Guide to Creating Meal Plans For Your Clients

In this guide we explore what advice personal trainers can and can’t give when it comes to nutrition and meal planning for clients. We also share our top tips for PT’s who want to help their clients smash their fitness goals.

Written by
Dan Chappell
Published on
February 19, 2024

Every personal trainer worth their salt knows that working out alone isn’t enough to stay in shape. As the saying goes, “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet”. Following a nutritious and carefully planned diet is key for your clients to achieve their goals, whether they are trying to lose weight, tone up or gain muscle.

Personal trainers, this is your definitive guide to creating personalised meal plans for your clients. Keep reading to learn everything from the different types of meal plans available to the qualifications you need in order to give advice.

What we’ll cover

Can personal trainers provide meal plans?

Qualified personal trainers can recommend meal plans for their clients, but it’s important that you don’t cross the line into becoming a dietician without the qualifications.

In the UK, only Registered Dieticians can medically prescribe nutrition plans. Dieticians have a degree and they’ve been through extensive training which means they can diagnose health issues, offer advice and prescribe treatment. Unless this sounds like you, be careful of the language you’re using when talking about food and nutrition with your clients.

As a personal trainer, you can only advise, recommend and suggest nutritional changes relevant to a client’s individual fitness goal, as opposed to anything that could have a medical consequence. For example, if you’re working with someone who wants to build more muscle, you could suggest they increase their protein and fibre intake.

The words you use are really important here. So instead of telling someone “you must cut out carbs,” you could let them know that “reducing carb intake has been shown to help with weight loss, so you could try this and see if it works for you.”

Telling someone what they categorically should or should not consume can be dangerous if you don’t have a solid understanding of individual factors such as their gut microbiome, metabolism and allergens. So avoid this unless you are medically qualified to do so.

In any case, you should have personal trainer insurance if you’re offering professional fitness or nutrition advice to clients. This way you’ll be covered against claims in the extreme case that a client is harmed following your recommendations.

Why should you create meal plans for your personal training clients?

Meal planning is a great way to help your clients maintain a healthy lifestyle and reach their fitness goals. By creating a personalised meal plan for your clients, you can make sure they’re getting the right balance of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals to fuel their workouts and keep them fuller for longer.

If a client is trying to lose weight in the run up to their wedding, for instance, you can build a plan that reduces their calorie intake while ensuring they don’t compromise on essential nutrients.

Offering personal trainer meal plans can also help to improve customer satisfaction and retention. Because nutrition and exercise go hand in hand, you might find that your clients reach their fitness goals sooner when following a meal plan.

Meal planning also makes it easier for them to track their progress and stay motivated while working towards their goal, which they’ll have you to thank for.

Plus, it’s an effective way to grow your revenue as a personal trainer. Companies like Prep Kitchen charge around £6 per meal, so if you offered every client a tailored meal plan on top of your standard fitness package, you could see your profits rise significantly.

Types of meal plans

The list of meal plan options is endless. Here are some of the most popular personal trainer meal plans.

Calorie counting

A calorie counting meal plan contains foods that help people feel energised and satisfied on fewer calories. The recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men, but a calorie counting meal plan might propose that women eat 1,500 calories a day and men eat 2,000 in order to lose weight.

Macronutrient plan

Macronutrients (macros) are the nutrients we need to provide us with the most energy: fat, protein and carbohydrates. So a macro diet involves counting the intake of these three things. A typical macro plan will divide daily calories into proportions, for example 10–35% proteins, 20–35% fats, and 45–65% carbs.

Portion control

Portion control as a meal plan is a way to eat less and lose (or maintain) weight without cutting out any specific food groups. It’s like calorie counting but less restrictive. You might recommend your personal training clients use smaller plates, follow the measurement guidelines on packets (such as pasta) or use measuring cups in order to know exactly how much food they’re consuming for each meal.

How to create a meal plan for your clients

Now you know more about different meal plans, it’s time to create a personal trainer meal plan for your clients. Follow the steps below to get your clients set up with balanced meals to help them reach their health goals.

  1. Create a plan: Once you’ve decided on a meal plan that works for your client, map out exactly what that looks like. You’ll need to consider breakfast, lunch and dinner for seven days a week. Consider your client’s schedule – everything from what time they wake up to their working hours and gym routine – to create a personalised meal plan.
  2. Provide ingredients lists and recipes: Now it’s time to come up with the exact recipes your client will eat. Think about seasonality and how long each meal will take to make. Then, make a list of all the ingredients your client will need for a week’s worth of meal plans – feel free to include substitutes or variations so they can mix and match.
  3. Meal prepping: Meal prepping will help your client save time and money. Making a list for their weekly food shop means they know what they need and how much of it, without having to refer back to different recipes. Doing one big shop should help them save money as they won’t have to worry about picking up ingredients last-minute at overpriced corner shops. Plus, they’ll be buying things like fruits and vegetables in bulk which is a great way to keep costs down.
  4. Meal prepping is also great for portion control, as your client will follow a recipe and make a set number of meals which they can then enjoy over the course of the week or freeze for a later date. Having healthy meals to hand means your client should be less tempted to opt for takeaways or ready meals that are usually high in saturated fat.
  5. Healthy snacking options: It’s always good to have a few healthy snack ideas up your sleeve for when you get peckish between meals. Depending on your client’s goal, write them a list of pre-approved snacks. If gaining muscle is their aim, you might want to recommend snacks that are naturally high in protein (like yoghurt and lean meats) rather than sugar and preservative filled protein bars. If your client is hoping to lose weight, you could suggest that they buy fresh fruit or rice cakes.
  6. Evaluate and adjust: Don’t forget to check back in with your client on a regular basis to see how they’re coping with their personal trainer meal plan. You might find that they’re constantly hungry, leading them to snack more, so you may want to increase their portion sizes slightly. Or perhaps they’re feeling tired and lacking in energy, so you might want to up their intake of complex carbs.

In Summary

Offering meal plans in addition to your personal training services can be a great way to grow your client base and improve customer loyalty. With a good grasp of your clients’ fitness goals, you’re in a strong position to create healthy, balanced meal plans that leave them feeling energised for your gym sessions.

Not only is it rewarding for your clients to reach their goals faster, but for you to see the positive impact you’re having on them. Just be sure to do your research before offering meal planning services and be wary of offering any advice that could have medical implications.

You can post meal prep ideas and recipes on your social media, as a way to market your PT business.

Join the UNTIL community

Take your training business to the next level with UNTIL. We offer industry-leading flexible facilities at a flat rate, so you can scale your business without sacrificing profits. Complete with booths for making calls, lounge areas, kitchens and co-working spaces, UNTIL provides everything you need to keep your clients happy and motivated to reach their goals.

Learn more about our flexible gym spaces or apply now to join a supportive community of health and wellness professionals.