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09/16/18

Why Are My Numbers Changing Or Staying The Same?

As coaches, we spend a lot of our time each week assessing our clients’ progress towards their goals and determining the next steps on their journey. To start a client off on the best track we use evidence-based guidelines to set starting macros which are the absolute best guesstimate for that person. I know. Best guesstimate, really? 

This is for good reason though. People are not calculations and there is a lot of individual differences in how each person’s body responds to these numbers.

Therefore an important part of our job is reviewing all of the information and feedback our clients give us to make sure the macronutrient (macro) goals we give are leading our clients to continued success. There are no evidence-based guidelines to rely on for adjusting macros but instead, we use a combination of our nutrition knowledge, coaching skills, and previous experiences to make sure we are doing what is right for each of you.

One thing that we ALWAYS keep in mind is that there is no single one best diet out there. ALL diets CAN work IF it’s a diet that a client will adhere to AND is set up in a way that will move them towards their goals. Notice everything that has to go right there? These are truly the two most important variables in your success.

When it comes to the weekly decision about your macros, we consider a large variety of factors including:

  • Changes in weight
  • Changes in waist circumference
  • Adherence to the current macros
  • The accuracy of the client’s tracking
  • Activity levels
  • Sleep
  • Stage of the menstrual cycle
  • Events, vacations, exceptional circumstances during the past week
  • ALL of the other subjective information provided in the email and on the spreadsheet, like how the client is feeling, stress levels, non-scale victories, etc. We read and consider everything you send to us

With all of this information we have two options:

  1. Keep macros the same
  2. Make a change

Possible reasons why your macros stayed the same:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I actually love when I look at a client’s check-in and decide that there is no reason to make a change. Why do I like that? Typically it means that I have my client on a set of macros that has them making progress in the direction of their goals at an appropriate rate. What that specifically means is completely 100% individualized to each client. For some clients that are trying to lose weight, that might mean their average weight dropped 0.5 – 1% of their body weight that week or maybe average weight didn’t change much but they hit a new low body weight at some point that week or waist circumference decreased. All of these things are signs that the current plan is working and there is no reason to change.

Other reasons I may not change macros for a week might be if a client reports or if I suspect that there may be some issues with either the consistency of the client hitting their macros and/or the accuracy of their tracking. If a client isn’t hitting the numbers I gave them and I believe those numbers would probably be good if they actually hit them, I may not change them that week. Instead, I’ll focus on troubleshooting some ideas about what challenges they are having and help them develop ideas to overcome these barriers.

Additionally, if I’m quite sure that the macros I have them on should be producing results but they aren’t, I will dive deeper into the client’s tracking habits and ask some questions to assess if their tracking is accurate, are they logging all bites and tastes of food, is there maybe something off about the entries they are using in MFP? There are any numbers of small things that could be making a clients tracking inaccurate, some may underreported foods while others may be completely accidental tracking mistakes.    

Finally, if the week was an off week whether it was a holiday, party or event that the client ended up going a bit overboard or for clients that see huge fluctuations in weight related to their menstrual cycle (the few days before or the first few days of their cycle is a common time for weight to be up a few pounds for many women), there may not be a reason to adjust macros on these weeks. The data from weight and waist circumference and even how the client is subjectively feeling may not be a true estimation of where the client’s truly at. I don’t want to make changes to progress based on data generated with these other factors present so it may not be appropriate to change macros during these “off” weeks.

Having been a client myself, I know that some of us feel a bit disappointed or even unhappy if there are a few weeks in a row when our coach doesn’t change our numbers. Especially before I really understood what this whole macro tracking thing was about, I didn’t understand how I would continue to make progress if everything just stayed the same.

But, as a coach, if a client is progressing in a way that is perfect for that client on a set of macro numbers, there is no reason to change those numbers. It isn’t that the coach is just being lazy and saying “Same Numbers” for no good reason. It takes just as much time and effort to review the client’s information and keep numbers the same as it does to adjust them. The ONLY reasons I ever keep a client’s numbers the same are for the very good reasons described above.

Possible reasons why your macros were changed:

There are many weeks when I do adjust my clients’ numbers and that can also be for a large variety of reasons. The primary reason would be if a client is hitting their numbers, accurately tracking and they are not progressing towards their goal (as assessed by all the data points available). Most of the time when I adjust a client’s macros, I do so by making small incremental changes, generally in carbohydrates and fat.

Why incremental? For most clients, it’s easier to make small changes to what they were doing so this allows for an easier transition and for my client’s trying to lose weight, I want to keep them at the highest amount of macros possible while still allowing them to lose weight. Who wouldn’t want to eat as much as they possibly can and still lose!? This helps with compliance and long-term success. However, there are circumstances where a client may benefit either physically or psychologically from a larger increase or decrease in macros and coaches will use their discretion and sometimes apply that technique.

Why adjust carbohydrates and fat and not protein?

Generally, when we set a protein goal for a client starting at week 1, we set it at a level that will support maintaining muscle mass while losing weight or assist with building muscle mass if that is the goal. So, we typically don’t move that numbers too much while working with a client since it’s already set around the ideal level. So, that leaves carbohydrates and fats to adjust if we need to adjust the speed of progress.

Other reasons that I may change my clients’ macros may be that a client is expressing concerns about their ability to hit certain macros. If after really trying their best and working with me to ask questions to determine ways to make a set of macros work, it may be in the client’s best interest to adjust their macros. In nutrition and in changing your diet, there really are a variety of methods that can be applied to get to your goals.

While some methods may take more or less time or may optimize certain health or body comp markers, many of them can still be effective. With that in mind, the OPTIMAL diet is one that my client will follow. My numbers aren’t helpful if the client can’t or won’t hit them. The coaches at Stronger U take a flexible approach with our clients where we understand that everyone lives different lives and has their own individual “food personality’ and we try to respect that when developing your individual plan.

Takeaways for what to know about your weekly macro adjustments (or lack of adjustments)

The most important thing to remember is there is no standard or perfect set of macros that we can give each of our clients. The beauty of Stronger U is that you don’t just get one set of macros and then sent on your way to see how they will work. When you are working with a coach, every single week we assessing everything that you are reporting to us to make the decisions about where to go next.

A lot of care, time and effort go into us making this decision and some of it is a bit of trial and error to see how each person’s body and personality respond. As a client of Stronger U, our hope is that during your time with us, you learn a lot about yourself, your diet and nutrition as a whole and that you gain some of the tools you need to be able to sustain our success beyond the end of your program.

With that important information in mind, always ask questions if you’d like to know more about why your coach did or did not adjust your macros. We will always have a reason; sometimes it’s based on data and other times it may be based on a gut feeling but we are always happy to educate and share.  

Dr. Jessica Bachman
Director of Nutrition Education