The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Personal Trainer Meal Plan

As a personal trainer, you are in a unique position to guide your clients toward making positive changes and achieving their fitness goals, whether weight loss, muscle gain, or overall health. A personal trainer meal plan makes a huge difference in achieving these goals.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about creating a detailed meal plan tailored to any client’s needs, from those who want to lose a few pounds or gain muscle to those who simply wish to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Can Personal Trainers Give Meal Plans?

First things first: can you, as a personal trainer, give your clients detailed meal plans?

In many countries or jurisdictions, personal trainers are trained and certified to provide exercise guidance and recommendations. Nutrition advice is typically considered outside of their scope of practice unless they have additional qualifications in nutrition.

In some places, only registered dietitians (RDs) or professionals with similar credentials are legally allowed to provide personalized meal plans and medical nutrition therapy.

For example, in the U.S., many states have licensure laws for dietitians, meaning you can only legally offer customized nutrition advice if you meet specific criteria. Being a certified personal trainer is not one of those criteria.

  • Red: Individualized nutrition counseling is illegal without a license. The only way to get one is to become a registered dietitian.
  • Yellow: Individualised nutrition counseling is illegal without a license. However, Certified Nutrition Specialists and certain other advanced nutritionists can get a license, not only registered dietitians.
  • Green: Anyone can give individualized nutrition counseling except for treating medical conditions.

Source: The American Nutrition Association

Different countries have different rules. If you live outside the US, be sure to inform yourself about the regulations in your area.

What Can You Do As A Certified Personal Trainer?

Even when a personal trainer without nutrition credentials cannot provide personalized meal plans or address medical conditions through nutrition, they can often offer general nutrition advice.

For example, you can suggest general guidelines regarding healthy eating, like consuming more fruits and vegetables and cutting back on processed foods.

You can advise on foods generally known to be good for heart health, like eating more like the Mediterranean diet (a key recommendation for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease).1

You can offer nutrition support, but you can’t give someone with a heart condition a meal plan to treat them. 

Personal trainers can pursue additional certifications in nutrition to broaden their expertise and service offerings. Even with these certifications, it’s essential to know and respect the boundaries of your knowledge and only provide medical advice if you are qualified to do so.

Personal trainers often carry liability insurance to protect themselves in case of injury or other client issues. If you were to give personal trainer diet plans outside of your scope of practice, your insurance might not cover you if a problem arises.

Best Practices

If you prescribe meal plans to your clients, be sure to inform them, in writing, that they are only suggestions and guidelines. Never address medical conditions. Direct a client with medical issues to a registered dietitian.

Unless you are a registered dietitian-nutritionist, of course. Then you have the knowlege and the certifications required to prescribe any meal plan.

The main difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist is that only the dietitian is accredited to diagnose and treat health needs.

Registered dietitian-nutritionists (RDN) are nutrition experts and health professionals with at least a bachelor’s degree who have finished a nutrition education approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. In addition, they need to complete a supervised and accredited practice program that lasts up to a year and pass a national exam set by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.

personal trainer meal plan dietitian

A nutritionist or a nutrition coach is not automatically a dietitian.

Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, and even with a certification from a recognized authority, it does not give you the credentials to practice as a dietitian.

All dietitians are also nutritionists, but far from all nutritionists or nutrition coaches are dietitians.

Why Should You Create Meal Plans for Your Clients?

When it comes to fitness goals, diet is often as important as the workout plan. Athletes must fuel their bodies with the optimal foods; what and how much you eat is the most crucial part of a weight-loss plan.

Being able to give your client a meal plan doesn’t only benefit them but you as well.

  • You increase customer satisfaction. With a meal plan that caters to your client’s specific needs and preferences, they get better results and become more satisfied with your services. Satisfied clients stay with you and spread the word to other potential clients about how effective your personal training is, potentially expanding your client base.
  • You make more money. The more services you can provide, the more revenue for you as a personal trainer. As a personal trainer focusing on exercise guidance alone, you are limited by time. You can only help so many clients in a day and still do a good job. Adding nutritional advice gives you an additional revenue stream.

The right mix of calories, balanced nutrition, and timing is essential for achieving the best results. Your “personal trainer food” gives your clients the fuel and nutrients they need to be and feel their best, and you and your business also benefit.

Everybody wins.

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Creating a Great Personal Trainer Meal Plan: The First Steps

So, you’re a qualified personal trainer, live where you can legally create a customized meal plan for your clients, and have the certified know-how to do so. Let’s get into how you go about doing it.

Customizing a meal plan that helps your client reach their fitness goals starts with understanding their needs. Generic plans produce generic results.

Take the time to thoroughly sit down with your client, in person or online, for a detailed assessment before you start calculating macros and writing meal plans.

Understanding Your Client’s Goals

Before doing anything else, you need a clear picture of your client’s specific goals.

Whether it’s weight loss, muscle gain, athletic performance, or general health, understanding your client’s goal shapes your nutrition plans.

  • One of the most common scenarios is when a client approaches you with the aim of weight loss. Creating a calorie-controlled food plan with whole foods can accelerate progress beyond exercise alone.
  • Distinct from weight loss, fat loss focuses on reducing body fat. The right mix of calories, macronutrient composition, and a customized workout program is essential here.
  • For clients aiming to build muscle like a bodybuilder, emphasizing a high-protein diet and enough calories to create an energy surplus is critical to support high-intensity workouts.
  • A balanced healthy food intake, including fresh fruits and healthy fats, may be required for many general or specific health-related targets.

For your personal trainer meal plan to benefit your client and help them reach those goals, you must understand them and be able to implement your nutritional guidance in the best way possible.

Analyzing Dietary Preferences and Restrictions

In addition to having a clear picture of your client’s fitness goals, knowing what they can and want to eat is essential.

A thorough analysis of preferences and restrictions includes an examination of food preferences, allergies, ethical beliefs, and medical conditions.

Food Preferences

Understanding clients’ likes and dislikes helps you create a healthy meal plan they will enjoy. Involve them in selecting whole grains, lean meats, fresh fruits, and other choices for their diet plan.

No one follows a diet plan that involves eating foods they dislike. Except for competitive bodybuilders. A bodybuilder preparing for a show will eat whatever it takes.

Food Allergies

Awareness of allergies ensures that your food plan avoids potentially harmful ingredients and guarantees a safe and healthy diet. That includes not just the problematic component itself but also foods that might contain traces of it.

personal trainer meal plan food allergies

Cultural or Ethical Beliefs

Respecting and integrating cultural or ethical food choices leads to more personalized meal planning.

There are no foods you must include in your meal plans for a client to reach their goal. You can always find alternatives that work just as well and respect any cultural or ethical beliefs.

Medical Conditions

You must take special care with clients with specific health problems and conditions.

While you can’t and shouldn’t manage a medical condition such as high blood pressure or heart disease with your diet plans, you should be aware of any restrictions such health conditions entail.

If a doctor or registered dietician has given your client food guidelines, collaborating with them ensures that your meal plan caters to special dietary needs.

Evaluating Your Client’s Fitness Level

The next step is aligning the meal plan with the client’s fitness level and exercise plan to ensure the best results.

That entails the following:

  • Activity level: Determining how active the client is helps adjust their calorie and macronutrient intake to match their energy expenditure.
  • Age and gender considerations: Age and gender affect metabolic rate. Different ages and genders require specific adjustments and fine-tuning in terms of nutrients, portion sizes, and types of food.
  • Exercise program and occupation: Integrating the meal plan with specific workout routines ensures that it fuels the exercise efficiently. A high-level athlete burns calories at a whole other level than someone who lifts weight recreationally three days per week for general health. In addition, someone who works in construction will require a dramatically different food intake than someone who works at a desk.

Carefully assessing your client’s needs provides the foundation for creating the best possible meal plans.

It’s not just about avoiding junk food or promoting healthy habits; it’s about understanding the whole person and their unique needs.

Successful nutritional coaching means crafting a meal plan that aligns with their fitness goals and lifestyle. Such an approach leads to successful outcomes and satisfied clients, solidifying your reputation as a fitness professional who truly cares and delivers above and beyond.

Calculating Calorie Needs

It is crucial to know how many calories your meal plan needs to provide to enable your clients to reach their goals. Here’s how.

Resting Metabolic Rate

You can use an equation to calculate your client’s calorie needs. The Mifflin-St Jeor formula is the most reliable for estimating resting metabolic rate.2

It looks like this:

  • Men: (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) + 5
  • Women: (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) – 161

For example, if your client is a 90-kilogram (198 pounds) man, 180 centimeters tall, and 30 years old, the equation would look like this: 900 + 1125 – 150 + 5 = 1880

The Mifflin-St Jeor formula uses kilograms specifically, so if you use pounds, you must first convert the weight.

The result is your client’s RMR, their resting metabolic rate. If this specific client spends his day in bed, he’d need 1,880 calories daily to maintain his body weight.

Everyday Calorie Requirements

To estimate how many calories he needs in a real-life scenario, multiply 1,880 with an activity level factor:

  • Sedentary (x1.2)
  • Work out 1–3 times/week (x1.375)
  • Train 4–5 times/week (x1.55)
  • Work out 6–7 times/week (x1.725)
  • Twice daily training (x1.9)

For this example, let’s assume he has a job that isn’t physically demanding, but he trains hard in the gym five days per week. When you design his personal trainer meal plan, you choose 1.6 as a reasonable activity factor.

Like this: 1880 x 1.6 = 3008

He needs around 3,000 calories per day for his weight to be stable.

Depending on his goals, you can adjust his meal plan and calorie intake to provide a deficit or surplus as needed.

Remember that even though the Mifflin-St Jeor formula is reliable enough to use in a clinical setting, it’s still an estimate. No equation gives you an exact number from the get-go. It’s a good starting point for a personal trainer meal plan, but be prepared to adjust on the fly.

Instead of doing the calculations yourself, you can let our Calorie Calculator crunch the numbers for you:

>> Calorie Calculator: Resting Metabolic Rate and Daily Need

Creating a Balanced Meal Plan: Beyond Calories

Creating a balanced meal plan is far more than prescribing a calorie count.

  • It’s about ensuring the right nutrition that aligns with your client’s fitness program and individual goals, and promotes a healthy lifestyle.
  • It’s about looking at the bigger picture and understanding what works best for each client.

The types of meal plans that are right for certain clients might not do it for others.

Macronutrient Distribution

Macronutrients, or macros for short, are the essential nutrients that provide the body with energy: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Alcohol is another one, but it shouldn’t be a primary nutrient in any healthy diet. Water and oxygen are also macronutrients but don’t provide energy (calories).

When designing a personal trainer meal plan, your focus is on the big four:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Water

You will likely limit alcohol in a fitness diet plan, and oxygen takes care of itself.


Proteins play an essential role in muscle repair, growth, and any body composition goals.

protein rich foods

Selecting the best sources and integrating the right amount of protein into a meal plan is a great way to support muscle development and aid in fat loss and appetite control. Proteins contain essential amino acids vital for the body’s functions and building and maintaining muscle mass.

Good muscle-building sources include eggs, dairy, red meat, fish, poultry, soy products like tofu and legumes. Depending on your client’s goals and preferences, you can easily opt for lean protein or more fatty choices.

  • Clients who want to maintain or gain muscle need at least 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram (0.5 grams per pound) of body weight per day.
  • Bodybuilders might require up to 2.2 grams of protein per kg (1 gram per pound) of body weight per day.
  • Clients looking to maximize fat loss while maintaining muscle mass require equally large or larger amounts of protein.

Read more:

>> Protein for Strength Training: The Ultimate Guide

>>How Much Protein Do You Need per Day to Gain Muscle?

>> The 30 Best Protein Foods for Muscle Growth


Carbohydrates are not essential but can be very helpful for exercise performance.

Carbs provide the energy needed to fuel both daily activities and intense workout routines.


Complex carbohydrates in foods like whole grains, legumes, and sweet potatoes offer sustained energy release. Fruits and vegetables are also excellent sources of carbohydrates as well as vitamins. 

For most clients, including those who come to you for weight-loss guidance, it’s not about avoiding carbs but selecting the right kind to support their fitness goals.

However, some clients respond better to a low carb approach, while others prefer to avoid them more or less altogether.

Anything from high-carb diets to the ketogenic approach are valid approaches to carbohydrates. Work with your clients to establish what suits their lifestyles and preferences best.


Fats are often misunderstood. But including healthy fats in the diet is vital for overall health and hormone production.


Olive oil, rich in fatty acids, supports good cholesterol levels and heart health. Avocados might be integrated into salads, providing both flavor and nutrition. These healthy fats are crucial in hormone regulation and other bodily functions.

  • According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fats should make up 20-35% of daily calories. That’s a suitable interval for most clients’ meal plans, although some short-term goals might require you to veer off that path.
  • For example, if you’re coaching a bodybuilder dieting for a competition, even 20% might compromise the protein and carbohydrate intake required to maintain muscle mass and workout performance. 
  • For clients on a ketogenic diet, the fat intake will be much higher, 75% of the calories or more.

In general, targeting 20-35% of daily calories as fat is ideal and aligns with almost any fitness goal.

Micronutrient Consideration

Beyond macronutrients, micronutrients are essential for long-term health and exercise performance. When designing your personal trainer meal plan, don’t make the mistake of forgetting vitamins and minerals.

Ensuring the inclusion of essential vitamins and minerals that cater to your client’s specific needs can make a considerable difference.

When your client trains hard, and their meal plan calls for a low-calorie approach, focus on adequate intakes of iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B12.3

For those who live in the northern parts of the world or don’t get much sun for other reasons, integrating sources of vitamin D becomes essential. Vitamin D is one of the few specific supplements that might be considered necessary for some clients, along with vitamin B12 for vegans.


Hydration goes hand-in-hand with food intake. 

Water is essential for almost every function in our bodies, second in importance only to oxygen.


An adequate fluid intake quenches thirst and helps maintain body temperature, aids digestion, and even supports weight loss. In addition, the brain functions more effectively when you drink enough water.

Given all that, it’s a no-brainer that your personal trainer meal plan should stress the importance of hydration. Tailoring hydration guidance based on individual goals, activity levels, and climate can significantly affect overall well-being and performance.

In general, though, your clients can let their thirst tell them when and how much to drink.

The exception is if a client works or trains very hard or in a hot environment. In that case, recommend they drink a little more, particularly before, during, and after workouts.

The following hydration protocol keeps an athlete hydrated during and after a workout:


  • Drink 15–20 ounces of water 2–3 hours before exercise.
  • Drink 8 ounces around 20 minutes pre-workout.

During the Workout

  • During exercise, drink 7–10 ounces of water every 15–20 minutes.


  • Drink 8 ounces of fluid after training.

Then continue drinking normally after that. Plain water is enough if the workout lasts an hour or less, but adding 0.3 to 0.7 grams of sodium per 1,000 mL of water is a good idea if your client works out in the heat.4

Read more:

>> How Much Water Should You Drink Before, During, and After Exercise?

Pre- and Post-Workout Meals

When you craft personalized meal plans for your clients, you must consider the specific workouts they’re engaged in.

Their exercise program necessitates different nutritional needs, and tailoring meal plans to these workouts is vital for fueling performance and recovery.

The fact that you’re designing both the workouts and the diet plan makes it much easier to get a clear picture of how to structure your client’s pre-and post-workout meals.

Pre-Workout Meals

The proper meal before a workout can be a game-changer. 

It fuels your client to perform their best and provides the building blocks to gain muscle and strength. Whether it’s a heavy-duty leg session, a HIIT workout, or an intense boot camp, the body needs the right fuel to perform at its peak.

A simple but effective strategy to coach your clients’ pre-workout timing is to schedule a meal 2–3 hours before the training session.

A balanced mix of carbs and proteins offers sustained energy.

  • Complex carbohydrates like whole grains or sweet potatoes provide energy without weighing the client down.
  • Adding some lean proteins, 20–40 grams of a high-quality source, primes the muscles for the work ahead.

For a pre-workout snack an hour or so before training, a piece of fruit and some Greek yogurt, for example, is easily digestible and won’t sit in the stomach.

If your client has eaten a regular breakfast- lunch- or dinner-type of meal the hours before training, another snack is usually not necessary unless the client requests it.

Read more:

>> Pre-Workout Meal Strategies: What to Eat Before Training

Post-workout Meals

Post-workout nutrition is as crucial as pre-workout preparation.

Your client’s body has undergone a rigorous process, and replenishing the nutrients is essential for recovery.

  • Carbohydrates help restore glycogen stores in the muscles and speed up recovery. 
  • Including protein from a high-quality source like dairy, eggs, lean meats, or a good plant-based alternative like soy protein promote repair and growth. You want to recommend your clients consume at least 25 grams of protein within a reasonable time after training.

A meal rich in whole foods and healthy fats is an excellent way to nourish the body after a tough training session, but there is nothing wrong with a protein shake to give the body what it needs. Some clients might not feel like eating a proper meal soon after working out.

Tailoring your meal plans to provide the proper nutrients in the right amounts before and after workouts help your clients achieve their best performance, muscle gain, and fat loss.

Nutrition plays a vital role in getting the most out of your workouts. Knowing what the body needs before heading into a demanding training session and what it requires to heal and grow afterward is a tremendous help when crafting a personal trainer meal plan for a client who wants to reap the rewards of their efforts in the gym.

Ideally, you create a seamless integration between your fitness program and nutrition plan, aligning them perfectly to support your client’s goals: the right diet plans that synchronize with their exercise routines.

Meal Planning Strategies

Meal planning is more than deciding what your clients should eat. It’s about creating a structured and adaptable system that aligns with their fitness goals, lifestyle, and preferences.

Crafting the optimal personal trainer meal plan demands strategic thinking. As fitness professionals, personal trainers must develop meal-planning strategies that are actionable and relatable.

Here are the most important pointers to help you in your meal planning.

Create a Weekly Meal Plan

A detailed meal plan for the entire week takes the guesswork out of what to eat. This strategy helps clients stay on track, makes it easy for you to provide balanced nutrition, and customize according to individual needs.

Personal trainer meal plan for the week

For instance, on a training day, the meals might be richer in carbohydrates and protein, particularly around the workout, to fuel a high-intensity gym session and promote recovery.

The muscle-building processes are in full effect at least 24 hours after a training session, meaning rest day nutrition is just as essential for great results. The plan may focus on whole foods, healthy fats, and quality protein sources on a non-training day to further support training adaptation.

Involve Your Clients

Getting your clients involved in the planning process creates a feeling of ownership of the decisions and makes adherence to your plan more likely.

Discuss food preferences, allergies, and schedules to ensure your meal plan is nutritionally sound, practical, and appealing.

Whether that means working around a food intolerance, including favorite healthy snacks, or providing alternative protein sources to the traditional chicken breasts, involving your client makes the plan more personalized and effective.

Utilize Technology

You can harness the power of technology in numerous ways to design effective and customized meal plans for your clients.

Apple Watch tracking calories
  • For example, apps like MyFitnessPal, Cronometer, or Yazio can track nutrient intake, set dietary goals, and generate feedback on your meal plans. Some software can even tailor meal plans based on specific nutritional needs, preferences, or restrictions. The best app is the one that offers the most features that support your approach to meal planning and that your clients find intuitive and easy to use.
  • Devices like Fitbit or the Apple Watch can track calories burned, which can be used to adjust your own personal trainer meal plans accordingly. Don’t require your clients to use them, but if they are enthusiastic about adopting fitness devices, utilize that enthusiasm.
  • Use recipe websites to provide meal ideas or help you design a meal plan for specific diets (e.g., keto, vegan). Save and categorize favorite recipes, to quickly adjust and share them with your clients.
  • Encourage clients to use digital food scales for precise measurements and more accurate calorie and macronutrient tracking. However, if there is a history of disordered eating in the picture, it’s a good idea to steer clear of client food scale use. Also, some clients don’t want the hassle of doing much tracking of calories. They rely on you to do it for them, behind the scenes.

Whether it’s an app that offers a free trial, sophisticated paid software that calculates calorie-based plans, or a simple food scale, these tools enhance the efficiency and accuracy of your meal planning.

Make Shopping Lists

Providing your clients with a shopping list that correlates with their meal plan helps in two ways.

Personal trainer meal plan grocery list
  • Your clients will likely make changes to their lifestyle when you are at the helm of their training and diet plan. Providing a concrete shopping list removes the confusion about what food items to buy, promoting adherence to your program.
  • Second, it provides an educational opportunity to guide clients on choosing the right food and avoiding fast food or unhealthy choices.

Offer Meal Prep Guidance

Instruction on meal prep can be invaluable, especially for clients with a busy schedule.

You’re a personal trainer, not a chef, but offering insights on preparing meals in bulk or quick and healthy meals can make following the meal plan more manageable and enjoyable.

Strategizing meal planning means creating a functional and engaging roadmap to nutrition your clients can follow to reach their goals.

When you give a client a personal trainer meal plan, you’re doing more than providing a list of different foods. You work with your clients on a dietary plan and weave those choices into their life in a sustainable and enjoyable way.

The best meal plans are tailored to each client’s unique needs, goals, and lifestyles. Ensure your personal trainer meal plan is not only nutritionally sound but genuinely workable for your client.

Monitoring and Adjusting the Meal Plan

Creating a personal trainer meal plan for a client is not a set-and-forget task. It’s an ongoing process.

The initial design and implementation of a meal plan is just the beginning. Monitoring progress, making adjustments, and being responsive to changes in fitness goals, body weight, or lifestyle makes a good meal plan great.

Here’s how you can approach this dynamic process.

Regular Check-Ins

Regularly meeting with your clients lets you know how well they adhere to the meal plan, what’s working, and what might need adjusting.

Ask about their eating habits, how they feel physically, and if they’re enjoying the foods on the plan.

For those focused on weight loss or fat loss, these check-ins can also be a time to measure progress in a supportive and non-judgmental way.

Check-ins can take the form of real-life meetings or take place entirely online, using the chat functionality of personal training services like StrengthLog Coach, for example.

StrengthLog Coach lets you discuss training and diet with your clients and follow up on what’s working and what’s not.

Responsive Adjustments

Being responsive to changes or challenges is crucial.

If your client is struggling with portion sizes or finds their grocery list too extensive (or expensive!), you should be prepared to make adjustments as needed.

For example, simple measures such as simplifying meal prep, adjusting food portions, or providing alternative snack options can turn a struggling client into a successful one.

Collaborating with Other Health Professionals

Sometimes, a client’s needs may require specialized knowledge.

If a client has specific medical conditions or nutritional needs, collaborating with a registered dietician or healthcare provider can ensure the meal plan remains safe and effective.

As we said first thing in this article, treating medical conditions is outside your scope of practice as a personal trainer. Involving the appropriate fitness or medical professionals is in your and your client’s best interests.

Read more:

>> Physical Therapist vs. Personal Trainer: What’s the Difference?

Using Technology

Utilizing technology is helpful not only when designing a meal plan but also when monitoring the ongoing progress of your clients.

Meal planning software or apps that track calories and nutrients can provide both you and your client with real-time data.

Technology streamlines the monitoring process and provide insights for making informed adjustments on the fly.

Encouraging Flexibility

Meal plans should not be 100% rigid.

Encourage clients to explore new healthy recipes or adapt to unexpected circumstances, like dining out.

Your meal plans shouldn’t feel overly restrictive. The possible exception is if you’re coaching a bodybuilder during competition prep, where success can depend on small details.

Allowing for flexibility makes your personal trainer meal plan more livable. Create a framework, not a strict regimen, allowing for life’s natural ebb and flow.

Align Your Personal Trainer Meal Plan With Evolving Client Goals

As a client progresses in their fitness program, their nutritional needs may also change.

For example, if your client moves from a fat loss focus to building muscle, they may need a calorie and macronutrient intake recalibration.

A client who changes jobs or has a new addition to the family – anything that significantly alters their lifestyle – might suddenly find themselves without much time to exercise. When that happens, you’ll have to adjust your meal plan to take such things into consideration.

Monitoring and adjusting is at least as crucial for client success as creating a personalized meal plan in the first place.

The ongoing conversation, responsiveness, and collaboration between the client and you as a personal trainer turn a generic plan into a living, adaptable tool that supports the client’s wellness goals.

By maintaining this dynamic approach, you ensure that your meal plans remain successful in helping clients achieve their desired results.

Hold Your Clients Accountable

As a personal trainer, you are familiar with holding your clients accountable for their workouts and training plan.

Just like with the training part of your services, holding your clients accountable for following the nutrition plan improves adherence and produces better results.5

Work with your client to determine which method they prefer, such as calorie and macro tracking, keeping a food diary, or taking pictures of meals and sending them to you.

Ethical Considerations

When creating meal plans for your clients, you must be mindful of legal and ethical considerations. Make sure you understand the laws and restrictions for nutritional guidance where you operate.

  • While offering general nutrition advice and crafting meal plans aligned with fitness goals is common practice, it’s essential to recognize the boundaries of your expertise.
  • Any medical conditions, food allergies, or individualized therapeutic diets may require consultation with a registered dietician or healthcare provider.
  • Always be transparent about your nutrition certification and refrain from providing advice beyond your scope of practice.

Upholding these legal and ethical standards ensures that your clients receive responsible, informed care that aligns with your professional integrity and the industry’s best practices.

Putting Theory into Practice: Examples of Personal Trainer Meal Plans

Now, let’s take all this information and design two customized meal plans as an example of the process.

We will design extensive sample daily meal plans for three days. We’ll limit it to three days as it is just an example to give you an idea of how to create a meal plan for your clients.

In addition, we’ll provide grocery lists specifying what our client needs to pick up at the grocery store for each day of eating.

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Our coaching software for personal trainers and strength coaches – built by coaches.

Remember: unless you are certified to prescribe meal plans, give them to your clients as nutrition recommendations and guidance rather than exact meals.

Client #1

First, let’s write a meal plan for our newest client, a 50-year-old female who wants a macro split of 30% protein, 40% carbohydrate, and 30% fat with less than 10% saturated fat.

  • Each meal or day doesn’t have to correspond precisely to those percentages. The macros over time are what counts. Also, our client doesn’t care about counting each gram of protein or carbs in a given ingredient. She relies on you to do the number-crunching and deliver the total package.
  • She doesn’t eat beef or pork, so we’ll make sure her meal plans provide enough high-quality protein without those sources. She also prefers fresh foods.
  • Our client used to be fit and athletic, but she has gained a lot of unwanted weight over the last ten years. Her current weight is 185 pounds, and her primary goals are to lose 20 of those pounds over the next six months while becoming fitter and stronger.
  • She is moderately active, going to the gym three days per week and taking brisk walks when she has time, usually 2–3 times weekly.

Our first step calculate her daily caloric needs and then split them into the desired macro proportions.

Calculating Daily Caloric Needs

Given that she is moderately active, we can use the Mifflin-St Jeor equation to estimate her basal metabolic rate (BMR) and then multiply by an activity factor:

  • BMR = 10 * weight (kg) + 6.25 * height (cm) – 5 * age (y) – 161

Assuming an average height of 165 cm (5’5”), the equation would be:

  • BMR = 10 * 84 (185 lbs to kg) + 6.25 * 165 – 5 * 50 – 161 = 840 + 1031.25 – 250 – 161 = 1460 kcal/day.

Then we multiply by an activity factor for moderate activity, 1.55:

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) = BMR * Activity Factor = 1460 * 1.55 = 2263 kcal/day.

Since her goal is to lose 20 pounds in six months, we’ll aim for a calorie deficit that results in losing approximately 0.77 pounds per week. Given that one pound equals 3500 calories, the weekly deficit needed is 2709 calories or a daily deficit of 387 calories.

So, her daily caloric goal will be 2263 – 387 = 1876 kcal/day or thereabouts.

Macro Split

Now, we’ll divide her daily calories into 30% protein, 40% carbohydrates, and 30% fats:

  • Protein: 30% of 1876.38 = 563 kcal (140.75 grams, since 1g protein = 4 kcal).
  • Carbohydrates: 40% of 1876.38 = 750.55 kcal (187.64 grams, since 1g carbohydrate = 4 kcal).
  • Fats: 30% of 1876.38 = 562.91 kcal (62.54 grams, since 1g fat = 9 kcal).

We will also aim to keep the saturated fat below 10% of total fat, which is about 6.25 grams.

Meal Plans

Now, we’ll create three daily meal plans, ensuring each is balanced and includes preferred food choices.

Day 1

Breakfast: Greek Yogurt with Berries and Almonds

  • Greek yogurt (non-fat): 200g
  • Mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries): 150g
  • Almonds (raw): 20g
Breakfast Macros
  • Calories: 320
  • Protein: 24g (30%)
  • Carbs: 40.8g (51%)
  • Fat: 10.7g (30%)

Lunch: Grilled Chicken Salad

  • Chicken breast (skinless): 150g
  • Mixed salad greens: 100g
  • Cherry tomatoes: 50g
  • Cucumber: 50g
  • Olive oil (for dressing): 1 tsp
  • Lemon juice (for dressing): 1 tsp
Personal trainer meal plan sample meal
Lunch Macros
  • Calories: 295
  • Protein: 44.4g (60%)
  • Carbs: 6.5g (9%)
  • Fat: 9.5g (29%)

Snack: Apple with Peanut Butter

  • Apple (medium-sized): 1
  • Peanut butter (unsweetened): 2 tbsp
Snack Macros
  • Calories: 240
  • Protein: 8g (13%)
  • Carbs: 32g (53%)
  • Fat: 12g (45%)

Dinner: Baked Salmon with Quinoa and Steamed Vegetables

  • Salmon filet: 150g
  • Quinoa (cooked): 150g
  • Mixed steamed vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots): 150g
  • Olive oil (for drizzling): 1 tsp
Dinner Macros
  • Calories: 1015
  • Protein: 69.6g (27%)
  • Carbs: 101.7g (40%)
  • Fat: 34.8g (31%)

Total for the Day

  • Calories: 1870
  • Protein: 146g (31%)
  • Carbs: 181g (39%)
  • Fat: 67g (32%)

Grocery List for Day 1

  • Greek yogurt (non-fat): 200g
  • Mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries): 150g
  • Almonds (raw): 20g
  • Chicken breast (skinless): 150g
  • Mixed salad greens: 100g
  • Cherry tomatoes: 50g
  • Cucumber: 50g
  • Olive oil: 2 tsp
  • Lemon juice: 1 tsp
  • Apple (medium-sized): 1
  • Peanut butter (unsweetened): 2 tbsp
  • Salmon filet: 150g
  • Quinoa (dry weight to cook): 50g
  • Mixed steamed vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots): 150g

Day 2

Breakfast: Egg White Omelette with Spinach and Whole Grain Toast

  • Egg whites: 200g (equivalent to about six large egg whites)
  • Fresh spinach: 50g
  • Whole grain toast: 2 slices
  • Olive oil (for cooking): 1 tsp
Breakfast Macros
  • Calories: 310
  • Protein: 28.2g (36%)
  • Carbs: 36g (46%)
  • Fat: 7g (20%)

Lunch: Tuna Salad with Chickpeas and Olives

  • Canned tuna in water: 150g
  • Chickpeas: 60g (cooked weight)
  • Black olives: 20g
  • Mixed salad greens: 100g
  • Olive oil (for dressing): 1 tbsp
  • Lemon juice (for dressing): 1 tbsp
Lunch Macros
  • Calories: 470
  • Protein: 42g (36%)
  • Carbs: 32g (27%)
  • Fat: 22g (42%)

 Snack: Carrots and Hummus

  • Carrots: 100g
  • Hummus: 3 tbsp
Snack Macros
  • Calories: 185
  • Protein: 5g (11%)
  • Carbs: 25g (54%)
  • Fat: 7.5g (36%)

Dinner: Grilled Shrimp with Brown Rice and Asparagus

  • Shrimp: 200g
  • Brown rice (cooked): 180g
  • Asparagus: 100g
  • Olive oil (for grilling): 1 tsp
Dinner Macros
  • Calories: 905
  • Protein: 70.8g (31%)
  • Carbs: 137g (61%)
  • Fat: 13.5g (13%)

Total for the Day

  • Calories: 1870
  • Protein: 146g (31%)
  • Carbs: 230g (49%)
  • Fat: 50g (24%)

Grocery List for Day 2

  1. Egg whites: 200g or equivalent whole eggs to separate
  2. Fresh spinach: 50g
  3. Whole grain bread: enough for two slices
  4. Olive oil: 3 tsp
  5. Canned tuna in water: 150g
  6. Chickpeas (dry weight or canned): enough for 60g cooked
  7. Black olives: 20g
  8. Mixed salad greens: 100g
  9. Lemon: 1
  10. Carrots: 100g
  11. Hummus: enough for 3 tbsp
  12. Shrimp: 200g
  13. Brown rice (dry weight to cook): 60g
  14. Asparagus: 100g

Day 3

Breakfast: Protein Smoothie with Oats

  • Greek yogurt (non-fat): 200g
  • Oats: 40g
  • Banana: 1 medium
  • Whey protein: 1 scoop
  • Almond milk: 200ml
Breakfast Macros
  • Calories: 470
  • Protein: 35.1g (30%)
  • Carbs: 58.6g (50%)
  • Fat: 10.5g (20%)

Lunch: Lentil Soup with Whole Grain Roll

  • Dried lentils: 70g
  • Diced tomatoes: 100g
  • Onion: 50g
  • Garlic: 2 cloves
  • Vegetable broth: 500ml
  • Olive oil: 1 tsp
  • Whole grain roll: 1
Lunch Macros
  • Calories: 465
  • Protein: 34.8g (30%)
  • Carbs: 58.5g (50%)
  • Fat: 10.5g (20%)

Snack: Cottage Cheese with Pineapple

  • Cottage cheese (low fat): 150g
  • Fresh pineapple chunks: 100g
Snack Macros
  • Calories: 185
  • Protein: 20.85g (45%)
  • Carbs: 19.6g (42%)
  • Fat: 3.7g (18%)

Dinner: Baked Turkey Breast with Sweet Potato and Green Beans

  • Turkey breast: 150g
  • Sweet potato: 150g
  • Green beans: 100g
  • Olive oil: 1 tsp
Dinner Macros
  • Calories: 750
  • Protein: 55.5g (30%)
  • Carbs: 94.5g (50%)
  • Fat: 25g (30%)

Total for Day 3

  • Calories: 1870
  • Protein: 146.25g (31%)
  • Carbs: 231.2g (49%)
  • Fat: 49.7g (24%)

Grocery List for Day 3

  1. Greek yogurt (non-fat): 200g
  2. Oats: 40g
  3. Banana: 1 medium
  4. Whey protein: 1 scoop
  5. Almond milk: 200ml
  6. Dried lentils: 70g
  7. Diced tomatoes: 100g
  8. Onion: 50g
  9. Garlic: 2 cloves
  10. Vegetable broth: 500ml
  11. Olive oil: 2 tsp
  12. Whole grain roll: 1
  13. Cottage cheese (low fat): 150g
  14. Fresh pineapple chunks: 100g
  15. Turkey breast: 150g
  16. Sweet potato: 150g
  17. Green beans: 100g

You then continue the week’s diet planning, making sure the overall diet meets your client’s requirements and provides the nutrients necessary for health, performance, and fitness goals.

Client #2

Our second client is a 25-year-old male bodybuilder who wants to pack on as much muscle mass as possible without gaining too much body fat.

  • This bodybuilder is 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm) tall and currently weighs 198 pounds (90 kg). He works out rigorously five days per week in the gym, in the mornings. He doesn’t do any cardio, but his job requires him to be moderately physically active.
  • Our bodybuilder client doesn’t care about macro percentages. He wants exact grams, notably more than 1 gram of protein per pound (2.2 g/kg) of body weight to facilitate maximum muscle growth and enough carbs and fats to feel good and fuel his workouts. We’ll provide him with more details for each meal.
  • He likes meat and eggs, but he wants relatively inexpensive options. A bodybuilder’s food costs can quickly get out of hand. He has an afternoon on-the-go snack, meaning it has to be something that doesn’t require cooking but still delivers plenty of high-quality protein.

Calculating Daily Caloric Needs

Again, we’ll use the Mifflin-St Jeor equation for calculating the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Then we’ll multiply by an activity factor for a moderately active individual to get his Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

  • BMR= 10 × 90.7 + 6.25 × 178 − 5 × 25 + 5 = 907 + 1112.5 − 125 + 5 = 1899.5 kcal/day.

We multiply the BMR by 1.55:  1899.5 × 1.55 = 2944 for a moderately active individual.

In other words, he needs around 2944 kcal/day for his weight to remain stable.

A calorie surplus helps facilitate muscle growth. We’ll use a moderate surplus of 300 kcal, bringing the daily target to 3244 kcal/day.

Meal Plans

We’ll now create three daily meal plans focusing on animal-based protein sources like meat and eggs and using inexpensive ingredients.

Day 1

Breakfast: Oatmeal and Eggs

  • 5 Eggs (400 kcal, 35g protein, 0g carbs, 30g fat)
  • 2 cups Oats (600 kcal, 20g protein, 108g carbs, 10g fat)

Total: 1000 kcal, 55g protein, 108g carbs, 40g fat

Post-Workout Shake

  • Whey Protein (150 kcal, 30g protein, 5g carbs, 2g fat)
  • Banana (145 kcal, 1g protein, 37g carbs, 0g fat)

Total: 295 kcal, 31g protein, 42g carbs, 2g fat

protein powder snacks

Lunch: Rice and Chicken With Mixed Veggies

  • 8 oz Chicken Breast (374 kcal, 70g protein, 0g carbs, 8g fat)
  • 1.5 cups Brown Rice (324 kcal, 7.5g protein, 67.5g carbs, 3g fat)
  • Mixed Vegetables (150 kcal, 6g protein, 36g carbs, 0g fat)

Total: 848 kcal, 83.5g protein, 103.5g carbs, 11g fat

Snack: Greek Yogurt

  • Greek Yogurt (300 kcal, 30g protein, 22g carbs, 8g fat)

Dinner: Ground Turkey with Quinoa

  • 10 oz Ground Turkey (570 kcal, 55g protein, 0g carbs, 40g fat)
  • 1.5 cups Quinoa (333 kcal, 12g protein, 58.5g carbs, 6g fat)

Total: 903 kcal, 67g protein, 58.5g carbs, 46g fat

Total for Day 1

  • 3246 kcal, 266.5g protein, 334.5g carbs, 107g fat

Grocery List for Day 1

  1. Eggs: 5
  2. Oats: 2 cups
  3. Chicken Breast: 8 oz
  4. Brown Rice: 1.5 cups
  5. Mixed Vegetables: 1.5 cups
  6. Greek Yogurt: 2 cups
  7. Ground Turkey: 10 oz
  8. Quinoa: 1.5 cups
  9. Banana: 1

The protein powder is not on the daily grocery list. Our bodybuilder always has more than enough bags and tubs of protein powder at home and stocks up every other month or so.

Day 2

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs and Greek Yogurt with Granola

  • 4 Scrambled Eggs (320 kcal, 28g protein, 2g carbs, 24g fat)
  • 2 cups Greek Yogurt (300 kcal, 30g protein, 22g carbs, 8g fat)
  • 1 cup Granola (460 kcal, 10g protein, 66g carbs, 18g fat)

Total: 1080 kcal, 68g protein, 90g carbs, 50g fat

Post-Workout Shake

  • Whey Protein (150 kcal, 30g protein, 5g carbs, 2g fat)
  • Apple (190 kcal, 0g protein, 50g carbs, 0g fat)

Total: 340 kcal, 30g protein, 55g carbs, 2g fat

Lunch: Tuna with Sweet Potatoes and Green Salad

  • 8 oz Tuna (264 kcal, 58g protein, 0g carbs, 2g fat)
  • 2 cups Sweet Potato (228 kcal, 4g protein, 52g carbs, 0g fat)
  • Green Salad with Olive Oil (120 kcal, 3g protein, 16g carbs, 6g fat)

Total: 612 kcal, 65g protein, 68g carbs, 8g fat

Snack: Cottage Cheese

  • Cottage Cheese (400 kcal, 56g protein, 12g carbs, 18g fat)

Dinner: Roast Pork Tenderloin with Lemony Broccoli

  • 10 oz Pork Loin (690 kcal, 76g protein, 0g carbs, 41g fat)
  • 1.5 cups Steamed Broccoli (82.5 kcal, 6g protein, 16.5g carbs, 1.5g fat)
  • Juice from one lemon

Total: 772.5 kcal, 82g protein, 16.5g carbs, 42.5g fat

Total for Day 2

  • 3204.5 kcal, 301g protein, 242g carbs, 120.5g fat

Grocery List for Day 2

  1. Eggs: 4
  2. Greek Yogurt: 2 cups
  3. Granola: 1 cup
  4. Tuna: 8 oz
  5. Sweet Potato: 2 cups
  6. Mixed Greens: 2 cups
  7. Olive Oil: 1 tbsp
  8. Cottage Cheese: 2 cups
  9. Pork Loin: 10 oz
  10. Broccoli: 1.5 cups
  11. Lemon: 1
  12. Apple: 1

Day 3

Breakfast: Eggs, Cottage Cheese with Sliced Banana

  • 3 Boiled Eggs (240 kcal, 21g protein, 3g carbs, 18g fat)
  • 2 cups Cottage Cheese (400 kcal, 56g protein, 12g carbs, 18g fat)
  • 1 Banana (145 kcal, 1g protein, 37g carbs, 0g fat)

Total: 785 kcal, 78g protein, 52g carbs, 36g fat

Post-Workout Shake

  • Whey Protein Shake (300 kcal, 60g protein, 10g carbs, 2g fat)

Lunch: Ground Beef Pasta with Mixed Veggies

  • 8 oz Ground Beef (560 kcal, 52g protein, 0g carbs, 40g fat)
  • 3 cups Cooked Pasta (555 kcal, 21g protein, 105g carbs, 4.5g fat)
  • Mixed Vegetables (200 kcal, 8g protein, 48g carbs, 0g fat)

Total: 1315 kcal, 81g protein, 153g carbs, 44.5g fat

Snack: Protein Shake and

  • Casein Protein Shake (300 kcal, 60g protein, 10g carbs, 4g fat)
  • Orange (124 kcal, 2g protein, 30g carbs, 0g fat)

Total: 364 kcal, 50g protein, 36g carbs, 2g fat

Dinner: Turkey and Rice

  • 8 oz Turkey Breast (264 kcal, 58g protein, 0g carbs, 4g fat)
  • 1.5 cups Brown Rice (324 kcal, 7.5g protein, 67.5g carbs, 3g fat)

Total: 588 kcal, 65.5g protein, 67.5g carbs, 7g fat

Total for Day 2

  • 3352 kcal, 334.5g protein, 318.5g carbs, 94g fat

Grocery List for Day 3

  • Eggs: 3
  • Cottage Cheese: 2 cups
  • Banana: 1
  • Ground Beef: 8 oz
  • Pasta: 3 cups
  • Mixed Vegetables: 2 cups
  • Turkey Breast: 8 oz
  • Brown Rice: 1.5 cups
  • Orange: 1

This meal plan is guaranteed to give his muscles more than enough protein for optimal growth, provide the energy he needs to fuel his workouts, and the necessary nutrients to stay healthy.

Final Words

Creating the right meal plan for your clients can be an integral part of your personal training services. It accelerates fitness outcomes, gives your personal training clients long-term health benefits, and  helps them adhere to a healthy lifestyle.

The proper planning strategy, diet guidance, and meal plan templates ensures that your clients receive a personal trainer diet plan that leads to success.

For you, as the coach, staying informed about the latest nutritional science, understanding the unique needs of each client, and adapting plans as necessary are crucial to delivering maximum value. 

The best personal trainer meal plan comes from understanding the specific needs of your client and crafting a personalized plan that aligns with their exercise routine, wellness goals, and lifestyle.

Whether for losing weight, building muscle, or overall health improvement, taking the time to understand your clients and create the optimal custom meal plans shows that you are committed to their success in a way that goes beyond gym workouts.

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  2. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005 May;105(5):775-89. Comparison of predictive equations for resting metabolic rate in healthy nonobese and obese adults: a systematic review.
  3. Clin Sports Med. 2007 Jan;26(1):119-30. Micronutrient requirements for athletes.
  4. J Athl Train. 2000 Apr-Jun; 35(2): 212–224. National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Fluid Replacement for Athletes.
  5. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2020 Dec;28(12):2339-2346. Counselor Surveillance of Digital Self-Monitoring Data: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.
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Andreas Abelsson

Andreas is a certified nutrition coach with over three decades of training experience. He has followed and reported on the research fields of exercise, nutrition, and health for almost as long and is a specialist in metabolic health and nutrition coaching for athletes. Read more about Andreas and StrengthLog by clicking here.