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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Michael Horner

Recent Posts by Michael Horner:

It's Not Too Late to Transform Your Health


As we find ourselves halfway through the year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on our health and well-being. Many of us started the year with ambitious resolutions, particularly around fitness, nutrition, and overall wellness. But life can get busy, and it’s easy to lose sight of these goals. The good news is, it’s not too late to make significant changes and get back on track. Now is an ideal time to reassess and rejuvenate your commitment to a healthier lifestyle.

Reassess and Reset

First, take a moment to review the goals you set at the beginning of the year. Were they realistic? Are they still relevant? Adjusting your goals to be more attainable or aligned with your current lifestyle can make a huge difference. Remember, small, consistent changes often lead to the most sustainable results.

The Power of Nutrition

One of the most impactful areas to focus on is nutrition. Our dietary choices influence every aspect of our health, from energy levels and mental clarity to long-term disease prevention. This is where the expertise of a Registered Dietitian (RD) can be invaluable. An RD can help you navigate the often-confusing world of nutrition, providing personalized advice and strategies tailored to your unique needs and lifestyle.

Why Work with a Registered Dietitian?

Registered Dietitians are trained professionals who specialize in food and nutrition. They can help you develop a balanced eating plan that supports your goals, whether it’s weight loss, improved athletic performance, or managing chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease. RDs consider your medical history, lifestyle, and preferences to create a plan that’s both effective and sustainable.

Moreover, RDs can provide ongoing support and accountability. Regular check-ins can help you stay motivated and make necessary adjustments to your plan. They can also teach you how to make healthier choices in various situations, such as dining out or managing stress-related eating.

Integrating Fitness and Nutrition

Fitness is another crucial component of a healthy lifestyle. Combining regular physical activity with a balanced diet amplifies the benefits of both. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting out, integrating fitness into your routine can improve your physical and mental health. Working with a professional, such as a personal trainer or an RD with experience in sports nutrition, can further enhance your efforts.

Start Today

Remember, it’s never too late to make positive changes. The halfway point of the year is a great opportunity to reassess, reset, and recommit to your health goals. By focusing on nutrition and fitness and leveraging the expertise of a Registered Dietitian, you can make significant strides toward a healthier, happier you. So, take that first step today. Reevaluate your goals, seek professional guidance, and make the rest of this year your healthiest yet.

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Topics: nutrition exercises diets My Nutrition Coach

The Balancing Act: Why You Can't Always Be in a Caloric Deficit

GettyImages-1423997728 (1)In the realm of fitness and nutrition, the term "caloric deficit" often takes center stage. But what exactly does it mean, and why would someone actively pursue it? Let's break it down.

A caloric deficit occurs when you consume fewer calories than your body expends in a day. It's commonly sought after for weight loss purposes, as it forces your body to tap into stored fat for energy, leading to shedding unwanted pounds. For individuals engaging in strength training,
cardio exercises, or participating in endurance events like marathons, maintaining a caloric
deficit might seem like the golden ticket to reaching their fitness goals.

However, here's the catch: while a caloric deficit can indeed lead to weight loss and improved
body composition, it's not sustainable or beneficial in the long term to always remain in this

Why? Because our bodies are incredibly smart and adaptive machines. When faced with a
prolonged caloric deficit, they adjust their metabolism and hormone levels to conserve energy,
making weight loss plateau and potentially causing negative side effects such as fatigue, muscle
loss, and decreased performance in physical activities.

Moreover, for individuals who are already physically active, being in a constant caloric deficit
can hinder recovery and impair muscle growth. Strength training and intense cardio sessions
create a demand for additional calories to repair tissues, replenish glycogen stores, and support
overall recovery. Without an adequate supply of nutrients, the body struggles to repair and
rebuild, leading to stagnation in progress and increased risk of injury.

So, what's the solution? While periodic caloric deficits can be a useful tool for achieving weight
loss goals, it's essential to balance them with periods of maintenance or even surplus calories,
especially for those engaged in rigorous physical activity. Introducing more calories strategically
during times of increased training volume or intensity can support performance, enhance
recovery, and promote overall well-being.

In conclusion, while a caloric deficit has its time and place in a well-rounded fitness regimen, it's
crucial to recognize that it's not sustainable or beneficial for everyone to always remain in this
state. By understanding the importance of balance and periodically integrating more calories
when needed, individuals can optimize their performance, achieve their fitness goals, and
maintain a healthy relationship with food and exercise.

If you're curious about how to implement these principles into your nutrition plan or have any
lingering questions, click below to learn more about opportunities for personalized guidance and support.

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Topics: nutrition healthy eating registered dietitian

Building Balanced Plates: Fueling Your Body for Success

GettyImages-934685754As athletes, we understand the importance of fueling our bodies properly to perform at our best. Whether you're hitting the gym regularly, training for a marathon, or simply aiming to lead a healthy lifestyle, how you balance your plate can significantly impact your energy levels, recovery, and overall well-being. That's why I'm introducing the concept of "Performance Plates" – a simple yet effective way to structure your meals based on your activity level and goals.

Let's break down the essential components of the Performance Plates for athletes first.

  • Protein: Vital for muscle repair and growth, protein supports recovery, and enhances
    strength, and reduces the risk of injury.

  • Color (Fruits and Vegetables): Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, colorful
    fruits and vegetables aid in reducing inflammation, supporting immune function, and
    promoting overall health.

  • Carbohydrates: Serving as the body's primary fuel source, carbohydrates are crucial for
    replenishing glycogen stores, sustaining energy levels, and optimizing performance,
    particularly during high-intensity exercise and endurance activities.

The First Plate: Low-Intensity Training and Rest Day Plate

Imagine your plate divided into halves and quarters. Half of your plate should be filled with
colorful fruits and vegetables. The remaining quarters are dedicated to protein and
carbohydrates, with an emphasis on lean protein sources and whole grains. This plate is perfect
for rest days, light bodyweight training, or when aiming for weight loss.

The Second Plate: Moderate Intensity Training Plate

For days when your workouts are a bit more intense – think moderate cardio sessions, strength
training, or longer runs – your plate shifts slightly. Divided into thirds, you'll still prioritize colorful
fruits and veggies, but now you'll increase your portions of protein and carbohydrates. This
balanced approach ensures sustained energy levels and supports muscle recovery and growth.

The Third Plate: Hard Intensity Training Plate

When your training demands peak performance – whether it's two-a-day practices,
high-intensity interval training, or pushing your limits in the weight room – your plate should
reflect this intensity. Half of your plate is now dedicated to carbohydrates to fuel your workouts
and support recovery, while protein and colorful fruits and vegetables make up the remaining

By aligning your nutrition with your activity level and goals, you can optimize your performance,
enhance recovery and support long-term health. Whether you're striving for weight loss,
maintenance, or muscle gain, the principles of balanced Performance Plates can guide you
toward success.

Looking to better understand "your plate"? Download our Performance Plate handout to visually understand your nutrition needs based on your workout. 

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This blog was written by Michael Horner, an Aligned Health Practice Registered Dietitian.


Topics: nutrition protein carbs fruits and vegetables sports nutrition veggies

The Power of Fiber in an Athlete's Diet

GettyImages-1500051624For athletes and gym enthusiasts, performance and recovery are top priorities. While protein often takes center stage in their nutrition plans, there's an unsung hero that deserves more spotlight: dietary fiber. This essential nutrient, found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, plays a crucial role in maintaining not just overall health, but also enhancing athletic performance and recovery.

Firstly, fiber aids in digestion and promotes gut health, which is foundational for athletes. A healthy gut flora improves nutrient absorption, ensuring that all the proteins, vitamins, and minerals consumed are better utilized by the body. This optimal nutrient absorption supports muscle repair and growth, critical for recovery and performance.

Moreover, fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels, helping provide a steady stream of energy during prolonged physical activities. For athletes, stable energy levels mean sustained performance, preventing the highs and lows that can impact endurance and stamina. This is especially beneficial during long training sessions or competitions.

Additionally, fiber's role in weight management is invaluable. It provides a sense of fullness, helping control appetite and support body composition goals—a key aspect for athletes aiming to maintain a specific weight class or optimize their power-to-weight ratio.

Incorporating a variety of fiber-rich foods into an athlete's diet can also reduce inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of many high-fiber foods support the body's natural healing process, enabling athletes to bounce back quicker from intense workouts.

The inclusion of fiber in an athlete's diet offers multifaceted benefits, from enhancing gut health and energy regulation to supporting weight management and reducing inflammation. It's time fiber starts to receive some attention like other nutrients in the sports nutrition arena, as it's clear that it plays a critical role in an athlete's health, recovery, and performance. 

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This blog was written by Michael Horner, an Aligned Health Practice Registered Dietitian.

Topics: nutrition fiber sports nutrition

Walk Before You Run: Prioritizing Nutrition for Fat Loss

Embarking on a journey toward fat loss or body recomposition is akin to preparing for a marathon. Just as you wouldn't sprint at the start line, nutritionally, it's vital to "walk before you run." This philosophy underscores the importance of gradual, sustainable steps in dietary adjustments, emphasizing the hierarchy of nutritional priorities that catalyze progress.

GettyImages-1261754581(2)The Cornerstone of Nutrition: Caloric Intake

At the heart of any effective fat loss or recomposition strategy is managing caloric intake. The first step isn't intricately tracking every morsel, but understanding that the energy you consume versus the energy you expend dictates your body's changes. This principle doesn't necessitate immediate, meticulous food logging. Instead, start by becoming mindful of your eating habits and recognizing patterns that may contribute to excess calorie consumption. Simple adjustments, like reducing portion sizes or limiting high-calorie, nutrient-poor snacks, can initiate progress without overwhelming you with the nuances of calorie counting.

The Second Pillar: Protein Intake

Protein plays a pivotal role in preserving muscle mass during a calorie deficit and in supporting muscle growth during recomposition phases. However, before diving into the complexities of macronutrient ratios, focus on incorporating quality protein sources into your meals consistently. Choices like lean meats, fish, dairy, and plant-based proteins not only support your body’s needs but also contribute to satiety, helping you manage overall calorie intake more effectively.

Laying the Foundation: Eating Habits and Food Choices

Before delving into the specifics of tracking, the foundation of your nutritional strategy should be establishing regular eating patterns and making healthful food choices. Eating at consistent times aids in managing hunger and energy levels, preventing overeating. Gradually shifting your diet toward whole, nutrient-dense foods improves your overall nutrient intake, setting the stage for more detailed nutritional strategies like macronutrient tracking.

In essence, successful nutrition planning for fat loss or body recomposition mirrors the adage of "walk before you run." Start with broad, manageable changes in eating habits and food choices (and see this blog for where to start in other areas). As these become ingrained, refine your focus toward caloric and protein intake. This phased approach not only promotes physical progress but also fosters a healthier relationship with food, ensuring long-term success on your journey.

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, an Aligned Health Practice Registered Dietitian.

Topics: nutrition calories protein mindfulness body composition fat loss

Beyond the Hype: Embracing Nutritional Fundamentals for Lasting Health

GettyImages-1448979924(2)In today's fast-paced world, where new diet trends and health fads emerge almost daily, it can be challenging to discern what truly benefits our bodies. Amid this whirlwind of ever-changing advice, the key to a healthier life may not lie in exotic superfoods or rigorous diet regimens, but in the consistent practice of nutritional basics.

The Allure of Fads

It's easy to see why diet fads capture our attention. Promising quick results with minimal effort, they offer a seemingly easy solution to our health concerns. From juice cleanses to keto diets, these trends often revolve around drastic changes and exclusions, creating an illusion of instant improvement. However, such approaches can be unsustainable in the long term and may lead to nutritional imbalances.

Consistency in Basics: A Sustainable Approach

The cornerstone of good nutrition lies in consistency and balance. This means regularly consuming a variety of foods that provide the nutrients your body needs. Here are some fundamental practices.

  • Balanced Diet: Incorporate a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in your meals. Carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provide energy. Proteins are essential for repair and growth, while healthy fats support brain health and hormone production.
  • Hydration: Water is crucial for almost every bodily function. Staying adequately hydrated helps in digestion, nutrient absorption, and even skin health.
  • Moderation: Enjoying your favorite foods is part of a healthy lifestyle, but moderation is key. It’s important to balance indulgences with nutrient-rich foods.
  • Regular Meals: Skipping meals can lead to overeating later. Regular meals help maintain blood sugar levels and the feeling of fullness, aiding in better energy management and mood regulation.

The Long-Term Perspective

Adopting a consistent approach to the basics of nutrition may not offer the instant gratification that fads promise, but it paves the way for sustainable, long-term health benefits. By focusing on balanced and regular eating, hydration, and moderation, you can nourish your body and mind, keeping them strong and resilient against the allure of quick fixes.

In the end, the true “fad” may be the belief that there is a shortcut to health. True wellness comes from a consistent commitment to the simple, foundational principles of good nutrition. If you’d like to learn more about how to navigate nutrition, reach out to me: Michael Horner, RD, LD, Aligned Health Practice.

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Michael Horner is a Registered Dietitian with Aligned Health Practice specializing in strength-based sports, preventative nutrition therapy, and lifestyle nutrition. Contact Michael if you are interested in a Personal Nutrition Coaching session.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating hydration fad diets