T Nation

Being an Athlete has Skewed my Perspective...


I'm a personal trainer and I have one particular client whose diet I'm curious about, though to be fair this could probably apply to all my female clients.

This woman is about 5'3 and ~245lbs. She has multiple knee issues but we can do all the major movements no problem. I work with her 2 days a week doing strength training and she does cardio 3 other days per week on her own, as well as making little changes; stairs not elevators, parking further, etc etc.

I recently asked her about her diet. She said that she is working with a nutritionist who has had her eating 1400 calories a day. I asked her if this was even with the exercise she's now doing and she said yes.

Now I'm glad she's working with a nutritionist since I by no means claim to be an expert on that. However, from what I do know, doesn't that seem really quite low for a woman her size just starting out dieting / exercising? Maybe just being a powerlifter myself and hanging around other powerlifters makes 2000 a day seem like a modest number to me.

Are nutritionists like personal trainers; some are just total shit? Of course I'm always open to the option that I don't know what I'm talking about.


How long has she been training with you and only consuming ~1,400Kcal? If she making progress in weight loss?


She has only been working with me for 3 weeks (6 sessions). I try not to ask about weight progress for a month after they begin training if they were previously sedentary.

I would presume she should be losing weight, but I'm afraid that it, or her progress in weights will stall soon because of her calories and she'll be frustrated.


The only way to know if her diet is working is to MEASURE it. No one on here can possibly do that, so we cannot give you any sort of a valid answer.

1400 seems a tad low, but again, without knowing the slightest thing about her, her metabolism, her health history, her training program, WHAT she is eating, how intense her cardio is, Her weight change, etc... We have no way of knowing if thats a good number for her or not.


And yes some nutritionists are total shit.


Yes, nutritionists are just like personal trainers--some are complete shit and others rule. Yes, the only way to get progress is to measure progress. You are the trainer, she's the client. It sucks when you can't tie it all together with nutrition, but sometimes that is what you have to work with. I am cureently in the same boat with a novice competition prep. Only I am doing her nutrition and somebody else her training.

You need to meaure her progress. Off the top of my head though, she is cheating if she is not losing weight and assuming there are no hormonal issues. It IS possible that you undereat and dont lose weight, this happened with another client I had, who had to actually increase her calories. But this is extremely rare in an obese person--emotional issues, constant "uncounted" snacking, lack of food journalling EVERY SINGLE THING she puts in her mouth, these are all much bigger issues.

And let me reiterate--YOU are the trainer, YOU are in charge and you should make sure you know what is going on in measurements. This is science 101...you need a baseline to predict and assess changes from. Without that, youwon't know what or how to change. Weighing every day is not good for most people's mental edge--they get fixated and frustrated, but weigh at least 2x a month.


Very true. I suppose her nutritionist is (hopefully) taking this all into account. If she doesn't start seeing changes after month 2 I'll ask more detailed questions about her diet. It doesn't really seem like my place to overstep her nutritionist though, even if 1400 turns out to be too little.


I would disagree. You know you are not a nutrition expert--you know your limts and that is good. However, you should not wait so long as 2 months to find out what is going on. You need a trend to work from. That is different from overstepping your bounds. also, thats 2 wasted months of your time and her money.


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It's not a bad habit to at least keep tabs on what others who are working with your client are doing. You don't need to coordinate with every client's nutritionist or doctor but it helps to have some idea what is going on.


If she's that low now, the only way you will get continued progress after her body adapts to that level of nutrient intake is to have her doing hours and hours of exercise each day. Always take LITTLE steps first. When I set up someone's diet, I always look ahead and make sure I've got options down the line with both exercise, and diet.

When cals are too low, the body will actually LOSE LBM to lower it's BMR. I'd figure out the #'s she needs to maintain her current overweight state, and put her SLIGHTLY under that, then allow cal expenditure to make up a larger net deficit.

(that's be $100 please, I take PayPal)



Fat people can get away with bigger deficits than lean people, so it might not be a big deal. Maybe check to see she's getting at least a near-reasonable amount of protein.

And, you know, as long as she's keeping up with her workouts and losing weight, it's probably not a problem for now.


I have no doubt she's making progress currently. Her weights are able to go up steadily each week and I'm sure once I have her step on the scale next week there will be some positive change.

My concern is what Stu said above you - that eating this little so early will make progress down the road more difficult.

I'll make sure to ask her what specifically she is eating and phrase it in a non-critical way. Technically at my job we're not allowed to talk about nutrition whatsoever. I know. It's silly. The trainers do it anyway.