Tonawanda News

June 25, 2013

FIT FOR LIFE: How to finally fix 'Crash Diet Kelly'

By Chris Tybor
The Tonawanda News

— In my last column we talked about “Crash Diet Kelly” and how she makes her life harder by crash dieting and exercising at at rate she is unable to sustain for more than a few weeks. Thus, she gains more weight after the crash then what she was at when she started.

How do we “fix” her metabolism so that she is able to eat “normally” again and not have to do 7 plus hours of cardio per week?

Here is our plan of attack:

Get stronger

To get stronger she must lift weights (resistance train) and try to progressively overload the muscle. More strength typically means leaner muscle tissue. Lean muscle tissue is the driving force behind your metabolism.

Longer duration workouts aren’t always necessarily better. I would prefer clients/gym goers to work out more intensely for 30-45 minutes versus a 90-120 minute workout with 20 percent of that time spent checking emails, Facebook, the cute gym member running on the treadmill, etc.

If Kelly was not doing any weight training, we would suggest adding two full body workouts per week. This will allow adequate time to recover between workouts and keep intensity high(er). If Kelly was already working out two times per week, we would evaluate her work schedule, life commitments, etc., and go to three or possibly four days per week.

We ultimately want body composition changes to come from weight training and good/better food choices and amounts not from excessive cardio.

Adjust/reduce cardio

That’s correct, we said reduce cardio. Remember, more is not necessarily better. We might drop 5-10 minutes per cardio session. If Kelly was doing six sessions of 60 minutes per week, we might drop her to 50 minutes six sessions per week. This will accomplish two things; not create a crazy difference in calories burned, as well as not freak out the client. Although it’s counter-intuitive to think less cardio is better, in this case it is. Assuming two to four weeks have passed and client compliance is good, we may make a further reduction down to 45 minutes or “only” five cardio sessions per week.

We may also replace a long 45-50 minute session of cardio with a shorter but more intense cardio session of intervals. Remember from previous articles (“Cardio 101”), intervals are proven to be more effective for fat loss and muscle retention.

Ideally we get to a point where the client can maintain their weight on one to four 30-40 minute sessions of cardio per week and or one-three interval sessions per week.

Increase kilocalories

Yes, you read right, again. The reason Kelly’s metabolism has slowed is due to the excessive energy output (cardio) and low energy input/intake (food). She has burned muscle tissue. Less muscle tissue means slow(er) metabolism. This cannot be stressed enough. We will very slowly add calories in. This may be as simple as adding a piece of fruit pre- or post-workout. This will help provide fuel for an intense workout or help recover from the workout itself.

So if Kelly is working out four times per week, she would have four more pieces of fruit that week. This process must be done very slowly or a drastic rebound (large amount of weight gain proportionate to weight loss) will occur. Assuming two to three weeks go by and there is no weight gain, we would consider this a success. I say that because Kelly has exercised less and eaten more. This means her metabolism is operating more efficiently. We would then add some more food, maybe more carbs for breakfast or lunch. This would be based on the individual, their workout times, work schedule, etc.

The main focus would be for this to be done very, very gradually.

Remember that everyone is different, has different calorie requirements and has varying metabolisms. If Kelly has been under-eating and over-exercising for a substantial amount of time, a three- to six-month time frame or longer to “repair” her metabolism would not be uncommon.

I personally have had a few clients who came in at under 900 calories and after two to five months can now tolerate 1700-2000 calories. Their weight stayed the same, but they are able to handle more than twice the calories. At this point a calorie reduction would result in a loss. At the 900-calorie mark, it is way too low to even consider reducing food or increasing activity.

I’m always in favor of eating as much food as possible and doing as little cardio as necessary to lose weight. I’d rather have clients burn off their bodyfat/weight versus starving themselves.

Now you know the science and the right way to lose weight/bodyfat. Do not fall victim to endless cardio and starvation diets.

Chris Tybor is a personal trainer and owner of Christfit, which has locations in Lewiston and Niagara Falls. For more information visit