In today’s blog post I want to go the most common client avatars I work with online.
It’s important to do this because what might be good advice for one person (ex: move more, eat less) might not be the best advice for you depending on your current situation.
There are a lot of similarities in terms of what we do, but there are also some differences.
Read through each one to see if it is you or not. Sometimes we think we might be in one category but then we find out we are in a different one.
The most common is thinking you are overweight, but actually, you need to focus on building more muscle before losing weight.
You could even fall in the category of thinking you need to build muscle, but really you are overweight and need to follow more of those guidelines.
Let’s dive into them.
Client Avatar # 1 Having trouble building muscle
This person is someone who has been working out for some time but doesnt have the amount of muscle they want.
- You train 4+ times per week but aren’t seeing the muscle growth you think you should be seeing.
- You might consider yourself a hard gainer or someone who has poor genetics for building muscle.
- You might also consider yourself “skinny fat”. Meaning you aren’t overweight, but you just look meh (terrible description but thats the best tI could think of).
There are a few problems I see with this client.
Training: They might be training a lot, but the training isn’t geared towards their goal. You might be doing something like Crossfit.
Or with your training, you might just be doing too much volume. And because of this, your quality sucks. So you spend hours in the gym.
Read HERE for the fundamentals of building muscle.
Read HERE for junk volume.
Nutrition: Your nutrition might not be matched up with your training. Either you track but are missing out on things like protein/carbs OR you have no focus on nutrition and you’re missing the nutrients you need to build muscle and recover.
OR you just undereat for the goal of building muscle.
Read HERE on commandments for performance and building muscle.
Recovery: Because nutrition is off and you train a lot, your recovery suffers there. You can only adapt to what you can recover from.
But your recovery is also off from a sleep perspective.
You push yourself hard in the gym but neglect things like sleep and recovering from training.
OR you might not ever take lighter weeks in the gym.
Read HERE for deloads.
What a long term plan might look like for this client:
Phase 1: Baseline phase: In the first 4-8ish weeks you can expect to work on improving your training quality. You will learn how to be strategic in terms of pushing yourself. You might drop from 6-7 days to 4-5 days per week.
The goal is to improve the quality of training.
From a nutrition perspective, we are looking at your biggest limiting factors and working on those. In some cases its adding in protein, or in other cases it’s making sure you are getting enough food in. It may also look like improving your pre/post-workout nutrition.
The biggest thing with this baseline phase is that we are setting you up to be in a good position to build muscle.
For a lot of clients they see great progress during this phase because training is improving but we are also dialing in things outside the gym.
Focusing on other habits like stress management and sleep are crucial during this time.
How long we stay in this phase depends on the client’s adherence to improving their habits.
Phase 2: Recomp/building phase: From there depending on the client’s goals and current situation we will move them into a building phase/recomp phase.
Training: In this phase, we will start to ramp up the intensity. It may look like more training days, more exercises, more reps, more weight etc.
Quality improved so now you can increase the intensity.
Not to mention you will have much better habits in place and are in a better position to build muscle.
Read HERE for training phases clients go through for building muscle.
Nutrition: Nutrition wise there are two ways we will go:
We will do a recomp depending on where the client is at.
Read HERE for recomp.
If the client is relatively lean and has trouble putting on weight. We will put them into a small to moderate surplus to gain some weight.
We will continue to push for recovery outside of the gym. Paying attention to things like sleep, stress, hunger/cravings, digestion etc.
The time frame for this phase can be anywhere from 12-24 weeks. This can potentially go longer.
Phase 3 Fat Loss:
Now that you spent the time building muscle, you can now run a cut and show off the new muscle you built.
You can expect to be the same or lower weight when you started but you will have a much better look at that weight.
This phase usually lasts 8-12 weeks.
From there once the cut is done you would return back to a maint/baseline phase for a period of time and then repeat the process from phase 2 (except this time you would have to be in a small to moderate surplus most likely).
Client Avatar #2 Chronic dieter/always fat loss dieting and training
This is the type of person who has tried to diet all of their life. You think the smaller you are the better.
- You are always trying to diet for fat loss.
- You diet for fat loss, push it, then fall off, then diet again. And the cycle repeats itself.
- You also think the more intense the training is the better.
- You go for the sweat, burn, etc.
- You may also rely heavily on cardio to lose weight.
- You might also overly focus on bodyweight. Seeing the scale go up even a pound leads to more cardio/food restriction.
- You also have a lot on your plate. So your stress reliever (working out/improving your body) is also a stressor.
The problem here is that you need to take some time to build muscle to get that shape you are looking for. But you hurt this process because you are in a constant low state of energy.
Phase 1 Baseline:
In this phase, we are going to work on reducing the training intensity and cardio volume.
We are going to switch your focus from intense style training (getting that sweat, burn, sore etc.) to lifting weights 3-4 times per week and work on the QUALITY of training.
Instead of focusing on high intense cardio/group style training, we will transition to focusing on steps, which lowers your overall stress from training.
Nutrition: In this situation, we usually make sure the client is eating regularly throughout the day.
Protein is also very important.
In certain situations, this may look like adding in more carbohydrates and just improving overall diet quality.
In this phase, we will also work on the relationship with the scale and focus more on biofeedback, measurements, and pics rather than just scale weight.
There is also a heavy emphasis on reducing overall stress and getting a better quality of sleep.
The goal here is to get your body out of that restrictive state.
Read HERE on metabolic adaption and what happens when you diet for too long.
Phase 2: Recomp/building
This phase is going to be similar to phase 2 for the person looking to build muscle except we will be closer to maint calories.
This means there are two options:
For the recomp, you might be closer to maintenance rather than in a deficit, because we want to get you out of the fat loss mindset for a period of time.
At this point I will push you towards the recomp guide I recently updated HERE.
When it comes to building this could mean we keep you at maintenance or in a very small surplus.
Side note: In this case RARELY will I put this person in a surplus. By getting on a better training program and reducing stress/improving nutrition this person will see great muscle growth from maintenance calories.
It depends on what the client is comfortable with and their training history.
The timeframe for this phase can be anywhere from 16-48 weeks or longer.
Phase 3: Fat loss
Just as with avatar one, at this point you will have taken time away from fat loss dieting, added some muscle, improved your lifestyle nutrition habits, and you will be in a GREAT spot to lose body fat.
You will find that the process will be much easier AND you will be more satisfied with your look.
But you have to be willing to go through phase 1 and 2 first. Thats the trade-off.
Otherwise, you can keep trying your way of fat loss dieting, but you’re going to hitting your head against a wall.
In most cases, this fat loss phase lasts 8-16 weeks.
Once the fat loss phase is done, you can go back to the baseline/maint. Phase for about 4-8 weeks and then you have a fresh slate to go back into building or trying one more 8-12 week fat loss diet.
Client Avatar #3 Overweight
The last avatar is your overweight person. This person is 15-20lbs + overweight.
- You probably haven’t worked out much, if ever.
- You probably have a job that is sedentary.
- You might have tried to diet a few times, but each time you gain all of the weight back plus more.
- You also probably hate the thought of having to cut out all of your favorite foods. You might think that the only way to lose weight is by doing just that. So you hold it off.
The problem with being overweight is that it isn’t great for your health.
This avatar is different because you need to get some weight off so you can start improving your overall health. Studies show that just dropping 5-10% improves your health dramatically.
So that is the goal with this client.
Because being overweight is making fat loss and building muscle tougher.
Phase 1: Baseline phase
This phase is similar to the first two avatars in that we are setting this client up for success by seeing what their limiting factors are.
However, instead of dialing things back as we do for the first two avatars, we are probably adding in exercise.
This may look like aiming for a step goal.
Or adding in 2-4 weight lifting sessions per week.
The other big thing is working on overall diet quality. We are probably focusing on adding in more nutrient-dense foods.
There may be some taking out of foods/drinks, but it’s mostly focused on adding in.
There will also be a focus on improving lifestyle habits like stress reduction and sleep.
Usually, by making these small changes the client WILL see some weight loss. This gets the ball rolling.
Just like with the first two avatars this phase lasts about 4-8 weeks.
Phase 2: fat loss
The big difference with this client is that we go straight into a fat loss diet.
Because you have higher levels of body fat, you are at a very low risk of losing muscle. And if you go from not lifting to lifting you WILL see muscle growth in the process.
You need more info on a fat loss diet, read HERE.
This phase can last anywhere from 8-24 weeks.
From there the client will go into a maintenance phase for 6-12 weeks and then they can look at going right back into a fat loss diet after the maintenance.
While there are some differences between each client avatar there is also a lot of overlap.
For one, each client starts with a baseline phase to work on habits and overall health and setting them up for the intended goal.
This usually consists of:
- Managing training and recovery
- Matching nutrition with training/goals.
- Focusing on improving sleep/managing stress.
- Maintaining a moderate level of physical activity.
- Lifting weights
- Getting enough protein
As you can see there are some differences between each avatar.
You wouldn’t recommend the same thing to someone who has been a chronic dieter/hardcore training all of their life and someone who has been overweight. They both need different things.
I hope this helps you get a better idea of where you are at and where you need to go.
If you have any questions on this and which category you fall into fill out this HERE and we can chat in more detail on where to go.
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