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.
One of the first things I explain to clients is that if they want their body’s to burn calories and become fit they need to take in the right amount of calories. Digestion itself burns calories, and to increase metabolism, a higher amount of calories needs to be taken in to increase workload. The next thing I explain is that these calories have to be broken down to certain percentages according to what you find should be their total intake. Carbs, proteins, and fats need to be shown to the client as specific amounts in percentages of the total (ex: for a 2,000 calorie diet would be how many kcals should be carbs, how many protein, how many fats (specifically healthy fats)) Explain that this will maximize lean muscle growth and provide energy to burn. My most successful clients have proclaimed that they eat more now than they did when they tried some mainstream diets on their own.
Bottom line is that you exert an amount of energy, your calories taken in are nutrient dense and balanced, and you are involved in a healthy workout regime you’re body will conform to a healthy shape. If you’re client feels like he is more advanced or can do w/o the extra calories make sure he is aware of how the body works and performs at peak such as the above comments have illustrated.
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.
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.
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.