As a personal trainer, you want to help your clients achieve their fitness goals. Unfortunately, training is only half the battle when it comes to building your dream body. The other half is nutrition.
You can be the best personal trainer in the world, but your clients will still struggle to get results if they don’t eat right.
As a trainer, if you can help your clients stay on the right track with their nutrition, they’ll reach their goals faster, which is a win for both of you.
Here are some tips on how your clients can maintain healthy nutrition habits that lead to amazing results in the gym (and on the scale).
Protein is one of the most important building blocks for muscle growth. Along with working out, regular protein consumption is a must – you simply won’t get the best results without it.
Even if your clients’ goal is to get lean, rather than packing on muscle, protein is still important. Protein is essential for the body to recover after a workout, whether that workout is a heavy lifting session or an hour of cardio.
Most workouts function by breaking down muscle fibers that result in increased muscle mass or leaner muscles when repaired.
Protein assists the body in repairing itself, which means faster results, and less recovery time required between workouts.
As a general guide, 0.5 to 1 gram per pound of body weight is sufficient to support muscle gain and fat loss.
Your clients should look to get an adequate amount of protein from both diet and supplementation.
A high-protein diet goes a long way to supporting the rigors of a hard training schedule. This means eating a lot of foods like lean meats, chicken, seafood, eggs, and nuts, which are all good sources of protein.
Most people will also want to supplement with protein shakes after a workout. Getting the full recommended amount of protein from diet alone is hard, so a post-workout shake helps to make up the missing amount.
Additionally, taking protein post-workout helps the body kick-start the process of repairing muscle, so your clients will recover faster.
Recommend your clients take a high-quality grass-fed whey protein after each workout, as well as once more during the day if they’re struggling to meet their protein intake requirements.
Protein brings us to the topic of macros. Macros, short for macronutrients, are three categories of nutrients present in just about everything you eat. Tracking macros is one of the most basic parts of a diet plan, as macro composition has a direct impact on the body’s growth (or otherwise).
The three macros are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. If your client is looking to build muscle mass or slim down, they’ll need the right combination of macros in their diet.
As mentioned in the previous section, protein is an essential macronutrient for muscle repair and growth. On the other hand, carbohydrates and fats are important to maintain energy and support other vital functions of the body.
Health organizations suggest 45-65% of your calories come from carbohydrates, with just about an even split of fats and protein alongside this. Your clients should be looking to optimize their exact balance of macros depending on their goals, however.
A diet lower in carbohydrates and fats is generally better for weight loss. Consequently, if your client is looking to pack on mass, they may want to up their intake of these two macros.
Remember that carbohydrates and fats are essential for energy production, so it’s not a good idea to cut these macros completely, even if the goal is to lose weight. Make sure your client pays attention to how they feel, and ensure their diet gives them enough energy to support their workouts.
Not avoiding healthy fats
Fats tend to get a bad name. The common perception is that fats are bad, and should be cut out from your diet. That’s not quite true, though.
There are certainly unhealthy fats, which should be limited or cut out entirely. These are fats coming from fried and processed foods, and many snack foods.
However, many other healthy fats have a range of health benefits and are an essential part of a healthy diet. These are known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and are beneficial for heart and brain health, energy production, cognition, and more.
These “good” fats come from foods like avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish, and tofu. Despite the name, including these in your diet will not make you fat. So even if weight loss is your client’s goal, eating these foods will not hurt. The opposite in fact – healthy fats often make a person feel full faster, helping to limit total calorie intake.
Cut out (or limit) sugars
Excess sugar consumption is probably the most common reason people struggle to meet their goals at the gym.
Refined sugars are empty calories – they provide a lot of calories, with zero nutritional benefits. That means even just a few sugary drinks a day can blow out a person’s calorie target, making it hard to lose weight.
Sugary foods also spike blood glucose levels. Elevated blood glucose causes several health problems, including damage to the heart and circulatory system, and an increased risk of diabetes.
Too much sugar will severely hamper your clients’ training, as well as making it hard to achieve weight loss goals, and that’s just the beginning.
Advise your clients to stay away from artificial sugars – those you find in soft drinks and candy. Replacing these foods with natural, unprocessed foods, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates is a great way to reduce calorie intake and increase the number of nutrients taken in by the body.
Calories are a bit misunderstood, but it remains that managing calories in versus calories out is the best way to manage weight loss (or gain).
Many think that foods high in calories are bad for you, and low-calorie foods are good. This is not always the case. Empty calories, such as foods with high amounts of unnatural sugar, are indeed bad. But foods can be high in calories, while also containing a high amount of beneficial nutrients.
However, if we’re talking specifically about weight, it’s pretty simple. Fewer calories in (from your diet), and more calories out (from exercise) will result in weight loss. If this is your client’s main goal, help them draw up a plan to limit calorie consumption per day, and progress towards their goal will come a lot faster.
The same goes if your client is trying to gain weight. A large part of this is simply to eat more. Your client should be consuming more calories than they expend each day. Help them do this by advising them on high-calorie, nutrient-dense foods to eat more of.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a growing health and fitness trend, focusing on when you eat, more than what you eat.
It’s a great way for your clients to have a little freedom with what they choose to eat, while still meeting calorie and macro goals.
The core idea of intermittent fasting is to go longer periods between meals. This gives you a smaller window in which to eat, helping keep total calorie intake down.
On top of that, fasting initiates processes in the body that have a range of positive effects.
For one, fasting increases natural levels of growth hormone in the body, which accelerates lean muscle growth and fat loss.
It also increases metabolism, which means the body ends up burning more calories throughout the day, even while not working out.
Furthermore, fasting helps lower insulin levels, repair old and damaged cells, and build protection against aging-related diseases.
There are many different variations on IF, from daily fasting periods to fasts as long as 3 or 4 days. The most common, practical, and sustainable ways to fast are the 16/8 method or OMAD (One Meal A Day).
The 16/8 method involves an 8-hour eating window (for example, 10 am to 6 pm), and fasting for 16 hours. OMAD takes it a little further, eating only one meal throughout the whole day, and fasting for the rest.
Both methods can be maintained on a day-to-day basis, with only small lifestyle changes needed. 16/8 fasting is great for beginners, as it can be done by simply skipping breakfast, or eating an early dinner.
Fasting doesn’t have to interfere with working out, by the way. Your clients can still work out when fasting. They may find strength and energy a little diminished, so take care, not to overwork. But there are no inherent dangers to doing physical activity when fasted.
Final thoughts on nutrition advice for your clients
Training and nutrition go hand in hand. Fitness goals don’t just require the right workout plan, they require the right fuel going into the body. Poor nutrition can kill weight loss or muscle gain worse than anything else.
As a personal trainer, you should understand the importance of nutrition, and communicate this to your clients. It’s in both your interests for the client to reach their goals and feel positive about their body, and by ignoring half of the equation, it will be hard to do so.
Take these nutrition tips on board, and help your clients find the right diet plan to complement their workouts.