First and foremost, I want to say – the beauty of having a coach is, everything you get is individualized to you.
You’re NOT following a template that worked for your friend – you’re following a nutrition and training strategy designed specifically for your goals, lifestyle, and training and diet history.
That said, since the goal is always to provide you as much free education as possible to improve your body composition, this blog is a summary of a few strategies I’ve learned as a coach that will likely be very effective for you.
I always recommend working with a coach, especially if you’re trying to successfully change your body composition for the first time.
The knowledge and education you’ll receive in 3-6 months sets you up for a lifetime of sustainable results you would have a much harder time achieving without being properly educated.
That said, I consider the following strategies a pretty safe bet to get you solid results:
→ STRATEGY 1: High Protein | High Carb | Low Fat Macro Split For Fat Loss Or Building Lean Muscle
Again, macros are very individualized. I’ve coached women and men to a very lean condition on low-carb, high-carb, and everything in between. The most important factor is that we find a diet structure that fits you.
That said, I like this macros split for many people.
Here’s the logic:
Protein: We know that if you want to reshape your body composition to create a leaner, stronger you, we have to get you eating adequate protein. Protein is literally the building block for lean muscle.
Protein is also very satiating. While dieting, obviously this is very useful for eliminating hunger. One of the biggest things I focus on within nutrition coaching is educating you as a client on how to change your food choices to manage your satiety – which is a big part of why my clients get such sustainable results. We’re changing behaviors, instead of blindly following a meal plan.
Finally, we’re taking advantage of the thermic effect of protein (it burns lots of calories during digestion), and the fact the protein seems to be harder to store as fat.
On this macro split, I typically set online client’s protein intake somewhere in the 1-1.2g/lb body weight range.
Fat: Fat plays a key role in hormonal production and function. If you’re under-eating fat, key hormones won’t be produced in adequate levels. This results in hormonal imbalances, poor training, and poor recovery. All of this adds up to your body composition shifting for the worse.
To prevent this from happening, I set online nutrition clients a minimum fat threshold that needs to be reached. This is generally around .3-.4g fat/lb of body weight (Usually on the higher end for women, lower end for men).
The thing to realize is, eating more fat than this does not supercharge your hormones. As long as clients are eating at the threshold, they’re reaping most of the benefits of fat.
Carbs: Carbs are your body’s preferred fuel source.
When we’re feeding you carbs, you’re much better able to push yourself hard in the gym. Your recovery is better, muscle glycogen stores are more full, and even sleep can improve.
Needless to say, all these factors make a major difference in changing your body composition for the better. So for clients that want to build leaner, stronger physiques, this approach makes sense.
After setting your protein and fat macros, we simply drive carbs as high as possible to fill your remaining calories.
→ STRATEGY 2: Protein-Sparing Modified Fast Days For Fat Loss
This is a strategy that I learned about years ago from Lyle McDonald, but I’ve only implemented relatively recently within the last year of coaching.
That said, I’ve seen great success implementing PSMF days with my more advanced clients. We used this exact strategy extensively in my client Rachel’s Transformation To Photoshoot Lean.
Here’s the idea:
Typically, when I make a macro adjustment for you, it’ll be a reduction of ~5-10% of your weekly total calories – roughly 500-1000 calories for most clients.
Now, obviously these calorie reductions have to come from somewhere. We can either drop a 100-200 calories from every day of the week (which really bums most people out), or we can knock out that entire deficit in one day, and leave food intake the same the rest of the week.
The goal is to keep calories as low as possible, while still hitting your protein goal. Basically, you just focus on eating lean proteins and lots of veggies. So your day could look something like:
Nothing magic about this approach, but it makes the diet much easier to adhere to for most people. When you nutrition coach with me, we always prioritize finding a diet you can adhere to over all else. That’s how we create sustainable results.
→ STRATEGY 3: The 5|2 Macro Split For Weekend Warriors
Your nutrition strategy has to fit your lifestyle in order to achieve sustainable results.
I know, I know. I sound like a broken record at this point, but it’s very true.
I used to struggle with clients that liked to go out on the weekends. They’d be on point all week, and then kill all of their progress on the weekends.
Then the 5|2 split is probably a good approach for you as well.
If we know our clients will be very compliant to the macros goals we give them during the week, but are likely to splurge during the weekends… why not give them macros that increase on the weekends and are lower during the week? Makes way more sense than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, right?
Here’s how it works:
For five consecutive days, we have you in a calorie deficit. This is where we’re creating fat loss within your diet.
This is followed by two consecutive days with calories at your maintenance intake (usually on the weekends).
Not only does this strategy give you more freedom to enjoy your life while simultaneously getting leaner, but studies have shown the 48 hours+ of increased carb intake can help prevent negative hormonal and metabolic adaptations to dieting.
Now, if we’re talking from the perspective of preventing metabolic adaptation, the 5|2 isn’t as effective as an 11/3 or Matador approach – but it is the most effective strategy I’ve found if you want to get leaner and stronger while also enjoying your weekends.
→ STRATEGY 4: “Macros Simplified” – Calorie + Protein Goal Only For Lifestyle Clients
Simple = Good.
As a coach, I love nerding out about all things nutrition and training.
I have to eat different macros daily to achieve 1% better results?
Yep. Sign me up.
One thing that’s helped me a lot as a coach is realizing that as a client, you probably don’t think like this (unless you’re also a coach).
Really, you probably want to think about your food and macros as little as possible.
Now, macros do allow us to get very specific within your nutrition. This means they’re a good idea for online clients that want very specific results (photoshoots, bodybuilding shows, etc.).
That said, if your focus is on getting leaner and creating a
sustainably healthy lifestyle without worrying too much about all of
this, we can get you great results by simply focusing on your overall
calories and protein.
I feel confident prescribing this to clients, in a big part thanks to the 2018 DIETFITS Study, which showed that there is no noticeable difference when it comes to fat loss when we compare a low-carb approach to a low-fat approach.
So, I assign you a calorie and protein goal (we have to account for these to create optimal body composition), and educate you on how to make filling, nutrient-dense food choices. From there, you let carbs and fats fall where they may within the scheme of your day.
I’ve used this approach with a lot of lifestyle-focused clients over the years to achieve great, sustainable results.
→ STRATEGY 5: The “Pre-Drinking” Meal
Ever been on a diet, firmly committed to only having three drinks (that’s all that fits your macros)… only to end up at Taco Bell at 2am?
Yeahhh, me too.
The two of us aren’t alone in this either.
For a long time, I was frustrated trying to figure out why my weekend warrior clients (and myself) couldn’t seem to balance fat loss and drinking alcohol.
Then I had an epiphany, of sorts.
It’s not the fact that you’re drinking alcohol itself that’s killing your progress (I teach you as a client how to make smart drink choices which will keep calories low).
It’s drunk-eating thousands of calories after the fact that kills your progress.
I realized problem was really being exasperated by clients starting drinking on an empty (and hungry) stomach in an attempt to “save up” calories for booze.
While a good idea in theory… if you start drinking on an empty stomach, you’ll be absolutely famished by the end of the night. Not to mention, willpower also drops as you drink. This combination almost inevitably leads to drunk eating.
The strategy I came up with to prevent this?
Drink on a full stomach.
We already talked about how protein is the macro that keeps you full, longest.
Fibrous carbs are the second most satiating.
So, the “pre-drinking meal” is simply a combination of these two elements (25g+ lean protein / 25g+ fibrous carbs). Personally, I usually go with chicken breast and a sweet potato.
This has you super full through most of the night. The cases of drunk eating reported in client weekly check-ins have dropped tremendously since implementing this strategy with all of my nutrition clients.
Even if eating this meal before going out pushes you over your calories for the day, I still always push clients to implement it. Think of it as damage control. You’re much less likely to drunk eat with this strategy.
→ STRATEGY 6: The Lifestyle Diet To Stay Sustainably Lean and Strong, Year Round (Without Making The Rest Of Your Life Suck)
People struggle to sustain results when they don’t receive education on how to change actual behaviors. Instead, we’re typically presented with quick fixes.
I personally struggled with this for years.
I’d go on an intense diet, restricting myself severely.
As soon as I got the result I wanted, I’d stop doing everything that got me there – I hated the process that it took to get as lean as I wanted, and couldn’t maintain it.
Luckily, I eventually found a better, much more sustainable way through years of trail and error with myself and working with hundreds of men and women in-person and online.
I call it The Lifestyle Diet.
A few paragraphs won’t do it justice, which is exactly why I have a whole blog designed to educate you on exactly how to build more sustainability into your nutrition practices with The Lifestyle Diet. Read all about it here.
→ STRATEGY 7: 3X/Week Training Split For Lifestyle Clients
Most people think that to create the body they want, they’ll have to live in the gym. New clients are always shocked on our initial strategy call when I mention they likely only need to train 3x/week to build a body that looks, moves, and feels the way they want.
The key here is really separating you from the belief that going to the gym = fat loss.
Really, a nutrition plan that fits your lifestyle = fat loss. The gym is where you build strength and lean muscle.
By pairing a great nutrition strategy with a smart training program, you don’t have to live in the gym to build the body you want.
Training 3x/week is also a solid option for anyone who is super busy, and just can’t commit to more than that.
Here are a few ways to create the most optimal 3x/week split for yourself or your clients (excerpts from Finding The Most Optimal Training Split For Your Goals And Lifestyle).
3X/Week Full Body:
3X/Week Full Body/Upper/Lower:
→ STRATEGY 8: 4X/Week Upper/Lower Split For Intermediate & Aesthetic Focused Clients
The upper/lower split is a classic. It really allows most clients to reach a high enough level of volume to continue to progress for a long time.
It also allows you to train clients more concurrently, with an emphasis both on strength and building lean muscle.
Finally, the fact that you have more time in a week to train also means that I can program more fun, adherence promoting movements and finishers that you as a client will enjoy more.
This is one of the most common training splits I program.
As with 3x/week training, most clients will find that they don’t need near as much time in the gym as they previously thought to create the bodies they want, now that they’re following smart training and nutrition programming.
Click here to download a free, 4 week upper/lower split designed to help you achieve your leanest, strongest body ever.
→ STRATEGY 9: Programming Mostly Aerobic (Low-Intensity) Cardio
Many clients start online coaching with me doing lots of HIIT training in an attempt to get leaner.
We dial this back promptly, in exchange for more training volume and less stressful, lower-intensity cardio.
Now, while cardio does help fat loss – it’s not nearly as important as nutrition.
So the fact that clients are also now following (often for the first time) a proper nutrition strategy, means they can dial back the cardio and get better fat loss results.
You also have to realize that in a fat loss phase, you have limited recovery resources.
If your goal – like 99% of my clients – is to get leaner and stronger, we want as many of those recovery resources as possible going towards helping you recover form your lifting sessions. This is how you’ll create more lean muscle.
Problem is, moderate and high-intensity cardio take quite a bit to recover from, meaning that if you’re doing lots of HIIT or MISS, you have fewer recovery resources to promote your actually progress in the gym.
Meanwhile, low-intensity cardio actually does a lot to help you recover better and make more progress within your lifting sessions. A higher level of aerobic fitness will translate to faster recovery and likely heavier weight lifted (due to decreased fatigue) between sets.
Plus, as your aerobic system develops, the parasympathetic nervous system response increases – basically, higher aerobic fitness allows you to get back into a “rest & digest” state more quickly after training, which will translate to better fat loss, quicker recovery, and more lean, defined muscle.
→ STRATEGY 10: Metric Trackers
I’ve talked endlessly about how important tracking metrics is for you to achieve the body and life that you want.
Client metric trackers are shared via Google Sheets. You track a lot of crucial information in here:
Here’s a sample of what my client’s metric trackers look like ↴
→ STRATEGY 11: Collaborating With Clients Instead Of Prescribing
I hate being told what to do.
Your probably do to.
Same goes for all my clients.
Something that has helped all of my online client’s results tremendously?
Instead of just prescribing or telling clients what to do, asking them: “What do YOU think is the easiest approach for you to stick to here?”
One of the most fundamental things human value is autonomy.
When we feel like we are the ones in control, we’re much happier, and much more likely to follow through.
This is exactly why I go out of my way to present online clients multiple options any time we make an adjustment.
“Would it be easier for you to add cardio, decrease calories or a combination of both?”
“Would you stick to your macros better if they were structured like ____ OR _____?”
You get the idea. Me coaching you isn’t just telling you what to do. It’s helping you get out of your own way, and realize how much you’re really capable of.
→ STRATEGY 12: Educating Is Priority #1 For All Clients
When I first started coaching, I was worried that if I taught my clients too much, they’d leave.
But, a few years ago, I had the realization that my goal wasn’t to create a bunch of co-dependent relationships with clients who wouldn’t be able to succeed without me.
My mission is to create a movement of empowered, badass people. I want you to feel lean, strong, confident, and always know that you have complete control of how your body changes.
Obviously, this requires teaching you a lot – which is exactly why education is such a major emphasis of my coaching service now.
This is the why behind the months long education course I created that takes you as an online client through everything A-Z as far as nutrition, training, and behavior change go.
This is also why I constantly create so much free educational content in the form of blogs, social media posts, and videos.
If we work together for six months, and you’re entirely capable of managing your training and nutrition on your own, I’ve done an amazing job as your coach.
Education allows me to make a permanent positive impact on your life, long after we’re done working together.
The more you as a client know about how to manipulate your training and nutrition to change your body composition, the more tools your have to bring a better, more confident version of yourself to the world.
Helping people achieve this is why I’m so passionate about education, and coaching as a whole.
Jeremiah Bair is a certified nutrition coach, strength coach, and owner of the Online Coaching Business Bairfit. His Instagram is noticeably missing any calf pictures.