The Training and Nutrition Battlefield

How I figure out where to start with my Personal Training clients.

We’ve all been there: you want to get in shape, you want to get Jacked/Shredded/Toned. Interject whichever noun you wish to describe what you want to achieve, but the problem is, you have no idea where to start; which program you should choose for the greatest “gains”; which nutritional approach will be “optimal” and yield the greatest fat loss; and how you can do all of this in the quickest possible timeframe. 

Well, today I’m going to clue you all in on how I triage and set up new clients to maximise results. 




noun: triage

◦ the process of determining the most important people or things from amongst a large number that require attention.



From the French trier ‘separate out’. The current sense dates from the 1930s, from the military system of assessing the wounded on the battlefield.

When viewing a new client there are a number of factors to take into consideration,  so what do you focus on? This is where you need to “triage” the individual in front of you.

It’s really quite simple when you get down to it, although at first it may seem daunting. 

When I get an individual in front of me I “triage” them from both a training and nutrition front. My goal is to find the most realistic set of variables for that individual, because simply put, a realistic plan that is consistently executed will beat an optimal plan done poorly. 

Ok, so when assessing a new client I consider a number of factors:

  1. Level of commitment: how much time are they able to allocate and commit to training? How hard/in depth are they prepared to go on their diet?  There is no point writing a program that covers six days a week if you can really only commit to three sessions. A whole body, three day plan will therefore be more successful than a body part split, six day plan, as you will be much more likely to adhere to it. Further to that, there is no point giving you a 5 meal a day plan with a macro split and Kcal goal when you struggle to fit in three as it island can’t tell the difference between a steak and a cheesecake. Consistency is king when it comes to both training and nutrition, so being able to adhere to the plan is one of the biggest factors involved and realistic becomes optimal when this is factored in. Takeaway if you are doing it on your own, be honest with yourself and decide what level of commitment you can actually sustain.  

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  1. Level of understanding: do you know the difference between a steak and a cheesecake; between a Squat and a Leg Press? In a lot of people their understanding of the variables involved will not be at the same level as that of their coach or the program/nutritional plan they are trying to follow. It’s the coach’s job to triage said individual based on their level of knowledge. Do they have the requisite skill, range of motion and joint health to perform a given exercise? I feel that we should all be looking at it from the point of view of the RTS continuum, which is to ask what they: have; own; tolerate. This way we can get to the best exercise selection and setup for that person as an individual. You should never shoehorn someone into an exercise. Instead, look to make the exercise selection best fit the person. The same points apply to nutrition. If they understand how to work within a macro split then brilliant, if not, perhaps a meal plan or simply adhering to daily habits will be a better choice. Simply looking for the most important thing that individual needs in order to be consistent will mean you are able to get the most out of them. The point here is to meet the person where they are as an individual on their own journey and guide them from that point. Takeaway if you’re going it solo: simply respect where you are on your journey and listen to your body. If you experience joint pain from an exercise or you can’t feel the target muscle, it’s either not being executed correctly or its not a good fit for you. Sometimes you need to regress the exercise in order to make progress with your physique. Learn to walk before you learn to run. 
  1. The Goal: what are they looking to get out of the plan? Are they looking to be bigger or smaller? Is it to get beach lean, ready for a photoshoot? Do they just want to drop a few pounds or are they looking to get to-the-bone peeled? Realistically the training for each will largely be the same, which is to train to gain muscle (hypertrophy). The outcome of the training will largely be dictated by the nutritional status of the individual. In simplistic terms,  a calorific surplus will equate to gaining and a caloric deficit will equate to losing. The reason we should always be looking to train for hypertrophy is that, when in a caloric surplus, you want to give your body a reason to accrue more lean tissue. Conversely, when in a deficit, you want to give your body a reason to hold on to or maintain lean tissue. This style of training will achieve either aim depending on the nutritional status. Takeaway for all you lone wolves out there: always train for more muscle but eat according to your goals.
  1. Timeframe: less important for training to a degree, but very important from the point of view of nutrition, you need to be realistic in your timeframes. Whilst it is possible to drop significant levels of body fat in relatively short order, gaining muscle is a very long term project so don’t go buying into the fitness media hype of gaining 10 lbs of muscle in 4 weeks or whatever the magazine cover is saying. For most humans this simply isn’t naturally possible. If the goal is fat loss then levels of fat and the timeframe dictates how aggressive the diet will need to be. This is where being honest with yourself is important: are you carrying more than a few pounds and can you really handle a very strict diet? Some people can be robots and can just suck up the fact that they are hungry. Others will struggle with adherence. In some individuals, changes in mood becomes an issue the deeper into a diet they get (experience speaking). You need to make a decision to either adjust your timeframes for more realistic expectations, or accept that you are going to need to deal with some potentially deleterious adverse effects.  Takeaway for all the lone survivors amongst you: choose an appropriate timeframe. If you have 20lbs of fat to drop, start early enough to avoid this needing to be tackled with an ultra aggressive approach. Ultimately you want to chose the dietary approach that you can consistently nail over time, rather than the one that delivers the fastest results but leaves you a basket case. 
  1. Preferences: not everyone loves chicken and broccoli. Not everyone loves squats. No one likes f**king burpees! Ultimately you will only be consistent long term if you enjoy what you are doing. The inclusion of foods that genuinely don’t appeal to your palette and exercises you dread will simply lead to you abandoning the plan because it’s just not enjoyable. I personally hate squats because I just don’t feel them in the target muscle and just end up with sore hips and lumbar spine (negative pain); but I love hack squats and leg press which I can lock into and really feel (positive pain). I know people that love kale. I personally hate kale, so it wouldn’t be wise for me to include this in my diet, because eventually I’ll just be a big kid and pretend it’s not there. Takeaway for the Lonestars: choose the approach you find most enjoyable, because once again this will lead to you executing it CONSISTENTLY which is the biggest takeaway point from the whole article.