As a personal trainer / fitness professional I’m sure you will agree that fat loss is THE biggest driver for the fitness industry. You could probably count on one hand the amount of clients you have that DON’T want to drop just “a little more” body fat.
As a trainer you are constantly bombarded with blueprints, systems, protocols, diets and supplements that all claim to get the best results fastest! But in reality there is no short cut to fat loss (and if there was personal training would be dying a death). The simple (but not easy) truth is that fat loss comes through positive mindset, eating well and keeping active.
Personal training should be just that “personal”. Trainers deal with people not robots, so don’t expect a “one size fits all” approach to work. You should do what you were originally trained to do – which is assess your client’s wants and needs then produce a bespoke plan to accommodate them as an individual.
If you are currently working with a client for fat loss I would absolutely encourage you to consider re-evaluating the following three points…
1. Does your client have too much on their (mental) plate?
Is your client in a good mental place to take on your fat loss plan successfully?
A study by Shiv & Fedorikhin demonstrated that people tend to make the wrong choices when they are under mental pressure. In their study, they presented two groups of students with a list of numbers to remember. Group one had to remember a list of 2 numbers and group two were asked to remember a list of 7 numbers. Students were then asked to walk down the corridor where they were presented with a choice of two snacks, either a slice of chocolate cake or a fruit salad. Students that memorised the list of 7 numbers were almost twice as likely to choose the chocolate cake compared to the students that memorised 2 numbers.
Have you ever noticed that when someone is having a hard time mentally or emotionally that their diet choices get worse? If you are going to help a client successfully lose fat you need to help them to the right mindset first. When making decisions on how to motivate your client to be successful consider where they might be on the stages of change model…
Your strategy to motivate and support them should be different at each stage, below are some suggestions.
Stages 1 and 2: Pre contemplation and contemplation.
These are the stages where your clients will tell you of their intentions. Try presenting them with lists, stories and testimonials of how the process might benefit them and the reality of what might be difficult.
Stage 3: Preparation.
Social support is integral to their success, ask them to openly seek support from their nearest and dearest and if necessary talk to those people yourself. At this stage you may also want to assist with choosing footwear, clothing, training kit and preparing shopping lists.
Stage 4: Action.
Do they respond better to carrot or stick? You need to decide whether positive or negative feedback drives them at this point. Get them to record their progress, then check up on it and make them accountable for their actions.
Step 5: Maintenance.
Long term use a strategy to reward small successes to encourage the forming of positive habits. Find new training methods to keep them interested and continue to introduce them to new foods and recipes. If they are the right type of personality you may consider introducing them into a competitive sport?
2. Multiply your client’s mitochondria…
High intensity interval training is very popular at the moment and it does have its benefits. But with all the hype around high intensity interval training are some trainers pushing too many clients into too much of this too soon?
Strictly speaking if you’re looking for fat-loss aerobic exercise is the most effective.
Why? Mitochondria are known as the power house of the cell – this is where the magic happens and our fuels are converted to energy. The greater the number of mitochondria you have the more efficient you will become at converting fuels to energy.
To stimulate an increase in mitochondria within skeletal muscle you need to perform aerobic exercise. Lower intensity endurance type activities are perfect for this and quite frankly more suitable for beginners too. Aerobic exercise is also the only type of exercise in which our energy systems directly use fat as an energy source. So if you are encouraging clients to perform endurance type activities you can be confident they are burning fat off.
Let your clients adapt to endurance type activities early on in their training programs and progress them to higher intensities gradually. High intensity intervals should become an integral part of their training as they become fitter but an aerobic base must first be established and maintained.
3. Keep it cavemen.
In his book “Human Evolution, Diet and Health”, Mark Hines states that “In the US dairy products, cereals refined sugars, refined vegetable oils and alcohol account for 72.1% of the total daily energy consumed.” Considering that our bodies have adapted to what they are today based on a stone age diet then we are getting less than 30% of our total calories from the foods we should be eating, fruits, vegetables, nuts, berries, meat and fish. That’s a bit like filling up your diesel car 3/4 of the way with petrol and then a splash of diesel to top it off, you have got to expect problems right?
In the modern western world sugars and cereals have a huge influence on weight management. Not only are these foods more calorie dense than fruits and vegetables but they have a greater influence on blood sugar levels. In an attempt to balance blood sugar the hormone insulin is then excessively secreted to encourage storage of this excess as either glycogen or you guessed it fat. That’s not to say you can’t eat sugars and cereals full stop but we should encourage our clients to replace a large proportion of them with a wide variety vegetables.
As many of our modern foods are unfamiliar to our digestive systems this also means that we are more likely to see allergies or intolerances to such foods. If you want your clients to be efficient at burning fats they need to have a healthy digestive system that is efficient at breaking down and absorbing nutrients and good at excreting waste. If you have clients that are struggling to lose fat despite their best efforts you may want to suggest some intolerance testing by an appropriate professional as a tailored diet maybe required.
With the above in mind the next time somebody tells you that they have the perfect formula for fat loss remember that your client is an individual and that their fat loss plan will need to be personal to them.
The above suggestions are all from different sides of the triad of health, a model that as a personal trainer will serve your clients well.
Shiv & Fedorikhin (1999) Heart and mind in conflict: the interplay of effect and cognition in consumer decision making. Journal of Consumer Research, 26 (3) pp278-292.
Holloszy J.O. and Coyle E.F. (1984). Adaptations of skeletal muscle to endurance exercise and their metabolic consequences. Journal of Applied Physiology, 56 (4), pp831-838.
Hines, M. (2009). Human Evolution Diet and Health: The Case for Palaeolithic Nutrition. Healthy Body Publishing.
Prochaska, J and Di Clemente, C (1983) Stages and Processes of self-change of smoking; towards an integrative model of change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51: pp390-395.