Being a personal trainer is awesome.
Wear shorts and tee shirts to work?
Get to meet and interact with amazing people on a day to day basis?
Make money doing what you love?
Despite this though, being a PT isn’t an easy job. People expect us to be in shape and practice what we preach all the time. Clients may complain about long hours, stress at work, family troubles and a multitude of other factors that prevent them from reaching their goals, but it’s just the same for us. In fact, being a PT can be even more difficult –
– 5am starts. 10pm finishes. 7-day working weeks. Plus more or less living at the gym if you’re a facility-based PT, or spending the whole day between clients’ houses, in parks or in your car if you’re a mobile trainer — managing your nutrition ain’t easy.
So what strategies can we implement for ourselves so that our nutritional plan kicks arse?
We always have tips, tricks and solutions lined up for Dave, the overweight, middle-aged, stressed office worker, who’d rather go to KFC every lunchtime than make his own chicken salad each morning. Or Mandy, the housewife who somehow juggles three kids, a demanding husband, being part of the school PTA and a part-time job as a book keeper, yet won’t find the time to focus on her eating.
A personal training job is a world apart from either of these lifestyles though, so here are 6 simple steps to get your nutrition on point.
The 6 P’s
“Positive Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”
Or Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail for those of you not familiar with military slogans.
This is probably the first tip you give to clients, but too often we forget it ourselves.
There are loads of ways you can do this, but I prefer the batch method:
Every weekend, cook up the bulk of your meals for the week. This will entail grilling chicken breast or steak, cooking up a big beef or turkey chili, chopping and steaming veggies — whatever you need to do to get yourself through five days of eating. I’d aim to make two meals per day. This will give you a lunchtime and an afternoon meal. Then you can prep your evening meal fresh when you get home every night. Cold meat, rice and veggies might be okay during the day, but nobody wants to get home to a slightly soggy piece of salmon with some limp broccoli.
Take this a step further by prepping your pre-work breakfast too, and sticking pre-weighed portions of oats or cereals in Tupperware or weighing out your pre and post-workout shakes, so all you have to do is mix them with water when you come to drink them.
Find Your Plan B
I eat lunch out at least three times a week.
Sometimes, its just easier to stop off somewhere, grab some food and go. Subway is a staple of mine (I’m a two turkey salad bowl kinda guy if you’re buying.)
Look round the local area for places you can go to get a meal that fits your plan and make a list of the top five or six. For places like Subway, or anywhere with more of a fast food type feel, you can even get to know some of the staff, so they know exactly what you want then you get in there and convince them to start making it as soon as they see you. This is a little cheeky, but perhaps throw in the offer of a free PT session, and watch your time stood in line dwindle from 30 minutes to 30 seconds.
Easier said than done, but scheduling breaks is vital.
Personally I know I get hungry around 4 to 5 hours after my last meal, so never see more than 5 clients in a row without a break.
Hungry trainer = grumpy trainer = unhappy client.
This doesn’t give you license to take a 45 minute pit-stop after every client so who can gorge on yet another protein-packed feast, but work out what meal frequency suits you best, then plan in clients around that.
A lot of guys and girls will drink a shake while training clients. I don’t really have a problem with that, provided said trainer checks with the client first (because to the general public, a protein shake is basically steroids ) but it’s not for me. I like to separate training people and eating.
If the worst comes to the worst and you can’t get regular breaks, the next tip is for you …..
Protein, carbs, fat and coffee — the four food groups.
Eating a solid meal, or drinking a shake is always a preferable option over relying on caffeine to get you through an afternoon, but sometimes the land just doesn’t lie that way.
You can have the best intentions in the world, and have planned your breaks for the day perfectly, but if your 3pm session with Sharon gets pushed back as she has to attend a meeting about her kid’s dance classes, then Neil, your 5pm client finishes work early and asks to train at 4 so he can go out for dinner with friends afterwards, you’ve kind of got to go with the flow.
In this instance, I reach for a steaming cup of Joe.
Eat with Clients
Talking about nutrition within a training session doesn’t work.
Trust me on this. I may sound like a mean bastard, but I now refuse to discuss nutrition with clients while they’re exercising. All this does is either mean the client isn’t focusing enough on their training and not working hard, or they’re not paying attention to the discussion on nutrition.
Instead, what I do is pre-book 15 to 20 minutes one session every few weeks to talk about nutrition with a client.
Rather than just sit them down, give them a load of sheets discussing the pros and cons of post-workout carbs, why beef is more anabolic than pork, or scribble all over their food diary in red pen with “must do better” sit them down and have an open one to one chat with them.
During this time – eat a meal.
First up, this makes sure you get your food in — you gotta look after number one!
Secondly, it sets a great example to your client. If you’re telling them about how they should get 2 servings of veggies with every meal, fill half your plate with lean proteins, or eat slowly and savour every mouthful, what better way than to show them?
If they see you doing this, they’re far more likely to follow suit.
Come on, I couldn’t finish a nutrition blog without adding something about tracking and macro counting.
A flexible diet is far easier to stick to as a trainer than a plan that calls for you to eat chicken, rice and broccoli every 3 hours on the dot. This is what I call the “Bro Diet” — it’s the one you saw in Flex magazine back in 1999, yet somehow it’s still around today.
You can’t let your nutrition plan dictate how and when you train your clientele, and a client can get pretty pissed off if you turn down their request for a session, with your reason being “Sorry, that’s exactly 45 minutes after my leg session, so I need to be eating 235 grams of sweet potato, a medium pork tenderloin steak and asparagus at that point.”
Tracking on the other hand, and just focusing on meeting protein, carb and fat targets over the whole day is far, far more flexible and sensible when you’re a trainer.
Miss a meal? No problem, you can eat more later to make up for it.
Just seen a really demanding client, feeling like shit and need a pick-me-up? No problem, your container of wholewheat pasta and tinned tuna can wait until tomorrow. For now, get your carbs from that oh-so-tempting flapjack staring at you from the vending machine, and wash it down with a protein shake.
Want more info on flexible dieting/ macro tracking? Here y’a –
Practicing What You Preach
That’s what it all comes down to. I used to preach more than the Pope on a Sunday to my clients about the importance of nutrition, yet rarely followed by own advice. I hate myself for this though — it was so hypocritical.
Look at yourself objectively for a moment. Pretend you’re another trainer and assess your goals, lifestyle, working schedule and current habits, then look at what you can do to get better.
Let Me Know…..
Are you a personal trainer? What tips have you got to manage your nutrition?
Maybe you work in another job with odd hours, an ever-changing schedule, or certain challenges that make eating right more of a challenge.
Drop your comments below.Tags: diet, flexible dieting, IIFYM, nutrition, nutrition for trainers, nutrition. meal planning, personal trainer
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