Precision Nutrition Qualified!

After finishing the textbook yesterday and reviewing the Unit 1 video lectures (all the science ones), I bit the bullet last night and had a crack at the Precision Nutrition Exam. It took me a little longer than I had thought, about an hour and a half, but I came through with flying colours and I’m now a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach! Woo hoo!

I’m pretty excited, and I haven’t been this motivated or felt this passionate about my job in a long time. Even better, I think I’m less likely to lose my drive for it again anytime soon, thanks to the enthusiastic online PN community. Not only has this helped me tons with my ability to plan and coach the nutrition side of health, performance, and body composition (the Precision Nutrition lingo), but the whole course has really inspired me to continue to grow and refine myself as a coach.

If you are interested to learn more about the Precision Nutrition system, you can check them out at www.precisionnutrition.com. I’m also going to be looking for a few people on whom to trial my new skills, so if you are interested in making in a change to your health, performance, and body composition – please get in touch (I’m only going to do a few freebies and some of the spots are already taken, so be quick).

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Step by Step

Why the big picture isn’t always the important one…

Yesterday in a conversation with my mother, I was reminded how important it is to stay focused on what you need to be doing right now to keep yourself moving towards your goals. My mom has just started on the processes of getting herself back in shape, and has a million questions about everything. It’s great – I love the passion and excitement that come with making positive changes. But it’s important to remember to not get too wrapped up in the big picture.

Don’t get me wrong, the big picture is what it’s all about. Anyone who ever accomplished anything great has had long term goals, and they are exciting. But they aren’t so great if they are distracting you from doing the little things that will actually, one day, with a lot of hard work, get you there.

How to not get distracted by that awesome “someday” when you’re going to be a superstar hottie? Continue reading

Holiday Damage Control

You want to stay on track with your nutrition and still enjoy yourself this holiday season?

Sticking to your diet plan, especially when you’re dieting down, can be tough. Sticking to your diet plan when you’re out with friends, at a party, or at a work function, can be an even bigger challenge. Here’s the plan of attack for a few common situations:

Setting: The Office Christmas Party

1. Offer to bring a healthy dish to the party. Do this even if it’s catered. You’ll know exactly what’s in it and take the guess work out of snacking.

2. Have a healthy meal before you get to the party. If you’re full, you won’t fill up on the bad stuff.

3. Have a glass of water first. A drink or two during the night is ok, but start off on the right foot.

4. Use a dessert plate rather than a dinner plate.

5. Before eating, check out all your options. Almost every party has a veggie platter. Load up there first (but go easy on the dip), then go for the turkey/ham/lean meat option. Mini quiches, sausage rolls, cakes, biscuits, pies, cookies, etc- these are the last to go on the plate.

6. Eat slowly.

7. Enjoy yourself. Mingle, socialize and be merry.

Setting: The Dinner Out with Friends

1. Say no to the bread basket.

2. Ask your waiter how your dish will be cooked, and the ingredients if you are unsure.

3. Say yes to baked, broiled, or grilled. Lean meats are your best option. Trim away any visible fat from everything else.

4. Sauce on the side, if it’s your cheat day. Better yet, no sauce at all. The base ingredients for almost every sauce in existence: butter, oil, mayonnaise, and/or cream. These do not make for good calories.

5. Water, not wine. One glass is ok, but leave it at that. You’ll save money on the cab fare home too.

6. Salad instead of chips, fries, mashed potatoes and the like.

7. Eat slowly. You don’t have to finish it.

8. Split dessert with someone.

Setting: The Family Feast

1. Snack yourself full on veggie sticks before the main event.

2. Lend a helping hand before or after. It will keep you busy and not snacking, and you’ll be the golden child. Might even score an extra present under the tree.

3. Ask if some steamed veggies can be included on the menu. If you’re met with some resistance, offer to make them yourself (this goes along with tip #2).

4. Load up with lean meat and steamed veggies. A plate full of that first and you’ll want a lot less mashed potato, bread rolls, and desserts.

5. Have just a taste of dessert. Most of the time this is enough to satisfy any cravings you might have, after being stuffed full with everything else on your plate.

6. Minimize the alcohol (you might want to be able to drive yourself home whenever the family gets to be too much).

You’ve probably noticed that some of these tips are quite similar from situation to situation. As with so many other aspects of training and nutrition, it’s not rocket science, and hopefully the similarities will make your Damage Control plans that much easier to remember and execute.

Portion Sizes: A Quickie

Counting calories blows.

It’s tedious. You have to weigh and measure. You have to look stuff up. You have to total the calories in each food in your meal. God help you if you want to follow an old family recipe. Or even a new recipe. Since most of them don’t have nutrition facts included, you’re doing double duty weighing and totaling ingredients, and then weighing and measuring your serving of it. How do you get six even portions out of a pasta bake anyway?

Good news for us: Watching your portion sizes is much easier, and at least as effective (probably more effective- easier means you are more likely to do it, so it will actually work…  What a concept!)

I dig the Hand method of portion sizing:

One portion of protein = The size and thickness of your fist.

Example: steak, poultry, fish, etc.

One portion of carbohydrate = The size of your palm.

Example: pasta, rice, fruit, bread, etc.

One portion of fat = The size and thickness of your thumb-tip (the nail part).

Example: butter, oil.

Obviously this is easiest measured when the food is purely one type of macronutrient.  Obviously, there are a lot of foods out there that are a combination of protein and fat or carbohydrate and fat (peanut butter, anyone?) You can tweak the guidelines with this a little by measuring according to the predominant nutrient, and then adding a little. So you could have two “thumbs” of peanut butter. I like this rule.

This method is especially good because it’s got built-in individualizing. Smaller people need fewer calories. Smaller people also have smaller hands, so by using this method of portion sizing, they will get exactly what they need- no more and no less. The same goes for larger people, since their hands will be proportionate.

So easy.