There are a lot of variables and many facets to gaining muscle, losing body fat, or doing both at the same time (yes, you can do both at the same time). However, there is one thing that stands out above everything else and if you focus on it and look for it, you will be able to apply it to every aspect of your progress for both training and nutrition. Find the PATTERNS.
Find The Patterns
A good prep guy/online trainer should have a lot of knowledge about training, nutrition, supplementation, and a myriad of other sub-topics, as well. He/She should also have a great eye, instinct, and be personable and professional. All of these things go without saying, though. A really good online trainer/prep guy will have the ability to see and find patterns in EVERYTHING.
There are patterns to everything; you just have to find them. It takes time, but as you gain more data points, the patterns will begin to emerge. Patterns make things predictable or at the very least, give you a good idea of what will happen. if you do X and Y, the result is Z. The trick is to be able to recognize them as quickly as possible to limit any wasted time. After all, efficiency is part of what you are paid for as a trainer. Most every trainer can get results, but how efficient are you with your clients' paid time? The question is rhetorical, of course.
To find patterns, it is important to limit the amount of variables that are changed at one time. My clients have heard me say—more times than they can count—that I do not like to change too many variables at one time. It makes it too hard to assess why or how changes occurred if there are too many changing variables. It is incredibly important to know why and how you or a client responds the way they/you do. The less variables, the more accurately you will know the reason change or progress has happened. When you see these patterns, it means that these patterns can most times be replicated to repeat the same result (or close to it).
Patterns in training can be as simple as noticing progression after a deload/cruise week, or patterns could emerge showing that after 5 weeks of blast training, progression slows or comes to a screeching halt. One of the most obvious patterns would be scale weight increases or decreases based on nutrition changes. This one isn't usually missed, but I wanted to note it, anyway.
Some of the more not-so-obvious training patterns would be how someone responds when they add in high-intensity techniques, red flags for injuries or "itis" issues, or even patterns that show training is affected by the diet, rest days, or high/low carb days.
Some of the patterns related to training might not be directly related to training performance. Sleep patterns are a good example. This is why monitoring your sleep can be a vital component to fully optimize progress. Stress is another good example but stress is difficult to measure or assess from a black and white standpoint. Still, there may be patterns that emerge based on stressful situations in relationships, at work, etc.
Dieting patterns are equally as important, of course. Paying attention to how you respond after skipload days or cheat meals can provide valuable information that helps you predict how you will respond in the future. How you respond after a non-training day vs training for three or four days straight are important things to consider, as well. How you respond to different food types, different macros, and how you respond to training early in the morning after one or two meals vs how you respond when you train later in the day after five meals.
Supplementation has to be mentioned, as well. Different "supplements" or different combinations of supplements can not only show patterns for progress, but they can also show patterns in behavior, hunger, strength (of course), water retention/condition, mood, etc.
Some patterns will be easier to figure out and will be more obvious while for others you will have to really dig in and scratch your head for a while before finding them. The more information you gleen from clients (or about your own plan), the quicker you will find them and the better you will get at recognizing them. If you are not asking for or receiving enough feedback from your clients, it will be incredibly difficult to find the patterns. Push your clients for feedback; over-communicating is better than not having enough communication with clients. If you get too much information, set it aside. I would much rather have too much information than not enough.
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