What might be one of the biggest mistakes Personal Trainers make when trying to help their clients burn fat? I know I was guilty of making the same mistake!
When I first started training people, it took me a while before I started to see results. It was most puzzling.
I would see a client and want to get right into their diet. The first session would be mainly a discussion in front of my laptop where I’d write down facts and figures into a spreadsheet and, well, tell them the bad news.
Thing is, I was having to deal with two inaccurate bits of information:
- How much the client was currently eating
- How much they should be eating based on my studies
How much clients think they eat
Part one of this erroneous equation was so because of one or more factors:
- People don’t know just how much they’re eating
- People know but are either in denial or are lying due to shame
- I am, or was, totally naive.
Put all this together and I ended up with a very messed up idea of how to prescribe someone’s caloric intake. Especially if you add into that my training and how it is somewhat biased toward the lean athlete and not the over-weight, middle aged house wife.
I would go through the client’s typical day and find out how much they ate. Here’s a basic breakdown of your average, female, forty-something, five and a half foot, 180 pound, 40% body-fat client’s daily food intake according to them:
Total Kcal: 850 (approx.)
That, in terms of daily food plan, translated to something along the lines of this:
Mid morning: Banana
Lunch: Sandwich (or soup) & yohgurt
Mid afternoon: biscuit
Dinner: Pasta with meat (or similar)
And you wouldn’t believe how consistent this was. Most of my female clients gave me this as their daily food intake, claiming they had no idea how they were getting fat.
Of course I thought I knew why. Based on my food intake equations, they should be eating around 2200-2400kcal per day of high protein, high fat, low carb meals. They were so fat because their metabolism had all but stopped!
Or so I thought. And I never fully came to my senses until I saw a very interesting TV show in the UK called Secret Eaters. I highly recommend trying to watch it if you don’t know why you’re overweight!
How much clients are REALLY eating
Here’s a more accurate idea of what someone would be eating:
Total Kcal: 3320 (approx.)
It’s easily done. A few ready meals here, a take-away there, some crisps and biscuits polished off with a couple of glasses of wine. Bammo, you’ve jumped a few dress sizes in a year or two.
I had no idea because in my world, I just ate freshly made food and avoided sugar at all costs. I also don’t drink alcohol and am paranoid about not eating complex carbs. But the world outside that of the health fanatic is very different.
Casually training, female fat-loss clients aren’t bodybuilders!
It then hit home when I started training my partner and had her on an ‘approximation diet’ where you don’t count calories, you just aim approximately and when I say aim, I also mean toward quite hefty calorie counts.
She was early thirties when we started to train, around 20-25% body fat and five foot, three inches tall. I had her on about 1800kcal per day but due to the ‘not counting’ or ‘approximation’ diet it was probably more like 2100kcal per day. Especially if you averaged it out over the week. We’re talking protein shake plus oats and a spoon full of oil for breakfast, high fat, low carb meals throughout the day followed by more shakes and more oil for supper.
I also had my other clients, often female, often obese and middle-aged, on as much as 2400kcal a day because I was prescribing an athletic diet and super compensating for their slow metabolism. Stoke the fire! Ten meals a day! go go go!
Well, they ‘went’ alright. Right out the door and never came back!
If you want to burn fat and get slim you must count calories
I think I heard a voice from way back, scorning people for counting calories and I had a kind of knee-jerk, “Oh, yeah, for sure”, kind of response.
But having counted calories a LOT, I can now see the errors of that philosophy.
“If you don’t count calories, you WILL be eating more than you think.”
You have to know exactly what you’re eating and be careful with the high calorie foods because they sneak up on you. Remember, 10 grams of protein is 40kcal and of that, a certain amount of calories will be used to process the protein, so it’s metabolically stimulating to consume protein. 10 grams of fat is 90kcal and requires very little energy to process because our bodies are efficient at storing it.
So frying is a pain because many foods absorb oil and as you’re cooking, you’re thinking that the food looks dry, I’ll add more oil. Pretty soon you’ve sunk hundreds of calories into that meal.
So how many calories should we eat??
Well, I used to base my calorie intake on an assumption that the clients were squatting once a week, probably doing barbell rows, dips, chin-ups and so on. So my calorie prescription wouldn’t have been way off… but they weren’t doing anything of the sort!
Of course, I told them to but like I say, the majority of my clients were middle-aged females who didn’t want to train like that. I’d have them doing free-weights, which was more than many other Personal Trainers, who’d just have them doing cardio and lifting little pink, plastic dumbells, but the top and bottom of it is – less calories are needed if you’re not training as hard as you should be.
Without an in-depth discussion on your lifestyle, body shape, training style and so on, it’s hard to drill down a decent approximation of calorie intake but for women who aren’t training super-hard, you’ll want to stay this side of 1600-1800kcal per day. And again, that’s very approximate.
If you’re doing light exercise then toward the lower but if you are doing full-on, athletic training and have a very busy lifestyle, good metabolism and love to do lots of cardio – then you can think of going higher. Again, this is for fat loss.
I’m glad I made those mistakes. I now train my partner incorporating heavy leg and back days and we are currently counting every calorie. For the first time she is stepping on the scales and seeing numbers she hasn’t seen in about a decade. Her body fat percentage is lower (just into the high teens) and her muscle definition is very noticable in her upper body. Good times.
Ok, I hope you learned some key fat loss tips in this article. It’s been years in the making!
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