I don’t give out meal plans….
A phrase we are starting to hear more commonly within the fitness industry, but why? Many argue that a meal plan does not educate or create a sustainability for the client, and while this Is true is there more we can learn from a diet plan?
At face value a meal plan is a basic guideline for a client to follow to hit their daily goal, whether that be fat loss, muscle gain or just maintenance. It is a set breakfast, lunch and dinner option that if the client followed would guarantee results. From this you can probably clearly see why most people argue it doesn’t educate clients or provide sustainability.
But simply by opening communications with our clients we can use the meal plan to be one of our greatest tools for educating our clients. Not only this, as stated above by following a meal plan, we can pretty much guarantee the clients results. One thing we talk about in our gym is getting the small wins, your first double under, first pull up or in nutrition losing them first few pounds. The small wins are what allow us to achieve our bigger goals, stay focused and stay positive.
Firstly, we can look at the information we can put in to the diet plan and how that can help the client. By adding calories and macros to the plan we can give a client a very basic visual representation of how their diet should look, by communicating further with the client we can go in to carbs, fats and protein and how these are broken down for the individual. By listing the calories a client can see how much is in the food they eat, we find when clients start their journey they underestimate the calorie value of meals or food. By simply adding a little extra information to our plan and communicating with our client through a paragraph we can already see one benefit.
Secondly, using the meal plan to educate the client on tracking. As stated above in our meal plan we have included calories & macros, this information could easily be transferred over to MyFitnessPal for tracking purposes. If we were to ask a client to track their first week without a meal plan they would get confused with the app & most probably not track everything. If we were to combine a meal plan alongside tracking the client can get educated on tracking their food individually while having a reference point to calories & macros to match them up. If they do not match up this opens up some communication with the coach about where they may have gone wrong or allow them to figure it out themselves. Tracking is an important tool for any individual to use, from those who are obese to those who are looking to drop the last few % of body fat. Teaching a client to track calories & macros can allow them to go on to further sustainability with their diet and the long term goal of understanding tracking without using apps.
Thirdly, the understanding of recipes and nutritional value. When we say diet to a client they immediately think chicken, rice & salads but as we know this is not true. We can use a meal plan to get our client in to the kitchen, cooking & thinking about recipes differently. We can give them foods that they may not think of being diet friendly but that can be changed and applied to do so. We can show them how they can incorporate cheat foods or meals in to their diet, this coupled with understand of tracking can lead to a flexible lifestyle approach. Not only this by prescribing meals you can ensure that clients are getting enough fruit & veg, can make sure they are hitting their micro goals without boring them with the science.
So, to conclude, are diet plans that bad? Sure if we just give someone a plan that has a meal name, no information and leave them it could provide zero education. However by just adding a little information to our meal plans, by opening communications with our clients and giving them solid information a meal plan can be one of the best beginner learning tools.
Crossfit L1/BTN Academy Nutritionist