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The 3 Biggest Squat Set-up Mistakes

When I was in Seattle a few weeks back, my entire presentation revolved around rebuilding the big lifts.

You see, I think too much of our lifting culture has been influenced by powerlifting.

And while we know powerlifters are strong, is that who we should look to for coaching advice when it comes to our general population or athletes?

I’m not so sure.

In this video, I’m going to challenge some of the big issues I see when it comes to coaching the squat, especially with regards to the set-up.

After all, when  it comes to squatting, many people fail to recognize just how important the set-up is.

I don’t care how good of a coach or lifter you are, if your set-up is jacked up, there’s no way you’re magically going to “fix” the lift!

In this short video, I detail three of the biggest mistakes I see when people are setting up to squat. Check it out now and make sure that you (or your clients/athletes) aren’t making them!

Now that you’ve watched the video (and seen the mistakes for yourself), here’s a quick refresher:

  1. Don’t place the feet too wide. Unless you’re a powerlifter looking to break World Records, there’s no need to place the feet excessively wide. Not only does it make the lift incredibly awkward, but there’s not much carryover to everyday life or sporting activities when you squat this wide, either.
  2. Don’t place the feet too narrow. I’m not sure why this is a thing, but most of us aren’t built to squat under load with our feet super narrow and toes pointed straight-forward. Again, find a way to squat that allows the body to use its natural mobility and athleticism. This generally occurs with the feet shoulder-width apart and toes turned out 15-20 degrees.
  3. Don’t arch the back excessively. Again, using a more aggressive arch through the lower back is fine if your number one goal is to move heavy weights, or to break world records. However, if your goal is to get strong and stay relatively healthy doing it, focus instead on stacking the system and using muscles and pressure to create stability, versus bony compression.

While these mistakes may seem simple, I think you’d be shocked at how many people make them early-on in their training.

And I can guarantee if you address these issues early-on in their training sessions, your clients and athletes are going to love squatting – or at the very least, they’re going to love the results!

All the best,

The post The 3 Biggest Squat Set-up Mistakes appeared first on Robertson Training Systems.

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Ask Greg: Rocking to Heels in Pull and Staying Flat-Footed

Ashley Asks: I have been weightlifting for 5 years and cannot seem to break the habit of rocking back on my heels between the first and second pull, especially on the clean. I see it every lift I record: my toes come completely off the ground. This subsequently results in me having to bring my heels off the floor in order to have contact with the bar.... instead of the desired chain of reaction: heels come off the floor BECAUSE of the bar contact. (I hope this makes sense...) I’ve
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How to build a successful and rewarding career in fitness. A step-by-step guide for personal trainers & coaches. - Tue, 09/17/2019 - 23:01

Every year, thousands of people consider starting a career in fitness and health. But most have no idea how to make their dream a reality. This article—written for both new and experienced fitness professionals—outlines a new curriculum for building a successful career. 


Change your body, change your… career?

Becoming passionate about health and fitness put the rest of my life into perspective.

I caught the fitness bug early. I started working out and reading articles about nutrition and fitness when I was in high school. By the time I was 21, I’d put on 30 pounds of muscle, felt awesome, and vanquished my skinny guy genetics.

Like many people who start living the “healthy lifestyle”, I quickly became the go-to fitness and nutrition expert for my friends and family, a position and responsibility I enjoyed and cherished.

My new-found love for exercising and eating healthy—coupled with the results I saw in the mirror and my ability to help others get in shape—made me feel like a brand new person.

Well, almost.

Because even though I looked and felt different, the rest of my life seemed tethered to the “old me”. I’d transformed my mind and body… but I was still doing the same old stuff.

Working the same unsatisfying job. Going through the motions at my local community college. Following the same routines.

Taking control of my own health and fitness had shown me how much potential I had to change things in my life. To become happier. To find meaning and purpose. To make a difference.

So why the hell was I doing all the boring stuff I was “supposed” to do when I could do something that actually mattered?

A crazy idea popped into my head: What if I became a personal trainer and tried helping others transform their bodies? What if that was my job?

As I thought about the possibilities, I got excited. And then reality slapped me in the face. The way I saw it, I had one huge problem:

I had no formal education, no certification, and worse… absolutely no idea where to start.

Dream job

How do you become successful in the fitness industry?

I wasn’t alone. And I’m still not.

There are thousands of people who are passionate about health and fitness and considering a career change. But like me back then, they don’t know where to start.

Should they go back to school for a new degree? Get certified as a personal trainer? Or maybe something else entirely?

I remember thinking through the positives and negatives of each before deciding on a course of action.

Option 1: Go back to school.


  • Earn a degree.
  • Learn all about biochemistry, anatomy, and exercise physiology.


  • Takes at least two years to finish (and more likely, four to six years).
  • Costs tens of thousands of dollars and could leave me deep in debt.
  • Doesn’t prepare me for the day-to-day work of training real people (i.e. doesn’t show me how to write training programs or nutritional plans people will actually follow).
  • Delivers few (if any) classes or resources on change psychology or business development.
Option 2: Get certified as a personal trainer.


  • Faster than going back to school (Usually self-study, so I could go at my own pace.)
  • Costs way less money.
  • Learn enough anatomy and physiology to feel semi-competent.
  • The certificate I earned after taking the test would make me seem more credible to potential clients.


  • Doesn’t seem as “credible” as a degree.
  • I don’t know which certification is “good” and which certification is “bad”.
  • Still doesn’t teach me much about change psychology or business development.

So what did I do?

I got a crappy personal training certification, sweet-talked my way into a job as a “fitness assistant” at a local gym, and started training clients. (I eventually earned a better certification.)

At times, I felt like I was on top of the world. I had gamed the system! Here I was working with people, building my business, reading nutrition and exercise textbooks, and attending seminars. I felt like I had a big head-start.

But at other times, I felt like a fraud. I worried that everyone would look at my lack of formal education and know I was unfit to work with people, even if I was a certified trainer.

I worried that because I didn’t follow any sort of “path”, my new career in fitness was a joke. It was debilitating and even a little depressing.

But as I would later learn, my lack of a formal fitness and nutrition education put me in good company.

Be a world-class strength coach in 3 easy steps

When people ask renowned strength coach Dan John what they should do to become a successful trainer or coach, here’s what he tells them:

Step 1: Get a degree in English, study Theology, score a job as a high school teacher.

Step 2: Spend evenings teaching an online religious studies course.

Step 3: Volunteer as a strength coach with your high school track team.

Voilá, just 25 years later, you’ll be a household name in strength and conditioning.

While Dan laughs when he says this, that’s exactly what he did. And his hint of sarcasm isn’t missed, largely because Dan knows something most people don’t:

Unlike in certain fields like law and medicine, there are no clear, predetermined paths in fitness.

In other words, there is no single—or obvious—path to becoming a successful health and fitness coach.

When I realized that, I felt a huge burden lift off me. I wasn’t a fraud. I was just a guy who wanted to help people get in good shape. And, like Dan, I had simply taken an “unconventional” path to get there.

What does that mean for you?

It means that you can find the path that suits you. The path that matches your experience, personality, character, and principles.

You can create your own unique path to the dream job you want.

But how?

Start here: The new fitness industry curriculum

Of course, even though there’s no single template, you can still follow and adapt some of the patterns of the top coaches. Here’s how.

1. Start coaching immediately.

You don’t have to do anything fancy from the start. You don’t need to get a degree, rent space in a gym, or start your own studio.

In other words, you don’t need permission from anyone to get started.

All you have to do is help someone get in shape and improve their life, one step at a time.

It doesn’t matter if that someone is a friend, family member, or a paying client. The only way to see if you actually enjoy working with people is to start working with people.

And if you’re not feeling confident enough to coach on your own, ask if you can “shadow” a personal trainer or another experienced coach for a day.

Remember: You don’t have to know everything about exercise and nutrition to help someone get in shape and improve their life. All you need is to know a little bit more about health and fitness than the person you’re trying to help.

Becoming great at something (like coaching) is always about trial and error.

No matter how well prepared you think you are, no matter how many tests you pass, no matter how many internships you do, you will eventually have to try stuff and you will still have to make mistakes. On your own.

So start doing—and learning—now.

2. Get certified.

While you’re coaching, start earning your credentials.

Yes, we all know that a lot of certifications in the fitness industry are considered a joke. Many require a single weekend of “effort” (and I put that in quotations deliberately).

Most barely scratch the surface of what a trainer really needs to know to work effectively with a client.

But if you want to be viewed as a professional—and if you want insurance—you’ll need the paperwork. So get some kind of certification anyway.

Start with a basic certification like one of the following:

Once you’ve cleared the initial hurdle and have rounded out your skillset (see below), you can consider more advanced certifications and mentorships.

3. Become a “complete” fitness professional.

Once you get your basic personal training certification, it’s time to take it a step further and expand your education. We know that exercise alone won’t get your clients the kind of results they’re hiring you for.

And your clients will need more help than just the two or three sessions a week they have with you.

So what should you do?

Nutrition education

First, learn more about nutrition, so you can feel more confident discussing food and diet with your clients.

Nutrition is where people 1) need the most help and 2) will see the greatest results.

In fact, including nutrition coaching with your training advice can increase your effectiveness as a trainer by at least five times.

In other words:

  • That could be 25 pounds lost, instead of 5.
  • That could be 20 points knocked off the blood pressure score, instead of 4.
  • That could be 5 inches off someone’s waist, not 1.

That could be at least five times more client commitment, confidence, motivation, retention, and satisfaction… with five times less effort from you.

Since a high-quality, real-world nutrition certification didn’t exist a few years ago, we set out to create one: The Precision Nutrition Certification. It’s quickly become the industry’s most respected nutrition certification, a fact we’re very proud of.

And if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 program, we’ve got something for you too. Check out this Level 2 page where you can learn more about the Master Class.

Also, if you want more research on the different nutrition education options out there, check out this site. It compares and contrasts the best schools and online education platforms. That way you can make an educated decision on what’s best for you.

Movement education

After establishing your nutrition system, I recommend one more thing to round out your basic skill set: improving your ability to assess movement.

Most exercise programming assumes that clients move well to begin with. And that might be true, if you were training child circus performers, instead of office workers or athletes and manual laborers with years of repetitive stresses and strains.

As physical therapist Gray Cook says, you shouldn’t load dysfunctional movement patterns. Adding weight to a structure that can’t support it isn’t going to make that structure any better.

Your exercise programming can actually hurt your clients if you don’t first learn how to help them fix their dysfunctional movement patterns.

So, consider checking out one of the following education tracks for better understanding and programming movement.

4. Learn how to coach real people.

After you’ve spent some time learning about movement, nutrition, and exercise programing it’s time to learn how to coach your clients. 

That means understanding the deeper psychology at play and saying the right things in the right ways at the right times. It means really connecting with your clients and helping them through their body  transformations one step at a time.

You can have someone do all the squats and eat all the broccoli you want, but until you learn “change psychology” and the art of coaching, you’ll never be able to actually help your clients change their habits.

Where should you start?

Here are two must-read resources to check out:

Note: In the second article we share six books that will teach you the basics of change psychology. Use it as a jumping off point for digging deeper into this area.

And if you’ve done all that and you’re ready to level up, you might consider these courses:

5. Get some business training.

You’ve gotta keep the lights on, your financials in order, and clients coming in the door. But how?

If you’re considering opening your own personal training studio or gym—or if you work at a bigger gym and want to learn how to get more clients—you’ll need to get some business training.

I’m not talking about a MBA here. I’m talking about fitness-specific training taught by people who’ve actually had success in the field.

Here’s are some great options:

(And here’s a great article outlining the 5 key stages of a successful fitness business).

The better you get at marketing and running your business, the more people you can help, and the more money you can make.

6. A career of learning and development.

Once you’ve built a strong foundation of training, nutrition, movement, change, and business knowledge, it’s time to commit to a lifetime of learning and personal development.

Feel free to pick the books, courses, internships, and certifications that most resonate with you. Or will most help your clients.

Now is the time to geek out about advanced programming for different populations, nutrient timing, soft-tissue therapy, hormonal issues, advanced exercise and diet techniques, and more.

If you’re interested in finally leveling up that basic training certification from Step 2 above, consider:

And if you’re ready for internships and mentorships, these come highly recommended:

If you’re interested in different areas of nutrition:

If you’re interested in more athletic populations:

If you’re interested in high intensity and group training:

If you’re interested in special populations:

Personal trainer

Remember: There is no one “right” way to make it in the fitness industry

Fitness and nutrition is still a young industry. There is no one “right” path to success. In fact, there may never be.

And I kinda like it that way. It means that possibilities are infinite. 

The best trainers can come from anywhere: four-year colleges. Doctoral programs. Theology school. College drop-outs. Someone who found a gym flyer in the parking lot.

It doesn’t matter.

If you’ve got the energy, the drive, and the interest to do this work, you can eventually do it… no matter what you’re doing as a career now.

What to do

While there isn’t one “right” path, there are six things you can do to set yourself apart from 99% of other trainers out there:

  1. Start coaching now—even if it’s just family or friends.
  2. Get certified—even if it’s a basic entry-level certification.
  3. Become a “complete” fitness professional—someone who understands exercise, but also nutrition and quality movement.
  4. Learn how to coach real people—by focusing on change psychology and connections.
  5. Get business training—so you can take your fitness “pipe dream” and turn it into something meaningful and profitable.
  6. Commit to a career of learning and development—geek out on advanced programs and build your skills and specialties.
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 adopt simple but effective habits they can sustain—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 44% 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 44% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

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

The post How to build a successful and rewarding career in fitness. A step-by-step guide for personal trainers & coaches. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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WATCH: Back Training with Justin Harris - Tue, 09/17/2019 - 11:56
“Dumbbell rows are bodybuilding burpees.” For more wisdom and the full post-Table Talk Podcast workout with Justin Harris, read on. This back workout is complete with pull-overs, pull-downs, deadlifts, and multiple row variations (one by which Justin deems as the best lat exercise there is).
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Romanian Deadlifts Revisited: How to Appropriately Apply The Hinge - Tue, 09/17/2019 - 11:19
There’s an assumption (known or unknown) that everyone has the proficiency to perform what we see “if we just lower the weight.” That’s quite the caveat with a lot of assumption, especially when it comes to movements like the Romanian Deadlift.
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JuggLife Classic | Differences in Male & Female Training - Tue, 09/17/2019 - 08:43

In this throwback to episode #75, Max and Chad discuss the differences in training for Male and Female athletes and their implications on program design.

In this throwback to episode #75, Max and Chad discuss the differences in training for Male and Female athletes and their implications on program design.

The post JuggLife Classic | Differences in Male & Female Training appeared first on Juggernaut Training Systems.

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Knowledge is Power—Velocity-Based Training - Tue, 09/17/2019 - 08:22

There are many ways to assess the quality of your kettlebell training. One is being mindful of how your training feels. Another, admittedly more scientific way, is to keep tabs on how fast your body is moving to determine how fast and hard you’re swinging, cleaning, snatching, or pressing the bell. In other words, how […]

The post Knowledge is Power—Velocity-Based Training appeared first on StrongFirst.

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6 Week MASS Building Routine: Your Quest for a Bigger, Stronger Physique Begins Here - Tue, 09/17/2019 - 03:51

I’m traveling back to Boston from London today. I’ve been away for two weeks presenting at three different workshops. I’ve had a lovely stay, but am looking forward to heading home and my wife handing Julian over to me as soon as I walk through the door.

Thanks to Boston based personal trainer, George Kalantzis, for contributing today’s guest post.

Copyright: shevtsovy / 123RF Stock Photo

6 Week MASS Building Routine: Start Here

Labor day has come and gone, the days are shorter, and the nights are colder.

That means it’s bulking season.

But you don’t come to Tony’s website for some cookie-cutter bullshit program. Over the next six weeks, you will craft a new physique using intense workouts, discipline, and commitment to add mass.


Setting the Expectations For A Clean Bulk

Nothing gets me more fired up than people who are not willing to put in the work to get desired results.

When I competed in natural bodybuilding last year, I heard questions like “how do you gain muscle and shred down,” how can I look bigger without gaining fat?” What supplements did you take?

The list goes on.

I hate to burst your bubble, but the universe does not bend at the whims of your desire. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

So how do you bulk without gaining excessive weight?

To achieve a clean bulk, you must learn how to gain 2-5 pounds per month with half of that weight being muscle, and half of that weight being fat. This will keep your composition in an ideal state for optimal performance.

So just eat more food, right?

Not quite, too much junk food during a bulk is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Nutrition does matter, and most people will either eat a surplus of shitty food or not eat enough. That is one of the toughest things about adding solid mass.

You can expect to gain some body fat during a bulk, but not an excessive amount.

We are aiming to build a stronger engine so that you can increase size, which means you’ll need to gain healthy amounts of body fat.

Don’t get discouraged if you see others gain size quickly or achieve different results, gaining mass is about putting in the work, and for some, adding quality size can take time.

Your Blueprint For Success

Life is motion.

The world continues to rotate on the axis, and every day is an opportunity to grow. Your body is the secret to many things. Yet more often, many of us cheat our way through training, going through motions and we never achieve the results we look for.

Today is the day we put an end to all of that.

Very specifically, this template is designed to form the basis of your training to put on size using bodybuilding methods. Because this is a hypertrophy program, it will help with putting on size, but if you are a powerlifter or strong man, this might not be the best program for you.

An additional benefit of this program is that it will help raise your work capacity and thus prepare you even better for the strength phase training you’ll do after.

What’s more, this program will help spare muscle loss when you decide to cut back down.

This will be your blueprint for a six-week mass building phase.

You’ll notice it is broken down into two three-week phases, each phase using a combination of compound exercises and machines to maximize your results. It is these movements where we will construct a blueprint for adding some serious size.

Phase I

Our first phase consists of flooding the muscles by using compound exercises performed in the optimal range to transform your energy into muscle mass.

During the first three weeks, you’ll be training five days a week in a split that is three days of training, with two days off.

You’ll repeat 3/2 for three weeks in the following format: legs, push, pull.

The great thing about a 3/2 cycle is you can alternate it according to your life.

As long as you train three out of every five days, you’ll provide enough stimulus for growth.

At first, you’ll notice that the program does not look lie much, but to prevent overtraining and generate the highest anabolic response, you’ll stick to three working sets, not including your warmup sets.

Phase II

Now that your muscles are primed for growth, this phase makes insane changes to your physique.

You’ll go from training five days to six days, and you’ll do different exercises and reps ranges. As with the first phase, adjust the days according to your lifestyle, but keep the days in order and make sure to train all six days.


It is human nature to fear the unknown, but it would be inhuman to not yearn for something greater. If you want to experience changes in your physique, you must pushup yourself past your comfort zone. This six-week bulk will give you the tools you need to pack on some serious size.

About the Author

George Kalantzis began his career as decorated Marine with over ten years of faithful service and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s worked with everyone from professional athletes, celebrities, busy executives, and alongside some of the top strength coaches in the world.

Today he spends most of his time coaching at Equinox in Boston, and outside of work with his gorgeous little daughter. Please feel free to say hi over on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as he loves meeting and connecting with new people.

The post 6 Week MASS Building Routine: Your Quest for a Bigger, Stronger Physique Begins Here appeared first on Tony Gentilcore.

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Hip Stretches for Lower Back Pain – Jordan Tingman - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 20:45

It is very common for athletes to experience lower back pain, especially when they begin a new training program or train harder than they have in the past.  As muscles get sore and/or stiff from training, they will “hold onto” certain positions as a way to maintain different positions.  Often, tightness in the internal hip/back muscles throws postural alignment off, which can lead to even more pain.  This pain can be felt in various parts of the spine, but in this article, I will mostly focus on stretching muscle groups in the hips and lower back.

When stretching tight areas, it is not necessary to stretch to the point of great pain.  Of course, many people feel a little uncomfortable while stretching, especially when they are tight, but it shouldn’t be extremely painful.  There is absolutely no evidence to show that stretching “harder” will elicit better results.  In many cases, stretching too hard can cause muscles to contract as a protective mechanism and may even lead to acute injuries.

Slowly ease into a stretch, and gradually increase the range of motion.  There is evidence that suggests stretches of up to one minute will increase flexibility faster than very short times.  It is also recommended to stretch often in addition to working through full range of motion movements.  Correcting imbalances and/or alignment issues is also crucial to the process of alleviating tight muscles so be sure to assess and address these issues if tightness persists.

This diagram shows many of the internal muscles around the hip and lower back than often get tight or sore and contribute to lower back pain:

Lower back pain in athletes is often an indication that something in the core isn’t functioning properly.  A variety of reasons that lower back pain may occur include:

  • Imbalance of the hips
  • Tightness of the structure around the hips
  • Weakness of the core muscles- putting pressure on joints to attempt to stabilize external load
  • Soreness of the lower back musculature when exposed to lower body pulling exercises

Of course, there is always the possibility of disk derangement, fracture/spondy, or other serious issues.  If the injury is extremely painful, do not allow the client/athlete to stretch too aggressively or continue normal training, especially if the area is still very inflamed. Make sure to consult with a doctor or physical therapist before getting cleared to train them again.

It is recommended to train “around” lower back injuries with modifications rather than train “through” them without altering your program.  An example would be replacing squatting movements (or any movement where weight is placed on the back) with exercises like lunges, leg press, or resistance-band work.

If the pain is less acute and more of an “achy” feeling, try working on these stretches to aid in releasing the hip structure around the lower back.

These exercises can be paired with movements like squats, deadlifts, or Olympic lifts to use rest time between sets more productively.  This rest time can be very useful in mobilizing various aspects of the lower body in an effort to get more out of the training program.  They can be used as a part of a comprehensive warm-up or cool down, and they can even be given as “homework” for specific athletes who need additional work.

In addition to these stretches, make sure you are strengthening the core alongside them. Until the core structure around the back is strong enough, loading the spine may continue to cause discomfort.

These mobility exercises should help keep athletes functioning properly and feel less stiffness or pain in their hips and lower back.  Once you teach them and place them into a routine, your athletes will thank you for helping them stay healthy.

Jordan Tingman – CSCS*, USAW L1, ACE CPT, CFL1 is a graduate of Washington State University with a B.S. in Sports Science with a Minor in Strength and Conditioning. She completed internships with the strength & conditioning programs at both Washington State University and Ohio State University, and is currently a Graduate Assistant S & C Coach at Eastern Washington University.


The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes.  The course includes several hours of video instruction (including the Olympic lifts) and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

The post Hip Stretches for Lower Back Pain – Jordan Tingman appeared first on IYCA - The International Youth Conditioning Association.

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How to Get Through a Near Career-Ending Injury - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:00
It's said a person is only one injury away from ending your sports career. When dealing with that kind of injury, we often neglect how it affects our minds, which are almost just as easy to break as our bodies.
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Make Your Time More Valuable - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 08:50
Your key asset, the one thing that you can leverage to build a successful company and the real measuring stick isn’t money; it’s time. You open a business to earn a higher return on your time, not to buy yourself a job.
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Medial Elbow Pain From Weightlifting?

If you have medial elbow pain, give this exercise a shot 3 days a week for 3 sets of 10-12 reps at the end of your workout. Use both hands to pull down, then one hand to return to the top with a 5-second eccentric. Be sure to curl your wrist in and keep the elbow in along your midline. If you don’t have access to a lat pulldown machine and rope handle, just thread a towel through a band to create a similarly thick vertical grip. You’ll probably feel the painful area as you p
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Level 1: The surprising truth about sugar. Here’s everything you need to know about what it does to your body. - Sun, 09/15/2019 - 23:01

Worried you’re eating too much sugar? Wondering how much is safe to eat? Or whether it’s bad for you… no matter what? It’s time we took a clear-headed look at this topic. It’s time you heard the truth about sugar.


Is sugar “good”?

Is sugar “bad”?

It’s hard to know for sure these days.

Which is interesting because…

Sugar is a fundamental molecule in biology.

Human bodies need sugar.

Sugar makes up the backbone of our DNA. Helps power our cells. Helps store energy for later. Plants convert sunlight into sugar. We convert sugar into fuel.

Molecules like glucose and fructose (just two of the many types of sugar) are so basic to our biological needs, even bacteria love them.

Indeed, sugar’s the breakfast of champions, chemically speaking.

Yet, somewhere along the way, sugar became the bad guy.

Why did we start hating on sugar?

When did we start wanting to purge it from our bodies?

Why do some of us fear it so much?

At this point… do we just need a little relationship counseling?

Or is it a toxic relationship?

Is it time to part ways?

The truth is, this is a difficult conversation to have because…

Almost all of us are emotionally invested in our position on sugar.

Talking about it brings up a lot of controversy and intense debate, even among scientists who are supposed to be “objective”.

So why not step back and take a fresh look?

In this article, we’ll explore five key questions about sugar:
  • Does sugar cause obesity?
  • Does sugar cause us to gain weight / fat?
  • Does sugar cause diabetes?
  • Does sugar cause cardiovascular disease?
  • How much sugar is OK to eat?
Yes, we’re biased too.

At Precision Nutrition, we generally consider ourselves ‘nutritional agnostics’. (Case in point: our view on the absolute best diet.)

We help people become their healthiest, fittest, strongest selves—in a way that works for their unique lives and bodies.

In our work with over 100,000 clients clients, we’ve learned a few things…

… that one size doesn’t fit all,

… that an all-or-nothing approach doesn’t work for most people,

… that fitness and health habits should be doable on your worst day, not just your best.

So here’s our bias in this article.

We follow the complexities of nutrition evidence as best we can, always interpreting them through the lens of:

  • How does practice X or Y work for us, for the clients we coach, and for the fitness professionals we certify?
  • Does said practice help us make our food choices wiser, saner, and simpler?
  • Does it address individual differences between people?
  • (And if not, how can we help adapt each person’s diet to match their unique needs?)

You can ask yourself these same questions as you go through the article. And, of course, feel free to come to your own conclusions.

But first, let’s get to know our sugars.

What is sugar?

Most of us think of “sugar” as the white stuff we put in coffee, or maybe what makes up 90% of those colored marshmallow cereals.

However, “sugar” is actually a group of molecules that share a similar structure. So we might actually call them “sugars”, plural.

This group includes lots of members such as:

  • glucose
  • fructose
  • sucrose, aka table sugar (which is glucose + fructose)
  • maltose (which is glucose + glucose)
  • galactose
  • lactose (galactose + glucose, found in dairy)

And so on.

Sugars naturally occur in biology and in most foods (even if just in trace amounts). For example, here’s what the breakdown of sugars looks like in a banana:

This is what the breakdown of sugars looks like in a banana.

There is, of course, much more sugar in processed and refined foods than in less-processed and unrefined foods.

(We’ll come back to this important point in a moment.)

Sugars live under the larger umbrella of “carbohydrates”.

Along with the sweet stuff, this macronutrient group also includes:

  • starches (like in potatoes or rice),
  • fiber (like the husks of whole grains), and
  • structural building blocks like chitin (which makes up the shells of crustaceans) or cellulose (which makes up things like the trunks of trees).

The more complex the molecule, the slower it digests.

  • Sugars, which are simpler, digest more quickly.
  • Starches and fiber, which are bigger, more complicated molecules, digest more slowly, if at all. (This is why eating more fiber can help us feel fuller, longer.)

Most carbohydrates are actually broken down into simpler sugars once they’re digested.

Other carbohydrates (such as insoluble fiber) don’t really get broken down nor absorbed fully, although our intestinal bacteria often love munching on them.

So: Sugars are a type of carbohydrate, but not all carbohydrates are sugars. And some carbohydrates break down quickly/easily into sugars. Others don’t.

This point is important to understand, because it tells us that not all carbohydrates do exactly the same things in our bodies.

Evolution has helpfully given us the ability to “taste” sugar.

Sugar-type molecules react with receptors on our tongue, which then tell our brain “OM NOM NOM DELICIOUS!”

Sugar tastes good to us, because in nature, sweet foods like fruits are often full of good stuff like vitamins, minerals, and energy.

But we differ in our physiology and behavior.

In all things, humans are diverse and variable.

Some of us like and seek out sugar more than others. This may be genetic. Or we may have learned it as we grew up. Or both.

For example, some of us like sugar in small doses; we can only eat a little before pushing the dessert plate away. While others like it a lot; the more we eat the more we want. The idea of “too much sugar” doesn’t compute.

Likewise, some of our bodies seem better suited to sugar than others.

For example, some of us can eat sugar all day long and feel fine. While others can only tolerate a little bit before our pancreas (which secretes insulin, a hormone that helps sugar get into the cells) tells us to knock it off.

In general, most of us like at least some sweetness.

When we’re young, we tend to like sweetness more and avoid bitter foods more. Yet each person’s response to sugar and sweet taste is unique.

With that said, let’s get back to the questions at hand. Starting with…

Question #1:
Does sugar cause obesity?

The term “obese” (or “overweight”) is, like sugar, a contentious thing. In this article we’ll use it just for the purpose of discussion, so bear with us.

The World Health Organization defines “obese” as having a Body Mass Index higher than 30. Of course, some fit athletes (like heavyweight boxers or rugby players) might have a higher BMI but still have a low body fat percentage.

However, for most folks, having a BMI higher than 30 signifies that they have a higher-than-average level of body fat. 

(Indeed, some studies that correlate BMI with body fat testing suggest that BMI may even under-estimate how much body fat a person has.)

When it comes to obesity, there have always been people who are heavier, and/or who have more body fat, than most other folks like them.

However, over the last several decades, “average people” in industrialized countries have gotten heavier, bigger, and gained more body fat fairly rapidly.

It’s now statistically “normal”.

Although this shift is happening worldwide, and there are differences by ethnic group and socioeconomic class, it’s particularly noticeable as a general trend in the United States.

Obesity rates in the United States

Along with body weights, we can look at changes in body fat percentage and overall fitness levels. Here, we also see that over time, body fat percentage has gone up, and fitness levels have gone down.

Currently in the United States, the average body fat percentage for men is around 28%, and the average for women is around 40%.

For comparison:

  • In general, 11-22% for men, and between 22-33% body fat for women, is considered a “healthy” range.
  • Lower than that is still “healthy” (to a point), but generally considered “athletic” or “lean”.

The percentage of body fats in U.S. adults

Does increased sugar consumption explain body weight trends?

Could sugar be responsible for changing body weights and body compositions in industrialized countries?

By reviewing data from the USDA Economic Research Service, National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), as well as Food Frequency Questionnaires from the long-running Framingham Heart Study, we can track food intake from multiple angles. These varying streams of data all show fairly consistent trends.

They tell us that, since 1980, Americans:

  • Continued to eat the same total amount of fat.
    (Though they generally ate less naturally-occurring fats, like in whole fat dairy, and ate more added fats, like oils.)
  • Ate more carbohydrates.
    (Especially refined ones that included added sugars.)

So, as a percent of total calories consumed, fat dropped. But we didn’t end up eating less fat. We just added more sugar and other carbs on top of the fat we were already eating.

This added up to approximately 200-400 extra calories per day.

In terms of calories, that’s like eating an extra McDonald’s hamburger or a double cheeseburger, on top of your existing meals, every day.

Whether those calories came from sugar is probably irrelevant.

This increased energy intake alone, combined with decreasing rates of daily physical activity, is probably enough to explain people getting heavier.

Yes, but how might sugar play a role?

We can’t say that sugar specifically was the culprit behind the obesity surge for everyone. (Remember, humans vary.)

But our increased sugar consumption does seem to correlate with continued obesity levels… up until recently.

For about four hundred years, human beings have been enjoying more and more sugar.

Once Europeans discovered tropical trading routes and set up cheap slave labor economies to raise sugar cane, sugar became more and more available to the average person.

Indeed, sugar quickly became the food of the poor.

(It was said that the entire working class of the British Isles lived on jam and sugared tea during the Industrial Revolution.)

As a prime colonial power, the British once claimed the title of biggest sugar consumers. Per year, the average Brit consumed:

  • 4 lbs (1.8 kg) in 1704.
  • 18 lbs (8.2 kg) in 1800.
  • 90 lbs (40.8 kg) in 1901.

However, once they got rolling as a country, Americans weren’t far behind. Per year, the average American consumed:

  • 6 lbs (2.7 kg) of sugar in 1822.
  • 40 lbs (18.1 kg) in 1900.
  • 90 lbs (40.8 kg) by the 1920s.
  • There was a subsequent drop due to the Great Depression & World War II.
  • 90 lbs per person again by the 1980s.

Then they really took off: By 1999, the US reached peak sugar consumption of nearly 108 lbs (49 kg) of sugar per person per year.

Between 1980-1999 Americans ate more sugar. And obesity rates got higher.

But then something changed: Our sugar consumption actually started to decrease.

Interestingly, since 1999 through 2013 (most recent data available) intake of added sugar has actually declined by 18% (or as much as 22%, depending on the data).

This drop has brought Americans’ current added sugar intake back down to 1987 levels.

And during this time, total carbohydrate intake has dropped as well. (Makes sense, as this was the dawn of the low-carb phenomenon.)

Nevertheless, though sugar and carb intake have declined over those 14 years, adult obesity has continued to climb—from 31% of the American population in 1999 to 38% as of 2013.

(Diabetes diagnoses have continued to climb as well, which we’ll address in a moment.)

US Sugar Intake vs Obesity Prevalence - 1980-2013

So, despite lowering sugar intake by nearly 20% over a 14 year period, obesity (and diabetes) rates have continued to climb.

Along with sex, ethnic, and socioeconomic differences in obesity rates, this suggests that changing body sizes and compositions is probably a complex, multi-factored phenomenon.

Bottom line here: No single thing—including sugar—causes obesity.

Many factors work together to contribute to a consistent energy (calorie) surplus, which ultimately leads to fat gain. One of those things is often sugar, but not always, and not alone.

Question #2:
Does sugar cause us to gain weight / fat?

So, we can’t unequivocally blame sugar for increased obesity rates.

But many of us are still wondering whether sugar is a gateway to fat gain.

It seems logical. Carb and sugar consumption are the main drivers of insulin release. Insulin’s job is to help store nutrients, including fat.

Therefore, it seems obvious. Carbs and sugar cause fat gain, right?

Once again, our scientist friends reveal that it’s a bit more complicated than that. Let’s take a look at a couple of studies that explore this question.

Study 1: How do carbs, sugar, and/or insulin release affect body fat?

In 2015, a small pilot study was conducted by Dr. Kevin Hall to investigate the carb/sugar/insulin model of obesity.

What happens if we keep calories and protein the same, but play with dietary sugar and fat levels?

Here’s how the study worked.

  • 19 participants had to live in a metabolic ward, where the researchers controlled virtually everything about how they lived, what they ate, etc.
  • The participants tried both lower carbohydrate (LC) and lower fat (LF) diets.
  • They followed each diet for two weeks, separated by a 2-4 week period during which they returned to normal eating.
  • All participants spent the first five days of either the low-carb or low-fat diets following a baseline plan of 50% carbs, 35% fat, and 15% protein. This was done so that all participants started on an even playing field with an intake that virtually matches what the average American eats.
  • Each participant had to exercise on a treadmill for one hour every day for the full two weeks, to make sure physical activity levels were consistent and equal.
  • After the first five days, both groups had their calories reduced by 30% from the baseline diet (1918 calories vs 2740 calories). They then ate the lower calorie diet for six days.
  • With both diets, energy intake (i.e. calories) and protein were kept the same. Only carbs and fat went up or down.

Lower carbohydrate:

  • 101 g protein (21% of cals).
  • 108 g fat (50% of cals).
  • 140 g carbohydrate (29% of cals).

Lower fat:

  • 105 g protein (21% of calories).
  • 17 g of fat (8% of calories).
  • 352 g carbohydrate (71% of calories).

Lower carbohydrate and lower fat diets - comparison

Let’s take a closer look at how much the study participants actually ate.

On the lower carbohydrate diet:

  • Of their carbohydrates, 37 g was sugar. This means that 8% of all calories were coming from sugar.
  • This is much less than the average American eats.

On the lower fat diet:

  • Of their carbohydrates, 170 g was sugar. This means that 35% of all their calories were coming from sugar. That is a lot of sugar.

Chart showing the sugar intake compared to typical American consumption (based on a study)

So what happened?

Insulin production:

  • On the Lower Carbohydrate diet, people produced 22% less insulin throughout the day.
  • The Lower Fat diet didn’t change insulin output at all, since it had the same total carbs, and even slightly more sugar than the baseline diet.

Body weight:

  • People on the Lower Carbohydrate diet lost 4 lbs (1.81 kg) of body weight, and 1.16 lbs (0.53 kg) of body fat.
  • People on the Lower Fat diet lost 3 lbs (1.36 kg) of body weight, which included 1.29 lbs (0.59 kg) of body fat.

Note that body weight loss doesn’t necessarily equal body fat loss.

We can also lose body weight from losing glycogen, water, and/or body protein—and that’s exactly what happened to the people on the Lower Carb diet.

They lost more overall body weight, but actually lost less fat. (Though a difference of 0.13 lbs is irrelevant in the big picture. Who would notice that?)

Meanwhile, the folks on the Lower Fat diet lost more body fat but less total weight because their body was busy burning fat (rather than glycogen or lean body mass) to meet its calorie needs.

After these results were in, the researchers then ran validated mathematical models that showed over longer periods of time (say, longer than 6 months), the fat loss between the two groups would be roughly equal.

In other words, there was no particular physiological advantage to either diet in terms of body weight, nor body fat loss, over the longer term.

Study 2: Fine, let’s go lower.

For this second study, the game got hardcore: Drop the carbs and sugar much lower for the Lower Carbohydrate group, just to make sure the minimal differences found in the first study hadn’t been because the carbs and sugar weren’t low enough.

Here’s how this second study worked:

  • 17 overweight or obese people participated.
  • First, they followed a high-carb but calorically-restricted baseline diet for 4 weeks (with 25% of calories from sugar).
  • Then, they spent 4 weeks on a very-low-carb ketogenic diet (with 2% of calories from sugar), with equal calories to the baseline diet.

So what happened?

The researchers found that everyone lost weight and fat throughout the study.

However, when subjects switched from the high-carb, 25%-sugar baseline diet to the ketogenic, 2%-sugar diet, fat loss actually slowed down for the first few weeks.

Much like the previous study, this happened because as people’s bodies adapted to the ketogenic diet, they were more likely to break down fat-free mass and protein stores (e.g. muscle).


  • Weight loss went faster during the ketogenic phase, thanks to losing glycogen and water.
  • But body fat loss was actually less during this phase (though not tremendously so, and it likely wouldn’t make any significant difference over time).

Overall, the researchers stated that based on the current evidence, as well as their validated mathematical models, long-term body fat loss would likely be very similar between the high sugar (high-carb) diet and the low sugar (low-carb) diet.

In other words, the amount of sugar didn’t seem to influence the results.

In the end, these, plus other studies, seem to support the idea that:

Sugar, carbohydrate intake, and/or insulin alone probably aren’t the main drivers of weight gain.

Other research comparing low-carb diets to low-fat diets has found similar results. The same results have also been found with:

  • Meta-analyses: Big reviews of other studies. These types of data are considered among the most robust as they explore a lot of experiments from a much broader perspective, pulling in evidence from dozens or even hundreds of studies to try to draw conclusions.
  • Systematic reviews: Methodologically rigorous comparisons and critical analyses of other studies. These type of reviews are also considered useful, because they take a skeptical perspective, looking for errors.

There have been at least 20 controlled in-patient feeding studies where protein and calories are kept equal, but carbs are varied from 20% to 75% of total calories (and sugar intakes ranged significantly as well).

Of all these studies, none of them found any truly significant differences in body fat levels when people were eating either high carb (and high sugar) or low carb (and low sugar) diets.

In other words, as long as protein and calories were equal, the amount of sugar people ate didn’t make a difference.

There have been at least 12 other systematic reviews and meta-analyses published over the past 10+ years on long-term low-carb diets (which are invariably also low-sugar diets).

Of these 12 reviews:

  • 3 were in favor of low-carb
  • 3 were in favor of non-low-carb comparisons (e.g. low fat, Mediterranean, vegan, low glycemic index, etc.)
  • 6 were neutral, meaning they concluded that various approaches can be equally valid and effective.
Yes, but how might sugar play a role?

Sweet foods may increase energy intake.

In 2013, a review commissioned by the World Health Organization investigated how sugar affected fat gain.

It found that increasing sugar intake can increase body weight, and lowering sugar intake can decrease body weight… but only by changing energy balance, not by any physiological or metabolic effect of sugar itself.

In other words, if we eat more sugary foods, we might be eating more energy (i.e. calories) overall.

Sweet foods are often processed and highly palatable.

This is especially true because most high-sugar foods are refined, tasty, and hard to stop eating. We digest and absorb the energy they contain quickly and easily, they overstimulate the reward/pleasure centers in our brain, and we tend to overeat them.

Plus, hidden sugars in processed foods (like yogurt, granola, juice) or even so-called “health foods” / “fitness foods” can add up fast without us even realizing.

These foods and our brain’s response to them, not the sugar by itself, can often lead to overconsumption.

So the sugar itself may be less of a culprit than the fact that many of us just can’t quit at just one gummi bear or sip of soda.

What else is going on, besides sugar consumption?

Most of our clients who struggle with their weight, body fat, eating habits, and health tell us: It’s not just about the food. There are many factors involved: stress, sleep, metabolic health, lifestyle, social environment, and so forth.

Sugar alone does not explain the complexity of our bodies’ health, function, fat percentage, nor weight. Metabolism is complicated.

And, as always, remember that people vary in response to particular diets.

Some people do better with higher carbohydrates and lower fats. Some do better the other way round.

This is likely due to genetic differences, individual satiety differences from fats vs carbs, personal preferences, and possibly even differences in the bacterial populations in our GI tracts.

The above studies don’t provide hard and fast rules that will always apply to everyone.

This is especially true given that many study populations were small and probably similar in terms of age, sex, ethnicity, and other important factors that can affect our physiological response to a given diet.

But they do indicate that sugar is not some kind of unusually evil substance that causes weight gain or prevents fat loss.

Question #3:
Does sugar cause diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease where we can’t properly regulate the sugar in our blood.

It seems logical, then, that eating more sugar might increase our risk for diabetes, particularly Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes.

Unlike Type 1 diabetes, which typically starts in childhood and is considered an autoimmune disease (in which our own bodies attack healthy cells of our pancreas, which normally produces insulin), Type 2 diabetes typically starts later in life and (among other factors) is linked to long-term food and exercise behaviors.

Type 2 diabetes generally starts with insulin resistance, or impaired glucose control.

This means that over time, insulin is less and less able to do its job of moving glucose into our cells for safe storage. Your doctor might test this with various blood tests, such as an A1c test, which measures how much sugar is being carried around on hemoglobin, a blood protein.

Type 2 diabetes (as well as other metabolic diseases) are also related to how much fat we have in our livers and in or around other organs (such as our hearts and kidneys).

There does seem to be a link between how much refined sugar we eat and insulin resistance. Eating too much sugar can also increase fat accumulation in the liver.

For example, a recent study found that for every 150 calorie increase in daily sugar intake (essentially a 12 oz soda, or ~37 g) corresponded with a 1.1% increased risk for diabetes.

Other factors shape our disease risk, too.

That risk above might sound scary, but it’s important to keep it in perspective.

Other research has shown that losing 7% body weight and doing about 20 minutes of daily physical activity decreased diabetes risk by 58%.

And many other studies have corroborated those findings, telling us that losing a little weight / fat and doing a little more exercise, consistently, will significantly lower our diabetes risk.

In fact, a recent meta-analysis provided some compelling information on diabetes risk:

  • ~60-90% of Type 2 diabetes is related to obesity or weight gain, not sugar intake.
  • Having a significant amount of excess body fat / weight can increase diabetes risk by 90 times.
  • If people who are in the obese category lose about 10% of their initial body weight, they dramatically improve their blood glucose control.
  • Weight management (not sugar reduction) appears to be the most important therapeutic target for most individuals with Type 2 diabetes.

This makes sense if we understand how adipose (fat) tissue works: It’s a biologically active tissue that secretes hormones and other cell signals.

If we have too much of it, adipose tissue can disrupt metabolic health, including how we regulate and store blood sugar.

Does fructose contribute?

Some researchers have suggested that fructose, a particular type of simple sugar (aka monosaccharide) found in fruit as well as many processed foods, might play a special role in diabetes.

We know that fructose is digested, absorbed, and used in specific ways in our bodies.

Does that mean that fructose might have unique properties that could increase our diabetes risk?

Let’s take a look.

One meta-analysis looked at 64 substitution trials (in which fructose replaced another carbohydrate with no change in total calories), and 16 addition trials (where fructose was added to normal intake).

  • In the trials where fructose was substituted for another carbohydrate, the average fructose intake was 102 g per day.
  • In the trials where fructose was added on top of the participants’ normal intake, the average fructose intake was 187 g per day.

Compared to the average American fructose consumption of ~49 g per day, these are extraordinary intakes. To achieve those kinds of intakes would require up to 13 cups of ice cream, or consumption of 10 cans of soda.

Possible? Yes.

Daily norm? Sure hope not.

Diagram showing the comparison of experimental fructose intake in grams per day

A recent review paper summed up the state of the evidence on fructose nicely, essentially stating:

The best-quality evidence to date does not support the theory that fructose intake directly causes cardiometabolic diseases.

The review added that fructose-containing sugars can lead to weight gain, along with increases in cardiometabolic risk factors and disease, but only if those fructose-laden foods provide excess calories.

Overall, research does suggest that a high intake of all sugar (including fructose) might slightly increase the risk of diabetes development by itself.

However, this research also indicates that most of this risk is due to the high sugar intake leading to excess calorie intake, and therefore increased body fat (which leads to inflammation, and ultimately insulin resistance).

An absolutely immense amount of research consistently and strongly indicates that the main causes of diabetes are:

  • excess body fat,
  • inadequate physical activity, and
  • genetic predisposition.

On that last point, we know that diabetes risk, as well as risk of metabolic diseases and propensity to gain body fat, differs significantly by ethnic group or genetic subgroup. For instance, many groups of indigenous people are vastly more likely to struggle with these issues, as are people of African ancestry living in North America, or people of South Asian ancestry.

So your personal risk of these diseases also depends on where your ancestors came from, what genetic makeup they gave you, and/or how that genetic makeup interacts with your environment.

The bottom line here: Managing your sugar intake is just one small tool in your diabetes-fightin’ toolbox. However, far and away, the most useful tool is weight (and body fat) management, however you manage to accomplish it.

Question #4:
Does sugar cause cardiovascular disease?

The term “cardiometabolic disease” refers to a broad group of related diseases, like the Type 2 diabetes we mention above, along with other diseases related to the complex phenomenon of:

  • metabolic disruption,
  • changes in hormonal and cell signaling,
  • inflammation, and
  • an inability to regulate normal physiological processes (like DNA repair).

These diseases can appear in many organs or organ systems. When they hit the heart and/or circulatory system of blood vessels, we call them “cardiovascular disease”. They show up as things like heart attacks, strokes, clogged arteries, and so forth.

A heart attack, or heart disease, used to be a death sentence. With better treatment and new medications, people are surviving longer and living better with cardiovascular disease.

Over the past 50 years or so, deaths from heart disease have declined by over 60% despite sugar intake increasing by about 20 lbs per person per year over that time (and by more than 30 lbs per person per year at the 1999 peak intake).

Researchers estimate that about half of that 60% decrease might be from better medical care. The other half likely comes from reducing the risk factors, such as:

  • lowering blood pressure
  • smoking less
  • lowering blood cholesterol levels

Of course, as we’ve seen, consuming more energy in the form of sugar can increase body fat. And, because of its chemically active nature, more body fat definitely increases cardiovascular disease risk.

So eating a lot of sugar can certainly play a role.

But cardiovascular disease, as with other metabolic diseases, is complex.

It’s not just one thing.

It’s all the things.

It’s how we live, how we work, how active we are, how stressed we are, what’s in our environment, and the various other factors that influence our health.

There are other factors besides sugar in metabolic disease.

Indeed, if we look at factors that we know for sure are related to the risk of metabolic disease, only about 3% of Americans uphold four essential healthy lifestyle behaviors consistently:

  • Not smoking.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • Eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Being physically active at least 30 minutes a day 5 times a week at a moderate intensity.

On top of that, let’s consider two other known preventative methods for metabolic disease…

  • Keeping stress levels moderate.
  • Sleeping well, 7-9 hours per night, consistently.

…now we’re probably at 1% of Americans.

Once again, sugar intake is probably one piece of the puzzle. But it’s just one piece—and probably a very small one.

Question #5:
How much sugar is OK to eat?

Let’s get real here.

Sugar is not a health food.

It doesn’t nourish us.

It doesn’t add a lot of nutrient value: It doesn’t give us any vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber, or water.

Eating a lot of sugar doesn’t make our bodies better, stronger, healthier, or more functional.

Sugar doesn’t add value, certainly not when compared to other foods or macronutrients like protein or omega-3 fatty acids.

But biology is complex.

Diseases are complex too.

We can’t blame one chemical for all the health problems we have.

Good health is neither created nor destroyed by a single food.

Again, human beings are diverse.

We vary widely in all kinds of ways, including:

  • How much carbohydrates we need to thrive or perform well.
  • How well we digest, absorb, and use sugars, as well as how effectively and safely we store or dispose of the excess.
  • How sugar affects our appetite, hunger, fullness, ability to stop eating it.
  • How we feel about and behave around sugar.
  • How sugar “spins our brain dials” and gives us a sense of reward.

So we can’t say that “X amount of sugar is always best for everyone, all the time” or that “People should never eat any sugar.” It just doesn’t work that way.

  • Some people might choose to cut out sugar completely.
  • Some people might try to micromanage their intake down to the gram.
  • Some people can just roll with a general “eat less-processed foods” guideline, and be fine.
  • Some people do find that a low-sugar, low-carb or even a ketogenic diet works for them. While others thrive on high-carb diets.

That said, being aware of your sugar intake is probably a good idea.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sugar to 10% of your intake. So, for example, if you’re consuming 2000 calories per day, that would be approximately 200 calories from sugar, or 50 grams.

What does this all mean? Let’s sum up what the science suggests:
  • Sugars are basic biological molecules that our bodies use in many ways.
  • Each person’s response to sugar (whether physiological or behavioral) will be a little different. This goes for carbohydrates in general too.
  • Sugar is not a health food. But sugar alone doesn’t necessarily cause most chronic health problems like diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, which are multifactorial.
  • Sugar is energy dense. If eaten in excess (like most foods), sugar can contribute to weight / fat gain.
  • This weight / fat gain is probably mostly from the extra calories, not some special properties of sugars (or carbohydrates in general, or insulin).
  • Some people find it hard to stop eating sugar / sweet foods. This may also contribute to weight / fat gain—again, because of the extra energy intake.
  • We likely eat more sugar than we realize, since it’s hidden in so many food products.
Yet, after working with thousands of clients:

For most people, cutting out sugar completely, trying to abide by rigid rules, or basing dietary decisions on fear, probably isn’t sustainable or realistic.

That’s why, at Precision Nutrition, we prefer a more balanced approach.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition. 1. Recognize that health concerns are more complex than a single smoking gun.

The fitness and nutrition industry loves to say that one factor is responsible for everything (or that one magical food / workout / mantra will cure everything). It also loves to over-simplify and moralize (e.g. this is “bad”, this is “good”).

You don’t have to understand physiology to grasp the idea that things are complex.

There are many factors that go into good health, athletic performance, physical function, and wellbeing.

This means you should…

2. Begin with fundamental behaviors.

Sugar is one part in a much bigger puzzle.

Review this checklist and see how many of these fundamental behaviors you do well and consistently. That means every day, or most days:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Keep your alcohol intake moderate.
  • Eat slowly and mindfully.
  • Eat enough lean protein.
  • Eat 5+ servings of fruit and/or veggies per day, ideally colorful ones.
  • Eat some healthy fats.
  • Get some movement for at least 20-30 minutes a day.
  • Get 7-9 hours of good-quality sleep every night.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Spend time with people you love, and/or who support you.
  • Do things that are meaningful and purposeful to you.

These are all behaviors that we know for sure are health-promoting and disease-preventing.

3. Become aware of your overall energy balance.

Take a clear-headed look at how much food you’re eating for your body’s needs, and how much activity you’re doing.

Are you eating the right amount for your physiological requirements?

If you’re heavier or carrying more body fat than you’d prefer, you may need to adjust how much you are eating and/or exercising.

This may mean lowering your sugar intake, and/or it may mean eating a little less of other foods overall.

4. Become aware of what’s in your food.

Read labels. Sugar lives in processed foods, even foods you wouldn’t expect (like salad dressings or frozen dinners).

Better than reading labels, ask how you can eat more foods without labels. (Like fruits and veggies, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, meats and seafood, etc.)

Transitioning to less-processed and less-sweetened versions of various foods is a simple way to lower your sugar intake and get the benefits of a better nutrient intake. Double win!

5. Maintain a healthy weight.

There is no single “healthy” weight. Your weight may be higher than average, or it may be within a “normal” range.

What is most important is that this weight is healthy for you (which you’ll know because all your indicators like blood work or athletic performance and recovery look good).

If you think you need to lose a little weight/fat to look, feel, and/or perform better, the good news is that you often don’t need to lose very much to see metabolic benefits.

You don’t have to be super-lean… and in fact, many people won’t benefit from trying to do that anyway.

6. Be mindful of your overall eating patterns, habits, and perspectives.


  • Are you eating slowly and mindfully? Can you stop when you’re satisfied?
  • Are you using sugar-rich foods as a “treat”? How often?
  • Do you feel “deprived” if you don’t “get” to have sugar?
  • If you have a sugary food, can you stop eating it when you’ve had “enough”? Is there an “enough” with some foods?
  • How does sugar fit into your life and overall habits? Is that working for you?
7. Keep it in perspective. Add “treats” in moderation.

Around here, we keep it real.

We like “treats”, “junk food” and tasty stuff just as much as anyone else, whether that’s a glass of wine, a bowl of ice cream, or a hot dog at the ball game.

We just keep the portions moderate and don’t have “treats” for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.

For most people, a little bit of sugar fits just fine into an overall healthy diet pattern.

If you’re looking for numbers, we suggest you shoot for including “treats” or other discretionary indulgences at 10-20% of your meals. If you eat 3 meals a day for a week, that means about 2-4 of those 21 meals might include something fun or “less nutritious”.

8. Ask yourself what works for you and what doesn’t.

If you struggle with sugar (for instance, if it makes you feel ill, or you feel like you can’t eat sweet foods in appropriate amounts), then it’s probably not a good food for YOU.

Try experimenting with lowering your sugar intake gradually (for instance, by making simple substitutions like drinking water or seltzer instead of soda), and see what happens.

Look for foods that you love, and that love you back—that make you feel good and perform well, that give you sustained and long-lasting energy, that keep your moods level, and that keep you feeling “normal” as an eater.

9. If you’re a coach, keep it real and positive.

Don’t scare your clients. Don’t lecture them. Don’t moralize.

Help them. Learn about them. Understand them.

Although research may say that on average low-carb is no more effective than other dietary strategies long-term, or that sugar by itself is not addictive, or any other innumerable statistics, your clients are real people. They are not averages.

Each individual’s preferred approach, unique circumstances, and personal experiences have to be carefully considered and taken into account when working together.

Go slowly, step by step. Make sure your client can actually do what needs to be done.

Fit the dietary strategy to the client, not the client to the dietary strategy.

10. Use data.

Track your health and physical performance indicators.

Schedule regular medical checkups.

Look at stuff like how you feel, how your mood is, how you sleep, how your bloodwork looks, how well you recover from workouts (and life in general), etc.

Follow the evidence. If everything looks stellar, keep doing whatever you’re doing.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s evidence-based, practical, and individualized for each person’s lifestyle, preferences, and goals—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 44% 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 44% 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.

jQuery(document).ready(function(){ jQuery("#references_link").click(function(){ jQuery("#references_holder").show(); jQuery("#references_link").parent().hide(); }); }); References

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The post Level 1: The surprising truth about sugar. Here’s everything you need to know about what it does to your body. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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What You Will Gain From a Strength and Conditioning Internship - Sun, 09/15/2019 - 01:53
You'll learn a lot from your strength and conditioning internship — but there are some things you might glean over. Keep these points in mind, and you'll get even more out of your internship than you thought possible.
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Can I Continue to Build Muscle in My 40s Without Getting Injured? - Sun, 09/15/2019 - 01:49
Oh, lordy, are you over 40? Sure, you might not feel like 40 most of the time (or all of the time), but you need to remember you're not a 20-something anymore, so you can't be training like one, either. Back to the question in the title... Yes.
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Marisa’s USAPL Nationals Training Log | Part 2 - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 10:29

Marisa Inda hits a Deadlift and Bench PR in this installment of her training log toward 2019 USAPL Raw Nationals.

The post Marisa’s USAPL Nationals Training Log | Part 2 appeared first on Juggernaut Training Systems.

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Stuff to Read While You’re Pretending to Work: 9/14/19 - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 07:12

Copyright: wamsler / 123RF Stock Photo

BUT FIRST…CHECK THIS STUFF OUT 1. (Even More) Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint – Athens, Greece: Saturday, Feb 29th & Sunday, March 1st, 2020

This will be the first leg of mine and Dean Somerset’s European extravaganza in early 2020. The second leg will take place in…

2. (Even More) Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint – Maidenhead, U.K: March 7th & 8th, 2020

There’s an Early Bird rate for both of these events, so keep that in mind before you decide to hold off. Dean and I are really excited for this and hope to see you there!


Dear high school athlete:

Please, please, please, please, PLEASE:

1. Stop using the excuse “you don’t have time in the morning to eat breakfast.” Get up 10 minutes earlier and get it done.

2. Start your off-season training IMMEDIATELY, not two weeks before the season starts.

— Tony Gentilcore (@tonygentilcore1) September 11, 2019



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The Rack Pull-Up. . This is a variation I picked up from @liftrunbang and it’s grown to be one of my favorites. . It’s sorta a “hybrid” between an Inverted Row and a Pull-Up, which, not coincidentally, makes it one of my go to exercises when working with someone who’s goal it is to perform their first pull-up. . It’s not quite a pull-up, but it’s close. Sorta like Spam. It’s not quite meat but it’s close. . Anyway…this is also a fantastic accessory pulling/upper back exercise. What makes it really worthwhile is how we can accentuate the lat stretch in the bottom due to the increased ROM. . I like to aim for 6-15 reps per set with these. Pants optional. . Oh, also, props to @ampathletic who’s been allowing me to drop in everyday while in London (and for playing siiiiick EDM).

A post shared by Tony Gentilcore (@tonygentilcore) on Sep 12, 2019 at 6:13am PDT

STUFF TO READ WHILE YOU’RE PRETENDING TO WORK Build Strong Glutes – Meghan Callaway & Matthew Ibrahim


The Dangers of Poor Sleep and How You Can Fix It – Andrew Coates

I’m an unabashed fan of going the fuck to bed.

This was an EXCELLENT post by Andrew on the pitfalls of lack of sleep and some strategies to help improve it.

Glute Lab – Bret Contreras

More glutes from the President of Glute O’Clock…Bret Contreras.

I actually pre-ordered my copy (but it’s NOW available to purchase). I can’t wait to  dive in.

The post Stuff to Read While You’re Pretending to Work: 9/14/19 appeared first on Tony Gentilcore.

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LISTEN: Table Talk Podcast Clip — How Dave Tate and Justin Harris Met - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 01:47
Dave Tate and Justin Harris reflect on how they first met and a handful of the adventures they shared during Dave's post-powerlifting retirement diet.
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How Many Exercise Variations Do You Need? - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 01:45
When I refer back to what worked best for me in college, I always seem to glean some "new" information by reviewing old material. This time around, I decided to use less variance in my programming by repeating the same special exercises 3 weeks at a time.
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How to Effectively Train Core Strength - Fri, 09/13/2019 - 10:04
My idea of developing core strength is by both locally and globally training all the musculature that is attached to the hips, specifically by focusing on programming planks.
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