What do you need to know - and say - when coaching a vegan client?
VEGAN OR PLANT BASED?
Veganism has been on the rise over the past few years, with obvious implications for fitpros.
10 years ago, the chances of you having a vegan client were minimal.
These days, it won’t be unusual for you to have fully vegan, part vegan, or “trying it out for a month” vegan clients on your books.
Veganism is defined as the elimination of any animal-based products from the diet, this will include honey.
Some vegan clients will extend their vegan beliefs to footwear, kit, and apparel (leather being the obvious culprit)
You need to be aware that a person’s vegan ethics can affect details of their life that you might not anticipate as a non-vegan coach.
The term plant-based eating has gained popularity in recent years.
This can mean someone is fully vegan, but it can also refer to someone who prefers to eat plants and legumes when possible.
The best approach to understanding your client’s individual approach to veganism?
CONSIDERATIONS FOR TRAINING A VEGAN CLIENT.
When you take on a vegan client, you’ll need to think about how their vegan diet might impact their training or recovery and how you will need to programme around their food preferences.
VEGAN MACRO DIET COACHING
For a meat eater, it’s difficult to comprehend how difficult it can be to cleanly hit macros on a plant based diet.
The reason is simply. Vegan foods are rarely “one macro” foods.
There are very few vegan friendly foods that are purely protein, for example. Tofu, soy beans/edamame, beans, pulses, and legumes are also great sources of protein. But they are inherently bound up with carbohydrate (or less commonly some fat).
So it’s not easy for a vegan client to “just bump up protein intake” by 25g a day. Meat eaters could chop a little extra chicken breast onto a salad, or add a few extra egg whites into an omelette.
Vegans need to get a bit more strategic.
This means vegan clients tend to be more diligent, creative, and happy to seek out variety in their food intake. At least once they have been educated about macros, tracking, and meal prep.
HIGHER CARB BY NECESSITY
Vegan clients tend to gravitate towards a higher-carb approach, especially if they’ve been eating a vegan diet for many years.
Your fat loss clients might need to get more of their carbs from plant sources (fruits, vegetables, root veg, pulses, legumes...)
And your maintenance, weight gain, or endurance clients could boost carb intake with pasta, rice and other grains.
Vegan protein sources are not always complete (meaning they do not always contain a full balance of essential amino acids).
Protein is made of 20 amino acids, some of which are “essential” (they can’t be produced by the body).
For this reason, you should work with vegan clients to ensure they get a balanced intake of macros, micros, and amino acids across their day.
This will mean smart combinations of foods (nut butter on wholegrain bread, cornbread with bean chili, red bean stew and rice).
Other ideas could be a tofu stir-fry with rice noodles, fruit smoothie with soy milk and vegan protein powder, hearty bean casseroles or stews, salads with olives, legumes, and hummus.
VEGAN PROTEIN SOURCES
- vegan protein powders (soy, hemp, pea, brown rice or a blend)
- dairy free milks
- nuts, seeds
- nut and seed butters
- soy beans/edamame
- seitan (made from wheat gluten)
- beans and legumes
- lentils and pulses
- quinoa and millet (and other grains to a lesser extent)
- sprouted beans
- dark leafy greens (and all vegetables to a lesser extent)
COACHING A VEGAN CLIENT
There are lots of things you need to think about when coaching a vegan client. But - at the same time - there are not so many differences. And you certainly shouldn’t make their veganism a bit deal.
Question, but never challenge.
Be curious, but never judge. Accept their choices (whether or not you agree!).
Get on with your job of improving their health, body composition, strength, and performance.
There are no rules about programming for a vegan client.
Everyone is an individual, and their veganism is just one more factor in this person’s individuality.
If their diet is deficient in key minerals (or calories!) then this is likely to impact strength, performance, or recovery.
But you can step-in and advise, improving their nutrition so they can cope with training and recovery.
Veganism will not inherently mean a client is weaker, less able to deal with volume or load, or more likely to get injured.
But you do need to consider that a vegan client might come to you with nutritional deficiencies (especially if they are a new vegan)
Here are some nutrient deficiencies to look out for.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR VEGANS
There are no non-animal sources of B12, so vegans need to supplement with it. B12 is important for cell growth, bone marrow, gastrointestinal health, and nervous system function.
Vegan clients can be deficient in heme (one form of iron) as this is found in animal
products. Ensure adequate heme and non- heme iron intake for your vegan clients,
especially females of menstruating age.
Creatine is a great all-round supplement for strength and power. But it’s mostly found in muscle tissue, so vegans will struggle to get it from diet alone.
Carnitine is mostly found in meat and milk, so your vegan clients may benefit from supplementing with l-carnitine.
For 9 years FitPro Cookbooks has produced vegan recipes on a monthly basis.
All my 3 kids are vegan, and while not one now, I was back in 1986+
FitPro Cookbooks has always catered very well for your vegetarian & vegan (as well as the carnivores)
You can check out the full range of what we do & how we help YOU by joining the no-strings trial at www.fitprocookbooks.com
Protein in the real world… how much is enough for a normal client
In recent years, personal trainers around the world have turned to one macronutrient in particular, and hailed it as the Michael Jordan of the nutrition world.
It can speed up our clients' recovery from training sessions, prevent muscle loss as they diet and age and keep them ‘fuller for longer’ between meals.
In fact, here’s a list of many more benefits of protein intake you may not even have known about:
A pretty powerful macronutrient, i’m sure you’ll agree.
Let’s quickly turn to the scientific research in the area. Across the studies, you’ll find recommendations of anywhere from 1.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day (1.2 g/kg/d) up to (& beyond) 3.3 g/kg/d. Better yet, the research shows that there aren’t many negative effects in the short- or medium- term of having protein intakes that high.
Therefore, should every trainer get their clients to consume as much protein as possible, because nothing bad could happen?
This is the part where you now separate yourself from the pack and become better than the rest.
We cannot deny that the research into protein is great, and promising for all of the benefits we’d love to see in clients. But the research doesn’t take into account one EXTREMELY important thing:
The people they study are NOT our clients.
Now, the average client - works 8am - 6pm, ‘wants to lose weight and be more toned’, whilst exercising 2-4 times a week. If you can make that happen for your client, you’ve won.
The truth is, your client (more than likely), couldn’t care less how many grams of protein they have per day. They just want to be told what they can eat to reach their goals.
[Pro tip… they won’t be eating 3.3 g/kg/day, ESPECIALLY when in an energy deficit]
So here’s where you can start with your client
First, meet them where they are at (because if you don’t and you just give them a target of 3-4 x their current intake, you’ll be setting them up for failure, they’ll feel like a failure, and they’ll wonder what’s the point)
Find out how much protein they’re having already. You can get them to track their foods for a couple of days via an app such as MyFitnessPal, or get them to send you photographs of every meal they have for 3 days. These aren’t foolproof of course, but they’ll at least give you a rough idea at the very least.
With this information, you can calculate their estimated protein intake per day.
For example your 70 kg female is eating 60 grams of protein per day. 60 (grams) divided by 70 (kg) = 0.86 g/kg/day.
0.86 g/kg/day is lower than the recommended 1.2 - 3.3 g/kg/day. So yes, your client will need to increase their protein. But seeing something lower than 1.2 g/kg/d doesn’t mean you have to hit the panic button straight away and have a meltdown.
Now, the next task is to fit an improved protein intake into their daily routine, without changing too much at once. One thing at a time makes the transition smoother, and much easier for your client.
If your client is creative in the kitchen, you can offer suggestions to the types of foods they can purchase from the supermarkets that are higher in protein (some examples are below for you).
For clients that aren’t so creative in the kitchen, and love to follow recipes, then supplying them with easy-to-follow, great tasting recipes (like the one below) can be a game-changer for them!
Providing your clients are adhering to their energy deficit (ideally through a combination of their resistance/cardiovascular training & their nutrition), then they’ll be on their road to results.
If this routine means your client is now happy with their lifestyle and the results they are getting. Fantastic news - you can start to focus on other aspects of their training, nutrition or lifestyle to keep their journey fun, inspiring and habitual. You don’t NEED to be looking for new ways to bump their protein intakes up, just because it’s not much higher than 1.2 g/kg/day.
Your client is HAPPY, and GETTING RESULTS. That’s what they pay you for.
Of course, if your client still isn’t quite happy with their routine, and wants to increase their protein intake - then help them do that until they are.
Work with them over time to change their habits to get to a point where everything seems easy and automatic, and they don’t have to think about how much protein they’re having every day. Nobody wants to have to track every meal, every day, for the rest of their lives.
If you’re a trainer who is looking to take their nutrition service to the next level, providing their clients with hundreds of great-tasting, easy-to-follow recipes that are high in protein then you may want to consider Fit Pro Cookbooks
As a trainer, you’ve probably heard about fasting before.
Essentially, it’s a period of time where you restrict your energy intake to very-low, or even no intake, alternated with periods of time where you allow energy intake.
The more popular (almost trendy) fasting strategies you’ll see are:
Generally, these diets are given to their clients by trainers as ways to accelerate weight-loss by restricting energy intake for a number of days per week, or for a number of hours per day (within a 24-hour cycle).
Before we go on, you must understand there is nothing magical about fasting from a weight loss perspective. It should come as no surprise to you as a trainer, that getting your client to restrict their energy intake, and get them into an energy deficit will contribute to successful weight/fat loss.
But this isn’t to say it couldn’t be a fantastic protocol to build into your client’s lifestyle to help them achieve amazing results.
So let’s dig into whether fasting could be a great fit for your client, and how you could implement it.
Why Would You Consider Using Fasting with Your Client?
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