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 above..it 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.