You did it. You and your calculator created the perfect nutrition program for your client. The macros are spot on based on “the book” and their performance and lifestyle goals. You can’t wait to hear what they think and you send it off feeling confident.

Then, you receive a panicked response with tons of questions. Or maybe you hear crickets and when you reach out, you learn that they’re overwhelmed and doubting their ability to succeed.

Here is the secret to creating the perfect nutrition plan for your client: what is “perfect” for them is the plan that meets them where they’re at. The “perfect” plan takes more than just the numbers into account. Here is why.

The Power of Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is your client’s belief in their ability to succeed in specific situations and reach their goals. It is the most important thing you can nurture as a coach and you need to protect it like an angry mother bear.

Take a step back and try to remember what it feels like to be new at something. Being a beginner is scary, right? Add the stress, pressure and vulnerability that often comes along with wanting to improve body composition and/or performance and you have the perfect storm for overwhelm.

As a coach, it is your job to make sure that your client begins their journey with confidence. This will set the groundwork to build from together and increase their buy-in to both your program and you as a coach and partner in their journey.

The Perfect Nutrition Program is a Compromise

Just like a strength program won’t get your client gains if they skip the workouts, a macro program won’t get them results if they’re not hitting their targets.

So, you can’t just throw them your ideal numbers, tell them “hit your macros” and expect the rest to take care of itself.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • How much are they eating right now? Will the calorie intake you’ve prescribed feel extremely limiting and hard to follow? Will it feel overwhelming if they’ve been chronically undereating?
  • How much protein are they currently eating? What protein prescription challenges your client to bring more awareness to their intake without feeling overwhelming?
  • What foods do they prefer? Are they eating foods with higher carbs or higher fats?

Start by creating an “in a perfect world” set of starting targets. Then tweak them around based on what you know about your client.

Need a more concrete example?

Meet your new client John. He has counted macros before and lays out a day of eating for you in his initial questionnaire/communication. You estimate he is getting around 120g of protein by the end of the day and believe he needs to be eating closer to 200g of protein per day to reach his goals.

An 80g protein jump will feel extremely significant for him. So, you meet in the middle and prescribe 160g protein/day. You also let him know that you’re full of different protein ideas and remind him that this is not about perfection. Then, you slowly build to 160g per day together.

As a coach, you know that the macros you prescribe for your client don’t do a darn thing if your client isn’t hitting them consistently. This means it is YOUR job to make sure that you’re fostering their self-efficacy and meeting them in the middle to build to a more ideal macro prescription they can be consistent with.

The Perfect Nutrition Program Is More than Numbers

What about clients who are new to tracking?

Remember that protecting your client’s self-efficacy is your priority as a coach. Sometimes, this means creating a program with some expectations that don’t start with tracking and hitting macros perfectly.

Here are a few ways you can work with a client who may find hitting macro targets overwhelming at first...

  1. Tracking app + no food scale + no macro targets. Encourage them to use cup/spoon measurements instead of a food scale. This will help them bring some awareness to food habits and choices without changing eating habits and while getting familiar with their tracking app.

  2. Tracking app + food scale + no macro targets. Like option #1, this doesn’t ask them to change their eating habits yet. But, they’ll be learning how to use a food scale and how to use a tracking app.

  3. Just tracking and aiming for one macro. We recommend starting with protein as it helps with muscle retention, satiety and metabolism. It also tends to be the macro that most people skimp on at first. Encouraging them to track and hit protein without worrying about carbs/fats yet is a great way to build confidence and food/tracking habits.

There may also be situations when you decide to work with a client on one meal at a time or one macro at a time without tracking a single thing. It is up to you as a coach to decide what makes the most sense to create some accountability for your client while ensuring they’re building their confidence.

At WAG, our coaches and clients use our custom software, Seismic. It allows coaches to turn macros and other tracking metrics (meals out, hydration, alcohol intake, etc.) on and off to personalize their client’s experience based on where they are in their journey.

We teach our coaches and coach certification students how to analyze a client’s initial questionnaire to assess a client’s current nutrition and lifestyle. This allows them to set macros that are realistic for a client given their ideal starting place not the coach's ideal starting place. We encourage you to do the same.