6 Ways to Consistently Progress and Avoid Workout Plateaus

Everyone wants to build lean muscle, burn fat and improve their fitness, but now and then despite all efforts, you find yourself struggling to make improvements in the gym. Your progress is flat, you’re not lifting more and your workouts seem to feel harder.

These are called “plateaus”, and while they can happen, they don’t have to. In fact, if you structure your fitness regime correctly, you can make consistent progress from your hard work.

The first thing you need to understand is your body is designed to adapt to an incredible amount of various physical demands, but you have to train it correctly.

Instead, focus on one area (or two, at the very most) and dedicate most of your training to improve it. For example, if you want to boost your strength, you can follow a powerlifting program and spend a little time each week to maintain your conditioning and endurance.

1. Don’t try to improve everything at the same time

With fitness, the main area’s performance most people want to improve are: speed, strength, power, aerobic and anaerobic endurance, muscle mass, etc. It’s nearly impossible to improve all of these areas at once because increasing and focusing on any one of these things come at the expense of something else. So if you try to improve everything, you’ll ultimately improve nothing and move sideways in your training.

2. Organize your training into parts

Start by dividing your training into “blocks,” with each block lasting about 4 –6 weeks. The first block can target conditioning, the next block can target strength and the last block can target power.

Once you decide what area your main focus is on, you have to figure how to structure your workouts and for how long. Blocking out your training for different parts is good because if you want to improve one area of your fitness (eg. Losing fat), it takes several weeks for your body to adapt and improve. So by dedicating an adequate amount of time in the first few weeks to body conditioning – instead of trying a different type of workout each week, you’ll find you would have built a platform before getting better and better.

3. Focus on progressive overload

After organizing your training into blocks, it’s important to squeeze the most potential out of your block. Gradually make your training more challenging and intense. This could mean using more weight, adding a couple more reps, longer of shorter rest intervals between exercises. These can all be ways to add “progressive overload” to your exercise plan. By giving your body more and more challenging workouts, you’ll develop and enjoy more results.

4. Get more rest

If you train too hard for too long, you will undoubtedly hit a plateau. It is also likely that you will develop some muscle fatigue or injury. Adequate rest and recovery is an essential element in continuing to make progress in your training program. Most world class athletes train in a ‘rest – recover’ fashion. There may even be times during the year that you should reduce your strength training altogether.

5. Focus on small, steady increases

Aim to increase your training by the smallest amount that gives you improvements. As a guide, you should only increase your training by about 10% per week. Otherwise, if you increase your training too must, too fast, you’ll be vulnerable to plateaus and burnout, or even injuries.

6. Take “Deload” weeks

Despite your best efforts to rest and add in muscle recovery time, by the end of a block, you will get more fatigued depending on how much you’ve increased your training load, nutrition and your initial level of fitness.

That’s why, before you jump into a different block with a different focus, take a week to go easier on your body by only working to around 70 per cent of your maximum so it can repair itself, grow and lock in those gains.

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5 Reasons You Can’t See Your Six Pack

Going hardcore on your abs but still not seeing results? Here’s why

 

You’re not working the rectus abdominus 

One of the more damaging myths of the modern gym locker room is that you don’t need to dedicate time for ab isolation exercises. It’s true that big compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts do work your core, but research suggests there is very little activation in the rectus abdominus (the six-pack muscles). To focus on the bodies midriff you’re after, include core exercises such as flat leg raises and rotation movements such as Russian Twists.

Your body fat is too high 

You can hit your core muscles constantly and build a solid wall of abs, but unless you’ve chiselled away all the flab from your stomach no one’s going to know. Generally, we find if your body fat isn’t around 10-12% mark your abs won’t show. For a simple fat hack, accompany every meal with a high source of protein and more veggies. Here are some more ways to lose your love handles: 6 ways to help you lose belly fat

You need to mix up your moves

Your body is smarter than you unless you periodically change the methods you use to assault your core, the muscles will adapt to training and stop growing. There are three main types of core movements which effectively work your abs: flexion and extension move like rotation exercises, static full-range-motion contraction moves like a plank, lying or hanging leg raises. The best ab workouts will include exercises from every movement type.

You haven’t honed your diet properly

The saying “abs are built in the kitchen” and not the gym may be a little exaggerated, but that doesn’t make it less true. In the quest to build a toned core, consistently focusing on healthier eating habits and a balanced calorie deficit is crucial. Follow these tips and you won’t go far wrong: How to ease of hunger when you’re trying to lose weight

You’re not getting enough rest time

The often-ignored third element in the six-pack and muscle recovery equation is sleep. It’s when you’re sleeping-sound that most muscle is built: your growth hormone levels are elevated throughout the night. What’s more, fail to get enough shuteye and the stress hormone cortisol floods your system, encouraging your body to store fat around your midriff and putting the brakes on your progression.

 

 

The ‘AFTER-BURN’ of HIIT, is it really as good as it sounds?

 

The ‘AFTER-BURN’ of HIIT, is it really as good as it sounds?

High intensity intermittent/interval training (HIIT) is a popular training system in the fitness industry. Its claimed to be the best thing for burning fat and developing muscle tone and we’re told that its far superior than Low intensity stead state (LISS) training due to the after-burn. But, is the after-burn actually real?

EPOC

Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption also known as EPOC, is what most of us know as the after-burn from exercise. This is due to the body being in an oxygen debt and will need to work harder to replenish the body and bring it back to homeostasis. This, in turn burns more calories over a period of time (some studies have shown from 15 mins up to 48 hours). The higher the intensity you train at and the longer you train for both have more of an impact on EPOC.

Studies have shown that when a HIIT workout is done properly, EPOC can cause your metabolism to increase by up to 14% of the calories burnt in your workout, compare that to LISS which studies show only up to 7% of your workout.

As just mentioned, we need to be working at a high intensity for HIIT to be achieved. Unfortunately, people chuck these 4 letters (HIIT) in front of any workout they do and say its a HIIT session. When done properly, HIIT should be where your working at sub-maximal heart rate (MHR) (85% – 95% MHR).

Now doing a 30 seconds jog on the treadmill with 30s rest probably won’t be doing that for you, well maybe for the last 5 mins out of your 20 minute session! With a proper high intensity training session and to get the real benefit of HIIT you want to get that heart rate above 85% MHR for as long as possible. Unfortunately many people don’t have the fitness levels to do this kind of training, let alone the mental strength (Yes, it bloody hurts!).

If you find that you are not fit enough to do this, or just don’t like training that hard, then don’t do it! That doesn’t mean you can’t get results, it just means there are other types of training suited to you.

EPOC in numbers

increase of 14% would mean that you would burn an mind blowing 42kcal! (300kcal x 14% = 42kcal). If we had burnt the same amount of calories through LISS training we would have burnt only an extra 21kcal (300kcal x 7% = 21kcal). So even though HIIT has more of an after burn than LISS, the after burn isn’t that great! 42kcal would equal about half an apple!

Right, so now I’ve crushed your hopes and dreams about HIIT training in relation to EPOC. Your about to unfollow all your social media fitness pages that swear by HIIT, hold on. Theres are some massive benefits with HIIT that you need to know.

  • Muscle maintenance – One great benefit of HIIT training over LISS is that there is a big demand on muscles to train at a high intensity. With a lot of cardio exercise you can lose muscle mass, but because of the demand on your muscles from HIIT, you will maintain it. This is important as muscle mass plays a big part in our metabolism and if your losing muscle, then you will be burning less on a daily basis!
  • Increase fitness, speed, strength and power – if HIIT is done properly, then not only are you going to look better, but be able to back your looks up with better performance!
  • Increase fitness, speed, strength and power – if HIIT is done properly, then not only are you going to look better, but be able to back your looks up with better performance!
  • Time saving – a typical HIIT session should last 20 – 30 minutes in total, including rest period! A lot quicker than a normal 1 hour cardio session.
  • Feel good factor – Now, even though we know the after-burn of HIIT isn’t what you thought it would be, generally you’ve worked really hard and achieved something from your session. Feeling better usually leads to better nutrition and better adherence to your exercise regime, which therefore leads to better results!
  • Feel good factor – Now, even though we know the after-burn of HIIT isn’t what you thought it would be, generally you’ve worked really hard and achieved something from your session. Feeling better usually leads to better nutrition and better adherence to your exercise regime, which therefore leads to better results!

Other health benefits associated with HIIT include decreased heart rate and blood pressure, increased Vo2 max, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, insulin sensitivity and plenty more!

CONCLUSION

So EPOC does exist, but unfortunately isn’t as great as it sounds. I am still a massive fan of doing HIIT and most of my clients have it programmed in their training, I even use it myself. If your looking to add HIIT into your training then great! Just make sure your working at the right intensity (85%+ MHR) for as long as possible, you can get heart rate monitors to check if your hitting these numbers. The easiest way to work out your maximum heart rate is 220 – your age.

I would also recommend having the right nutrition around HIIT, if your low carb (low energy) and your trying to work at a high intensity then forget it! Go for LISS. If you’ve had a super busy day at work and your really tired, go for LISS. Remember, HIIT is hard and it should be! If you finish your session and you don’t feel like crap, that doesn’t mean your fit, it means you’ve done it wrong!

 

Coach Rob and the team!

http://protofit.co.uk

 

6 Tips on How to Make Your 2019 Nutrition Goals Stick

New Year resolutions sound great in theory. However, realistically the motivation to accomplish high hopes and wishes fade fast. While motivation begins high and 77% of resolution makers stick at it for the first week, we fall off the wagon pretty quickly and most abandon resolutions by February.

Instead of making huge, vague goals that are quickly abandoned, try goal setting techniques to create a plan of action, these can work best when you set a weekly, month goal and yearly goal, and helps to focus on the smaller win’s short term which lead to the bigger results long term. This topic is especially important for those looking to lose weight and/or getting fit.

These six tips get better as you go, so make note of all six:

 

1. Think Short Term

It’s easy to get caught up with what you want to accomplish during an entire year, but 365 days is a long time to stay focused on one thing. Break the year into smaller chunks and focus on completing each chunk individually. For example: 30, or 90 day goals can be a great time period to accomplish health/ fitness goals and a lot easier we find also for our clients to focus on, rather than a yearly goal in one go. The variety over this these time periods can be kept high and attention span stimulated.

2. Be Realistic

Sure, it would be great to cut sugar from your diet or to say you’ll never have an alcoholic drink if you enjoy drinking. Any of those things aren’t actually realistic within your means over the long term, and may be extremely difficult over a long period which make a lost less chance of sticking to them and gaining results which last. Another point is that when your goals are so lofty and big, they might not even be right for you in the end.

3. Invest In Your Goal

A sure-fire way to make your goals a reality is to throw money at them. Not having necessarily needing to spend lots of money but hiring someone can help make you truly invested. If you’d like to get fitter, or stronger invest in a trainer or specific coach. If you want to run a marathon, register for one and start training in small segments for it. You might want to start with 5 or 10k runs. If you want to ditch take-out dinners, sign up for a healthy meal delivery service. You get the idea; having your expenses align with your healthy intentions is money well spent.

4. Measure Your Successes

Staying motivated depends on your ability to track progress by using specific metrics appropriate for your goal. However, if your goal to improve body composition, you might look at body fat percentage, measurements, clothes size and a host of other metrics to gauge progress. For non-weight related goals, there are a plethora of ways to see how well you’re doing. Apps can track phone use, budget and time management. Fit trackers can count steps, record sleep and some even provide a daily stress score.

Get our free 12 week transformation guide: 12 Week Lean Body Guide

5. Make An Action Plan

To make your goal something you will actually work toward, that work needs to be defined step by step in a plan.

Take the previously mentioned mini goals, monetary investments, time chunks and tracking metrics that align with your broad goal and turn it into an action plan and work out a strategy on how you will action it. A good action plan leaves little to chance and dictates specifically how you will go about reaching your goal.

6. Stick It Out

Keep in mind: Long-term goals ebb and flow, and there will be setbacks. Even if progress seems slow at times, you’ll get more out of your resolution by taking the tough days in stride and returning to your action plan the next day. Not reaching your mini-goal on the day you set for it doesn’t mean you can’t make progress toward it, and is not a reason at all to give up on your New Year’s resolution entirely.

Whatever your 2019 resolutions may be, these tips will help you make actionable steps toward reaching your goals. Above all, pick a goal that makes you happy and motivated and start taking action as soon as you can!

 

 

6 Ways to Help You Lose Belly Fat

One of the most common questions we get asked is ‘how can I lose the fat around my belly?’

Let us hit you with a knowledge bomb, it can be one of the places that takes the longest to reduce. There isn’t a single fad diet, supplement or any amount of stomach crunches alone that’s going to help you shift your excess belly fat super-fast. It’s also one of the areas where people hold the largest percentage of their body fat.

If you think the fix is just cut-out-the carbs, then think again. You might get an instant short-term satisfaction from seeing the scales come down, but you won’t lose anywhere near the amount of body fat you’d hoped for. This is why you hear of people who have lost a large amount of weight, yet still have a high percentage of body fat.

One of the most important tools to measure your decrease in body fat are measurement tools or calliper testing. You can record your excess fat testing, and see if you are heading the right direction. If you see you overall weight plummeting down, but the fat reader is not moving, this is a sign you’re not eating enough food, especially protein.

As mentioned, keeping your calories too low won’t end with a positive change to your body composition. With fat loss, your goal should be to retain muscle tissue and burn excess body fat. So the real thing to look out for when losing belly fat, is not your wholly weight alone, it’s actually tracking fat loss.

If you need more advice and find out how we can help you reduce belly fat Click Here

We know many of you wanted to hear about a rapid weight loss trick – sorry to disappoint! Remember you can’t rush this. What took a while to put on, will also take a while to take back off!

Here are some key tips to consider:

1. Optimise your macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats.

2. Optimise your sleep, ideally 7 hours a night.

3. Strength train at least 2-3 times a week – aim to get stronger as well as performing exercises correctly, enhancing effect and highly reducing risk of injury.

4. Have regular body fat and scale assessments ‘what gets measured, gets managed’.

5. Be patient – aim for 1-2lbs weight loss per week.

6. Eat between 1-1.2 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight.

 

 

Written by: Paul Karoullas

 

 

 

Top Tips To Get Lean Over 35

1. Make Exercise a Priority

Most gyms you step into are full of 20 –  something’s “challenged” by schedules that center around working out and Instagram.

When you are a bit older though, just finding time to train becomes the new struggle once you add a career and a kid or two in the mix.

To stay on track you need to prioritise your health / fitness with good time management. In my experience it helps to apply one of two things: do first things first (make exercising the first thing you do in the morning) or at least schedule when you are going to workout, early!

2. Organise Workouts Into Your Daily Lifestyle

The key is to consider ALL your obligations and make sure you have given yourself adequate flexibility to change workout times should something else arise. That way being forced to skip a workout doesn’t mean you won’t train again until the New Year.

3. Use Better Metrics To Measure Progress

There’s more to a workout than the amount of weight lifted or the number of reps increase, but how did the workout feel? Did each rep feel easier than last week? Scale weight tells you very little on its own. How do your clothes fit? Has your body fat % come down? Something we always keep an eye on during our programmes.

4. Don’t Get Hurt

Injury probably side-tracks more workouts than anything else when you are over 35. If avoiding injury is your goal (and to achieve consistency it should be) you need to follow a few rules and stick to them, no matter how “good you feel”.

  • Avoid very low reps. There’s absolutely no need to ever perform a one-rep max if your goal is to burn fat and get leaner. Fact is, anything below 4 reps typically isn’t necessary, but can be good fun.
  • Make reps harder not heavier. While adding more weight to an exercise is great for progression, tricks that increase tension and force the muscle to work harder without additional load (drop sets, supersets, etc) are safer and perhaps even better for muscle growth.

5. Shift Your Thinking

There are so many out there that love to talk about “the grind” and “sacrifice” they make to achieve their goals.

If achieving my goals and being healthy was such a terrible process and found it to be such a grind, I simply wouldn’t do it. I am guessing you would be the same.

The reason I’ve kept up my lifestyle, health and fitness is because I LOVE it. And not just the working out – the eating clean and feeling good. Focusing on finding something and a lifestyle you love is the number one thing you can do to faster consistency. We want to do the things we love, but also need to consider the things we need.

But there’s no law that says those two things can’t be done at the same time.

Have a great week,

Paul

 

Do You Struggle Finding Time To Eat?

A common statement we hear from busy parents and business people is “I don’t have time to eat healthy”.

At Lean Body, we’ve become pretty experienced at helping people overcome this barrier! Often it’s not that people don’t want to eat the right things, they simply don’t know how to, and stay consistent with it. Follow these 3 top tips to help you stay on top of your fat loss eating plan not matter how busy your day gets.

Obstacle 1 “I eat a lot in restaurants and there’s nothing healthy on the menu”.

Solution

If you eat out often and you’re trying to stick to a weight loss plan, one thing you can do is ask the restaurant to prepare your meals more the way you want them to be. Often restaurants have the food you need but it may not be offered that way on the menu. A great tip is simply to ask for a double on your portion of lean protein, minimise the starchy carbohydrates and double the vegetable portions they give you.

Obstacle 2

“I’ve got a busy work schedule and I don’t have enough time to eat breakfast or prepare my food”.

Solution

Set aside time once a week to prepare your food. Make a shopping list, order or go and get the food, then prepare for the whole week or even 3 or 4 day’s worth of meals ahead of time.

Before you buy your food, write your food plan out for the week. If you know your schedule ahead of time, you can plan when to eat and what to prepare.

You may find it easier to look at your weekly plan and work out which meals take longer to cook. If you’re busy make the time to prepare those first.

Obstacle 3

I’m in and out of meetings all day.

Solution

You make your own day hectic; so let’s take a step back and regain control of your day! Make sure you know what sort of day you have planned ahead then plan the times when you are going to eat. Condense the meals if you know you are going to have a busy day, for example prepare 2 bigger meals instead of 3 if you know time will be an issue.

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You Can Still Achieve Amazing Results with a Busy Lifestyle

Nirav is very similar to a lot of the clients that we coach at Lean Body as he has a very stressful job, 48 years of age and a hectic lifestyle. In the past, he barely had any time for picking and preparing his meals and admitted that there was very little structure to his nutrition and exercise.

Lean Body Coach Paul said “Nirav also struggled with a shoulder injury that restricted some movement in the past. It meant that we were very limited in terms of exercises for a period of his programme.

Like many people, being busy and suffering from old injuries is a perfect reason to hold off training. However, Nirav committed to some changes in his lifestyle, without having to cut out his favourite foods and worked his way through the training programmes. In a very short space of time, he saw dramatic changes to the function of his shoulder, and body fat started to drop at a quick pace.

Both of these changes were exactly what Nirav needed to see, as they were two key areas that he hadn’t seen any improvements in a long time.

In nearly all cases, all it takes is a level of commitment to get you past stage one – that important stage when you start to see changes. These alone are so motivational, and will carry you forward.”

At this stage, Nirav has already lost over 8% body fat. Well done Nirav and the coaches for some very impressive results. Good luck Nirav as you continue along your journey.

To see more of our amazing Lean Body results, take a look at our results page here

 

6 Ways To Break Through A Fat Loss Plateau

Ever followed a fat loss program and it’s stopped working for you? There are reasons for this! There is no such thing as “one fat loss program fits all”. It’s very important to understand that everybody is biochemically different and it is inevitable that you will hit a fat loss plateau at some point during your program. Plateaus can often be just short term, or in some cases can be frustratingly longer term. This article will help you understand why this happens and how to overcome them if they do arise.

You are no different to the many people I help regularly who are trying to lose excess body fat, plateaus will inevitably happen so don’t panic and quit! You have to anticipate plateaus and know how to deal with them when they come along. Yes these plateaus can be frustrating , but if you have set strategies to work from, you can often tackle them and move forward when they do come around. I feel it’s important to understand why they happen, if you know the reason then you’re adding another tool to your fat loss box and will help keep you one step ahead. In this article I want to share with you my top reasons for why plateaus occur and give you ways on how you can overcome them. There are many ways to break your plateau without having to drastically change anything with your dieting or training plans.

Learning new skills and exercises through your fat loss plan will take time and your body needs to adjust to your new physical habits. You must be prepared and fully understand what to expect.

Here are my top tips in overcoming a plateau:

1. If you are training with a personal trainer at Lean Body, strength training is the way we get results. Building muscle is a large part of the process. If though the scales aren’t changing as rapidly as you would hope them to, guarantee your body shape will be. By having your body fat measured regularly you will be able to monitor and manage your fat loss. We coach our clients not too concern themselves with scale weight too much but to concentrate on other motivational measurements like fat loss, how their cloths fit and regular photographs.

2. Protein. If you’re not consuming enough protein on a daily basis, your body will break down its own form of protein and energy coming from muscle mass, meaning it will break down your muscle tissue in order to find energy so you can function daily. Muscle loss eventually lowers your metabolic rate and where you are losing weight each week will be mostly from muscle and not fat. Be sure to consume the required amount of protein for your own body type. A simple rule is to try to eat a portion protein every 3-4 hours either from meals or snacks.

3. Under Eating

Often never thought of, this is one of the most common plateaus that I come across. Put simply – under eating can affect your fat loss progress in such a way where your metabolic rate will slow down as a result. I would always prefer someone to be eating slightly more and have to drop a few calories each day than to under eat and then binge before going to bed or at chance they get.

4. Your Body Will Be Experiencing changes

You will be experiencing a period of readjustment. If you’ve been stuck at the same weight for a few weeks your body may just be readjusting. Because of different changes you’re going through like new exercise or diet, sometimes your body just needs to simply catch up. Be patient and consistent, it will happen. When I ask a client to work on a new habit, I always let the body adjust for at least two weeks before measuring fat loss success again.

5. You Don’t Train Hard Enough

You’re not pushing yourself enough or training as much as you should. Whilst I’m a big believer in nutrition playing a huge part in fat loss, not doing enough exercise on a consistent basis can stall your results as well. A minimum of exercise to do, even for beginners is to follow a 3 – 4 times a week plan if you’re serious about losing belly fat and changing your shape.

6. Your Carbohydrate Levels Are Too High

If you have read any of my work before you will know that I believe in a balanced amount of carbohydrates for fat loss, not the no carb diets! The problem is that people get confused with hidden amounts of carbohydrates (and fats) in many foods. You may not realise they may have crept in by just having one food high in sugars each day. If you are not losing weight your carb intake may just be too high. If you think this may be a problem, write a food diary, track your calories for a week. This is an easier way to identify the culprits!

In nearly all cases addressing one of the above will move you past your stubborn fat loss plateau and you will continue to lose fat successfully week by week.

 

-Have a great week, team Lean Body

 

-Written by Paul Karoullas

 

Is There Really Good Protein & Bad Protein

In the quest to eat for our weight loss goals, naturally we’d want to go for nutrient dense, lean protein. That’s why you’ll hear debates on different types of proteins. However these differences may not mean much for your health.

Here, we look at what makes something a complete protein, and how it affects vegetarian and vegan diets and what sources you should prioritize.

How Are Proteins Different?

A food that is looked at as a “complete” protein has all the essential amino acids the human body needs but can’t produce on it’s own. This stands to the opposite of “incomplete” protein, which usually lacks one or two key amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks the body uses to build and rebuild at all levels, from body cells to bigger tissues and organs.

Different proteins from food contain a variation of amounts of 20 common amino acids. Of the 20, only 9 are considered essential. All animal products (such as: eggs, meat and fish) are complete proteins but very few plant foods meet this criteria.

Vegetarian sources of complete proteins include quinoa, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, buckwheat and seeds such as hemp, chia and pumpkin. Some cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are also complete protein sources.

Should Vegetarians Be Concerned?

For many years, the concept of complete protein helped point people toward animal proteins. However, it’s a common misconception that vegetarian and vegan diets will not satisfy our needs for essential amino acids.

Still a vegetarian or vegan diet can meet and exceed protein needs providing you’re not being overly restrictive with your food intake. You can still get essential amino’s from plant based sources by eating them in combination with each other. In reality pairing foods is tasty but not always necessary. Protein metabolism is fluid and dynamic. The amino acids you can get from food or from recycling old cells and tissues join up and “pool” together. The pool is freely available for all cells to tap into when they need it. In other words, vegetarians and vegans don’t need to worry about finding complete proteins or pairing foods together within the same meal. They just need to eat a diet that contains a variety of plant proteins.

To Summarise

Don’t worry about various types of proteins unless you are aiming to get another macronutrient from that source. Instead carnivores and vegetarians can benefit from eating high-protein plant based foods from a variety of sources including grains, beans, nuts and seeds.