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Recap of our Nutrition Optimization Workshop

This weekend we hosted a workshop on "nutrition optimization" along with Teal from Refine Wellness Clinic, which is located in the heart of downtown Stillwater. It was a great opportunity to go over some of the fundamentals of nutrition including "eating enough nutrients" and "choosing better foods." Aka quality and quantity. To wrap it up we dove into the fun topic of supplementation, which we realized could be a workshop of it's own.

It was such a great workshop full of excellent information on nutrition, that we wanted to share the information with you if you weren't able to attend this time around. We will most certainly be bringing this workshop back again, so no worries if you missed out this time around.

Workshop Overview

Topic 1: Macros & Serving Sizes

What are macros?

Macros are something that most people have some baseline of awareness of. "Counting macros" has become quite popular over the past several years, and we think for good reason.

Macronutrients are large groups of molecules that have different jobs throughout the body. Macronutrients include three categories

  1. Protein

  2. Carbs

  3. Fats

All 3 of these macronutrients provide us with calories; however, all three have other main functions that make each of them vital:

  • Protein: repair and make new cells

  • Carbs: energy

  • Fats: vitamin absorption, energy, cell function, organ protection

Food tracking, why is it important?

Food tracking and counting macros can be an important step when working to optimize your nutrition, as most people underestimate what they eat by about 30-50%. Beyond that, many people will find that they have a non-optimal ratio of macros, where they are getting more than enough of one type of macro, but not enough of another.

Most typically we see that people are getting more than enough carbs and fats, but not enough protein... This can be a major concern as protein (specifically the building blocks, amino acids) are essential for all body functions and to build and preserve muscle. Oftentimes we find that simply increasing protein intake alone will help individuals meet their body composition goals.

Types of food tracking

1) Calorie counting

  • Use apps like my fitness pal or looking at labels and adding up total calories for the day

  • Can be effective for calorie awareness - especially for calorie dense food

  • Typically should only be used short term to help "calibrate" total energy in if needed

  • Doesn’t directly track macronutrients... So you may not be getting an optimal ratio of carbs, fats, and proteins that your body needs to function optimally

  • Time consuming, labor intensive, and unfortunately can be quite inaccurate (20% inaccuracy is quite common due to rules of how food companies can report the calories... So a company can make it look like their food is lower in calories than it actually is.)

2) Specific macro tracking

  • More effective for getting optimal ratio of macronutrients

  • Better for those with very specific performance goals

  • Should only be used short term as it is time intensive, and can possibly lead to a negative relationship with food

  • Can be very time consuming to measure and calculate

3) Hand portion system OR Plate system (THIS IS WHAT WE PRIMARILY PROMOTE AT THRIVE)

  • Has been shown to be effective and accurate (enough!)

  • Easy to manipulate based on results/progress

  • Easy to implement without having to pull out your phone, reading every label, or weighing and measuring everything you consume

  • Better for the average person, but not ideal for those who have VERY extreme goals

  • Can be challenging with certain foods that are not so straight forward for their macro type (e.g., all of our good 'ol Minnesota casseroles....)

Determining your macros

A general and simple guideline to start with is 5 servings of each macro (and veggies); however,

age, height, weight, preferred meals per day, preferred eating style, activity level, goals and personal preferences will all factor into this. If you are interested in learning your starting point for macros, we are able to calculate this for you based on your specific situation, preferences, and goals. If this is something you're interested in, please reach out to us via email at

Topic 2: Food Quality and Micronutrients

Quantity vs quality

Where food quantity is more concerned with calories from carbs, fats, and proteins, food quality is more concerned with micronutrients and nutrient density. Micronutrients are similar to macronutrients, except they are much smaller in size and do not DIRECTLY provide us with energy. That is, they don't give us calories. HOWEVER, they are vital for optimizing the processes in our body.

What are Micronutrients?

Micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that we get from the foods we eat.

Why is nutrition important?

Nutrient Density

Nutrient Density = Nutrients per amount of food

  • High nutrient density = fewer calories, more nutrients (“LESS PROCESSED”)

  • Low nutrient density = more calories; less nutrients (“MORE PROCESSED”)

Processed food

When thinking about processed foods, there are 4 categories you can break them down into:

1) Whole foods:

  • Not processed. Food in the form they are found in nature.

  • E.g.; raw fruits and vegetables

2) Minimally-processed foods:

  • Have been slightly altered without substantially changing the nutritional content

  • E.g., cooked veggies

3) Moderately-processed foods:

  • Have been altered more significantly, often reducing the nutritional value by removing or adding components

  • E.g., fruit juice, white rice

4) Highly-processed food:

  • Barely resemble their whole food origins, and have minimal nutritional value

  • E.g. chicken nuggets, kraft singles,


As we think about food quality, we want to focus on consuming more of the foods that would be classified as "whole" foods or "minimally processed" foods.

Foods in these categories are going to have a higher nutrient density as they contain higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. It is these types of foods that are going to provide your body with the essential micronutrients it needs to function as it was intended.

Think of your body as an incredibly complex factory (which it kind of is) that requires lots of different "parts" for it to operate effectively. Now what if there is a supply chain issue and one of the key parts for your system becomes less available or completely unavailable?? The system begins to slow down output and/or it completely shuts down...

“Worse” to “Better” Nutrition Options

A key thing we teach is to avoid an all or nothing mindset, but rather adopt a more curious approach of, “How could this meal or choice be just a little bit better right now?”

To help in this practice, we incorporate a "Red-Yellow-Green Light" system that includes a continuum of choices that very from "worse" options to "better" options.

Do I ALWAYS need to eat whole or minimally processed foods?

In short, for almost everyone the answer is no! Your level of consistency required will ultimately be based on your goals. Precision Nutrition has an excellent infographic showing the level of consistency that is needed to achieve various goals. This chart can often be eye opening to many people, as they think that nutrition is an all or nothing endeavor. Either they eat ALL high quality "green light" foods to succeed, or they fail... This couldn't be further from the truth. Check out the infographic below:

*Graphic from Precision Nutrition

The 3 step process that’ll help you boost your consumption of nutrient-packed foods

(without feeling deprived or overwhelmed)

Step 1: Decide what upgrades are worth it

  • E.g. swapping out chicken nuggets for baked chicken is going to make a big difference with very minimal change in effort; whereas chopping lettuce on your own vs buying a pre-chopped salad won’t create much of a difference

Step 2: Set aside time to prepare the upgrades you decide on

Step 3: Experiment!

  • You will find there are swaps that you love and others that you hate. Good! That is all part of the learning process. As you continue to experiment, you will learn and grow, ultimately becoming more efficient with your planning and prepping.

Topic 3: Supplements

What are supplements?

In 2021, Americans spent close to $50 billion on vitamins and supplements and more than half of adults take dietary supplements! The FDA definition of a supplement is, “products that are ingested and are intended to add to or “supplement” the diet.” We believe the key words in their definition to be "supplement the diet." Ideally, they are not intended to replace or make up for a lack of nutrition; however, in some situations that may actually be necessary or beneficial.

What does proprietary blend, matrix and complex mean?

  • Proprietary blend: ratios of ingredients considered trade secret. Can be a way to dilute expensive active ingredients with fillers

  • Matrix: nutrient and non-nutrient components and the molecular relationships to each other. Basically, a way to sound fancy.

  • Complex: multiple vitamins/minerals in one supplement

How supplements are regulated (or aren’t…)

Dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA as a food product. The FDA does NOT have the authority to approve dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness, or to approve their labeling.

Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) states that it is the responsibility of dietary supplement companies to ensure their products meet the safety standards for dietary supplements and are not in violation of the law. Additionally, it requires that dietary supplement labels have nutrition information in the form of a Supplement Facts label that includes the serving size, the number of servings per container, a listing of all dietary ingredients in the product, and the amount per serving of those ingredients.

After release to the public, the FDA performs periodic inspections of manufacturing facilities, monitors adverse events, and periodically reviews websites and product labels.

When are supplements beneficial?

In most situations, focusing on the fundamentals of eating enough high quality food will be all that is necessary, taking away the need for supplements; however, there certainly are times that supplements can be beneficial.

One example, especially up in the Midwest, is that we can almost always count on needing more vitamin D. Additionally, for individuals who following certain diets that restrict types of food (e.g., vegetarian), supplementation may be necessary to ensure that you are getting all the essential nutrients your body needs.

We also find that oftentimes supplementation with a high quality protein powder can be very effective way for individuals who are having a difficult time meeting their protein goals. Again, we stress here that you should still be attempting to get as much protein from real food as possible, rather than going straight to protein powder.

As a physical therapy studio we get the opportunity to work with a lot of individuals who are dealing with inflammation at specific joints. For these clients, we will also occasionally recommend a turmeric supplement to help with decreasing inflammation. Once again though, we first talk about how to make better food choices that will help decrease overall inflammation (e.g., processed foods, vegetable oils).

Picking better supplement brands

With so many options of supplements along with the questionable marketing tactics of many supplement companies, it can be incredibly challenging when trying to find a high quality supplement. Here are a couple things to look for that can help you feel better that you are choosing a supplement that is of higher quality.

  • USP verified mark: contains ingredients listed on label, does not contain harmful levels of contaminants, is released within a specified period of time, has been made according to FDA good manufacturing practices (sanitary, safe, consistent quality)

  • BSCG (banned substances control group): certified quality conducts testing to verify ingredient identity and label claims meet specifications as well as checking for heavy metals, microbiological agents, pesticides, and solvents.

  • Informed Sport: product is tested for more than 250 substances prohibited in sport and the product was made in an environment with quality systems appropriate for the stringent demands of sports nutrition manufacturing

  • Quality supplement brands don't have to be crazy expensive... Kirkland Signature (Costco), NatureMade, Member’s Mark (Sam's Club), TruNature, Nature’s Bounty, and Walgreens all offer some higher quality supplements at more decent prices.

How to check your supplements

To wrap things up with supplements, Operation Supplement Safety offers a really supplement "scorecard" to help you screen your supplement or one you are considering purchasing. This is a great place to to start when trying to pick a supplement.


We greatly appreciate it those who showed up for the workshop and we hope that this blog post was able to offer you some more insight in case you weren't able to make it this time around. We will certainly be offering this workshop again in the future. Until then, we will be offering a semi-weekly Thrive Lifestyle group where you will have 2 week lifestyle challenges in a group setting to help you make small and incremental changes in your health and fitness.

For more information, or if you are interested in participating, please reach out to us at

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