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How to Build a Stronger U with Mike Doehla

Tried and tested learnings for what works best for eating healthy from a nutrition coach.

In this episode of Tonal Talk, Kate Telge sits down with Mike Doehla, founder and CEO of Stronger U, an expert online nutrition coaching company. In his experience, eating well alongside strength training can help you on your journey to feeling your healthiest. Mike shares tried and tested learnings for what works best with his clients when making body composition changes. 

Strength train alongside eating healthy 

“For some reason, we associate cardio exercise as the primary fat loss tool, and it just doesn’t work that way. That’s what got me so excited about Tonal. If I’m picking workouts, I’m going strength training every day of the week. I love getting people off the cardio hamster wheel.”

Eat for your fitness goals 

“I look at the phases as a caloric deficit, maintenance, or surplus. Each one requires a certain amount of food based on whether your goal is to [get lean, improve fitness, or build muscle]. If a person’s goal is to lose weight, they need a slight calorie deficit. If someone wants to maintain — which is often associated with athletic performance — they can just eat around their maintenance calories. To build muscle, eat in a slight surplus and use a good strength training program like the ones from Tonal.” 

Consider tracking your food 

“Many people associate changing body composition with eating less, but you can eat more food without more calories. That’s why I’m a big fan of tracking food. By doing that, you have data — it’s the same as working out with Tonal and having workout metrics.” 

“If you can look at your food data, it can help you focus on nutrient-dense whole foods, and tracking can help you make better choices for health by reducing variables like processed foods. Some of them are fine in moderation, but proteins and fiber are the way to stay full and satisfied.” 

“For example, if you trade something like a bagel for sweet potato, you eat more, and that goes a long way. I’m on the side that no food is necessarily good or bad. It’s just what makes more sense in a certain setting and how you can get more bang for your buck with better food choices.”

“Download MyFitnessPal, Cronometer, FoodNoms, or any of the food tracking apps. Even if you’re not into weighing or measuring food, just having an awareness of what you’re eating by logging it can be a huge help. So I would just start with tracking food, and if you don’t feel comfortable with that, focus on the protein and reduce any unhealthy snacking.”

“I don’t look at health as just what you put in your mouth. I look at it as how holistically you live your life. That includes strength training, maybe some cardio, sleeping well, managing your stress, focusing on your relationships, and eating quality food.” 

Limit distracted eating 

“The next one is limiting distracted eating. I think it’s funny that there are studies on this now. Why do we have to pay money for studies on this stuff? A lot of snacking happens when we’re distracted, such as working on our laptops, eating while watching television and movies, or just playing on our phones. So one of the biggest tips I can give people is trying to limit distracted eating because that’s where a lot of accidental calories or snacksidents, as I call them, happen.”

Meal prep 

“When you plan, and prep your food, and I’m not talking like stacks of Tupperware, maybe some proteins, and having other healthy stuff on hand, you’re going to think of food less. You set it and forget it, and live your life and eat when you’re supposed to.”  

“In this modern food environment, many people — myself included — are busy, and we react to what’s around us. The foods around us are not always healthy options. So if we have meal prep containers around and specific kitchen gadgets and utensils — for example, you could get an Instant Pot which is like five cookers in one — you don’t have to sit in the kitchen forever.” 

Don’t go grocery shopping while hungry 

“How to grocery shop well is a skill in itself. Shop when it’s quieter, don’t go when it’s busy, and you’re stressed and don’t go hungry. You walk in there hungry, and you’ll walk out with a bunch of stuff you might not have wanted if you weren’t.”  

Keep it simple 

“You know macro tracking and calorie tracking hasn’t been around for that long. People have gotten in better health through other methods. So you don’t have to track if you don’t want to. You can do other things like eating lean proteins in most meals, eating fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats, and maybe don’t try to eat out all the time. If you do, try to order lean meats and vegetables.” 

Celebrate non-scale victories 

“I want people to look at other aspects of their life that are improving. How does eating better help you sleep or make your feel after going up a flight of stairs? Maybe performance with Tonal improves, or relationships with other people. Sometimes my clients’ kids are eating better and being more active, and that’s super cool. I want people to know that you can just change some little things about your food and still see results.” 

Editor’s Note: Please note that Stronger U is not an official Tonal partner. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Tonal Talk is a weekly Facebook Live interview series highlighting stories of real strength from within the Tonal community.

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