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How to Create a Macronutrient Diet Plan for Personal Training Clients

The single most important thing that will result in a successful fitness business is the outcome of our clients.

We live in a digital age where what people say about us spreads like wild fire.

Yup, that includes the good and the bad. Oh, and the VERY ugly.

We therefore need to be delivering incredible results, to as many people as possible.

I was lucky enough to grasp this concept very early on in my fitness career.

In fact, my background as an engineer taught me that the client always comes first.

Heck, my old companies motto was:

"Clients Are Our Greatest Asset"

They posted this everywhere and it was IMPOSSIBLE to escape.

Back then I thought this was some pumped-up corporate BS.

Yet this was the EXACT core principle I stuck to when first coaching clients, and still do to this day.

But delivering incredible results to every client is NOT easy.

We don't always have the knowledge or confidence to successfully coach every type of client, so we fail them.

And we don't always have the time or available resources to help every client with their nutrition and lifestyle.

As we keep failing clients, it leads to increased stress and worry for us, which reduces our ability to help others and improve our businesses.

Let's be honest, that SUCKS.

Who knew coaching people would be so difficult, huh.

Yet we know the trainers who provide their clients with detailed recipes, alongside bespoke nutrition plans, have clients who stay with them longer... AND refer more often AND pay higher fees.

This blog will help you change that, and let you stand on your own two feet by knowing how to calculate your clients macronutrient needs. I'm going to break down how to create a personalised macronutrient diet plan, by focusing on some very simple and easy to follow guidelines.

Firstly, there are no magic ratios, techniques or programmes that will create the Holy Grail macronutrient split. So stop looking.

The key to it is getting a good starting point. Get someone started on a macronutrient diet plan, assess the progress and tweak the plan to achieve the results required.

Let’s get started.

macronutrient diet plan

What Are Macronutrient Numbers?

Most traditional nutrition plans are set out with a daily breakdown of the number of meals, when to eat them and the suggested food choices.

e.g. Monday, breakfast (meal1), 3 whole eggs, 2 rashers of bacon, with 2 fried tomatoes and a handful of mixed almonds.

The client knows exactly what to eat and how much - all they have to do is follow it. However I will say I'm not a fan of this typical meal plan approach. 

Behind this meal is a set of macronutrient numbers, defining the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates in each of the foods, which then provide a total for the entire meal.

FOOD

PROTEIN (G)

CARBS (G)

FATS (G)

Egg (3)

23

3

16

Bacon (2)

5

0

4

Tomatoes (2)

2

10

0

Almonds (10)

3

2

6

Total (all):

33

15

26

As we can see, each food contains a certain amount of each macronutrient, and these are measured in grams. This is the same information as shown on the back of the food packets.

We then know exactly how much protein, fat and carbs there are in this meal. From this, we can work out the exact numbers of calories in this meal too:

  • Protein = 4 calories per gram in weight i.e. 33g x 4kcal = 132kcal
  • Carbs = 4 calories per gram in weight i.e. 15g x 4kcal = 60kcal
  • Fat = 9 calories per gram in weight i.e. 26g x 9kcal - 234kcal
  • This gives a total overall calorie intake for this meal of 426kcal

Each food contains its own amount of macronutrients, depending on what it is, its size and its quality. More on this topic later.

For now, we know that macronutrients are the amount of protein, carbs and fats that make up our food. When it comes to creating personalised macronutrient diet plan, it is not the calories that we should focus on, but the macronutrient breakdown.

How To Create a Macronutrient Diet Plan?

There are a number of simple calculations you have to complete in order to work out a suggested macronutrient breakdown for a person.

The first thing to consider is overall energy balance i.e. the total number of calories someone needs in order to meet their goal.

This is a 2-step process and I shall use myself as an example (bodyweight of 180lb):

1. Calculate the ​BMR (basal metabolic rate)

Your basal metabolic rate is your daily energy expenditure in calories without any contribution from exercise or digestion.

Think of BMR as the amount of calories you would need to consume daily to maintain your body if you were comatose.

Simple Multiplier

The quickest method for determining your BMR is to multiply your total body weight by a simpler multiplier; often-used values are 10, 11 or 12.

eg. Bodyweight (in pounds) x 10 (multiplier) = 180lbs x 10 = 1800kcal

Mifflin-St. Jeor BMR Formula

Generally the most reliable of the BMR formulas when body fat % is unknown. The formulas used are:

Male: (10 × weight in kg)+(6.25 × height in cm)-(5 × age)+5

e.g. (10×81.6) + (6.25×175) - (5×26) + 5 = 1,785kcal

Female: (10 × weight in kg)+(6.25 × height in cm)-(5 × age) -161

e.g. (10×81.6) + (6.25×175) - (5×26) - 161 = 1,619kcal

This is my favourite method and I suggest you use it too.

As you can see, there isn't a huge difference between results from the two approaches.

2. Calculate the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

The total daily calorie expenditure (TDEE) is the total calories required on a daily basis, including:

  • Basal metabolic rate (BMR), calculated above
  • Non-exercise associated thermogenesis (NEAT) - calorie requirements from normal daily activity (NOT from exercise) like walking, working, chores, etc
  • Exercise associated thermogenesis (EAT) - calorie requirements from planned exercise and sports
  • Thermic effect of feeding (TEF) - calories associated with eating and digestion.TEF varies according to macronutrient and fibre content of your diet, with protein having a TEF of up to 30% of the consumed calories, while carbs are around 6% and fat a mere 3%

Luckily, we can account for all of this in one very easy to apply calculation. To account for TDEE, we simply multiply our BMR by an activity level:

  • ​Sedentary: little or no exercise = BMR x 1.2
  • Lightly Active: light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week = BMR x1.375
  • ​Moderately Active: moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week = BMR x1.55
  • ​Very Active: hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week = BMR x1.725
  • Extra Active: very hard exercise/sports and physical job = BMR x1.9

For my own example, I train 3 days per week, so I am moderately active:

TDEE = BMR x activity level

TDEE = 1800kcal x 1.55 = 2790kcal

Therefore it requires 2790kcal for my body to maintain this bodyweight based on my total daily energy expenditure.

The problem is that clients who want a nutrition plan do not want to remain the same. Most want to lose body fat or gain some muscle, while staying healthy in the process.

For fat loss, we know that one pound of fat contains about 3500kcal, therefore if I reduce my diet by 500kcal per day (3,500 kcal/week ÷ 7 days = 500 kcal/day), I will theoretically create a calorie deficit (essential for fat loss) with around one pound fat loss per week (the ideal).

e.g. weight loss = 2790kcal – 500kcal = 2290kcal

To add muscle, we need the opposite - a calorie surplus - in order to grow new muscle tissue and cells. Depending on weight training experience, a 100-300kcal per day excess is ideal for aiming at a weight gain of 1-2lbs per month (half this for females).

e.g. weight gain = 2790 + 200kcal = 2990kcal

Remember the numbers cannot be set in stone, these calculations are merely good pointers to get you started.

Macronutrient Split​

Up to this point, we have only worked out how many calories are needed by the body to maintain current body weight, and then adjusted this to match our goal of weight gain or weight loss.

The next step we should look at is how the macronutrients can be broken down into their respective protein, carbs and fat profiles:

macronutrient diet

As you can see, there are no set in stone figures on how to break down each macronutrient, this calculation is highly individual depending on the person in question.

This is why it is essential to conduct a consultation process when creating a macronutrient diet plan - to really explore the make-up and lifestyle of each individual. This is the only way to ‘fine tune’ this process, and make it more accurate.

The above macronutrient ranges are those that I typically use for a large majority of clients, these ranges will get results for 90% of people.

Again, the goal is to start somewhere (ideally with the help of your consultation pack and experience) and be open to making adjustments as required.

From my own example, I know I carry ample amounts of muscle mass, so protein can be high. I also train using high intensity techniques, so carbohydrates are important in my daily diet, and therefore fats can be lower as a result.

e.g. Goal for fat loss i.e. 2290kcal (worked out from earlier example)

Protein (1.2g per pound bodyweight) = 1.2g x 180lbs = 216g (=864kcal)

Fat set at 30% of total calories = 30% x 2290 = 687kcal = 76g

Carbohydrates at remaining = 2290kcal – (864kcal (protein) + 687kcal (fat)) = 739kcal = 185g

So the ideal starting point for me to lose weight is a diet adding up to 2290kcal a day, with a macronutrient split of protein: 216g, fats: 76g and carbs: 185g.

If I were to eat 5 meals per day, I can simply divide each macro number by 5 to get how much of which nutrient I should be eating at each meal.

e.g. 43g protein, 15g fat, 37g carbs x 5 meals per day.

(Note - this is neglecting any sort of nutrient timing or personal preference)

Of course, these numbers will all change for somebody else. For example, a female client weighing 140lbs with a goal to lose fat, who does not train and works at a desk job, is not going to have the same macronutrient breakdown as myself. Protein intake will be lower, fat levels much higher and carbohydrates very low.

​When To Use a Macronutrient Diet Plan?

As per the examples above, a macronutrient diet plan can be used for anyone with any goal. As I suggest in my Proven Nutrition System of Elite Trainers Workshop, I highly recommend this nutrition coaching strategy with intermediate to advanced based clients. 

It is an advanced template to use, and I get great results by using it.

You do not need a macronutrient diet plan for someone who is not already following a ‘good’ diet to start with. If they eat cereal for breakfast, bread for lunch and some more crap on an evening, while washing it down with pop, your client just need a simple plan based on good foods and consistency. Habit-based nutrition and lifestyle coaching is a more suitable strategy instead. 

If someone is eating what seems to be a perfect diet but are not seeing the progress they expect, macronutrient numbers can be a great addition to the plan to get things moving. Of course, food logging will be required to make this strategy effective and accurate. 

You set the overall calories, while adjusting each macronutrient to better suit the clients goals. It shows people how much of the good stuff they should be eating. Or more commonly, how much less they really require.

When you combine good food choices with ideal calorie intake, along with a balanced macronutrient breakdown, results are not far behind. It’s a solid nutrition system that is now used by most trainer and coaches.

Providing someone with a set of macronutrient numbers to hit over the course of a day (or even split up into each meal) gives the user much more freedom on food choices and planning their meals.

As long as your clients match good food choices (that they like to eat) to your daily macronutrient suggestions, progress will be made. The plan even allows some people to add ‘treat’ foods into their diets, while still getting results. So as well as being an accurate and advanced method for dietary success, it also gives nutritional freedom and choice.

Take our original example for the breakfast:

e.g. Monday, breakfast (meal1), 3 whole eggs, 2 rashers of bacon, with 2 fried tomatoes and a handful of mixed almonds.

Instead of the client having to eat this exact meal every Monday in order to achieve results, we can replace this meal with another one using the same recommended macro numbers:

E.g. Monday, breakfast (meal1), protein: 33g, fat: 26g, carbs: 15g.

Match the foods you wish to eat according to these numbers and you’re good to go.

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