T Nation

mystery client.

Hey guys, interested on your thoughts on a client of mine, the only one that isn’t acheiving the results i always get.

Started with her about 3 months ago. She weighed about 66 67 kgs. But she ate extremely well in terms off food intake, not much carbs or fatty foods, lots of fruit and veg everyday. But overall her metabolism was just too slow. She had never done any high intensity exercise before, only walking a couple of times a week.

So she is now training weights 3x/week and cardio (skipping) and walking on off days. (She cant run because her knees get sore and doesnt own a bike).

At the begginning her food choices were good, but just not enough food (her total cals were extremely low), so i dramatically increased her food intake (5,6 meals everyday). She felt full all the time, but i told her her body would adjust, and it just wasnt used to consuming food so often.

Well after about 5 weeks it adjusted nicely and she no longer felt full and even felt hungry at times, which i was happy with. Her metabolism increased nicely.

I took skinfold measurements, tape measurements and weight and will reassess soon, but she just doesn’t look to have dropped much body fat.

Her diet example is as follows:

MEAL 1. 2 eggs

MEAL 2. handful almonds and piece of fruit

MEAL 3. Vegetable soup, just veggies wit water, broth.

MEAL 4. small chicken breast or almonds and piece of fruit.

MEAL 5. Steamed veggies and meat (chicken, beef etc.)

That is her typical day which she follows pretty much all the time.

I thought that, plus 3 weight sessions of high intensity, super setting exercises with skipping and walking on off days would be plenty. Obviously her metabolism is not great but much better than when i started with her.

I am a little dumbfounded really. I know there are more actions to take, but i would have thought that surely this would be strict enought to see body fat drop off nicely.

Her strength has gone up and muscle is coming along but that body fat aint going fast enough.

Financially it isn’t possible to be getting supplements and stuff for her so it has to be done the old fashion way.

She is 30 years old with a desk job full time.

Thanks for reading, i know its long but i thought better to be detailed, interested in anyones opinion?!?!

i once worked as a trainer as well. my first question is; is she really eating what she tells you she is eating? you would be surprised at how clients will lie to you.

secondly if you are certain she is following your advice to the T, i would get her thyroid checked.

Nick the first thing I would address is the protein intake seems to be lacking a little or my taste.

With the only substantial amounts of protein coming in meals 1 and 5, and possibly 4 I think it was depending on if she chose alomonds of the chicken breast.

Almonds are great and all but I consider them more of a benefit for there fat content not the protein contained within.

The meal with the veggies and water, come on are you telling me you actually let her consider that a meal. Sure the nutrients and fiber are good, but there is a definate need for some protein, and possibly fat in there.

Remember protein takes more energy to burn, in turn ramping her problemattic metabolism even more and this just may tip the scale in her favor of building even more LBM and losing BF.

Hope this helps,
Just my 2 cc.


Damn, I agree with Phil wholefreakinheartedly!

Protein intake is LOOWWWW…

Make protein the cornerstone of the meals.

While its true almonds have protein, saying they are a good source is like saying cheese is a good source: the ratio of protein to fat is way too low, and nuts are a fatty food which happens to have some protein in it.

You said you drastically increased her food intake, but her calorie intake still looks low enough to keep her starving.

Like Phill said, vegetables and water is not a whole meal…its an ADJUNCT to a nice chicken breast and salad!

And P-Dog is right too…she may be lying to you. That would drive me nuts.

“Sure, I’m eating just what you tell me cough coughplus a tub of icecream at night cough

“What was that?”

“Oh nothing.”

I completely agree with what’s been said regarding protein intake: a meal must be protein based, or it’s not a meal.

One other thing, and this is debatable, but in my experience, fat loss is greatly facilitated by consuming the majority of calories early in the day, and tapering off as the day goes on.

I see that she’s consuming carb foods, but not at breakfast. In her case, breakfast and PW should be the only times she consumes carbs, excluding perhaps veggies and/or a fiber supplement. Make these tweaks and you’ll probably kickstart fat loss…

Best of luck

Totally agree with previous posts. Overall calories seem extremely low and fat intake is also low. Who came up with this diet plan? As her trainer, I really hope it wasn’t you.

Two eggs provides only 14 grams of protein! This does not a breakfast make. Followed by no protein until meal 4. Almonds and fruit is your typical fat/carb combo no-no. If convenience is an issue she would be far better off incorporating some protein shakes, Low Carb Grow with almonds for example. She also needs some other sources of fats in addition to nuts, flax, fish oils, etc.

She would be much better off restructuring her diet according to a T-dawg 2.0 type profile with calorie content based on LBM, meals broken into protein + fat and protein + carb combos, with meal timing centered around training.

I will find some links later, home computer is very slow!

not an expert at all but some ideas:

  • much more protein; soup and veg is actually almost totally carb (good carb, but carb)

The protein is expensive so I suggest shopping at a local market. At mine the best value protein is cooked chicken at just 23p/lb; much cheaper than $7 for a 4 breast pack.

Other cheapish protein sources:

tuna, mackrel.
(eggs still good)

Ham and various slices if you can get the price.

Not sure about steak and miced beef.

You know when you get it right because you start shaking on the workouts to start off with. After that there’s actually more energy if you’re totally burning fat.

All these things are hard though because it’s a lifestyle change rather than a gym thing; kinda out of trainer range possibly - personal choices. You can only advise I guess.

nb: not an expert, just a suggestion to consider.

Meant protein content should be based on LBM not calorie content.

Walking is not cardio, and I don’t understand how her knee is so bad she can’t run, but skipping doesn’t bother it?

Actually, the more I read this post the more I am tempted to call bullshit on it.

You said “the fat ain’t coming off fast enough” and you are basing this on the fact that you don’t think she looks like she has lost enough fat, yet according to you, you haven’t even taken new BF measurments.

Read the fucking mag. The thought of you training someone is frightening.

Hey sabrina, why don’t you wait until you get off the rag before you start posting again. the guy asked a question and it is obivous he needs some help. he doesn’t need you insulting him.

Fish oil! Fish oil! Fish oil!

ok, I’m done!

Yeah, Sabrina sounds a little harsh, but bear in mind this fellow is making money training this person. His post demonstrates a fair amount of ineptitude, and that’s just not cool. Nick, read the magazine, widen your knowledge base, and be honest with yourself and your ‘clients’. (shudder)

Why don’t you take your head out of your ass before you start posting again MikeShank. For someone so concerned with helping this guy you don’t seem to have much useful advice.

Did you read his post? If he were a newbie this wouldn’t be nearly so assinine, however, he is calling himself a personal trainer, he has someone eating vegetable broth and skipping and he is getting PAID for it. His “client” would’ve been better off with a tired copy of Body for Life. He has obviously not read a single article on this website.

Whooa guys.
Thanks for the responses, good and bad.
First off i must make a general stance here and say that I am a very knowledgable personm as far as this stuff goes. I have had nearly 25 clients in the past year and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM HAS REACHED THEIR DESIRED GOALS. All dropping significant amaounts of body fat and gaining muscle.

First off i dont think she is lying to me about her food intake.

Secondly it seems quite obvious to me the people who have replied that have never had experience training others.

This client is someone who has never really exercised before, so what she is now doing is a big step up for her.

She is low income so cant afford all the most ideal things.

She used to have one or two meals a day, so changing to 5 or 6 is a huge step. If I threw a classic t-mag diet at her (or any other client for that matter) they would not last more than a few weeks. They would have wasted my and their time and their money. These people are average people who if you threw things so hardcore at them they would lose you before you knew it.

She started off on 1 egg for breakfast and that kept her full for the whole morning, adding anything else is just not possible for her. You must understand that if someone has trained their body for 25 years to expect 2 meals a day, you can’t throw anything to drastic in the mix or the simply won’t last.

I will write more later, but another peice of info is she is allergic to seafood of any kind.

And lastly to all who write back so blazingly, you must understand the difficult balancing act between giving someone just enough and giving someone too much. Sure I could have given her all the diets you guys are so behind, but i would have seen her walk out of training 3 weeks into it worse than when she walked in, with my reputation and her confidence dented.

I will write more later.


You have a good point about slowly leading her into a new way of thinking and eating. People are truly scared off by radical changes.

Kudo’s for taking the slams so well. At the same time, I can understand where our hardcore are coming from – with eating habits so poor I’m sure her body is totally unwilling to give up the starvation mentality.

With one egg for half a day, can you imagine how greedily her body is going to hoard fats and nutrients?

I understand the slow change also, but it is time for more slow changing. I am sticking to the recomendation of adding in more protein. From quality sources.

Even adding one more chicke breast will help. Split it up in some of the lacking meals.

Good Luck,

Hope this helps some how.


Agree with Phill.

None of the recommendations were really…uh…hardcore…

But you’ve gotta get your macronutrients from someonewhere.




Obviously, protein needs to be the cornerstone; its the most metabolically active and best for body-comp goals.

Now we aren’t saying have her scarf down 2x her bodyweight in protein but rather, make a serving a protein at each meal.

I seriously think her lack of results is due to lack of adequate nutrition, i.e. protein.

What about fluids? She HAS cut out all sodas and sugary fruit drinks and stuff, right? I’m assuming she’s drinking water, with maybe the occasional diet soda for meals or something?

Any other caloric possibilities coming into play here?

Because if not, I just think the nutrition is too low.

Hey Bro,

I’m in total agreement with you. Upon starting training a novice doesn’t need a complete drastic overhaul of their diet. You have to ease them in. However, after three months she should be ready to start making greater changes.

A couple of questions I have for you:

  1. Are you training her in person for every workout or are you meeting her for intermittent workouts (i.e., once per week). If you’re meeting for each workout forget about the question. If not, maybe she needs a greater degree of supervision to make sure she’s pushing hard enough.

  2. Does she keep a food log? My clients are required to keep a log documenting everything they eat and when they ate it. At the start they are simply responsible for the foods. As time goes on I have them include protein and total calorie contents of meals. Later I bring fats and carbs in. From this log you can see whether her food choices and meal timing are correct. It unusual that anyone would fake a food log. You might see trends you wouldn’t otherwise notice. ALSO, make sure she’s recording drinks as there might be some extra kcals slipping in there.

A couple ideas:

Breakfast - Use 1 whole egg and then use egg whites for the rest. You could keep the calories the same, but increase the protein content. Also include a carb (i.e, oatmeal with low sugar syrup or cinnamon).

Meal 2 - Protein of some sort (even in yogurt). You’d get more than with almonds.

Meal 3 - Soup and veggies are great, but include some chicken, etc. Protein takes more cals to break down than straight carbs.

Meal 4 - Why not give her some rice with her chicken instead of fruit?

MEAL 5 - Steamed veggies and meat (chicken, beef etc.) - Sounds okay, but how much meat is she eating? The food log will indicate if she’s eating correct portions.

Meal 6 - Late night meal containing protein before bed? Cottage cheese, yogurt, protein shake? Maybe yogurt isn’t optimal, but it’s better than nothing.

BTW, what is she having post workout? Supplements (i.e., protein powder) are often cheaper per serving than chicken/beef. You can by dextrose/malto at a wine shop and you don’t have to use the best protein powder. Besides, if she can afford a training 3x per week for 3 months she can’t be that hard up for cash. :slight_smile:

Hope all that helped.

First off, apologies for previous harshness. I can (sort of ) see where you are coming from and this website is a resource intended to help us all improve ourselves.

However, you said you have been training this person for three months. Advising her to eat a bit more and try to eat protein with every meal should not throw her off course and make her give up. It is certainly long enough to illustrate to her that what she is doing is not working and that changes need to be made.

If someone has taken the step to hire a trainer in the first place, they have exhibited a desire to change. As her trainer she is relying on you, and paying you, for proper information so she can make the changes she desires. Three months without results is going to be a lot more discouraging than making some simple dietary suggestions.

You are making alot of assumptions about what she may or may not be capable of, assumptions which are obviously limiting her potential. And while I have never trained anyone, but I train with a trainer who I am glad to say has never “dumbed” anything down or withheld information because he made assumptions about what he thought I could or couldn’t handle. When I hired him, I said these are my goals, and he said this is what you have to do to reach them. Simple as that. He also directed me to this website.

One thing i did totally stuff up on here guys. Her soup at lunch contains a meat ie. chicken.

If you go back to my original post i said
“I know there are more actions to take, but i would have thought that surely this would be strict enought to see body fat drop off nicely.”

Now that comment is where my ??? come in. I know it’s not perfect diet, but I would have thougt the changes from where she was to where she is now would have made a significant change in body comp.

Now i know overall protein is lacking a bit no doubt. And so is some omega 3’s. But the average person mite get one or two servings of protein a day, so my main aim was to get some protein in every meal.

Ok now Kinetix …
I train her once or twice a week (home visits), all her training is done at home, she wont go to a gym. As far as liquid its all water, no juice or soft drink at all.
As far as food logs, not everyday, but ill ask for maybe one weekday and a weekend (people changing their diet on weekend in social suroundings is typical). It seems pretty consistent.

Now my main question to you guys, your personal thoughts is.

Do you increase protein intake and a bit of everything else (fats) at the expense of adding those calories onto what is already being taken in? When current calories are already at a number that is at least near maintanance?? (I did this when she started and initially she put weight on, subsequently she came back to her starting weight once her body adjusted.)

It’s a question that comes around alot when trainging clients, especially the ones who just want to lose body fat as she is.

Lastly (for this post anyway).
People are not robots, you can’t just punch in some numbers and wait for perfect results, you are dealing with humans who want to enjoy their diet, they want to go out on the weekend and have a drink with freinds, sit down to their fav movie and enjoy an unhealthy meal.
The whole “personal training” thing is one big game of balance and compremise. You want to give someone just enough change to work for them.

Now Sabrina I have been reading this website for quite a long time, and have been in this game for even longer. All the knowledge is great, i read and re-read these articles nearly everyday, but do you know how much of this stuff is applicable to the average person???
I would say 75% of (diet stuff)it never gets a look in the door with my clients, and they have all done great things without it.
So throw your hot headed comments around if you choose, but understand the points i have made above (i know its hard when you have had no experience with others). And have a jovial go at body for life if you will, i know i am guilty of it myself from time to time. But lots of people have acheived great results using it, why?? Because changing from pizza and beer to chicken and veg is usually enough to see results. Sure it ain’t as detailed as berardi, lowery and such but the info/advice isn’t wrong either.