As a fitness professional, you probably get a LOT requests for diet- and nutrition-related advice. That’s why we created this cheat sheet, with evidence-based, easy-to-understand answers for three of the most common questions. Want more? Find answers to all 11 of the most frequently asked nutrition questions here.

Question #1: “What’s the best diet to follow?”

Answer: There is no “best diet.”

Why? All dietary protocols have their pros and cons. What works best for one person won’t work best for another. Also: A diet that has worked best for someone in the past won’t necessarily be what works best for them moving forward.

Help your clients find the approach to eating that works best for them right now, whether it be Paleo or vegan, high-carb or low-carb, tight budget or unlimited funds—or some blend of all of these.

The truth is, the human body is amazingly adaptable to a vast array of diets, so the best diet is the one that:

  • matches the person’s unique physiology,
  • includes foods they enjoy enough to follow consistently, and
  • is realistic for them in terms of life logistics and budget.

Indeed, you can make people lean, strong, and healthy on a plant-based or meat-based diet. You can help improve their health with organic, free-range foods and with conventional foods. They can lose weight on a low food budget or an unlimited one. Learn how to choose the best diet here.

Question #2: “Should I avoid carbs?”

Answer: No; but let’s make sure you’re getting the right kind of carbs.

Ask almost anyone what they need to do to lose a few pounds, and they’ll probably say: “Cut back on carbs.”

However, most folks would do best eating a moderate amount of quality carbs—whole grains (when tolerated), fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans and legumes, etc.

For men, this usually means about 1–2 cupped handfuls per meal. And women, about 1 cupped handful per meal. Of course, the needs of each individual may differ, based on their size, activity level, goals, and genetics.

But, bottom line, carbs are not inherently fattening, especially whole food sources. And getting adequate carbs can help most clients exercise harder and recover better, optimizing progress.

Still feel like cutting carbs is the way to go? Check out The Keto Diet: Does It Live Up to the Hype?

Question #3: “How should I eat to get six-pack abs?”

Answer: You first have to know if six-pack abs are really what your client wants. (And if they’re prepared to do what it takes.)

Getting ripped abs is a much bigger undertaking than most people realize. There are definite benefits to getting that lean (<10 percent for most men, and <20 percent for most women), but there are real trade-offs too.

Alcohol, processed foods, and desserts all need to be severely limited if you’re trying to lose fat and show off a washboard stomach. Social situations often become difficult. Other interests and hobbies may need to decrease.

However, if clients really want to get a six-pack in the healthiest possible way, they’ll need to follow these principles 90–95 percent of the time:

  • eat protein and vegetables at every meal,
  • include healthy fats at most meals,
  • eat a small amount of carbs post-workout only,
  • limit carbs at all other meals,
  • exercise intensely 4–5 times per week, and
  • get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.

Armed with this information, you can have an honest conversation about whether your clients want the six-pack badly enough. And for an even deeper dive into this issue, read The Cost of Getting Lean.

John Berardi, PhD

John Berardi, PhD, and Krista Scott-Dixon, PhD, are part of the Precision Nutrition team, a group of nutrition, exercise and lifestyle professionals dedicated to helping people achieve lasting personal change through diet and exercise. To gather more tips on coaching clients and improving adherence, check out www.preci

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