.

All studies are supposed to be reproducible. In other words, another researcher following the same protocols would likely get the same results. So this section provides all the details on how you could replicate a study.

In the methodology section, you’ll want to:

  • Learn about the participants. Knowing who was studied can tell you a bit about how much (or how little) you can apply the study results to you (or your clients). Women may differ from men; older subjects may differ from younger ones; groups may differ by ethnicity, medical conditions may affect the results, and so on.
  • Take note of the sample size. Now is also a good time to look at how many participants the study included, as that can be an early indicator of how seriously you can take the results, depending on the type of study.
  • Don’t get bogged down in the details. Unless you work in the field, it’s unlikely that you’ll find value in getting into the nitty-gritty of how the study was performed.

Results

Read this section to find out if the intervention made things better, worse, or… the same.

When reading this section:

  • Skim it. The results section tends to be dense. Reading the headline of each paragraph can give you a good overview of what happened.
  • Check out the figures. To get the big picture of what the study found, seek to understand what’s being shown in the graphs, charts, and figures in this section.

Discussion

This is an interpretation of what the results might mean. Key point: It includes the authors’ opinions.

As you read the discussion:

  • Note any qualifiers. This section is likely to be filled with “maybe,” “suggests,” “supports,” “unclear,” and “more studies need to be done.” That means you can’t cite ideas in this section as fact, even if the authors clearly prefer one interpretation of the results over another. (That said, be careful not to dismiss the interpretation offhand, particularly if the author has been doing this specific research for years or decades.)
  • Acknowledge the limitations. The discussion also includes information about the limits of how the research can be applied. Diving deep into this section is a great opportunity for you to better understand the weaknesses of the study and why it might not be widely applicable (or applicable to you and/or your clients.)

Conclusions

Here, the authors sum up what their research means, and how it applies to the real world.

To get the most from this section:

  • Consider reading the conclusions first. Yes—before the intro, methodology, results, or anything else. This helps keep the results of the study in perspective. After all, you don’t want to read more into the outcome of the study than the people who actually did the research, right? Starting with the conclusions can help you avoid getting over-excited about a study’s results—or more convinced of their importance—than the people who conducted it.
  • Make sure the data support the conclusions. Sometimes, authors make inappropriate conclusions or overgeneralize results, like when a scientist studying fruit flies applies the results to humans, or when researchers suggest that observational study results “prove” something to be true (which as you know from the hierarchy of evidence, isn’t possible). Look for conclusions that don’t seem to add up.
Let’s take a deeper look: Statistical significance

Before researchers start a study, they have a hypothesis that they want to test. Then, they collect and analyze data and draw conclusions.

The concept of statistical significance comes in during the analysis phase of a study.

In academic research, statistical significance, or the likelihood that the study results were generated by chance, is measured by a p-value that can range from 0 to 1 (0 percent chance to 100 percent chance).

The “p” in p-value is probability.

P-values are usually found in the results section.

Put simply, the closer the p-value is to 0, the more likely it is that the results of a study were caused by the treatment or intervention, rather than random fluke.

For example:

Let’s say researchers are testing fat loss supplement X.

Their hypothesis is that taking supplement X results in greater fat loss than not taking it.

The study participants are randomly divided into two groups:

  • One group takes supplement X.
  • One group takes a placebo.

At the end of the study, the group that took supplement X, on average, lost more fat. So it would seem that the researchers’ hypothesis is valid.

But there’s a catch: Some people with supplement X lost less weight than those who took the placebo. So does supplement X help with fat loss or not?

This is where statistics and p-values come in. If you look at all the participants and how much fat they lost, you can figure out if it’s likely due to the supplement or just the randomness of the universe.

The most common threshold is a p-value under 0.05 (5 percent), which is considered statistically significant. Numbers over that threshold are not.

This threshold is arbitrary, and some types of analysis have a much lower threshold, such as genome-wide association studies that need a p-value of less than 0.00000001 to be statistically significant.

So if the researchers studying supplement X find that their p-value is 0.04, that means: 1) There’s a very small chance (4 percent) that supplement X has no effect on fat loss, and 2) there’s a 96 percent chance of getting the same results (or greater) if you replicated the study.

A couple of important things to note about p-values:

  • The smaller the p-value does NOT mean the bigger the impact of supplement X. It just means the effect is consistent and likely ‘real.’
  • The p-value doesn’t test for how well a study is designed. It just looks at how likely the results are due to chance.

Why are we explaining this in such detail?

Because if you see a study that cites a p-value of higher than 0.05, the results aren’t statistically significant.

That means either 1) the treatment had no effect, or 2) if the study were repeated, the results would be different.

So in the case of supplement X, if the p-value were higher than 0.05, you couldn’t say that supplement X helped with fat loss. This is true even if you can see that, on average, the group taking supplement X lost 10 pounds of fat. (You can learn more here.)

The takeaway: Ask the right questions.

We’re not saying you should read a study critically because researchers are trying to trick you.

But each section of a study can tell you something important about how valid the results are, and how seriously you should take the findings.

If you read a study that concludes green tea speeds up your metabolism, and:

  • the researchers have never studied green tea or metabolism before;
  • the researchers are on the board of a green tea manufacturer;
  • the introduction fails to cite recent meta-analyses and / or reviews on the topic that go against the study’s results;
  • and the study was performed on mice…

… then you should do some further research before telling people that drinking green tea will spike their metabolism and accelerate fat loss.

This isn’t to say green tea can’t be beneficial for someone trying to lose weight. After all, it’s a generally healthful drink that doesn’t have calories. It’s just a matter of keeping the research-proven benefits in perspective. Be careful not to overblow the perks based on a single study (or even a few suspect ones).

Step 3: Consider your own perspective.

So you’ve read the study and have a solid idea of how convincing it really is.

But beware:

We tend to seek out information we agree with.

Yep, we’re more likely to click on (or go searching for) a study if we think it will align with what we already believe.

This is known as confirmation bias.

And if a study goes against what we believe, well, we might just find ourselves feeling kind of ticked off.

You will bring some biases to the table when you read and interpret a study. All of us do.

But the truth is, not everyone should be drawing conclusions from scientific studies on their own, especially if they’re not an expert in the field. Because again, we’re all a little bit biased.

Once you’ve read a study, use this chart to determine how you should approach interpreting the results.

The takeaway: Be aware of your own point of view.

Rather than pretending you’re “objective” and “logical,” recognize that human brains are inherently biased.

A warning sign of this built-in bias: if you’re feeling especially annoyed or triumphant after reading a study.

Remember, science isn’t about being right or wrong; it’s about getting closer to the truth.

Step 4: Put the conclusions in context.

One single study on its own doesn’t prove anything. Especially if it flies in the face of what we knew before.

(Rarely, by the way, will a study prove anything. Rather, it will add to a pile of probability about something, such as a relationship between Factor X and Outcome Y.)

Look at new research as a very small piece of a very large puzzle, not as stand-alone gospel.

That’s why we emphasize position stands, meta-analyses, and systematic reviews. To some degree, these do the job of providing context for you.

If you read an individual study, you’ll have to do that work on your own.

For each scientific paper you read, consider how it lines up with the rest of the research on a given topic.

The takeaway: Go beyond the single study.

Let’s say a study comes out that says creatine doesn’t help improve power output. The study is high quality, and seems well done.

These results are pretty strange, because most of the research on creatine over the past few decades shows that it does help people boost their athletic performance and power output.

So do you stop taking creatine, one of the most well-researched supplements out there, if your goal is to increase strength and power?

Well, it would be pretty silly to disregard the past 25 years of studies on creatine supplementation just because of one study.

Instead, it probably makes more sense to take this study and set it aside—at least until more high-quality studies replicate a similar result. If that happens, then we might take another look at it.

Getting the most out of scientific research, and potentially applying it to our lives, is more about the sum total than the individual parts.

Science definitely isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got.

It’s awesome to be inspired by science to experiment with your nutrition, fitness, and overall health routines or to recommend science-based changes to your clients.

But before making any big changes, be sure it’s because it makes sense for you (or your client) personally, not just because it’s the Next Big Thing.

Take notice of how the changes you make affect your body and mind, and when something isn’t working for you (or your client), go with your gut.

Science is an invaluable tool in nutrition coaching, but we’re still learning and building on knowledge as we go along. And sometimes really smart people get it wrong.

Take what you learn from research alone with a grain of salt.

And if you consider yourself an evidence-based coach (or a person who wants to use evidence-based methods to get healthier), remember that personal experiences and preferences matter, too.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s evidence-based and personalized for each individual’s lifestyle and preferences—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 percent 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 2nd, 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.

References

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

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

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I could already see the pain in Michelle’s eyes as we sat down in a quiet corner of my gym.

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

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

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

“Have you always been overweight?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The challenge is uncovering it.

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You never start with the pain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering why you really want to change gives you resolve.

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

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

Find your pain… to stoke your passion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step #1: Find your true “why.”

Michelle wanted to lose weight, sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the “whys” that drive change.

Don’t settle for the easy answer.

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

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

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

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

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

Put in the work.

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

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

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

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

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

Ask yourself 3 questions. Right now…

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

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

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

Step #2: Turn your pain into action.

Let’s start with an example.

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

Do the hard thing.

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

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

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

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

Here are some examples:

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

Ask yourself:

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

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

Make one change at a time.

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

Pick one small, new habit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practice your habit.

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

Build on your habit.

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

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

Step #3: Share your pain.

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

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

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

Talking to people about your pain can:

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

Start with the people you love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give yourself permission to take it slow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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—by helping them discover their true motivation—is both an art and a science.

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

What’s it all about?

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 2nd, 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 Better than swimsuit season: Discover relentless motivation for transforming your body. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Everyone in health and fitness eventually hits the same wall: Time. Specifically, they run out of it. They start feeling like there aren’t enough hours to coach clients, manage their businesses, and keep an eye on growth.

How do top coaches save time, increase their effectiveness, and work on their own terms? With very specific strategies. In this article, I’ll cover those strategies. I’ll also share one of the tools that’s helping thousands of coaches change the game in terms of time management and work flexibility.

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Today’s article is really exciting because I’m going to cover something that every single person working in health and fitness (or who wants to work in health and fitness) needs to know.

I’ll cover how to:

  • Take stock of what you spend time on in your business.
  • Weed out low-value, annoying activities.
  • Increase the time you spend on lucrative and fulfilling tasks.

And, in doing so, I’ll show you how you can coach more clients, more effectively; make more money; and have more time off.

Before digging in, however, I wanted to let you know that the ultimate coaching time-saver — Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach — is opening up very soon.

Tested with over 100,000 clients, ProCoach makes it easy to deliver world-class, proven nutrition and lifestyle coaching to your own clients.

It’ll help you grow your business while working less, getting better results, and living life on your own terms.

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

To understand ProCoach you first need to understand why it was created, and the key problems it helps health and fitness professionals overcome.

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

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

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

 

 

In summary, ProCoach delivers — to your clients, on your behalf — a total coaching solution, complete with daily lessons, habits, check-ins, and more.

Plus, as their coach, you’ll support your clients by answering questions, offering encouragement, and tracking progress through special ProCoach software.

The good news? On Wednesday, June 5th, we’ll be opening ProCoach to our PN Certification students and graduates around the world.

For now though, if you’re ready to start saving time, increasing your effectiveness, and working on your own terms, read on.

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“If only I had more time…

…I could make more money, be better at what I do, and even take a weekend off every once in awhile.”

If you’ve thought this, you’re definitely not alone.

In fact, you share the same problem as most of the driven, ambitious, successful people I know: At a certain point, you reach capacity.

On the one hand, that’s great news. Whatever you’re doing is working. You’re in demand. People want to coach with you. More people than you can handle.

On the other, you’re maxed. You can’t find a way to enroll more clients, make more money, or just take a vacation without magically adding hours to the day.

Of course, some of you might have the opposite problem.

You might be new to the field, excited to grow your business, and enthusiastic about getting more clients… yet you don’t feel like you have the time, energy, or resources to create and market an offering to get people in the door.

Either way…

Your problem isn’t actually time. It’s strategy.

To take on more clients and make more money — all while delivering world-class results and living the healthy, flexible, passionate life you envisioned — you have to be more strategic.

In other words, there is a way to magically add hours to your day.

To get those hours, though, you have to learn and fully adopt certain techniques that radically decrease the time you spend on lower-value tasks. Only then can you transfer that “extra” time to much higher-value (and more lucrative) tasks.

I know, I know. When in the depths of “time depression” it can feel like no matter how much you want to power through responsibilities, there are always three sets of 10,000 other things to do.

More emails, more sessions, and, yeah, your website could use an update.

(Enjoy a nice, long workout for yourself? Or a day off? That’s funny.)

It can seem like there’s no rope to help you climb over that no-time wall. All you can do is bang your head against it, hoping to one day break through.

Trust me, I had the same problem as you.

Before Precision Nutrition was born, I was a health and fitness coach running my own personal training business in Miami, Florida.

Like you, I was super busy and way too stressed out. My frustrations included:

  • Spending 45-60 hours a week training clients on the gym floor.
  • Spending another 15-20 hours a week doing things like program writing, nutrition plan development, record keeping, billing, and sales.
  • Arranging my schedule around the training availability of clients, i.e. working both early mornings and evenings, plus weekends.
  • Finding that despite how hard I worked, I couldn’t get past a certain cap on how many clients I could coach or how much money I could make.

Working 60-80 hours every week, my client roster looked something like this:

And, when I was being completely honest, I realized the results weren’t all that great. The breakdown looked kinda like this:

This went for a few years. I was first frustrated. Then mad.

Then I decided to figure it out.

Fast forward to today.

Our 20-person PN coaching team works with about 5,000 clients a year. At any given time, each coach works with around 300 people.

Even better? They do it virtually, from wherever in the world they like.

One of our coaches just spent another winter working with her clients from sunny Costa Rica, surfing in the morning, coaching online in the afternoon.

Another is a dad of four children and he coaches around drop-offs and pick-ups, which he does himself every day.

The best part? Even with this amazing flexibility and 10x increase in client:coach ratio, we’re still getting consistently jaw-dropping results like these.








 

So how does one go from maxed-out and burned-out with 20 clients to coaching 300 clients, making more money, living a more flexible life?

By changing how you think about time management.

It all started back in the mid 2000s when I met a systems design engineer named Phil Caravaggio.

Phil was accustomed to looking at companies outside fitness — like IBM, Dell, Apple — to see how they used systems to simplify or amplify their businesses.

He taught me that “being busy” is never the real problem.

Instead, the problem is how we think about productivity and effectiveness.

We’re told that, to be more “productive”, we have to work hard and hustle more. We’re told that, to fit more into each day, we have to use so-called productivity hacks and juggle everything that comes at us.

This approach is fundamentally flawed; it really just asks us to do more without showing us how to do more of the right things, less of the wrong things.

It makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

In truth, productivity and effectiveness isn’t…

  • sleeping less, working more, and hustling harder,
  • multi-tasking your social media while a client is cursing through burpees,
  • a million cobbled together “productivity hacks” that are supposed to make you more efficient but actually just make your brain hurt.

Productivity and effectiveness is…

  • organizing and prioritizing your time ruthlessly,
  • ditching low-value tasks and replacing them with high-value tasks,
  • automating the things that can be automated,
  • focusing the rest of your time on things that we call unique abilities.*

*Unique abilities are the things that a) you’re uniquely good at, b) you enjoy doing, and c) make a real impact on your business.

Back in the day, we needed a system. And so do you.

Back in the early days of Precision Nutrition, we sat down to figure out how to:

  • coach more clients,
  • get better results with each client,
  • make more money, and
  • reclaim our time.

To accomplish these goals, we’d need to focus on getting some time back and driving toward effectiveness. We approached it by:

  • First, figuring out which tasks were low-value and repeatable.
  • Next, automating and personalizing the stuff that was repeatable.
  • Finally, spending our newfound hours on higher-value tasks.

Want to know exactly how we did it?

Here’s the 4-step formula we originally developed to coach more people to better results in less time. (It’s also the formula that underpins ProCoach, which you can use in your business too).

Step 1.
Take a look at where you’re spending your time.

When I first came up against major time management frustrations, I was spending around 60 hours a week on the gym floor in one-on-one client sessions…

…plus an additional 15-20 hours a week on business management tasks like record keeping, program writing, lead nurturing, marketing, and on-the-fly lifestyle coaching.

I got a ton of fulfillment coaching clients through times when they felt overwhelmed, incapable, or stuck — in fact, in those areas, I felt irreplaceable.

Frankly, everything else I did in my business seemed like a time waster. So I got real with exactly what I was spending my time on.

Here’s how you can do the same:

What to do

Spend a couple weeks documenting where every minute of your workday is going and how those minutes make you feel.

Then divide the tasks you document into two categories:

1. Time wasters

Time wasters are the tasks that make you mad and never go away; the stuff that makes you dread getting up in the morning.

For me, it was the stuff that seemed like “busywork” — invoicing, counting clients’ reps, answering basic questions about protein and peanut butter.

Remember: Your “time wasters” might be different from mine. Everyone’s unique abilities and business goals are different.

2. Time warriors

Time warriors are the tasks you do for your business that you love, that you feel have a tangible impact on your income, and that you know you’re uniquely suited for.

What do your clients 100% depend on your for? What do you do that makes them so excited and brag to their friends? What are the special things that only YOU can give them?

Again, the answer will depend on your particular strengths and business goals. Maybe you have an impressive grasp on nutrition coaching? Or marketing? Or you’re a work-from-home mom who can crush it helping new mothers maintain a fit life after kids.

Step 2.
Automate every “time waster” you can.

Your goal is to spend significantly less time on tasks you dislike and that don’t particularly support client results or business growth.

Ask yourself: Am I reinventing the wheel every time I write a workout program or answer an email about peanut butter?

(If so, that’s probably one reason why you resent the task so much.)

Think about it: Much of your job as a coach is made up of work that you repeat over and over and over.

Coaches:

  • Help clients define and commit to health and fitness goals.
  • Design workout and nutrition plans for people who have common goals.
  • Check in on client adherence and provide accountability.
  • Create and distribute marketing materials for their business.

Have you ever noticed that clients all seem to have the same questions?

  • “How many calories can I eat?”
  • “How many reps this time?”
  • “What workout can I do on my own this week?”
  • “Is it OK to eat cheese while I’m on vacation in France?”

Can you even count the number of times you’ve typed the same eating suggestions? Or how many times you’ve sent a passionate plea to keep going?

Or how many times you’ve said, “Yes, enjoy France, and the cheese!”

The truth is, you’re providing the same basic information again and again (and again and again), slightly adjusted for each individual.

Now imagine being able to automate 90 percent of work involved in your “time-wasting” tasks.

If you’ve been in coaching long enough you’ll realize that the arc of a client typically follows a particular pattern: You have to pass along certain info at certain times, you have to take measurements at particular benchmark moments to track progress, and so on.

So take your list of repeated/repeatable “time wasters”, and complete (and — this is crucial — save) the work in one fell swoop.

How?

1. Create your “General” file.

Open up a new document in Word or Google, or whatever tool you prefer. Make a list of the types of written communication you need over and over in your business. For a standard coaching biz, this will probably include:

  • information about services and pricing
  • welcome messages
  • reminders about upcoming sessions
  • post-session check-ins
  • monthly “how’s it going?” emails
  • regular “you’re doing great” emails
  • requests and guidance for data like weight, measurements, etc.

Once you have your categories, write (or paste in from emails you’ve already written) the messages themselves.

Depending on the nature of your business offerings, and how often you like to check in with clients, there might be a lot of standard emails to document. Take a few weeks to get this done. Don’t rush — do it right.

You now have your “General” file — a super solid foundation for any general business communication you need to send out.

2. Create your “Programs” file.

Whatever services you offer in your business, you undoubtedly have to communicate about them over and over.

Start a new document and list them out. This might include:

  • workout plan (weight loss)
  • workout plan (weight gain)
  • meal plan (weight loss)
  • meal plan (weight gain)
  • meal planning strategies
  • intake questionnaires
  • body measurement guidelines
  • goal setting tips

Write (or paste in from programs you’ve already written) and save into this document.

Here again, this task might take some time, especially if you’re writing programs and questionnaires from scratch. These resources will pay you back for your time, trust me.

This is now your “Programs” file, from which you can pull any time you need to communicate what to do to your clients (or what your business offers to prospective clients).

3. Create your “Emails” file.

Go through a couple months’ worth of “sent mail” messages and look for patterns. In the seeming hodgepodge of your communications with clients, there are probably lots of repetitions. Typically, coaches send lots of messages regarding:

  • questions about nutrition and workout programs
  • meal-planning challenges
  • questions about nutrition basics
  • general anxieties about life/goals/programs/progress

Which emails are virtually the same?

In a new document, make a list of your email categories. Under each category heading, paste in your best email on the topic, and tweak/perfect it as necessary. Save it.

This is your “Emails” file, which you can refer to whenever you need to communicate with a client (or prospective client) via email.

4. Create your Master Folder.

Save your “General”, “Programs”, and “Emails” files in one folder that is handy for you to access. Now, you will have a master database of all of the most common things you need to share with your clients. You can pull from them when you reply to questions or you proactively send messages to your clients.

You just saved yourself thousands of hours.

Step 3.
Personalize.

By the time you pull information from your Master Folder and paste it into a new document or body of an email, you’re 90 percent done.

The other 10 percent? Customizing for the specific client or prospect you’re communicating with.

  • Start with a friendly greeting and a sentence or two about how they’re doing, what they’ve been up to, etc.
  • Now, personalize your answer or information based on the client or prospect’s specific question.

Sign and send. All set.

Step 4.
Put your saved time toward “time warriors” (and a long-awaited vacation).

The thousands of hours you just saved? Some of them get delivered straight to your personal life. Spend some time with your kids, take yourself on vacation.

Seriously, it’s time.

Also trying to grow your business? Now’s your chance.

Put a lot of the “gained” hours toward high-value tasks — i.e. your “time warriors”.

Remember, these are the tasks that 1) you love doing and are uniquely good at, 2) can’t be automated, 3) have a tangible impact on your business and earnings.

That could include spending one-on-one time with clients in a much more targeted way (i.e. ONLY to work on the lift they’ve been struggling with or ONLY to help them find a solution to their I-don’t-have-time-to-cook problem).

Or it could be lead nurturing. Or highly targeted marketing. Or running group coaching sessions. Or working on a certification.

In the end, here’s a critical, often-missed point: A time-management system based on automation allows you to be more personal.

If you can automate the universal material, then you have more time to engage with people by listening, understanding, customizing advice, and interacting.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

You are you, and your business is your business.

I can share the strategies that worked for me and for Precision Nutrition, but you get to pick what’s best for you.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start here.

1. Re-frame “If only”

Stop saying “if only I had more time” and start taking command of your time.

Review your tasks and assess which ones are “time wasters” and which ones are “time warriors”.

Consider: How can you free yourself up to do more of what is most important? How can you use systems to do less of what is not important?

2. Stop working harder. Start working smarter.

Systems were invented to smooth and streamline processes, and take busywork off your plate.

Try the PN motto: “Never repeat yourself”.

If there’s something you do more than once, you can probably automate it or make it more efficient somehow.

Get stuff out of your mind, off the Post-it notes, and into a program that will do the work of organizing and remembering for you.

Become vigilant: Every time you do something that you know you’ll have to repeat later, capture it in Word or a Google document. Keep that file handy so you can copy-and-paste it next time you need it.

Meanwhile, if you have existing systems, evaluate them. What’s working well? Which ones do you trust most, and why? Aim to do a little more of what’s already working.

3. Make sure your efforts align with the life you want.

If the genie jumps out of the bottle and you finally get the free time you’ve been wishing for, what will you do with it?

Will you use it for the certification you want to get? Upgrade your web presence? Have more personalized exchanges with your clients? Or spend quality time with your family?

Know what you want your time for.

Then be deliberate and intentional about how you use it.

Ready to build a thriving coaching practice?

Tested with over 100,000 clients now, Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach makes it easy to deliver the sustainable, research-proven nutrition and lifestyle coaching discussed in this article 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.

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

On Wednesday, June 5th, 2019, 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 hours. 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 How top-earning health and fitness coaches save time, get better results, and work + live on their own terms. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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