As a coach or trainer, you have a responsibility to your clients – to keep them safe and teach them enough of the practical elements of what you know so that they become (and remain) capable, healthy, and confident. We believe that part of the struggle is providing them the right materials to take home, as well as a community to support them when you’re not available. With “Met Flex for Fat Loss” and the Science Lab private forum, we’ve got you covered.
I don’t really care how you eat. In the end, body composition is math. We can argue all day about Calories in versus Calories out or whether or not grains are healthy but that isn’t the real problem as I see it.
What Does “In Shape” Mean To You?
That should be the first question we’re asking clients because frankly, I think many coaches start at “go hard or go home” or “eat clean” before they’ve really done their homework. If you ask any coach or personal trainer, most (if not all) have the same story. Basically, we are in the game of changing mentality, so let’s start there.
If we are talking about new trainees, let’s quit being complicated. “In shape” means more capable than they are now, with visible changes to their body composition. This is the low-hanging fruit people, and we are SCREWING this up! In the first six months, virtually anything that a new trainee does is going to get them results, especially if it”s real, hard training. If we are introducing something like weightlifting or high intensity to clients, let that be the focus. For most trainers or coaches, this is the part they are best at and they are blowing it trying to keep clients “accountable” from the get-go. If you are good at making people more capable, start there and explain to the clients that they will feel and look better if they show up and go “all in” as a member of the community you are creating.
Change WHAT You Eat, not How Much
Exercise is stress. Asking people to eat meats and veggies exclusively, especially in the beginning, is unrealistic and you will lose clients with this approach. Frankly, attrition is a big issue in this industry no matter what but when you try and get clients accustomed hard training AND eating less at the same time, it is both unnecessary and harmful.
Like I mentioned earlier in this paragraph, exercise is stressful and so is dieting. Since we know new trainees can basically do anything and see results, it’s crucial to find a balance between stress and recovery. Naturally, as you start to work harder in the gym there are adjustments that happen with food. Let me give you an example of some suggestions that we can make to clients that are easy to implement and can serve as replacements for some of their current nutrition choices.
- Eat more protein – Most experts recommend .75-1 grams of protein per lb. of bodyweight. For example, I am a 180 lb. man. To consume 1g per lb. of bodyweight, I need to eat roughly three 10 oz steaks. When I ask people if they are eating the equivalent, I would say roughly 10% or so say that they do. We know that protein is an important component for muscle maintenance and muscle building, not to mention recovery. It’s also a highly thermic macronutrient, meaning that it is favorable for fat burning. It should go without saying that if people can eat and drink more protein, they will be more fed and satiated. This leads to less “binge type” thinking.
- Eat fewer carbs (but not not ZERO carbs) – You will often hear people say that carbs make them hungry. In fact, the opposite is true. Most people find that they don’t get proper hunger signaling when eating exclusively meats and veggies, so they are hungry when they are done. This will often lead to snacking on energy dense foods that aren’t carbs, or they will try to just suck it up and deal with the hunger. Demonizing carbohydrates is a lose/lose battle for gym owners, so why not sell them on an approach that makes more sense? Eat in a more balanced way the good majority of time. When people say they eat veggies for carbs, I am all for that…But if you’re an athlete, avoiding starches is a negative and it’s my opinion, once again, that it leads to bad decisions behaviorally. Occasionally eating a moderate amount of carbs should not be an issue for most of your fat loss clients, and it likely never was.
- Have clients include a healthy amount of fats in their meals – One of the big advantages to being active is that your energy output values go up. Typically, your standard “don’t eat carbs” or “don’t eat fat” diet forces you to choose one or the other. I suggest a balance of fats and carbs. Those added Calories allow your clients to eat in a more convenient, healthy way without adding a lot of body fat in the process. Also, in the beginning as clients are making massive gains, these Calories help them with rest and recovery so their workouts are more enjoyable and the extra food allows them to progress more quickly.
I almost don’t want to go into this last part because most trainers/coaches are great at this one…Especially in the beginning. Still, as athletes become more accomplished, they will need rest days. In the beginning I would rather see people working out three or four times a week at close to 100% intensity rather than six or seven times a week at 60%. Both are going to get them similar results in the end but the first one is much more sustainable and we need to make sure that as the stress of training increases, recovery becomes prioritized.
Disordered Eating and Disordered Exercise
I’ve met a lot of smart people over the last few years, many of whom could be making a lot more money doing just about anything other than training or coaching but it’s the passion for helping people that fills in the gaps. The problem we run into though is that we can’t give 100% attention to 100% of the people all of the time. At some point, the client will be left to their own devices. However a person chooses to eat, their body will adapt. If they are meant to eat 2,500 Calories but only eat 2,000 Calories a day, their bodies will figure out a way to make that work. This is why having a high work capacity is such a great tool and why that should be the focus in the beginning (and frankly most of the time).
One mistake that I think a lot of people make is that the clients they work with are constantly over eating, and that is why their body is storing fat. While there is an element of truth to that, let me use the example above as an illustration. Let’s say this example is a male. He eats poorly, doesn’t get in a good amount of protein, and his meals aren’t balanced. Subconsciously, because he eats poorly, he under eats. When you get this person exercising, they are going to be hungry and so they are going to eat more without altering their bad habits. That will more often than not lead to fat storage. Take that same person, feed them adequate protein, moderate carbohydrates, and a decent amount of fats, and they will be full more often with less of a chance of over eating due to their increased energy demands. Those nutrients and those Calories make all the difference. Yes, I said it: Calories make a big difference.
This is why 30 day challenges work so great, but the effects don’t last. It takes your body a while to adjust but it will eventually figure out that those meats and veggies aren’t providing enough Calories. Something has to give – immune function, rest cycle, or down regulation of hormonal processes in the body – you just can’t ask yourself to subsist on less without some change occurring, and for athletes this is a negative. Once the gains they got from that 30 day challenge are done, they think “But I still have some fat to lose!” They will often turn to eating less meats and veggies as the answer. Eventually, the body will want more food and they cave and have all of those “bad foods” everybody has been warning them about. You know, all of those bad foods that make you store fat.
Well guess what; the bad foods weren’t the problem. We are giving people a rough outline of how to eat, but not finishing the story. Said simply, the amount of food you eat matters. I am not suggesting that if you want to gradually attack some fat loss that you can’t do that on occasion, but many people are more confused because they know they aren’t eating all that much, they’re lacking energy, and they haven’t PR’ed in a while. That’s when they drop their gym membership and we’ve ultimately failed as coaches and trainers.
We need to stop proclaiming foods as good and bad and recognize that amount of food matters. Additionally amount of exercise matters but not in the “go hard or go home” way, we advise clients that when the goal is fat loss volume should be cut back. Fat loss is hard, adding a lot of extra stress trying to buy a few extra Calories will take it’s toll. Maybe not initially but over time it will.
Doing Real Work is Its Own Reward
Most trainers and coaches have made fitness and nutrition a priority for some time. It’s often hard to put ourselves in the place of newer trainees and trainees that have stalled with progress once newbie gains are gone. As people reach their potential, progress slows down. One thing is for sure though; many people think that losing weight/fat is going to have a much bigger impact on their lives than it often does. In fact, the impact can be pretty negative and compromise a lot of their athletic gains. Obviously, that isn’t true for an obese person that needs to drop weight to start getting healthy, but it does apply to people who only really have a small amount of fat to lose.
What we’re learning with Eat To Perform is that when we convince a person to fuel their workouts properly, eat mostly whole foods, with smart supplementation that is respectful of their goals, the whole fat loss thing becomes less important. Not unimportant – just further down the list. The thought of losing 10-15 lbs. of their snatch PR becomes more important than fat loss. I think that’s a message a lot of trainers and coaches would be happy to receive. If you start from the place of trying to solve their fat loss problems with eating less or “eating clean” or whatever you want to call it, many people don’t end up coming out through the other side; they may remain a gym member but it’s for the wrong reasons. They now need exercise to maintain their weight. They don’t know that exercise isn’t the only way, and they may want to try to move on, but it’s that fear of the unknown that paralyzes them.
For this reason, we believe that he best approach is a focus on performance and building lean mass, with occasional breaks to drop body fat. “Just eat more.” is confusing advice – people need specifics and guidance, and that’s exactly what we provide.