Changing your eating and exercise habits is hard enough. Getting loved ones to support your healthy lifestyle changes? Prepare to grit your teeth. The company you keep does affect your progress toward healthier living. So here’s how to reduce peer pressure and get the social support you need.

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You beam as you gather your family ‘round the dining table, where you’ve lovingly assembled a colorful and nutritious meal.

Everyone takes a seat.

You serve the grilled chicken, the sauteed broccoli, the pumpkin seed-studded salad. You nervously watch for reactions.

It’s really delicious…You swear!

Then, within moments:

A floret of broccoli makes a perfect arc across the room after your toddler daughter catapults it from her fork.

Your preteen son slumps so low that only his furrowed brow and the top of his phone peek above the table.

Your partner, trying to be polite and supportive, has been chewing his first bite for a good two minutes. Without swallowing.

Even the dog, usually hovering shamelessly, sniffs at a spinach leaf and then flops down in the corner with a sigh.

You feel… alone.

Now what?

To change your eating and exercise habits, do you have to convince your friends and family to change too?

Would getting loved ones on board with your healthy lifestyle changes make the whole endeavor easier?

And if so, how the #@*% do you do that?

This really matters to you.

You’re excited about your experiments with lifestyle changes.

You’re eating more vegetables. You’re walking on your lunch breaks and seeing a trainer on the weekend.

Your body is looking, working, and feeling better.

You feel sparks of inspiration and hope. And you want to keep going.

You desperately want loved ones with you.

Why?

Well, because you love them.

You want your family and friends to be healthy and safe — to feel good. You want to protect them from the pain of poor health.

You want the best for them.

And frankly, you need support from the people closest to you.

It seems hard — even near impossible — to make these big changes alone.

If you’re feeling these things it’s important to know: The thoughts are really, really normal.

It is hard to eat and move in ways that support your own health goals when, in your social circle, Fridays mean beer and tacos; Saturdays mean a Jenga tower of bacon at the greasy spoon; hanging out means meeting at the bar to shoot tequila instead of at the park to shoot hoops; etc.

In some ways, you are the sum of your social circle.

Habits can be contagious.

The people around you matter. And you matter to the people around you.

Research shows that we are affected by the body composition, habits, and lifestyles of those around us. The more people around us are doing something, or living a certain way, the more likely we are to do and live the same — whether that’s what we eat, how we eat, whether we move (or not), how we move, and so on.

If your friends and family are fitter and healthier, you’re more likely to be fitter and healthier. And the reverse is true, too.

Research shows that:

  • The weight of those closest to you may help determine your own weight. According to one large-scale study, having a friend, an adult sibling, or a spouse who is obese increases your own obesity risk by 57 percent, 40 percent, and 37 percent respectively.
  • Even your friends’ friends matter. Two degrees of separation between you and someone who is obese increases your own chances of being obese by 20 percent. You don’t even have to have met them for this to be a factor in your own weight.
  • Your weight is more influenced by people of your own gender. For women, this means that a girlfriend’s or same-sex partner’s weight may have a larger effect than a guy friend’s or opposite-sex partner’s; and vice versa for men.
  • Weight convergence likely happens subconsciously. Researchers believe that we change our habits to match those of our social group without talking or even thinking about it.
  • The amount you eat depends on who you’re eating with. Dine with a big eater, and you’re liable to consume more; sit down with a light eater, and you’re likely to take in less. This effect has been observed even among strangers. When asked, the diners usually attribute the mirroring effect to taste and hunger as opposed to the behavior of others around them.
  • How much you eat also depends on the size of the group you’re with. Eating with one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven or more other people is associated with a 33, 47, 58, 69, 70, 72, and 96 percent increase in energy consumed, respectively.
  • Your social network can also have a big impact on what you eat. People whose friends generally meet the guidelines for produce intake are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Your impression of social norms help determine what you eat, how much you eat, and your physical activity level. If getting a light salad for lunch seems “normal”, that’s what you’re likely to do, even if no one’s going to see you eat it. Conversely, if eating a bag of Ruffles for lunch seems “normal”, you may do that, even if you know the salad is more aligned with your health goals. Those who report a high level of physical activity as the social norm are also more likely to be active themselves.

As you can see, most of this happens subconsciously. We often change our habits to match those of our social group without talking or even thinking about it.

It’s not just how you eat and move, of course. Research indicates that you’re influenced by family and friends for other big-deal game-changers, like whether to get married or when to have a baby.

Of course, all of these findings are correlations — researchers are still working out exactly why the body weight and lifestyle of friends and family affects your own.

But why does it work this way? Why can’t you be a lone wolf or a unique individual? Well, in some ways, social influence is a good thing.

Social cohesion keeps us alive.

Human beings are social creatures.

We evolved in small groups who depended on one another for survival. Much of our brain is devoted specifically to social cues and communication: recognizing faces, reading emotions, making and understanding language, etc.

We depended on social cohesion — on belonging — to survive. To be alone (whether abandoned, rejected, or left behind) often meant certain death.

Today, modern medicine shows us that loneliness can still kill: our bodies respond to social rejection and isolation as if they were viral threats. When we are persistently lonely, inflammation goes up, immunity goes down; we get more chronic diseases and die sooner.

Aloneness is scary. Vulnerable. Difficult.

“Aloneness” can be “real”, like the actual aloneness of a young woman who chooses to stay in to eat a healthy dinner and get a good night’s sleep when all her roommates have gone out for pizza and partying.

“Aloneness” can also be a feeling, like the way a guy feels when all his buddies are drinking beer and he’s got a seltzer.

If you’re the only one at happy hour ordering a side salad instead of fries, it’s basically like you’re outside the campfire circle of social safety, just waiting for the lions to attack your tender, undefended flesh.

Thus, protecting ourselves against aloneness is in our DNA.

Swimming against the current is hard.

Of course, it is possible to go it alone. (Terms like “pioneer” and “trailblazer” exist, after all.)

But let’s face it: It’s a lot easier to eat better and get more exercise when your social environment — the behavior of your family and friends — supports your goals.

As with all things, the laws of physics come into play. When you’re trying to change, you may encounter either friction, or momentum.

Friction can make you feel stuck.

Friction makes things harder to do.

Eye-rolling coworkers, spinach-resistant kids, and chili nachos-loving friends — people who explicitly disagree with you or simply engage in opposing habits — create environmental and emotional barriers as you try to move toward your goals.

Friction is:

  • when you make a big batch of kale chips for your family on movie night instead of the usual popcorn, and your kids respond with flailing limbs, screeching protests, and exaggerated gagging performances.
  • when you sign up for a 10K run and your friends wag their fingers at you and tell you that running will kill your knees.
  • when you make an agreement with your mother-in-law that you will take care of the sides for Thanksgiving dinner because you want to provide healthy options, but when you arrive she has prepared all the usual greasy, sugary dishes because she “didn’t want to break tradition”.

When you’re dealing with friction, lifestyle change is like climbing a steep mountain with gravel moving underneath you — complete with cursing, tripping, and slow progress.

Momentum helps you keep rolling.

Momentum boosts you and replenishes your energy.

Willing and/or like-minded loved ones can help keep you accountable, connected, and supported, bolstering you as you work to change your eating and exercise routine.

Momentum is:

  • when your whole family chips in to make a wholesome meal, turning food preparation into a family project. You talk about what fruits and vegetables you like, research healthy recipes, and try new weird-shaped vegetables, together.
  • when you sign up for a 10K run and your friends ask if you want a cheering section, or at least someone to throw water on you (supportively, of course).
  • when you make an agreement with your mother-in-law that you will take care of the sides for Thanksgiving dinner. She gets the hint, lets you do your thing, and takes a cue from you and puts out some local berries for dessert as well. (Of course, people still hit the pie… but… well… c’mon, it’s pie.)

Be brave; be positive.

Now here’s some “PN physics”: You can have friction and momentum, together.

In other words, even if you encounter resistance, you can still get support too.

Even if your loved ones aren’t super-enthusiastic about your nutrition and fitness experiments, or will never love pea sprouts like you do, it doesn’t mean they don’t care, or won’t help.

  • You can pursue your goals in the face of wavering or stingy support.
  • You don’t have to dump all your friends and family.
  • Most importantly, you may not even have to try to convince anyone in order to get them on board.

Social support works both ways.

The people around you can influence you. And you can influence them back.

This is where the good type of “going it alone” comes in: leadership.

While it may be easier to wait until your immediate social circle comes around to prioritizing healthy choices, it’s also incredibly empowering and inspiring to be a leader for change, despite the forces against you.

And in doing so, you’ll build your own small wave of momentum that, little by little, erodes the friction you encounter.

But here’s an important tip: You don’t reduce friction by pushing back. A powerful healthy-lifestyle pioneer… is a peaceful one.

In order to step into that role, try this gentle, sometimes counterintuitive, action plan.

3 crucial strategies for getting friends and family to support your healthy lifestyle.

1. Accept that you may not be “right”.

Step back and embrace some hard truth.

How much of the friction you feel from others… is actually created by you?

Even if you mean well, and even if you are absolutely 100% correct (yes, smoking is bad; yes, vegetables are good)…

How often have you been judgemental? Insistent? Preachy? Self-righteous? Dismissive? Over-enthusiastic? Maybe even a bit… culty? (That t-shirt that says “Kale University”? We see it.)

Conversely, how often have you been curious? Interested in others’ perspectives? Able to deal with diversity and tolerate various viewpoints? Open-minded? Empathetic and compassionate? A good listener?

Consider this: Maybe “right” isn’t so obvious.

All behaviors and choices have a reason to be there. You might not know the reasons; you might not quite understand the reasons or even agree with the reasons.

But whatever habits your loved ones are practicing, they are doing them for a reason. In some way, their habits are “right” for them. They may have only a limited toolbox of options or coping skills.

This means:

  • understanding that your brother feels panicked and crushed under work stress, and sees drinking as the best way to cope.
  • having compassion for your best friend, who is terrified to confront her body, and therefore gets defensive and critical every time you bring up your new health regimen.
  • understanding that your parents were raised to respect traditional authority figures, so they still believe margarine is better for you than butter, because that’s what their doctor drilled into them 30 years ago.

When we focus on defending our “right-ness” and proving our loved ones’ “wrongness”, our perspective becomes very narrow and our relationships become oppositional.

However, when we let go of judgement and choose compassion and empathy, we make room for understanding.

Understanding dissolves conflict, because it usually shows us that, at our cores, we are all dealing with the same themes — we’re more alike than different.

Understanding helps us collaborate instead of clash; connect instead of criticize. We start to ask questions that, instead of inducing blame and shame, invite connection and support:

Why are they so different from me?
becomes
When have I dealt with something similar?

How do I get them to stop the bad habit?
becomes
What problem is the bad habit trying to solve?

What is wrong with them?
becomes
What might they really need?

As your loved ones begin to feel more understood, and less judged, they may begin to practice more flexibility and less judgement toward your new habits and beliefs too.

(And by the way, it’ll serve you immensely to practice non-judgement, compassion, and understanding on yourself too.)

2. Be persistent, not pushy.

Resistance more often comes from fear than from true philosophical opposition.

Change can feel scary. It can bring up issues of control, security, and identity, and it can also bring up painful emotions like anxiety, panic, shame, or loss.

When our loved ones resist change (in all the creative ways they can come up with — consciously and unconsciously, kindly and unkindly), what they might actually be feeling underneath it all… is fear.

Their fear can be the result of thoughts like:

  • What if you become a different person?
  • What if this new food tastes gross?
  • What if your healthy habits make me confront my unhealthy habits?
  • What if people don’t accept us?
  • What if you judge me or don’t love me anymore?
  • What if I can’t keep up with you?
  • What if life gets uncomfortable?
  • What if I lose you?

Just like a scared child, resistance and fear in their adult forms don’t respond well to rational arguments and pushing.

So while you must press forward with the changes you’re trying to make for your own well-being, you’ll more likely get support if you practice persistence rather than pushiness.

Pushiness means attempting to force friends and family to join/agree with you, and accepting only a rigid set of compliant responses.

Persistence means continuously offering opportunities for your friends and family to join you on your quest for a healthier life, and yet remains open to a wide range of responses to any given invitation.

So be persistent:

  • Keep offering healthy dishes at the dinner table.
  • Keep inviting your friends and family to join you on runs, hikes, and exercise classes.
  • Keep having conversations about nutrition, healthy body image, and what it means to have a truly good, capable life.

Prioritize positivity and connection when you present these options, and expect resistance, sometimes over and over and over again.

As much as you can, take the drama and emotional charge out of these conversations. Validate your loved ones’ reasons for staying the way they are, and don’t push back.

Perhaps, when their fear subsides and they realize it’s safe to dip their toe in the land of green smoothies and box jumps, your loved ones will join you, and you’ll ride off into the sunset (on your recumbent bikes, drinking coconut water) together.

3. Just “do you”.

Change is difficult.

In order to overcome the many bumps, blocks, and blusters inherent to significant lifestyle change, we need to be anchored to a deep, internal, personalized “why” that will pull us through.

You can’t manufacture this type of motivation for someone else. No matter how hard you try to coerce your kids, spouse, parents, and friends to change, they may have none of it.

And in fact, that may be a good sign. Because that means they know that in order to make the kinds of changes you’re making, they have to want it too.

We call this “intrinsic motivation” — a connection to one’s own, internal reasons for doing something. Research shows that intrinsic motivation leads to change that’s longer-lasting and more self-sustaining than extrinsic motivation, which is based on the desire to obtain external outcomes such as good grades or the approval of others (ahem).

Intrinsic motivation requires deep thought and reflection, and may take longer to develop.

So respect that your loved ones may take time to connect to their own reasons for eating and moving better.

Meanwhile, just “do you”.

Focus on your own intrinsic motivations. Stay connected to what’s driving you, deep inside, to make these personal changes.

Without ignoring your natural love and concern for loved ones, let your attention turn inward. Spend more energy on your own growth and development.

Which could lead to something else amazing…

Think about how you feel when you watch someone you love work toward a BIG goal with heartfelt determination, grit, and bravery.

Think about how you feel when you watch that person persist despite setbacks, failures, and fears.

Think about how you feel when you watch that person triumph, however messily and imperfectly, over adversity.

You feel inspired.

You feel like anything is possible.

You feel like maybe you could do something great too.

And that is the beautiful irony in “doing you”:

By working toward and achieving a healthier, happier, more confident and capable version of yourself, you become the inspiration, the positive influence to your family and friends.

And it all comes full circle when that little healthy-lifestyle wave you started attracts other riders, builds, and then becomes a huge tidal of momentum to carry you to your final objective — a fit, healthy you — and keep you there.

Influence happens in both directions, remember?

Lead the way.

What to do next.

We’ve learned that change is hard, and changing others is harder. It can be challenging to know where to start.

Take one of these concrete steps today to start reducing conflict and maximizing your own efforts toward healthy living.

Practice sacrificing a “win”.

If you find yourself in a conflict with a loved one, check your instinct to want to be “right”.

Ask yourself who you want to win: you, or the team that makes up you and your loved one(s).

Sometimes we have to sacrifice personal “wins” for the sake of the greater good of the family/friend unit. Often that means loving and accepting our loved ones even when they disagree or aren’t compliant with what we believe is “right”.

This takes practice, and it can be uncomfortable at first.

Find one opportunity to practice non-rightness today, and note the result.

Use “approach” goals instead of “avoid” goals.

To foster understanding among you and loved ones, play with the language you use to (gently) coach them.

“Avoidance” goals — such as “stop eating junk food”, “don’t watch TV after dinner”, and “don’t overeat” — are more likely to make people feel restricted, rebellious, and resistant.

“Approach goals” — such as “try two new vegetables this week”, “eat three different colors of plants today”, and “do something that gets you out of breath for 20 minutes” — are more likely to make people feel expansive, creative, interested, and willing.

Approach goals help make the process of change more harmonious, positive, and even fun for you and your family.

Find objective support that’s just for you.

Having a support person that is detached from your social bubble can be tremendously helpful.

A skilled nutrition and fitness coach provides an objective perspective and functions as a sounding board, a voice of reason, and a resource for practical ideas and inspiration — a source of momentum.

An experienced coach can also provide accountability, which is especially important if you are the lifestyle “trailblazer” in your social circle.

Check your motives.

Each time you make a decision about food or exercise (or any other health factor you’re trying to improve) ask yourself:

Am I doing this because everyone else is doing it, or because it matches my own internal intentions and values?

This doesn’t mean it’s wrong to want to do what other people are doing. But if you do go the way of the crowd, do it consciously.

Involve your loved ones.

Small moments of support can make a huge difference when you’re trying to move away from friction, toward momentum.

So:

  • Ask your spouse to help you stretch out after a workout, or to accompany you on a morning walk.
  • Ask your children to help you menu plan, choose vegetables at the grocery store, or even help prepare a meal.
  • Ask your best friend for a hug when you’ve had a stressful week.
  • Ask your friends and family to cheer you on at a race.

Involve and integrate your social network, into your life, without forcing them to change themselves.

Accept them as they are, and be sure to tell them how much it means to you that they are there for you.

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.

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Feeling overworked and under-appreciated? Having trouble staying consistent with nutrition and fitness because of life’s demands? Wondering if you’ll ever be able to find time to achieve the body and health you want? This article is for you.

Putting others’ needs before your own? For lots of women, it’s an everyday reality.

Whether you’re a high-powered professional, a mother, a caregiver, a partner, a worker, a daughter, a friend, or all of the above and more….

….if you’re a woman, you’re asked to do a lot.

Many of us spend our days putting out fires, handling to-do lists, wiping little noses, meeting deadlines, and making sure other people are fed, safe, and happy.

Here’s the thing…

We’ve gotten to know a lot of women through our Precision Nutrition Coaching program. And we’ve learned that most of them enjoy — and thrive on — that impossible list above.

They like rising to the challenge of supporting others and getting stuff done.

That is, until their energy runs out and they realize they don’t have any left over for themselves.

And slowly, after months or years of putting other people first, multi-tasking, and wrangling that epic to-do list:

  • They’re drained mentally and emotionally.
  • The time they used to invest in self-care has disappeared.
  • The clothes that used to fit… feel a little (or a lot) tighter.
  • The sugar and junk food cravings seem much stronger.
  • The exercise classes/workouts are postponed, then canceled.
  • The bathroom mirror and scale are avoided. (Along with the bed.)
  • The stress of yo-yo dieting starts up again.

With putting so much time into caring for others, and juggling all their responsibilities, women end up neglecting themselves.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

You can feel healthy, fit, and good in your own skin.

You can regain control of your schedule and your body.

You can overcome emotional eating and cravings.

You can show love and appreciation to others while still taking care of yourself.

We’ll show you how.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • The two biggest obstacles in many women’s way when it comes to getting healthy and staying in shape.
  • How to overcome these obstacles to get the body — and life — you want.

Oh sure, you think.

Maybe some women might find this helpful.

But my life is different. My body is different.

That’s exactly what tens of thousands of other women thought before they started Precision Nutrition Coaching.

They also felt frustrated, lost, and confused, struggling to manage their eating, health, and bodies. They knew they wanted to feel better, and they were trying hard, but they weren’t sure how to make it all work.

That was them before they started.

And here’s how they ended up… after a year of simple, do-able, progressive habits. The difference is astounding. Check out this short video:

Meet some of the people whose bodies — and lives — have been changed by Precision Nutrition Coaching.

 

 

At one point, many of these women felt like you do right now. But they discovered…

The kind of change you want is possible.

No matter where you’re starting.

No matter how you’re feeling right now.

No matter how much stuff is on your plate.

It’s possible.

Here’s what women are often wishing for when they start working with us, and some ways you can get started right now.

Wish #1:
“Help me have a better relationship with food.”

At some point in their lives, many women struggle with overeating and emotional eating. We love our wine, chocolate, sugar, or whatever our “I-deserve-this” or “I-need-a-freaking-break” treats are… but they don’t always love us back.

Once the “food rush” wears off, we’re left with the very same stress and problems we started with — plus now we feel guilty, ashamed, and maybe even out of control.

The cycle often looks like this.

  • Feel stressed, anxious, upset, etc.
  • Overeat.
  • Feel guilty and ashamed for overeating.
  • Feel more stressed, anxious, upset, etc.
  • Vow to “do better”.
  • White-knuckle a new diet, and/or make rigid “rules”.
  • Feel stressed, anxious, upset, etc.
  • Overeat.
  • Repeat the cycle.

(Believe me, I’ve been there.)

Solution: “Break the chain” exercise.

Simply notice, observe, and record what happened leading up to any food cravings, emotional eating, overeating, and/or any other times that feel “out of control” with food and eating.

Because here’s a secret:

Those feelings and behaviors didn’t come out of nowhere. They aren’t random. Something led to them.

Now you get to be a detective and figure out all the links in the chain.

To help you put this exercise into practice, download a printable version of our Break the Chain exercise, or think through the exercise below.

1. Start with any recent food or eating-related episode that troubled you. (For instance, eating too much, eating foods you didn’t want, feeling out of control, etc.).

2. Write down all the stuff that was happening around you just before that episode happened.

For instance:

  • Where were you?
  • What were you doing?
  • What were you thinking?
  • What were you feeling?
  • Who was with you?

3. Now see if you can go back even further.

Maybe a few hours. Once again:

  • Where were you?
  • What were you doing?
  • What were you thinking?
  • What were you feeling?
  • Who was with you?

Try to capture as much detail as possible.

4. Now look at your data. Are there any patterns?

If you don’t see any connections right away, no worries.

Try this exercise a few times, and then start looking for links between what was happening in the days or hours before you had a serious food craving or emotional eating episode.

5. If and when you find patterns, be curious about them.

Don’t worry about fixing them right away. Just notice them.

“Hm, that’s interesting. Every time my mom calls me, afterward I want to hit the chocolate.”

“You know, I actually feel fine most of the month, but the week before my period hits — watch out.”

“It’s been a long, stressful week at work. Give me that wine before I stab someone.”

6. You might notice solutions right away.

“OK, I’m going to go for a workout after I talk to mom, to get some of that energy out.”

“I’m going to mark my PMS days on the calendar so I know about them in advance.”

“I’m going to walk home on Fridays, to unwind.”

Or you might not notice solutions. You might feel stuck at step #5, noticing the patterns but not sure how to change.

Either way, that’s OK.

The important thing is: Now you’re aware of what’s happening.

(Reminder: you can download a printable version of our Break the Chain worksheet here. Use it to practice working through the above steps.)

Wish #2:
“Help me be consistent with my diet, exercise, or healthy lifestyle habits.”

If you’re like most women, you’ve probably tried at least some stuff to get and stay in shape.

Here’s what most women have tried before getting results with us:

  • Weight Watchers
  • MyFitnessPal and other calorie counters
  • Jenny Craig and Curves
  • Crossfit and other group workouts
  • Popular diets like Paleo, juice fasts, cleanses, and low-carb
  • Workout books and magazine articles

Of course, these aren’t “bad” options. They end up working for some people.

But most folks tell us they have a hard time staying consistent. They mean well, and work hard, but struggle to stay on track.

In part, this is because other plans don’t account for your life.

They don’t offer meaningful, step-by-step change that you can actually do in your real life. You know, the real life with a job and kids and a commute and going to school and all that stuff. The one that actual human people have.

And, in part, most other plans don’t offer support, care, and accountability like coaching does.

Solution #1:
Make yourself accountable to a program… that really works.

Ideally, you want a program that:

  • Focuses on all the things that are right with you, and all the strengths and skills you already have.
  • Gives you proven solutions that start to work right now.
  • You can customize to your lifestyle (so you can stay consistent and do it even when you’re busy).
  • You actually enjoy doing (and isn’t just another chore).
  • Makes you feel positive, hopeful, and supported all the way through.
  • Lasts. Like, for life.
  • Gives you a big goal to shoot for, if you want.

On that last point, some folks like big goals.

That’s why we give away $250,000 every year in Precision Nutrition Coaching.

Winning the money isn’t the point. It’s just something extra to push for. Something to look forward to. (That is, if you’re a goal kinda person. If you’re not, that’s cool too.)

Rachel lost 31 pounds in PN Coaching; we surprised her with $25,000.

So how do you know if a certain program will help keep you accountable?

After 15 years in the fitness industry, and over 100,000 clients , here’s what we’ve found works best:

  • Having a plan that provides both structure and flexibility.
  • The ability to customize the plan based on your skill levels, goals, and how much time you have available. 
  • Getting a daily reminder to practice whichever nutrition, exercise, or lifestyle habit you’re currently working on.
  • Measuring your progress at regular intervals.

That’s what helped our clients achieve results like this:




Solution #2:
Make yourself accountable to a person… who really cares.

As we like to say here at Precision Nutrition, nothing worth doing can be done alone.

Social support — whether that’s a friend, a workout partner, your spouse, your kid, your dog, a co-worker who walks with you at lunch, a personal trainer at your local gym, whatever — is crucial.

Don’t try to do this all alone.

Independence is great, but for a project like this, you need a team and a tribe of like-minded people helping and supporting you.

Social support plus accountability and lots of caring coaching is our specialty.

We’re in this business because we want to help you feel, look, and perform better… whatever body or goals you have.

If you want to join our next nutrition coaching program, we’d love to help you.

If that’s not a great fit for you, no problem. Just find one or more people who can support you, guide you, help you, and maybe give you the occasional loving boot in the butt when you need it.

The important thing is that you make yourself accountable to somebody and get the help you need. You have a lot on your plate already; why not let someone else show you the way?

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 Overstressed and overeating: How to solve the two biggest health and fitness problems most women face. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Work stressing you out? Life in general? Having trouble staying consistent with your exercise and nutrition plan? If so, this article is for you.

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Why do most guys tend to get weaker, fatter, and less healthy when they get into their 30s, 40s, and 50s? Chalk it up to increased stress, increased responsibilities, and decreased time and energy.

We know we need to eat better. We know we need to take better care of ourselves. But most guys simply have a hard time staying consistent with their nutrition and exercise plans.

After helping tens of thousands of men with Precision Nutrition Coaching, we’ve seen it all—and we know there’s a solution.

You can take control of your own health and fitness. You can reverse the downward spiral of stress, and start building a healthy body you can be proud of.

And you can do it all in an hour or two per week.

Seriously.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • the two biggest fitness-related problems that hold men back from getting and staying in shape, and
  • how to overcome these obstacles to get the body — and life — you want.

Before we get into it though, I wanted to let you know that we’re soon opening spots in Precision Nutrition Coaching.

You see, twice a year we work with small groups of men and women interested in looking and feeling better. Over the course of 12 months we help them get into the best shape of their lives… and stay that way for good.

Just so you know, we’ve tested the Precision Nutrition Coaching method with over 100,000 clients in the past 15 years. Plus, several peer-reviewed research papers have documented the safety and effectiveness of our approach.

For a sneak peek at the amazing things we’ve helped them accomplish, check out this short video:

Meet some of the people whose bodies — and lives — have been changed by Precision Nutrition Coaching.

 

 

During the Precision Nutrition Coaching program we’ll guide you through important, permanent improvements in your eating, exercise, body, and health.

The results?

You’ll lose the weight (and body fat) you haven’t been able to shed for years. You’ll build physical strength and gain confidence. And you’ll end up feeling like the healthiest, strongest, fittest version of yourself.

Want to start making progress today? Here’s how to overcome two of the biggest obstacles standing in your way.

Problem #1:
Your life is busier than it’s ever been.

Some interesting things start to happen as we exit our 20s and enter our 30s, 40s, and 50s:

  • We tend to get less sleep and wake up tired and sore.
  • Our sex hormones peak… and then start their slow decline.
  • Our crackling ankles, knees, and wrists remind us that we’re getting older.
  • We tend to snack and overeat more often, especially in the evenings.
  • We do less binge drinking, but more consistent drinking. Polishing off a bottle of wine or drinking a few beers each night becomes an ordinary routine.

Of course it’s not all negative. Lots of positive things start happening too:

  • If we’re lucky, we get a good career that’s challenging and rewarding.
  • We make more money than when we were younger.
  • We develop long-lasting relationships with people we love.
  • We start building and nurturing a family.
  • We become (presumably) smarter and more experienced.

While every guy’s life experience is different, there are a few things that remain consistent no matter who you are. For most guys, getting older usually means:

  • increased responsibilities at home
  • increased stress from work
  • less time to take care of themselves

This is how we end up with a gym membership we rarely use, a healthy cookbook we rarely open, and a body we’re not particularly proud of.

Sure, we want to drop some fat and look more muscular and fit… but we just don’t have the time or energy. Someday, we tell ourselves, we’re finally going to get our ass in gear.

The only problem? “Someday” keeps getting postponed.

According to our research, lots of guys are so stressed out with work and family obligations, that they don’t feel like they have the time or energy to “really commit” to a nutrition or exercise plan.

But what if you didn’t have to dedicate a huge portion of your life to getting in shape?

What most guys do when they feel busy and stressed:

  • Let their busy schedule overtake their health.
  • Set huge fitness goals they don’t have a miracle of hitting.
  • Continue to add body fat and beat themselves up for not making a change.

What you can do to be successful:

  • Embrace exercise minimalism.
  • Identify the biggest gap in your nutrition and work on fixing it (while ignoring everything else).

Embrace exercise minimalism.

You don’t have to spend hours in the gym to get in better shape.

That’s why in Precision Nutrition Coaching, we give our clients four workout options:

  • Full workout
  • At-home workout (minimal equipment)
  • Quick workout (don’t have much time)
  • Do your own workout

We also give them the ability to modify their workouts, with more difficult or less difficult exercises, depending on how they’re feeling that day. That way they’re always doing something rather than nothing. (Because let’s face it: the gym is the first thing to go when we get busy and stressed at work.)

So how do you embrace exercise minimalism on your own?

If you’re looking for something to try this week, here’s a plan I wrote for a good friend of mine who was struggling to find time to exercise. It’s a simple, strategic way for busy guys to get their weekly exercise in without stressing out about missing the gym.

And the whole thing takes less than an hour per week.

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
15 minutes 6 minutes 15 minutes 15 minutes
Pushups x 10 reps 2 minute walk Pushups x 10 reps Pedal 3 miles on an Airdyne / other exercise bike
Inverted rows x 10 reps 15 second sprint on the treadmill at 8 mph & 10% incline Reverse crunches x 10 reps Maintain steady breathing through your nose
Kettlebell swings x 10 reps Rest 15 seconds (straddling treadmill) Goblet squats with dumbbell x 10 reps
Rest 1 minute Repeat 5x Rest 1 minute
Repeat 5x 2 minute walk Repeat 5x

To make continual progress, it’s important to do one thing to make each workout more challenging every time you do it.

For strength workouts, this means doing additional repetitions or reducing the rest time between rounds. For the sprinting workout, this means increasing the incline, the speed, or the number of repeated sprints. And for the 3-mile bike ride you can try to do it faster than the time before, or you can go a little longer (like 3.1 miles).

It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you do one thing more than the last time.

Identify the biggest gap in your nutrition and work on fixing it.

According to our research, most guys we’ve polled know how important nutrition is for looking and feeling better. And they know they need to follow some sort of nutrition plan. However, they don’t know where to start. (Or they start a new diet and try to change everything at once, which usually fails).

Instead of trying to change everything about the way you eat right now—which will just add to your stress levels—we encourage you to follow the advice we give to our clients:

Pick one thing about the way you eat—the thing you think will make the biggest improvement to your nutrition—and focus on it exclusively for a couple of weeks.

Once you’ve been consistent for 14-21 days, then you can pick another thing to try. The goal is to practice simple, strategic actions that build over time.

So how do you know what thing to pick? Easy. Just ask yourself this question:

“What’s the one thing I could do right now to feel better about my nutrition?”

Chances are you have a good idea on what you need to do. Here’s a short list of what some of our clients have focused on:

Goal: Drink less beer.
Action: Instead of drinking two beers every night, have one beer.

Goal: Eat less junk food / fast food.
Action: Instead of stopping in for a burger or taco for lunch, go to a grocery store and get a pre-made salad with chicken on it.

Goal: Reduce carbohydrates.
Action: Instead of ordering fries at dinner, get a salad. Instead of having a breakfast sandwich, order scrambled eggs.

The idea here is to pick the one nutrition practice that will make the biggest impact on your body and health right now.

If you need help deciding what that is—or if you just want to follow a proven nutrition plan—well, that’s what we do best. A good first step would be to learn more about Precision Nutrition Coaching.

Problem #2:
You know what to do… but you’re just not consistent.

This is the motherlode of all problems. According to our research, roughly 65 percent of guys (and likely a lot more) report that they struggle with staying consistent.

And it’s not like they’re complete exercise beginners. Here’s what most guys have tried before getting results with us:

  • P90X, Insanity, and other workout DVDs
  • CrossFit and other group workouts
  • Fitbit, Apple Watch and other wearable fitness technology
  • Popular diets like intermittent fasting, paleo, and low-carb
  • Workout books and magazine articles

Of course, these aren’t “bad” options. They end up working for some people. But eventually most of these methods and tools begin to break down and fail over time.

Why is that?

It’s because they’re surface solutions. They help solve a surface-level problem.

  • Don’t have a gym to train at? Now you do.
  • Want to track how many calories you eat? Here’s an app.
  • Want to know how many steps you’re taking? Wear this bracelet thing.

The only problem with surface-level solutions? They only work for a little while.

They don’t account for the ups and downs of everyday life. They don’t adapt to your life. And because of that, they don’t help you stay consistent.

What most guys do when they fail to be consistent.

  • Pick another surface solution to follow.

What you can do to be successful:

  • Make yourself accountable to a program.
  • Make yourself accountable to a person.

Make yourself accountable to a program.

Ideally, you want a program that covers a few bases:

  • It’s been tested with lots of people (so you know it actually works).
  • It’s customizable to your lifestyle (so you can stay consistent and do it even when you’re busy).
  • It’s something you actually enjoy doing (who’s going to exercise if it’s not fun?).
  • There’s something big and positive to shoot for (a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow).

The first three are incredibly important; they’re the cornerstone of a solid exercise and nutrition program. But the fourth one—having something big and positive to shoot for—is often overlooked.

In fact, most programs do the opposite: They make you feel guilty and bad for “slacking” or for not being a paragon of health and fitness. But we don’t need any more negativity in our lives, and we’re sure you don’t either.

That’s why we give away $250,000 every year in Precision Nutrition Coaching. It’s just something extra to push for, something to look forward to, something to inspire a little internal competition.

Javier lost 60 pounds in PN Coaching; we surprised him with $25,000.

So how do you know if a certain program will help keep you accountable?

After 15+ years in the fitness industry, we’ve determined that the following four things are of the utmost importance:

  • You need a way to measure your progress and track it on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
  • You need to follow a structured plan, but still have room to move at your own speed when needed.
  • You need a daily reminder to practice whichever nutrition, exercise, or lifestyle habit you’re currently working on.
  • You need it to be customizable to your skill levels, goals, and how much time you have available.

That’s what helped our clients achieve results like this:




Make yourself accountable to a person.

This tip isn’t for everyone but it can often make the difference between consistently getting great results or falling off the wagon.

Personal accountability is more important than personal motivation for one simple reason: No one always feels motivated to go to the gym or make healthy eating choices.

But if we have someone who’s checking up on us to see how things are going, we’ll likely do better because a) we don’t want to disappoint the person who’s helping us and b) we don’t want to look or feel lazy.

If we’re accountable to another person, we’ll actually do the workouts and eat the food we need to look and feel great. And we’ll do it over and over again, even when the going gets tough.

That’s why the most successful guys become accountable to another person. It could be a friend or workout partner. It could be your spouse. It could be a local personal trainer or fitness expert.

Or if you want to join our next coaching program, we can help you too.

The important thing is that you make yourself accountable to somebody.

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 Stressed and out of shape: How to solve the two biggest health and fitness problems most guys face. 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.

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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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Looking for an effective way to eat better, improve your health, and finally get the body you want? You’re in the right place. At Precision Nutrition, we help men and women get in their best shape ever — and stay that way — no matter how busy and hectic life gets. And the best news? We’ll soon be opening up spots in our next nutrition coaching group. 

What’s different about Precision Nutrition Coaching? We literally wrote the book on nutrition coaching and body transformation. Watch this video to see the amazing things our clients have accomplished over the past 15 years:

Meet some of the people whose bodies — and lives — have been changed by Precision Nutrition Coaching.

 

Ready to become your fittest, strongest, healthiest self? The time is now.

On Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 we’re opening registration for the next Precision Nutrition Coaching program for men and women.

As a coaching client, you’ll get a personal coach from our world-class coaching team and, with their support, you’ll learn how to:

  • Eat better, without dieting or feeling deprived.
  • Get active, no matter what shape you’re in now.
  • Ditch the food rules, dropping the fad diets and conflicting advice.
  • Build fitness into your life, without it taking over.
  • Achieve, and maintain, your goals, even when life gets busy.

The result? You’ll:

  • Lose the weight/fat you haven’t been able to shed for years.
  • Build physical strength and confidence in your body.
  • Gain mental confidence, no longer hiding your gifts and talents.
  • Let go of food confusion, learn what to do, how to do it.
  • Get off the diet roller coaster once and for all, and never look back.

Seriously, imagine a life where you…

…feel physically and mentally strong, capable of taking on any challenge without worrying that your energy levels or body weight will get in the way.

…can run around with your kids, or grandkids, without feeling pain, winded, or tired; and you can do it again the next day.

…excitedly book a beach vacation without wondering how you’ll look (or feel) in a swimsuit, walking along the beach.

…look forward to having your picture taken without wondering “who’s that person, and when did they start looking like that?”

…feel like food is your friend, not your enemy, and never diet again.

And here’s some really exciting news.

For now, we’ll continue to offer the program at the lowest price ever ($97 USD per month), and we’ve committed another $250,000 USD in prize money to the clients who experience the biggest transformations — physical, mental, and more.

Will Precision Nutrition work for you?

Yes, and here’s why.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve proven that the Precision Nutrition Coaching method is effective — through working with over 100,000 clients and publishing several peer-reviewed research papers on our approach.

Our coaching team is made up of the top Ph.D.s, nutritionists, strength coaches, counselors, researchers, and specialists in the world. We’re veterans, so we know what works — and what doesn’t.

We don’t prescribe short-term diets, meal plans, or “food rules”. Instead, we help you build the lasting skills and habits necessary to look and feel better — for the long term. For life.

Just take a look at a few of our clients.

Like Sue, a businesswoman from the UK. She lost 61 pounds with Precision Nutrition Coaching, gaining the energy and confidence — not to mention jean size — of a much younger person.

Or Carm, an artist and designer from Canada. Through Precision Nutrition Coaching he became the ‘fit guy’ he never thought he could be. Now he takes his teenage boys hiking and camping and they struggle to keep up.

Or Simone. With help from Precision Nutrition Coaching she got off the diet roller coaster and discovered a whole new freedom in her life. Now she focuses her energy on positive things vs. worrying about her weight.

Want to know how the program works?

This short video details what you can expect from Precision Nutrition for Men.

Learn exactly how Precision Nutrition Coaching for Men works.

And this one details what you can expect from Precision Nutrition for Women.

Learn exactly how Precision Nutrition Coaching for Women works.

 

We do health and fitness in a way that fits your life. (Instead of the other way around).

We know: Life can get crazy.

Work, children, aging parents, running a household, and all the surprises life can throw at us. It never stops being complicated or busy.

That’s why we do something very different.

We show you how to make health and fitness a part of your life, no matter what else is going on.

At Precision Nutrition we often say that your program should be designed for your absolute worst days — not just your best days.

You know the days I’m talking about… you’re low energy, nothing goes your way, your partner (or children) aren’t pleased when you get home, and you have a million other things to do than spend 2 hours working out and cooking organic meals.

Normal fitness plans tell you to just tough it out.

You’ve gotta want it badly enough.

If you’re aren’t willing to put in the work, you don’t deserve the results.

That’s just silly, and it’s not reality. Which is why we work closely with our clients to help them eat well and exercise no matter what’s going on in their lives.

We’ll bring the accountability it takes for you to stay consistent. We’ll review your progress, answer questions, and make recommendations to help you improve. We’ll tap you on the shoulder if you start to regress. And we’ll help you get past each hurdle along the way.

The result? You’ll get into the best shape of your life within 12 months.

And you’ll have the habits, skills, and tools to stay that way for life.

This approach has worked for thousands of clients, like Lorena, who learned that she could actually get better results with less effort.

And Sean Patrick, who learned how to get past overwhelm by taking small steps everyday.

This “real life” approach is one of the main reasons our clients achieve — and sustain — jaw-dropping transformations.

What kind of awesome transformation could you get with Precision Nutrition coaching? Check out this short video to get an idea:

See what 365 days of Precision Nutrition Coaching can do.

 

 

Now, there is a catch.

If Precision Nutrition Coaching is right for you, it can be life-changing. But because of high demand, the program usually sells out within hours.

So, if you’re interested in registering — or even if you’re just interested in learning more — your best bet is to put yourself on our free presale list.

Once you add your name, we’ll send you more info. Plus, being on the list gives you the chance to register 24 hours before the general public.

Excited about what’s possible?

Here’s a little more inspiration from some previous clients.








 

And that’s just a small sampling of the thousands of men and women who’ve had success with Precision Nutrition Coaching.

Oh, I should also mention this…

We’re giving away over $250,000 in prize money this year!

That’s right, every year we give away big prize money to the men and women who achieve the biggest transformations in our program.

Like these folks:

Rachel lost 31 pounds in PN Coaching; we surprised her with $25,000.

Javier lost 60 pounds in PN Coaching; we surprised him with $25,000.

Consider this our antidote to the “you must suffer and feel guilty to get in shape” messages typically spewed out by the fitness industry.

We don’t need any more negativity in our lives, and we’re sure you don’t either. So, instead, we give you something cool and inspiring to shoot for.

Who knows, you might end up winning one of our grand prizes, like Spencer:

Watch as we surprise recent grand prize winner Spencer.

Or Lisa:

Watch as we surprise recent grand prize winner Lisa.

 

If you’re looking for help, why not work with the best in the business?

Just so you know, in addition to Precision Nutrition Coaching, we also provide nutrition advice to the most elite athletes and professionals in the world.

Companies like Nike, and Equinox; professional sports teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the Carolina Panthers; and dozens of Olympic athletes and their coaches call on us when they want next-level nutrition and performance strategies.

Precision Nutrition has been featured in dozens of media outlets…

…and has consulted with some of the world’s most innovative companies and teams.

Precision Nutrition Coaching is so uniquely successful that Fast Company named us one of the most innovative companies in fitness.

Image 10

Precision Nutrition was named one of the 10 most innovative companies in fitness by Fast Company magazine.

Plus, as I’ve mentioned, the Precision Nutrition method has been tried and tested with over 100,000 clients. And several peer-reviewed research papers have documented its safety and effectiveness.

In the end, we know what works. We have a proven system in place. And we consistently produce life-changing results for our clients, year in and year out.

Lots of people consider us the world’s leading experts in nutrition coaching. It’s a big responsibility, and we don’t take it lightly. Which is why we do everything possible to help you succeed.

This is your chance. Don’t miss out.

To give everyone the personal care and attention they deserve, we only open our doors and accept new clients twice a year. Because of that, our programs have historically sold out in a matter of hours.

However, if you put your name on our free presale list, we’ll send you more information about the program.

Even better, you’ll get the chance to register 24 hours before everyone else, increasing your chances of getting a spot.

Plus, you’ll save up to 54% off the regular cost of the program.

Indeed, if you’re on our presale list, you’ll be able to get access to Precision Nutrition Coaching for just $97 USD per month, our lowest price ever.

I’ve been coaching for 25+ years now, and I can genuinely say this is the most affordable I’ve ever seen this caliber of coaching.

Plus, we guarantee our work. Because it’s the right thing to do.

Bring your commitment. Stick with us for a full year. Work hard.

You’ll lose the weight (and body fat) you haven’t been able to shed for years.

You’ll build physical strength and confidence. You’ll get results that last.

And if you don’t get the results you’re looking for, we’ll give you a full refund.

No risk. No joke.

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, June 5th, 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 Opening July 2019: Precision Nutrition Coaching for Men and Women 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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Ask any health and fitness professional if they’re “evidence based,” and chances are good you’ll get a resounding, “Yes!” Perhaps even an indignant one. After all, everyone uses evidence… of some sort. But if you think evidence-based practice is only what “research says,” you’re doing it wrong. In this article, we’ll show you the right way to use evidence to inform and enhance your coaching—for more effective advice and better client results. 

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Here at Precision Nutrition, we love science.

In fact, no one loves science more than us!

But is it possible to rely too heavily on scientific literature? Can you actually science too much?

Maybe.

Ever see someone:

  • Dismiss a coach’s successful method solely because some element of it isn’t “research proven?”
  • Refuse to modify a nutrition plan—even though a client hates it—“because science?”
  • Call a respected health professional a “quack” because they cite years of clinical experience instead of a definitive clinical trial?

(If you haven’t, you probably don’t spend much time in Facebook comments.)

In each case, the person’s inflated reverence for research could be limiting their ability to learn, and evolve as a coach. They might also influence others to follow their narrow line of thinking, causing them to miss out, too. And this is often done in the name of “evidenced based practice.”

Now, evidence-based practice, or EBP, is all the rage in certain health and fitness circles, which is a great thing. We heart science, remember? Except there’s just one problem…

A lot of coaches, though well-meaning, are getting EBP wrong. Specifically, they’re over-emphasizing “what the research says” to the exclusion of other relevant information, like their professional experience and the personal preferences and values of the people they work with.

And that’s not good for clients, business, or the health and fitness industry.

To make sure you get EBP right, use this guide to understand what the method really is, why it matters, and how to implement it effectively in your own coaching practice.

Because when used correctly, EBP is a powerful tool that’ll make you a better coach—so you can help even more people achieve lasting change and deep health.

And that we love even more than science.

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What is “evidence”?

There’s “everyday life” evidence.

In our Precision Nutrition Coaching program and Certifications, we tell our clients and coaches to use outcome-based decision making (OBDM).

Very simply, that means you decide what to do next based on the data you got from what you just did.

Did your waist measurement go up after two weeks of vacation buffets? That’s data that says, “Welcome home, maybe dial it back a little.”

Did your blood pressure go down after four months of sticking to your exercise program? That’s data that says, “Keep up the good work!”

We tell our coaches and clients to use as many data points as they can, and look for progress everywhere, including:

  • body measurements
  • blood work and other medical tests
  • athletic performance, such as getting stronger or faster
  • photos
  • how clothes fit
  • recovery
  • sleep
  • mood and wellbeing
  • confidence
  • consistency

And so on. (Here are some more ideas.)

All of these data points, collectively, give us evidence that we can use to make informed choices.

Then there’s scientific evidence.

This includes clinical or case studies, experimental research, basic research (for instance, studying cells in culture), and more.

This evidence can vary widely in quality, who is studied, and how applicable the results are to you and your clients.

However, in general, scientific evidence is one of the best ways we have to know about the nature of reality.

And though it might be obvious, we’re compelled to say it anyway: You’re looking to glean these insights directly from reputable, peer-reviewed scientific papers—not random websites, articles in magazines, or pictures of sunsets with words on them.

Finally, there’s stuff you learn on the job.

We call this “expertise.” It’s the old coach’s intuition, the senior clinician’s knack for diagnosis, the way a master carpenter can tell you if something is a quarter inch off square just by looking.

After you’ve worked with over 100,000 clients, as we have, you start to build a database of collected wisdom. And often, there’s stuff that’s hard to explain or defend—you’ve just seen it enough times that you know it’s a thing.

When we bring together experience, research, and expertise, we have a pretty good set of working hypotheses about what is likely to be effective.

And that’s evidenced-based practice. So it’s not just about clinical research.

EBP is a systematic way of thinking and application that integrates scientific data with clinical experience and the individual needs and preferences of each client or patient.

Yes, that’s the official, eye-glazing definition, but you might find the Instagram-able version even more enlightening. (See the illustration below.)

All three parts are equally important.

That’s because:

1. You aren’t coaching research averages. You’re coaching people.

Most studies report the average results of an intervention. (This is especially true of their headlines.)

Yet, if we look at the actual data of most studies, we see that individual results tend to fall on a bell curve of some sort.

Take this example, noted by James Krieger and Bret Contreras.

A study on resistance training and muscle gain concluded the following:

“Previously untrained people who engaged in resistance training three times a week for 9 weeks increased their muscle mass by 6%.”

Based on that, you might expect a client to achieve similar results on your three-day-a-week program.

But if you look at the individual data within the study, muscle growth ranged from -2.5 to 20 percent. That’s right: minus 2.5 percent. As Krieger and Contreras point out, five of the 53 participants actually lost muscle!

That’s not to suggest the research results are misleading. In fact, most of the study participants experienced muscle mass gains between 5 and 10 percent, and some even more. However, it does show the overall findings may not to apply to every individual. So don’t expect them to.

Another example is broccoli. There’s a significant body of evidence supporting the health benefits of eating this nutrient-dense vegetable.

But if broccoli makes someone gaggy or uncomfortably gassy, it’s not the healthiest food for them, no matter what the research says about it lowering disease risk.

These kinds of patterns happen over and over: Some people get great results from applying the research, some get very little (or negative) results, and most get results somewhere in between.

This is reality.

Research can be incredibly useful for giving us a starting point for most people. But humans differ—often wildly—from one another.

They differ in terms of their habits, mindset, physiology, environment, and personal preferences. They also differ in their ability to follow a program in the first place. And even if they stick to a plan perfectly, they can differ in the results they get.

Coach for the unique human in front of you, not for an average.

Not only will this improve your client results (because you’ll be working with their particular, practical reality), it’ll also improve your client retention (because you’ll be actually listening to them and trying to understand them as individual people, not as data sets).

When a client is suffering, they probably don’t need you to search PubMed for more evidence.

They often need you to provide a solid, trusting coaching relationship and, of course, your coaching skills. This combination can help you ease client resistance, be creative and flexible when typical solutions don’t work, and be compassionate and supportive when a client struggles with dark stuff.

2. Your professional experience really matters.

If you’re a mindful, growth-oriented coach or practitioner, it’s impossible not to develop a certain degree of experience and expertise over time.

A lot of things go into your “expertise bucket”: courses and programs you’ve taken; books you’ve read; lectures you’ve attended; mentoring relationships you’ve had; and all the practical experience you’ve acquired from observing and coaching clients or patients.

The accumulation of knowledge and experience gives you a kind of “intuition” that can help you coach more effectively.

This “intuition” shows up when you see a client perform a wonky squat, quickly identify exactly what’s wrong, and make corrections to improve form.

It shows up when you perform a client intake, and based on their answers (Just had a baby! Prone to perfectionism!), you can anticipate what aspects of a program they might struggle with, and how you might help them.

Or it shows up when you do a postural assessment, and immediately know which exercises to avoid and which could be helpful.

Much of the time, this is knowledge you could have never learned simply from reading studies. It requires time working with people, and exposing yourself to new ideas and methods, including those that have yet to be studied.

But there’s a challenge here, too. The knowledge we gather from our experiences is very prone to human error: Our memories are unreliable, we see patterns that may not actually exist, and we discount information that doesn’t conform to what we already believe.

How can we reduce human error?

  • First, be aware that bias and error exist… yes, even for you.
  • Take notes during or after client sessions, and use a variety of validated measurement tools—such as weight, body measurements, pictures, mood scales, and sleep quality scales—to track the effectiveness of your advice.
  • Get mentorship and feedback on your practice. Coaches need coaches. Or, find a like-minded group of professionals with whom to collaborate. (That’s why we developed the Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification.)

If you’re aware of the errors you’re likely to make, and take steps to moderate them, you might start to see some reliable, overarching patterns.

Like that very rigid meal plans don’t work for people in the long term. Or that people can only train so long and so hard before they burn out.

Or a thousand other possibilities experienced coaches notice, but perhaps haven’t been fully validated by published research.

For example, here at Precision Nutrition, our coaches observed that when our clients took any steps in a positive direction—even if that meant being just 10% consistent with their healthy eating, exercise, and lifestyle habits—they experienced real, measurable progress. What’s more, our objective data from tracking these clients backed up this coaching observation.

No, this isn’t research from a published, peer-reviewed clinical trial (though we have that, too). But it’s still highly valuable evidence, since we’ve gleaned it from our collective professional experience working with more than 100,000 clients over the last decade.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have the experience gained from coaching many people over many years, you can “borrow” insight from mentors or other coaches with more reps under their belt.

Drawing on the wisdom of your (or a colleague’s) accumulated experience is an essential part of being a good practitioner.

3. Science will never have it all figured out.

The evidence is always evolving. Nutrition research in particular is a relatively new area, and there’s still a lot to be learned.

Plus, some things are really hard (or downright unethical) to test in a research setting, and so we may never have scientific evidence on it.

Even if it is possible to test, quality research takes a long time to gather. Usually, one study isn’t enough to “prove” something true or false. But waiting for multiple studies on a specific topic, or better yet, a meta-analyses (which is kind of like a poll of the research) may require a lot of patience. Maybe decades.

And yet, we still have to help our clients and patients make informed decisions. Like, now.

That’s where evidence-based practice comes in.

The RIGHT way to use EBP.

You can formally apply the EBP process to coaching decisions that feel especially important or uncertain.

EBP offers one of the best tools to help you reach a decision that’s most likely to be safe and effective, and that’ll also make sense in the context of your client’s life.

Follow these 6 steps to see EBP in action.

1. Assess the client.

Identify their unique abilities and needs.

  • What are their strengths?
  • Where might they need help from you?
  • What are their precise goals?
  • What are their identities, values, and beliefs?

Gather this information by asking questions, using intake forms, and taking measurements. This’ll help you create an initial plan of action and also provide a baseline against which to gauge progress.

Plus, as you collect data on many clients, you’ll be accruing practical evidence that can aid with decision making in the future.

Let’s use a hypothetical client to apply these steps.

Her name is Nora. Her goal is to lose fat, and she’s also interested in intermittent fasting. Through your initial assessment you learn that she’s begun to show signs of perimenopause, and her sleep isn’t great these days.

2. Find your research question.

Before you jump to a solution, get clear on the problem you’re trying to help your client with. 

Then, turn the problem into a question that’ll help you isolate the evidence you need for your recommendations. This question should incorporate the problem, as well as relevant factors about your client or patient.

Nora’s main goal is to lose fat, and she’s curious about intermittent fasting. Important factors to consider: Nora is a woman and she’s perimenopausal.

But you’re not sure if intermittent fasting is safe (or effective) for losing fat. And you’re definitely not sure if it’s safe (or effective) for a perimenopausal woman.

So your research question might be: “Is intermittent fasting safe and effective for fat loss in perimenopausal women?”

3. Gather the evidence.

Search for info using an online database like PubMed or Google Scholar. (If you don’t know how to use online research databases, here’s a PubMed tutorial.)

Using a research database will curate your hits so you’re only getting original, peer-reviewed research, rather than someone else’s (potentially biased) interpretation of it.

To find relevant research for Nora, a good keyword combination to type in a search box could be “intermittent fasting + fat loss + menopause”. These keywords contain the intervention you’re interested in learning more about, plus information about Nora’s unique goals and life stage.

To identify the best available scientific evidence on the research subject, use the “Hierarchy of Evidence” pyramid below. The higher up on the pyramid, the more trustworthy the information. So start your search from the top down.

In the case of Nora, prioritize finding a position stand, a meta-analysis, or a systematic review on using intermittent fasting for fat loss in menopausal women. This will give you a comprehensive overview of the current evidence. Basically, scientists and/or academics have already done the hard work—of reviewing, comparing, and analyzing the available scientific evidence—for you.

If that doesn’t exist, look for randomized control trials that compare appropriately chosen groups of people with a control group (such as a group that received no intervention, or a different intervention).

No luck there? You can expand your search to just “women” rather than “menopausal women.” Depending on what’s available, you may have to continue broadening your search and moving down the hierarchy of evidence.

Now, if you’re not well-versed in reading studies or interpreting research, that’s okay. Chances are, if you don’t find a meta-analysis or review, or—best of all—a position stand, the research further down the pyramid will be of limited use to you anyway.

If that’s the case—or you can’t find any scientific research on the topic—you might have to use opinions from other trusted experts, or develop an educated hypothesis based on your own knowledge of how physiology and nutrition work. This still counts as evidence, it’s just not as reliable, so temper your confidence in it accordingly.

All hail the position stand.

If you don’t feel equipped to navigate and interpret scientific literature, consider looking for best practice guidelines or position stands written by an authority in your field.

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

Here’s an example: The 2017 International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand on protein and exercise.

If 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 variety of topics.

4. Appraise the evidence.

Through your search, you’ll probably find at least some evidence. This might be just a few small studies or some articles from trusted experts in the field.

Now, using the hierarchy of evidence, determine how valid and reliable those pieces of evidence are.

The more you have to broaden your question or move down the quality hierarchy, the less confident you might be about your recommendations.

With Nora, if all you find are some articles by an internet guru who’s never actually seen any real clients, you may want to present your findings as a mere idea, rather than as reliable advice.

On the other hand, if you find a handful of systematic reviews about intermittent fasting in menopausal women, you can go to Nora with more confidence about your recommendations. (Quick fact check, FYI: We couldn’t find any reputable systematic reviews on intermittent fasting in menopausal women.)

5. Create your recommendation.

Unless they ask for it, most clients don’t want to know all the complicated science stuff; they just want to know what to do.

This is where the science of coaching morphs into the art of coaching.

It’s time to see if you can actually apply the evidence you’ve found—along with your own professional experience—to the complex, real, live human standing in front of you.

Notice that the evidence by itself doesn’t make the decision. Nor does your experience, nor do the client’s preferences.

The three simply offer a more holistic perspective on a problem, to ensure you find the best possible solution for your client.

Rather than plunking down a stack of research in front of your client, combine the research with your expertise and your client’s unique circumstances to translate it into practical advice.

It could work like this: Through your research, you find that intermittent fasting is effective for fat loss. However, through your own professional experience, you’ve also noticed that most clients struggle to stick with intermittent fasting long-term. (Aligning nicely with your coaching experience, the research also shows a relatively high drop-out rate with intermittent fasting.)

You’ve also noticed that in some of your female clients, intermittent fasting seems to deregulate menstrual cycles and exacerbate menopausal symptoms.

Thinking about Nora’s unique values and preferences, you know that she wants to lose weight, but you also know that she’s had some trouble sleeping lately. In your experience with other clients, people who are sleep-deprived have an extra-hard time regulating appetite and losing weight.

So… intermittent fasting seems to be effective, but combined with your concerns about Nora’s hormonal health and sleep quality, plus the fact that intermittent fasting can be hard to maintain, you may decide not to recommend it to Nora.

After explaining to her your reasoning, explore with her what she’s comfortable trying. In the end, you may suggest some simple nutrition habits along with some short fasting experiments, plus some sleep tips.

These recommendations include what you’ve found from the best available research, your own coaching experience, and Nora’s unique preferences, goals, and challenges.

Nora’s just gotten some pretty wise, tailored-to-her advice, where you worked as collaborators to come up with her action plan.

That’s the art and science of coaching.

6. Monitor the results.

Once you’ve given your client a little time to practice what you came up with together, you can assess if those actions are working.

Consult those measurements you took in your initial assessments. Compare them to current measurements.

Are things moving in the right direction?

And talk to your client about how the plan is working.

Nora tells you although she’s applying and benefitting from the sleep tips, she’s struggling with fasting, even the shorter experiments. Turns out, it’s hard to fast when you’re having trouble falling asleep because of a grumbling tummy.

As you monitor progress, use what you find to re-evaluate goals and pinpoint where your client or patient needs more support.

Now Nora’s asking you about trying the Paleo diet instead. Looks like you have more research to do.

But keep in mind, over time, you’ll develop a solid grasp of the body of evidence on a number of topics. That’s the good part about science moving slowly: It’s not that hard to keep up.

What to do next.

Be empathetic, supportive, and flexible.

No matter what you believe is “right” or “true,” your first job is to work with your client, wherever they’re at.

Many practitioners intuitively know this, but the bond between coach and client (or patient) is extremely important and influential.

This bond is called the “therapeutic alliance,” and it refers to the level of trust and rapport between a practitioner and the person they’re helping.

Change is hard, and often scary. A strong therapeutic alliance can help a person feel supported and understood while surfing the tides of change.

In fact, some studies show the results a client or patient achieves in your care are up to 85 percent dependent on the therapeutic alliance. So, the stronger that relationship, the better the results.

If you’re constantly butting heads with your client, telling them, “But the research says!” or, “I know best!”, you can wave goodbye to a strong therapeutic alliance.

Many of the obstacles your clients will face are behavioral and emotional, rather than rational and theory-based. So more than facts, your clients often need compassion, support, and creativity to get them through the tough stuff.

Focus on the big rocks.

Given how complicated bodies and behavioral change are, it’s not surprising that science is still “trying to figure things out.”

Rather than using “cutting-edge” protocols like intermittent fasting or precise macronutrient ratios (which should really only be for more advanced clients anyway), focus on “big rocks” that offer the most bang for buck, like:

  • eating enough protein and vegetables
  • moving regularly
  • getting adequate sleep
  • managing stress
  • reducing smoking and/or excessive alcohol consumption

If that sounds boring or too obvious, we ask you this: How many people do you know who are consistently doing all five well? (In case you’re curious, it’s only about three to five percent of the population.)

Just managing those five things will keep most people plenty busy.

Be humble, throw out the rules, and keep learning.

The smartest people are often the ones who are most comfortable asking questions, saying “I don’t know,” and resting in uncertainty.

It’s a cliche but true: The more you know about something, the more you realize what you don’t know.

Be wary when others claim absolute certainty. It may be they don’t fully understand the complexity of the matter.

True expertise is about being comfortable with limited knowledge—while continuing to seek more and better information—and also accepting we may never have complete certainty.

Experiment wisely, and learn from both successes and failures.

Want to see how a theory works in practice? Test it out on yourself, and measure your experience as objectively as possible.

With clients, so long as there is no risk of harm, try out well-informed experiments (with their permission) that are either based on research or expert theory. Then, as always, track and measure their experiences and results to inform your next steps.

Know what you don’t know and work with other experts as needed.

Especially if you’re a beginner in your practice, it’s okay not to know stuff.

Focus on what you know best, whether that’s good lifting form, coming up with healthy meal ideas, or giving support during sticky coaching situations. But also know that some things will be out of your scope of practice.

So build a strong professional network—which could include family doctors, dietitians, massage therapists, naturopaths, chiropractors, and psychotherapists—and refer out whenever you encounter something you feel uncomfortable or especially inexperienced with.

Establishing a deep roster of experts will help clients get the support they need. And we’re pretty sure the evidence will show that’s good for everyone.

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 way that’s evidenced 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% 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.

The post Evidence-based coaching: Are health and fitness pros doing it wrong? 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

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

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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.

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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).

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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

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