I have a couple of clients who are under their daily caloric needs for weight loss. The calories were calculated using their body fat %, age, height, weight, and activity level. One client should be around 1900 and after having him keep track of his calories for a week, he fluctuated from 1100 to 1700 per day. I tried to explain how we need to slowly introduce calories into his diet, but he’s so afraid of gaining weight. He’s lost about 20 pounds already and is down 1 pound from last week. Is it better to allow his to continue his eating habits or get his calories up? He really needs the calories to continue building muscle and keep his energy level up to perform better. We train about 3 days a week with various workouts that range from strength training, to endurance training, to power and interval training.
*I should add that we started training in January, so he’s lost 20 pounds in about 7 months. He still need to drop about 12 more pounds of body fat.
I noticed that you took the WITS course in order to become a personal trainer. I am a former instructor for WITS.
One of the things that I thought was a key point in the WITS course was the section on macronutrients. This section is key as many of our clients really don’t understand why we need four of the five main macronutrients in our diet on a daily basis, and even more so, we need them if we are using our bodies in such a way that the fuel sources for energy (carbs, fat) are being consumed at a greater rate than if we were not physically active.
However, to answer your question, I’d like to share a story with you that transpired between me and one of my clients who had a great amount of weight to lose. She was finding her new healthy way of eating very challenging and posed this question to me:
Joanne, what is the difference between eating 1650 calories of ice cream throughout the day or 1650 calories of eating fruits, grains, lean meats etc? She added, if weight loss is, as you mentioned, all about energy consumed and energy expended, does it really matter what I eat?
Nicole, to this day I thank her for that question as it forced me to think about food, specifically macronutrients, in a different way.
My answer to her was, “Yes. You can eat 1650 calories worth of ice cream throughout the day, engage in physical activity and lose weight. However, because you omitting important macronutrients in your diet, specific metabolic processes that must occur in order to stay alive can not happen at an optimum level as a consequence of the the omission of these macronutrients. It would be a pity for you to have reached your desired health/fitness/weight loss goals t the expense of your health.”
Here is the take home point. Keep it simple. If you don’t know already, learn first for yourself why we need, carbohydrates, fats, water and proteins in our diets and what role they play in carrying out specific metabolic processes related to maintenance of a healthy organism. In this way when our clients eat they see the VALUE of what they are ingesting and how it plays an important part in reaching their health/fitness/wellness goals.
I sure hope this helpful to you and wish you success with your clients.
I have clients with the same issue, they don’t take in enough calories to build lean muscle and lose fat. They don’t understand the basic concept that having lean muscle will boost BMR, and ultimately burn fat.
However, one client of mine, who didn’t eat enough before the workout, always hit a wall halfway through the workout. They would get dizzy, nauseus and need to cut the workout short at times or take longer breaks in between sets. I always asked them what they had to eat before coming to see me and the answer was usually something like “I had a banana” or “Just some coffee”. I had to explain that their bodies are machines that need fuel to operate, and without fuel the machine can’t work as effective. Then I would tell them, as and experiment, to eat some oatmeal with a banana and a cup of yogurt before our next workout, then eat a protein shake right after the workout and see how they feel. Sure enough, their workouts got more intense and they got the results they were looking for quicker.
Hope this helps.
I am not sure that your scenario is problematic. A 20 lbs. weight loss over a period of 7 months sounds entirely reasonable to me. You are not describing any problems of low energy during the workouts either. It sounds to me that the client has found a proper way of balancing energy in versus energy out.
I am also wondering whether the client, while being ask to keep a food diary for a week, may have during that time self-restricted his caloric intake simply on account of the fact that he was writing it down. I also would consider the fact that self-reported food quantities and calories are usually underestimated.
I would much rather pay attention to the quality of the food; Joanne has made that point beautifully.
Our clients need to learn the truth about calories, and replace the false beliefs with true fitness related beliefs, and in this case about calories. A common false fitness belief is: “Cutting back on calories will help me to lose weight and be fit”. They must learn that following this belief they will lose weight – but the wrong kind: mostly lean body mass and fat burning muscle. They need to learn and understand Caloric Balance, or the Energy Balance Theory. This can be taught in the initial consultation, or as soon as possible along with other related nutrition concepts. However, this can “go in one ear and out the other” if you only tell them and not provide the information for them to take home with. Provide your clients with your referral of a good book that explains calories in detail. I teach them from my own paperback book “The Fitness Quadrant”, which explain it all in detail, and saves both me and my clients a lot of time and money as they can learn the knowledge at home and not only when they are with me in a consultation or session.
In a short nutshell, as we move through our day our activity and caloric intake must balance. If our caloric balance is that being that we are consuming more calories than we require then our bodies store the excess calories as body fat (adipose tissue) as a fuel reserve. If we are not supplying enough calories for fuel then our bodies will cannibalize themselves by converting existing muscle mass into fuel and hence give up our lean body mass that requires caloric fuel so that the lower amounts of fuel will balance with the amount of lean mass requiring fuel.
During their fitness evaluation I determine their body composition, learn their individual daily activity level between sedentary and active, and using a formula determine their total calories and daily caloric percentages of Protein, Carbs and Fats.