What are Macronutrients?

If you are just getting started with fitness or nutrition you might have heard someone talk about macronutrients. What are macronutrients (often calls macros) though and why should you care?  We will go over all of that in this article.



The term macronutrient (macro) is somewhat clear in what it means.  Basically for the human body to to develop, grow, and sustain normal function you need macronutrients. Food is composed of some combinations of the three major macronutrients which are fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Macronutrients is where you body gets calories from and it important in everyday life.

Yes, your read that right. I did say fat and carbohydrates (carbs) are important for body functioning. 🙂


Let's start off with the most misunderstood macronutrient,  fat. People think fat is bad. Actually fat is an plays an important role in your body. You need fat;

  • For protecting vital organs
  • Insulation
  • Storing energy
  • And transporting fat soluble vitamins

Roughly 20% – 35% of your daily diet should come from fats. What does that mean in terms of food? Oils, meats, fish, dairy, seeds, and micronutrients.

You should not exceed more than 10% of your daily calories from Saturated Fats. This means butter, full-fat dairy, cream cheese, and coconut and palm oil.

1 gram of fat contains 9 calories.

I should be clear I'm not saying too much adipose tissue (fancy term for fat) is good for people. You do need to be consuming some in diet and working it off with calories in and calories out.


Carbohydrates are the second macronutrient we are going to be talking about. What role do Carbohydrates play in your body?

  • Fuels your Brain (Central Nervous System)
  • Fuels your body during exercise, (running, swimming, etc.)
  • Spares protein which can keep you muscle mass while exercising.

1 gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories.

You can obtain healthy carbohydrates by eating whole grains, low-fat and non-fat dairy, and fruit.

If you are extremely athletic roughly 70% of your daily diet should be carbohydrates. With physical training you can store five times more Glycogen (animal carbohydrates in meat and seafood) in your body. This pretty much means athletes have the ability to store a lot more carbs.

If you exercise somewhat regularly, at least four times a week or more, 60% of your diet should come from carbohydrates.

If you don't more around much, only 40% – 50% of your daily intake of food should come from carbohydrates.


Protein is the building blocks for human structure. Proteins functions;

  • Help form the brain and nervous system.
  • Help form blood, hair, skin, tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscle.
  • Transport mechanism for iron, vitamins, minerals, fats, and oxygen.
  • The key to acid-bad and fluid balance.
  • Produces enzymes that regulate your body's metabolism.
  • Fights infection and disease.

That is why it is so important for human development and why you see see people pushing the important of protein in the fitness world.

You can get protein in your diet by eating rice, legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, whole grains, meat, and some vegetables.

If you are eating some animal products, meat, these are known as complete proteins. They contain all of the essential amino acids you need in your diet. Typically plant foods are not complete proteins which means they do not contain all of the essential amino acids.

The exception to this is soy. This is why you see a lot of vegans and vegetarians loading up on a lot of soy in they're diets. Vegans and vegetarians need it to maintain a healthy amount of protein.

If you are not doing much exercise it is recommend that you consumer 0.36 grams of protein per pound of your weight. If you are somewhat active this is increased to 0.45-0.68 grams of protein. An Athlete can consumer 0.54-0.82 grams of protein for every pound of weight.

ACE vs NASM – Which is Better?

If you have stumbled upon this article I assume you are debating in your head “ACE vs NASM” or “NASM vs ACE”. If you are thinking of getting into personal training as a career or side job in the United States (US), or any country really, you need to get certified.

The two most common certifying organizations in my experience are the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). These are widely accepted by most gyms and fitness facilities across the country and even abroad.

You have probably seen a lot of talk about getting ACE or NASM certified. I am going to over my thoughts about each certification and individual experiences studying for both.


ace vs nasm nasm vs ace

ACE Certification

ACE boasts about 75,000 fitness and health professionals on it's website. To my understanding that would make ACE the most popular personal training certification, they have other certifications as well, in the United States.

The reason for this is that many gyms and fitness clubs support ACE education. ACE is also less expensive compared to NASM. Currently you can purchase the ACE Pro Advantage plan for $799 which includes everything in addition to the books and a retest voucher.

NASM is more expensive in that you need to buy the $1,000+ Guided Study program to receive a hard copy textbook. The less expensive plans do not include a textbook. Pricing for ACE and NASM study courses vary all the time though. I would keep an eye out for when they drop or have deals. NASM and ACE often offer payment plans for the courses, which I would take advantage of.

The difference with ACE materials is that it goes over a lot of behavioral psychology and motivational techniques. NASM focuses just on the exercise science.

In my opinion the ACE material feels a little bloated because of the psychology. All this is good to know as a trainer and something that may not come naturally to some new trainers.

However I feel when you are going to get certified are you doing so for the exercise science part of it. You should continue to learn on your own what will help you as a trainer.

The ACE Personal Trainer Manual, the textbook you read for the exam, is a bit hard to read. The book does a bad job of pointing out what is and is not on the CPT (certified personal trainer) test. Granted I have pointed out to many aspiring personal trainers that ACE provides an Exam Outline which is extremely useful. If you have the ACE Personal Trainer Manual the exam outline is provided in the back of the book. I recommend you follow it when studying since it tells you what could be on the test.

I say could be since the ACE, or NASM, has a bank of questions. It will randomly scoop up a batch and present you with these. Make sure to study.

The ACE book will often present a new term without giving an explanation. Sometimes the explanations are not clear. It also likes to bury certain terms and concepts that you should know and focus on. Personally I don't think is a conducive way to learn or write a book. The goal shouldn't be to trick new trainers but to provide knowledgeable trainers in the field for community.

You've heard my negative thoughts about ACE, but I would still recommend it. Why? It is an easier test compared to NASM and likely will take most people less time to get certified.

When I initially did my first round of test questions for ACE, I got a surprisingly number right without doing any studying. You will still have to study but if you already have a good base of fitness knowledge ACE shouldn't be too hard for you.

Also if you do not pass your ACE exam, they give you the score and the areas you did not do well. This is helpful for those that need to brush up on certain areas to retake the ACE personal trainer exam.

If you are on a time crunch to get certified and money is a concern, ACE is an ideal option for you. I would follow the ACE Exam Outline so you are not overwhelmed.

NASM Certification

NASM is considered the harder of the two certifications by most fitness professionals in the field. You will typically find people that went to college and studied Exercise Science got NASM certification.

There isn't any fluff material in the NASM Essentials of Personal Training textbook. It is well written and laid out compared to the ACE textbook.

NASM presents topics clearly and it goes over in an easy-to-follow manner. I personally had a much easier time reading and understanding the material in the NASM textbook. This is from someone who didn't have a background or go to school for exercise science.

Also I feel what is presented in the NASM textbook better prepares you to be a personal trainer. The NASM Optimum Performance Trainer (OPT) model is superior to the ACE Integrated Fitness Training (IFT) model. Again the OPT model is better explained and laid out compared to the ACE-IFT model.

Granted the material NASM gives you is better and easier to understand but the test is harder compared to ACE. Just practicing questions will not make you pass the NASM personal trainer exam. You really need to understand the material on a deep level.

Speaking of that one annoying thing about NASM is that you only get a – PASS or a FAIL score. This doesn't really help you if you didn't do well on the test to just get a FAIL. The thing I really like about ACE it actually gives you a numeric score so you know how well you did. In addition it will give percentages in the different areas.

They tend to change around the questions and word it differently. It can be a tricky test and it is something you should devote time to understanding. With the NASM Essentials of Personal Training textbook you should be able to learn.

NASM has one HUGE advantage over ACE, which is Recertify for Life. This is a program where you pay once and you are NASM-CPT for the rest of your life. You just need to keep a current CPR-AED certification in addition to continuing education credits (CEU).

ACE has no Recertify for Life program meaning you have to pay $129 every two years to renew your ACE-CPT. If you do no NASM's Recertify for Life you will have to pay $99 every two years.

The upfront cost for NASM is much higher compared to ACE. However if you do Recertify for Life and you stick with fitness as a career, you will save money in the long run.

NASM is well respected by other fitness professionals due to it being harder and more focused on science.

Other Fitness Certifications

What about other certifying organizations? Sure there are other great certifications to get.

One that comes to the top of my mind is The National Strength and Condition Association (NSCA) which has the most respected certification in the fitness community with the Certified Strength and Condition Specialist (CSCS). The CSCS is ideal if you want to teach at the college or high school level and is required for most positions.

The CSCS test is extremely hard. It is considered the hardest certification to get.

If you are going to be doing personal training though getting a CSCS, would be good, but probably isn't necessary. Also what certifications you get is largely dependent on what you want to do with your fitness career. I recommend you decide this for yourself.

Final Thoughts on ACE vs NASM or NASM vs ACE

Do you want a reality check? No client has ever asked me, “What certification do you have? ACE? NASM? CSCS?” You can ask other professional personal trainers, they will tell you the same thing.

Clients typically don't know the difference between fitness certifications and do not care. The people that will ask, other personal trainers and fitness professionals.

I've met personal trainers that are ACE certified and NASM certified that are fantastic. The most important thing to is to always keep learning after you get either certification. Be humble about what you do not know and want to learn. You will be a fantastic personal trainer if you have the mindset and attitude about it.

ACE does do a better job with ongoing education and providing webinars. NASM is a bit behind in this area but I still believe the winner between the two is NASM.

Just an FYI you will need to have a valid and updated CPR/AED certification before sitting for the ACE or NASM exams. This is a requirement and your CPR/AED certification must be done in person. I did my CPR/AED certification through the Red Cross. The two most common organizations that offer CPR/AED certification are the Red Cross and American Heart Association.

Have any thoughts about ACE vs NASM? What certification do you have or did you decide to go with? What experience did you have taking either the ACE or NASM personal trainer exam?

The 6 Steps of Motivational Interviewing for Personal Trainers

Motivational Interviewing can be a great technique for personal trainers to use to understand and encourage clients to stick with fitness.

I'm going to explain the basics of motivational interviewing for personal trainers. This will get you to understand how you can use it among many other tools at your disposal. It is designed to speak with people in a way to change their behavior, what personal training is all about. 🙂

1. Ask Deep Questions

At this point it is best to start with easy questions with a client. This includes open-ended questions about general health, fitness activity, SMART Goals etc.

You want to move to important questions that make the client think. If the the family has a history of coronary heart disease, “Did you know that regular fitness helps prevent heart disease?” is something that the client should consider and think about.

2. Listen

As I've discussed before listening to people, really listening, is an extremely hard thing to do. As a personal trainer though, you need to do this.

Effectively listening will show you care, understand, and respect your client's feelings. Remember they likely will be intimidated by exercise, unlike how you feel about it.

You can gain important information when you really listen to someone. I also don't mean listening with your ears but also your eyes.

3. Educate

You will want to educate your clients about the risks involved with not keeping up an active lifestyle.

This can be done via sharing resources such as videos, articles, handouts, etc. Point your client in the direction of good materials. Encourage them to search out information they want to know about and always keep the dialog open in a back-and-forth.

4. Be Friendly

Always show empathy and respect for a client's feelings. When they express negative feelings you do not want to get into arguments about that will make them feel defensive.

Acknowledge and be aware of how they feeling. Keep the conversation friendly and neutral.

5. Build Self-Confidence

Always find the “small wins” that a client is doing to motivate them.

Let's say your client used to take short walks with their dog. After sessions with you they are starting to take longer walks with the dog. Praise this type of behavior change.

6. Generate Ideas

Get your client to generate ideas on how they can best keep up with the workout routine you have set out for them. Goal-generating questions are a great way to accomplish this.

Encourage small changes which can lead to “small wins”.

Motivational Interviewing

The reason motivational interviewing works so well is because it has it's origins in addiction-counseling with therapists. Be aware of whether motivational interviewing is working with your client, or isn't.

Has the client stopped paying attention or listening to you? Then start listening to what the client is saying via their words, voice tone, and body language. You can learn a lot this way and like I already said, avoid arguments at all costs. The trainer-client relationship should always be friendly and respectful. You need to find ways to nudge, motivate, and encourage without seeming pushy.

I'd like to hear from personal trainers and others in the fitness industry. Have you used motivational interviewing in the past? Did it work well or not well with clients?

The 4 Stages of the Trainer – Client Relationship

If you are new to personal training there are 4 stages to the trainer-client relationship you should be aware of. If you are studying for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) personal trainer exam you will need to know this;

1. Rapport

At the Rapport stage the personal trainer, that means you, should be building a foundation of trust with the client. Keep in mind good verbal and non-verbal communication are extremely important. While it takes time to build a relationship with a client and have them trust you, first impressions are key.

Often first impressions can determine if you gain a client or never see that client again. At the Rapport stage of the relationship make sure you are well groomed, have appropriate clothing, and be confident in what you are telling your prospective client.

One important thing I tell other personal trainers just getting started is to listen.  I don't just mean listen with your ears but you eyes too. What does that mean? If a client is telling you about different experiences with exercise you need to be aware of their body language, voice tone, and other factors.

Appear attentive to everything the client is telling you with laser-like focus. Remember for non-verbal communication keep good eye contact, have goody body position, and be aware of your facial expressions.

“Listening” is a skill I learned from doing Improv. I recommend if you want to be a personal trainer you go take an Improv 101 class. It will help you in many ways personally and professionally. Good listening is difficult and requires constant practice.

2. Investigation Stage

The Investigation stage is the information gathering stage of the trainer-client relationship. Keep in mind you are asking someone that has never met you to tell you a lot of personal information about themselves. This includes but is not limited to body weight (in my experience the most touchy subject), medical history, exercise history, feelings about fitness, etc.

You can get a lot from this information but like I said in the Rapport stage, listening is really important. Don't take and give advice because, “I am the professional.” be open to hearing the client on coming to terms with their reality.

If you listen properly you will typically be able to figure out what exercises a client likes, or might like, and what they will not like. You should also be able to figure out why a potential client hasn't been able to adhere to a fitness program. Are kids getting in the way? Stressful situations at work? There could be plethora of reasons and you need to find these out.

Often in the investigation stage clients can get personal. Be aware of what is outside a personal trainer's scope of practice. If a potential client reveals they are suffering from an eating disorder or from depression, you need to seek outside help and refer them to the right professional help.

3. Planning

The Planning stage is when you should be setting down plans, goals, and roadmap with the client about the fitness program. At this Planning stage you should;

  • Set goals
  • Talk about alternatives
  • Formulate a plan
  • Evaluate the exercise program with the client.

You will want to use SMART Goals to set down goals.  If you are studying for the ACE personal training exam, know SMART Goals.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based.

Remember there are many ways to measure fitness progress. The ultimate goal through is adherence to the program you have laid out for the client. Even if you have to switch something up, you want them to be sticking to workout out. Since that is the only way they are going to see results and you will be successful.

At this stage be more open to back-and-forth communication with yourself and the client. Use goal-generating questions to get a better understanding of the where they are what you need to do.

From all this you can formulate a plan. Make it clear and write it down and present this to a client. Keep in mind that even though you enjoy fitness and a gym, the client likely will feel overwhelmed and intimidated. Show empathy and respect for the difficulties clients face.

4. Action

The Action stage is just what you think, the exercise part of the relationship. What you traditionally think of when you think of the term “personal training”.

If you want your clients to have the best chance for success, use a self-monitoring system. You can give a fitness client flashcards, a sheet of paper, use an app, website, etc. Self-monitoring has been proven to drastically help with behavior change and adherence to a fitness program.

This acts a great way for a client to be self-aware of their actions. It will also create better communication about what they client is doing outside of the training session. Basically if someone knows they are getting watched and monitored, they will change their behavior.

When you are in the full swing of training a client, you are a teacher. Become familiar with the different ways people learn. Some learn better by watching, some learn better by listening, and some learning better with kinesthetics.

An auditory learner might want to hear you explain a lot and ask a lot of questions. A visual learner might just want to watch you do the exercises, monkey see monkey do.  Another might want you to correct them doing it. Keep in mind certain people might need combinations of these instructions.

Keep in mind motor learning and physically doing things your body is not used to can be frustrating for beginners. It takes times to improve and you need to be there for your clients.

Remember to “tell, show, do” for the clients. Give clear explanations of what you are doing, why, and let the client focus on performing the exercises with focus. Always;

  • Say what was done well and positively reinforce.
  • Tell the client what was done wrong in a polite but encouraging way.
  • Give motivation so that the client can continue to improve.

Sandwich the negative between reinforcement and motivation. Do not overload the client with information about what they are doing wrong. This is where most trainers make a big mistake. Focus on the biggest errors in the exercise first.

To help reinforce the behavioral change that is necessary for fitness you can try a Behavioral Contract. This isn't a legal contract it is just for the client-trainer. It says things like “I will Do ___ When ___ How often ___ How Much___”.  They can be rewards in the contract for completing goals and penalties if they don't. You also set a date when you will revisit the behavioral contract. I've had good results with these contracts but it varies from client to client.

The 5 Primary Fitness Movements

Throughout the day you move a lot. Doesn't matter who you are, you move even if you hate exercise. Which doesn't make sense to me. 🙂

These are 5 Primary Movements that you perform as your move throughout your day.

1. Pushing

Pushing can occur in four different directions. This includes;

  • Forward – A fitness exercise would be a push-up for instance.  Regular everyday activity would be pushing a door open.
  • Overhead – An overhead shoulder press is an excellent example. Putting an item on shelf.
  • Lateral – Lifting a torso when lying on your side or pushing open double-sliding doors.
  • Downward – Performing dips pushing yourself up or getting out of a chair or swimming pool.

2. Pulling

Pulling exercises include the classic pull-up or a bent-over row. Pulling can also be when you are picking something up off the floor or just opening a door.

3. Bend-and-Lift (Squat)

Bend-and-Lift is best described as squatting, since that is what it is. A squat is performed many times throughout the day as you sit down, stand-up, or squat to lift something off the floor.

4. Single-Leg (Lunge)

Single-leg movements are essentially a lunge.  This is an important movement for properly walking. If you couldn't balance and lunge slightly walking would be difficult.  A lunge movement is also performed when a person steps forward and will reach down to pick-up something off the floor.

5. Rotational (Spiral)

Rotation occurs throughout the day as you move. This could be the rotation of the thoracic spine when walking. It can also occur when you reach across the body to pick-up something and move it to the other side.

5 Primary Fitness Movements

These 5 primary movements are important to think about if you perform any type of fitness activity or are designing a program for yourself.

Most squatting, pushing, and pulling exercises can be done unilaterally or bilaterally.  This means you can train one-side of the body or the other. Many movements and exercises incorporate several of these primary movements. Squatting, pushing, and pulling have some element of a rotational movement and stability in exercises. For instance picking something up off the floor is a pulling motion, a bend-and-lift (squat), and perhaps a slightly rotational movement to get that hard to reach pen.  Movements are often dynamic.

It is important to get all of theses movements in a fitness program to develop proper mobility and stability in your kinetic chain. Proper range of motion (ROM) should always be performed while doing any of the 5 major fitness movements. In addition to maintaining a good center of gravity (COG).  This will yield the best results and reduce the risk of injury.

Do you find yourself performing one of these actions a lot more throughout your day? Why is that? Perhaps think about what could you do to train the other movements more?

Studying for the ACE Personal Trainer Exam? Use This!

ace personal trainer exam

Often I see many people that get overwhelmed when studying for the ACE Personal Trainer exam. To become a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) you need to read and understand a lot of material. It can be overwhelming for many people. Honestly studying for the personal trainer exam felt overwhelming for me.  If you are feeling stressed, seriously you are not alone.

I have a very good tip that I recommend to anyone currently studying for the;

  • ACE Personal Trainer exam
  • ACE Group Fitness Instructor exam
  • ACE Health Coach exam
  • ACE Medical Exercise Specialist exam

What is it? Use the ACE Exam Outlines that are provided by the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Most are not aware but ACE provides exam outlines for all of four of these tests. The ACE Exam Outlines are great resources since it tells you exactly what areas will be covered on the ACE exams and the percentages it will cover.

I've uploaded and attached the PDF for the ACE Personal Trainer exam outline here. The current test covers;

  1. Interviews and Assessments – 23%
  2. Program Design and Implementation – 31%
  3. Program Modification and Progression – 26%
  4. Professional Conduct, Safety, and Risk Management – 20%

In the ACE Personal Trainer Manual (Fifth Edition) you can go to page 718 to get Appendix B, which is the ACE Personal Trainer exam outline. I used the PDF to print out a copy though which was extremely useful when I was trying to figure what to study and focus on.

Keep in mind ACE does continually update the test. Meaning they will change percentages of what is covered. If you want the most updated version you can go here. Typically the percentages do not change by much but I thought you should be aware as a future personal trainer.

Using the exam outline should take a lot of mystery and stress out of reading the whole book and having to memorize everything. I'm not saying there isn't useful information in the ACE Personal Trainer Manual that isn't on the test.  There are just some things you don't really need to know about or could probably better learn from other sources.

For instance LLC vs S Corp and C Corp? Yeah I'll save you the trouble just get an LLC for you fitness and training business. Use a registered agent if you want your home address out of the public record and it's best to incorporate in your home state.

If you are studying for another ACE exam besides the Personal Trainer test, here are the links for the;

I hope whatever ACE exam you are studying for that these exam outlines come in handy for you. If you passed the test and learned about these exam outlines from reading my article, please let me know. I'd love to know! 🙂

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