As a retired IFBB Professional Bodybuilder and certified Sports Nutritionist, I meet a lot of men & women who train with trainers who give them diets that competitors use to peak for bodybuilding (physique, bikini, figure) shows. The client’s goal is to lose weight and they have no goal to compete, yet they are being asked to follow diets that are extreme, unhealthy, and do not result in sustainable weight loss.
The average person, who is looking for weight loss does NOT want to gain it all back! They need enough food to feel satisfied, but not full. They need the right amounts of protein, fat and fiber to be healthy and nourished. Caloric deficit should come from a combination of exercise, and some caloric restriction, but nothing that causes nutrient deficiencies, extremely low energy and sugar cravings or promotes an eating disorder.
The average person should eat foods from ALL food groups, so they do not become deficient in a particular nutrient or nutrients. For example, many of these diets discourage dairy products, so for the duration of the diet, they may be deficient in a mineral that promotes & maintains bone health, calcium.
Most of these diets are very low in carbohydrates. When this macro-nutrient (macro means BIG) is too low for too long, blood sugar is low, energy & motivation is lowered, the body becomes dehydrated (even if the person is drinking lots of water), and constipation may be an issue. Often, binge behavior rears its ugly head, at some point.
These diets are always high in protein, so, if the carbs are too low, the body goes through gluconeogenisis and uses protein to make energy to fuel the body & the brain, which makes less protein available to build & repair muscle tissue & strengthen the immune system. It’s also a very expensive way for the body to get energy. Additional stress is put on the liver & kidneys during a high protein diet, too.
I’ve seen a wide variety of these types of diets. Some have NO dietary fat added, just the fat in their protein sources. We need fats so we can absorb Vitamins A,D,E,K, lubricate our joints and protect our organs. Unsaturated fats like avocado and olive oil are very heart-healthy. These fats should not be excluded.
A pre-contest diet, for a person who wants to shed weight, can be emotionally challenging, too. I’ve had women come to my office devastated that they could not follow the diet their trainer has given them (most trainers have not gone to school to prescribe diets). They want to comply but cannot. They feel too deprived. They don’t understand the lack of variety on their program. They’re upset with themselves because “they cheated on their diet” or even binged! These diets can set someone up for disordered eating patterns or throw them into a full-blown eating disorder.
As trainers, it is our job to “do no harm”, educate our clients, and support them as they work towards their goal. It is NOT our job to deprive our clients to an unhealthy fault, over train them, or set them up to fail.
I love the health & fitness lifestyle. I have made many mistakes in my early years. I have become a more experienced trainer and nutritionist with continued education and participation in the field. Today, I can speak from experience, formal education and a true desire to help people be the best they can be.
“It’s a lifestyle, NOT a life sentence!” ~S. Blackie, B.A., N.A.S.N., A.F.A.A.