Friday, August 24, 2012

My Personal Trainer Recommends a High Protein Diet; What Do You Think?

I recently purchased an online program with a trainer guiding me for 12 weeks. I just wanted to get the independent opinion of a dietitian on the diet I am following and the results I'm looking to achieve. 
A bit about me: I am 34 years old, 5'6" and 112#. I have lost 5 pounds so far on this program in 4 weeks. I do 45 min of cardio 3 x a week, 35 min of interval cardio 3 x a week, and 45 min of weights followed by 20 min of cardio  3 x a week.
I eat 1200-1500 calories a day divided as follows: 125 gm protein, 50 gm carbs, 35 gm fat.
My goal is to get my body fat from 18 percent down to 14 percent. I want to be toned and not just thin.
Does this sound like a good plan to you?
Thanks, Renee L.

Hi Renee,

To be honest, there are a few things I find concerning about your program:

1 - You were already a bit below "ideal" body weight for your height, and at the low end of "average" body fat for women as well.  I think it's fine to prefer a toned physique, but I'm not sure why your trainer has advised a weight-loss regimen (or gone along with your request for one).

2 - You don't mention whether or not you're an athlete. I might assume you are, based on the amount of exercise you're doing and also based on your initial weight. It sounds like you're probably exercising every day, and more than one time a day on some days (since there are 9 periods of exercise in the program). It sounds a little much for a typical woman's schedule (keeping in mind I deal mostly with overweight people who rarely exercise--but still it seems more than usual to me). 
I wonder if there is any preoccupation on your part with exercise and weight loss or some elements of an eating disorder or body image disorder involved. I don't mean to be an alarmist, but I'd like you to ask yourself: Do you focus on your body, your weight, your diet and your exercise to an extent you feel is excessive? To the exclusion of other activities? (Would you skip a friend's bridal shower or turn down an invitation to go to a vacation destination because it would mean missing work-outs and having to deal with 'forbidden' food offerings?)

3 - The macronutrient breakdown you've shown me adds up to just over 1000 calories; not anywhere near 1200-1500.  These and other details bring me to my most important question:

4 - What kind of licensure, certification or training does this person have who you've hired? There is a reason for laws against people without proper training and licensing practicing nutrition. It's because there are cases in which it can truly be harmful to follow certain regimens. For example, you are consuming more than 1 gram of protein per pound body weight. In people with kidney failure the protein intake must be limited to about 1/3 of this level. 
If you were my client I, as a registered dietitian, would have conducted a thorough medical interview before working with you. Did this person ask you any medical questions or ask to see any of your blood work from a family physician? Did they inquire as to your weight history, medical history or any medications you are taking? (If a person with diabetes suddenly dropped their carbohydrate intake to a level like you are following they could go into insulin shock  from their usual insulin dose and this can be fatal).

Chances are you aren't going to suffer any long-term ill effects from this regimen. But you are right to question the validity and sensibility of the program. I would question the person giving you advice to put my mind at ease about the regimen that has been suggested for you.

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