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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.

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.

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Sick of your clients not following the plan? It might not be their fault. It might be… yours. The reason: Just telling clients what to do isn’t very effective. After all, it’s hard to make people do anything—even when they know it’s good for them. (That’s why we still have texting-while-walking accidents.) But in this article, we’ll show you a proven way to get your clients… to get with the program. For better results and the lasting change you both want.

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Clients rarely say, “There’s no way I’m doing that.”

Even though that’s often what they’re thinking.

Maybe you prescribe a new eating or exercise habit, and in return, they give you the side eye.

Or they say, “No problem!”, but later admit they always knew they’d never follow through.

Perhaps you could sense they just weren’t that into:

  • eating more vegetables
  • going to bed an hour earlier
  • cutting out soda

But you forced it anyway because, hey, it’s what they needed to do.

Here’s the truth:

Telling clients what to do doesn’t work.

There’s a far better way. It starts with a simple question, and it ends with a plan that doesn’t just help clients thrive—it almost guarantees they will.

So much so, we can tell you straight-faced: This method could change the way you coach forever. (It did for us.)

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No one wants to be a minion.

In the health and fitness industry, most people are trained to use a “coach-centric” approach.

It goes something like this:

“I’m the expert, and you’re going to do what I say. Because it’s good for you.”

That works… when your client’s a Navy Seal. Read: highly disciplined, does what it takes (no matter the cost), and always follows the “chain of command.”

But everyone else? Not so much. That makes it a very ineffective strategy, at least in the long term.

By telling a client you know what’s best for them, you’ve minimized their input.

They don’t see it as their plan; they see it as your plan. As a result, they’re not 100% invested. (Often not even close.)

The fix: a “client-centric” approach.

The concept is simple.

Before a client attempts any new habit or type of change, ask them to rate how they feel about it.

For example, say they’re not exercising now, but you want them to work out hard at least five days a week.

On a scale of 0 (no way in hell) to 10 (a trained monkey could do it), how do they rank their confidence that they will follow through?

Ask them, and emphasize the need for honesty. Not only is it okay for them to voice doubts and concerns now, it’s the absolute right thing to do. For everyone involved.

If they say “9” or “10,” you’re good to go.

But anything less? You need to scale back the proposed plan, and ask again.

What does it take to get them to a solid 9?

Maybe it’s only doing hard workouts four days a week. Or three days. Or perhaps it’s just one 20-minute brisk walk.

Sometimes you’ll have to scale back so much, you might think, ‘This will never work! It’s too easy.’

It doesn’t matter.

Because if they can stick with the change for 2 weeks, they’ll start to gain the confidence to scale up. As they do, you can push them a little further, as long as it’s not beyond their capabilities.

This makes them an active participant in their own plan, instead of an order-taking minion.

They’re now adopting habits and making changes at a pace that’s comfortable for them.

And since you’re making these decisions together, they’re helping create the prescription themselves. One that matches their abilities, preferences, and lifestyle.

The result: You get full buy-in. Which is the catalyst for sustainable change.

Now, that’s the basic version of the client-centric method. You can keep it this simple to start, but if you want to take it to the next level, keep reading.

Supercharge this strategy.

Okay, so you can ask one simple question, and make some serious progress with your clients. But if you want true mastery, you need to dig a little deeper by asking three questions.

  • How ready are you to do this task?
  • How willing are you to do this task?
  • How able are you to do this task?

These might sound similar, but each can spark unique conversations and provide you—and your client—with greater insight and better strategies.

Let’s look at them one by one.

1. “Are you ready?”

Being “ready” means you see the need for change and feel an urgency to take action.

It doesn’t mean it’s the perfect time to change.

In fact, you can’t ever count on that.

Sometimes, clients say they’re not ready because they don’t feel like they have it “together.” Their lives are crazy, and now just doesn’t feel like the right time to add something new.

But here’s the truth: There’s never going to be a time when things are magically easier.

Life doesn’t come with a pause button.

Let’s say you’ve suggested your client stop using electronics 30 minutes before bed in the name of better sleep, recovery, and overall health. You ask, “How ready are you to do this?”

And… they give you a “5.”

They agree shutting down earlier would be good for their health (and sanity), but work is crazy right now… and they have all the emails… and they need to use every waking moment to stay on top of their inbox.

Maybe it’d be better to do this later on, they say. Like in a few weeks, when their job isn’t so hectic. (The work gods laugh about this at their cocktail parties.)

The message: They’re not quite ready.

But what if you scaled it back?

For instance, what if they signed off email just 5 minutes before bed? While 5 minutes might seem irrelevant, it could be what it takes for your client to feel ready now.

It’s not 30 minutes, but it is progress.

And progress is what matters, not perfection. After all, consistently doing a little bit better adds up to major change over time. (Exhibit A: Our clients, who show how even small efforts can lead to impressive health transformations.)

In a couple of weeks, your client might be ready to shut down 10 minutes early, and ultimately, work up to 30 minutes over time. So eventually, you get them where you wanted—but you do it on their schedule.

Conversation starters

Anytime you ask, “How ready are you?” and your client answers 8, 5, or even 1, it’s time to probe for “why.” Asking these questions can lead to helpful (and even surprising) insights.

Ask this:

“What does being ‘ready to change’ mean to you?”

How it can help: This answer shows you where your client really is. Do they want to change, but like our examples, just feel like they’re too busy, or it’s not right time? It’s an opportunity to help them see perfection isn’t a prerequisite.

Ask this:

“Imagine a world where you’re completely ready to make a change. What would that world look like?”

How it can help: Considering what the “perfect” time would look like helps a client see there won’t ever be a perfect time. What’s more, you might be able to steal something from this imaginary “completely ready” world, and incorporate it into their life right now—to help them feel more ready.

Ask this:

“What’s pushing you away from making this change right now? Is there anything pulling you toward trying something different?”

How it can help: Many clients feel ambivalent about change. Read: They want to, but they also don’t want to. Instead of trying to talk your client into changing, this question gets them to do it themselves—by reminding them why they came to you in the first place.

Ask this:

“Instead of making a big, massive change you don’t feel ready for, how could you do just a little bit better in this area today?”

How it can help: This question gives your client the opportunity to tell you what feels reasonable and sane to them at this moment in their life. Work from there.

2: “Are you willing?”

Being willing to change doesn’t mean you have zero reservations about doing things differently.

It means you’re game for pushing past those doubts.

Imagine you’ve trained to be a cliff diver for several months. Your body’s in great shape, and all techniques have been honed. You’re ready.

When you get to the top of the cliff, you start thinking, ’What if I slip? What if I didn’t train right? What if the tide is too low?’ But you jump anyway. Because you’re willing.

That’s often not how it goes with clients, though. Their doubts create resistance they can’t get past. Only they may not tell you that directly.

True story…

A coach is assessing a new client, and discovers he’s drinking 10-20 Diet Cokes a day.

She tells him he should drink more water instead. He replies: “Isn’t Diet Coke made of water?” (Smart client.) Plenty of back and forth followed, but it was more of the same.

The client didn’t say, “I’m not willing to give up Diet Coke,” but through his endless debating, yeah, that’s pretty much what he said. He wasn’t a 9 or 10; he was more like a 1 or 2.

Don’t push against a client’s resistance. You’ll only meet more.

Instead, get them to “notice and name” where their resistance is coming from, so you can explore the reason for it.

You may find it’s not the change itself that’s the problem; it’s what the change represents.

Suppose you have a client who wants to improve their body composition, but doesn’t like the idea of “eating to 80 percent full.”

This is one of the core habits in the Precision Nutrition coaching method, because it can help people better tune into hunger and fullness cues.

But after years of eating until stuffed, it can feel like a big—and unwelcome—change.

Maybe your client rates this a 4, and voices their resistance like this:

“I like eating until I’m totally full. There’s just something so satisfying about it.”

You might ask them:

  • What would happen if they stopped eating until they were stuffed?
  • How would they feel?
  • Why don’t they want to feel that way?

They might respond with something like:

“My life is so busy and stressful. I feel like I deserve a big meal at the end of the day. It just makes me feel happy and comfortable. I’m afraid I’ll lose that feeling if I stop.”

And there it is.

They’ve just noticed and named the real reason they’re not willing to eat to 80 percent full.

From there, you can work with your client to find other ways they can comfort themselves at the end of a hard day, if they’re open to it.

Conversation starters

Use the questions that follow to delve into the source of a client’s resistance. Also: Remind your clients they always have the option not to change. Often just knowing this makes them more willing to change.

Ask this:

“What comes up for you when you think about making this change?

How it can help: This question gives your client an opportunity to notice and name the resistance they feel when they think about starting a particular habit.

Ask this:

“Imagine what would happen if you did make the change, despite your reservations. What do you think the outcome would be?”

How it can help: Picturing the benefits can help a client decide that even though the change might be challenging, it could also be worth it. (Or not—that’s okay too.)

Ask this:

“What would happen if you didn’t make the change? What would that look like?”

How it can help: The natural answer is, “Well, things would stay the same as they are now.” And no one invests in coaching because they want things to stay the same, right?

Ask this:

“How would making this change help you achieve your goals? Are there any ways it could keep you from losing weight or feeling healthier or moving better or [insert client objective here].”

How it can help: Getting your client to weigh the pros and cons of making a change helps them reevaluate their willingness to try it.

3: “Are you able?”

Being able to change doesn’t mean your path is free of obstacles.

It means you’ve figured out how to remove—or dodge—the stuff blocking your way.

Let’s say your client lives on an isolated military base. They’re ready and willing to add lean protein to each meal—another of our core principles—but they don’t feel able.

Their food choices on the base aren’t so great. The grocery options are limited, and they often eat their meals in a cafeteria, so they have no control over what’s served.

The good news: The problem isn’t coming from your client; it’s coming from their circumstances. So by brainstorming together, you can “engineer” the habit to fit their life.

Maybe they could:

  • Order portable protein options like packets of tuna or single-serving protein powders.
  • Be better at checking the cafeteria menu ahead of time, and strategically plan around the most protein-challenged meals.
  • Work on their meal prep skills to make sure there’s always a good option in the freezer.
  • Discover smart solutions in the store they hadn’t considered.

If all else fails, perhaps it means accepting that eating lean protein with each meal just isn’t going to happen. But could they eat lean protein at two out of three meals a day?

Remember: Perfection isn’t required for progress.

Conversation starters

There’s always a solution. Make sure your clients know that. After all, humans managed to send people to the moon with less computing power than what’s on an iPhone. (Android, too, of course!) We can surely troubleshoot healthy eating obstacles. Use these questions to help identify and overcome their obstacles.

Ask this:

“What does being ‘able to change’ look like to you?”

How it can help: Just as there’s no perfect time to change, there’s also no scenario where there are zero barriers to change. Asking this question helps your client realize with some creative problem solving, they probably can change right now.

Ask this:

“What obstacles are in your way? How are they limiting you?”

How it can help: Narrowing down exactly why an obstacle is limiting your client may make previously hidden solutions more obvious.

Ask this:

“Let’s say you can’t remove the obstacles completely. How could you ‘dodge’ them?”

How it can help: This question opens up a brainstorming session, allowing your client to come up with solutions that make sense for them as an individual.

What to do next

Let’s say your client is ready, willing, and able (for whatever habits and changes you’re agreed upon).

Now it’s time to see what happens.

Observe and monitor how they’re doing with the habit. Gather your data. You may want to keep track of the following in regard to their new habit or task:

  • how often they’re getting it done
  • how well they’re completing it
  • the questions and concerns that come up for them
  • how it’s impacting their chosen progress markers (weight, girth measurements, energy levels, and so on)

Ask yourself: Is your client getting closer to the result they’re looking for? Are there any patterns or trends that are becoming clear to you?

Once you’ve analyzed your data, decide what’s next.

If you determine the new habit isn’t taking your client in the right direction, maybe you want to try something completely different.

If the client had a tough time completing the task, perhaps you want to scale back and make it more approachable (decrease from 5 servings of veggies a day to 3).

Did they totally master their habit or task? Then consider increasing the difficulty (ramp up from 15 minutes of screen-free time before bed to 30).

And if they haven’t nailed the habit yet, but they feel confident they can, maybe you keep things exactly as they are for a little longer.

No matter which path you choose, remember:

Your clients will tell you what they need to change. You just have to listen.

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 gets them to fully invest in the plan and achieve sustainable results—is both an art and a science.

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

What’s it all about?

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019.

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

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

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

The post “Why won’t clients just do what I say?!?!” How to fix every coach’s #1 frustration. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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From a certain perspective, nutrition science can seem like a mess. From another, it illustrates the very nature (and beauty) of the scientific process. Here we’ll explain why nutrition science is so confusing at times. We’ll also explain why, in the grand scheme of things, that’s okay.

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I recently participated in a health and fitness roundtable at a large event.

During the discussion, one smart, educated, PhD-trained expert complained about the state of nutrition science.

“You nutrition people make me mad!”
“Why so much conflicting information?”
“Why so much nonsense?”
“Why can’t you make it clear and simple?”

I can totally empathize.

From a certain perspective, nutrition science can seem like a mess.

Lots of competing theories. One study seems to suggest one thing. The very next study seems to say the opposite.

People interested in health, fitness and wellness are stuck in the middle. Confused. Directionless.

From another point of view, that “mess” of competing ideas demonstrates the real beauty of science.

You see, science means putting all the ideas — good, bad, otherwise — into the ring and letting them fight it out over hundreds of years, using a particular method to determine the winners.

And that’s precisely why nutrition science is so confusing at times. We haven’t yet had the hundreds, even thousands, of years for the best ones to emerge.

For example, macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein) weren’t even discovered until the mid-1800s. Vitamins weren’t discovered until the 1900s.

And that’s just the study of what’s in food, driven by problems — malnutrition and starvation — that we don’t face as often today in industrialized countries. (They’re still a problem in many parts of the world, though.)

It’s only in the last 20 years that we’ve begun studying newer problems, such as what’s healthy in a world full of tasty processed food and very little movement.

Just so you know, all scientific disciplines begin with confusion, dead ends, frustration, and silliness. (Before humans understood weather patterns, a tornado happened because someone angered the wind gods.)

But what’s young is destined to mature.

Nutrition science will eventually grow up.

Perhaps not as quickly as we’d like. Yet over time, the scientific method will cut and prune and do its work.

Meanwhile, here’s a nice summary of 9 main reasons why nutrition science can be so confusing at times.

And why (sometimes) the media screws up reporting it.

There you have it: Why nutrition science is so confusing at times. And why (sometimes) the media screws up reporting it.

Print out or save the infographic as a reminder when you’re feeling frustrated with nutrition research. And please share with a friend, client, or colleague who might benefit from it.

Passionate about fitness and nutrition?

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

What’s it all about?

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, June 5th, 2019.

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

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

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

References

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

History of Chemistry. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/chemistry/chem-c2507/navbar/chemhist.html. [Accessed October 2016].

National Institutes of Health: History of Congressional Appropriations, Fiscal Years 2000-2016 [ONLINE] Available at:
https://officeofbudget.od.nih.gov/pdfs/FY16/Approp%20History%20by%20IC%20FY%202000%20-%20FY%202016.pdf [Accessed October 2016]

Bes-Rastrollo M, Schulze MB, Ruiz-Canela M, Martinez-Gonzalez MA. Financial conflicts of interest and reporting bias regarding the association between sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review of systematic reviews. PLoS Med. 2013 Dec;10(12):e1001578; discussion e1001578. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001578. Epub 2013 Dec 31. Review.

Carpenter KJ. A short history of nutritional science: part 4 (1945-1985). J Nutr. 2003 Nov;133(11):3331-42. Review.

Carpenter KJ. A short history of nutritional science: part 3 (1912-1944). J Nutr. 2003 Oct;133(10):3023-32.

Carpenter KJ. A short history of nutritional science: part 2 (1885-1912). J Nutr. 2003 Apr;133(4):975-84.

Carpenter KJ. A short history of nutritional science: part 1 (1785-1885). J Nutr. 2003 Mar;133(3):638-45.

College Park, MD: U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Section 23CRF101.9(g)

Cornelis MC, El-Sohemy A, Kabagambe EK, Campos H. Coffee, CYP1A2 genotype, and risk of myocardial infarction. JAMA. 2006 Mar 8;295(10):1135-41.

Guevara C, Cook C, Herback N, Pietrobon R, Jacobs DO, Vail TP. Gender, racial, and ethnic disclosure in NIH K-Award funded diabetes and obesity clinical trials. Account Res. 2006 Oct-Dec;13(4):311-24.

Livesey G. Metabolizable energy of macronutrients. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Nov;62(5 Suppl):1135S-1142S. Review.

Novotny JA, Gebauer SK, Baer DJ. Discrepancy between the Atwater factor predicted and empirically measured energy values of almonds in human diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Aug;96(2):296-301.

Ropella K (Author), Enderle JD (Editor). Introduction to Statistics for Biomedical Engineers Paperback. Morgan & Claypool Publishers; 1 edition (Oct. 1 2007)

Rosenbaum M, Leibel RL. Adaptive thermogenesis in humans. International journal of obesity (2005). 2010;34(0 1):S47-S55.

Simonson DC, DeFronzo RA. Indirect calorimetry: methodological and interpretative problems. Am J Physiol. 1990 Mar;258(3 Pt 1):E399-412. Review.

Westerterp KR, Goris AH. Validity of the assessment of dietary intake:
problems of misreporting. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2002 Sep;5(5):489-93. Review.

Save

The post Why nutrition science is so confusing. [Infographic] 9 reasons eating well isn’t as straightforward as we’d like it to be. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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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..

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Avoiding heart disease and looking ‘fab’ aren’t always great reasons to lose weight. However, here are 5 immediate and significant ways your life can change when you trim the fat.

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I’d like you to join me in a thought experiment.

I promise there’s a point to it. In fact, we’ll soon talk about why most popular reasons for losing weight are either uninspiring or scientifically worthless.

But, for now, let’s begin by setting our feelings, insecurities, assumptions, stories, and beliefs about body fat aside.

You might feel confused. Or defensive. Or saying “Yes, but…”

Please bear with me. Just for a few minutes.

Forget, for a moment, about looking good.

Forget about “thin privilege”. Forget about “fat privilege”.

Forget about personal rights or civic obligations.

Forget about abs and guns and lats and whatever other laundry list of nonsense is now used to describe various body parts.

While you’re at it, forget about whatever other wretchedness the Internet has spawned this week. (Thigh gap? Duck lips? Bikini bridge? Manscaping?)

So, yeah, forget about body image.

Forget, for a moment, about disease.

Forget about all the big-name medical scares including atherosclerosis, arterial plaque, cardiac arrest, pulmonary hypertension, stroke, all the cancers, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

And forget about what some randomly chosen biomarker says.

“My glucose tolerance is good. I’m healthy and fat!”

“My triglycerides are low. I’m healthy and thin!”

“My cholesterol is excellent. I’m healthy and jacked!”

For a moment, let all of that go. (More on why in a second).

And, most of all, forget about “health at any size”.

Yes, obese people do have the right to be treated with dignity.

Absolutely and certainly.

And, yes, obese people should be supported in efforts to become more healthy outside of weight loss. As we all know, health isn’t a direct function of your weight.

However, the “health at any size” movement goes one step too far in suggesting that obesity is harmless. That it’s not bad for you. That having excess body fat is of no more consequence than wearing a red sweater or driving a Nissan Sentra.

This is simply not true; it contradicts most of the available evidence.

So, for now, forget a) looking good, b) disease, and c) “health at any size”.

Each of these obscures the real, significant reasons people should consider losing weight.

For example: The mainstream conversation about fatness and health focuses on medical conditions that can kill or disable us. While these make for great headlines, this angle isn’t very compelling.

Why not? Well, imagine that bacon (or broccoli, or some other food) causes a 10 percent increase in some horrible cancer-type disease. Scary, right?

Not when you realize that your chance of dying from that horrible cancer-type thing without bacon (or broccoli) is only 1 in 100,000 (or 0.00001 percent). And that a 10 percent increase from eating bacon (or broccoli) means your chance rises to 1.1 in 100,000 (or 0.000011 percent).

Meh.

Since we’re all going to die anyway, medical scare tactics simply don’t come off as scary (especially when you know what the data really mean). Nor do they motivate change.

The fitness industry, of course, takes another approach.

In fitness it’s all about looking great in a certain type of clothing, or on the beach, or at your high school reunion. And while that can seem inspiring for a minute, it’s not proven to be a sustainable way to achieve long-term weight loss and maintenance.

5 GOOD reasons for losing weight.

In the end, the most popular incentives — scary disease statistics and fitness industry vanity trips — aren’t very effective, useful, or scientifically valid ways to promote weight loss.

That’s a huge missed opportunity, because there are much better reasons to lose weight. More pressing, more evidence-based, more quality-of-life focused reasons.

Sadly, they’re not often talked about in the public debate.

(Notice that I said public debate. Scientists and doctors talk about them all the time. They’re well established in research. They just haven’t made it to the public yet).

So let’s talk about them now.

Reason #5: Your knees and elbows will thank you.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, in which we lose cartilage and gradually destroy the bones of our joints.

Imagine two rocks grinding together and you get the idea of how fun that is.

In my experience, healthy people don’t think much about osteoarthritis because it’s common. Aging makes it more likely. Everyone’s grandma has a twinge of arthritis.

So we think it’s normal.

This hides the degree to which it can be very unpleasant and debilitating.

Like most chronic illnesses, osteoarthritis is a vicious cycle.

  • Your joints hurt, so you move less.
  • Moving less means your joints don’t get loaded.
  • Less joint loading means muscle weakness.
  • Muscle weakness means force doesn’t get cushioned correctly.
  • Less cushion means the condition worsens.
  • More osteoarthritis means more pain.
  • And, onwards, we circle the drain.

The point? Obesity makes it much more likely that you’ll get osteoarthritis.

In one study comparing the heaviest patients to the lightest, the chance of being diagnosed with osteoarthritis in one knee was more than 6 times in the heavy group. For both knees it was almost 18 times.

(Naturally, other studies over the last 20 years have investigated the same relationship. Some estimates are higher, some are lower. But the association between body fat and osteoarthritis has been replicated several times.)

The reason this happens is complicated.

It isn’t just that heavier people put more weight on their joints, and those joints then degrade over time. It’s also that there seems to be a relationship between the presence of excess fat tissue and inflammation.

Thus, osteoarthritis probably comes from a combination of excess joint loading plus the inflammatory chemical and hormonal environment that having too much body fat creates.

Bottom line: One important reason to lose weight is to reduce joint pain and improve your movement. These are things you can benefit from almost immediately.

Reason #4: You’ll get a good night’s sleep.

Think of what happens when a rockslide blocks a tunnel.

That’s sleep apnea: The upper airway collapses while you sleep, cutting off that oxygen tunnel.

Just so you know, sleep apnea is more than a little snoring.

Sleep apnea means you stop breathing. Over and over and over. As you sleep.

Which is bad.

More body fat means more potential for sleep apnea. This comes from a few combined factors:

  • Fat in your airway narrows the space available. This makes your airway more prone to collapsing.
  • Fat in your upper body puts weight on your lungs and reduces the space available to them. You need more oxygen but you can’t get it as well.
  • Fat — a hormone-producing organ — changes your hormonal signals. This rewires your respiratory systems.

While around 25 percent of adults have sleep apnea, 50 percent of obese adults have it.

Even more scary: If you have mild sleep apnea, and you put on weight, the chances of you graduating to moderate or severe sleep apnea are:

  • 5 percent weight gain = 250 percent increase of severe sleep apnea
  • 10 percent weight gain = 650 percent increase of severe sleep apnea
  • 20 percent weight gain = 3,700 percent increase of severe sleep apnea

(And it’s scariest for children:  46 percent of obese children have sleep apnea, while the typical incidence in children is approximately 3 percent).

So, why is sleep apnea bad?

Sleep is a major regulator of our metabolism. If our sleep is bad, so is our metabolic health.

This means things like elevated inflammation, rapid cell aging and oxidation, and hormonal disruption (and, yes, higher risk for all kinds of nasty chronic diseases in the long term).

Bottom line: Another important reason to lose weight is so that you can sleep better. Not only does this help regulate metabolism, hormone systems, and more. It helps you feel, think and live better right away.

Reason #3: You’ll actually start to taste your food.

This may sound weird, but it seems that people who struggle with their weight don’t taste food as well.

Wait, what? People who often eat more food can’t taste as well? Exactly.

Why? We’re not sure. We don’t yet know whether excess body fat changes your tastes. Or whether your tastes change your appetite and cause weight gain.

We also don’t know whether this is an issue of:

  • “wanting” tastes: seeking and craving the reward of tastes
  • “liking” tastes: actually enjoying tastes
  • chemical signaling: how taste is created in the mouth and interpreted by the brain

Here’s what we do know.

People vary in how well and sensitively they can perceive different flavors and textures such as fattiness or sweetness.

One hypothesis is that if we can’t taste as well, we eat more food to compensate.

On the flip side, people with high BMIs seem to avoid bitter foods more, and have a stronger “disgust” response. As it happens, many vegetables are bitter or astringent (think of kale, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, etc.).

So there seems to be a relationship between:

  • excess body fat;
  • wanting and liking fat / sweet foods and pleasant tastes;
  • eating fat / sweet foods; and
  • avoiding unpleasant tastes.

How might this happen?

Animal models are handy here since we can control their food intake and they don’t seem to care much about food advertising.

So, in animal models:

  • Overfeeding obesity-prone mice changes how their taste cells function.
  • Rats with obesity-related changes in fat/sugar reward can at least somewhat reverse those changes with weight loss.
  • Rats given weight loss surgery (yes, that’s a real thing) appear to go back to their “normal” liking/wanting behavior.

Put simply, what this could mean is:

  • Many people with excess body fat also have altered flavor perception.
  • The flavor perception could pre-date gaining fat.
  • Or, the flavor perception could be caused by gaining fat. Or both.

The only observation I’ll add is that the foods we consider to be the most responsible for obesity just happen to pander directly to this dysfunction by having aggressively over-sweet, over-salty, over-fatty, etc. flavor profiles.

We eat and eat and eat them, but they never seem to satisfy. It’s a Sisyphean irony.

The good news is that in both humans and rats, tastes are changeable.

This means that losing fat, getting fit, and consistently building healthy habits can actually change how we perceive flavors. In a good way.

(One day, you might just find you like Brussels sprouts after all).

More importantly, when you truly enjoy food, you eat less, but you feel much more satisfied.

Bottom line: Obese people have altered taste perceptions leading to eating more and eating more of the wrong foods. By losing weight you’ll end up craving less high-sugar and high-fat food. You might even enjoy an extra veggie or two.

Reason #2: Your immune system will work properly again.

We tend to think of body fat like an ATM: a place where we deposit or withdraw energy. It isn’t.

Instead, fat is an active endocrine organ. That means it secretes hormones and cytokines (cell signaling molecules).

Hormones and cytokines have effects throughout the body. They “talk” to one another chemically.

Like all things, balance is important. If we have a healthy amount of fat, our hormones and cell signals work properly. If we have too much, things go wrong.

For example, with too much body fat our immune systems get off kilter.

There’s a huge, scary pile of evidence here so let’s keep it simple.

Increased BMI and more body fat is associated with greater risk for several kinds of infections including:

  • gum infections,
  • nose and sinus infections,
  • stomach infections, and
  • herpes (thankfully, the mouth kind).

Why? Too much adipose (fat) tissue can release large amounts of immune chemicals. Over time, this chronic high exposure can interfere with the body’s ability to spot and stop actual outside infections.

Bottom line: Losing body fat can mean a healthier, more responsive, more robust immune system. And that means fewer colds, fewer infections, and a healthier daily life.

Reason #1: You’ll survive surgery and childbirth.

People with a lot of body fat:

  • are harder to intubate,
  • have a higher risk of incisional hernia post-laprascopy
    (i.e. popping open again),
  • have a longer operation time,
  • have a higher risk of catheter site infection, and
  • have a higher rate of serious postoperative complications.

Surgery is a risky business for people who are obese.

This is a double whammy because people who struggle with obesity also struggle with more health issues that may require surgery.

So obese people may need surgery… but not be able to get it, or not recover as well when they do.

Pregnancy is a good example of this.

  • Among women who are significantly obese, about 50 percent of them must undergo Caesarean sections, compared to only about 20 percent of the general population.
  • Even if they give birth vaginally, obese women may have to have a lot more instruments and medical procedures involved.
  • After surgery, mothers with obesity may end up with more surgical site infections.

This is aside from other pregnancy complications, which also go up significantly as body fat increases.

Bottom line: Every surgery patient wants a safe and speedy recovery. And every mother wants a safe birth and a thriving, bouncing baby. Having a healthy range of body fat makes those happy outcomes much more likely.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition

Let’s forget about all the “shoulds”, as in, “You should lose weight because blah blah terrible thing will happen.”

Let’s focus on how awesome life can get when your body is as functional, mobile, and metabolically healthy as it can possibly be.

1. Go toward the good

We’ve noticed a trend in the stories of people who lost a great deal of weight:

They focus on the small blessings and achievements of everyday life.

  • “I can live in a walk-up apartment now.”
  • “I can run around with my kids.”
  • “I don’t get tired through the day.”
  • “Food tastes better. I can’t explain how.”
  • “My random aches and pains stopped.”
  • “I can carry my two-year old without wheezing.”
  • “I have so much more energy.”
  • “I bounce back from illness straightaway now.”

And they always sound so satisfied.

2. Seek incremental change

“Thigh gap” and “healthy at any size” are the two extremes of one problem: an all-or-nothing approach to health and body weight.

Real, lasting changes in diet and lifestyle require a different approach.

Precision Nutrition Coaching clients who achieve the most success come to realize that incremental change serves them best — and, to their surprise, produces immediate improvements in quality of life.

3. Focus on the tangible benefits

Losing weight isn’t magical. Your life is still your life, regardless.

Yet with a healthy amount of body fat, your life often becomes a little bit easier and better. You’re a little more functional and mobile. A little more able.

So if we talk about fat, let’s not tell people (or ourselves) how to feel. Or how to cheat death.

Keep the focus on positive changes you could see in your life in just a few weeks’ time:

  • Knees that work.
  • Colds that go away.
  • A good night’s sleep.
  • Food that tastes nice.
  • A straightforward recovery after surgery.
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 helps them make consistent progress even when life gets complicated—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, June 5th, 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.

Arens Raanan, Muzumdar Hiren. Childhood obesity and obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Journal of Applied Physiology Feb 2010, 108 (2) 436-444; DOI:10.1152/japplphysiol.00689.2009.

Bamgbade OA, Rutter TW, Nafiu OO, Dorje P. Postoperative complications in obese and nonobese patients. World J Surg. 2007 Mar;31(3):556-60; discussion 561.

Bomberg H, Albert N, Schmitt K, Gräber S, Kessler P, Steinfeldt T, Hering W, Gottschalk A, Standl T, Stork J, Meißner W, Teßmann R, Geiger P,Koch T, Spies CD, Volk T, Kubulus C. Obesity in regional anesthesia–a risk factor for peripheral catheter-related infections. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2015 Sep;59(8):1038-48. doi: 10.1111/aas.12548. Epub 2015 Jun 4.

Bonsignore MR, McNicholas WT, Montserrat JM, Eckel J. Adipose tissue in obesity and obstructive sleep apnea. Eur Respir J. 2012 Mar;39(3):746-67. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00047010.

Chang SJ, Chae KY. Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome in children: Epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis and sequelae. Korean Journal of Pediatrics...

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

++++

I could already see the pain in Michelle’s eyes as we sat down in a quiet corner of my gym.

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

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

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

“Have you always been overweight?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The challenge is uncovering it.

++++

You never start with the pain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering why you really want to change gives you resolve.

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

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

Find your pain… to stoke your passion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step #1: Find your true “why.”

Michelle wanted to lose weight, sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the “whys” that drive change.

Don’t settle for the easy answer.

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

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

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

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

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

Put in the work.

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

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

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

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

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

Ask yourself 3 questions. Right now…

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

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

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

Step #2: Turn your pain into action.

Let’s start with an example.

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

Do the hard thing.

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

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

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

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

Here are some examples:

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

Ask yourself:

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

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

Make one change at a time.

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

Pick one small, new habit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practice your habit.

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

Build on your habit.

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

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

Step #3: Share your pain.

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

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

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

Talking to people about your pain can:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give yourself permission to take it slow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—by helping them discover their true motivation—is both an art and a science.

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

What’s it all about?

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019.

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

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

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

The post Better than swimsuit season: Discover relentless motivation for transforming your body. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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You know you need a good balance of proteins, carbs, fats. But how do you turn that knowledge into healthy meals that taste delicious? Just mix and match these ingredients, flavor profiles, and cooking methods to create the perfect meal every time. Seriously, this guide could change your life.

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At Precision Nutrition, it’s our mission to help clients develop healthy eating habits for life. That means:

  • Eating fresh, minimally-processed food as often as possible.
  • Including a balance of protein, veggies, smart carbs, healthy fats.
  • Adjusting portions to meet health and body composition goals.

That all sounds great. But the trick is to do it all in a way that’s super-easy and tastes awesome.

That’s where Precision Nutrition’s all-star chef, Jennifer Nickle, comes in.

Jen’s been chef to UFC legend Georges St-Pierre and to tennis pros like Sloane Stephens and Eugenie Bouchard. She’s taught some of the best athletes in the world how to eat.

And now it’s your turn.

Behold the Perfect Meal cheat sheet.

For the past few weeks Jen and I have been working together to create a cheat sheet that helps clients build amazing meals that pack in maximum flavor with minimal effort. And it’s finally ready.

Using the simple instructions in this infographic, you’ll be able to mix and match ingredients and flavor profiles to come up with literally thousands of easy, delicious, health-supporting meals.

Warning: This guide could change your life.

Download the infographic for your printer or tablet. Keep it in your kitchen or bring it along on your next grocery shopping trip. And be sure to share it with your friends.

Again, don’t forget to download or print out this infographic so you have it handy next time you want to create the perfect meal.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes — including helping them with meal transformation — is both an art and a science.

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

What’s it all about?

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019.

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

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

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

The post Create the perfect meal with this simple 5-step guide. [Infographic] Hundreds of healthy meal combinations made easy. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Six-pack abs. Tight butts. Lean, glistening beach bodies and vibrant health. That’s what the fitness industry is selling, but have you ever considered the true costs of achieving this “look?”

In this short video, Dr. John Berardi lays out all the benefits and tradeoffs, so you can make an informed decision about what’s truly right for you—when it comes to your body, health, and lifestyle. Because it’s about getting what you want… but also figuring out how much you’re really willing to give up.

Want help getting the body and health you really want?

Most people know that eating plenty of fresh, whole foods is key to getting leaner and healthier. But they need help figuring out how to eat that way consistently, in the context of all the other priorities and demands in their lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post The cost of getting lean: Is it really worth the trade-off? [Video] appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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To level up as a fitness professional, you can’t limit yourself to easy clients and clients like you. You’ll eventually have to learn how to work with—and get results for—clients of all shapes, sizes, ages, backgrounds. Here’s how.

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Think about your client roster for a second.

Who are the people you’re working with?

Are they people who are, well, already kinda healthy?

Do they understand what you mean when you say “squat” or “core” or “glycemic index” or “healthy fat”?

Can they move without pain most of the time? Do they already eat sorta healthy? Do they think about healthy living and want to improve?

Are they mostly motivated? Usually coachable? Ready to change?

If so, that’s nice.

But what about everybody else?

There are a lot of other people out there who need your help.

They’re the people who might be assigned “complicated client” status in your gym.

Maybe they’re overweight or taking too many medications. Maybe they’re limping from a knee injury that never seems to improve. Maybe they can’t sleep well. Can’t calm down. Can’t focus.

Maybe they can’t stick to a diet or exercise plan for long. Can’t resist the call of cookies or cocktails late at night. Can’t fit into their pants anymore.

Maybe they’ve even given up on the idea of having a happy, healthy life.

Whether they know it or not, they’re part of the biggest health crisis of our time.

Lucky for them, you’re here.

You’re passionate about health, fitness, and nutrition.

You believe in exercising, eating well, and living a healthy life. And you want to help others do the same. You’re their hope and possibly their solution.

The question is: Do you have what it takes to help the people who need you the most?

The difficult clients? The ones who seem unmotivated? The ones whose lifestyles seem so far from yours that you’re not sure if they can ever be helped?

If you have a nagging suspicion that you aren’t able to help these people right now, you might be right. And that’s okay.

We’ve all been there.

That includes me.

Sometimes I’d look at a client and think, “I don’t know what to do.”

When I first started coaching I had a few clients who seemed very difficult to me.

I didn’t know how to motivate them. I didn’t know how to keep them on track. I wasn’t sure about what they needed. I worried that my coaching style wasn’t a good fit.

It can be really intimidating to sit down with a client and think… “I don’t know what to do here. I’m not sure this person can be helped. Or, at least, I’m not sure I can help them. Does this make me a bad coach?”

It can really affect your confidence.

I realize now that I wasn’t a bad coach. (And that these people weren’t bad clients).

I just didn’t have the skills or the strategies to work with them.

And why would I? I’d never been taught behavioral psychology or motivational interviewing. I’d never learned practice-based coaching or change talk.

Luckily, I’ve taken courses, done continuing education, and now have these skills.

Today, I take pride in being able to help anybody, as does the rest of the Precision Nutrition team.

Our clients come from all over the world, with different backgrounds, at different starting points in their coaching journey—from elite athletes to people who have never exercised a day in their lives.

How do we do help them?

Let’s explore!

By the end of this article I hope you’ll start to see how your most difficult clients can become your most rewarding.

After all, they’re real human beings with interesting diversity and unique struggles. And, if you’re good, you’ll see their challenges as fascinating puzzles to solve.

You can help anyone—with the right coaching skills, and the right mindset.

Let’s return to your client roster for a second.

Do you work with anyone who:

  • Absolutely, without a doubt, hates the gym with a fiery passion? (Or is terrified of it?)
  • Is so fatigued and/or depressed they find it hard to get out of bed in the morning?
  • Is struggling with a chronic illness?
  • Has experienced or is experiencing a gender transition?
  • Is part of a culture you’re not familiar with?
  • Is suffering from anxiety or another mental health issue?
  • Is more than 30 years older than you?
  • Is struggling to afford paying your services and may be making major sacrifices to do it?
  • Has experienced or is experiencing an eating disorder?
  • Doesn’t speak English well?

If your answer is no to some or all of these imaginary clients, that’s okay. Your clients are undoubtedly equally complex and deserving human beings.

The point, rather, is to ask yourself: Who else can I help?

And, even more to the point: What else do I need to learn so that I can help them?

Your coaching mindset

The best place to start is with your own mindset.

Gear yourself up for the fact that working with people is always an adventure.

You never know who’s going to show up in your practice, or what issues they might be coming to you with.

Let’s face it: people are complicated. Their situations and histories are complicated. Our bodies are complicated.

The best coaches don’t run from this fact.

They lean into it.

They love it.

They eat it for breakfast, chewing on it with a big fat coach grin.

This doesn’t mean you have to come up with an elaborate individualized solution for each client. You don’t have to solve every problem your clients have ever had.

In fact, you’ll generally get the best results by helping all your clients focus on and master crucial basics (such as mindful eating).

It just means that you have to: be ready for anything, willing to learn, and take 100% responsibility for not only your advice but for what your client does with that advice.

Some coaches think: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink”.

You think: “Of course you can’t make them drink! But you can make them very, very thirsty”.

Make your coaching accessible

Good coaching also involves effective communication and creating a welcoming environment.

With that in mind, think about the following:

  • Is your website (if you have one) easy to access, navigate, and read?
  • If you have handouts or other printed materials, how big is the font? Could someone with less-than-perfect eyesight read them comfortably? Do your resources include things like pictures along with text?
  • Is your verbal communication clear and understandable? How much ambient noise is in your coaching environment? In other words, if someone doesn’t hear very well, could they hear you properly?
  • How easy is it to get to your coaching space? Do people need to walk up stairs, for example? If your clientele is older and/or less mobile, think about how you could improve physical accessibility and safety.
  • Would someone with a heavier body, or a body that doesn’t move well, be able to get around your coaching space and feel comfortable?
  • Is your coaching space in a safe neighborhood? Will women feel comfortable walking into the gym at night?

Try to think about what you’re assuming about your clients’ mobility, physical capacities, and abilities? Do you need to revise your expectations and assumptions?

In the end, when you communicate well to a wide audience, develop a coaching environment that is easy to access, and make people feel comfortable, everyone wins, including you (i.e. you become an elite coach, you attract all types of clients, your clients refer all types of friends, and your business takes off).

Use your “whole-self” coaching skills

To be able to connect better with a more diverse group of people, give  “whole-self” coaching a try.

Here’s what “whole-self” coaching is all about.

“Whole-self” coaching is when you don’t try to be perfect, or something you’re not.

Come to work as a real person. Human. Complex. Don’t pretend to be the perfect fitness specimen who never misses a workout, eats an unhealthy meal or makes a mistake. After all, you’re just another person trying to figure things out.

“Whole-self” coaching is authentic.

You don’t have to remember half-truths or hide the potentially embarrassing things. Bring your real self to coaching. Of course, don’t air your “dirty laundry” or prattle on about mistakes. Just be authentic. Clients can smell BS a mile away.

“Whole-self” coaching focuses us.

Mind, body, and soul; all systems integrated. Our energy and resources are going in one direction. We aren’t distracted. We aren’t wasting effort worrying or trying to cover things up. We’re checked in and mindful, focusing our energy productively.

“Whole-self” coaching is our “best self”.

When we use our own authentic thoughts, feelings, and experiences, we fire on all cylinders. When we’re honest, integral, and real, our best self bubbles up. We show our inner greatness and we become superhero coaches.

In the end, our clients don’t just change because of our “expert” knowledge or status. They also change because human relationships are inherently regulating.

Connecting with another person—in a meaningful, welcoming, affirming way—taps into our deeper selves.

Connection soothes. Connection inspires. Connection heals.

Connection sorts us out.

Connection creates change.

And all you have to do in order to connect with clients—even those clients you don’t understand yet— is be fully human, fully present, and fully your whole self.

Use your creativity to connect

We all relate to each other in different ways, so when working with a diverse group of clients, you might have to get creative.

Use all your coaching powers, skills, experiences, talents, interests, and aptitudes, whenever and wherever you need them.

For example:

  • You might need to teach some material creatively — with drawings, flowcharts, videos, music, etc. (Puppet show? Haiku? A game of Twister? Possibilities are endless.)
  • You might need to use metaphors and analogies that speak to the client’s individual experience (e.g. “Anna, you’re an accountant, right? So think of this like the body’s balance sheet…”)
  • You might need to harness your talents or experiences to relate better to a client. (“Hey! Do you like cricket/sailing/stamp collecting? Me too! Here’s what I found: Eating better and training my grip strength really helped me focus on sticking all those little stamps on the page…”)

Let your own quirks, hobbies, talents, and super powers show even if they don’t seem to have a natural place in fitness. (Hint: they probably do have a place).

Also be willing to adapt to the learning styles, motivational messages, and thinking patterns that work well for each particular client.

Balance individualization with common themes

Most of the basic rules still apply. For example, good nutrition is still good nutrition.

But it’s not one-size-fits-all. Clients are different. Bodies are different. Life experiences and perspectives are different.

As a coach:

Be prepared to challenge yourself and work across boundaries.

To coach people like you. And not like you. And everything in between.

Be prepared to listen and learn.

To nourish and grow your mindset, build up your experiences, and cross-fertilize ideas, learning directly from your clients.

Be prepared to be curious.

If you’re not sure about how to help, just ask.

“How can I make this easier / more comfortable for you?”

“What do you need here?”

“Tell me about how well this is working for you, and how we can make it a good fit.”

Better to ask than to ignore, wonder, or sit awkwardly in an uncomfortable situation. Most people will be happy that you care enough to inquire.

Be prepared to acknowledge your own limitations.

Most people in the world are not you. That’s OK. (Besides, we know they broke the mold when they made you, rockstar.) Call it out. Work with it.

“I can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be ____. But I’m here to help. So let’s work together on this.”

“Please let me know when you might need accommodation for _____ or help with _____. I’ll try to anticipate it, but I won’t always know. Deal?”

“I used Google Translate to make a shopping list in your language. This might be a terrible translation, but I thought it might be easier for you. What do you think? Did I get it right? This is a great chance for me to learn a few new words!”

If you screw it up, no big deal. Learn and grow. Keep working your coaching game. Clients will love you for caring enough to try.

Embrace it: working with different kinds of people is awesome

Yes, it can be intimidating to tackle a new situation.

It’s also freaking awesome.

Because it means you’re gaining new skills. Acquiring new information and insight. Cross-fertilizing. Synthesizing. Creating. Adapting.

You’re helping people. All kinds of people. Your world is expanding. And they’re getting the assistance they need.

The more you work across boundaries, with diverse clients and situations, the better you’ll be as a coach.

Eventually, you’ll welcome the challenges, because they’ll only make you more resilient and robust.

You’ll be a better coach not in spite of—but because of—the challenges.

Want strategies to level up your coaching?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post 5 uncommon ways to level up as a fitness professional. Unique ways to help every client, even the ones other coaches avoid. 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 about 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—and drive 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 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.

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…..

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