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Training without adequate nutrition is like trying to drive a car with the wrong type of fuel in it - you won’t get very far. It, therefore, makes sense that the top personal trainers would look to equip their clients with the information required to improve their diet and ensure that it is designed in such a way as to support their fitness goals. However, the level of nutritional advice offered by Personal trainers and online fitness coaches does vary enormously, so it’s worth doing your research to find the right fit for you.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that most PTs won’t be equipped to offer prescriptive nutritional advice. If you have particular nutritional restrictions, requirements or health concerns, this would be the realm of a nutritionist, dietician or a medical practitioner.
However many personal trainers do provide example meal plans that if followed would in theory get you to your goal, the nuance again is that meal plans directly from a personal trainer are not intended to be prescriptive, they are more of a guideline or frame of reference based on a mathematical formula that will lead to the body composition changes you seek.
Other fitness coaches will offer information on calorie and macronutrient intake that will support your goals. This is generally referred to in fitness circles as a 'macronutrient profile' or simply, 'macros'. The intention here is that by following the numbers on your macronutrient profile as closely as possible you will be able to achieve your goals.
The main difference here is that with a meal plan you will have effectively outsourced all of your meal choices to a nutrition expert and they will curate a plan to your preferences, and lay it all out of you, often with a weekly shopping list and of course full recipes for the meals. Whereas with a macronutrient profile where you create your own meal choices and aim to arrive at the right caloric intake and distribution between protein, carbohydrate and fats for the day. Often top personal trainers will give you some guidelines as to how to put your own meals together, as eating the right food to arrive at the right numbers is very important.
We’re all familiar with calories, and many fitness coaches will be able to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and adjust this number based on the amount of activity they are going to give you in their program, and make a calculation that will facilitate your goals.
This figure takes into account your age, weight, height, sex and activity level to give an estimate of the calories that your body is burning each day. If you’re looking to bulk up, then you may end up working with a calorie surplus to literally make sure you have the excess building blocks for gaining muscle, and if you’re looking to shed body fat, or lose weight you’ll likely be working with a calorie deficit.
To get a little more granular on the distribution between Protein, carbohydrate and fats, macronutrients are the larger nutrients that we need an adequate balance of in our diet, each of them playing a vital role in both your training goals and indeed your health.
Below are some meals shared on social media from my online personal training clients following my meal plan:
A qualified personal trainer should be able to offer advice on healthy sources for each of these macronutrients. For example, if I needed 15g of protein from a meal, I might reasonably do this, mathematically speaking with processed meats, like pepperami, but might this have a different effect on my body, energy, and psychology than perhaps grass-fed beef or the protein I could garner from plant-based foods like mushrooms, chickpeas and nuts? In short, most definitely.
Some fitness coaches go further, offering comprehensive meal plans for their clients. For instance, I provide many of my clients with a complete meal plan, comprised of nutritionally diverse meals, designed by a qualified nutritionist. Of course this isn’t the only route to success, some people including many of my online personal training clients prefer the flexibility of planning their own meals, working towards their macronutrient and calorie goals each day and tracking them on a nutrition app like MyFitnessPal (whats cool about my app is that I get to see my clients food diary's tracked on MyFitnessPal through a software sync), while others take a hybrid approach using a set meal plan when they can, and moving over to meal tracking when travelling, or being social
In my experience, there no need to take an overly rigid approach to nutrition, it is frameworks, habits and consistency that pay dividends in the long run, if you are working with the right principles in place, it will only be a matter of time before you achieve your goals.
Ultimately, working directly with a personal trainer whether in person or online, can help to remove guesswork and ensure that you’re correctly fuelling your workouts. The most important thing to note is that working with an expert is going to allow you to sidestep a lot of easily avoided mistakes or even help you break cycles of dieting and restriction that could have been hampering your results for years.