In the past, I've written two blog posts about under-fed athletes and how correcting their macros resulted in amazingly fast progress. The first example was about Bri (click for post), an athlete that was being DRASTICALLY underfed. Fixing her diet through the addition of about 1000 calories a day solved a bunch of scary symptoms, dropped about 10 lbs off of her and increased her performance dramatically. The second example was about Mia (click for post), where we increased her diet, but to a much smaller extent, and once again saw huge benefits in both performance and body composition pretty much immediately. In both of these cases, the women were hyper-responders to the new plan. In my experience, this happens in about 1/3 of cases. Its great as a coach because the emotional response is obviously a positive one and it helps the client to buy in fully to what we're trying to do.
Sadly, not everyone responds this way. In many cases, there's a period of weight GAIN that proceeds the leaning out process but no one really wants to talk about this. It doesn't really generate a lot of likes on IG when you post updates of:
"I've added a bunch of calories to my diet and I'm becoming a healthier person that's going to see progress in 3-5 months, but right now I've gained weight and mentally having a hard time with it."
Its difficult to see a virtual world where people are posting all kinds of progress pictures with leaner physiques and not be "in the club" despite doing exactly what you're told by your nutrition coach. With that in mind, I thought it might help to share a story about a client that dealt with just these same issues and ultimately persevered to become a huge success story... plus I'm really proud of her and I want to brag :)
Let me introduce you to Sam...
Sam came to me having worked with another nutrition program that had put her on some pretty low macros for what she was doing in the gym, and while she had seen progress physically, there were consequences.
"I have somewhat of a bad relationship with food and have a hard time with my body image. I have been tracking macros for about the last year and have had some great success dropping body fat, however when I cheat I tend to binge uncontrollably and it's hard to get back on track. I know I need to eat more. I'm currently around 2000 Calories a day but I have a hard time knowing if I'm doing things the right way." September 2017
Based on what Sam had told me about her training I knew she needed to eat more and she did as well. I told her that it might mean some temporary weight gain and that she would need to work through that process with me to restore some health factors, and that ultimately she would be where she wanted to be. So we increased her macros pretty substantially for the first 2 months and this is what happened.
It may not look like big changes, Sam was clearly still lean but it was a step backwards from Day 0, and it was hard for her mentally to be OK with it.
"I just see these top athletes look the way they do, and I just want to look the part. I know I'm very hard on myself. And I have a poor relationship with food but it would be nice to see that its possible to make body comp changes eating this much."
The good news was that she was seeing nice improvements in her performance and we could try and focus her attention on that. Sam also started to report that she was getting HUNGRY, which was a really good sign, so we increased her macros, and she ended up even MORE hungry... again, a good sign so we bumped the numbers up again. This took a ton of trust on Sam's part to stick with me through this phase as the first time I bumped her macros, she gained weight.
So a few months go by and we decided to take a few more update pictures along the way.
Day 30-75 was encouraging, but Day 110 was absolutely amazing. It was the final bump up to around 360 grams of carbs that really pushed us into the right direction.
Now we're focusing on pictures here because thats a major component of why Sam hired me, but I can't help but brag about the insane number of PRs that she hit along the way. If anyone follows our IG feed, you'll know what we prefer to post about athletic accomplishments instead of physical changes. Abs are cool and generate a ton of likes, but thats not why we do this. We do this to help someone have a better relationship with food. We do this so people can improve their performance. We do this so someone can hopefully realize a dream someday. I'm happy to report that Sam is on the path to making those things happen. She doesn't have nearly as many binge issues and we're working on not beating ourselves up when they do happen. Her performance is through the roof as evidenced by her qualification in the Elite division at Wodapalooza this weekend. I can't wait to see her out there competing on the floor.
What can we take away from this???
- You might be able to generate a nice set of abs in the short term by putting someone on a heavily restricted set of macros, but long term this won't work physically, and we may do even MORE damage mentally if you can believe it. Your Day 0 to 60 update picture might look pretty amazing, but what does it look like 2, 3, or 4 months after that?
- Progress isn't always a nice linear path. Sometimes we need to go backwards with body composition to ultimately take a much bigger jump forwards.
- Results are not just found in body composition. Signs that we're on the right trajectory could be improved sleep, improved performance, better mood or even just a healthier relationship with food.
When you look for nutrition coaching, what does that company or that coach prioritize? Is it short term results that look good on an IG page? Or are they more concerned with the person behind the picture? This is one of the central tenets of what we do here at M2PN. We have to connect with the client and see them as more than a set of macros, or a set of abs. These are PEOPLE that we're working with. People with concerns and fears, emotions and frustrations. Templates cannot account for those emotions and help guide you through the rough times... but a good nutrition coach can.