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Alternatives to Macro Tracking: Creative Ways to Help Clients Build Consistency

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As a nutrition coach, you will work with many different types of people.

Some clients will be super engaged and communicative while others would prefer you take the lead. Some will follow your suggestions to a T well while others will need more encouragement. You may even come across clients who will want you to help them with alternatives to macro tracking.

The purpose of this article is to give you some clear and creative ideas for how you can help your clients even if they aren’t tracking macros. We will look at the benefits of macro tracking and give you some takeaway ideas that you can apply to your own coaching business. 

Pros and Cons of Macro Tracking

What is counting macros in the first place?

“Counting macros”, means tracking the precise amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats consumed each day. 

Why Macro Tracking May Work

Because each macronutrient plays a different role in the body, tracking them in prescribed ratios can be a more effective way to “count calories”. Macro tracking gives you more control over where your calories come from.

As a coach, you can tweak macro ratios to help your client reach their unique goals. Whether they want to improve body composition, physical performance or just learn more about what is in their food, macros can help them get there. Understanding which macros make up their foods can help a client optimize the foods they eat to get to their desired result (heavier lifts, more defined abs, etc.).

Tracking macros also ensures your client eats a balanced diet. When calories are more specifically designated to each macro, overall intake comes from a variety of sources (meat, veggies, fats, etc.). If your client is down to track, check out and share our favorite macro-tracking tips.

Why Macro Tracking May Not Work

On the flip side, macro tracking doesn’t work for everyone. There is no right or wrong here. As a coach, it is your job to help a client decide when macro tracking will help them reach their goals and when an alternative to macro tracking may be the way to go. Here are a few things to look out for in terms of when macro tracking may not work for a specific client: 

To see the true benefits of macro tracking, a client has to be willing to put in the time to learn about macros and learn how to track them properly. They will need to learn what foods fall under which macro category, how to accurately weigh and measure their food, and then a method for entering all that data so they can keep track of it. Some clients simply don’t have the time to dedicate to this and would therefore be better served with an alternative to macro tracking. 

Tracking macros also requires a certain level of effort, planning, and consistency in the form of meal prepping and/or planning out meals. The reason this method works is so that clients aren’t scrambling at the end of the day, trying to fit in extra food to fit their macro ratios. Some clients may be initially overwhelmed by the idea of preparing and planning out their meals or may have some resistance to doing it. In this case, tracking all macros wouldn’t be an ideal fit for them and you may need to help them ease into it.

Lastly, simply macro tracking isn’t always enough. Quality of the macros matters and a client needs to be willing to include whole, unprocessed foods in their diet to see positive results. If they are struggling to let go of processed foods, tackling that might be a better place to start then worrying about jumping into macro tracking.

Macro splits (the percentages of each macro a client should hit) are completely unique to each person and using them successfully requires being given the correct ratios. If you want to experience macro tracking and receiving custom macro ratios, consider signing up for 1:1 coaching with a WAG coach.

Remember, if a client isn’t a good fit for macro tracking, this isn’t your or your client’s fault. There is no finger-pointing when it comes to nutrition and habit building. 

There are times in life when macro tracking may not be the most effective choice. Here are some examples: 

  • If a client is going through a big life change such as a move, new career or relationship change
  • If a client has a substantial amount of stress in their life
  • If a client is brand new to the wellness/nutrition space
  • If a client has health issues to consider (*Note: always recommend they consult with their doctor before beginning any kind of nutrition program)

As a coach, it is your job to ask them questions, learn what is going on in their life, and help them pick the accountability method that works best for their unique situation.

Meeting a Client Where They Are At

As a coach, you want the very best for your clients which means helping them achieve their dreams and goals as it pertains to their health, fitness, and nutrition. 

However not every client is going to be ready to absorb and implement all of the knowledge you have to offer right away. And that’s okay! Think about when you first started learning about nutrition… you need to go slow together now to be able to go fast later.

Here are some things to consider:

The very act of reaching out to you could have been a huge step or challenge for your client. To them, getting started with any kind of new nutrition routine could be overwhelming. This client would be better served with a slower approach rather than jumping right into macro tracking. 

  • It will take time for you to establish a relationship and trust with your client so they feel comfortable. This is completely normal and should be celebrated. After all, they are putting themselves in a vulnerable position by opening up to you about their health and how they feel about their bodies. As they go through the coaching process with you, you may find that what they need changes. You can always shift into new coaching methods that will best serve your client at anytime.  
  • Some clients may not be very knowledgeable in food and nutrition - this is completely normal! It takes a bit longer for them to learn and understand fundamentals and it is your job to teach them.
  • Clients may feel a stronger resistance to new ideas and lifestyle changes that will take some additional mindset coaching to overcome. The idea of meeting a client where they are at is considering what small, positive changes you can help them implement that will move the needle in the right direction to improving their health. 

It’s important to meet a client where they are in their journey to avoid repelling them with too much information, too soon. Whether they are afraid of change or need additional education, as a coach you want to do everything you can to make them feel like they are in good hands. 

The importance of meeting a client where they are at is really about building trust. Creating small, attainable goals at the beginning of the coaching relationship can set a strong foundation of positivity. This builds momentum for your client to desire more challenges in the future as they grow their confidence in themselves. 

Creative Alternatives to Macro Tracking

So you have a client that isn’t quite ready for macro tracking. No problem! 

When you first start working with a client, you want to collect as much information as you can about their day-to-day life. This will help you determine the best course of action and to make a plan that will fit their lifestyle. If after learning about your client’s life, you don’t feel they would be a good fit for macro tracking right away, here are some creative ideas you can use. These will help your clients reach their nutrition goals to give them a bit more flexibility. These suggestions go from more precise to less precise.

Increase their Macro Ranges

If they’re down to give tracking a shot but feel restricted by smaller ranges (at WAG, we suggest ending each day within 5g of protein and carbs and within 2g of fat for “optimal” consistency) try widening their ranges. 

Teach them the basics about the macronutrient content in their foods and encourage them to aim for a range like +/-10 for carbs and protein and +/-5 for fat. If that still feels tough, try +/-20 and +/-10 respectively. As their coach, you can totally play around with this!

Estimate Macro Intake

Maybe your client is down to aim for targets but getting out a food scale for every single meal isn’t something they’re able or willing to do.

If weighing, and measuring food is too overwhelming or time-consuming at first, a client could start by estimating their intake based on general knowledge of food. It may be easier for them to estimate using cups and spoons vs. grams and ounces as these tend to be more visual measurements.

Speaking of visuals, here is a great resource you can share with them:

If you decide to go this route, it is important to help your client manage expectations. If estimating helps them stay consistent and excited about their journey, it is better than throwing in the towel! 

But, if your client has very time-dependent goals or wants to see progress ASAP, you’ll need to let your client know that this isn’t the most precise option and actions and expectations need to align in terms of how fast (or slow) they may see progress. 

So much of this depends on what they’re willing to do to reach their goal and it is your job as a coach to help them decide what will keep their journey sustainable long-term and minimize frustration along the way.

Track General Intake

If hitting macro targets is overwhelming, that doesn’t mean they need to forgo tracking altogether. Suggest tracking general intake of food on a daily basis. This will help your client learn what is in their food and get to know their tracking app (we love MacrosFirst!) without aiming for exact numbers.

As a coach, you can then analyze that information to determine estimated macro intake if you desire. 

Start with One Macro

If a client wants to track, but tracking everything feels like a big jump, try tracking ONE macro instead of all three. At WAG, we typically start with protein as it is the thing clients usually fall under if they don’t keep it top of mind. Protein also keeps a client feel fuller and will help stabilize their blood sugar which will decrease cravings for other foods that may not “fit their macros”.

Utilize a Meal Template

You will come across clients who don’t want to think about creating meals or deciding what they will eat. Creating a meal template for them can help them come up with infinite ways to pair different foods (macros) for their meals.

NOTE: Here at WAG, we are definitely willing to help our clients with a general outline of meal ideas. But we feel that precise meal plans aren’t a sustainable option to offer. If your client chooses a meal template, remember that you want to continue educating them about different food options they have so you can empower them to learn the process of creating meals. 

Build a Balanced Plate

For someone who isn’t ready to track food, teaching them how to build a balanced plate can be a great place to start. This means educating them on how to build a meal consisting of protein, carbs, and fats based on their goals, preferences, and training style. 

Here is a great starting place:

Set Meal Goals

You can set smaller, achievable goals for your clients outside of tracking macros. This could look like a goal of eating protein at every meal or eating veggies with at least two meals a day.

Can I Lose Weight Without Tracking Macros?

Even if your client is looking for alternatives to macro tracking, they may ask you: “Can I still lose weight without tracking macros?

They are looking for reassurance that their efforts will be worthwhile even if they aren’t following the method of macro tracking. 

It’s important to give them a clear picture but an honest answer about their health journey so they have realistic expectations. Different goals require different levels of dedication and adherence and making sure their actions and expectations align will be the key to building trust and ensuring they know what to expect.

While tracking macros can be an excellent way to achieve a weight loss goal, it’s only one piece to a much larger puzzle that considers your client’s overall health and wellness and how it relates to lifestyle factors.

You may ask them to consider: 

These things also impact body composition and performance and can play a role in how quickly your client reaches their unique goal.

Additional Ways to Build Consistency

Outside of the alternatives to macro tracking presented above, you can provide your client with some additional goals and ways to build consistency over time. Just make sure that you’re not throwing TOO many things at them at once. ;)

Some other measurable goals to focus on could be:

  • Creating a consistent morning practice to include meditation/reflection or journaling
  • Setting a goal for water intake throughout the day
  • Setting reminders in their phone to step away from work and eat meals throughout the day
  • Creating a consistent evening winddown routine before bed
  • Aiming to be in bed to go to sleep by a certain time at night.

Part of the fun in being a coach is really getting to know your client and finding creative ways to meet them where they are at while also helping them reach their goals. Macro tracking is one way you could go about this but as we’ve shown in this article, there are so many other ways you can support your clients.

Get a Taste of WAG

The WAG Crash Course is OPEN for enrollment. This 30-day course will teach you the ins and outs of macro tracking, building healthy lifestyle habits and sustaining results without restricting the foods you love. Get personalized macros from a WAG Coach, join the members-only Facebook Group and participate in quarterly Live Q&A sessions with WAG Coaches.

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Posted by Andi Petty
Andi is a holistic nutrition coach who believes in a mind, body, soul approach to health and is passionate about helping women transform their life through food, fitness and spirituality.

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