Creating bespoke nutrition plans starts with the right nutrition assessment methods, which means finding out crucial personal information directly from your client.
If you do not screen a client with effective nutrition assessment methods, the chances are you will not really be creating a bespoke plan, or you may miss vital information which means you will need to correct mistakes time and time again to get it right.
This wastes both parties’ time, and it may reflect poorly on your fitness business.
Over the years my own nutrition assessment package has evolved with my increased experience. It initially started out as a sheet of questions, but now forms a detailed 12-page document.
The nutrition assessment is split into six key sections: Goal setting, general information, nutrition analysis, physical analysis, pictures and food diary. It’s important to get a grasp on all of the topics, and we will look at the relevance of each throughout the article.
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The easiest method you can use for the collection of info is via a questionnaire form, which will permanently capture a sufficient quantity of all the details you need.
Not only does a nutrition assessment package help you, but it will also show your client that you are a professional who is keen to learn more about them. A proper consultation should make the client think long and hard about their current situation, lifestyle and goals.
This is a vital element for people seeking help and change from you - the professional - and a paper format usually works best. If someone has just met you or may be worried about how you may respond to their specific private information, it will be much more effective to ask them to write the details down on paper.
On paper, the client won’t feel like they are talking to a stranger, but that they are actually communicating with themselves when answering the questions. In return, you will get more information and better insight into their needs.
Although a paper format is usually the better option, it is still important to gain the user’s confidence for them to feel happy to share the information.
To achieve this, it is essential that you highlight the fact that all information will be kept confidential and will never be shared without permission in compliance with Data Protection Regulations.
You should also request a similar confidentiality agreement in return, as you don’t want your information being shared freely.
If you’re operating online, then the same can be applied. You could create a digital version of your nutrition assessment.
I like TypeForm for doing this, and you can send a link to it whenever a client starts working with you.
#1. Goal setting
As nutrition coaches, goal setting is a crucial part of our job when working with a client. The process doesn’t need to be complicated, but it’s an important aspect to initially focus on, as the clients can tell you what they really want to achieve from working with you.
You know their goal setting has been effective when they can actually visualise their goal in their mind and also the required steps to making that happen. For us, it ensures we will know the best coaching steps to take with the client and what information we need to supply them with.
Effective goal setting comes down to one thing - good communication with our client.
That means how well we can speak to, receive information and communicate back to our clients regarding their goals. That’s because we must ask the right questions to get the correct information and make sure we understand clearly what our client really means.
The desired goal or objective is often referred to as an ‘outcome’. By classifying our clients’ goals as outcomes, it helps them distinguish between where they are now and where they really want to be. This is a fundamental aspect of goal setting, as it is usually our goal as coaches to give our clients more of something they currently haven’t got.
By setting outcomes with clients, we typically achieve a change in mindset; one that is more focused on what they want to achieve.
By setting effective goals or outcomes, we will:
By considering our clients’ goals as outcomes, we must also understand that these same outcomes bring changes and consequences too.
We should, therefore, use a number of further questions to help our clients visualise themselves at their end goal and what they may feel like as a result. This will show readiness for change and further enhance their commitment to their goals.
Some useful questions to ask could be:
When your client sets goals, they are typically long-term outcomes. It can be challenging to measure the small changes or progress towards these larger more significant goals, and many people can get sidetracked or lost by not understanding how to track this progress.
By setting ‘mini goals’ with clients, they can see how their daily performances and processes are helping them progress towards their primary goal. By breaking the goal down into daily performances or specific tasks that would need to be completed to achieve the primary goal, progress is much easier tracked and noticed.
Before we can do that, we must consider the user’s goals within each section too. Your questions will help define the current situation and problems, but by including a goal setting section, you will find out where the user wants to be in both the short and long term.
To do this, it’s essential to add facts and figures to these goals in order to get a detailed output, track progress and evaluate results. Having a solid set of goals with numerical relevance helps you to programme your plans, set realistic time frames and provide the correct advice at the right times.
To ensure your client can set effective and measurable goals, I have found it ideal to use the SMART principles. This means that all goals should be:
This technique ‘pulls’ the most information from the client, while also giving them a chance to think about their goal and how they will go about achieving it.
If you simply ask ‘what are your goals’, the typical answer is “I’m hoping to lose a few pounds.’ As we know, this is not a true goal; nothing has been defined, nor has the bigger picture been considered as to how to get there.
Experience says that this person would fail at trying to achieve this. Those who have worked with me and achieved excellent results had very specific and defined goals which were set in stone.
This method also helps you to provide the right advice. If your client says they want to lose a stone in weight by not eating anything and doing endurance training every day, you will be able to react to this and provide the right coaching to let them achieve their goals.
#2. General information
Normally you know very little about your client, so the best place to start is with getting a simple rundown of some key facts.
Here are some of the key questions I like to ask:
As you can see, from just a small number of questions you can gather a lot of personal information that will benefit you when creating their nutrition packs.
There is almost always an emotional attachment for someone who is looking to change their body or health. This is the perfect opportunity to find this out, so you can understand how that person may be feeling.
#3. Nutrition analysis
This section of the consultation should look at the client’s previous nutrition history, along with some key information on current eating habits and lifestyle choices.
It is important to ask about previous ‘diets’ or nutritional behaviours, as this is an important aspect to learning what knowledge level they may be at, including their general state of health and well being.
You can also take the opportunity to ask about the results they achieved in the past, and how they felt during them. This will give you vital clues as to how various protocols may affect them, providing you with a good starting point.
You also need to find out what foods they do or do not like, including supplements, medication and any allergies/intolerances. There is no point offering suggested meals if the user does not like those foods.
This is also a good opportunity to learn about the client’s lifestyle factors, and their general relationship with food:
You should also ask for the individual nutrition related goal at this point too, remembering to use the SMART principle.
#4. Physical training
The physical training aspect of the consultation should look at all aspects of daily fitness and activity. This is an important component and should not be forgotten when creating bespoke nutrition plans. Understanding the client’s daily activities and their exercise regime is critical to ensuring your plan reflects this.
For example, there is no point creating a ‘no carb’ plan for an endurance runner who wants to improve their health. They will be likely to crash and burn in a week.
Here you should ask for current training/hobbies, how often they do these, and on what days and time. You should then schedule their optimal exercise nutrition plan around this.
Within this section you should also ask for their training-related goals, remembering to use the SMART principles. The important factor to consider when goal setting is to ensure your nutrition plan matches the goals of the user and to check that they do not conflict with the nutritional goal.
For example, if someone wants to add lean muscle mass, but will also be training for the London marathon at the same time, then you have two conflicting goals here, and one should really take priority. It is your job to highlight and discuss the best course of action.
Getting up to date photographs are extremely important (even more so for online work) for creating tailored plans. How can you create a plan for someone yet not have a clue what they look like underneath their clothes?
Photos show you some key info that you simply cannot get from questions:
It is best to get high quality images, including full body shots. A front, side and rear picture is the ideal, with men wearing only shorts and women wearing gym vests and shorts.
Most people have a picture of the ideal body they would like to achieve. Knowing what a client would like to achieve in the long term is great for further enhancing motivation and improving goal setting.
You will also be able to discuss the best strategies and techniques to be used to achieve this look, and then start applying the best processes for continued progress.
It is also important to discuss the realistic time frames possibly required in order to get there. For many people this can be a bit of shock, as clients still believe they can achieve a completely different body in 8 weeks.
We know different – it can take years.
#6. Food diary
The most important factor regarding a food diary is to ensure the right starting point. There is no better way to understand a client’s eating routine and food choices than asking them to track everything that is consumed.
You can then tailor the new plan to remove any obvious issues while still respecting their lifestyle. Progress will be made and the integration process will as smooth as possible.
I typically request all food, liquids and supplements to be recorded for at least 3 days. Feel free to continue this for as long as required in order to get a true representation of current eating habits.
It is also best to get the client to record this as and when they eat it, stating the time, food items and rough serving size for each item. You can also add a comments box, to describe why they ate what they did and how they felt from eating it.
This will further highlight their current nutritional habits and their general relationship with food.
A great technique is to continue the food diary into the transition period – the first week or two of the new diet. Then everyone can see how accurately the new plan is being matched, and how far from the old diet they are moving. It makes for very interesting comparisons.
For some, transitioning onto a completely new diet is very difficult, and this will be your main method to track the transition phases and to help with these.
You can now understand the importance of running an in-depth nutrition assessment methods with all of your clients and the type of information you should be getting.
You need to be able to interpret that information and use it to your advantage to create the right plan first time around.
By completing the nutrition assessment package, you will get faster results and deliver people to their goals in the process.
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