If you have been working with clients for a while, you have probably encountered more than a handful who are interested in tracking their macros. Perhaps they have even asked you to tell them exactly how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and fat to eat each day.
Sidenote: This isn’t about debating whether macro counting can help people reach their goals. Of course it works, which is why many high level athletes track their macros. This is about considering most people and whether it’s appropriate for them.
In light of this, let’s consider your average Joe client. Let’s call her Janice.
- Janice sleeps five hours a night.
- She barely ever remembers to drink water. Usually it’s coffee on top of coffee to keep her energy levels up.
- She’s stressed out to the nines raising three kids and working a full-time job, and dinner is often a frozen pizza because she got home from work later and her kids were hungry and needed something fast.
Getting Janice to suddenly start diligently counting and tracking her macros is a bit like picking out paint colours and crown mouldings for your house before the foundation has been laid.
In other words, macro counting is a higher level way of eating that most clients aren’t ready for, because their foundation—or as OPEX Fitness calls them their BLGs (basic lifestyle guidelines)—are weak (or non-existent).
In short, for most people, macros are a “lower order conversation,” said OPEX Founder James FitzGerald.
So if not macros as a prescription for our clients, then what?
“It’s actually pretty simple,” Fitzgerald explained.
Five Things to Focus on Before Macros, Recommended by FitzGerald
Disclaimer: While there’s no one-size fits all prescription for exercise prescription, nutrition, or lifestyle choices, there are some important things to learn about your clients before you start getting into rigid macronutrient prescriptions. This is all covered in the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP).
1. Ask about their poop
It might sound strange, but as FitzGerald explained, consistent poops that aren’t too runny and aren’t too hard to pass, are “an indisputable barometer of health,” he said.
On the other hand, if people are living with constant diarrhea or frequent constipation, it’s a sign that their digestion and absorption is messed up.
“You can layer these people in salmon and broccoli” and dial their macros to a T, and they’re still not going to see the results, he explained.
For this client: Ask them to track their poop (frequency, texture, color etc) for two weeks instead of tracking their carbs.
2. Ask about their food environment
Ask your clients whether they eat standing up and in a rush, or relaxed and sitting down. Again, this might sound strange, but if your client is always anxious, as many people are, “it doesn’t matter how well they eat,” FitzGerald explained.
The larger priority needs to be finding ways to get them out of their constant state of elevated anxiety. For this person, the most important thing is likely to be calming their nervous system.
For this client: Prescribe a new way of eating dinner: Sit down, take 20 minutes and lose your phone.
3. Ask about how much they chew
Is your client a speed eater?
Dig into how much your clients are chewing their food, FitzGerald recommends.
Digestive disorders, from GERD and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, to constipation, gallstones and leaky gut, are believed to affect 60 to 70 million Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
And digestion starts in the mouth. Chewing your food more—FitzGerald recommends as many as 30 chews per bite—helps improve both digestion and absorption, and is a simple, easy habit to get your clients practicing.
For this client: Ask them to slow down and chew each bite as much as possible.
4. Ask about their water consumption
Ever ask your clients about how much water they drink?
If you did, you’d probably be surprised to find how many aren’t drinking enough.
Although eight glasses of water has long been the accepted amount of water to drink, this doesn’t take into account age, size, climate, or the amount of exercise the person does. In general, FitzGerald recommends drinking at least 50 percent of your bodyweight in pounds, measured in ounces of water per day.
Note: Not drinking enough water is associated with various problems, such as falls and fractures, heat stroke, heart disease, lung disorders, kidney disease, kidney stones, bladder and colon cancers, urinary tract infections, cavities, decreased immune function, the list goes on.
For this client: Consider a simple prescription like having them drink a glass of water the moment they wake up, or start bringing a water bottle to work each day.
5. Ask about their sleep
As prevalent as digestive disorders might just be sleep problems: It is believed that between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from some kind of sleep disorder, be it insomnia, sleep apnea and trouble falling asleep.
So before you get into deciding that your client’s optimal nutrition plan is 200 grams of carbs, 150 grams of protein and 75 grams of fat each day, it’s worth looking into their sleep—not just how much they’re sleeping, but their sleep habits.
Do they go to bed (give or take) at the same time each night? Do they wake up at a consistent time? Do they wake up to pee or have a drink?
Words from FitzGerald: By the way, if you’re waking up to pee or drink, it’s probably not why you woke up. You probably woke up because you had a cortisol spike, and when that woke you up, you realized you were thirsty.
For this client: Focus on going to bed and waking up (give or take 15-30 minutes) at the same time each day to develop some more consistent sleep.
The Bottom Line:
Before we worry about finding the perfect cabinet handles for your kitchen, let’s lay a solid foundation for our house to sit on, then build the walls, put on the roof, and then eventually earn the right to get to the small details.
The same is true of your clients: Just like they have to earn the right to start working on a skill like a muscle up, they have to earn the right to track their macros.
- Before this, work with them on building their basic lifestyle guidelines first—chewing their food, drinking water, getting adequate sleep—to lay a strong foundation for long term success.