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NBSV 123


Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 123

Why meal plans don’t work [and what does] with plant-based CSN Philip Bryden

Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 123. Certified plant-based sports nutritionist Philip Bryden is here today to talk about meal plans, why they don't work and what to do instead, sports nutrition, and much more.

Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina, your go-to, no BS, vegan fitness and nutrition coach. One thing I'm excited about in the vegan world these days is that within vegan fitness and nutrition coaching, you have various niches. So when I started coaching around 11 years ago, just being vegan was niche enough, but now you have vegan running coaches, vegan physique competitor coaches, vegan sports performance coaches, and a whole lot more. So I and my coaching team focus on strength training, busting industry BS, and helping our clients build long-term habits so that they can still kick ass and do all the awesome things they wanna do when they're in their eighties and nineties. If you're looking for a 30-day quick fix or a two-week shred, if you're looking to compete in a physique competition, or if you're looking for an intense fitness and nutrition program that has an end date, rather than building new lifestyle habits that stick with you forever, then we're not your coaches.

We have a specific type of client we're best suited to help. Now when prospective clients apply for a coaching spot with us and I speak with them in our interview call, they often tell me that they're interviewing with several vegan coaches looking for a good fit, which makes complete sense of course, as you wanna make sure that you have a really good relationship and connection with your coach, and nowadays there are many more vegan coach options than there used to be.

So I was really pleased to receive the following message from one of our new clients: “So excited to get started. I also wanted to highlight that while I was shopping around for vegan nutrition and fitness coaching this program stood out; upfront pricing and app and platform dedicated to communication and coaching, and the lack of pushy sales tactics and aggressive marketing were all really unique in this space, and I felt so much more comfortable with the idea of committing to this program than I did with any others. I wanted to say thanks for creating such a great environment, that's open and welcoming.”

Well, we love hearing that clients are experiencing our process in this way because being open and welcoming, is what we’re to do. So if you're ready to level up your fitness and plant-based nutrition, check out our coaching programs at That's

Today's awesome guest is certified plant-based sports nutritionist, Philip Bryden. He also holds certifications in integrative nutrition, nutrition science, nutrition coaching, anatomy and physiology, plant-based nutrition, sports nutrition, and he's a certified yoga instructor and ultra running coach. Phillip works with international professional athletes across a variety of sports, including soccer, tennis, and ultra running, and he's club nutritionist for the world's first vegan rugby club. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and has been living in Europe for the past 30 years. And his favourite vegan meal is his homemade morning smoothie bowl. Here's our discussion.

Hey Philip, thanks so much for coming on the show and speaking with me today.

Philip Bryden: Well thanks so much for having me. It's a pleasure.

Karina Inkster: I'm glad we could connect. And I'm looking forward to learning more about what you do and we've got some pretty excellent discussion points that actually have not been touched on, on this show before, so I'm looking forward to it. I'm intrigued actually about your meal plan thoughts in particular. So I do wanna make sure we touch on that.

Philip Bryden: Perfect. Yeah.

Karina Inkster: But first, can you give us a little info about the work that you do with professional athletes? So I know you work with athletes across a variety of different sports, but how are you working with these folks, in what capacity? How are you helping them? Can you give us a little bit more info on that?

Philip Bryden: Sure. Well, because of the past couple of years, as with everybody, things have been quite remote in terms of the contact. So doing a lot of stuff on Zoom and things like that. I have a couple of local clients that I work with, but a lot of it is working with people remotely. And the main thing that I bring to the table I think, for a lot of these athletes, is something personalized in terms of nutrition. A lot of them have questions about, you know, how do I make the transition to go more plant-based? How do I reduce my frequency of injury? Or, you know, inflammatory problems and those things.

So some have really specific performance-based questions and some are wanting to move towards a more plant-based lifestyle. So what I do with them is offer a personalized nutrition program. It's not a template that is okay, all soccer players get this, all rugby players get this, all endurance athletes get this - it's really tapping into what each individual's goals are in the short term and the long term and how best I can help them to reach those goals through making slight tweaks or major changes in terms of their nutrition.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. Well, I like that individualized approach, cuz a lot of times it's just kind of a generic meal plan, which is clearly not what you're doing. So are some of these folks plant-based already and they're competing at high levels and then there's others who are interested and they're using you to kind of get on that path?

Philip Bryden: Yeah. I mean, there’s a variety kind of across that whole spectrum. I work with a rugby team and they're the first vegan rugby team that's been officially put together as such.

Karina Inkster: Wow.

Philip Bryden: So I got involved with those guys really early in their story and kind of came on as club nutritionist. So I've worked with a few of those athletes individually, especially at the beginning of COVID when, you know, like group training and things like that weren't really available. And people wanted to stay on top of their fitness and stay on top of their, you know, physical ability so that they didn't lose stuff, because gyms had closed and because competitions weren't available. So working with those guys has been spectacular because they're all vegan. It makes the discussion a lot more direct, I guess.

But I also work with a couple of professional soccer players in the UK and one of them was a hundred percent vegan prior to when we started working together and he just wanted to dial things in. And then a teammate of his said, hey listen, I know you're plant-based and I'm dealing with these injuries and they're kind of recurrent. And I'd like to see if there's something I can tweak in my diet that might be able to help me. So that guy put this teammate of his in contact with me and we started working together. So there's a lot of different levels of plant baseness - haha, if you can even say it like that - that each athlete is on. Some, not at all, and I'm trying to bring that in. And some a hundred percent buy-in and they're really just wanting to dial in and personalize what they're doing.

Karina Inkster: Cool. So were you just at the Beijing Olympics working with folks there?

Philip Bryden: I was. I kind of have a parallel activity that I've been doing for years and years in my life, which is sports broadcast for television.

Karina Inkster: Oh, okay.

Philip Bryden: So a couple of times a year I go on some of the big events like the Olympics or the Tour de France or some of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments, keep a hand in with the broadcast side of things while still working with athletes across a variety of different sports. Some of those are included in what I do broadcast-wise. Some are not.

Karina Inkster: Wow. That's really cool. Kind of a parallel related, but not related situation, which is pretty cool.

Philip Bryden: Exactly. Kinda like second cousins a little bit, I guess.

Karina Inkster: So Philip, let's back up a little bit. Let's talk about your own veganism. So how did you come to the plant-based diet? Was there a catalyst, was it kind of a slow process? What's the backstory?

Philip Bryden: Well, okay. So I grew up in Los Angeles, California and lived there until my sort of middle-late twenties when I moved to Europe and I was vegan back then, and this is kind of pre-everything. It was in the late eighties.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, definitely. That's pre-everything vegan, haha!

Philip Bryden: Yeah. Well, I mean vegan wasn't even a thing. It wasn't even a word yeah that people used to describe that. So I was completely plant-based then for probably four or five years living in Los Angeles, which was relatively easy because California's always been a little bit more progressive in terms of, you know, alternative diets and lifestyles and it's just kind of a California thing. So it was fairly easy to do that. And I was doing a lot of long-distance cycling, like really long-distance cycling. And so I found that that also helped with what I was doing physically in terms of my own endeavours. Then I moved to France in the very early nineties. I moved to France and being plant-based in France, especially 30 years ago, was extremely difficult. There was absolutely nothing. There were no options. There were no alternatives.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Philip Bryden: And at that time it was very important to me to kind of fit in. I decided that I wanted to move there and live there and place myself in that culture and kind of have a go of it, of living there. And it was super important for me to kind of fit in and not be the standout and not be, oh, that's the American guy and this and that. So because of the difficulty of being able to find things and because of that also, I kind of started to let the whole plant-based choices slip a little bit just because there was nothing really around. I kind of let that go for quite a few years and then got back into it, I don't know, maybe seven years ago, seven, eight years ago, eliminating stuff that I just didn't want to have in my life anymore.

Early was dairy. Dairy was the first to kind of get jettisoned out again, refined sugars, all that kind of stuff. And then I went back to being completely plant-based as I had been, like I say, probably about seven years ago. And it was kind of like this ‘aha’ moment where I just thought, what the hell am I doing? I know why I did this. I know what the benefits are. I know what the ethics are, what the environment, what the hell was I thinking? And that kind of was like the snap back to just kind of going back from one day to the next, straight back in a hundred percent back into being plant-based again.

Karina Inkster: Wow, yeah. So whereabouts in Europe are you? And what's the vegan situation there now?

Philip Bryden: Okay. So I lived in France for about 20 years and like I say, the difficulty of being vegan then was quite complicated. It was quite real. Then I spent a couple years in the UK and now I'm living in Spain, just south of Barcelona. And European culture is traditionally not vegan friendly. I mean, it's not that’s it’s not vegan friendly, it's just very traditional. The foods and the recipes and things are very traditional, very regional. So it's more difficult. Although there are a lot of alternatives that are cropping up. It’s easier in the big cities, but the advantage is that I love cooking. So I make probably 90%, 95% of my own food. So that's a real joy.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, absolutely. I can relate to that. I'm in a very small town where yeah, sure, we have vegans and it's the west coast of B.C, So it's generally very vegan friendly, but we don't have a lot of options just in this town cuz it's so small. So I went from eating out at amazing vegan restaurants pretty much twice a week, every week, to maybe going out like once every six weeks, cuz it's the same three restaurants over and over again. So I'm just doing all my own food prep basically. Same deal, 96% of the time.

Philip Bryden: Yeah. It was quite funny because week before last I was working in France and kind of in, it was on a cycling race that went from Paris to Nice. So it kind of went through the centre of France, and some pretty remote places that we stayed during that week. And you know, you kind of go in and you say, oh, I don't eat meat or fish or dairy, including cheese and butter. And they would look at you like -

Karina Inkster: Like, what planet are you from?

Philip Bryden: Yeah. What planet are you from? Yeah, exactly, exactly. And well, what the hell am I gonna make for you, you know? And I said, it's super easy. I said, you've got vegetables in the kitchen. You've got things like rice and that kinda stuff. You've got all the stuff in the kitchen. So I'm not fussy. I'm not really that picky. So whatever you can throw together that doesn't include butter and cheese and meat. So it was a struggle. It was really a struggle. One of the places came out with a small little plate of grated carrots!

Karina Inkster: Okay. So this is still happening? This is craziness!

Philip Bryden: Oh this is a week ago! So I got a small little dish of grated carrots was the sort of the starter. And then they came out with the main, I'm thinking, oh, they must be saving their good stuff for the, you know, the main dish. They came out with the main and it was basically like curly pasta topped with grated carrots.

Karina Inkster: Haha, just by itself?

Philip Bryden: Just by itself. Yeah.

Karina Inkster: Oh my goodness.

Philip Bryden: So yeah, there's still a little bit of a learning curve for a lot of people in the hospitality and the restaurant business to kind of know that there are more and more people that are wanting to cut certain things out of their lifestyle. So yeah, we'll get there. We'll get there.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, absolutely. Well, things are moving very slowly in the right direction. As we know, being vegan now in general, anywhere in the world is easier than it was 20 years ago, which is when I first went vegan. And I mean the word even then two decades ago was not even known. They'd be like, oh, you're vegan. Do you want a chicken Caesar salad then? Here you go.

Philip Bryden: Haha, right.

Karina Inkster: People didn't know what it meant, but things have changed. Things are moving in the right direction slowly, slowly. Okay. So I would love to touch on meal plans and kind of details a little bit into how you work with clients. Of course, it's a one-on-one individualized approach. So just so our listeners are aware, one thing that I find particularly annoying, and there are many things as my listeners know that I find annoying about the fitness industry, the health industry, there's a lot of bullshit out there, but one of those things is the number of fitness coaches - so we're not talking about registered dieticians, we’re talking about fitness coaches - who are giving meal plans to their clients.

Now one part of that is I'm not into meal plans as a concept. I'm kind of morally opposed to meal plans. But the other part of that is fitness coaches are not within their scope of practice to provide meal plans anyways. So there's kind of this like legal side of it, which people seem to ignore. I mean, every second coach, or probably even more, like 70% of coaches, who have no registered dietician training whatsoever, are giving meal plans to their clients.

So just know if you're listening that that is not within the scope of practice. In some states in the US, it's like actually illegal and you can be sued. In some states, it's not technically illegal, but the larger certifying bodies that you get your certification from clearly state, this is outside your scope of practice. Don't give your clients meal plans. Anyways, folks who have more nutrition training, folks like registered dieticians you know, more in-depth sports nutritionists, technically could give their clients meal plans, but what's your take on whether they're even useful in the first place? Like I wanna get into your general thoughts on meal plans as a concept.

Philip Bryden: Well, that's a very broad and very good question. I think meal plans as a concept, you touch on something that's so apropos in terms of, you know, people outside of their scope or practice giving meal plans. I find, and I, you know, in general, again, this is a vast generality, but I find that the people who are the most educated when it comes to nutrition with certifications, with being registered dieticians, with actually having that in their toolbox, they're generally not the ones giving meal plans. And again, a vast generalization, but usually those are coming from people who don't truly understand the mechanisms of nutrition or human anatomy and are I think offering or wanting to offer a quick fix to their clients. And maybe the clients are asking, "hey, just tell me what to eat and when to eat it and I'll just follow it," you know because a lot of clients they want that.

They don't wanna think about it. They don't wanna have to unnecessarily understand things and or even have to figure things out on their own and this kind of thing. They want someone to send them a weekly. And from that weekly, they go and they either get a meal prep or they do it themselves and they just kind of plug and play. I do not work that way. And I do not recommend other people necessarily working that way. If someone doesn't understand the mechanisms of what they're trying to explain in terms of nutrition, in terms of why certain foods do certain things for your body at different times during the day when you eat them, what you eat them with, how frequently you eat them, whatever the mechanisms may be, if someone doesn't understand how that works and can't explain it, then they shouldn't be discussing nutrition with their clients.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm, absolutely.

Philip Bryden: What I want to do as a coach in terms of nutrition coaching, or, I'm certified as an ultra running coach as well, what I want to do in my coaching is to empower the people I'm working with so that they don't necessarily, after a while, they might not need me anymore because they will have learned how to understand things and how to do things on their own. You know, I love keeping in contact with clients. 

There are some clients that like the back and forth, that like having the sounding board, which is great. But I think it's really important to empower the people that we work with as coaches to be autonomous and to have that understanding that they themselves can impact their health, their fitness, their wellbeing, their lifestyle, without necessarily having to get a meal plan or using a coach as this, you know, constant crutch of that holds all the answers.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm, absolutely. We don't impose any goals on our clients other than life after coaching. That's really, the only goal is like, well, at some point you're gonna be on your own. We're empowering you with tools that you can use for the rest of your life. Sure, we have long-term clients who have been around for years and years, but they're not doing nutrition coaching anymore. They just want new workouts every month, and the accountability, and the kind of community that we've built.

But everyone's perfectly aware that they could just start creating their own workouts at any point; they've built all the habits that they need. So really the only goal is life after coaching. And so things like meal plans make clients dependent on the coaching service. And as soon as the service ends, which it will, at some point, you're not gonna have a coach the rest of your life, presumably, they still don't have the tools to continue those behaviours on their own.

Philip Bryden: Exactly.

Karina Inkster: So how do you work with clients to build some of those long-term habits? Whether it's meal planning, like figuring out what someone needs to fuel their training, for example, which is, of course, gonna be different for each athlete, but what are some of these kinds of mechanisms that you teach and how do you teach them, versus just giving them a 30-day meal plan saying, okay, eat this, see you later?

Philip Bryden: Well, I think explaining the mechanisms of how things work to someone depends on where that person is, what their starting point is and where they've been, where they are and where they wanna go basically. Because I'm working with a lot of athletes - and I'll get back to it because I was working for a while with young athletes like teenagers, and that's a totally different deal, which is actually super exciting as well - but working with adults, they're a lot more goal-oriented. Like I was just working with an ultra runner who's local here in Spain, and she just finished a 120-kilometre run across the Grand Canary Islands. In 26 and a half hours, she finished it.

Karina Inkster: Wow.

Philip Bryden: And you know, she's not plant-based, but wanted some help with how to manage her nutrition throughout that endeavour. So, you know, I explained how certain things that she's generally eating in her normal daily life, how those things impact her health: what it means to eat animal products prior to getting into a long endurance event. What it means to reduce refined oils and refined sugars. Making your own, or choosing endurance sports nutrition that doesn't have tons of fillers and emulsifiers and, you know, maltodextrin and all these different things that will lead to stomach upset and how you can be autonomous in doing that.

In that case, it was really understanding where she was. She didn't want to come in and do a lifestyle change, a reset. She wanted specific help with a specific event, which was great because she did it. She came through with flying colours and was very, very satisfied with how she went. Other athletes that I'm working with are more fluid, let's say, simply because they'll go through, you know, one guy is an ATP tennis player. So I'll go with him and we'll talk about - he's pretty solid in terms of what he knows he needs from his body, and what he can find when he's at these tournaments to provide him with the nutrition that he likes and needs - but we'll touch base every couple of weeks and just do a reset and say, okay, how did this work? How did this work? And you know, when in this situation, when you could only find this and this and this, how did those things affect your performance, affect your mental state of being, affect your recovery?

So it's really an ongoing discussion more than this education of saying, this is what things do in your body and this is why you shouldn't eat them. As a coach for different types of people across different cultures and everything else, I don't want to come across as somebody who is the ultimate holder of truth. I'm not. None of us are. So it's having a discussion and trying to figure out what works for this guy, what works for this woman, what works for these teenagers who are, you know, teenagers. They've got different desires than a 30-year-old professional athlete. So kind of tapping into the who is also part of the whole interest in terms of explaining mechanisms of how things work. I don't know if that answered your question at all.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, no, it does. It goes back to our theme of there's no one size fits all approach and it's all individualized, and that's kind of how coaching is supposed to work. I mean, that's really it. It's not a cookie-cutter, k, everyone's on the same plan. Oh, you play this sport. K here's your meal plan, you know? I mean, it doesn't work that way.

Philip Bryden: Mm-hmm.

Karina Inkster: And what you said about having a discussion really highlights that in an ideal world, it should be a collaborative process and we're not coaches saying, okay, these three things you have to do. These four things are off the table. These are your rules. Go follow them. It's really more of a collaborative back and forth process where we're together with the client, figuring out what works for them, what we need to tweak, what we need to change, what isn't working for them. So it does go back to that general theme of there does not exist a one size fits all approach in nutrition or fitness or anything in health, really.

Philip Bryden: Exactly. And that's what's so interesting, is you can work with somebody and finally you put the key in the lock and you think, ah, we've found, we've co-created this thing. And now we know what works. Well, great. But in a month, in two months, in six months, that isn't gonna work anymore. Things change. People change. Physicality changes, goals change, life situations change. And so that finding the key that fits the lock is kind of an ongoing process. It's not like this hallelujah we've found the solution, now just do that. Even if it’s individual, the individuality of it is constantly in flux because people are constantly in flux.

Karina Inkster: Right. That's a really good point. I think a lot of folks who are coming to fitness or nutrition in this kind of context for the first time, assume that they're gonna get ‘the answer.’ And when they have ‘the answer,’ whatever that is for fitness, or nutrition, or both, then that's it. And they can just carry on with that exact thing till they croak pretty much. But that's not really how it works.

Philip Bryden: Well I mean, you must see this in terms of with your fitness coaching, where you can all of a sudden when you see something that clicks and someone starts getting the results that you've been working with them to achieve, and it starts coming together and you think, oh yeah, this is really - we're in the groove. We've got it. How long does that actually last, if you're not constantly readjusting to stay in the groove, you know? It's very short-lived. I'm sure it cuts across every aspect of coaching. Obviously, it does, but it's super interesting to kind of keep adjusting the rudder so that you can kind of stay more or less on track with where you're going on the horizon.

Karina Inkster: Absolutely. And I think this applies long term too, not just, you know, month to month things changing, people getting ready for competitions or being in off-season versus on season. I mean, there's all these shifts that happen naturally, but longer-term too. I mean, we're not gonna be doing the same workouts when we're 56 as when we were 16. These things all need to adjust with time as well. And part of what we're doing with our coaching is setting folks up for, you know, kicking ass when you're 93 and being able to do whatever you wanna do as you age. And I think some of that also is in play here with just the natural progression of the human body.

Philip Bryden: It's important for me as someone who's working with people with regard to nutrition. I was talking with - I did a seminar-workshop here about how to transition food-wise from winter to spring. And it was a super good, really lively, vibrant group of people. And, you know, we were talking about it, and one of the things that came up, I said, the thing with nutrition is that it's one of the very few things that we, as people in the western world, have pretty much a hundred percent control over.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Philip Bryden: You know, we can decide what words we use to express ourselves, and we can decide what fuel we put into our mouths to satisfy our needs, whether those are emotional needs or physical needs or whatever else. And those things are gonna change over time. What we need, like you say, what we need when we're 16 is gonna change when we're 56. The words that we use to express ourselves when we're 16 are not gonna be, hopefully, the same words we use to express ourselves when we're 56. 

So that stuff is always this kind of moving wave. And if you can look at it as such, for me anyway, it makes it super interesting in terms of working with people, because there are no straight lines. You know we're not looking at straight lines and right angles and hard adjustments. We're looking at something that's fluid and curved and constantly in motion. So if you're putting a meal plan on top of that, it just doesn't work. It just doesn’t.

Karina Inkster: It doesn't work. It doesn't lead to long-term habit change. I do have a situation where a meal plan or like a menu - we call 'em menu roadmaps that we sometimes make for clients - different from meal plans though. I think there are cases where they could be useful. For example, someone who is completely new to veganism. So we have clients who are super long-term vegans. You know, they've been vegan since the nineties, before it was cool, and they're coming to us because we happen to be plant-based coaches. They know that we're gonna be on the same page. We're not gonna shove whey protein powder down their throats, you know?

But then we have other folks who are coming to us because they want to make the transition and they need that support for knowing what to do. And a lot of these folks are in areas of the world, like France, you know, a couple years back, for example, where there's really not a lot of support. Like they don't know any vegans, there's no vegan restaurants, and we're basically it for support for them. 

So in cases like this, sometimes it can be useful to show someone what it could look like. Hey, here's an idea for what you could do for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. But what we're not doing is giving them 30 days worth of hey, you have to follow this exact plan. Here's your Monday breakfast and your Tuesday snack, et cetera. We're just kind of giving them what we call a roadmap. And then clients actually pick like, maybe they'll just do breakfast from our roadmap for the first week, and then they might start swapping in some of the lunches. And, you know, so I kind of see that as different than a meal plan, but it's adjacent.

Philip Bryden: It's in the same vein, but it's not as hard and fast. Like you say, it's not like this is a calendar of what you need to eat and when you need to eat it and don't deviate from the plan. You know, no, deviate from the plan! Just be able to know what the hell the plan is, to begin with. 

I mentioned earlier about the soccer player who wanted to go experiment and try to, you know, see if he could reduce inflammation and injury through eating more vegan meals. And this is a young kid. He’s 21 years old, you know, his first year as a pro, and living on his own, doesn't really cook that much, but does a little bit. And so what you're saying about giving ideas, not even specific recipes, although sometimes they were specific recipes, but it was more of where can you - cause he was like, where am I gonna get my protein?

Where am I gonna, you know, if I'm eating this, is this good? If I get a plant-based burger and eat that every night, am I getting enough protein? 

I said, yeah, but you're also getting this, this, this and this, which you kind of wanna avoid as a professional athlete. And that's where it gets into kind of explaining what is what. You know, what's in beans, what's in broccoli, what's in tofu, what's tempeh? And explaining what is what and how those things can all of a sudden, you don't need to have the carnitas burrito to have a burrito. No, you can have a plant-based delicious burrito with brown rice and beans and tofu and avocado and all these amazing things that taste probably better than what you were used to eating but doesn't contain the stuff that you're trying to get away from. I totally agree with you that in terms of giving options and recipe ideas, here's what you can do for these different things. Here's how you can replace this food with this list of foods.

I think that definitely has a large place, especially when you are working with people who are new or curious about veganism and I think a lot of people have a very categorical idea about what foods are. You know, like this is a carb. If I eat this, I'm eating a carb. If I eat this, I'm eating a protein. If I eat this, I'm eating a fat. But when you're talking about plant foods, you're kind of talking about what ratio of all of that is in each one, because they're all in every food to a certain degree. 

So it's interesting to bring that kind of understanding to the table, and then offering people a couple of like fire starters almost to just say: this is how you can kind of start your meals and then go with, if you're looking for more of an Indian flair or more of an Asian flair, more of a Mexican flair, then you can change by adding, you know, curry. Or you can add, you know, coriander. Whatever the differences are that are appealing to each person, but, you know, and that gets back to what I was mentioning earlier about the mechanisms of how stuff works.

Karina Inkster: Right. Well, I feel like food tracking is kind of in the same wheelhouse here, right? So I know that you're not into food tracking either. Kind of similar to meal plans, and I'm on board with this too, but isn't there also a case for using an app like My Fitness Pal or something for someone who's completely new to this situation, who actually doesn't know what foods contain what, and like what's tempeh made out of and how much protein does it actually have? I feel like, you know, to us anyway, maybe your view is different, but to us, tracking in an app is a short-term means to an end-slash educational tool. 

It is not an accurate way of, you know, assessing your calories, cuz it's not actually super accurate, even using an app like that, but it kind of gives you a sense of trends. It can show you what your food is made of when it comes to the basic macros. It teaches folks, what are the go-to protein options in the vegan diet? But it's not something that I would do for a super long period of time. I mean, who wants to put their food into an app for the rest of their lives? It's really not realistic. But is that something that you use at all with your clients, like on a short-term basis or how do you approach that?

Philip Bryden: The times that I have used it have been very short-term, kind of akin to training wheels when you're learning how to ride a bicycle. Once you know how to ride the bike, you take the training wheels off and you just figure it out. And once you go, you just go. Those kinds of apps, I think, have their value in what you're talking about in terms of getting people to a point of understanding what they're eating.

And I don't really like to do a hard and fast rule of X amount percentage of carbs, X percentage of protein, X percentage of fats. Because at the end of the day, I think that the longevity of that, the sustainability of that, is fairly short-term because we don't eat macros - we eat food! And people kind of need to approach food as food because it's something that is different than just the fuel that you put into your car.

It's social, it's cultural, it's familial, it’s all sorts of different things that have absolutely nothing to do with fuelling your body. You know, there's a whole different network of things that revolve around food. That being said, when someone is saying, okay, I am not able to make the gains that I want to do, or I'm trying to trim down because I need to make a certain weight for a certain competition or something like this - how am I gonna do that? It gives an approximation that if you know that, oh okay, well, based on what the information is coming from an app like this - okay, you're eating 40% of your food is coming up as fats, you know, with 20% is protein and the rest of is carbs. You can look at that as a coach and say, okay, well we need to make some adjustments in terms of what foods are being eaten, maybe at what times, and that kind of thing.

Karina Inkster: Right.

Philip Bryden: Applying that to the client, I think it's necessary to be very delicate and diplomatic about how those things are approached because like a meal plan, people want easy answers. People want things that are super understandable, like numbers. Just tell me what numbers I need to hit and I'll hit those numbers, but you can't sustain that over time because food is not numbers. Food is food. So yeah, I would a hundred percent agree with you that in terms of getting someone started and getting, for you as a coach, or for me as a coach, to get an understanding of what's going on inside of that person's food habits when they're away from a coaching atmosphere, it can be useful. It can be useful as like a guidepost. It shouldn't be relied on as a hard and fast set of information, but it can be used as a guidepost, for sure.

It's just knowing how to use it. Coaches rely on that stuff so much because they feel comfortable with it. They don't have to explain stuff. They just go, no, no, no, you need to, you're hitting 40% fat. You need to bring that down to 20% or 25%. I don't care how you do it. Look at the foods and do it. You know, it's like, there's a very, almost like a standoffish kind of thing. Like don't tap too much into what I don't know, just do what I'm telling you. Which, you know, obviously, you wanna avoid as a coach, but a lot of coaches still kind of fall into that trap.

Karina Inkster: Of course! Well, I like the guidepost terminology. I think that's a good way of looking at it. If nothing else, it shows us what our clients are up to. I mean, my coach colleague Zoe and I are literally creeping on people's food logs when they do start off. They usually do, I don't know, five to seven days of food tracking and then that's it, usually. And it just shows us what people are up to. We can make tweaks. It shows us what they're eating for lunch. We can see what their dinners look like, but it's not something that we're gonna maintain long term, cuz as you just said, people don't eat numbers, they eat food and we need to get them to a place where it's really more about the habits and the food prep and knowing what's gonna fuel them most effectively. And also knowing how to eat in a way that's in line with their goals.

So most of our clients strength train; they're coming to us for strength training. We have a weight-neutral approach to our coaching. So not everyone is in there for body composition reasons. Some are, but we wanna make sure that nutrition is on point for all of these goals: performance, body composition, if that's something that someone's working on. And I think long-term tracking food in an app, isn't really the way to do it because are you really gonna do that for the next five years of your life? And even if so, it's not even that accurate anyway. I mean, we like to remind people that even commercial nutrition packages on foods that you see in the store, they're legally allowed to be off by something like 20% in the calorie department. So even if you're using commercial info from a legit nutrition panel, it's still not necessarily exactly what you're eating.

Philip Bryden: Yeah. And there's such a huge element of trust when it comes to the relationship between a client and a coach. Whether you're doing strength coaching or fitness coaching or endurance coaching or nutrition coaching, the relationship that is created that is based on trust is so crucial. And I think that the whole thing with food comes down to understanding and helping your client to understand that food is not just chemistry. You might be out at your kid's birthday and you think, I gotta eat this and this and this, but you know, your kid's turning six or 12 or whatever. And there's a birthday cake. Well, just have a damn piece of birthday cake with your child. You know, it's like allow yourself a little bit of flexibility within what you know is right for you.

It's like everything in your body. It's like eating, getting the complete proteins, getting the full panel of amino acids every time you eat so that you're getting complete protein - the body doesn't work that way. There's amino acids in everything we eat and your body will hold on to what it needs. And when the next one comes on that it didn't get so much of in the previous meal, well, it'll use that to kind of complete the deal. So it's not like this hard and fast thing where if you miss the timing or you miss the opening, you gotta start the whole thing over cuz your body is like, oh! So it's like just understand it that way with the rest of your food. You know, if you're going out to dinner with family and you're eating stuff that you might not necessarily eat in a normal time, okay, you might abstain or you might go, you know hell, I'm just gonna have a little bit, enjoy the time with my family. And it is what it is.

A lot of times with that sort of all-or-nothing approach, people will make these side steps in terms of what they're eating. And then will make another side step to the complete the other side saying, well, now I have to compensate for this thing that I ate or this day that I was off target. Now I've gotta go and do 17 times more work so that I can, you know, burn that off or compensate for that. And it just doesn't work that way. It doesn't work that way mentally, emotionally, physically. It's not the road that you want to go down for sure.

Karina Inkster: Fully agreed. We could do a whole podcast episode on approaches to calorie burning and repenting for certain food choices. I mean really that's the type of bullshit messaging we get from the fitness industry a lot. It’s like, you know, those little memes about Halloween candies and how many calories are in each Halloween candy and how long you have to run, you know, to burn off each one of them. It's just like, that's the kind of mentality that's still out there and it's not helpful for people.

Philip Bryden: Well, not only is it not helpful in terms of like nutrition, the knock-on effect of that as on a whole like societal level of how people view themselves, body images, whether that's a 14-year-old high school girl, or a 50-year-old man, or everything in between, it's like body image is such a huge target on social media and discussions and books and all these different things where somebody, everybody kind of pretends to have this magic weapon that's gonna allow you to reach your goal so that you can look like X, Y, and Z. And it's just like, no! Just banish all that bullshit and let people find their own way and feel good in their own being. And if that means that sometimes this there's a side step to the right, sometimes to the left, sometimes you're spot on in the middle, great! So be it. It doesn't matter.

Karina Inkster: That's a great way of putting it, which is why I'm happy there's coaches like you out there who are not perpetuating said industry bullshit. Hey so Philip, thanks so much for coming on the show. Is there a good place for our listeners to find you?

Philip Bryden: The easiest is Instagram and it's @MushNutrition, M-U-S-H nutrition. That's kind of where I am on social. I don't really do much on Facebook at all or Twitter at all. So Instagram, and if people want to connect, they can get onto my website. My email's there and kind of check things out there. And that's at So it's all the same. It’s all easy.

Karina Inkster: Sweet. What's the significance of “mush” in Mush Nutrition?

Philip Bryden: It's funny because this was a few years ago. I was kind of under the gun and I wanted to make something. I was doing a class and I hadn't eaten before and I knew I wanted to eat something before, cause it was gonna be a long class. So I just kind of said, what can I put together? So I put together, I had a quarter of an avocado and half a banana and some lemon. So I just put it all together and I just mashed it all together.

And that became like this mush bowl. And then it kind of took on this greater significance of mush being when great things come together, you know, things from different places, this kind of plucking from right and left and all these different ideas and different thoughts and different influences and philosophies and everything else. When those come together and you can kind of make your own mush with it, that's ultimately the goal with how I would want people to take care of themselves, lifestyle, nutrition, health, everything else. Find your own mush.

Karina Inkster: I love that. That's so cool. It definitely goes with your overall holistic approach to coaching and helping folks with fitness and nutrition lifestyle, all of those things together. I think that's brilliant. I thought maybe it was mush nutrition, like mush things together, mush things together can be both! Haha.

Philip Bryden: It could be! It can be because it's just how it is and that's the beauty of it. It's how you want to package in what is important to you and make that into your own kind of different flavours, different textures, whatever it is.

Karina Inkster: I like it. I like it. Well, great speaking with you, Philip. Thanks for coming on the show. I can't wait to get this episode out to our listeners and I appreciate you making the time. It's definitely later for you. I think you're eight hours ahead of us. So I appreciate the timing and it was great speaking with you.

Philip Bryden: Well, it's been wonderful to have a conversation with you and finally connect. I've been an avid listener for a few years, so it's great to be part of your podcast. So thank you very much!

Karina Inkster: Philip, thank you again for joining me on the show, much appreciated. Philip has a very special offer just for No BS Vegan podcast listeners, where you can get one month free when you sign up for three months of coaching with Philip. Make sure you mention this podcast and check out our show notes at to connect with Philip and get all the info on his coaching. Thanks so much for tuning in.

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