Archive November 2019

Special report: The top nutrition, fitness, and health trends and insights for 2020. Key findings and proven solutions for better client results.

Special report: The top nutrition, fitness, and health trends and insights for 2020. Key findings and proven solutions for better client results.

Great information is valuable.

But knowing exactly what to do with it? That can be priceless.

Which is why our first-ever nutrition and fitness trends report doesn’t just cover the trends. It also provides actionable takeaways you can use with your clients. Not just in 2020, but right now.

To create this report, we analyzed data from nearly 15,000 Precision Nutrition clients and used it to identify the most interesting (and useful) trends.

You’ll not only learn what people really want to achieve through nutrition, fitness, and health change, but also what they’re struggling with the most.

Even more important, we’re sharing our insights: The proven strategies we’ve developed to help people overcome their most frustrating challenges—and speed their progress—based on our work with over 100,000 clients.

With this in-depth report, you’ll learn:

  • The top 10 nutrition challenges clients face (these may not be what you think they are)
  • The eating struggle that affects 70% of women (and is the fastest growing problem for men)
  • The secret problem with modern foods (it’s not just their calorie counts)
  • The average person’s #1 health and fitness goal (and how to help your clients achieve it)
  • Why most weight loss diets will continue to fail (and what to do instead)
  • The top 3 barriers to exercise (with strategies to overcome them)
  • The key foods people aren’t eating enough of (fixing this can speed your clients’ progress)
  • How to help clients eat better at restaurants (even if they won’t stop dining out every day)
  • And much more, taken from our extensive client research and deep professional experience.

All to help you get ahead of the curve for 2020—for better client results… and greater success as a coach.

While we won’t suggest this special report is literally “priceless,” we’re pretty sure it’s worth way more than we’re charging. Which is… absolutely nothing.

To access this FREE report, click here to download.

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—and helping them achieve the lasting results they really want—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 30% 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, January 15th, 2020.

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 30% 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 Special report: The top nutrition, fitness, and health trends and insights for 2020. Key findings and proven solutions for better client results. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Opening January 2020: Precision Nutrition Coaching for Men and Women

Opening January 2020: Precision Nutrition Coaching for Men and Women

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

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

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


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

On Wednesday, December 4th, 2019 we’re opening registration for the next Precision Nutrition Coaching program for men and women.

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

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

The result? You’ll:

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

Seriously, imagine a life where you…

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

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

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

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

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

And here’s some really exciting news.

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

Will Precision Nutrition work for you?

Yes, and here’s why.

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

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

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

Just take a look at a few of our clients.

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

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

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

Want to know how the program works?

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

Learn exactly how Precision Nutrition Coaching for Men works.

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

Learn exactly how Precision Nutrition Coaching for Women works.


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

We know: Life can get crazy.

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

That’s why we do something very different.

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

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

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

Normal fitness plans tell you to just tough it out.

You’ve gotta want it badly enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See what 365 days of Precision Nutrition Coaching can do.



Now, there is a catch.

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

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

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

Excited about what’s possible?

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


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

Oh, I should also mention this…

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

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

Like these folks:

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

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

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

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

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

Watch as we surprise recent grand prize winner Spencer.

Or Lisa:

Watch as we surprise recent grand prize winner Lisa.


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

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

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

Precision Nutrition has been featured in dozens of media outlets…

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

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

Image 10

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

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

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

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

This is your chance. Don’t miss out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No risk. No joke.

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

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, December 4th, 2019.

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

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

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

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

The post Opening January 2020: Precision Nutrition Coaching for Men and Women appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Should you stop drinking diet soda?

Should you stop drinking diet soda?

“Diet soda can’t be good for you.”

Maybe you’ve heard this before. (Or said it yourself.)

After all, diet soda offers no vitamins or antioxidants, and it’s usually artificially sweetened. So what, exactly, is “good” about it?

While that argument sounds logical, it doesn’t answer the real question on everyone’s mind:

Is diet soda actually bad for you? 

And of related interest: Should you (or your clients) stop drinking diet soda?

To find out, we examined the body of research and talked to leading scientists and nutrition experts. Along the way, we asked lots of questions, including:

    • Does diet soda lead to weight gain?
    • Can it make you crave sugar?
    • Does it affect your hormones?
    • Can it mess with your microbiome?
    • Does it cause cancer?

Plus: Why are some people so “addicted” to it? 

The answers, found below, can help you decide if diet soda is right for you. (Spoiler alert: You’ll even learn what’s “good” about it.)

Does diet soda lead to weight gain?

Over the last two decades, several large observational studies have suggested a link between diet soda consumption and being overweight or obese.1, 2 (Other studies have shown benefits for weight control.)

“Is this because people are drinking these beverages to try to lose weight, or because the diet sodas are causing the weight gain?” asks Gail Rees, Ph.D., deputy head of the school of biomedical sciences at Plymouth University in England.3 “That’s what we don’t know.”

Granted, this type of research doesn’t show cause and effect. So it’s not meant to be conclusive. But if there were a smoking gun, “high-intensity sweeteners” would be at the top of the suspect list.

If you’re not familiar with the term “high-intensity sweeteners,” it’s the trendy way food scientists categorize zero- and very-low-calorie sugar substitutes. These substitutes include artificial sweeteners—like aspartame—and all-natural sweeteners, such as stevia.

There are eight high-intensity sweeteners approved for use in food by the United States’ Federal Drug Administration (FDA)4:

  • Saccharin
  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame Potassium
  • Sucralose
  • Neotame
  • Advantame
  • Steviol Glycosides (stevia)
  • Monk Fruit Extract (luo han guo)

While high-intensity sweeteners are used in thousands of food products, they’ve become notorious as a key ingredient in diet soda.

But observational studies on diet soda have an inherent challenge, beyond simply having to control for lifestyle factors (such as calorie intake, activity level, and smoking habits). Namely: They rely on food-frequency questionnaires, which means participants report their own intake.

So, for example, a research survey might initially ask a large group of study volunteers: How many diet sodas do you drink each week? From there, the scientists would run a statistical analysis to find correlations between diet soda intake and body weight (and other disease risk factors).

In nutrition research, this self-reporting is notoriously sketchy. Will the participants accurately remember what they ate or drank? Will they be honest? Will their answers provide a clear picture of their typical behavior?

All these variables can cloud the findings. But with high-intensity sweeteners, the takeaways are even murkier.

The reason: It’s rare that someone knows what high-intensity sweetener they’ve been consuming.

What’s more, sweeteners are combined to create a flavor more similar to sugar. Diet Mountain Dew, for instance, contains three sweeteners: aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose.5

As a result, high-intensity sweeteners are typically treated as one class of chemical in observational research. Yet each of these sweeteners may have very different effects on the body.

(To review the research yourself, check out this 2019 meta-analysis in the British Medical Journal or this 2017 review in Nutrition Journal. )

What if we studied high-intensity sweeteners individually?

Two years ago, at a conference on sweeteners, Richard Mattes, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University and the director of The Ingestive Behavior Research Center,6 became frustrated by what he heard.

The researchers who took the podium were presenting wildly inconsistent results. Some linked high-intensity sweeteners to better health and weight loss, while others hedged toward disease and obesity.

“The findings contrasted so much,” says Dr. Mattes. “And it struck me: Why do we think that these sweeteners would all behave the same way?”

After the Purdue conference, Dr. Mattes launched a trial that compared table sugar (sucrose) to saccharin, aspartame, stevia, and sucralose, individually.

For three months, he had 123 people consume 1.25 to 1.75 liters per day of a beverage sweetened with just one of the five sugar substitutes. (That’s 42 to 60 ounces—or 3.5 to 5 cans of diet soda daily.) When the results came in, he found significant differences in how each sweetener affected body weight.7

Study participants consuming aspartame, stevia, and sucralose gained such little weight that the results were statistically equal to zero. 

But those consuming saccharin, the artificial sweetener found in Sweet ‘N Low, gained 2.6 pounds—about 60 percent as much as those consuming sucrose.

“That was a really surprising finding,” says Dr. Mattes. “We expected people to gain weight with sucrose, but not with the low-cal sweeteners.” (Note: These results haven’t been replicated yet.)

Why the type of high-intensity sweetener might matter

Like many researchers, Dr. Mattes believes the difference lies in how sweeteners travel through our bodies.

Aspartame, for instance, the sole sweetener in Diet Coke8 and Dr. Pepper,9 is digested quickly in the upper third of the intestine and absorbed into the bloodstream as individual amino acids (aspartic acid and phenylalanine).6

The aspartame itself? “It’s never going to get into the bloodstream, and it’s not going to reach the colon,” says Dr. Mattes. That limits its ability to wreak havoc, he says.

Neotame, which isn’t widely used, is also thought to be rapidly digested,10 while other sweeteners continue through the digestive tract to be broken down in varying degrees by enzymes.6

Stevia and sucralose—the high-intensity sweetener we consume the most—appear in large quantities in the colon, while saccharin (along with acesulfame potassium, which wasn’t included in Dr. Mattes’ study) shows up more readily in the bloodstream.6

“The idea that we can view them all as a single class of substances is likely wrong,” says Dr. Mattes. “To study their health effects, we’re going to have to look at them individually.” (And ultimately, in different combinations with one another, too.)

And that, says Dr. Mattes, is where the research is headed. In the coming years, we’ll see more studies that put the focus on specific sweeteners, rather than the class as a whole.

All of which isn’t to dismiss findings from observational research. To prove, however, that high-intensity sweeteners, and thus diet soda, can cause weight gain, researchers need to find the mechanism through which it happens. And while there are theories, none have yet to emerge as fact. Here’s what the research looks like right now.

Theory 1: Diet soda makes you addicted to sugar

The idea: Sweet foods and beverages alter your taste preference, so you crave more sweet foods. That, in turn, could make it more difficult to turn down dessert or break-room doughnuts.

“It’s well-established that consuming sugar-sweetened foods can increase your desire for sweets,” says Brian St. Pierre, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition at Precision Nutrition. “You tend to crave whatever you eat habitually, and this seems to be true for both sugary and non-sugary foods.”

But does consuming high-intensity sweeteners, specifically, make you want sweets? The research isn’t clear.

Most studies that suggest high-intensity sweeteners increase the desire for sweet foods have been done on rats. In fact, in a 2019 meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal,1 researchers found just two randomized controlled trials that tackled the question of sweet preference head-on in humans. And they did it by adding aspartame to the diets of overweight and obese subjects.

The conclusion of those studies: Among those who consumed the high-intensity sweetener, the desire to eat sweet foods was slightly lower.

“There’s some evidence that consuming a diet version of a sweet food can actually help satisfy your desire for sweets,” says St. Pierre. “Especially if you’re used to consuming a sugary soda and replace it with a diet drink.”

There’s also this possibility: The effect could be highly individual. Perhaps this is a problem for some but not for others.

Theory 2: Diet soda affects your hormones

The proposed mechanism here: High-intensity sweeteners “trick” your body into thinking you’re eating sugar. This triggers your pancreas to release the hormone insulin, which signals your body to slow the breakdown of fat. As a result, it could be harder to lose weight.

A small insulin bump has been observed in studies on sucralose11 and saccharin, but one study of 15 young men failed to find the response for aspartame.12 Overall, human studies show these insulin spikes are so small they’re hard to detect and very short-lived. Which makes it unlikely they impact weight loss at all, given what we know now.

Plus, even if there were a significant insulin release, your ability to lose weight is most dependent on your overall energy balance, not insulin, says St. Pierre. (For more background, read: Calories in versus calories out? Or hormones? The debate is finally over.)

Theory 3: Diet soda disrupts your microbiome

What if high-intensity sweeteners alter your microbiome? “That could have implications for energy balance, appetite, immune function—all kinds of things,” says Dr. Mattes.

As with other issues, Dr. Mattes believes any impact could be dependent on the type of sweetener used. Those that make their way to your colon, for instance—such as stevia, sucralose, and to some extent, saccharin—might be more likely to present problems, he says.

While this is an intriguing area of research, it’s still in its infancy. “There are some interesting animal studies, but not a whole lot on humans,” says Mark Pereira, Ph.D., a professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.13 And of the human studies that do exist, he says, “They just aren’t very good.”

Now, all of this might seem like a whole lot of nothing. But it’s useful to know where these theories stand for one reason: It gives you a better sense of the existing scientific evidence. (Especially useful when reading Facebook comments on the topic.)

Of course, these aren’t the only ways a no-calorie diet soda could lead to weight gain. Some studies have suggested that consuming high-intensity sweeteners may increase hunger, by perhaps interfering with appetite hormones and how your brain regulates food intake (or by some other mechanism).2 But even more studies have shown no effect at all.

“The idea that high-intensity sweeteners increase hunger seems to only be true if they’re consumed alone, in the absence of other nutrients,” says St. Pierre. “This doesn’t, however, seem to be the case when they’re consumed with meals, although the data is very limited and far from conclusive.”

But in considering all this research, it’s important to remember: “If you currently drink a lot of regular soda, or have in the past, diet soda is a better option based on what we know today, even if it’s not perfect,” says St. Pierre. “There’s far more data on weight and health problems associated with sugar-sweetened beverages than there is with high-intensity sweeteners.”

What about cancer and other serious health problems?

In the 1970s, saccharin was linked to bladder tumors in rats.14 For a while, the sweetener was even banned from foods and beverages in the U.S.

But the cancer link never emerged in humans, and as a paper from Current Oncology notes, you’d have to drink 800 cans of diet soda per day to reach the dose used to induce cancer in rats.15

Still, the cancer scare means that every high-intensity sweetener since saccharin has faced increased scrutiny. 

“There are still people out there who claim that [high-intensity sweeteners] are associated with cancers,” says Dr. Mattes. “But every governmental body that has reviewed them—they’ve done it extensively in the United States, Australia, Europe, Japan, and Canada—concludes that when used in reasonable amounts, they’re not harmful.”

If that sounds less than comforting, that’s understandable. Especially given how much there is to learn about the way individual high-intensity sweeteners are processed by the body.

But currently: There’s no good evidence to suggest any of the FDA approved sweeteners pose serious health risks.

In fact, the chart below shows the daily intake of these sweeteners that the FDA has deemed acceptable for a 150-pound (68 kg) person.4

Sweetener Number of times sweeter than table sugar Acceptable daily limit for a 150-pound (68 kg) person
Acesulfame Potassium
(Sweet One®, Sunnett®)
200x 1,020 mg
Advantame 20,000x 2,230 mg
Nutrasweet®, Equal®, Sugar Twin®
200x 3,400 mg
10,000x 20.4 mg
(Sweet and Low®, Sweet’NLow®)
400x 1,020 mg
600x 340 mg

* Adapted from United States FDA chart on Acceptable Daily Limit of High-Intensity Sweeteners

For perspective, here are the amounts of high-intensity sweeteners you’ll reportedly find in several popular 12-ounce cans of diet soda16:

Diet Coke 187.5 mg aspartame
Diet Coke with Splenda 45 mg acesulfame potassium + 60 mg sucralose
Coke Zero 87 mg aspartame + 46.5 mg acesulfame potassium
Diet Pepsi 177 mg aspartame*
Pepsi One 45 mg acesulfame potassium + 60 mg sucralose
Diet Dr. Pepper 184.5 mg aspartame
Diet Mountain Dew 85.5 mg aspartame + 27 mg acesulfame potassium + 27 mg sucralose
Sprite Zero 75 mg aspartame + 51 mg acesulfame potassium

* Since this analysis, Diet Pepsi has adjusted their formula in the U.S. It’s now sweetened with aspartame and acesulfame potassium (precise amounts not available).
** Adapted from Diabetes Self-Management, “Diet Soft Drinks” by Mary Franz, MS, RD, LD

Of course, few people will guzzle 19 cans of Diet Coke a day. (We’ll stop short of saying “no one,” because… people.) That’s the amount that’d put you over the acceptable daily limit from diet soda alone.

But keep in mind: High-intensity sweeteners are used in far more than diet soda. You’ll find them low-calorie yogurts, energy drinks, baked goods, diet desserts, and protein powders and bars.

And just because you’re under that limit for diet soda doesn’t mean you’re drinking what most health experts would consider “reasonable amounts.”

Here at Precision Nutrition, our coaches say it’s not unusual for new clients to report they’re drinking six or more 20-ounce diet sodas a day. That’s a lot, by any measure. These folks often claim they’re hooked on it. Which leads us to this question…

Why can’t you stop drinking diet soda?

If you’re a diet soda diehard, maybe you’ve wondered why you can’t get enough. Plenty of people even say it’s downright “addictive.” (To learn more, read: Eating too much? Blame your brain.)

You can be sure: That’s no accident.

“Food and beverage manufacturers scientifically engineer products, including diet soda, to appeal to the pleasure centers in your brain, belly, and mouth,” says Brian St. Pierre, M.S., R.D., Precision Nutrition’s Director of Nutrition. “That drives you to consume more of it than you might otherwise.”

The sweetness is no doubt part of diet soda’s allure. But the other big factors? Carbonation, caffeine, and flavor enhancers.

“All combined, this is known as stimuli stacking,” says St. Pierre. “It’s how companies engineer foods and drinks to make them nearly irresistible.”

The weird reason you love carbonation

Ironically, the appeal of carbonation is that it hurts: The CO2 burns your tongue. Like the Tabasco on your eggs, the pain is mild and enjoyable. It also occurs through an entirely different pathway.

“Enzymes in your mouth convert CO2 into carbonic acid,” says Paul Breslin, Ph.D., a member of the Monell Chemical Senses Center and a professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University.10 “That can actually acidify the tissue, so it will hurt a little bit.”

The pain increases as the bubbles sit on your tongue, and that creates a built-in customization mechanism. Someone who likes more of this pain can simply savor each sip longer.

In addition to the mouth thrill of a minor burn, carbonation amplifies the signal coming from the liquid, so it quenches your thirst better than flat water.10

The likely reason: It provides more sensory data for your brain to latch onto. “When you start playing with the sensory properties of the beverage, you can sort of make it hyper-stimulatory,” says Dr. Breslin. This can make a diet soda seem more refreshing than water, even before you factor in sweetness.

Caffeine: Diet soda’s little helper

Caffeine is next in line to explain diet soda’s popularity. Although it’s known as a productivity booster, it also adds a slight bitterness to cola.

“People who make sodas have a tendency to say caffeine is there to affect the flavor,” says Dr. Breslin. “But there’s another camp that says the caffeine is at a level you can feel systemically, like a caffeine buzz that you would get from tea or coffee.”

To be fair, diet soda’s dosing is relatively small compared to coffee. A 12-ounce can of Diet Coke contains 46 milligrams (mg) of caffeine8, and Diet Pepsi has slightly less.17 That’s about half of what you’d find in an eight-ounce cup of joe,18 and less than 20 percent of a tall Starbuck’s Pike Place Roast.19

But again, it’s common for coaches to report their clients are drinking a two-liter bottle of diet soda daily. And all that caffeine adds up.

Plus, the smaller caffeine dosage could lure people into thinking soda is okay to drink with dinner or before bedtime, which could interfere with sleep and even lead to weight gain.

A study from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine found that reducing people’s natural sleep times by a third (roughly 2.5 hours) caused them to consume 559 extra calories per day.20 And no, the sleep-deprived subjects didn’t use their extra waking hours to work out: Despite eating more, their caloric output remained flat.

Flavor enhancers: The X-factor

Why is Coke more popular than Pepsi?

Not because it’s sweeter or more carbonated or has more caffeine. It’s all the ingredients together, including the patented flavor enhancers that make Coke… taste like Coke.

“These ingredient combos stimulate the reward and hedonic centers of your brain,” says St. Pierre. “They also tap into the nature of human behavior.”

Let’s say you try diet soda and enjoy it. So, like any normal human, you start drinking it regularly. “After a lot of consistent consumption, your brain comes to rely upon and expect the pleasure hit it gets from the drink’s ingredients,” says St. Pierre. “And that drives you to drink even more.”

So, should you drink diet soda… or not?

There’s no clear-cut answer that applies to everyone.

As is often the case, the “right” choice isn’t dictated by the science alone. Instead, it’s dependent on what makes the most sense for you, the individual—with respect to both the evidence and your personal preferences, lifestyle, goals, and current intake.

Experts who recommend cutting out diet soda are essentially following the precautionary principle: Until something is proven without-a-doubt safe, it’s better to assume it isn’t. (Read: Phrases like “generally recognized as safe” and “acceptable daily intake” don’t cut it.)

That might seem overly cautious to you, or it might make complete sense. Neither approach is wrong.

But that brings us to the diet soda drinker’s dilemma, and the real reason you’re still reading this article: What if you love diet soda, but you’re still concerned with how it might affect your health?

Step 1: Worry about what really matters first.

Based on the scientific evidence, there’s no compelling reason to stop drinking diet soda entirely.

“The risks of having excess body fat, on the other hand, are well-known and significant,” says St. Pierre. “If you’re replacing regular soda, or another highly caloric beverage, with diet soda, and it’s helping you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, the benefits outweigh any potential downside.”

Besides helping with weight control, there are other ways diet soda can support your health and fitness goals.

Maybe you’ve decided to drink less alcohol, and diet soda feels like a compromise you can live with in social situations. Or you want to have some caffeine in the morning or before your workouts, and you just don’t like unsweetened coffee or tea. (See, diet soda is good for something!)

Think of the effort you spend on your health as a jar, says St. Pierre. If you have a choice between big rocks, pebbles, and sand, you’ll be able to fill up your jar fastest with big rocks. Afterward, you can fill in the cracks with smaller stuff, like pebbles and sand.

In the grand scheme of things, whether you choose to drink diet soda is a small rock. It might even be sand, says St. Pierre.

So, before you worry about changing your diet soda habits, focus on “big rocks” that make the most impact on your health, such as:

  • eating mostly minimally-processed whole foods
  • eating enough lean protein and vegetables
  • eating slowly, until satisfied, and only when hungry
  • getting adequate sleep
  • managing stress
  • moving regularly
  • reducing excessive smoking/alcohol consumption

Unlike eliminating diet soda, there’s a wealth of evidence showing the above habits have a lasting effect on your overall health. Tackle the big stuff first. (Coaches: This advice applies when helping your clients, too.)

Three additional notes on health: 

1. People with phenylketonuria, a rare genetic disease that makes metabolizing phenylalanine difficult, should avoid products with aspartame altogether. (Aspartame is composed of phenylalanine.)

2. Diet sodas tend to be highly acidic, which can erode tooth enamel. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of American Dental Association found most diet sodas to be “erosive” or “highly erosive.”21 For context, though, many flavored waters, bottled teas, and juice, sports, and energy drinks also met these designations.

3. Carbonation, caffeine, and high acidity can all cause acid reflux individually, says St. Pierre. And since many diet sodas contain all three, they’re among the worst triggers. Which is worth considering, in case you regularly suffer from reflux or heartburn.

Step 2: Lose the all-or-nothing mindset.

If you decide you want to drink less diet soda, you don’t have to go cold turkey.

In fact, there’s a wide range of choices available between drinking nothing but water and drinking a two-liter of Diet Pepsi a day.

For example:

  • If you drink four diet sodas a day, could you substitute green tea for the morning one?
  • If you normally have a diet soda every night with dinner, could you do that just three times a week instead?
  • If you constantly crave the bubbly mouthfeel of diet soda, could you swap one or two a day for carbonated water (such as seltzer or sparkling)?

St. Pierre uses this chart to help clients see how they can make slightly better choices, one drink at a time. The goal isn’t to completely eliminate drinks you love, but rather, shift your habits toward the “drink more” category. (See our “What to drink” guide for complete recommendations and strategies.)

At first, these tweaks might not seem like much. But small, consistent changes made over time add up to lasting change.

As a rule of thumb, St. Pierre does recommend a “reasonable amount” target of 8 to 16 ounces a day. Why? Because this amount:

  • Ensures you’re well within the “acceptable daily limit,” as determined by the FDA or your country’s governing agency
  • Allows for the inclusion of other items that contain high-intensity sweeteners (such as protein powders and no-calorie sweeteners for coffee and tea)
  • Keeps intake low enough to protect your teeth from erosion
  • Leaves plenty of room for beverages known to be health-promoting, such as plain water, tea, and coffee

Step 3: Remember: There’s no “best” way to eat… or drink.

As much as a universal, one-size-fits-all, “best diet ever” might make our lives simpler… it doesn’t exist.

Instead, it’s about finding a way of eating (and drinking) that works best for you as an individual.

Good nutrition is the goal, and it’s possible to accomplish that in a way you actually like. Even if it includes drinking diet soda daily.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s evidenced-based and personalized for their unique body, goals, and preferences—is both an art and a science.

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

What’s it all about?

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

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

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

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

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 30% 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, April 8th, 2020.

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 30% 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.



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

  1. Toews, I., Lohner, S., Kullenburg de Gaudry, D., Sommer, H., Meerphohl, J, (2019). Association between intake of non-sugar sweeteners and health outcomes: Systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials and observational studies. British Medical Journal.
  1. Lohner, S., Toes, I., Meerpohl, J.J. (2017). Health outcomes of non-nutritive sweeteners: analysis of the research landscape. Nutrition Journal, 16(55).
  1. Gail Reese, Ph.D., deputy head of the school of biomedical sciences at Plymouth University in England.
  1. Additional information about high-intensity sweeteners permitted for use in food in the United States. (U.S. Food and Drug Administration.)
  1. Nutrition facts for Mountain Dew.
  1. Richard Mattes, Ph.D., professor of nutrition science at Purdue University and the director of The Ingestive Behavior Research Center.
  1. Higgins, K.A., Mattes, R.D. (2019). A randomized controlled trial contrasting the effects of 4 low-calorie sweeteners and sucrose on body weight in adults with overweight or obesity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 109(5): 1288-1301.
  1. Nutrition facts for Diet Coke.
  1. Nutrition facts for Dr. Pepper.
  1. Paul Breslin, Ph.D. Member of the Monell Chemical Senses Center and professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University. 
  1. Dhillon, J., Lee, J.Y., Mattes, R.D. (2017). The cephalic phase insulin response to nutritive and low-calorie sweeteners in solid and beverage form. Physiology and Behavior, 181: 100-109.
  1. Duskova, M., Macourek, M., Sramkova, M., Hill, M., Starka, L. (2013). The role of taste in cephalic phase of insulin secretion. Prague Medical Report, 114(4): 222-30.
  1. Mark Pereira, Ph.D., a professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.
  1. Reuber, M.D. (1978). Carcinogenicity of saccharin. Environmental Health Perspectives, 25: 173-200.
  1. Touyz, L. Z. G., (2011). Saccharin deemed “not hazardous” in United States and abroad. Current Oncology, 18(5): 213-214.
  1. Franz, M. (2010). Diet soft drinks. Diabetes Self-Management. 
  1. Caffeine content of Diet Pepsi.
  1. Food Data Central. United States Department of Agriculture. 
  1. Nutrition information for Starbucks Pike Place Roast.
  1. Calvin, A.D., Carter, R.E., Adachi, T., ,Macedo, P.G., Albuquerque, F.N., van der Walt, C., Bukartyk, J., Davison, D.E., Levine, J., Somers, V.K. (2013). Effects of experimental sleep restriction on caloric intake and activity energy expenditure. Chest, 144(1): 79-86.
  1. Reddy, A., Norris, D.F., Momeni, S.S., Waldo, B., Ruby, J. (2016). The pH of beverages available to the American consumer. Journal of the American Dental Association, 147(4): 255-263.

The post Should you stop drinking diet soda? appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Opening December 2019: Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach. Where expert coaching, world-class curriculum, and innovative software meet.

Katie Wygant - testimonial card

ProCoach is world-class software that helps you coach more people, in less time, with better results. In one simple, easy-to-use platform, you get the industry’s leading nutrition and lifestyle coaching curriculum—complete with daily lessons, habits, progress updates, and more—ready to be delivered to your clients, with you showcased as the coach. 

Developed over 15 years and proven with over 100,000 clients, ProCoach is built on Precision Nutrition’s continually evolving curriculum—which is based on the latest scientific research, practice-based change techniques, our own clients’ transformative results, and feedback from over 12,000 ProCoaches to date. 

ProCoach gives you everything you need to roll out best-in-class nutrition coaching, effortlessly. Allowing you to turn what you learned in the Precision Nutrition Certification into a thriving coaching practice, get better results with every single client you work with, and add a highly profitable, scalable income stream to your business immediately. 

For more, check out this short video; it provides an overview of exactly how the ProCoach software works:

See how other health and fitness pros are using ProCoach with their clients.

On Wednesday, April 8th, 2020, ProCoach becomes available to all Precision Nutrition Certification students and graduates. 

ProCoach is software that provides health and fitness professionals all the tools they need to start coaching nutrition with confidence—helping clients achieve better, longer-lasting results.

Plus, you can lock in a one-time special discount—and save 30%! (More details below.)

The most reliable and effective system for coaching nutrition.

When your job is to help people get in better shape, focusing on nutrition is the most important and effective step. But there’s a big problem: Piecing together all the details and getting the right systems in place to roll out a fully-functioning nutrition coaching service can be overwhelming.

As one of our ProCoaches put it: “Nutrition coaching felt SO complicated. When it came to offering it to my clients, I didn’t even know where to start.”

At best, most coaches are working with a clumsy combination of spreadsheets, Word docs, texting, email, and maybe a cheap calorie-counting app. They can already tell that as soon as they have more than 5 or 10 clients, it’s going to be chaos.

Despite their best intentions, these coaches struggle to keep their clients on track… which leads to negative feelings of self-doubt, stress, and frustration.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Adding nutrition coaching to your existing services doesn’t have to be so confusing, complicated, or difficult.

With ProCoach, you can seamlessly integrate nutrition into your business—while focusing on what you enjoy and do best: Coaching. Our software will handle all the details, from daily nutrition and lifestyle programming, to built in accountability, progress tracking, and more.

Now, instead of second-guessing yourself, feeling unsure about whether you know “enough” to offer nutrition advice, or worrying about figuring out all the details…

You can have total confidence—feeling energized, optimistic, and excited to integrate nutrition coaching into your business. Knowing you’ve got the world’s most effective and reliable system backing you up.

This means better results for every single client you work with. A stronger business for you. And the ability to help more people. 

With ProCoach, it’s all possible. 

Katie Wygant - testimonial card

Grow your business and work less.

Whether you want to start a new coaching business, or add nutrition coaching to your existing services, ProCoach will help you:

  • Market and sell your services to the people who need it.
  • Coach more people while delivering exceptional results.
  • Connect more deeply with your clients.
  • Spend less time on the admin things that drive you crazy.
  • Spend more time on the coaching things you enjoy.
  • Build a stronger business.

A proven curriculum, created/organized for you.

ProCoach automatically delivers—to your clients, on your behalf—an online nutrition coaching curriculum that helps them:

  • practice new eating habits,
  • troubleshoot their biggest challenges,
  • stay consistent, motivated, and accountable, and
  • radically improve their nutrition, lifestyle, and health.

With you as their coach—answering questions, offering encouragement, and tracking progress through a special dashboard—ProCoach helps you get more people to their goals, reliably and effectively every time.

Develop your coaching expertise.

ProCoach will also help you:

  • Assess clients quickly and efficiently.
  • Deliver daily habits, lessons, assignments from our curriculum.
  • Review client consistency and habit adherence at any time.
  • Track clients’ physical, mental, and behavior changes every week.
  • Communicate clearly and expertly when clients are stuck.
  • Attract new clients with photos, data, testimonials, and straight-up, irrefutable, hard-data evidence of your success as a coach.

ProCoach provides all the tools you need to start coaching nutrition—with confidence.

ProCoach is getting better every single day.

Through our exclusive ProCoach Facebook group, and the regular interviews and surveys we do with ProCoaches, we’re listening closely, responding dynamically, and creating new features every day.

As one ProCoach said: “I’m amazed at how closely you’re listening to feedback and shaping ProCoach in response. You’re saving us time, helping make both our experience and our clients’ experiences better, and much more.”

Indeed, since we opened ProCoach in June of 2016 we’ve released dozens of new features, including the following game changers.

Customized mini-site for every ProCoach

By answering a few simple questions within your ProCoach dashboard we’ll generate a customized mini website for your business, complete with a custom web address.

It’ll lay out your services, including the features, benefits, and hopeful future you’re promising.

Not only will this “do the selling for you,” it’ll also position you as the skilled, experienced, and educated coach that clients need to finally reach their goals.

ProCoach generates your own custom sales page and mini-site.

Done-For-You marketing

Attracting new clients is always a challenge. That’s why, with the help of Pat Rigsby, we created a host of online and offline marketing campaigns for you.

We built these to help you save time and make more money. They come complete with design assets, copy, and deployment instructions.

Now you can easily spread the word about your business and attract the right kind of clients without needing to be a marketing guru to do it.

Done-For-You Marketing is now built into ProCoach.

Quick-Start guides

Whenever onboarding new clients, it’s useful to share something tangible. Both so they feel like they’re getting something amazing for their money and so they can feel like they’re making progress on day one.

That’s why we’ve created these custom Quick-Start Guides. They’ll help set clients up for early success by giving them advice around portion control, workout nutrition, grocery shopping, and meal prep starting on Day 1.

Personalized Quick Start Guides are also built into ProCoach.

Comprehensive Learning Center

Since we first launched ProCoach in June 2016 we’ve made major improvements to our Learning Center.

With articles on every imaginable topic, and an awesome search feature, the Learning Center will teach you everything you need to be successful with ProCoach.

The comprehensive Learning Center included in ProCoach.

ProCoach Workouts (optional)

After working with thousands of ProCoaches to deliver comprehensive nutrition and lifestyle coaching, many began asking us to unlock our vault of expert-designed exercise programs so they can deliver a more holistic, single-platform experience.

As Precision Nutrition’s own coaching programs have offered integrated exercise, nutrition, lifestyle advice for years, we decided to make available our 28 client-proven exercise tracks for you to use with selected clients.

You now have 3 options when using ProCoach. For each client, you can:

  1. Use ProCoach for nutrition coaching only
  2. Use ProCoach for both nutrition and exercise coaching
  3. Use ProCoach for exercise coaching only

The choice is yours.

ProCoach Workouts is now an option you can use with selected clients.

Community of like-minded people + top experts

With our ProCoach Facebook group, you can now work alongside an extremely supportive group of more than 2,500 ProCoaches—including trainers, nutritionists, sport coaches, researchers, therapists, and other healthcare professionals from all over the world.

With case studies, lessons, daily tips, and more, being part of this community will help you expand your network, grow your business, and strengthen your coaching skills.

You’ll also get daily access to our experts and coaches, such as Dr. Krista Scott-Dixon, Kate Solovieva, Craig Weller, Adam Feit, and more. Ask questions, get feedback and advice, and nerd out on all things fitness and nutrition.

A story from our co-founder, Dr. John Berardi: “Once, I wanted to help more people. But I couldn’t.”

Enter JB:

I started coaching clients about 25 years ago. Back then, there was no such thing as “automated” or “online” coaching.

It was old-school: You met clients in person, you carried a clipboard, and after sessions you’d store handwritten programs on card stock paper in an organizer off to the side of the gym.

I have so many fond memories of my time training clients. But when I think back, there’s one frustration that always jumps out.

I consistently had between 15 and 20 full-time clients. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t find time to add more.

On top of working 45-60 hours every week on the gym floor training these clients, I needed to write programs, organize nutrition habits, do record keeping, manage billing, and nurture new leads.

I needed some time back, but I felt stuck.

I was working my butt off, but not making much money once the gym took their 50% cut of my coaching fees.

I realized that to make even a little more money, I’d have to find more time… which meant sacrificing my own workouts (and health) or the few hours I had left for socializing and sleeping.

After a few years on this merry-go-round, I finally came up with a solution:

I started supplementing my in-person training with online coaching.

It began really well. But whenever my roster reached 25-35 clients, I bumped up against new problems.

Problem 1:

With online clients, I didn’t have much time left for in-person coaching. I ended up doing a ton of administrative work for my online clients: program writing, record keeping, email responses, phone calls, and other routine client management tasks.

I was surprised; online coaching wasn’t the time-saver I had imagined.

Problem 2:

I started losing track of my clients.

Because I had more clients than ever, I started forgetting who was on what program, who had what goals… I sometimes felt like an idiot, asking people “So what program are you on again?” during a session.

The interesting part? Lots of other fitness and health coaches were experiencing the same things. They felt the same frustrations.

I wasn’t a lazy, disorganized, “bad” coach.

I just needed a system.

We all did.

We needed to find ways to do the “human” work of creating programs, listening, connecting with, and motivating our clients.

But we were constantly bogged down by administrative work, like paperwork, scheduling, and receipts.

So I got to thinking:

Couldn’t technology handle much of the repetitive “busywork” of day-to-day administration?

Couldn’t it keep us organized and on track? Monitor clients, even when we were sleeping or doing other things? Send us reminders and alerts?

I started asking: Could I “outsource” all these annoying and time-wasting administrative tasks so that I can take on more clients and do what I do best… coach?

So we built a dream solution to make coaching easier.

One of my best friends, Phil Caravaggio, had an answer.

Trained in systems design engineering, Phil showed me real-life examples of how IBM, Dell, and Apple were using software to simplify and amplify their businesses.

At that moment, I knew exactly what we had to do.

We set out to build a coaching platform that would allow coaches—starting with me—to deliver the highest quality coaching experience to larger numbers of clients.

One year later: Success!

We built a beta version of ProCoach and started testing it with a new batch of clients. Immediately I was able to go from coaching 25-35 clients to 100-150 clients at a time.

All while working the same number of hours—or even less—in a given week.

Chris Poese - testimonial card

15 years later, Dr. Berardi’s early prototype has become Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach.

Since then, the Precision Nutrition team has consistently and relentlessly refined the technology, the software, and the curriculum.

We’ve tested its max limits. We’ve broken it on purpose and rebuilt it so it’s stronger. We’ve found all the sweet spots.

For example:

Since we built the beta version of ProCoach, our in-house coaches at Precision Nutrition have coached an average of 5,000 clients per year with the software.

Today we’re able to coach these clients with 20 full-time Precision Nutrition supercoaches (and a group of part-time interns and mentors) who work wherever they want in the world, living life on their own terms.

You’ll notice that’s an average of about 250 clients per coach—and they get amazing results.

What kind of results are we talking about here? Check this out.

See what 365 days of ProCoach can do.

And this video shares some amazing behind-the-scenes client stories.

Bodies, and lives, are changed with ProCoach’s habit-based nutrition coaching.

As you can see, our clients are a diverse bunch. They come in all ages, shapes, and sizes. In fact, they’re probably a lot like your clients.

Which means:

The results you see in the videos above are the exact same results your clients can expect when you start using Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach.

Want to see more? Check these out:

  • Precision Nutrition Coaching – Men’s Hall of Fame
  • (225+ men’s before and after photos. Ages 21-70)
  • Precision Nutrition Coaching – Women’s Hall of Fame
  • (375+ women’s before and after photos. Ages 21-74)

Daniel Hennessey - testimonial card

The ProCoach reviews have been stellar.

In June of 2016, we opened ProCoach up to our Certification students and graduates. We wanted to let them test drive the program in their own businesses.

The response has been amazing.

We sold out all available ProCoach spots in a matter of hours—and the same thing has happened each time we’ve opened up new spots, ever since.

To date, our ProCoaches have:

  • enrolled over 100,000 new clients,
  • helped them lose over 965,000 pounds (and counting), and
  • collected nearly $57 million in revenue.

Yep, that’s all within just the first two years!

If you want to try this research-proven, client-tested, reliable system for coaching nutrition with your own clients—join us on Wednesday, April 8th, 2020.

Erika Volk Gilliland - testimonial card

Deliver nutrition coaching with confidence—and help your clients achieve better, longer-lasting results.

By incorporating ProCoach into your business, and coaching practice, you’ll:

  • Add practice-based nutrition coaching to your existing services, easily.
  • Add a highly profitable revenue stream, immediately.
  • Deliver habits, lessons, assignments from our proven curriculum.
  • Review and track your clients’ consistency and progress every week.
  • Set clients up for long-term, sustainable success.
  • Attract even more new clients with photos, data, testimonials, and straight-up, irrefutable, hard-data evidence of success.

You’ll save time while making more money.

Your clients will get world-class results.

You’ll look like a rockstar coach.

And you’ll feel more in control of your time (and your work) than ever before.

Nikki Strong - testimonial card

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save 30% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

On Wednesday, April 8th, 2020, ProCoach becomes available to all Precision Nutrition Certification students and graduates.

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

  • You’ll pay less than everyone else. At Precision Nutrition, we like to reward the most interested and motivated professionals, because they always make the best students and clients. Join the presale list and we’ll give you 30% off the monthly cost of Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach.
  • You’re more likely to get a spot. Remember, last time we sold out within minutes. But by joining the presale list you’ll get the opportunity to register 24 hours before everyone else, increasing your chances of getting in.

If you’re ready to become a confident nutrition coach, help more people live their healthiest lives, and grow your business… ProCoach is your chance.

The post Opening December 2019: Precision Nutrition’s ProCoach. Where expert coaching, world-class curriculum, and innovative software meet. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Level 1: The surprising truth about sugar. Here’s everything you need to know about what it does to your body.

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

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.

  • Want to listen instead of read? Download the audio recording here…


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 30% 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, April 8th, 2020.

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 30% 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.



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