As a coach, you need to understand a fair bit about carbohydrates. You need to understand what they are, how they work, where you can get them from in your diet and when would be good for your clients to be consuming the carbohydrates.
But when it comes to your clients, they don't need to understand all of this. They need to understand what foods they are going to eat and how much of that food should they be eating to get the results they're looking for.
Ultimately, clients come to us as trainers because they want results. They don't need to understand the ins and outs of carbohydrates to do that. So, whenever you're communicating towards your clients, you can think science, but you need to make sure that you speak in terms your client will understand.
So what are carbohydrates? Carbohydrates are one macronutrient out of the three main ones that we find in our food. The other two being fats and protein. You may hear carbohydrates being spoken about as either one of two types. There are simple carbohydrates and there are complex carbohydrates. The simple carbohydrates are very small sugar molecules. Two of the main ones that you will hear about more frequently are glucose and fructose. The complex carbohydrates are longer chains of simple carbohydrates, typically for storage purposes. Glycogen is the human storage version of glucose.
Fibre is a hard to digest complex carbohydrate that we find in our diets. It offers very little energy to our daily energy intake. But it does offer some useful health benefits, such as …
Regardless of what type of carbohydrate we consume, the body's goal is to break it down into its smallest form (glucose). Glucose is what the body uses for fuel to create energy for daily activities and exercise execution. The body also uses fat for these things when it's low intensity, but glucose is its preferred form because it's much quicker to metabolize and break down. When we're consuming carbohydrates, if there isn't an urgent need for these glucose molecules, the body can store it for future use.
The body can store glucose in the liver (predominantly) and in the muscles as glycogen. So it’s important to understand as a coach, the importance of carbohydrate consumption, and the potential it has for improving your clients performance during exercise, in their pursuit of their goals.
Now, what we need to make clear and understand as coaches is that there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to carbohydrates. There are people out there that enjoy and prefer a low carbohydrate diet and can do well on it. Then there are other people that like a higher carbohydrate diet and also reach their goals, whatever they may be.
If you look at advice given by the SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) in 2015, they suggested, that the general population (i.e. our day to day people that we work with that are not athletes competing in sporting events) will likely consume on average 50% of their diet from carbohydrate.
As trainers, we need to understand that our clients may consume less than or more than 50% when they come to us. It could be due to lack of knowledge, or personal preferences, which we’ll come onto a bit later.
Another thing to note, is that percentages do not tell you a lot about how many calories are coming from carbohydrates. Knowing that 1 gram of carbohydrate supplies our body’s with ~ 4 kcal is important when it comes to advising our clients how much carbohydrate they need to consume across every day/week.
Once you have an idea of how much your client's going to be consuming, from a total calorie perspective and in respect to their macronutrient breakdown, you need to relay this information to your client in a clear manner. They will want to know what foods contain carbohydrates and how much of them they should eat.
Sometimes, this is easier said than done, due to the pre-conceptions that clients may have based around carbohydrates. Clients may fear that carbs will cause them to gain weight instantly, or increase their chances of medical conditions such as diabetes.
When educating your clients / telling them what carbohydrates to look into, you will need to have a good idea about the sources of carbohydrate, and why both simple and complex carbohydrates play a role in our day-to-day diets.
Some carbohydrates are going to be higher in fibre (the complex carbohydrates) compared to others (the simple carbohydrates).
Foods higher in fibre are:
Other carbohydrate sources include:
Now you've been able to explain to your client where they can get their carbohydrate sources from, it's good to have an idea of when a better time could be (because there's no real such thing as good and bad) for your clients to be consuming carbohydrates. We know from the research that post exercise carbohydrate intake can be useful, as the body is more readily prepared to absorb carbohydrates and replenish both the muscle and liver glycogen that's been used during a bout of exercise.
There is also research coming out within the realm of Chrononutrition, with the research suggesting that it may be beneficial having carbohydrates earlier in the day, when the body is in a more efficient position to metabolise this carbohydrate. But this isn't to say that having carbohydrates at night-time is going to be negative for your client, but a reduced/limited portion could be more advantageous and their health compared to a large portion.
Considerations when working with clients
Despite the ins and outs of understanding carbohydrates themselves, one of the most important factors you need to take into account is the preferences of your client. You may have clients that prefer carbohydrate-based foods (they might have a sweet tooth). This could lead to them desiring a slightly higher percentage of their daily intake being carbohydrates compared to their fat intake.
On the contrary, you may have a client that prefers fat-based foods. So you may need to reduce your carbohydrate percentage to allow for more fats being consumed during the day.
Another very important factor to consider with your clients is their day-to-day routine. What happens at work? When do they work out? Do they work out in the morning, the middle of the day or the evening? Do they have children? What does their home life look like? When is it convenient for them to consume food? In order for them succeed whilst living a busy life, as a coach you need to make the nutrition into something that's enjoyable and easy to follow within their lifestyle.
Across working with many clients, you will undoubtedly come across people with varied perceptions and preconceptions of carbohydrates. You may not be able to convince your client straight away that they have to consume carbohydrates, especially if they've got a preconception that carbohydrates are bad for them. So there's going to need to be an education process that goes on within your business for your clients to help them build a better understanding of them, to allow them to then build on their current views and perceptions.
Looking for the easiest way to give your clients custom-branded recipes, meal planners, and nutrition content? Save Time And Add Value To Your Fitness Business Create Meal Plans Online
The original done-for-you online nutrition resource for Personal Trainers and Coaches who want to level up and give clients incredible online nutrition tools.