Undulating Clients’ Calories for Flexibility on Weekends

By Lauren Killey

The deciding-factor between success and failure when it comes to your client’s goals, is compliance. Often, the weekend is when nutritional compliance becomes more challenging due to social events and celebrations, meals out or take-away after a long-week, alcohol or calorie dense food consumption. This can lead to intentional or unintentional excess calorie intake by your client, which may impact their goals for the week.

Rather than trying to restrict client’s, we can set them up for success by undulating caloric intake, allowing for higher calories on the weekend to allow for more flexibility (once nutritional health goals have been met) and lower intake throughout the week. This is for those client’s who have more time to achieve their goal; those who have a shorter journey or are preparing for a competition, may need to be more restrictive in order to succeed.

If this approach is one which will work for you as a coach, your client and their journey, you must make it clear to your client that they must use apps such as My Fitness Pal to track what they are consuming and develop a clear understanding of their calorie intake. This will teach more awareness around macronutrients and the intake of foods, micronutrients, fibre intake and how to adapt meals each day for flexibility and health.

To set calorie amounts you will:

  • Determine the client’s maintenance calories:
    You can do this using TDEE calculator or, for a more accurate personal measure, have your client track their calories and weight for 7 days. Take the average weight on the 7th day  – if this increases, your client is in a surplus, if the weight drops, they are in a deficit and if weight maintenance this is maintenance calories.
  • Determine the client’s deficit:
    Once you have determined maintenance calories you will determine your client’s deficit (approx. 500 calories for moderate fat loss) and minus this amount from daily calories

Let’s use the example of 2200 calories maintenance and a goal of fat-loss. We will set our client’s weekend calories at maintenance level but will need to subtract the additional 500 calories x 2 days from the week meaning we must drop a further 200 calories on top of their daily deficit (700 total). So, to have two maintenance days with a moderate deficit, our client will eat 1500 calories the other 5 days a week.

On the weekend, they will prioritize:
– Wholefoods (‘clean’ foods)
– Nutrient dense foods
– Protein intake
– Fibre intake

Once your client has hit the above markers, they can then allow for calorie dense, low-nutrient foods or beverages which ‘fit’ into their daily calorie allowance. This will allow for more flexibility and bigger or more satiating meals two days a week, boosting client compliance. You can continue to undulate your client’s calories for the weekend, and maintain a progression in the deficit to ensure consistent fat-loss.

The longer your client diets, the more likely they will experience negative adaptations to metabolic rate, meaning you will need to drop the deficit further, to continue dropping fat. If this is the case, you will drop the daily amount for both your client’s weekly, and weekend calories by around 100-200 calories. Once your client reaches a stage in their journey where calories are quite low, and they are close to the end point – you may swap out higher calorie days on the weekend, maintain a consistent caloric intake 7 days a week but, every 7-14 days allow for a 3-7 day diet break, when calories will boost back up to maintenance, to push through the final fat loss stage but also negate negative adaptations.

This approach will help your client to achieve their fat-loss goal, still enjoy a balanced approach throughout their journey which means less restriction and less negative adaptations, and will likely lead to better overall compliance!

Want to learn how to design nutrition plans for clients from all walks of life, for fat loss, hypertrophy & body recomposition goals?
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