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Ask the Dietitians: Your Nutrition Questions, Answered (Part Two)

With Anika Christ, RD, and Samantha McKinney, RD

Anika and sam headshot

Season 8, Episode 2 | March 19, 2024

Which supplement ingredients should I avoid? What is considered “clean eating”? Are there healthy habits to never waiver on? Life Time dietitians Anika Christ, RD, and Samantha McKinney, RD, join us once again to answer common nutrition questions they hear from clients — including these and more.

Anika Christ, RD, CPT, is the senior director of nutrition and weight loss at Life Time. She’s known to many as “Coach Anika” and is one of the original virtual coaches who continues to lead a number of digital programs each year. She started at Life Time in 2008 and has spent her entire career helping build Life Time’s nutrition programs.

Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT, is the national program manager for nutrition, metabolism, and weight loss at Life Time. She’s been with Life Time for 13 years in multiple roles and is currently on the team that leads nutrition programs and supplements for Life Time members, helping them optimize their metabolism and results from the inside-out.

These are some of the frequently asked questions that Christ and McKinney field in the coaching inbox from Life Time members around nutrition. Listen to the full episode to hear them dive deeper into their answers.

“What supplement ingredients are always a no-go?” You can make supplements without artificial colors, sweeteners, or ingredients and it’s not debatable that those won’t add any benefit to your health, which is why they’re advised to be avoided and are not included in Life Time’s brand of supplements. Depending on the specific supplement, there are other no-go ingredients to watch out for. For example, if you see “cyanocobalamin” on a B12 label, that’s a sign that it’s a cheap form of the nutrient.

“Should I focus on ‘clean eating’ or counting macros? And what is ‘clean eating’ anyway?” Macros include protein, fat, and carbohydrates (and you could also argue alcohol as a fourth). Counting macros is another form of calorie counting, but in a way that balances your plate with those macronutrients.

Clean eating has a lot of different definitions. The general sentiment behind it tends to be someone who minimizes processed foods and eats a lot of single-ingredient foods that are put together into meals. It may also include removing foods that are problematic when there are food sensitivities.

“What is your take on ‘fitfluencers’?” Christ and McKinney say they see a lot shaming happening on social media and that if someone is not inspiring you or causes you to feel bad, unfollow them. There are a lot of trends that pop up that may or may not be beneficial, but it’s important to keep in mind that no popular hack is going to transform your health if you don’t have solid foundational habits — such as moving your body, eating nourishing foods, sleeping well, and managing your stress.

“Where would you suggest someone prioritize their time if they’re hoping to improve their health?” McKinney emphasizes sleeping a minimum of seven hours per night and having a plan for eating, no matter what your schedule looks like.

Christ shares that her No. 1 priority every day is movement for the benefits it brings to her brain health and mental well-being. She also emphasizes the importance of having a friend, partner, or someone in your community to go along the health journey with you.

“As dietitians, what are the healthy habits you never waiver on?” Eating enough protein, including starting the day with a high-protein shake, and getting outside in nature as often as possible are two habits that Christy and McKinney suggest always sticking with.

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Transcript: Ask the Dietitians: Your Nutrition Questions, Answered (Part Two)

Season 8, Episode 2  | March 19, 2024


Welcome to Life Time Talks, the podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, editor in chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole life health and fitness magazine. And I’m David Freeman, director of Alpha, one of Life Time’s signature group training programs. We’re all in different places along our health and fitness journey, but no matter what we’re working toward, there are some essential things we can do to keep moving in the direction of a healthy purpose -driven life.

In each episode, we break down various elements of healthy living, including fitness and nutrition, mindset and community, and health issues. We’ll also share real, inspiring stories of transformation. And we’ll be talking to experts from Life Time and beyond who share their insights and knowledge so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go.


Hey everyone, welcome back. We are excited because we have some of our favorite guests back because we are asking the experts about some nutrition topics that come up and nutrition questions that come up over and over again. So Anika and Sam, you are regular guests of ours. Welcome back.

Yeah, thanks for having us.

Yeah, we’re excited to be here.

Well, let’s give a little background on some of our new listeners just in case they have yet to hear from Anika and Sam. I’m gonna start first with Anika.

Anika is a registered dietitian and personal trainer. She’s our senior director for nutrition and weight loss at Life Time. She’s known to many as Coach Anika, and she’s a original virtual coach who continues to lead a number of digital programs each year. She started with Life Time in 2008 and has spent her entire career helping build Life Time’s nutrition program. So give it up a little bit for Ms. Anika.

Thanks, Dave.

And then Sam, Sam McKinney is a registered dietitian and personal trainer. She’s been with Life Time for 13 years in multiple roles. Currently, she’s on the team that leads nutrition programs and supplements for Life Time members, working to optimize metabolism and results inside and out. Welcome back, y ‘all. How y ‘all feeling?

Great. Great. Yeah. I’m good. You’re hydrated.

All right, that’s good. I’m going to go right into the first question for you both though. What supplement ingredients are the go-to? Not the no-go, but the go-to.

Well, I’ll take a quick stab, Anika, if that’s okay. It’s a little bit broad because it depends on what the category is so broad, right? So are you talking pills? Are you talking powders? Are you talking protein? That type of thing? Let’s go straight to powders. Powders first. Yeah. So, I mean, and again, there’s a lot of different powders. There’s greens powders, there’s protein powders, et cetera. And essentially whenever you’re talking ingredients, you’re not always going to see this on the label, but it goes to ingredient sourcing. So the go ingredients are pretty broad based off of what specific product you’re talking about. So there are certain things to look for. But sometimes it’s easier to position it of, like, what do we avoid, like the no-gos, and then flip it to the alternative that you would want to find instead. Does that make sense?

I was going to say, too, just to layer on what Sam’s saying, another way to kind of interpret that question might be like, what are the, what are the go-tos for supplements that we see lacking in most people’s diets? And I think, you know, we’re really strong advocates of what we call metabolic individuality with people. And I think there’s like go-to nutrition strategies, there’s go -to supplements, but we get excited about helping people really specifically on what their goal is, where they’re at in their life, what’s going on. Cause everyone’s a little bit different there, but like go -to supplement ingredients that we probably recommend.

More often than not for most individuals, I would put up there as omega-3 or fish oil, magnesium, vitamin D. Those are common sources that they’re not really in our food supply. And even if you’re making really intentional choices to get them in, a lot of people fall short when we look at their blood chemistry or measure what their body is actually absorbing. And then of course, with that, we always love a good multivitamin or mineral and protein because again,

The food supply is kind of lacking of those things and not to blanket supplements for everybody, but those are probably our more go-to. Now, that being said, there’s things we want people to avoid because not all are equal in the space. Like Sam was saying, there’s so many out there. There’s like over 95 ,000 supplement companies or some ridiculous stat like that. And for us, we’re really passionate at Life Time and just as dietitians in general is nothing artificial. That means no artificial colors, sweeteners, ingredients, flavoring, a lot of stuff like that. Consumers are so smart today. And so when you learn that you can make stuff without that stuff, when you find companies and brands still using it, I have a really hard time wondering why, like, why would you do that if it’s not necessary, if you’re not getting anything out of that? So that’s usually my first layer. Sam, what else would you say?

I was going to say too, you know, whenever it comes to supplementation, people take supplements because they’re trying to move their health forward. So some of those kind of insidious ingredients, as Anika mentioned, you know, there can be debate over how harmful they are, but it’s really not debatable that they’re not beneficial to have in there. So for example, artificial flavors, artificial colors. There’s two sides of the story. People are always arguing about that. We always lean towards, of course we wouldn’t use those if we don’t have to, because they certainly don’t bring benefit. So why would you put something into a daily supplement that you’re trying to move your health forward with that doesn’t bring you benefit? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So even some of the specific supplements Anika called out that are like, hey, these are some of our core supplements. There’s nuances in there of what you might want to decide.

So for example, omega-3 fatty acids. You want to get the most out of the omega -3s that you’re taking. So if you’re taking a fish oil, there’s essentially two major forms on the market. And if you look at the label, you can typically find it. There’s an ethyl ester form and a triglyceride form. Triglyceride form is known to be superior, right? So you want to look at that. If you’re looking at a vitamin D, there’s cholecalciferol, which is more activated, and then there’s ergocalciferol, which is not. And there’s all these little kind of nuances and other ingredients. Those are a little bit complex and harder to find. I would say the big red flags that I see commonly across a ton of supplements that people are taking unknowingly and don’t realize that it may not have as much benefit as they hope are, let’s say for example, a non-methylated folate oftentimes shows up on the label as folic acid. There’s a good percentage of the population that can’t actually activate that in their body due to their genetics. I mean, some estimates say 40 to 60% of the population. The other thing that I see oftentimes, and this is really common, B12.

So look at the B12, it’ll tell you where it’s coming from. If it says cyanocobalamin, that’s a sign that that’s a cheap form of the nutrient. The company did not find it valuable to spend money on the activated form, which is like a methylcobalamin. And then to the sweeteners and flavors that Anika was mentioning, we see sucralose pop up a lot. It’s on a lot of different supplements. And at Life Time, that’s just something that we choose to avoid. It doesn’t bring benefit and it’s artificial.

To that end with the supplements that Life Time does create and provide, can you both speak briefly to how we make sure that our supplement lines and our vitamins and minerals that we provide to members for purchase, what are our standards for making sure that we’re providing the highest quality of supplements and vitamins and minerals?

Yeah, so there’s kind of like a perfect recipe to create a great supplement. And so like Sam was saying before, part of it just starts with where’s the ingredients coming from, right? So like a simple example would be we have grass-fed whey for our whey protein powder. And a lot of people are like, what does that mean? Well, it comes from cows that are treated kind of in their most humane territories and are fed like their normal, I don’t want to say ancestral, but normal diet per se. But, so that’s important, but it’s also where are those ingredients going? So where’s the manufacturer? What are their standards? What type of testing are they doing? A lot of the regulations in the supplement industry are not at a part that we actually feel great about. Like there’s regulation, but not at the standard that I think most things that you’re taking on a regular basis should go through with like regular batch testing of those ingredients to make sure there’s no cross contaminants. Maybe soy is not popping up in your vegan protein powder per se, but then it’s how are they storing that? How are they mixing that? And then when it becomes a product, where is that warehouse that those supplements are actually going to? So we have a close, tight relationship for each of those steps. And that’s what’s hard in the industry, is you start to learn that there’s a lot of companies out there that they come up with a formula, and then that’s kind of it. And again, the formula, making sure it’s at these efficacious dosages that is shown in research. You know, we see a lot of things out there and I have clients that will say, hey, I found this with this ingredient and we turn it around. I’m like, that’s not even the dose that it was studied at to create a benefit for you. So there’s a lot to kind of underway with that. But for us, we have really strong partnerships with who’s creating our supplements, where they’re sourcing the ingredients. And most do probably 15 more things than what’s required of them in the industry to make sure it’s quality and something that we know we’re proud to share and that if somebody tested it, it’s exactly what we’re promoting on the bottle, which that comes through something called third party testing, which is a few different places you can actually do that with. But we do that with everything that we have inside of our club that’s under our label.

Yeah, there’s a lot of people doing shady supplement business and not getting caught. And, you know, we obviously, that timeline for them is short, or we hope, because we want the person using that to see benefit. So the one other thing that I would add there is probably the two things that stand out to me the most is the raw materials when they go to the manufacturers, as Anika was talking about, actually get quarantined, right? They get quarantined and tested to make sure. And like most companies are testing like one out of every five batches of material that they’re getting. So who knows what they’re putting on the line.

And the other thing too that surprised me throughout my career as I learned more about the supplement industry is that there is no, there’s no requirement even in the current regulations, which are lacking to even do internal testing on your stuff at all. They just have to document the process to get there. And every single thing that we have has what’s called a COA. It’s a certificate of analysis, like a scientific document. So there’s, as Anika said, there’s a ton of steps to it.

Well, we always, we always want our listeners to be able to take a lot of what we’re speaking about and put it into action. And a lot of times the individuals that we’re working with need guidance. And I know that y ‘all live in this space, so therefore it might come a little bit easier. I know it’s still a challenge just with everything that’s out there, but even this week, I know I spoke to a lot of my athletes and, and they always are talking about the words clean eating and they talk about macros. Can y ‘all dive into exactly we — people may know what macros is, but I just want to be able to have our listeners get the breakdown of each one of them. And then more importantly, what would you define as clean eating? Cause I feel like that’s very broad in a lot of ways and perception of people’s reality of what that might look like. So can y ‘all dive a little bit into what macros are for one, and then defining what clean eating is.

So. Okay, a couple of different things. So macros are basically protein, fat and carbohydrates. You could argue alcohol as well too. And essentially what this is, it’s assigning a number of calories per gram weight of protein, fat and carbohydrate. So protein and carbs, they’re both four calories per gram. Fat is nine calories per gram. Alcohol is seven calories per gram. So it’s kind of like drinking fat sort of, but not really, you know? So basically the calories you consume are made up of your macro nutrients, right?

Those are calorie providing nutrients is what they are. So, you know, historically decades ago, all everybody was ever worried about was how many calories they were eating a day, right? Now, am I in a calorie deficit or not? Right. And there’s importance to that. But it’s sort of shifted where people are now looking and this is a good thing, a little bit more of the balance of what they’re eating. Am I hitting my macros? It’s another form of calorie counting, but it’s in a way that you balance your plate, hopefully a little bit better, depending on what you’re setting your macro goals. Are you getting enough protein? Are you getting enough fat? Are your carbs appropriate for your activity level and your needs? That type of a thing. So that’s what macros are.

Clean eating has a lot of different definitions. So I’ve seen things on social media where there are influencers that will like, you know, kind of blast clean eating. I’m like, what does that mean? Right? They might be like washing their foods and being like, is this clean enough? Is this clean enough? And essentially I think what the sentiment behind clean eating.

really is, is are you minimizing your intake of processed foods? Are you eating a lot of single ingredient foods that you’re putting together into a meal? So again, it’s this thought of kind of going back to eating foods without labels, as simple as that sounds. And then there’s different variations of it too, where people might focus on doing that, but also removing foods that might be problematic for a lot of people from a food sensitivity standpoint. So that’s kind of the two. And it’s funny to me that they’re in two different camps because they can coexist really easily. I think it’s not surprising to anybody that if you’re eating clean eating, unprocessed foods in the right balance, that is the formula for long-term success in health. So there’s people on both sides of the equation where it’s like, it doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you hit your macros. Then I’m like, OK, what about your micros, your micronutrients and your vitamins?

that’s an issue. And then the other camp, it’s like, you could just do clean eating, the calories will take care of themselves. I’m like, not if they’re spooning almond butter into their mouth over their sink late at night, you know what I mean? Because it’s like not if you’re kind of running into these issues. So you really have to have both. So I don’t know, Anika, is there anything that you got your gears turning there that you want to add or?

Yeah, well, I think I do. I like the macros because I think it reminds people this is the part of nutrition that. I fell in love with in school was like different nutrients do different things in your body and like getting around that and a love for nutrition. And I know we’ve talked about that a few times on this show too. Like that’s what I love the most is when people actually fall in love with nutrition at its core. But I think on the clean eating part too, it’s not looking at it as a noun, but kind of a verb a little bit. Like a lot of people are like, I just need to clean up my diet. And I always think that it just is so dependent on the person that can mean so many different things to different people. And I think of doing group nutrition with several people together and you’d have one person that was like, I am the ice cream person. And everyone’s like, that’s not even, I could have ice cream in my house all day. And it’s like, well, that doesn’t mean you’re better at it than her. Everyone just has their different things. They’re poisons per se. So I like it. I think if it turns into not deprivation, but more increasing good foods that create things that help your metabolism and support so many cool things in your body. I try to flip it that way to say, let’s talk about what to do more. And I love a real food diet as a noun, more so there, more than anything and helping people kind of get back to what we identify as food and how can we do things to get more of that and on a regular basis, because we all feel better. We know that. Awesome.

One thing I want to just add for our listeners is that we do have a whole episode on macros. I think it was Paul, your colleague, Paul Kriegler was on and talked about that. So we’ll, we’ll link to that in our show notes for sure. another thing you just alluded to Sam, as you mentioned, kind of social media and fit, like fitfluencers and TikTok and different things. And, you know, we’ve seen a huge growth in that in recent years because of all of the social media that’s out there. we actually covered this in experience life recently. And it’s, I want to get your take on, you know, the role of fitfluencers and for those who aren’t watching, I have my, I’m using air quotes. You know, it’s, it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not and what’s validated and who to trust and all those things. So let’s, let’s touch a little bit on what your take is on fitfluencers.

Yeah, it’s tough because I, it’s so like, I think social media is so cool because they’re, that’s just like the way a lot of us digest content in general. Now, like there’s things I would never know about unless I saw somebody posting about it or scrolling about it. I think what’s hard in our space is it’s really easy as personal trainers or even dietitians to come off really shameful to people. And I think sometimes we see that a lot too, where it’s like, gosh, remember when we’re creating content, it’s for the viewer. It’s not really ourselves. And I think, you know, when we were talking about this earlier metabolic individuality, but also like just lifestyles for everybody. And we are saying this too, like, yeah, Sam and I, like, it’s kind of in our nature to do certain things. We have been in this industry for a long time. So it’s easier for me to eat clean probably than someone brand new trying to improve what they’re eating on a regular basis.

So for me, I think what I get a lot sent my way, I’m always like, okay, well, first of all, if someone is not inspiring you and you’re feeling bad about yourself or bad about what you’re doing on follow them, that’s not okay. I tend to see it a lot with even just professionals in our space where I’m like, that content is like making fun of people doing some of those things. So like, as you’re saying, when trends pick up on social media, I think of this year, last year, at the beginning of the year, it was all about the treadmill workout. So it was like in kind of 12 or 30 minutes and they were like, my gosh, this is bad. I’m like, well, if it gets someone to get going, like don’t say that, but also like they don’t, they’re not a nutrition and fitness expert. So don’t like create content to shame that content, if that makes sense.

Sometimes I feel like there’s a lot of that negativity, which I hate, but I do think what’s cool, like right now we’re seeing a lot of like, it’s the tart cherry juice at night to go to bed. And so people are like, and like for me, if I was shameful, I’d be like, that’s been around for 10 years, like da da da da da da. And it’s like, no, like I’m like, cool, you like that? Does it help? Yeah, I love it. Okay, cool, let’s do it. But that might not work for Dave, that might not work for Sam, for them to go to bed at night or stay asleep. So I think we got to create a balance there. And some people do it really well.

And I appreciate the conversation it brings for sure. But I think stuff like that where if it feels good and maintainable and not too good to be true, it’s probably a good thing. If it’s something that’s too good to be true that comes with a lot of claims, it feels extreme. It feels outside of that normal homeostasis of like, we got to put hours in the gym. We got to do cardio. We got to eat whole foods. Then I would say, okay, maybe watch out.

You mentioned tart cherry juice, and I think that’s one trend that we’ve seen. Are there other nutrition trends that you’re seeing on social media that you’re like, go with or nope? Just ignore that one, Sam. It looks like you want to try and get it. Yeah, I have something related to that. So yes, we see that a lot. And the way that I would kind of talk about some of, well, let me rewind a little bit. Whenever it comes to the different trends and the information that’s going out there on social media, part of what drives me nuts is when a fitfluencer creates confusion for their viewers and makes them fear something that’s otherwise healthy. Like, can we stop putting out content of which fruit is better than some other fruit? Because, right, then you’re like shaming a fruit, like things like that, right? Like confusion.

But I would say, you know, I just had this conversation with a group of friends of mine that are not in the health and fitness space at all. So those are fun sometimes, right, to kind of see kind of the point of view of somebody that maybe doesn’t live in this world or in this industry. And they were actually asking like, hey, I was seeing on Instagram that you’re supposed to put salt in your water first thing in the morning. Like, should I do that? And it’s like, OK, let’s have a conversation about this. Is adding a mineral rich salt source first thing in the morning good? Sure, right? So if it’s having somebody make changes. But the analogy that I gave was imagine your health and fitness is you are building and decorating a house, right?

And generally speaking, we know that there’s always house projects. There’s always improvements to make, even as built as your house is. Pouring the foundation and putting the walls up are things that are boring to talk about on social media, but you can’t skip them in real life. It’s making sure that you’re hydrated, making sure that you’re sleeping, making sure that you’re exercising consistently, making sure you’re getting enough protein. You can’t get around those, but there’s only so much buzzworthy content you can create about that. So what I find is, to continue the analogy, and some of these trans people are talking about, they’re talking about what essentially the curtain rod of the house using the nutrition analogy, right? They’re talking about their coffee table book that they have, right? And it’s using that analogy. So things like tart cherry, just go for it. Definitely don’t shame it. But it drives me crazy when it pulls people away from the core foundations of what they need to be doing. So yeah, there are trends out there and most of them aren’t bad. They’re just not necessarily where I would start everybody. Does that make sense?

The biohackers world. We talk about that a lot, Sam and I, because right now, the club we’re at, they have a cold plunge now. And I, it’s so fun, because I love, there’s all these women in our locker room talking about it and loving it. And they’re like coaching each other. And so, but it’s like, the question will come up and amongst fitness professionals, people are like, why are they putting their time there? And they’re not even doing these things. And I’m like, well, if that stretches them, right, it’s a stretch goal to do something like that. I don’t even do that. I am such a baby with cold water, but it helps their mindset, it gives them confidence and now they’re going to go do X, Y and Z. Heck yeah, like we should applaud that. But then there’s the other side of the coin where it’s like all these really high level biohacking type habits people are so attracted to, but they’re not eating enough protein yet. So it’s a balance.

But I would say other things we see online, it is the electrolytes in the morning, which I like that because it’s like the free version is put your own high mineral salt in there, or you can do a tasty electrolyte. We have them too to make it convenient.

A cold plunge is really cool. You could do a cold shower. You could go outside, breathe air, look at the sun. Like there’s so many free things in the midst of that, but there’s a lot of that. And I like that stuff because I just love all wellness. But I think for us, it’s helping people still get the foundational things with the cool, buzzy things that make it fun, which is I love fitness and health. If it’s fun, it will get people on the right track for sure.

Yes. And if it’s distracting you completely from wanting to do some of those core foundational things, then it might be something like if you’re brand new and you’re like, OK, to get healthy, I need to plunge myself into cold water. I need to start my day with salt and I need to take 18 pills and I’m on zero right now, right? From a supplement standpoint. And then it’s like, OK, like, let’s let’s not overcomplicate it, right? Like, let’s simplify this for you, which is why I kind of always sort of fall back to that house analogy.

Like let’s get the foundation walls up and all of the decorations. Yeah, you need those. They’re cool. Do it. But if it’s overwhelming to you and paralyzing you from starting a healthy journey, then that’s a different story. Let’s stay with that. I think something that was a foundation a lot what we were just talking about is how people are spending their time, whether it’s on social media with individuals that might have influence over their choices, work, family.

So if we were to create a pie chart, we got our our virtual pie chart for our listeners, where would you say we should prioritize our time and force rank it if you will, within that pie chart? I know we can go a few different ways here, but hey, the way I can prioritize my health, I need to ideally start here for these other things to start working and for me to get the results. How would y ‘all frame that up as far as people prioritizing their time as it relates to their health?

I’d start with sleep. It looked like Anika was going there too. It was just by her facial expression. If you are under slept and you are doom scrolling at night and you are Netflixing until midnight, just go to bed. Because again, most people are like, I don’t have time. And I’m like, OK, let’s pull a data report of how much time you spent on social media in the last week. And I was like, ee, right? Like that type of a thing. And again, I’m guilty of that too. Trust me. Like it’s not something that I’m immune to at all, but like let’s, you absolutely need to be sleeping a minimum of seven hours per night, many times more.

The benefits from the seven hours of sleep, what benefits will come from that?

I mean, what benefits won’t come from that? Like literally the wheels are going to fall off without that. So just kind of easily in terms of fitness and nutrition is number one, if you’re under slept constantly, it adds stress to your body and will completely destroy your hormones.

And so you’re going to feel and function terribly. Second of all, it’s going to mess with your appetite. You’re going to want more kind of carbohydrates, sweet type foods. You’re probably tired. So you didn’t meal prep. And so the things that are available in our society aren’t exactly going to lean us towards health. You’re probably going to have, like I mentioned, the cravings, your appetite will be dysregulated. All of it. You won’t recover from the exercise that you’re doing. You’re going to be for extended periods of time. And then probably like most notably is you’re not going to be yourself. Your mood is going to be awful, right? Like you need that to help have the right emotional regulation. There’s research on that too. So you’re not going to make good decisions when you’re not fully yourself.

Okay, so sleep, Anika, what will be the next piece?

Okay, so this has evolved over the last 15 years and then Anika becoming a parent, all the things, but I sometimes these get bucketed together, but I got into fitness for mindset. So to me, it’s always been about my mental health. And that was something my mom taught me. I watched her as a mom, like check out for a certain part of time every day. And she was a runner. So it was outside and I could join her as a child. But if I disrupted her, it was like, Nope, you got to go home now. You can’t do this. So like to me, it’s always been about that. when I was younger without kids, I guess I didn’t realize that is probably what was happening. But to me, exercise will always be the best drug on the planet. So sometimes I actually prioritize it first before healthy eating. Even though I know healthy eating is so important and I know it changes everything. And if someone has a body composition goal, it’s actually more important than what’s happening in the gym or at that run outside. But it has such a kinetic link to other habits because it feels good. It helps my brain.

I had dedicated time to myself. Sometimes I work out with Sam, so I get dedicated time with her too. I’m a better mother, I’m a better spouse. I’m definitely a better boss at work. When I don’t get that time, I am angry. I’m not the best version of myself. So it’s like the movement, but it’s for the brain, not to create my, a better mom arm or to like burn some calories. So they kind of are one in the same to me, but for some people, I’ve worked with them to get into a breath work routine first thing in the morning. So instead of scrolling, could you meditate? We have a great meditation program at Life Time and our app too, that are just great ways to start the day. And I think for some, if you can pick the right thing for you in that movement, great. I like that, but I also like to move, but I, it’s like those two are like together to me, but at equal importance because your mental health is everything. I don’t know. It’s just like, you know, that’s, I didn’t realize I was doing that a younger age. I’m like, my gosh. Yeah. It’s always been about this for me, but the movement is what helps that. Yeah.

So I’m just, I’m just recapping. So we got sleep, got that. And then would you, would you coin the one you just said on it? Cause like mental movement, what would you call that one?

Yeah. I just like sound it out. I guess it’s like movement, but for like movement, not for exercise, burn or building muscle, like movement for mental health. Well, and to the point you made, you mentioned the word kinetic and it’s really like all of these things are intertwined. It’s one big web. Often when you make one lifestyle habit, I’m going to sleep better. You’re going to wake up feeling more motivated to move. That’s going to affect your cognitive health. You’re probably going to eat a little bit better. So it’s just, it’s so interesting. It’s like one thing can really create this domino effect and it can go the other way too. The minute when with bad habits, you know, so.

That’s why I said it’s above nutrition for me. And again, as a dietitian, and I see it with food too, so don’t get me wrong. I’m like, yep, when we’re doing these goals, it’s all about food. But people, like Sam said, your hormones, we regulate with sleep for better food choices. But when you do the work, you’re like, okay, I’m going to have a protein shake after this now. And I’m going to think about, I’m going to have more intention with my day. So I agree. It is all kinetic. It’s all linked. It’s crazy. And the beauty of that for beginners, because I find oftentimes as fitness professionals, you know, I kind of look back in my journey, right, as a coach and everything. And it’s like, gosh, I wish I could go back and start over knowing what I know now. I truly do. Because what I find is sometimes fitness professionals might talk to clients and they’re talking about time and all that type of stuff. And it’s like they’re talking to a peer fitness professional wise that knows how to do all of this stuff. And the beauty is the domino effect.

If you are a beginner, you start with one thing, right? Like start with one thing and do it consistently. And then you’re able to layer them on pretty quickly because what they don’t realize is like, gosh, whatever piece of advice you might give somebody to start with, that seems too simple. Like I want more. Like I want to change fast. It’s like, yes. But if you do this one thing, let’s say it’s sleep or get that workout in that Anika is talking about first thing, it makes all these other things easier to execute, right? Like you’re just paving the way since they have a bumpy road, you have a smoother ride to get there and you have less obstacles and barriers.

Well, you know, just, and once again, I know we can add more pieces to the pie with all of us being parents and what we tend to do is we put everybody else before us. So that’s why I asked the question as far as prioritizing health, what that means, cause that can be very broad, but you said sleep, you said, I call it mental movement. If you were to kind of cap it off with maybe one or two more, what, what will follow up after that? Back to you, Sam, and then throw it back to Anika for the last piece.

Yeah. You know, I kind of want to go two different directions on it, which is challenging on a podcast. But I would say, so for the next thing, I would say whatever your schedule is, have a plan for your food. So eating healthy looks different for everybody. It truly does. And this is where, Anika always says this, and I agree, is not everybody actually has the same 24 hours in a day. So it depends on the person. So if you have a schedule that allows, you to like, hey, my schedule is bonkers Monday through Friday. There’s just no way that I’m going to be able to get a healthy food plan done than batch cook on the weekend. Right. And have a plan and have it ready, like carve out two hours and have it ready so that you’re not actually cooking during the week. You know, for other people, that might not work. So trying to get it exact. Everybody’s pie chart is going to look a little bit differently depending on what their needs are. So I know that’s not directly answering it, but, yeah, I mean it is sleep, exercise, nutrition. I mean, you can’t get around those three things. It’s just what does it look like for you in a way that’s realistic and doable? That’s the most important thing. Like your trainer’s plan isn’t going to be the same pie chart as your plan. It shouldn’t be. And if they’re expecting you to do that, that would make me a little bit sad or nervous for you because it almost feels like an impossible goal, right?

Alright, Anika, what would you round this out with right now? Just to recap again, we got sleep, we got mental movement, right? And now we have nutrition.

I’m going to put supplements with nutrition. What Sam was saying, cause I feel like that kind of goes hand in hand that you’re supplementing what you’re eating. I would probably say support. And so to me, like community for some people use that word really well. You need at least one person in the arena with you and meaning more like that could be your spouse where it’s like, hey, we need it on the same page. This is a priority for me. I need you to help me make this happen because if my daughter wants me to sleep in with her or do this, like, I’ll just do it. So I need you to say, no, mama needs to do this, like stuff like that. I think at Life Time, it’s really easy. We have all these health people around us. So we get into this little bubble of like, yeah, we all know what we’re doing and it’s easy and we all kind of have a similar lifestyle. But I think that you need a friend or somebody that’s right there with you that can actually help call out the things that you might need help calling out. We all have our things. I do it too. You should ask, we should get my husband on here. I will mope if I get, I just couldn’t do it. He’s like, get downstairs and get in the gym right now. Do 10 minutes, do five minutes. Like it’s very, you need someone like that. And I just, you know, I’ve always been in love with personal trainers and I think we have the best personal trainers at Life Time. So if that is hard for you to find a person or someone to support your goal in the right way, because we all have friends and family that aren’t the best support when it comes to this stuff, hire a coach because that’s what they’re there for. And they can be the sunshine you need every day. They can be the person that’s keeping you accountable, giving you new ideas, solutions for whatever thing you’re trying to do. But support is huge. And there’s a reason why, you know, in the weight loss space, there’s this whole thing they’ve been tracking for years or what are the things that people do to lose weight and maintain weight.

And community cannot be championed enough. It is always about finding good support with people with the likeminded goal or support for you for that goal that make or break it every time. So don’t do it alone. Well, especially because in every journey, even for those of us in the industry, we have days or seasons where we don’t feel like it anymore. So like you can’t just rely on yourself. Like you just, we, and again, sometimes that’s refreshing for people to hear, wait, trainers and dietitians. Yeah. We have days that we’re like, forget it, I don’t want to do this. And so having those people in your corner can be the game changer to get you over those inevitable times for sure.

Okay. So that to that end, Sam, I have a question that I want to come back to both of you on because you’re dietitians and you are in the fitness space. You know, what are the healthy habits that you prioritize yourselves in this space?

I would say, I mean, okay, the first thing, and again, just because nutrition pops in my head first, is always protein. And I know we’ve talked at length about protein on this podcast and Experience Life articles, but that’s for a reason. Even if you’re, I want to air quote now for those that are listening, even if you’re not eating healthy or you’re eating bad, which again, that’s all contextual, right? If you’re eating enough protein, there’s sort of a regulating factor in there, right? So like, for example, let’s say I’m on vacation, right? Cause that’s usually when people are like, forget it. I’m on vacation. I’ll just pick up whenever I get back. I do not waver on protein. If I’m at breakfast, if I’m at dinner, if I’m at, you know, a resort, wherever I am, I’m going to load up that plate with protein every time because it’ll balance out everything else, right? I know I’m going to be more energized. I’m going to feel better. I’m not going to have a blood sugar crash where I’m craving, you know, some sort of processed foods or refined carbohydrates. But guess what? If I have those along with protein, they’re not as, you know, kind of detrimental to my blood sugar and how I feel that day either. So always more protein than most people think at every meal is probably one of the first habits I would say. I’ll kick it to Anika for the next one. I’m sure we can volley a little bit.

Well, and within that too, this is part of the foundation of a lot of our programs is the high protein shake. And that’s again, as a mom that was like, that’s what made it for me, probably prior to being a mom, I didn’t need it as much. I could really prioritize it with food, but that daily shake for me within the window Sam’s talking about, it just, it does everything for me. I like it. I put it in a cup like this so I can run out the door. It’s dangling on my hand with my cell phone and my kids and I’m doing drop-offs. And that’s just been such a really easy hack for a lot of people, but a way to create something really nourishing. But I think second for me, I never, I move every day.

I have to, like it is a mental game for me. That’s really important to me. and mental health is something that’s in my genetics where I had grandparents that struggled with some of those. So to me, that’s, that’s my motivation every day, but I’ve been trying to take it outside more often. And I think that’s been just a huge thing for me to be, we’ve had a very mild winter in Minnesota. So I’ve been able to continue that the season, which usually I would give it up, but, Jamie, you and I have talked about like in the summer, I love to ground and be outside. Like I really crave outdoor activity, as well as sunshine and just fresh air. So every Sunday is my podcast day. I listen to podcasts all week, but that’s like my podcast day. And I throw on a weighted vest in my neighborhood and I just walk around the neighborhood and everyone thinks I look like I’m ready to battle, but I love it. And it feels good. And it’s my time and it’s by myself. I’m a thinker. So like, everything mental for me is like what I have to crave. But that even when I had babies, all that I’ve never not not worked out in a way it’s changed. And I have different goals, but I have to move. I have to.

Well solid. I mean, well, two things. Mic drop moment is coming for both of you. So be ready for that. Anika, if you want to get grounded and get outside more than just three or four months out of the year, you probably need to come on down here to Texas.

I know. I should. One day I will. My family’s here. You know, that’s it.

They can come too. They will love the sunshine down here. I don’t think anybody’s going to turn down some sunshine.

All right.

Are y’all ready for the mic drop moment?


Yes. I always say bring it, Dave. I never know what to expect with you.

So. All right. I’ll start with Anika because it’s ABC order here. Anika, if you only could have one supplement for the rest of your life that you could use, what would it be? Sam, you’re doing the same one, so you got a little prep. You only can have one, one supplement, everything else is gone. What would it be and why?

Omega-3 fish oil, I’ve never quit it in my whole life. I will never quit it. I will never run out. There’s way too much research on what it actually does that I would never waver from it. We joke about it on the team all the time because there is some, I won’t name names of people that are like, they’re so big. And I’m like, I will not, I’m obsessed with that. Not, I mean, we were just talking about mental health this whole episode, like brain health for me, number one, you’re not getting enough omega-3s in your diet. We’re getting all sorts of omega-6s, which are in processed soils, processed food. I’m not a perfect eater. I eat some of those things too. And I’m terrible at omega three rich foods. I joke, I hate salmon. Everyone thinks it’s funny.

I wish I loved it. I just won’t. And life is short too. We could get on a whole other podcast about that. Like there’s certain things that are amazing for you, but it’s like life’s short. So I’m not going to be miserable eating salmon. I will take a bottle of fish oil a month and I will never quit it. And it is my favorite all time supplement forever and ever.

All right. So coach, Anika might not have to change it to coach Omega over there after that. That was passion right there. I’ll be Alpha still. If that’s okay with you, I’ll be Alpha. You could be Omega. You like that?

I like that. You’re getting it in.

All right. So Sam, Sam, it’s your turn. Only one supplement that you could have for the rest of your life. What would it be and why?

Hands down magnesium for sure. So what was funny is before we went to the mic trap moment, I was going to throw that in as a third habit. I don’t ever, ever, ever exclamation marks, get my evening magnesium. It’s every single night of my life for sure.

I am, I’m not one of those people, I’m not the person on the team that doesn’t like omega-3 fish oil. I will throw that out there. I take that religiously too, but it’s like, if I’m forced to pick, it’s going to be magnesium. It just has, it’s involved in 600 different metabolic processes in your body.

It’s a good choice.

Most, yes, most people are deficient. The benefits are so far reaching. I mean, it’s not just for, you know, it can help mood and cognitive health, but it helps muscle function, nerve function, heart health. Just craving control, hormone balance. It’s just, I could sing its praises forever. It’s like a little miracle in my opinion, but magnesium, a chelated magnesium for those that are wondering.

Yes. Chelated is key. Yes. There we go.

I like that. All right.

Well, Anika and Sam, we could ask you dozens more questions. And I know there are some that we didn’t get to. We want to just be respectful of your time, but we will bring you back again because we have, we’ll always have more thoughts on nutrition and what we want to know. but is there anywhere you want to point people to follow you? I know you’re both on Instagram. We want people to know that they can connect with you. So Anika, where are you? So I’m on Instagram as @coachanika and then I always bring people to Experience Life because there’s several articles we’ve written there where we are always sending people that way. So you can search by my name or just search under the tab for nutrition and you’ll find all sorts of good stuff there.

All right, Sam.

Yep. So same with Experience Life, but on Instagram it’s @coachsam.rd.

Awesome. Well, you guys are always amazing. It’s always entertaining. I love your back and forth. You guys obviously are close and I’ve seen you guys present in other situations and the way you know how to tag team and complement one another is amazing. So thanks for bringing that to the podcast and we’ll see you back here soon.

Thanks. We have a lot of fun.

Appreciate it.



Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life. What works for you? Where do you run into challenges? Where do you need help? And if you have topics for future episodes, you can share those with us too. Email us at or reach out to us on Instagram, @jamiemartinel and @freezy30and use the hashtag #LifeTimeTalks.

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It is produced by Molly Kopischke and Sarah Ellingsworth with audio engineering by Peter Perkins, video production and editing by Kevin Dixon, sound and video consulting by Coy Larson, and support from George Norman and the rest of the team at Life Time Motion. A big thank you to everyone who helps create each episode and provides feedback.


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The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

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