Client Question week 2

How long is it ok to diet if you are already lean?

This depends on numerous factors but if we strip back the question to how long can you diet without negative implications. 

There are a few considerations:

– How much body fat do you have to lose?
– Do you have realistic expectations?
– How are you coping mentally?
– How are you coming physically?
– How are you coping socially?

At the end of the day, after you have considered the always comes back to what is sustainable and enjoyable for you. Do you prioritise being a few % body fat leaner or would you rather have more flexibility in food choices and relax and indulge more at social occasions.

Is dieting longer ok if I am in a mild deficit?

This is largely covered above. But, yes, of course you can diet longer in a mild deficit .. assuming you have excess body fat to lose.

What should I expect when I go back to maintenance?

In an ideal world you would expect to maintain your current weight and physique. However, life is never that simple. Even finding your maintenance calorie needs can be a challenge. Slowly increasing calories from your dieting calories is, in my experience, the best way to do this. And then monitor and amend as required until you are maintaining your weight over time.. remember fluctuations are normal and inevitable.

A consideration for those who get very lean should always be.. is this level of body fat maintainable long term?
The truth is, for most the answer is no. This is no failure. It just means you have more priorities than maintaining a very lean physique year round.. this is a good thing.. it means you have a life outside of fitness, it probably means you have a career you enjoy and people who love you and want to spend time with you.
However, not maintaining a very lean physique doesn’t mean you have to go mad the other way and starting ‘bulking’. You may be happy to find that just a few kgs above your leanest is quite sustainable for you. Meaning that, if you did want to lean down again it wouldn’t take much work. You will probably also find the only person who notices those few kgs is you.. or maybe whoever sees you naked.

I also quite like the cyclic dieting for long term goals. If you would like to continue dieting because you haven’t yet reached your goals but need a break physically and/or mentally then having a ‘diet break’ can be a good idea. This can reset some of the negative adaptations to dieting which make it harder to continue to lose fat. E.g. increased hunger, reduced activity, lack of training intensity.

Or increase my calories?

Ideal scenario is that you slowly increase your calories without gaining body fat and simultaneously increase metabolism.

This is wishful thinking.

Your metabolism will increase as you put on weight. There is more of you to maintain. Despite what many people think, your metabolism correlates very well to your body weight and although muscle is more metabolically active than fat the real world difference is small.

Especially when we are looking an experienced natural trainer looking to build muscle mass. The amount of muscle growth will be small and the corresponding increase in metabolic rate will be very small..probably negligible.. maybe you could have an extra 50g of potato with your dinner.

So, as you increase your calories you likely will be put on body fat. Although the extent of which may be less than you would predict given the total calorie increase.

As we diet our body adapts to make it harder for u to continue to lose weight. Some of these adaptations will be undone as you increase calories. The most notable will likely be NEAT and exercise intensity. Moving more and training harder could use up some of the extra calories you are taking in without you realising.

Allowing you to habitually eat more at a given body composition.. which is, I think, what you are asking.

I have waffled a lot as usual so in a nutshell.. as you increase your calories you will likely put on some body fat but possibly not as much as you might think and further this is not a negative.

You will be able to train harder, eat more and enjoy more social eating/drinking without going over your calories.

Win, win, win.

Client Questions week 1:

A question from a client at this week’s check in. I think you can tell far more about a person from the type of questions they ask than how much they know.

Why does it appear that I am now maintaining my weight at a lower calorie intake than when I was lighter and had less muscle (in this case 3 years ago)?

1) Efficiency

You have become more efficient at using calories – this can either be by mechanical efficiency, reduced NEAT, reduced activity energy expenditure or a mixture of all

2) The amount of increased muscle mass has little impact on energy needs

You’ve probably added little muscle mass (this is not meant to be demoralizing or offensive..just fact). You have been training for years, you are lean, you don’t weigh very much and you have a petite frame. The extra calories you burn as a result of the muscle mass you have built in the last 3 years is not going to contribute much to your total daily energy expenditure or in other words.. your calorie needs.
3) Miss reporting/ inaccurate tracking

You think you are eating ‘X’ amount of calories but you are actually eating more than this and either forgetting to track or not measuring portion sizes accurately enough.

You stick to your diet some times, maybe even most of the time.. but not all the time. Standard example is the Mon-Fri dieter who eats what they want on the weekend.

5) You are not at maintenance. 

You are in an energy deficit and you are still losing weight. This fat loss rate is slow as it is a representation of the total amount of body fat you have to lose which is low. This means it is easily masked on the scales from day to day and even week to week. When it comes to losing fat this slowly the scales often aren’t a sensitive enough measure to see fat loss from week to week.

This is something a lot of people do not consider.

If you are lean and thus do not have much fat to lose you can’t expect to be losing your typical 1lb of fat a week. In fact, 0.5lb a week of fat still isn’t that likely if you’re very lean.

So, if we are talking about fat loss of as little as 0.25lb a week can we really expect to see this on the scales given all the other influences? No.

I LOVE questions from clients.. they always get me thinking. In my clients situation I think the most likely answer is actually number 5.. basically she needs to be more patient. Slow fat loss does not mean you are at maintenance. If you are lean, it means you don’t have much more fat to lose at this point fat loss WILL slow.
The only positive is that when you are very lean (photo shoot or comp prep) even losing 0.5lbs of fat is going to show.


Feel like your fat loss has stalled?

Feel like your fat loss has stalled?


Here is the situation. You’re sticking to your diet but fat loss appears to have stalled..

There are a number of reasons this can happen.. Here I discuss one of the most common and under appreicaited reasons..

(don’t worry..this is not another article about not using the scales to predict fat loss).

What are the benefits of online coaching?

What are the benefits of online coaching?


Face to face coaching has its own benefits and can offer all of the below and more. However, I don’t know many face to face coaches who can justify the time required to offer these benefits if their client is paying for 1 hour of their time i.e their session.

If you go to a trainer for a 1 hour session once or twice a week you generally end up getting an hour (or two) of fairly random exercises. Which is fine if that’s what you want.. But if you want to see long term progression you may want to consider a more structured approach. Which is generally delivered with online coaching (you do get some bad coaches so I can’t say everyone provides adequate programming).

– Freedom & Flexibility

You can train when you want and where you want and if you have to or decide to change the time or place it doesn’t matter. You won’t be charged for missing sessions and you won’t be restricted by the availability of your PT or location and facilities at the gym they work from.


Fitting your training around you and your life rather than your trainer will save you time. You can train whenever you like and you’re not restricted to hour long personal training slots.
It is likely you will want to train before or after work and any busy PT is likely to be full at these times.


At your local gym or in your local area you might have a choice of 5-10 decent personal trainers..of which only 3 are taking on clients at your gym and if you live in Dundee 1 of them are sleeping with your ex and the other one just cheated on your best friend.
Your choice is pretty much endless online given that your desired coach has space to take you on new clients. You’re not limited by location which means you literally have your pick. And you should be picky! Do your research.. ask for recommendations. Ask yourself who you think you would work best with.


Online programs tend to (not always) give you far more structure. As opposed to training with your PT once or twice a week you’ll be given a structured plan to fit around YOUR life not theirs.
Some trainers do program all of their clients sessions but I can’t merit programming 5 sessions a week for Patrick who trains with me once every two weeks for an hour..and it is unlikely many other trainers would either.


Online coaching is generally more cost effective. Example: decent trainer in London may charge ~£80 per hour which = a whole months training with a decent online coach.


You could argue you get accountability with face to face trainers too. However, I think online coaches help clients be accountable not just to them (the coach) but also to themselves (the client). The act of sitting down at the end of the week and assessing their own week forces clients to face where they went wrong, what they could of done better and also what they did right.
Sometimes you think you’ve had a rubbish week but when you sit down and list what you got done you realise you’re pretty damn great.
Of course, you don’t need someone else to tell you to do this.. you could assess your week on your own.. but will you?


Online coaching forces you to take ownership for your own training and nutrition. Your coach isn’t going to be screaming in your ear telling you to do one more rep.. you have to push yourself. This encourages and nurtures intrinsic (internal) motivation and empowers the client to push themselves.

We give you the guidance, structure and support but you still do the hard work.

-Guided rather than shown

Teaching or guiding someone rather than merely showing them improves self efficacy and hopefully instils life long skills..

‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ Which leads nicely on to my next point..


I like to give a full explanation a long with each plan .. I am well aware at least half of my clients don’t read it. However, they may go back to it as they become more interested in not just ‘what’ but ‘why.’
I like to think that after working with me my clients have learnt something and are more equipped to go it alone should they wish to. – this should be a goal of all coaches (and clients).


This depends on the coach I guess but I know that most coaches will answer emails within minutes on occasion and always endeavour to within 24hrs.

So.. is online coaching for you?

Given that your program will be (or at least should be) tailored to you the simple answer is yes. In my experience the people who get the most from online training are those who are highly motivated and willing to put in the time and effort required.. although this is true for all training and.. well.. pretty much everything in life.

If calories are king.. why does it matter what I eat?

How much does it matter how you lose weight?

If calories are king why does it matter what my macros are? Or, in other words; If calories are king why does the composition of my diet matter?

There are 2 main reasons (..or possibly just 1 absolute reason):

1) Essential nutrients

You NEED certain essential amino acids that make up protein and essential fatty acids that make up fat from your diet as your body cannot synthesise these. You also need a supply of vitamins and minerals for your body to function. A varied diet that includes fat, protein, vitamins and minerals gives your body the nutrients it needs to survive and maintain health.

2) Satiety and adherence

You will struggle to stick to a diet that isn’t well balanced.. this is a much lesser point than the first one as people can and do stick to very restrictive diets e.g very low carbohydrate diets, vegan diets or keto diets. However, these diets do have a higher occurrence of deficiencies and if you did decide to follow these you should consider supplementing with nutrients you may be missing. E.g. vitamin b12, calcium, iron and zinc in vegetarians and vegans.

Now I am side tracking back to my original point.. maybe there is only one real reason but my point here is it probably isn’t enjoyable or maintainable for most people to stick to restrictive diets that cut out large parts of a balanced diet long term. Once you have accounted for essential levels of fat, protein and (I would suggest) fibre the rest is up to you/preference.

Note that you will probably have at least some carbs if you meet a decent fibre amount and do not want to rely solely on supplements for vitamins and minerals. You can and will lose weight in an energy deficit no matter what your diet’s macro nutrient composition is.

In fact, we probably over play our need for a ‘healthy’ diet to maintain health. Especially in those who have a lot of fat to lose. Their loss of fat is going to improve their health to a bigger extent than any slight deficiencies they may or may not encounter.

Examples of this include:

The obese man who fasted for over a year, experienced no ill health and only took vitamin and potassium supplements.

And more recently..

The man who went on a convenience store diet AKA the twinkie diet and experienced an improvement in health markers due to his fat loss despite the fact his diet would be classes as ‘unhealthy’ and lacking in nutrients. In fact, Twinkie diet man lost 27lbs in 10 weeks and more importantly his health markers including cholesterol and blood glucose levels improved.

Note that he also took a multivitamin and protein shake and as well as occasional canned veg.

One more example is the Newcastle diet which puts overweight, type 2 diabetics on a very low calorie diet of just 600 calories a day made up largely of a high protein, high sugar meal replacement shake and a salad.
This diet has consistently shown the ability to reverse type 2 diabetes by reducing fat around the pancreas and liver and restoring normal glucose control (more on this here).

Although I am in no way suggesting the diet above I think it is a useful observation and proves the point that if you have a lot of fat to lose fat loss has more benefits to health than diet composition per se. i.e

“When you lose fat, regardless of how you’re doing it — even if it’s with packaged foods, generally you will see important health markers improve.

To conclude:

Although most would assume that eating twinkies to lose weight is unhealthy the data don’t seem to support that. It seems to be the overall fat loss that is the biggest predictor of health.