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Why 1-2-12?

With Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT

Season 6, Episode 4 | January 17, 2023

While many are tempted by the latest eating fad or trendy diet, the team at Life Time has long maintained that sustainable, healthy food habits are based on a few foundational practices. In this mini episode, Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT, introduces us to 1-2-12, Life Time’s new nutrition system that offers a framework nearly anyone can use to improve their eating behaviors.

Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT, is the national program manager for Life Time’s digital weight loss and training programs.

Life Time dietitians and trainers designed the 1-2-12 nutrition system based on the few simple, yet impactful, practices that nearly everyone can implement to get most of the way to their healthy-eating goals. They include the following:

  • One daily protein shake. This is a quick and easy way to set the nutritional tone for your day. Protein is a key ingredient for keeping energy levels stable, naturally managing your appetite, supporting your metabolism, and driving workout recovery.
  • Two whole-food, high-protein meals per day. The focus here is the inclusion of at least 30 grams of protein per meal, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals from whole-food sources.
  • 12-hour eating window. This is a simple way to give your digestive system a much-needed break daily. It’s also a gentle method for curbing mindless eating.

More From Life Time

The contents of the 1/2/12 nutrition kit, including the cookbook, shaker bottle, and glass meal prep containers.

Introducing 1-2-12

Thirty years of experience have taught us how to help our clients achieve results no matter what: A protein-first, nutrient-rich diet. Now, our formula for success is available to all in a simple, easy-to-follow guide.

Purchase 1-2-12 Cookbook


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Transcript: Why 1-2-12?

Season 6, Episode 4  | January 17, 2023

Alright, welcome back to another episode of Life Time Talks. I’m David Freeman.

And I’m Jaime Martin.

And today’s topic is a recipe for a healthy way of life. What’s 1 to 12 is what we’re going to be diving into. And today we have the great Samantha McKinney. Been a dietitian and trainer and coach for over 15 years. Welcome back, Sam. How are you doing?

Good, thanks. Thanks for having me. Good, how are you guys?

Doing well.

I’m feeling really good. I’m going to get a workout in after this podcast. I’m excited about that too.

What’s your workout?



Walking. He’s like the walking around the studio, which is my favorite. We’re going to capture that for social. Alright. So Sam, we’re diving into 1 to 12. So let’s talk about what that philosophy is and how it came to be, what it is at Life Time.

Yes. So at Life Time, we follow a philosophy called know it, nourish it, move it. And this is something that I’m really proud of, I know our team is really proud of. And it’s just a different way of thinking about health and how to achieve optimal health. Because we believe if you understand your body, if you nourish it and fuel it the right way, and then you celebrate it with the right movement, you’ll reach new levels of health that you couldn’t before.

Now we all know that the nourish at piece tends to be the hard part for a lot of people. In today’s society, we’re pulled in every way but healthy. Convenience and health are often at war. And what we noticed as a team after 30 years of coaching clients and working with members and helping people achieve their goals is that there are a couple of simple things that if you implement, get you most of the way there. And this is really the system to try to make it– just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. This is a system to try to make it easy and convenient so that that doesn’t have to be at odds with each other anymore. So we developed a 1 to 12 nutrition system.

And we’re going to break that down. So I know this is a recipe for a healthy way of life. So what exactly is the 1, the 2, and the 12 stand for?

So it’s a really easy way of remembering. It’s one daily protein shake, two real food high-protein meals per day, and a 12-hour eating window that you consume those in. So it’s a really easy kind of a skeleton framework that if people follow, things sort of fall into place, and their health and their nourishment start to kind of come back into balance and come back into line so they could feel their absolute best.

And there’s more details to the system. We can decide how much we want to get into that. But the way that it’s set up and the way that it teaches you to eat and fuel your body is it helps you naturally bring out a balance of protein, fat, and carbs, and increase your intake of vitamins and minerals so that you are fueled correctly and that you function better and that your energy is higher and you’re just at this level of health that you didn’t think you could achieve so simply.

So this is a philosophy, but it’s also a kit to help people kind of get into it and get going with it. So tell us a little bit about that and what’s included.

So the kit itself has an over 300-page guide. It’s this beautiful book, but it’s actually really functional. And it teaches you the must dos in order to develop a system for nutrition that’s going to work for you really for the rest of your life. Like I said, it’s meant to be a framework. It also comes with two meal prep containers so that if you prepare and plan ahead of time, which we teach you to do, you have a way to have those two meals in a day. And it comes with our all-in-one protein shake mix and a shaker cup to make it really convenient to have protein on the goal.

So it’s just a way to package everything together. And really the guide and that book is what brings it to life. And that’s what teaches you ways to make this flexible, ways to make this easy, how to actually prepare and plan those meals in a way that fits your cooking style, your schedule, and how much time you have.

What I love about that is the cooking style for so many of us is different. We’ve talked at different points in this podcast with different people about I tend to make recipes. Some people batch cook and then piece things together. I’m assuming the book has foundational elements for both of those. I mean, I know there’s tons of recipes and then all these other tips that are there.

Yes. So it first of all goes into the outline and sort of the science as to why this works, and our collective experience as a team, like I said, over 30 years of Life Time. The meal prep piece where it basically teaches you how to bring those two real food meals to life goes into three different ways to prepare meals depending on what your comfort level and style is. So the first one is called the minimalist.

And this is for somebody that just is not going to cook, doesn’t have time to cook. It essentially tells you, here’s exactly what you can buy at the grocery store and how much to throw together and how to put together a plate to actually make a meal that tastes good that takes little to no prep time. The second one exactly what you said Jaime, is how to actually batch cook ingredients. And so this is people that want to batch cook let’s say shredded chicken and asparagus and a starch and how to put them together. And that particular cooking method comes with different marinades, seasonings, dressing, spice rubs to really bring flavor to a simple way of batch cooking.

And then the last one depending on the person is full recipe prep. So for example, you’re feeding a family. You want something that’s an actual recipe that brings it to life. And all of the recipes are standardized to have at least 30 grams of protein per serving. You’ll see that as a theme throughout the entire system, is always had a minimum of 30 grams of protein that every meal that you have. And most of the recipes are standardized to four servings to make it really easy to scale up and scale down too.

I love that.

I mean, the way you framed that up just made me hungry. But with that, let’s shake it up a little bit, pun intended here. So let’s talk about the shake. You have all-in-one. And what’s so specific about the all in one versus your standard shake? And I know you have a weigh option and then one of my favorites, a vegan option. Can you tell us a little bit about the all-in-one shake?

Yes. So generally speaking, when somebody implements a daily high-protein shake, what we find is that this is really an anchor and a staple for them to hang their hat on each day. It kind of sets the nutrition tone for the day to help keep you on track. And not only that, the protein is an absolute key ingredient to keeping energy levels stable, to making sure that it naturally manages your appetite, it helps you metabolically, it helps drive workout recovery. It’s just so, so important and it’s convenient.

So the convenience of a protein shake and making it quick and easy is paramount. We selected specifically the all-in-one shake mix because it has 30 grams of protein in every serving. So you’ll hear our team joke around a lot that this is our quick and easy trick to get 30 grams of protein in 30 seconds. Because you can throw it in the shaker cup, hit it with water or an unsweetened nut milk, shake it up and drink and go. Or you can do a more robust meal replacement if you’d like and add different ingredients and there’s a ton of yummy shake recipes in the guide too.

But the all-in-one itself, why we love it is it doesn’t have anything artificial in it. So no artificial colors, no artificial sweeteners. The supply chain is really, really tight on it so that it’s the best quality protein you can get. If you’re getting the whey protein, then it’s going to be coming from grass-fed cows from New Zealand. If you are getting the vegan protein, it’s a full amino acid profile too and it’s dairy free for people that don’t tolerate dairy or want a plant-based option. So you really can’t go wrong.

The majority of people, if let’s say they’re leaning more towards weight loss or body transformation will start with the vegan just because dairy tends to be an issue for some people. But if somebody tolerates dairy, they can absolutely go the whey-based route too. And it honestly tastes amazing. It’s one of my meals every day because again, the system came together in part from what we as dietitians do, but more importantly, what we see work with our clients. It’s just so easy.

Truth. That is a fact, it tastes amazing. I will agree there.

I will agree there. Alright. So this approach was intentionally designed to be flexible, customizable. Can you speak to that a little bit?

Yes. A lot of times, people struggle with nutrition because they try to go all in to some sort of really strict and rigid approach that only works short term. Again, what we found with our collective experience is that these few nuggets implemented consistently can get somebody to where they need to go. And so part of what needs to be baked in there, no pun intended, is the flexibility to suit your life.

So part of that comes from those meal prep methods. Like I mentioned, there’s that minimalist, the ingredient prep, and the full recipe prep. You might do, for example, a quick lunch that you throw together and you do that minimalist prep method where you’re just grabbing pre-hard boiled eggs and some veggies and some hummus and taking it with you. But then your dinner might be that full recipe prep.

But more importantly, this is really meant to be an 80/20 approach. So you’ll hear us talk about that a whole lot of there’s a lot to life and nutrition that’s more than just how it fills you. There’s nostalgia, there’s celebration, there’s all of that. So this is meant to cover about 80% of your nutrition. So if you think about it, if you have a daily shake, if you have two meals a day, that covers 19 out of your 21 meals in a week. That’s about 90%. So even if you do it slightly let’s say imperfectly, you’re still going to land right around that 80%, and it gives you that flexibility to do what you need to do and live your life and have that wiggle room that everyone needs.

  1. So we’ve tackled that. We got the one shake, we understand that, the two high-protein meals a day, that’s the two within that 12-hour window. And you kind of just shot it out there as far as the 80/20 principle, understanding that whole concept. I kind of want to go back to you’ve been in this space for a while. And within your 15 plus years of being in this space and being a registered dietitian, what are some of these common pitfalls that you see in the space around protein and how we can get better with it, and especially with this being a solution?

A couple of different things. Let me actually rewind a little bit because I actually want to hit on that 12-hour eating window briefly as well. So that is really important because most of us in today’s society, we’re eating usually from the time we get up till the time we go to sleep. And that covers a lot of hours of the day and we don’t really have a lot of downtime for our digestive system.

So that 12-hour eating window is a really nice, simple, and easy way to give our digestive system a little bit of much needed rest on a daily basis. Plus it’s a gentle way to control mindless eating and bring awareness to what you’re doing, because how many people struggle with just munching on things in the couch at night or whatever it might be. There’s a rise in popularity of intermittent fasting, and there’s a way to do it and a way not to do it. That’s not what this is.

This is just being mindfully aware. If you think about it, eating from let’s say 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM is not overly restrictive. But having those guardrails in place, it’s like I said, it’s a gentle way to bring a level of awareness. But back to the pitfalls, one of them is what I was going to mention is just mindfulness, honestly. And that’s where that 12-hour eating window comes into play and just having that framework of two meals and a shake a day. And there’s guidelines in there on how to minimize snacking too.

Obviously, that’s not for everybody or there’s ways to customize that. But generally speaking, if you’re eating this way, you’re really satiated and you don’t need those. But David, you were asking a little bit about protein. I would say the number one thing that I see people do is they think they’re eating high protein and they’re not. They might be relying on foods such as peanut butter for protein, and that’s not going to necessarily provide them as much as they think.

And so that’s number one. Number two is just consistency. So they’ll implement something for two days and really wonder why they’re not feeling better. But it’s genuinely sticking with it. Your body needs that protein. And then the other thing just globally that I see as a huge pitfall for people is they focus on specifics without focusing on the basics. So they might be talking about some really strategic maybe fad diet type approaches.

Should I do this, should I do that? And 99% of the time, they don’t need to be worried about whatever details they’re worrying about. And I always use the analogy, it’s like picking out the curtain color in your house without laying down the foundation. So this is the foundation. And sometimes people I find want to skip over it because it seems so simple, but it works. And so really what we are trying to do is make these simple things that work easy to do, and that’s what the 1 to 12 nutrition system really achieves.

That’s so great. Well, this is obviously an episode that’s focused on nutrition, more about that, but obviously movement is a really important part of this. So let’s just talk about how that fits in with all of it.

You can’t have it nourish it move it without the move it.


Yes. So obviously, we need to move and celebrate our bodies and challenge them for them to get consistently stronger. So it ties into this system because again, if you are moving your body, David going for a walk, staying active, if you are doing resistance training and lifting and using resistance and challenging your body, that is the only way to really improve and get stronger.

If you pair it with something like the 1 to 12 approach where you’re eating higher protein, you’re hitting that minimum 30 grams of protein per meal, you’re just going to recover and you’ll see gains, gains, gains. And what I mean by that is not necessarily just muscle, but energy, stamina, confidence, endurance, all of that. And so you really can’t have one without the other.

Compound effect. I like that.


Alright. So Sam, once again, a quick mini episode throwing it at everybody who’s coming at us right now that’s listening the 1 to 12, healthy way of life recipe here. Is there anything you want to leave our listeners with before we sign off?

I would say give a system that seems simple a shot. And give it a shot for at least two or three months. Genuinely, it takes time, but you will be shocked at how transformative it is because it covers all of the major basics that you need to really be your best self. And I find people clamoring and kind of really struggling to find this magic approach, this magic pill, this one secret thing that they’re missing, and ultimately, there is no secret. It is just about doing the right things consistently. And this will bring it together for you in a way that’s actually easy, and you’ll find it sustainable.

This song came on in my head, hit me with your best shot.

There it is.

There it is. There’s that music.

Awesome. Well Sam, thank you so much for coming on again. If people want to connect with you, they can find you on Instagram @Samantha_RDN. You’re a regular contributor to articles at experience life at You’ve been on the podcast a lot. You’re one of our most frequent guests.

Number two to Paul. Paul’s number one. He gets by one.

You know what, Paul sits right next to me at the office. I’ll give him a hard time.

We’re going to get you back. We’ll sneak you back in for one more to even you out. And we’ll put links to all of those in our show notes. So thank you so much, Sam.

Thank you so much for having me.

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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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