I recently had a client who presented me with my most challenging, yet educational, situations yet. She came to me with the desire to lose about 10 pounds and with a height and weight at 5’7’’ and 150 pounds, respectively, this certainly was not out of reach. Previously her workout regimen consisted of 45-60 minute sessions of steady state cardio on the elliptical or treadmill and simple weight exercises employing high reps (15-25) at a low to moderate levels of exertion for strength training. As a trainer, I was excited to introduce her to different forms of cardio and weight training methods, though our biggest hurdle was her diet.
She has celiac disease, meaning she is unable to tolerate gluten in her diet. This rules out wheat, barley, rye and some oats…or in other words, most carbs. I asked her to record her food intake for a few days and it turned out she had a great diet. My personal standard for a good diet is making it through the week with no more than a cheat day or two, but her diet was amazingly clean with little deviation.
Our workouts would consist of high intensity circuits or either high intensity lifting two to three times a week on top of her solo workouts. It was a great training stimulus for her as it was exciting to do something new and she felt sure she would see results. However, this was where I made my mistake as a trainer. I forgot the most important part of her workout process – the recovery. Her diet would consist of 1400-1500 calories with the vast majority of it coming from protein with a dash of healthy fats. For most people this diet would make pounds come off pretty quickly, but this client was different. She had been on a very low carb diet for many of the last 10 years and her body had adapted to functioning at a slow metabolic rate. Her low metabolism in conjunction with her relatively low calorie diet and five to six times a week exercise schedule was a recipe for weight retention and even gain. Her body could barely reach a point of full recovery because it was not properly fueled.
Towards the end of our sessions, she went to a dietitian and a doctor and we also consulted other trainers. Our main takeaway from discussions with these professionals was that there was an imbalance. Too much/too intense exercise, not enough recovery, and too few calories and carbs. I have heard of needing to eat more carbs before, but I had never ran into the issue with a client. I was very accepting of the idea, but the hardest part is to convey the idea that eating more is actually what will help her lose weight. Contrary to what fad diets lead one to believe, carbs are one of the biggest factors in speeding up your metabolism by causing your body to release insulin. After a tough workout, insulin release is exactly what you need so you can get your body refueled and jump start the muscle rebuilding process. Obviously some carbs are better than others so be smart and stick with complex carbs such as brown rice, quinoa and oats for longer staying power. The “eat more, exercise less” concept is the complete opposite of what popular exercise culture has taught us, but it is important for those who have plateaued in their training. If you think this is you or have any other questions about diet and exercise imbalances, please ask us today!