Category: Nutrition

Intermittent fasting for women – Episode 55 with Laurie Lewis


Going without food for longer may seem a difficult step to take to manage your body weight or your health! Especially if you love good food, as we do on the Fit to Succeed show! In this episode, we investigate the popular trend of intermittent fasting for women with a leading health coach, Laurie Lewis. We discuss how to apply a fasting approach, in easy-to-take, comfortable steps and benefit from Laurie’s years of experience and her supportive coaching methods and tips.

Guest biography

For Intermittent Fasting Coach and Author, Laurie Lewis, menopause dealt a crushing blow – brain fog, lack of balance, memory loss, and the rapid gain of 50 pounds of stubborn body fat. She tried everything she knew to feel better, and the methods that worked in the past made no difference. After four years of struggle, Laurie stumbled upon Intermittent Fasting and started fasting that very same day. The menopausal fog lifted in less than one week, she had more energy and felt more “like herself.” She lost 51 pounds in 15 months and has kept it off for years! Time has passed and Laurie has turned her personal success into a thriving Intermittent Fasting coaching business. As a certified health coach, from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Laurie guides her clients to eat great food, take a pause, and enjoy life feeling vibrantly well.

Website: Fast Forward Wellness

Laurie Lewis – Health Coach

Episode content: Intermittent fasting for women

We have addressed the science of time-restricted feeding and intermittent fasting previously in episode 43 with Danny Lennon. We enjoy getting into the scientific details, but it is also necessary to step back and consider the more practical application and impact of diet and behaviour change. In this interview, the intention was to provide the perspective of the nutrition/health coach and how to apply intermittent fasting in real-world circumstances. 

  • 2:44 Why intermittent fasting is an interesting topic for this episode
  • 4:12 Why Laurie chose to use intermittent fasting in her own life
  • 9:30 Going without food for longer periods of time does carry a certain appeal
  • 11:28 Fasting as a spiritual practice and its potential physical health benefits
  • 16:22 Extending the ‘default’ nightly fast from 7 – 8 hours up to 12 hours
  • 21:24 A fasting approach may actually be liberating and is individually adaptable
  • 30:20 The concept of applying fasting window ‘guard rails’ 
  • 32:44 Applying a ‘clean’ fast
  • 33:58 Intermittent fasting benefits specific to women
  • 40:01 Does intermittent fasting benefit weight loss beyond calorie reduction?

Connect with Laurie over social media:

Rate the show

If you enjoyed this episode, then please rate and review the show. We invite you to share it with your friends so they can benefit from this free expert information. Comments and feedback are always welcome. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or the video series on YouTube so you will receive each update immediately upon release. It also helps the show rank higher and reach more people.

For other great episodes and expert guests on the Fit to Succeed show, visit our podcast library.


Coaching sales tips to boost your business – Episode 54 with Matt Walrath


As a coach, it can seem difficult to generate interest and attract new clients to sign up for your services. So many fitness and nutrition professionals struggle with the marketing and sales aspect of their business. Successful sales precede almost all successful coaching opportunities. How do you master the business skills needed to attract new leads and persuade people to be coached by you? Well, start with this free podcast episode where we discuss several important coaching sales tips to boost a fitness or nutrition business.

Guest biography

Matt is a business owner, nutrition coach, CrossFit coach and elite Lacrosse player. He created a nutrition coaching business called Beyond Macros to help educate clients to focus on sustainable health and wellness transformations. With a degree in business administration, further certifications from the International Society of Sports Nutrition and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, and a decade of professional coaching under his belt, Matt is nicely positioned as a leading nutrition coach for our modern times.

Matthew Walrath

Episode content: Coaching sales tips

Beginning with an introduction around Matt’s nutritional philosophy, we transition into a captivating discussion about marketing and several coaching sales tips that could really help to nudge a health and fitness business in the right direction. 

  • 1:36 Why listen to this episode on nutrition coaching and sales growth
  • 2:39 Matt’s nutritional preferences and overriding philosophy
  • 9:50 Why Matt chose to coach other nutrition coaches to succeed
  • 15:05 Business skills are needed to showcase fitness/nutrition skills
  • 23:36 Social compounding and refining your niche
  • 29:28 Low and high ticket services and the VIP experience
  • 34:12 Integrating business automation as part of a high-value experience
  • 41:41 Competence and character within the sales process

Connect with Matt on social media

Facebook: @beyondmacros

Instagram: @beyondmacros

Rate the show

If you enjoyed this episode, then please rate and review the show, and share it with your friends so they can benefit from this free expert information. Comments and feedback are always welcome. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or the video series on YouTube so you will receive each update immediately upon release. It also helps the show rank higher and reach more people.

For other great episodes and expert guests on the Fit to Succeed show, visit our full podcast library.


Life after the Vegetarian Myth – Episode 47 with Lierre Keith


20 years a dedicated vegan … invested morally, nutritionally, and politically into this lifestyle … then a monumental shift back to an omnivorous life to try and rescue her failing health, after living, what she calls, the vegetarian myth! Lierre Keith wrote a book about this life change and discussed the flaws, from her perspective, on the underlying principles of vegetarianism and veganism. The praise for her book has been clear to see, but so was the kickback! Online criticism, attack on character, and even death threats followed from those who disagreed! A decade on from the publication of her groundbreaking book and we speak with Lierre about her life and experiences since.

Guest biography

Lierre Keith is an American writer, food activist, and an environmentalist. She is the author of the highly acclaimed book, The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (2009). She is co-author, with Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay, of Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet (Seven Stories Press, 2011) and she’s the editor of The Derrick Jensen Reader: Writings on Environmental Revolution (Seven Stories Press, 2012).

Episode content: Vegetarian myth

This episode is an instant classic! Lierre shares some great insights into her life since the publication of her highly influential book. We review some of the fundamental principles of the book and also the impact it has had on her life, including:

  • 1:18 Impact of publishing the Vegetarian Myth had on Lierre’s life
  • 3:55 What Lierre enjoyed about the vegan lifestyle
  • 8:00 Why the book was called the Vegetarian Myth and not the Vegan Myth?
  • 9:20 What is meant by the term moral vegetarianism?
  • 15:58 The political arguments for being vegetarian
  • 22:31 What is meant by nutritional vegetarianism?
  • 25:11 Nutritional components from animal foods that support health
  • 28:20 Lierre’s typical dietary practices
  • 32:41 Animal farming and the impact on the environment and carbon emissions
  • 35:08 A decade later, Lierre´s proposed changes to the Vegetarian Myth book
  • 41:51 Problems with industrial-scale plant food production

During the show, Lierre refers specifically to a study regarding brain size and dietary choices. We believe this is the study she was referring to

You may also enjoy our past interview in Episode 27 with Dr Natasha Campbel–McBride, titled The rise of Vegetarianism.

Connect with Lierre on social media

Lierre Keith profile

Rate the show

If you enjoyed this episode, then please rate the show, give a short review, and share it with your friends so they can benefit from this free expert information. Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or the video series on YouTube so you will receive each update immediately upon release.

For other great episodes and expert guests on the Fit to Succeed show, visit our full podcast library.


Making real change within fitness – Episode 38 with Dr John Berardi


Progress is about making real change within yourself as a fitness professional, and also within your clients as they progress on their wellness journey. Dr John Berardi, of Precision Nutrition fame, is just about to launch an exciting new project called the Change Maker Academy. He joins us on the Fit to Succeed show to share some key concepts and golden nuggets with our valued listeners.

Guest biography

John Berardi is a Canadian-American entrepreneur best known as the co-founder of Precision Nutrition, the world’s largest nutrition coaching, education, and software company. He is now launching the Change Maker Academy, devoted to helping would-be change-makers turn their passion for health and fitness into a powerful purpose and a wildly successful career.

Over the last 15 years, Dr Berardi has advised Apple, Equinox, Nike, and Titleist, as well as the San Antonio Spurs, and the Carolina Panthers. He’s also been named one of the 20 smartest coaches in the world and 100 most influential people in health and fitness.

Dr John Berardi precision nutrition change maker
Dr John Berardi

Episode content: Making real change 

Join us for a deep dive into the principles and concepts that have helped drive one of the most successful health and fitness coaches in the modern era:

  • 1:10: Why 40% or more of fitness professionals leave the industry each year
  • 5:08: Being good at, or enjoying fitness, does not always translate into being a good health and fitness coach
  • 13:33: Actions that helped to lay the foundation for the now globally successful, Precision Nutrition business
  • 25:28: Using the elements of a client’s already successful practices to identify how to move them more rapidly towards their goals
  • 34:02: How can fitness professionals start with the end in mind, so that delays and hurdles associated with the road to success do not trip them up?
  • 41:19: Information about the new Change Maker Academy project
Change Maker free chapter Berardi

During the show, Dr Berardi refers to a free chapter download of his new book – get the free chapter here:

Change Maker Academy

Change Maker is your ULTIMATE health and fitness career guide. In it you’ll learn why making real change will:

  • Turn your passion into a rewarding, life-changing career
  • Make enough money to be financially secure (and then some)
  • Create a flexible schedule, so you can work when you want
  • Find personal and professional balance (and avoid burn-out)
  • Get phenomenal results with your clients—now and forever

 You don’t have to figure it all out on your own.

With thousands of certifications, seminars, websites, and gurus promising advice, it’s difficult for even the best pros to turn their passion for health and fitness into meaningful, measurable success.

Dr Berardi will help you make sense of the chaos and lay out a clear roadmap for turning your passion for health and fitness into work you find joy in, your clients into raving fans, and your career into something powerful and change-making.

Connect with John Berardi on social media




Rate the show

If you enjoy this episode, then please rate the show, give a short review, and share it with your friends so they can benefit from this free expert information. Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or the video series on YouTube so you will receive each update immediately upon release.

For other great episodes and expert guests on the Fit to Succeed show, visit our podcast library.


Nutrition coaching is an art – Episode 37 with Ben Coomber


There is a whole lot more to nutrition coaching than just learning the theory and factual knowledge! Becoming an exceptional coach is a completely different ball game. Leading nutrition coach, Ben Coomber, joins us for episode 37 to reveal the importance of combining the skills of ongoing nutrition learning together with good coaching.

Guest biography

Ben is a nutritionist, fitness professional, educator and speaker and has the UK’s number 1 health and fitness podcast Ben Coomber radio. Since he graduated with a BSc in Sports Performance and Coaching in 2010, Ben has helped thousands of people achieve their goals through his courses, books, blogs, videos and social media.

Ben also educates personal trainers and coaches via the BTN Academy, recently collaborating with Active IQ to create a Level 4 certification in Nutrition Coaching. He has also developed his own brand of Awesome Supplements. Through hard work and dedication, Ben has grown a social media following of 140,000 to date and is on a mission to help change the health of the world.

Image result for ben coomber


Episode content: Nutrition coaching

In this episode we discuss a range of fascinating topics, including these key areas:

  • 1:06: Why Ben chose to specialise in nutrition
  • 2:56: How Ben changed his diet to bring about significant weight loss
  • 7:18: the primary principles that underpin the teachings of the BTN academy
  • 9:53: Does the Hippocratic statement ‘First do no harm’ have relevance to nutrition coaching?
  • 13:25: How does a nutrition practitioner keep up with the changing science and swings in public opinion?
  • 16:10: Nutrition theory can only get us so far – the implementation of nutrition is key
  • 20:40: Nutrition coaching is an art form
  • 27:13: Is personal experience of change necessary to become a good coach?
  • 37:36: the common environmental stumbling blocks to making change
  • 38:04: clients can get swept up in the diet and fitness preferences and practices of their nutrition or fitness coach

Get Ben’s free e-book that was discussed towards the end of the show: How to be an Awesome Personal Trainer

Connect with Ben on social media




Rate the show

If you enjoy this episode, then please rate the show, give a short review, and share it with your friends so they can benefit from this free expert information. Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or Spotify, or see the video series on YouTube so you will receive each update immediately upon release.

For other great episodes and expert guests on the Fit to Succeed show, visit our complete podcast library.


Coaching habit change in sport – Episode 36 with Adam Feit


Supporting athletes, or the general public, through habit change in sport, exercise, diet and daily food intake can be a tricky road to navigate at times. Adam Feit from Precision Nutrition offers guidance and direction on how to best coach others in the world of sports nutrition and behaviour change.

Guest biography

Adam Feit is a Level 2 Master Class Coach as well as the Performance Nutrition Coordinator at the global educator, Precision Nutrition. He has years of experience working with youth, collegiate, Olympic and professional athletic teams including the Calgary Flames, Brooklyn Nets, and the ALTIS track and field club.

Adam is certified by the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Registered Strength and Conditioning Coach and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach and a mentor from the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association.

He is the co-author of the Coaches Guide to Jump Training and Complete Guide to Training the Female Athlete. Adam is also a PhD Candidate in Sport and Exercise Psychology.


Adam Feit sports nutrition

Episode content: Coaching habit change

This interview and fascinating discussion covered a broad range of subjects around sports nutrition, supporting new behaviour, and habit change.

  • 1.35: Adam’s ranking of the importance of diet and nutrition in supporting an athlete’s overall goals
  • 4.47: Exercise alone may not be the most effective strategy to help athletes (or the general public) lose weight
  • 13.03: The importance of meal plans and macronutrients as the drivers for dietary change
  • 18.44: How to determine what are the ‘big rocks’ or priorities when supporting clients through nutritional or behavioural change
  • 24.56: When to stick rigidly to a preset plan versus when it is best to adapt and adjust a plan of action
  • 29.25: How to develop a flexible, periodised nutrition plan
  • 32.05: An explanation of habit stacking and how to use it

Connect with Adam and Precision Nutrition

Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification opens only twice per year. The next intake is coming up shortly in October 2019. Adam invites you to get signed up here.

 Facebook @insidePN


 Twitter @insidePN

Rate the show

If you enjoy this episode, then please rate the show, give a short review, and share it with your friends so they can benefit from this free expert information. Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or the video series on YouTube so you will receive each update immediately upon release.

For other great episodes and expert guests on the Fit to Succeed show, visit our complete podcast library.


Nutrient density helps weight management – Episode 21 with Dr Zoe Harcombe


This episode addresses the concept of using and applying nutrient density as an effective factor in the battle against obesity with expert diet and nutrition researcher, Dr Zoe Harcombe.

* Please note this is an audio only recording (but still worth a listen)

Guest biography

Dr Zoe Harcombe is a researcher, author, blogger and public speaker in the field of diet and health. Her key areas of interest/expertise are public health dietary guidelines (especially dietary fat), nutrition and obesity.

Zoe earned a BA and MA from Cambridge University and was the first pupil from her state school to have graduated from Cambridge. She was voted college student president by her peers while there – only the second female president in over 630 years.

In 2016, Zoe was awarded a PhD in public health nutrition. The title of her thesis was “An examination of the randomised controlled trial and epidemiological evidence for the introduction of dietary fat recommendations in 1977 and 1983: A systematic review and meta-analysis.”

Zoe is the author of several best-selling books, including The Obesity Epidemic, The Harcombe Diet and Why do You Overeat? She is a regular speaker at leading conferences and is a sought after expert whose research capacity and ability to dispel dietary myths and fallacies has helped cement her excellent reputation.

Dr Zoe Harcombe

Episode content: Nutrient density

Episode 21 with Dr Zoe covers a fascinating range of dietary themes that will certainly bring greater understanding to your personal dietary journey, including:

  • The importance of our relationship to food in the weight management battle
  • A scientific definition of nutrient density
  • How do commonly marketed ‘health’ foods measure up in terms of nutrient density?
  • What metabolic effect do low nutrient, processed foods have upon the body?
  • Dr Harcombe’s views on isolated oils, such as olive oil and coconut oil, that are marketed as ‘healthy’.

If you enjoy this episode, then please rate the show and share it with your friends so they can benefit from this free expert information. Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or the video series on YouTube so you will receive each update immediately upon release. To enjoy more engaging expert interview please visit the podcast library.


Podcast: Diet and Health Today available on iTunes

Connect with Zoe on social media 

Facebook @zoeharcombe

Twitter @zoeharcombe


Zoe has written and published a range of books on diet, nutrition and public health. To learn more about this, please view Zoe’s website Bookshelf. All Zoe’s books are also available on Amazon.


Should you get your Vitamin D from sunlight or diet?


The question

Vitamin D is absolutely integral to human health! This vital ‘nutrient’ provides many benefits to the body. Even though we still refer to it as a vitamin or a nutrient, the vast majority (approximately 90%) of active vitamin D3 in the body is produced when our skin is exposed to sunlight. So that’s it then, we should get our vitamin D from sunlight, debate over! Not so fast! This topic is a little more nuanced than that. Sufficient, effective sun exposure on a regular basis can be tricky to achieve. It is certainly possible to consume vitamin D from the diet, but there are only a very limited number of food sources that contain sufficient amounts to meet daily requirements. As a result of these 2 key issues, it is now estimated that 40-75% of the world’s population is vitamin D deficient! (1) That´s right – you could be one of the 7 out of 10 people with low vitamin D, so read on to learn how to resolve this. 

Functions of vitamin D

Firstly why do we need vitamin D? Scientific studies have shown that vitamin D is needed for and supports a wide range of health-related functions: (2)

  • Necessary for bone strength by aiding the absorption of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium to lay down new bone tissue
  • Helps to regulate vascular health and may positively influence blood pressure
  • Stimulates insulin secretion from the pancreas and may reduce diabetes
  • Supports both infectious and inflammatory immune system response
  • Potent antioxidant properties with some research suggesting potential for anticarcinogenic properties and reduced cancer mortality
  • Supports oestrogen production, may help to regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce symptoms of PMT
  • Has beneficial effects on the brain and may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia

Vitamin D from sunlight

If sunlight exposure is the primary method of receiving up to 90% of this incredibly important nutrient, then we really should understand more about the complex relationship between sunlight and human exposure.

Standing outside on a bright sunny day, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin, is a prized experience in the colder climates both north and south of the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, especially after a long winter season. Whereas for those living in the relentless heat of the tropical zones, it is an ongoing, daily battle to keep cool and avoid sunburn with much less fluctuation across the seasons!

Exposure to the rays of the sun (UVB wavelength) is known to help generate vitamin D through the conversion of a naturally occurring precursor under the skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC). This is converted into pre-vitamin D3, which is then rearranged into the active form of vitamin D3.

The standard guidelines indicate that the body needs a minimum of 20-25 mcg or 800-1000 IU of vitamin D per day. Although, it must be noted that reaching this minimal nutrient status is a different matter to preventing all adverse effects from insufficent vitamin D. A group of scientists in the vitamin D research community are advocating a daily requirement 4 times higher at 4000 IU per day to ensure optimal health effects (1). However, reaching this level of vitamin D from sunlight alone on a hot summer’s day would likely lead to sunburn for lighter skinned people.

Sunlight stimulates the conversion to vitamin D3

How much vitamin D is actually produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight depends upon a range of factors, including:

  • Time of day
  • Season of the year
  • Geographical latitude
  • Altitude
  • Length of sunlight exposure
  • How much skin is directly exposed to the sun
  • The colour or pigmentation of the skin

Time and season

Both the time of day and the season of the year make a difference to our ability to get vitamin D from sunlight exposure. This is related to the angle of the sun’s UV rays passing through the earth’s atmosphere and also the proximity of our geographical location on the globe to the sun itself.

The changing path of the sun in the sky throughout a day

In the early morning and late evening, the suns rays shine upon us at a sharper angle, causing them to pass through a greater distance of the earth’s atmosphere. The atmosphere helps filter the suns rays reducing Ultraviolet intensity (UVI). Lower UVI at these times of day means less conversion of 7-DHC to active vitamin D3 as well as less chance of sunburn. Conversely, the higher the sun is in the sky, the more direct the sun’s rays are in relation to our location. This means less distance to pass through the atmosphere, higher UVI and more rapid conversion of 7-DHC to vitamin D3, but also a much faster sunburn time too.

The earth spins around a central axis point, however, that axis is not vertical, it sits at a titled angle of 23.5 degrees in relation to its orbit around the sun. It is this tilted axis that gives earth its annual seasons. The northern and southern hemispheres gradually change in their position to the sun, being closer in the summertime and further away in the wintertime. This change in distance between the earth’s surface and the sun alters the length of day and the peak UVI. The UVI at midday in the summer will be much higher than UVI during winter midday. As already stated a reduced UVI will affect the rate of conversion to vitamin D3. It has been well documented that vitamin D deficiency rates are higher in winter months. (3) In the temperate and frigid zones of the earth, above and below 42 degrees latitude, there will be periods during winter (approximately November to February) when it will be very difficult to convert any 7-DHC to vitamin D3 at all, due to limited UVB radiation that can reach the earth’s surface.

Sunlight exposure and UVI changes across seasons

Latitude and altitude

In addition to the time of day and season of the year, the latitude on the earth’s surface will also play a part in the angle of the sun’s rays through the atmosphere. The further north or south an individual is positioned on the planet, the more atmosphere sunlight will need to pass through and the lower the UVI will be relative to equatorial zones at the same time of year.


The ozone layer is the portion of the earth’s atmosphere that largely protects us from the strong UVB rays that cause sunburn and stimulate vitamin D conversion. Some UVB does still makes it through the ozone into the atmosphere below (troposphere). The higher the altitude above sea level, the greater the UVI will be due to the thinner atmosphere present at that location to help filter UVB rays. UVB radiation increases approximately 7% every 1000m in elevation above sea level (4). As a general rule, higher altitudes result in cooler temperatures, but conversely higher altitudes also mean a higher risk of sunburn due to increased UVB exposure. The higher UVI at altitude also speeds up the conversion process so that more vitamin D is formed in less sunlight exposure time.

Higher altitude leads to greater UVB exposure

Length of time and amount of skin exposed

Body surface areas – rule of 9’s

Regardless of the time of year or the geographical position on planet earth, the length of exposure time to the sun’s UVB rays is directly correlated to a greater opportunity to covert 7-DHC to vitamin D3. But this time of exposure for vitamin D production must be balanced carefully against the risk of burning the skin and causing damage as a result. The skin coverage of the clothing we choose to wear and the colour of an individual’s skin will also play an important part in determining the time exposed to UVB necessary to reach our daily vitamin D from sunlight requirement. The image below will provide some guidance regarding the percentage of skin exposed to sunlight based on which body parts are clothed or not.

The general guidance offered is to expose 18% of the body (face, arms and ahands) to the summer sun around mid-morning or mid-afternoon for 6-10 minutes in order to stimulate the conversion of up to 1000 IU of vitamin D. In the winter times this exposure may need to be increased up to 45 minutes. Well, at least these general guidelines apply to sub-tropical and temperate zones and lighter-skinned people. These rules will need to be adapted for hotter tropical zones and darker-skinned people.

Skin pigmentation

Fitzpatrick skin type classification

The natural pigment in human skin, called melanin, is present in varying amounts and gives rise to the different shades and colours of skin across the human population. Melanin absorbs and prevents UVB from passing through the skin layers. This helps to reduce the risk of sunburn and skin damage, but it also means that less vitamin D from sunlight is produced under the skin of those with higher melanin levels. There are 6 types according to the Fitzpatrick skin type categories. Type 1 is the lightest skin through to type 6 the darkest pigmentation. It is estimated that darker-skinned people may require 3-6 times longer sun exposure to produce the same relative vitamin D as lighter-skinned individuals.

Dietary vitamin D

So where does dietary vitamin D fit in after this extensive focus on sunlight exposure and all its compounding variables? Firstly, it should be quite obvious that getting enough vitamin D from the sun during the warmer summer months should be relatively easy to achieve with daily, fairly short outdoor sun exposure, even for those with darker skin. The summer is the least likely time to experience vitamin D deficiency.

It is the winter season when dietary sources of vitamin D become a very important contributor to maintaining our levels of this beneficial nutrient. The increased risk of vitamin D winter deficiency can be offset by carefully planning some simple inclusions in your diet. This is especially important for those living in the temperate and frigid zones, above and below 42 degrees latitude north or south.

Tropical, Temperate, and Frigid Zones on Earth

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning it is only available within naturally occurring foods that have sufficient amounts of fat contained within them. The richest sources being primarily from fish and shellfish. Some food sources may be fortified with vitamin D (synthetic form added), but keep an eye out for the addition of the less effective, cheaper vitamin D2 form, instead of the more beneficial active vitamin D3 form.

Top 10 naturally occurring food sources of Vitamin D

Cod liver oil has been used as a nutritional supplement for hundreds of years, especially in the colder, temperate countries in the northern hemisphere. Whilst science now understands the benefits of omega 3 fats and vitamin D, perhaps traditional wisdom had worked out there was something good in this particular oil that helped them weather the physically challenging winter months a little better. Cod liver oil is a food ‘supplement’ and whilst it is the richest source per 100g, it will usually only be consumed 1-2 tablespoons (15-30ml) per day. This small amount will still deliver 1500-3000 IU so is a useful additional source of vitamin D.

A few commonly consumed foods, not sourced from the oceans, that provide smaller amounts of vitamin D include egg yolks (2.6 mcg/100g), butter (1.4 mcg/100g), and beef liver (1.1 mcg/100g). These fatty, naturally occurring foods will help contribute small, but beneficial amounts to our personal vitamin D reservoir during the short days and longer nights of winter.

If the above foods are difficult to source or just not to your taste preferences, then the use of supplementation may be warranted during winter months. In 2011 researchers at Bastyr University in California ran a study comparing vitamin D3 supplementation in 3 different forms; oil drops, capsules or chewable tablets. They showed that when taking high doses of 10,000 IU (250 mcg) of vitamin D3 daily for 12 weeks, all 3 forms proved to be both safe and effective, and significantly increased levels in the blood (6). The recommended daily intake varies depending upon the organisation you choose to rely upon from 1000 IU (25 mcg) to 4000 IU (100 mcg) per day.

Conclusion: Vitamin D from sunlight or diet

So as it turns out, it is not a matter of sunlight versus diet in the vitamin D stakes. Both have their place throughout the seasons of the year. When the sun does makes an appearance during the spring, summer, and autumn seasons we should seek to enjoy some regular exposure on our skin to allow for natural vitamin D formation. Not only it is good for our biology, it is also good for the mind and emotions to get outside and bathe in sunlight. If we get sufficient sunlight during the warmer months, supplementation will not be necessary at that time of year.

  • Between 6-20 minutes of summer sunlight for skin types 1 – 3, between 20-45 minutes for skin types 4 – 6 of summer sunlight – the variation will depend on the time of day, season, temperature, latitude, and altitude.
  • 18% (face, hands and arms) to 36% (face, hands, arms & legs) of the skin’s surface should be exposed to sunlight.
  • Sunlight for vitamin D should not be hindered by sunscreen, which potentially blocks the UVB rays we need to facilitate vitamin D conversion.
  • If your shadow is longer than you are tall, then the UVI is lower and slightly longer time in the sun will be required, if your shadow is shorter than you are tall then UVI is higher and shorter times in the sun are advised.
  • Sun exposure to get sufficient vitamin D will not require any reddening or burning of the skin.
  • If exposure to the sun will go beyond the individualised time limit for optimal vitamin D, then it would be appropriate to cover the body with clothing or to utilise a thorough covering of sunscreen to prevent sunburn.

During the winter months when sunlight is rare, we must then become more dependent upon natural dietary sources of vitamin D from cod liver oil, fish and seafood. If this is not practical and you want to be certain, then also including a good quality vitamin D3 supplement to ensure our physiological needs are met may be an important strategy during the colder months of the year.








If you enjoyed reading this blog or have your own thoughts or opinions on the subject, then please comment below. Please visit our blog archive for more great reads. You may also want to watch some of the expert interviews via the Fit to Succeed podcast.


Protein problems? Food and Powders revealed (Video)


In the quest for bigger muscles, increased sporting performance and greater nutrient density many people turn to protein-rich foods and powdered protein shakes. With the widespread knowledge that protein is necessary for muscular development, it has been one of the mainstays of sports nutrition for many years. However, there are still a few concepts or protein problems that dominate our choices, and sometimes these may not be based on a full understanding of the truth. This short video will lay down the foundational components behind protein consumption. Watch right to the end to get the 2 simple, but essential factors. After the video please continue reading the rest of the blog below the video.

Protein problems: Convenience

Often the increasing pace of life and lack of time to spend on cooking good food has caused athletes and recreational exercisers alike to seek out a convenient source of protein that can quickly and simply meet this need. This marketing niche has been dominated for some years by manufacturers of protein shakes and bars. While it is true that powdered shakes and bars provide a solution for quick and convenient protein, it is just not as simple as gulping down a shake and here comes bulging biceps and rippling pectorals! If only our protein problems could be resolved with such basic solutions.

The protein supplement market is overflowing with hundreds of different brands all claiming to be the best with a ‘proven’ track-record for achieving the most effective results. The sort of benefits and claims promoted tend to focus on protein density, product quality, ease of digestion, higher bioavailability, increased recovery, faster muscle growth and increased tissue density. It is quite likely that even the most committed bodybuilder, athlete or keen exerciser realises that some of the advertising used may push the boundaries of accuracy to some degree. If that is the case then what really makes a good protein powder and what should be avoided?

Protein problems: Protein sources

There are several different types of protein used within most brands. Animal-based protein powders are usually based on dairy derivatives such as whey or casein, or from egg white albumin due to its high protein content. Plant-based protein powders are usually derived from pea, soy, hemp, or rice. These proteins vary in their biological value (BV) – which is the amount of consumed protein that is absorbed and incorporated into your cells (Also discussed in the video above). To dive even deeper into our protein problems, most protein powders also have strengths and weaknesses. Consider the following:

Rice protein (BV 83%) – Hypo-allergenic, gluten-free, neutral taste, economical. 100% plant-based. May be derived from genetically modified rice.

Egg protein (BV 100%) – Fat-free, concentrated amounts of essential amino acids. May upset stomach in some people. Should be completely avoided in those with egg allergies.

Milk protein (includes whey (BV 100%), casein (BV 77%), calcium caseinate, and milk protein blends) – May enhance immunity, high in BCAAs, contains lactose, highly studied. May cause digestive upset or other symptoms in people sensitive to whey, casein, and/or lactose. Should be completely avoided in those with dairy allergies.

Pea protein (BV 65) – No saturated fat or cholesterol, highly digestible, hypo-allergenic, economical. Rich in lysine, arginine and glutamine. 100% plant-based. Low biological value compared to other plant proteins, thus larger consumption required.

Hemp seed protein – Provides omega-3 fats, most forms provide fibre, free of trypsin inhibitors, can get in raw form, high in the amino acids, arginine and histidine (commonly low in many protein foods). 100% plant-based. Biological value (the amount absorbed) generally reported being lower than most other protein powder sources.

Soy protein (BV 74%) – May have benefits for cardiovascular disease, contains some anti-nutrients that affect absorption, may be derived from genetically modified soy, high in disruptive phytoestrogens. 100% plant-based.

Whey protein

The most commonly used by far is still whey protein derived from milk, though the popularity of pea protein (derived from yellow split peas) seems to be on the increase with significant financial growth in this market being reported over the last 5 years. Whey is the liquid portion of milk left behind when the curds are separated in the process of making cheese or Greek yoghurt. Before the creation of protein shakes, whey liquid was an unwanted by-product of cheese manufacturer and was often disposed of in animal feeds, perhaps to the benefit of the livestock!


Whey liquid is a highly bio-available source of proteins, rich in branched-chain amino acids that are easily digested and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. This is one of the main reasons why it has been promoted so heavily for muscle growth and development. The problem is that whey protein only constitutes about 1% of whole milk. Whey proteins are in solution within the liquid water that is separated from the curds. This means that to get a significant amount of whey protein a large volume of bitter-tasting, whey liquid would need to be ingested, perhaps more than anyone would be prepared to take in a day. A quick thought at this point is if it is only present naturally in milk in very small concentrations why seek to ingest it much larger volumes? The problem of accessing large amounts of whey is the problem that the protein manufacturers have solved by concentrating and drying these sparse proteins into a concentrated powder, making it easy to ingest 20g or 30g of whey in one simple drink. Approximately 2 litres of milk would need to be consumed in order to get the same volume of whey. So how is it done? What manufacturing processes have been used to extract such a beneficial, elusive protein from milk for the convenience of the muscle seeking public?

Protein problems: Processing

There are several different techniques used to make protein powder that impact our protein problems yet further. They involve various separating, filtering and concentrating processes to remove the elements that are not wanted and keep the fractions of liquid that contain the sought after whey protein. Whilst it is unlikely all methods are used to make a single brand of powder the following processing options are available for use by the protein manufacturer:

  • Ultrafiltration, microfiltration, cross-flow filtration and diafiltration
  • Ion exchange
  • Hydrolysation
  • Spray drying
  • Freeze drying

(To more fully understand the industrial process you may wish to review this article on Healthcloud or if you really are inspired to geek-out on this issue then you can review the full process explained in the Dairy Processing Handbook).

A selection of the above processing methods are used to produce virtually all varieties of whey protein on the market today including whey protein concentrates, whey protein isolates or hydrolysed whey proteins. Each of these processes places the fragile whey proteins at potential risk of physical change. Each process, bar freeze-drying, exposes the whey to heat and pressure alone or both together at the same time. This can denature the whey protein molecules, which means it changes the proteins specific shape and structure. The higher and longer the heat is applied the greater the structural denaturation of the whey molecules will likely be.

Some of the processing methods listed above use acidic chemicals, electrical current and enzymatic actions to separate out the whey proteins. These will also impact the whey proteins altering them from their natural form. Denatured proteins can still be utilised by the body, but there is evidence that that may have reduced benefit, are digested more slowly, and for some may even cause digestive distress altering the internal environment of the gut, which can be expressed within the body as bloating, gut irritation, flatulence or loose stools. Any protein powder or bar that causes any of these unwelcome side effects should be avoided as it may be a potential sign of low quality, less effective product. It may also be a sign of low-level digestive problems that may need to be more carefully addressed to return the gut to good health.


Protein problems: Cold processing

Some consumers may seek to overcome one of the common protein problems of protein denaturation by purchasing ‘cold processed’ powders. The term implies that heat is not used in the processing of the whey liquid. This is simply not true. ‘Cold processed’ is a patented term that indicates the powder has been produced with temperatures that do not exceed 50°C. This temperature was chosen because proteins become denatured more rapidly at temperatures above 55°C. Cold processing at these lower temperatures legally only needs to refer to the various filtering stages and does not mean that pasteurisation of the original milk has not occurred. Pasteurisation is a process that happens back within the jurisdiction of the original dairy that the whey liquid was sourced from. Milk is flash heated to 72-75°C for up to 15-20 seconds and then cooled. Pasteurisation will occur before the whey is separated from the curds. This means that some proteins will already be denatured before the filtering stages even begin. But does denaturing protein actually diminish the effectiveness of the shake in supporting muscle growth and repair?

Protein problems: Results

We must still acknowledge that scientific research into most varieties of protein supplements for muscle growth does indeed show a positive result. Many of these studies compare the result of people taking a protein supplement to those who take no enhancing supplement. Differences in body weight have been observed across 12-18 weeks of supplementation and training that range from virtually nothing up to 4kg of lean mass. This suggests that taking a protein shake may not necessarily guarantee muscle growth, but is fairly likely to help in some way if the only change in diet was to take the protein powder. Interestingly scientific research that compares the results of taking regular whey protein to other sources of food protein is significantly more difficult to find. There are a few studies that provide an insight into how effective whey is in relation to results obtained using other proteins.


In comparisons to casein protein (the curds), whey has been found to be absorbed quicker in the intestine, but casein ultimately stimulated more long-term muscle growth. This information has changed many protein formulations and it becoming more common to find whey and casein blends on the market today. Hang on a minute! Whey and casein blends? Isn’t that how nature packaged it, to begin with – funnily enough, we call that milk!

Other areas of research into the volume of protein needed to stimulate muscle development have suggested that even active individuals probably get enough protein from a varied, whole-food diet and that extra supplementation is not essential but may provide benefit. Of course, this is not usually supported by the protein powder manufacturers who have invested large amounts of their own money to prove otherwise. Many individuals want to support muscle tissue in the most convenient way without the lengthy effort of addressing dietary change. There is no doubt drinking a shake 3 times a day is a simpler solution that trying to ensure the daily diet is on point.

Whey and casein powders tend to be quite bitter and unpalatable on their own so often other ingredients are added to improve taste, texture, flavour, blend-ability and colour. Keep an eye out for less desirable artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and acesulfame K to name a few. Read the label and be discerning in your choices. There are many grades of protein powder on the market. If you are determined to use a protein shake, what quality of product should you be looking?

Protein recommendations

  • Only purchase cold-processed, pure whey protein concentrates – they may not contain as high a level of pure protein as isolates, but have been subjected to fewer stages of processing and are less likely to have suffered as much denaturation
  • Try to determine the quality of the original milk the whey powder was manufactured from – organic, grass-fed milk is best as it will not have pesticide, hormonal or antibiotic residues and if processed carefully may possibly have better overall nutrient value
  • Avoid protein powders that contain added sugars, undesirable artificial sweeteners, bulking agents, emulsifiers, preservatives, colours and flavours whether ‘natural’ or artificial
  • If you prefer a plant-based powder, such as rice or pea protein, then buy organic varieties and increase the volume slightly to compensate for the relatively lower biological value e.g. If the BV is 80%, then increase the serving size to 125% of the stated dose which will then, following digestion, overcome the 20% non-absorbed protein.


Perhaps the most important final thought is that supplementing with protein powder will likely have little benefit if the total diet is not of good quality in the first place. Always include adequate amounts of high quality, naturally occurring foods that are rich in protein at every meal such as eggs, fish, meat, poultry, game, nuts, seeds, and protein-rich pulses and legumes. Protein powders are, after all, a supplement, not a protein replacement.

Do you want to learn more about nutrition? Get qualified with our excellent online course, the Nutrition for Health and Fitness Certificate from Nordic Fitness Education.


Is sugar bad? The sweet and the sour

A subject within nutrition that continues to catch people out in their efforts to switch over to a better diet is sugar consumption, the addictive sweet taste with the possibility for sour after effects. It is a debate that has continued for years…is sugar bad? It is very common to find people seeking a ‘healthy’ option to sweeten their food – some magic elixir that will allow us to enjoy the taste, but not pay any potential consequences. This is not going to be a blog about artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin. To put it bluntly, they are not really a healthy alternative to sugar. They have their own set of concerns and we do not advise their intake. This blog is going to focus on nutritive sweeteners such as sugar, syrups and other foods used to add a sweet taste to our diet. we will also investigate whether there is a ‘healthy’ sugar option for the diet.

Sugar consumption

Getting straight to the key point, have you heard people refer to fruit as containing ‘healthy’ sugar? This illustrates one of the great points of confusion around the human diet. If something is natural and especially if it is plant-based there is an underlying assumption that it is therefore healthy and good for us. The majority of the world’s sugar production (170 million tonnes in 2016) is drawn from 2 naturally occurring plants, sugar cane and sugar beets. Whilst the sugars are drawn out of the plants through industrial processing, that does not change the compounds that existed in these plants already. In fact, there are many plants that actually have naturally higher levels of sugar and are much sweeter to taste than cane and beets. Most popular fruits are a classic example of this. In fact, many popular fruits today have been selectively bred to increase their sweetness (sweeter foods sell better) and as a result, contain more sucrose than the same fruits did just 30 years ago. The key consideration is why would the sugar in commonly consumed fruit be any healthier than the sugar found in cane or beets? Is it a different compound? Simply put, it is the same compound – sugar through and through! Now before you shout blasphemy, let’s acknowledge that whole fruit will also have some fibre, vitamins and minerals contained within it as well, but does this somehow negate the potentially damaging effects of the sugar component? Certainly, this should at least be questioned in the naturally occurring, higher sugar fruits like dates, raisins, prunes, figs, grapes, mango, pomegranate, bananas, cherries and passionfruit. It is no coincidence that several of these same high-sugar fruits are also the best-selling varieties in the supermarkets! More sugar, more sales. Simple formula, but it works.

The chemical structure of sucrose (sugar)

Sugar chemistry

Typical white, refined sugar is scientifically called ‘sucrose’ which is a combination of the basic units glucose and fructose in an approximately 50:50 ratio. Regardless of the source of the sugar, white table sugar, golden syrup, honey, fruit concentrate or whole fruit, the chemistry of the sugar is the same; it is still a blend of glucose and fructose. Glucose and fructose are composed of the same molecular elements as well. They both have 6 carbons, 12 hydrogen and 6 oxygen atoms. However, they do look a little different. Glucose is a 6 carbon hexagonal ring and fructose a 5 carbon pentagonal ring. These different shapes mean that the body has to metabolize them differently. We will get into that in a moment. 

Over the years these 2 molecules have developed different reputations in relation to health. Glucose has taken the brunt of abuse for disrupting our blood glucose levels, driving up insulin and playing a primary role in the causation of obesity and diabetes. Fructose has historically been branded as healthy because it is known as the fruit sugar. These half-truths have created several pervasive myths around the impact of certain foods on our health.

Glycaemic index

Glucose is the compound that serves as the basis of comparison for every other food listed on the Glycaemic Index. The glycaemic index argument is often cited for justifying the ‘is sugar bad’ case. Glucose is traditionally given a value of 100 and then other foods are tested and have their rate of absorption compared to glucose and given a respective value. Years ago when glycaemic index reached the awareness of the general public it was pointed out that fructose had a very low glycaemic index and therefore must be helpful in maintaining lower blood glucose levels. It was also promoted at the time as being diabetic ‘friendly’. That tag has quickly faded away as research has shown that fructose actually makes insulin resistance, the problem that underlies the diabetic condition, even worse!


Following digestion, glucose is absorbed directly through the gut lining into the bloodstream to be shipped around for use in body cells, especially the brain and nervous system. The majority of glucose that reaches the liver is converted into a perfectly safe storage form called glycogen. Glycogen is used to boost blood glucose when levels have dropped and food is not consumed. Following digestion, fructose is not delivered directly into the bloodstream. It is passed up a direct blood vessel between the intestine and the liver called the hepatic portal vein. Fructose metabolism is then managed by the liver and passes through different processes prior to being released into the blood again. It is this transport via the liver that gives fructose its low glycaemic index because it takes longer to impact on the blood. The delayed-release into the bloodstream does not make it ‘healthier’ just because it takes longer to influence wider circulation. Using glycaemic index to gauge the supposed ‘healthiness’ of sugar is therefore of little beneficial value. 


Whilst glucose has a very effective system for ensuring it enters the cells quickly without too many negative effects (it is controlled by insulin), fructose is a more complicated beast. There are several key concerns with the way fructose is managed within the body.

  • Significant amounts of fructose delivered to the liver cannot be metabolized by the cells and get converted to triglycerides (fat molecules that travel in the bloodstream).
  • Fructose alters liver enzyme function increasing liver insulin resistance (diabetic tendencies) leading to higher blood insulin and greater visceral fat storage (around the major organs).
  • Fructose undergoes the Maillard (browning) reaction 7 times faster than glucose, suggesting it may increase cellular glycation (sugars binding with proteins), ageing processes and cancer formation.
  • High fructose intake has been shown to have many similar effects on the liver as alcohol and maybe a contributory factor in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Dr. Robert Lustig refers to fructose as the ‘…same poison as alcohol but without the buzz!’ Unlike alcohol, fructose is not metabolized in the brain and as such does not have the same deleterious effects on behaviour. 

Healthy sugar?

In deciding ‘Is sugar bad’ we also need to weigh up the nutritive sweeteners that typically carry a more healthy reputation. Well, you decide. Agave syrup (or ‘nectar’ as it is often called to make it sound better), even the organic variety, is normally between 70-95% fructose. Agave ‘nectar’ does not harbour a sweet liquid within the plant in these sugar concentrations, through industrial processing and exposure to enzymes the naturally balanced glucose-fructose blend is significantly altered to favour fructose and increase sweetness. Bearing in mind that the health-damaging reputation of industrial high fructose corn syrup (the sweetener of choice for the soft drinks industry) has been built on a 55% fructose blend, it doesn’t really bode too well for Agave. All the negative effects listed above will clearly be enhanced with richer doses of fructose being sent to the liver down the portal vein. Another option often used in health food bars and in ‘supposedly healthier’ tinned fruit is ‘fruit concentrate’ or fruit juice. This is exactly what the name suggests, the juice of a given fruit with the water boiled off so as to concentrate the sugars within. This will damage most of the vitamin content leaving primarily a concentrated source of sugar behind. In fact, it is not uncommon to find the most used juice concentrates are from apples, grapes and pears as these have some of the highest naturally occurring fructose content and taste even sweeter as fructose has 70% more sweetness than typical sucrose.


Simple squeezed fruit juice may not be concentrated, but it still allows for an increased intake of sugar compared to eating a whole piece of fruit. For example, a single apple has a glycaemic index of 40 and a glycaemic load of 6, whereas a glass of pure apple juice has a GI of 44 and a GL of 13 – more than double the volume of sugar within a comparative sized ‘portion’ of fruit. Glycaemic load (GL) refers to the volume or amount of total carbohydrate factored against its glycaemic index. A similar story of raised GL is found with most fruit juices when compared to whole fruit. Therefore, on this basis, it becomes difficult to see how pure fruit juice can be considered as beneficial to health as eating whole fruit. Twice the sugar in a single portion will only increase any possible negative impacts on the body and if it is apple, mango or grape juice you will get a hard liver-hitting dose of fructose as well! The fibre in whole fruit helps to bind and slow the impact of sugar on the body and provides beneficial bulk to the waste products within the digestive tract. 

Summary – Is sugar bad?

So what does all this boil down to? Is sugar bad after all? Sugar from any source is still sugar – it is sucrose, glucose and fructose. An important component of this discussion is the amount of sugar, the regular total daily amount of sugar that is consumed. The devil is in the dose! The body is a resilient organism, it can cope with high sugar intake now and again, once in a while. But sugar eaten in excess amounts, on a regular basis, over long periods of time will likely alter blood chemistry, overtax the liver and lead to potential chronic health problems. Science is steadily showing that processing foods to increase the fructose content has and is leading us further down the road of dysfunction and disease. Added, industrially refined sugars and syrups are having a detrimental effect on our health. Globally, the top 10 sugar-consuming nations range from 90g to 126g per person per day! This is shocking when you consider the World Health Organisation recommendation is to reduce added sugars to a maximum of 5% of daily calories. For a male consuming 2500 kcal/day, this amounts to 31g of sugar, and for females, on 2000 kcal/day, this is 25g of sugar as a maximum. This recommended volume of sugar is exceeded by just a single can or bottle of the majority of commonly available sports/energy drinks. We need to reduce our consumption of sugar-sweetened products…period!

Choosing to consume fruit juice doubles our sugar intake compared to eating whole fruit. Even modern breeding of sweeter fruits with higher glucose and fructose contents may yet prove to be another means of ingesting larger amounts of sugar! This is not to say that eating high-quality fresh fruit cannot be part of a ‘good’ diet. Of course, it can, but it is best eaten when it is fresh and whole and in moderate amounts. Up to 2 whole fruit portions, a day would be a suitable, average goal, maybe a little more in summer months, a little less in winter months, as would have been the case prior to high-speed global transportation of food.

But what about the all-important vitamins and minerals I hear you say? Firstly, all naturally occurring foods, from any source, plant or animal, contribute to our vitamin and mineral intake. It is not just fruits. To ensure adequate micro-nutrient consumption it would be best that we place greater focus on a wider variety of food types, especially a broad and plentiful supply of seasonal vegetables to draw in our needed vitamins, minerals and fibre. It may not be quite as convenient as fruit, but it will support greater health in the long-term. 

Do you want to learn more about nutrition? Get qualified with our excellent online course, the Nutrition for Health and Fitness Certificate from Nordic Fitness Education.

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Consent to display content from Youtube
Consent to display content from Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from Google

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)