The science | Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an upward trending diet seeing a lot of press these days and probably making an appearance in your social media feed. IF boast claims of weight loss, improved cholesterol, protection against disease, and even claims to sharpen memory. Here at M2 Perfornance Nutrition, we don’t want to discount your personal experience but we also want to see what scientific studies tell us.  So, we did some research to see whether IF is truly supported by these data and if there are good reasons to give it a shot. Finally, we give you a breakdown of our suggested decision making approach about whether YOU are a good fit to try IF.

WHAT IS Intermittent Fasting?

First, what is intermittent fasting? It is an “intervalled” eating scheduled each week to include a specific number of hours or days of fasting. While fasting, no food is to be consumed (obviously); however, there is some disagreement from people about whether non-calorie beverages (such as coffee) are accepted. The three main schedules of IF are 16/8, 5:2, and 24 hr fasts.

  • 16/8 is often deemed the easiest fast because it is primarily overnight. If you do not eat breakfast until noon and finish dinner before 8pm, you have completed a 16/8 fast.

  • 5:2 refers to days, meaning five days of regular eating and two days during the week of fasting.

  • 24-hour fasts are just that, typically from dinner one day until dinner the next day.

The “Biology” of Intermittent Fasting

Next, let’s talk about the biology behind WHY intermittent fasting can make us healthier. Many of the benefits that intermittent fasting boasts in regard to aging, memory, and protection from diseases come from the science behind a biological process called AUTOPHAGY.

So, what is Autophagy??

Autophagy literally means “self-eating” which makes sense since autophagy is essentially the body’s recycling process. It takes dead, deformed, unhealthy cells and debris and uses them to create free fatty acids and amino acids. There is also some evidence that autophagy is important in controlling inflammation and immunity.

Evolutionarily, it makes sense to use this pathway when our bodies are in calorie deficit. Basically, “recycle” the trash and turn it into new energy.

Types of Autophagy

There are two types of autophagy: macroautophagy which is started through nutrient deprivation and mitophagy which occurs even in nutrient rich states.

  • The body naturally begins mitophagy when it finds excessive or damaged cells that need to be repurposed.

  • Autophagy can be purposefully induced through BOTH fasting and exercise ie macroautophagy.

Fasting type autophagy DOES have some limitations though, especially within the brain due to a VERY stable nutrient supply in the brain.  Secondly, exercise has been shown to induce autophagy much faster and more potently in three different studies 1,2,3. However, many of us are looking to find the BEST way forward for performance and health, so can we use intermittent fasting techniques to improve upon the autophagy induced by our exercise?

Animal Model Data

Most claims for IF benefits currently come from animal trials. Here’s a summary of what they found in MICE studies:

  • The study found that mice who were fed every other day out performed mice who were fed regularly in regards to treadmill training 4

  • After 11 months, mice who were fed every other day had better memory and exercise tolerance than the control or high fat groups 5

  • Mice who fasted longer between meals were shown to live longer than mice that were free fed and developed diseases later 6

  • Effects on mouse immunity were mixed, with some very negative effects 7,8 and some positive ones. 9,10

Human Studies on Intermittent Fasting

Sadly, only a few well-run studies of IF have been examined in humans and most of them are focused on weight loss, analyzing overweight and obese subjects. The trials are mainly small sample sizes, short time frames, and include calorie restriction. With not many studies done on IF in large groups of healthy people over long spans of time, it’s hard to correlate any claims from current studies to practical usage.  To be fair, examining the effect of IF on longevity would be a rather LONG experiment to run in humans.

Intermittent Fasting | Study #1

A study done by the University of Illinois in 2013 looked at 30 individuals ranging from normal to overweight for the course of 12 weeks. 11

Take home point:

Not eating for a large part of the day is a good way to reduce calorie intake.

Study Details

15 participants were required to fast every other day and eat only 25% of their daily calories on fasting days. Participants were given their meal for fasting days to ensure the caloric and macro breakdown fit the test criteria, but were at home on non-fasting days eating at will and keeping a food log.

(FYI, people generally suck at remembering what they ate, but people use this approach to drive down the costs.  Providing all the meals for participants in a study gets $$$$.)

The study noted that overweight individuals are likely to under-report food intake by roughly 30%. It did not access physical activity or nutritional breakdown of what the fasting group chose to eat on their days at home.

Of the 15 participants in the fasting group, two reported headaches and one reported digestive issues. Other than weight-loss, the study monitored HDL, LDL, blood pressure, homocysteine (an amino acid in the blood - high levels show a risk for heart disease), C-reactive protein (produced by the liver to combat inflammation), adiponectin (regulates blood glucose and helps break down fatty acids), leptin (the hormone that makes us feel full), and restinin (which may be linked to type two diabetes).

The study found no significant difference between the two groups other than weight loss, which should be expected when the fasting group had a MASSIVE caloric deficit every other day and the control group was at home eating at will.

Intermittent Fasting | Study #2

Both a 2013 and a 2016 study followed people adhering to Ramadan, an Islamic religious fast in which abiders do not eat while the sun is out for one month. 12, 13

Take home point:

Both studies contain a very small sample size and not enough controls were put into place to ensure that equal amounts of calories were consumed as prior to Ramadan. From personal coaching experience, most people following Ramadan actually GAIN weight due to the incredible number of food-focused parties thrown at night throughout the month.

Study Details:

The study monitored their power output, hematocrit, hemoglobin, plasma sodium and potassium. The first study analyzed sprints once in the morning and once in the afternoon. They found that the power output of the athletes declined over the course of the five weeks and that they were noticeably more fatigued during the afternoon sessions.

The second study analyzed cognitive function and decision making and found that both were impaired while fasting.  As Ramadan allows fasters to eat throughout the evening hours, this makes total sense that they would have more energy for their morning workout.

Intermittent Fasting | Study #3

A more recent study looked at participants over a year and compared the results of intermittent fasting vs typical caloric restriction on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors. This is one of the stronger studies because of the length of time. 14

Take home point:

IF did not produce greater weight loss or blood chemistry than traditional dieting approaches.

Study Details:

The put each group into a roughly 25% deficit, with the IF participants fasting two non-consecutive days each week. For six months they monitored their progress and for 6 months monitored their results through a maintenance phase. There were no significant differences between groups in regards to weight loss or health markers. The only discernible difference was the reported hunger levels of the fasting group being greater to that of the other group who was also restricted calorically but eating every day.

Intermittent Fasting | Study #4

A 2015 study out of Chicago looked at (otherwise healthy) obese adults and the difference in weight loss was performed. 15

Take home point:

IF did not produce greater weight loss or blood chemistry than traditional dieting approaches.

Study Details:

Blood pressure, heart rate, triglycerides, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, insulin resistance, C-reactive protein, or homocysteine concentrations were measured for three groups: an intermittent fasting group, a calorie restricted group, and a control group. Just as the other study, this trial concluded that alternate-day fasting did not produce more weight loss, weight maintenance, or cardioprotection compared to daily calorie restriction. The dropout rate was however 9% higher for the fasting group vs the calorie restriction group.

Intermittent Fasting | Study #5

Finally, a study looked at overweight middle-aged women for eight weeks. They were split amongst four groups: intermittent fasting at 70% of maintenance calories, intermittent fasting at true maintenance, dietary restriction at 70% of maintenance calories, and control. The intermittent fasters had three non-consecutive fasting days per week and the dietary restricted group ate every day at the same caloric deficit. 16

Take home point:

Calorie restriction using both IF and traditional dieting led to weight loss.  Intermittent fasting in the “control” group also lost weight because the participants unintentionally ate ~250 less calories per day.

Study Details:

They found no lasting insulin differences between groups and the IF 70% group was the only group to see changes in any health markers like cholesterol. The fasting group at maintenance calories actually saw a temporary increase in risk markers for type two diabetes. The most interesting find of this study was, however, that both intermittent fasting groups reported under eating by nearly 250 calories on fasting days!!! This might actually be a strong point for IF should it makes it mentally easier to restrict calories versus traditional dieting.  Interestingly, the deficit IF group was noted to have lost LEAN MASS, NOT JUST FAT. This could be due to minimal protein in the provided meals or from the fasting itself. The graph below demonstrates the changes in weight, fat mass, and lean mass among the four groups examined.

Changes in anthropometric outcomes following 8 weeks of intermittent or continuous intake at 70% and 100% of daily energy requirements.  ( A ) Weekly weights; ( B ) change in body weight; ( C ) change in fat mass; ( D ) change in fat‐free mass.

Changes in anthropometric outcomes following 8 weeks of intermittent or continuous intake at 70% and 100% of daily energy requirements. (A) Weekly weights; (B) change in body weight; (C) change in fat mass; (D) change in fat‐free mass.

Summary of the IF Science

Is intermittent fasting a tool one could use to lose weight? Sure. Anytime the window of eating is shortened it becomes easier to eat less calories.

If you regularly wake up to eat breakfast at 6am and are instead now waiting until noon, you are skipping straight to lunch. Could you eat just as many calories for lunch as if you were to have had breakfast and lunch that day? Totally.

If you train in the morning or are grumpy when hungry then 16/8 fasting (or purposefully fasting in general) is probably not ideal for you.

Do you need to incite the body’s repair processes through fasting? Nope! Exercise does a damn good job at making this happen and is able to induce effects in the brain as well. Your body knows when to start the process on its own and if you are getting enough sleep you are already in a fasted/repairing state naturally.

Could fasting on top of exercise produce even better effects? Unclear. There are CLEAR benefits to fasting protocols in mice for things going way beyond weight loss. So far, these have yet to be replicated in humans but that does not mean they can’t occur.  

Intermittent Fasting Recommendations

In real word practical experience, the people that seem to do best with intermittent fasting protocols all have a few similar things going for them:

  • Low stress

  • Adequate macro and micronutrient intake

  • Training volume that is not extremely high

  • Sleep 8+ hours a night

If that’s you and you want to give IF a shot, then by all means go for it.  If you don’t fit all those descriptors, then you’re better off placing your energy into fixing that aspect of your life than trying to generate more stress through fasting (and to be clear, fasting is a stress response).

If you have any questions or want to debate on the topic using SCIENCE, please feel free to reach out to us directly!

Keto, Ketosis, Ketones, Net Carbs...

Keto, ketosis, ketones, net carbs... These words are taking over social media rapidly and everyone knows at least one person who is now “keto”. What does that actually mean? What is the benefit of following a ketogenic diet in regards to athletic performance? What are the potential downfalls?

Disclaimer: We are ALL unique and what works well for some people will not work for others. We’re not interested in case studies where so and so felt great on terrible on a certain diet. We really don’t mind if you love this diet, hate it or fall somewhere in between. What we’re doing is looking for the path forward thats going to help the most people while giving them the best chance of success. As so many people are interested in keto these days, we wanted to summarize the “big picture” aspects of the keto world as it relates to performance, weight loss and overall chance of success. We are NOT focusing on epilepsy or neurological conditions, where there’s been benefits shown as early as the 1930’s.

Before we get too far…

To start, we want to highlight a few key facts about nutrition to be mindful of while examining any diet. First, the value of protein. This is probably the least sexy macro that everyone probably understands they need, but often have trouble achieving proper intake. Bros think they need too much and women tend to under-consume. Second, carbohydrates. These bad boys are the fuel behind your fire, the vessel that delivers your fiber, and the micronutrient powerhouses. Last but not least, fat. Fat is hormone regulating, helps us absorb vitamins, and provides energy for our bodies at rest and under certain specific exercise time domains (Read: LONG efforts). All three are vital and important for their unique roles.

So, what is keto?

Keto is a very low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet. It aims to be so low carb that the body begins producing ketones in the liver for energy. To reach a state of ketosis (where the body is producing these ketones) the dieter attempts to eat 20 net carbs or less a day. If counting macros, this usually looks like 5% of calories coming from carbs. Net carbs are determined by taking the amount of carbohydrates in grams minus the grams of fiber. The idea comes from the fact our bodies cannot breakdown fiber therefore the body is not truly utilizing it in the means of energy. This is not to say that fiber is not extremely crucial to a healthy diet (it is, but that’s a topic for another day).

The idea of consuming a high fat diet has been around for centuries, the Inuit people are a great example and are notoriously known for their high fat low carb diet majorly consisting of whale blubber. The Kitavan population is the opposite end of the spectrum, consuming a diet primarily of carbohydrates. Both populations have minimal disease, no problem with obesity, and/or longevity. How is this possible? Before farming came into play, cultures consumed foods dependent on their regions and availability not based on knowledge of nutrition or perception of health benefits. Being able to feed the masses on farmed products was wildly more efficient than hunting and quickly shifted the emphasis on meat to grains and vegetables. We now live in a world where we have access to anything we could ever want to consume. As athletes, this raises the question of how to fuel for superior performance.

Curiosity as to whether one macro was more vital or useful in health and performance than another sparked a plethora of studies and research. Traditionally, carbohydrates have been the renowned champion of performance, particularly in anaerobic exercise modalities such as sprinting, lifting, or other high intensity sports. Some studies have found functionality in a high fat diet under submaximal aerobic conditions when properly supplemented.

Let’s look at some studies…

Two studies completed in the 1980s, one at the University of Vermont and one at MIT, looked at the performance of individuals on a treadmill and stationary ergometer, respectively, from their baseline level of VO2 max and performance on a normal carbohydrate diet to that on a ketogenic diet. The Vermont study restricted calories as well as carbohydrates and did not allow dieters to workout outside of the testing situations. Their VO2 did not change but their endurance did increase over the six week period. The first week following a ketogenic low calorie diet, however, they did notice a reduction in performance throughout all participants. The participants lost weight and were not previously active or conditioned so it is hard to tell if their increased work capacity was due to less required energy expenditure due to loss of size, increased exposure to aerobic work, or the nutrition in itself. The second study combated these questions by using competitive cyclists and fed them to maintain weight. Again, in the first week the participants saw a decline in performance, but after four weeks of the ketogenic diet there was no real change to their performance. It is important to note that both studies supplemented sodium and potassium and that the analysis of the two studies concluded that while the results show no short-term disadvantage to a ketogenic diet on aerobic performance, it would not recommend a ketogenic diet to persons partaking in anaerobic activities such as sprinting or weightlifting.

Earlier than that, in 1939, two Danish scientists tested participants endurance on a stationary bicycle for three weeks, each week moving from low carb, moderate carb, then to high carb diets. When subjects were given the high carb diet their performance increased 2.5 times what it was for the low carb week.

During the second world war, Kart experimented by giving soldiers pemmican, a mixture of dried meat and fat, to test its functionality as a lightweight food ration. The study lasted three days as the soldiers could not perform their tasks which included pulling heavy sleds through snow.

A 2016 study looked at changes in performance due to the diets of elite race walkers. Some were given a low carb high fat diet, others a periodised carb diet, and the rest a high carb diet. They provided all meals, drinks, and snacks for the athletes to ensure the study was extremely controlled. They found, as expected, the LCHF diet produced the highest levels of fat oxidation in exercise. Fat oxidation is where the body is burning fat as fuel. They ALSO found that the fat oxidation produced a higher need of oxygen consumption, meaning the LCHF group had to work harder to produce the same level of energy as the periodised and high carb groups. With that, the periodised and high carb group both found improvement in their 10km race whereas the LCHF group did not. The study goes on to analyze that the ATP (energy molecule) production from carbohydrates was greater than that of fat. It continues to infer that if an athlete is working well under their lactate threshold, it is possible to compensate for the difference in energy production by increasing oxygen intake, but once the intensity of work has increased to higher levels, the athlete will be limited greatly in capacity and performance.

In 1996, another study showed significantly decreased respiratory exchange ratios in the LCHF group than the high carb group. Heart rates were also noticeably higher in the high fat group. The study concluded that low carbohydrate high fat diets are detrimental to improvement in endurance performance.

Looking to determine which popular diet was superior, low carb or low fat, Stanford University, coupled with the National Institute of Health, the Nutrition Science Initiative, and a group of nutrition experts followed the lives of over 600 people for a year. Participants were either prescribed to the low carb or low fat diet and encouraged to eat whole, nutrient dense, unprocessed foods along with their specific carb or fat limitations. By the third month both groups were struggling to hit the targets of 20 grams of fat or carbs and were consuming an extra 20 grams of fat (198 cals) and almost 100 grams of carbs (400 cals) in their subsequent groupings. This is well over the prescribed carb limit for the keto diet. In addition to not truly maintaining a “low carb” diet, the study had a 21% drop out rate and no real difference in weight loss between the two groups. This suggested to researchers that either diet has cause to be effective so long as there is the critical element of sustainability for each individual.

Can the body use fat as the (nearly) sole fuel source? Sure. Is fat as fuel as effective or efficient as carbohydrates in regards to performance? No.

Can the body sustain fat as its primary fuel source healthily for a lifetime? Unclear, but we predict that its not likely. The initial weight loss claims from keto believers is primarily water weight. When carbs are cut and the body uses up its stored glycogen, it sheds the water associated with the stores. For every one gram of glycogen (carbohydrate) stored in the body, there are roughly three grams of water stored. This is not lasting weight loss as the water will be retained once again as carbs are reintroduced.

To summarize…

As a company formed to support athletes and their performance via nutrition and lifestyle, M2 continues to support higher carb diets for athletes. We want your PRs to continuously increase, your endurance to last for days, and your recovery to be prompt and complete. Every macronutrient has an important role, and should be utilized in amounts that offer optimization of their attributes. We are NOT saying that the general public shouldn’t eat less processed carbs… they probably should just stop eating so much crap all together. We don’t want our athletes to just be able to function with their nutrition, we want them to thrive.

The Evolution of Your Nutrition Path | Part 2 - The M2 Lifestyle Plan

This is the second part in a two-part series about learning to build a long-term successful and healthy relationship with food. In this post, I’m going to lay out a program that we’re offering here at M2 Performance Nutrition designed to teach you about your diet and how to move from through phases of macro tracking and intuitive eating. If you’re interested, click here and let us know!

As we discussed in Part 1, if you have goals that are focused mostly on being healthy, having energy in and out of the gym and just looking good naked, then eventually moving from macro tracking to an intuitive eating approach is something to consider for long term success.  We’re here to help with that process.

How does it work?  

You and your M2 coach will develop a timeline to move through various phases that focus on either tracking macros or eating intuitively without weighing and measuring.

the-m2-lifestyle-plan-m2-performance-nutrition.png


The first stage is dedicated to learning what an appropriate diet looks like for your goals through weighing and measuring your food.  You will also track your sleep, stress, hunger, energy levels and performance in and out of the gym. If you’ve been tracking for a good while (with M2 or with another program) you may be able to skip through this step pretty quickly. This stage can take 1-3 months depending upon the person.  

The next stages are designed to reduce the macro tracking back from 6-7 days a week down to 1-2. However, while you may not be weighing your food every day of the week, we want you to continue to assess all of the other aspects of your life such as energy levels, sleep quality and performance.  By doing so, you’ll be able to tell whether or not your intuitive eating is doing a reasonably good job at replicating your dietary needs that you learned while weighing and measuring.

The overall goal is to continue to feel great and have all the energy you need while not weighing and measuring your food as consistently.

The final stage is essentially a month of intuitive eating, with rare days here and there just to “fact-check” your visual food scale. Is your idea of what 6 ounces of chicken breast really 6 ounces? We continue to monitor and track all the lifestyle aspects for one more month just to make sure we’re physically feeling the way that we want to feel.

Ultimately, for the best results, precision matters.  However, finding the right balance that allows you to have a healthy relationship with food and the energy to live your life is another goal worth chasing as well.  If you’re interested in this program, shoot us a message, we’d love to help.

The Evolution of Your Nutrition Path | Part 1

It’s without question that tracking your diet through weighing and measuring is a powerful tool for changing body composition, achieving elite performance in and out of the gym, and just living a healthier, more informed life.  However, I think it’s important to note that for 97% of people, it’s also not a long-term sustainable practice. I think that nutritional coaching has come up short in helping people learn to evolve their nutritional strategies into something that they can do for the rest of their life.  We’re going to try and change that.  If you’re interested in how to take control of your diet, and then adapt it to something you can do for the rest of your life check out the Part 2 post on The M2 Life Style Plan.  For now though, read on and learn why we think this is an essential topic.

The Typical Nutrition Path

PHASE 1: The Jon Snow Phase

Jon-Snow-Knows-Nothing-Dont-Be-Jon-Snow.jpg

You start this phase having no real knowledge of what makes up a good diet. Hopefully, you recognize the fact that you know nothing, but most likely you THINK you’ve got the whole thing figured out, which is honestly even worse.  The first time a person starts tracking their food intake, it can be an eye-opening experience.

My all-time favorites include:

  1. A woman finding out her morning coffee had 750 calories in it

  2. A male client discovering that a ½ pound of brisket had about 700 calories in it with 40 grams of fat

  3. A third client learning that one “container” of dark chocolate almonds was about ½ a client’s calories for the day

chocolate-covered-almonds.jpg

Hopefully, at some point you hire a real coach, someone that actually understands how hormones work, gets that its more important than just “eat less, train more” and can show how to move in the right direction.  After a few months, you move into Phase 2…

PHASE 2: The John Nash Phase

John-Nash.jpg

After a few months of tracking, you’re a freaking macro wizard.  Food prepping like a boss, going out to restaurants with your food scale, tracking over weekends at the in-laws.  Things are good, progress is happening nicely and everything in peachy. The problem? The law of diminishing returns.  The fastest changes always happen at the beginning, and then from there change takes time and adjustments and attention to smaller and smaller details.  

It’s just a fact that it’s HARD to stay motivated when the pay-offs aren’t immediately obvious.  The reality is though that keeping control over your diet for months into years DOES induce change, but just ones that you can’t see from week to week.

A different scenario is that you REACH your goal, either in body composition or performance. Congratulations!!! But… what the hell do we do now??!?! Do we keep tracking? Change the goal? How long do we do this for?

Typically at this point, we reach Phase 3….

PHASE 3: “Senioritis” Phase

Macro-Senioritis.jpg

Remember your final weeks of high school or college?  You knew you were graduating, had a job lined up and just could not find the motivation to really care.  Yea… that’s what often happens with tracking your diet. Either you’ve done it for too long, or the “results” of all that hard work aren’t changing fast enough to continue to motivate you.  So you start guesstimating loosely, eating more meals out at restaurants, taking the weekends off, etc.

This isn’t a problem in and of itself, until you find that you’re really not making any more progress or that you’ve backslid.


The million-dollar question is whether macro tracking is setting you up to fail long term? I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, IT DEPENDS.

Personally, I think most people should learn how to track for the reasons I’ve outlined above. Weighing and measuring teaches a person what appropriate portion sizes look like, what foods are high in protein, fat and/or carbs, and how to find a way to enjoy some of the sweeter things in life without going overboard.  

However, once that lesson has been learned, then there should be a conversation about what the long-term picture looks like.


Critical questions that should be asked here:

  1. Do you have CLEAR athletic performance goals where small differences in fueling could make a huge difference?

  2. Do you have a CLEAR body composition goal that you’re aiming for?

  3. Do you have hormonal issues (female menstrual cycle as an example) that you’re trying to resolve?

I’m going to break down each of those goals, but I think that they can be depicted most easily in a visual image.

m2-performance-nutrition-goal-specific-paths.png

If you have clear athletic goals, or want to be extremely lean, then you will need to track your diet very closely most of the time.  This goes along with many other aspects of “health” that need to be taken to the 99th percentile.  8+ hours of uninterrupted sleep, more time dedicated to training, a large emphasis on micronutrient dense foods, hitting your hydration goal every day, etc.  However, even these athletes need a break to some extent. Each of our Crossfit athletes was told to take a significant break from tracking their diet after the Crossfit Regionals/Games depending upon when their 2018 season ended.  This mental break was necessary to let them press the “reset” button, to live a normal live for even just a few weeks.

If your goal is more focused on health, longevity, some aspect of physical change (look better naked😏) then realistically there needs to be an exit strategy from tracking once you’ve learned the important lessons around how to succeed in those goals.  

What does this look like?  Let’s use another graphic:

m2-evolution-of-tracking.png

This picture basically describes what I talked about above.  You enter nutrition coaching really having not thought much about what goes into your pie hole for years.  Either on your own or with the guidance of a coach, you learn to figure out how to weigh and measure your food, learning what quantity of macros and what level of food quality works for you and your goals.  After this learning process, you begin to scale back your tracking from 6-7 days per week, to 3-4 days, to 1-2 days. Eventually you may only track one day every month. This is a good idea simply to make sure your “mental food scale” is still pretty close to an actual food scale.  For me, I know that portions will inflate over time. What I think is 6 ounces of chicken is actually 9, so taking that one day to re-calibrate my brain is important.

In the long run, you may come back to tracking here and there (which is what the blue bars represent in that graphic).  Maybe you want to dial in your performance for a local throw down or the CrossFit Open (RIP Regionals), or maybe you want to lean out a little bit more than usual for a beach vacation in the Caribbean.  When those times come, apply the extra effort and you should see extra results.

Teaching people how to go through this “Nutritional Evolution” is an aspect of nutrition coaching that has been missing for a long time.  Why? Because it basically means that I’m going to teach you the client, how to no longer need my coaching services. That seems like bad business… and maybe it is. However, I strongly believe that it is the right thing to do.

If you’re interested in this approach, check out our next post, which describes The M2 Life Style Plan and how to get in touch with us to get started.


Can time restricted feeding make you fitter?

DISCLAIMER: You need to do the basics really well first before thinking about the approaches that are covered in this article.  Eat the right amount of food for your training volume, eat high quality food, sleep 8+ hours a night, and manage your stress.

Over the last decade, there's been an increasingly loud movement that says intermittent fasting (IF) can improve life span, cure cancer, and turn you into a super hero.  But is it everything that its cracked up to be?  We're going to dig into the science here. We're also going to talk about a new approach to dieting with a similar theme called Time Restricted Eating, which has a similar concept but with a different implementation.  The goal is not to say whether these approaches work for weight loss, they do, but to figure out if there's some magical reason, or if its simply because people eat less when given less time to eat.

At a high level, there are studies that show that intermittent fasting (8 hour window to eat, 16 hour fast) can improve weight loss, inflammation, and insulin sensitivity.  One common criticism of many of these studies is that calories are not controlled in IF protocols, so most of these effects likely have to do with simply eating less food, as people tend to eat less if given less time to eat.  This is especially true when we stop people from eating at night, since emotional humans are most likely to binge after 8 PM and not in the morning.  As James Smith would say, when was the last time you crushed a pint of Ben & Jerry's right after waking up?  

This is me...

This is me...

Additionally, a recent study basically came to the conclusion that intermittent fasting was NOT a better diet strategy over the LONG term than traditional dieting, and that you were less likely to stick to the diet overall. OUCH!  There are a lot of criticisms about that study, but I don't think it can be entirely dismissed.   

So if you were tracking your diet with a macro-counting approach, the thought is that there shouldn't be a HUGE benefit to time-restricted eating.  Additionally, when you add in the fact that a significant percentage of the clients that come to M2 are doing a ton of exercise and generally under-eating to begin with, giving them less time to eat seems like a bad idea.

Of course there's a ton of other reasons to try IF, as there are a whole slew of claims that it can reduce cancer risks and extend life span amongst other things.  However, being blunt, the research on this is still very young and needs to be extended further before final conclusions can be drawn.

One last comment for athletes: eating all the food you really need to eat in an 8 hour window is HARD and can be rather uncomfortable, especially when training for 4 hours a day, if not longer.

Time restricted eating, weight loss and athletic performance

So where intermittent fasting restricts the time you're eating into an 8 hour window, a new set of research around "time-restricted feeding" changes the game a little bit.  Here's the major differences:

  • With time-restriction eating you have a larger window to eat.  Instead of the 16/8 protocol, you have anywhere from a 9-12 hour window
  • Your goal is to also time the eating window into the the normal waking hours, with the goal of aligning your dietary intake with your circadian rhythms (AKA your body's natural 24 hour clock).

Researchers at the Salk Institute tested the hypothesis that time-restricted eating would impact obesity. Whats the reason to even test this??? Well, its become clearer and clearer that MANY biological processes including metabolism, immune system function, stress responses, etc have diurnal patterns, which basically means they act differently at night than they do during the day. Lets dig into the data

Here's the first study from the Salk Institute group, using mice:

There were four groups of mice (IMPORTANT: all mice ate the same calories):

  • Groups 1 and 2: Mice allowed to eat whenever they want on a normal diet OR a high fat diet
  • Groups 3 and 4: Mice allowed to eat whenever they want on a Time Restricted diet with a normal diet OR a high fat diet

Here's what the results basically showed.

  • Putting mice on a high fat diet and letting them eat throughout the full 24 hour clock induced obesity and changes to their metabolic gene expression that are related to circadian rhythms (basically they got fat, and the ability to use carbohydrates vs fat stores was disrupted).
  • Putting mice on a high fat diet but RESTRICTING their intake to a shorter feeding time prevented disruption of their metabolic pathways and resulted in less obesity.
Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 8.47.28 AM.png

Pretty damn cool... OK, so the same group followed this study up with a second, more in depth analysis, again in mice.  Here are the groups (the goal was to model factors that cause obesity and metabolic disease).

  • High fat diet with and without time restricted feeding
  • High fructose group with and without time restricted feeding
  • High fat, high fructose group with and without time restricted feeding.
  • The study also experimented with allowing a group of mice to essentially have a “free weekend” where the time-restriction feeding pattern was removed for two days

The authors of the study actually put together a pretty nice cartoon of the major findings, which helps explain a really complex paper.  I'll explain more below.

Ad libitum means the mice could eat whenver they wanted.  The cheeseburger represents high fat and the soda represents high fructose.

Ad libitum means the mice could eat whenver they wanted.  The cheeseburger represents high fat and the soda represents high fructose.

So here's what they showed:

  • Most of the health benefits only occurred when the time restricted feeding (TRF) window was less than 12 hours.  Interestingly, the 2 day "free weekend" with ad libitum eating did not harm the overall results of TRF. I refuse to use the term "cheat meal" but thats what they're going for here.

  • TRF mice had improved insulin sensitivity and an improved lipid profiles, lower levels of systemic inflammation and healthier liver function.

  • TRF mice had increased levels of a protein called PGC-1a, which controls mitochondrial biogenesis. (Mitochondria are basically the "power plants" of your cells).

  • TRF mice had increased muscle mass compared to non-restricted mice.  The reasons for this are still unclear, but its a pretty cool finding. Researchers did also note increases in the molecule NAD, which has been linked with longevity and muscle mass retention, but it was just a correlation.

  • BETTER FITNESS:  TRF mice in the 9-hour restricted group had significantly improved aerobic fitness. Using something called the  "treadmill run-to-exhaustion test" the non-time restricted mice ran for an average of 77 minutes,  while the 9-hour TRF group ran for an average of 141 minutes.  Now that sounds pretty amazing... also, please never make me do that running test :)

A study with humans was also performed, but it was basically observational and as calories were not controlled between groups, its hard to read too much into the results.  The only conclusion of note really was that, "when overweight individuals with >14 hr eating duration ate for only 10-11 hr daily for 16 weeks... they reduced body weight, reported being energetic, and improved sleep. Benefits persisted for a year."  So... did they lose weight because they ate less calories or because they ate them in a smaller time frame?  We cannot tell here sadly.

If you want to learn more about this topic, Rhonda Patrick does a GREAT job going into details on this podcast with Joe Rogan.

Conclusions and Recommendations

While there's a ton of research on intermittent fasting, we still don't know for sure what the benefits of it really are and if it really is better than other dietary approaches.  TRF is even LESS well studied and well controlled human trials need to be performed, but the initial research from the Salk Institute is really compelling. All that said, if you're looking to lose weight and are sedentary or are training 3-4 days a week then restricting your window to somewhere between 9-12 hours seems like a good idea.

If you're looking for increased endurance capacity, then you should be at least intrigued by the idea of restricting your eating window into the 9-10 hour range.  To be clear, you will have to work HARD to structure your meals within that window, to ensure that you have pre workout and post workout nutrition are still on point.  

Remember, do the basic things right first, then start worrying about the finer details at that point.

Dealing with Hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland, located at the base of your neck, is the main metabolism gland in your body. If your thyroid gland is not working correctly, either through not getting the appropriate signals, or conversely not producing the right hormones, you will have a difficult time losing weight.  However, to say that the thyroid gland only impacts body composition would be a dramatic over-simplification. Why's that?? Well...

  • Every single cell in the human body has receptors for the major thyroid hormone(s) T3 and/or T4 and requires T3 signaling for optimal function.
  • Low thyroid hormone levels are associated with elevated triglycerides.
  • There’s a higher chance of mental retardation in kids whose moms had hypothyroidism during pregnancy.
  • Low thyroid hormone also can lead to poor digestive function and constipation.
  • Thyroid hormone influences other major hormones in female reproductive health, notably by making progesterone receptors more sensitive, meaning a woman with intense PMS symptoms every month, may actually be dealing with a thyroid issue.

The thyroid is also incredibly sensitive to external signals. It can be negatively impacted by a number of chemical compounds including fluoride, several heavy metals and other synthetic compounds, which is why many hypothesize that thyroid issues are on the rise due to increased exposure to these things in modern society. How prevalent is hypothyroidism? Well, it's estimated that nearly 10 million Americans, mostly women, are dealing with some dysfunction in their thyroid physiology.

At the most basic level, the function of the thyroid gland is to produce the hormones T3 and T4, which regulate gene transcription throughout the body. Basically, T3 makes every cell in your body work optimally when levels are appropriate. But... why have this regulated at all? Wouldn't you always want your cells running optimally???

Thyroid hormones are HIGHLY regulated during the transition from the fed to the starved state. This has been well-studied in some animal models where a drastic reduction in calories rapidly suppresses T4 and T3 levels.  This was also shown in humans in something called The Vermont Study as well as several others where carbohydrate consumption was implicated as being critical for optimal thyroid functionality. Why does the body suppress thyroid function in a "starved" state?? Caloric restriction at high levels represents a severe threat to survival and because thyroid hormones set the basal metabolic rate, a drop in thyroid hormone levels should reduce extend to use of energy stores (AKA body fat). Basically, this is an evolutionary survival mechanism from a time period where humans could go long periods of time without eating. 

Why is this a problem for you?  Well, when you try to diet yourself into a 6-pack through pretty extreme measures, your thyroid function is decreased in an attempt to basically keep you alive. Your basal metabolic rate drops, you stop moving around as much (non-exercise activity thermogensis, or NEAT, drops) and basically you are no longer in the calorie deficit you were a month ago when you started dieting in the first place.  So you push the calories even lower and lower, try to do more in the gym which causes increased stress, an altered immune state and next thing you know, your body is broken.  Now... this is the extreme case, but we see it happening more and more frequently. 

So, what are we going to do about it... well, its a good idea to figure out if we have a thyroid problem in the first place.

How do you know if you might have a thyroid issue?

The obvious answer is to go to the doctor and get tested, but there are a number of problems with taking that approach alone, notably that your lab values are going to be compared to a "standard" range of people. Note I did not say HEALTHY people, just the average amongst the population.  Do most of the people you encounter on a day-to-day basis look healthy???  Secondly, most physicians don't want to check anything beyond TSH, but to get a real good picture we need to look at T3 and T4, and T3 uptake at a minimum.

So, if we're going to take matters into our own hands, some symptoms to look out for would be

  • Consistent fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
  • Dry skin and coarse, dry hair, and/or hair loss.
  • Cold, especially in extremities and fingers
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Menstrual cycle abnormalities
  • Low sex drive

OK, so don't go full hypochondriac on me and assume you have an issue with your thyroid if you occasionally have one or two of those symptoms.  But, if that list rings a little too close to home, its time to get some additional testing done.

Lets assume things are out of whack and you do have a thyroid issue, what can we do about it?  Sadly each case is really unique and you need someone that can help figure out which aspects of your life are really the cause.  Too much stress? Over-active immune system? Leaky gut? Vitamin and mineral imbalances? Liver issues? All could be at play.  With that in mind... we're going to present to you a case study of one client and how we helped move her in the right direction.

"Stress, vitamins and goitrogens, oh my!"

This client came to us after hitting a major plateau with weight loss. We made some adjustments, but she was still not seeing the kind of changes we would expect. At this point, we asked her to reach out to a doctor where it was discovered that she was having some issues with her thyroid as TSH was elevated.  

Looking at the big picture, our client was extremely active within the CrossFit community-working out, coaching, and was in general very health conscious. One of her biggest goals was to get her energy back, so she could train the way she wanted to in the gym, and to have enough energy to live the life she enjoyed. She wanted abs too, but at this point, those became a secondary focus - our primary goal was to get her healthy... and remember, abs don’t always mean your healthy.

The first thing we took into consideration was her diet history.  She had been at an extreme deficit for an extended period of time.  As we just went over, this can cause a ton of stress on the body, exacerbating an already out of control thyroid. So the first thing we did was to get her OUT of that calorie deficit to create a less stressful environment for her body to heal in. Generally speaking, asking someone to eat more to lose weight doesn’t go over to well, but luckily the client understood the purpose and agreed to our approach. We went to a higher carb/protein ratio in terms of macros and cut back on fats, as depending on their source, fats can cause excessive free radicals and extra stress on the body.  Additionally, we asked the client to really try and spread her protein out throughout the day to attempt to balance out blood sugar levels and improve satiety.

We next went about eliminating any extra stress or irritants that often times alter the thyroid and related hormones. We eliminated any foods that could be considered inflammatory (highly specific from client to client, but in general gluten and dairy are a good place to start). On top of that, we removed RAW cruciferous vegetables (broccoli/cauliflower/Brussel sprouts/kale/spinach). These types of veggies contain elevated levels of goitrogens;  Goitrogens can block the process by which iodine is incorporated in the key thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Fun fact, T3 has THREE iodine molecules and T4 has... you guessed it, FOUR.  Goitrogens, also inhibit the actual release of thyroid hormone by your thyroid gland, and disrupt the peripheral conversion of the thyroid storage hormone T4 into the active thyroid hormone T3.

Next was soy. Soy hides in a lot of products as a filler so we had to be mindful with this one. Soy has a significant amount of isoflavones and these compounds are often considered endocrine disruptors.  We definitely want to avoid those with a thyroid issue.  There's also some evidence that soy products can also disrupt the absorption of certain medications and supplements that we were going to be implementing. 

Next was coffee (GASP!!!). We wanted to limit coffee to a minimal amount for two reasons. First was to get an accurate gauge of the client's energy levels and how well she was responding to the plan.  Secondly, excessive caffeine can also interfere with the absorption of certain medications and supplements that were being incorporated.

We suggested trying to stick to sweet potatoes, squash, fruit, and COOKED vegetables as the as primary carb sources.  Cooking the veggies helps with the goitrogen issue above, and cooked vegetables are just easier to break down for the body.  As we mentioned, there are often digestive issues with hypothyroidism, so anything we can do to make digestion easier is a good idea.  We also made suggestions to focus on foods rich in Vitamin D (whole eggs, fish, mushrooms). Vitamin D play a crucial role in the production, conversion, and activation of the thyroid hormones. We also tried to increase the clients intake of iodine and selenium as well through the consumption of fish, seaweed, salted nuts (brazil nuts in particular are good for thyroid issues), and sunflower seeds. Iodine is a necessary component to hormone production/secretion in the thyroid. 

When it came to straight supplementation, we took a gentle approach as it was important to the client, and went with vitamin D and vitamin B12.  B12 is great for overall energy, thyroid/hormone health, and most people don’t get enough through diet. Not only can thyroid issues contribute to vitamin B12 deficiency, but ongoing vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to people being less likely to respond to treatment for their thyroid and interfere with getting relief from their symptoms.

Finally, we added the adaptogen ashwagandha. We suggested this versus some other options since it can be taken as a tea and the client was wary of adding another pill to her routine.  In this case we were looking for an adaptogen that would provide immune support and hormone health.  On top of encouraging your thyroid to produce more or less hormones depending on your needs, taking this herb also offers other benefits like appropriately regulated cortisol levels (stress hormone) and improved insulin sensitivity, both important for achieving body comp goals

We also made sleep and hydration a huge priority. With her decreased energy levels sleep was easy, so we had to try to work our way from needing naps to get through the day and getting good quality sleep at night. 8+ hours in a pitch black room was the goal. Getting in enough water does wonders for your body and allows it to carry out the daily function it needs to for survival and to operate at its prime.

The pictures below show how well her body responded to the changes we made, but what is so much more important is that she was able to get back to her normal workout routine, didn’t need naps on a regular basis, and was overall happier. These pictures are approximately 6 weeks apart and at the end of those 6 weeks her symptoms were pretty much resolved.

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The caveat with this is client is that whenever stress levels increased, symptoms would increase/pop back up.  Emotional stress is SO IMPORTANT in thyroid conditions and something that is often overlooked in clients.  You'd be surprised how many people with hypothyroidism had a traumatic incident in their past OR are dealing with a current stressful situation in their life such as a demanding job with 80 hour work weeks, a family illness, etc.  But that's another post entirely...

If you're looking for help with something similar reach out to us here.  We're always ready to help get you on the path to long term health.

Co written by M2 coachs Casey Mendrala and Mike Molloy

Reflection: M2 Turns 1

one_year.jpg

I've been coaching in some capacity or another for 7 years now, but I didn't actually formally create M2 until June of last year. Up until then, it was just me doing my thing pretty much all by myself. Man oh man has a lot changed in the last 12 months. I wanted to take some time to reflect on where we've come from, and then talk about where I see things going.

The metrics for success at M2 will always be defined first and foremost by the clients. Are we helping them to succeed in what matters most to them? Whether thats performance, body composition or overall health.  Are we making people happier?

Power Monkey Camp. Just one of the many cool things from the past year.

Power Monkey Camp. Just one of the many cool things from the past year.

At a performance level, its been an amazing year.  In 2017, we sent about 22 athletes to Regionals and qualified 10 athletes to the Crossfit Games.  In 2018 we had over 50 Regionals athletes, and will have 22 people competing at the Games in a few short weeks. Whats pretty cool though is that about 50% of those athletes accomplished something they've never done before.  Its one thing to just help an athlete like Chyna Cho or Carol-Ann Reason Thibault stay at the high level they've already achieved, but its another thing entirely to help someone take that next step to Regionals or the Games for the first time. Those are some of the best memories and the ones I'll never forget.

How do we measure success with the other aspects of what we offer? How does one measure body composition, health and happiness in meaningful way?  Don't even start with me about pounds lost... I don't have time for that BS. 

That back tho...

That back tho...

The best way I can think of it is to look at our growth.  Our advertising budget is exactly $0, so all of the new clients we're getting are coming through referrals in some capacity.  Over the last year, we've grown the number of full-time coaching clients we work with by about 500%. I think this says we're doing something right, that we're connecting with people in a way thats different from what else is out there, and that its resonating with what people are really looking for.  Of course, there's a laundry list of things I want to do better and if I'm being honest, I lose sleep obsessing over them every single night.

I want to help people be the best versions of themselves.  Its what I'm passionate about and I think I'm pretty good at it. When I was just "Mike the Nutrition Coach" I was able to derive pride and happiness from seeing client's success on a competition floor, or winning a small battle against an eating disorder, or watching them brag about the new abs they were sporting (of course while eating more food than ever).  The messages about changed attitudes and accomplishments just puts a smile on my face and makes every last second of work worth it.

I never thought anything would compete with that satisfaction... then I started hiring coaches.  Its just amazing to me that I get to provide a platform for amazing human beings to do amazing things helping others.  I LOVE all my coaches... literally I love all of them.  We met for the first real time as a team in Chicago and it was like being surrounded by a warm blanket on a cold day.  I could just tell that they cared about their clients, about each other and about the company.  

Being a nutrition coach is pretty freaking amazing... but running a team of nutrition coaches with the people I have is just about the best damn job on planet earth.  It is so freaking hard to choose just one of them to illustrate WHY this makes me so happy, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Jenny Sharp is one of the truly beautiful human beings on this planet.  She's smart as hell, hard working, compassionate, intuitive, humble and honest. She's just a GOOD person that wants to help other people be better versions of themselves. I don't want to speak for Jenny, but I'm not sure that she really had an appropriate platform to truly use all those amazing traits until we connected and she came to work with me. 

Fun fact: Jenny knows everything about the food scene in Chicago... literally everything.

Fun fact: Jenny knows everything about the food scene in Chicago... literally everything.

Now... she basically gets PAID to be her awesome self.  Its pretty damn cool to be able to provide that opportunity to someone, to create literal VALUE for their incredible traits in a way that wasn't there before.  Multiply that by 11 other coaches, add in an amazing creative business team, and you can see why I think I have the best job in the world.

Side story: I took a Crossfit Weight Lifting class with Mike Burgener years ago.  If you've ever seen or met Mike, you know that he has a larger than life personality and he applies it to his absolute love of weight lifting.  At the end of his seminars, he always tells the class that they can email him ANY time with video to review of lifts, to ask questions, etc.  So... about 3 months after taking his class, I did just that. I figured I might hear back with one or two cues.  Ummm, no. I got a 2 page email telling me everything that I had done right and what I could work on.  Then 3 more emails came the next day with video representations of drills and exercises to work on to help fix my issues.

A few months back, I was really forced to think hard about what I wanted M2 to be, and what I wanted for myself out of the business.  It was absurdly hard to define a vision at the time, until one day I thought about Mr. Burgener.  The man just LOVES to coach and gets fired up when his help results in a new PR. I want M2 to reflect that same passion in the "nutrition" community.  No matter how big this thing gets, I'll never stop coaching and here's why.

I want to CONNECT with athletes. 

I want to care so much that I cry tears of happiness when they succeed, and I want them to trust me so much that they can cry on my shoulder when they don't.

I want to train other coaches to do the same things I do... but in their own unique way.

I want to teach the broader community that there's more to life than the scale, and that the mirror doesn't easily reflect true self-worth or accomplishment.

I want to have fun.

This past year has been one of the hardest, most exhausting, terrifying, amazing, exhilarating, satisfying years of my life. I can't wait to see what else is coming in year two.

Mike Molloy

Owner & Head Coach

M2 Performance Nutrition

What it takes

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to coach over 100 athletes that list "Performance" as their number one goal.  The reality tho is that its HARD to maintain that focus 24/7/365. Sometimes people stray down the road of "GIMME ABS, BITCH" or they want to just relax for a few weeks and not focus on diet, training, etc, to take a vacation and just act like a "normal human being."  This is why its SO HARD to qualify for the CrossFit Games.  The sheer focus that most people need to apply is just beyond comprehension.   

This a post about recognizing hard work, and celebrating ALL the M2 clients that dedicate their lives to this sport.  I could just as easily written about Chyna Cho, opening her own gym and still finding time to train her ass off, Mia Akerlund for pouring her heart out all weekend after suffering a devastating injury 3 days before Regionals, or Alex Parker for being a full time lawyer and still finishing top 10 in the best Region in the world.   EACH athlete has their story of sacrifice and hard work, and each one deserves to be recognized.

I chose to write this post about Meredith Root for a few special reasons though.  First, Meredith is incredibly coachable.  She listens and adapts her effort better than anyone I've worked with.  Secondly, I know for a fact that she thinks she's not that great or gifted (she's so wrong), and therefore is borderline obsessed with doing everything she can to be better.  Finally, even though she applied her incredible focus on making it to the Games, she came up just short of her goal.  It's easy to find perspective when all your dreams come true.  It's another thing entirely when you fall just short. On top of that comes some loyalty... We've been working together for over a year now. Meredith trusted me when I was really still new in the Crossfit scene and my reputation was still developing.  That counts for something in my book.

For all these reasons, I wanted to share Meredith's story.  Thank you Meredith.

I met Meredith Root in 2017 at the Atlantic Regional the day after she had to withdraw from the competition due to a fairly serious bicep injury.  How did I meet her you ask? I slid right into those DMs 😏 

Not creepy at all...  P.S. Love you Kenzie :) 

Not creepy at all...

P.S. Love you Kenzie :) 

Haley Adams had a rough event 2 where everything just seemed to go against her on a set of ring dips.  She took it pretty harshly, as 16 year olds tend to do. Meredith, having literally just finished her event as well, went out of her way to pull her aside, to talk to her about how to learn from the experience, to explain that this was an opportunity to grow.  I was floored... 

The next day, Meredith had to withdraw, and it was her turn to deal with the emotions.  You could see how hard she worked, to see how BAD she wanted to show people what she could do, and how devastating it was to have that opportunity taken from her.  I literally NEVER send strangers messages but sensing her character, I wanted to try and lift her spirits just a little bit.  I'm so glad I did.

Meredith and I started working together as coach/athlete about a month after Regionals.  From day 1, she was focused on performance and doing anything she could to improve her chances of going to the Games one day.  As with most athletes, she was under-eating and doing a few other things that needed to be dialed in as well.   I told her she was going to have to eat more, and after going off and doing some research on her own (freaking scientists...) she did just that.  We talked about the importance of having individualized programming, and she went out and did that too, finding an amazing coach in Mike Fitzgerald.

It's honestly hard for me to tell you what difference our work together made because 1) Meredith gave nearly zero shits about body composition, only performance, so the update pictures were few and FAR between and 2) She doesn't brag much, so I didn't hear about PRs unless I asked. 

To get a sense of what working together was like, I asked Meredith to describe what differences having a "nutrition" coach made.  Here are her words:

"I was always a clean eater, but never really paid attention to particular quantities. I consumed three big meals a day and was eating too much protein and too much fat. I had read books and articles, I knew the science around performance eating and yet I was reluctant to apply those principles to myself.

I thought what I was doing was "good enough." Those are the two most dangerous words in the English language. "Good Enough" is not what gets you on top of podiums. "Good Enough" does not get you to the CrossFit Games. We are in an age where fractional increases in performance make a huge difference. After talking with Mike and seeing what a giant impact he had on Kenzie at Regionals in 2017, I decided I was done with "Good Enough." I decided it was time to work with the best to become the best that I could be. Why put all this effort into training and leave something like nutrition on the table? 

Having someone not only set my numbers but also hold me accountable was huge. I was afraid of carbs, but I knew what was coming if I didn't hit my numbers, so I hit my numbers. And then I started to notice my performance improve. I felt better, I slept better, I looked better. The conversation shifted from accountability to validation. Yes, we are doing the right things, how can we do more? What else can we improve on? 

There were little things that made a big difference. Rinsing my rice before cooking it. White rice contains trace amounts of arsenic. Arsenic blocks testosterone production. You said, "If you're eating 3-4 cups of rice per day, you better be rinsing your f***ing rice before you cook it!" 😬😬😬

I had never had anyone tell me to chew my food before, nor had I even thought about it. When I did think about it, I realized quickly that I was in a bad habit of swallowing a lot of may food whole as I rushed to eat it. I started chewing my food more. It takes me twice as long to eat a meal now, but have much fewer digestive issues and I *think* it's made me a bit leaner."

While the goal wasn't to get leaner or look better in the mirror... shocker, it happened.  The lesson again, if you chase performance and take care of your nutrition and sleep, the body tends to respond favorably.

M2 takes no responsibility for the loss of tan.  If you choose to move to Calgary, thats your own damn fault.  That bicep vein though... thats all us ;) 

M2 takes no responsibility for the loss of tan.  If you choose to move to Calgary, thats your own damn fault.  That bicep vein though... thats all us ;) 

The first opportunity we had to test how things were working was down at Wodapalooza, where Meredith was going head to head with 30 or so other elite CrossFit women. 

Day 1 was a damn good start.  Meredith can run pretty well and ended up with a 5th and a 3rd place finish on the first/second events which were merged together.  That night was what we'd consider a "wheel-house workout" with 3 rounds for time of: 9 muscle ups, 12 power snatches and 15 cals on the assault bike.  She went unbroken on the muscle ups in both rounds 1 and 2, putting serious space between herself and 2nd place.  I was standing right in front of her watching her dissect the workout.  Coming out of the rings on round 3, she was all alone, minutes ahead of the competition.  As she sat down on the bike, she looked at me and gave me this look of "Where the F is everyone?"  Very casually she coasted to a ~30 second victory ahead of the field.  She described it to me as the highlight of her CrossFit career to that point, and the smile on her face proved it was true.  It was a proud moment for me as her friend.

Half a week in Miami... still no tan.

Half a week in Miami... still no tan.

The very next morning, Meredith experienced what can only be described as the stomach plague, and after trying everything, she was forced to withdraw.  A second major competition ending before she wanted it to... it was hard to watch, but you just try and be there for a person.  I think this is the value of having a coach that really cares about you.  You can lean on them when life punches you in the face, you can be emotional and know that they've got your back.  Miami was just one of those moments.

Life Coaching 401

I've talked about this before, but the macros and the supplements are the easy part of being a nutrition coach. LONG-term nutrition coaching is more about balancing emotions and keeping athletes focused.  Asking them to find things they're proud of in themselves, getting them to confide in you when they're stressed.  If I can get an athlete to open up and vent about the stress of work, or family, or a relationship, then maybe they sleep better that night, do a better job with food choices the next day and have a 10% better training session.  Over a year, this adds up and makes a difference.  Here's Meredith again to give you an idea from the other side of this relationship.

"We all know, M2 is not just a nutrition company. More importantly almost, it's a lifestyle company. Nutrition is too emotional to exist without this component. We are not cells in a bioreactor, you cannot simply pump in glucose and amino acids and get the response you desire.  This year was huge for me. I moved my whole life across the continent right at the beginning of winter. I went from sub-tropical North Carolina to the then frozen tundra that was Calgary, Alberta. But it wasn't just my physical location that changed, it was my training environment, my living environment, my access to food, and my relationships."

Coming back to the idea of doing things the right way, Meredith always opened up when I asked her to and evolved to pro-actively telling me about her stress. She understood that bottling shit up wasn't healthy for her as a competitor, never mind just as a person.  It's not my job to fix any of that, but it is my job to listen.  Of course, over time we became more friends than coach/client, or as Meredith describes it, "The waters have become very muddy in a good way. Add coach, athlete, mentor, mentee, boss, employee, and friend into a big pot, stir together, and you get our relationship. It's pretty cool."  

So after just about a full year of working together, there I am at the West Regional with 6 individual female athletes.  Thanks to the lovely CrossFit Gods, I went from having 3 athletes in one Region and 3 in another to having them all shoved together into one Super Region.  Want to talk about stress?  Take 5 spots for the Games and put 6 highly competitive females that you're all "responsible" for in one location... Oh, and add another 10 former Games athletes for good measure.  Thanks Castro...

If you want to see what happened in each event, watch the Regionals replay.  All that matters is at the end of it, Meredith ended up in 6th place, missing out on a Games spot by a painfully close margin, and in a way that was hard to stomach. Watching her sit in the dirt and cry into the shoulder of Alex Parker (complex situation, read here and here) was heart-breaking.  It suuuuuucks to see someone come SO CLOSE and miss.  You're helpless to do anything other than try to be there for them when they want you, and to stay out of the way when they want to be alone. 

I saw Meredith a week later in West Palm Beach at the Atlantic Regional for her twin sister's competition.  While still hurt, she had gained an amazing amount of perspective in an amazingly short period of time.

"And then at the end of it all, there we all were together at the California Regionals. What a weekend! I found you in the crowd during every event. You were a human safety blanket in the midst of the chaos. You were my Guru all year and I was glad to have you there!

Even though I fell a little short of making the Games, I made huge improvements on both the physical and mental side of my game. Sometimes I forget that it's barely been a year since we started working together. Most of my biggest improvements didn't even start until August or September. I now believe I have the best programming available (OPT) and the best nutritionist in the industry. Who knows where we go from here, but it's hard to believe it's anywhere but up."

A few days after that weekend, we were texting back and forth and she told me, "I would rather people remember me as a good person than a good competitor.

Meredith Root, you will NEVER have to choose between those two.

Three of the best "clie-friends" a coach could ever ask for.

Three of the best "clie-friends" a coach could ever ask for.