Live Fit: This is my journey »

Choosing a Prep Coach or Personal Trainer

Photo courtesy of youqueen.com
With the New Year upon us, there are many resolutions to be made surrounding health, fitness, and all things “diet”.  Many people will decide to begin a new weight loss program, join a gym, and even hire a trainer/coach to get serious about their goals.  I’m all for individuals wanting to get on the right track in the New Year and making a commitment to their health, however what I do have a problem with is all of the unqualified and uneducated trainers and coaches out there taking money and making claims to potential clients that are completely unrealistic and in most cases will be harmful to their OVERALL health and long term fitness success.  Now I realize I’m a nobody in the fitness industry and have some ways to go to achieve my own goals, BUT the bottom line is that from the very beginning of my journey, I chose to #1 do my own research to find out what would best suit me, my needs, and my goals, #2 reach those goals in the healthiest way possible, and #3 devise a plan that would NOT produce the quickest results, but the longest lasting ones.  Thus far, I think I am 100% on the right track and completely happy with the decisions I have made regarding my health.

 

When I first got serious about taking my body to the next level earlier this year, I was smart enough to know that I didn’t know everything and regardless of how much research I did on my own, I just wouldn’t be able to reach my goal physique on my own.  I had a good grasp on the lifting, exercises, and workout routines, but certainly didn’t know enough about the nutrition part of the equation.  At this point, I had to seek out someone to help me along the way so I began to look for a coach that would hopefully teach me the proper way to get things done.  So began my search…

I emailed at least 10 people/ prep coaching “teams”.  It was important for me to ask about about their philosophy on nutrition and their basic training program and EVERY single one of them basically said the same things upon my initial email.  Surely because they ALL said the same things, this had to be the only way to achieve my own goals right?  “You will need to increase your cardio.  You will need to cut the amount of food you are eating.  You will need to increase your protein and cut your carb intake.  You will need to commit to eating 100% clean.”

I called BULLSHIT… on all of them.  I was already passed the eating clean phase of my journey so I knew better.

This was a sample meal plan from one of these guru’s (copied & pasted directly from email):

 
Guidance guide :
Preparation is Key to the plan: You need to set 1hr the night before and cook all your meal.
 
There is no reason why you should not be ready the next day, measure and weigh your food after it’s cooked. Make sure you are ready to go every morning. Your eggs can be cooked the day of because they are easy to cook.
 
COOKING TIPS:
 
Now here are some ideas for food and helpful hints – ONLY COOK WITH FAT FREE PAM, for seasonings fresh squeezed lime juice.  Sometimes I put Splenda and cinnamon on my sweet potatoes, oats, protein shakes and rice. You can use a little bbq sauce or ketchup for all foods.
 
Try and drink a gallon of water a day with 2 natural green tea bags!!! This is key!! Feel free to add crystal light. NO, sugar, candy, processed foods, or junk and NO ALCOHOL!! Use pam to cook and in the ground turkey and tuna get creative on what you add, I add mustard, black pepper, hot sauces. Add peas, onions and red and yellow chilies. No fructose items such as bbq sauces, ranches, etc., unless made by WALDEN FARMS.
 
Nutritional Plan & Grocery List:
 
Meal 1: Whey shake and 1 rice cake with almond butter spread and one apple. 
Meal 2:   4oz chicken breast 3oz sweat potato and 6 asparaguss sticks
Meal 3: 4 oz. lean ground turkey with side salad and cucumbers only use balsamic vinegriete for dressing.
Meal 4: One or two cans of Tuna (in water) with fresh assorted veggies, handful of cranberries, and half an avocado. You can use one table spoon of nonfat mayo.
Meal 5: Chicken fajitas (one or two cups) with one cup of bell peppers and ¼ cup of low sodium salsa and 1/2 cup brown rice
 
Grocery list :
Quaker oats oatmeal- large box
 Eggs (buy the 64 count. It’s about $10
 Assorted dark greens.
 Chicken breast/ boneless/skinless, Tuna (in water)
 lean ground turkey
 PAM
 Splenda or any artificial sweetener
 Cinnamon
 Almond butter
 Sugar free Jell-O
 cranberries
 avocado
 bellpeppers
 salad

So many flaws in ONE proposed meal plan… but some of the most important things I want to point out:

  1. Not once did we discuses MY weight, age, current AND past nutrition or training, nor was the state of my metabolic health even considered.
  2. NO discussion of macro/micro nutrients.
  3. When calculated, this plan would bring me to approximately 1,269 calories (37% carbs, 27% fat, and 36% protein)

Did you read that correctly?  Let me type it again.

1,269 calories….

SERIOUSLY?  Just calculating it right now ticks me off.

How dare this person try and give me a meal plan with such low calories that will not only inhibit my fitness goals, but moreover inevitably ruin my overall LONG TERM success.  How dare this person consider even taking my money without knowing the current state of my health. How dare this person put the health of their clients on the back burner with the SAME exact daily caloric intake for everyone.  Would a meal plan like this work for me to lose weight?  Maybe.  But how could this one cookie cutter plan given to ALL of their clients produce the results that I was looking for?

It can’t.  End of story.

I kindly thanked this person (as well as the others) for their time and passed on every single one of their “customized plans”.  When a rice cake is considered a treat and the highlight of my day, I have to drawn the line.  So what are specific things I would look for in a trainer or prep coach?

These would be a must for me when placing my health in someone else’s hands:

  • they ask me what my age, weight, height, current training & nutrition plan are
  • they ask me about my dieting history (including approximate caloric intake or at the very least what an average day of eating is for me)
  • they ask me what MY goals are in detail
  • they will NOT diet me down if my metabolism is already at risk or damaged.  I would hope they would encourage reverse dieting PRIOR to beginning a stricter fat loss regimen.
  • they must know what a macronutrient is
  • they must NOT drastically cut carb intake
  • they do NOT put me on a meal plan where certain foods are forbidden and off limits (even something as simple as fruit… yes there are coaches who don’t allow fruit on their plans)
  • they must NOT push daily or multiple cardio sessions (over an hour each time twice per day), fasted cardio, intermittent fasting
  • they must NOT push certain supplements or brands that are “needed” to achieve my goals (this includes cleanses, detoxes, fat burners, Beach Body programs, etc.)

And a few other things I would consider and keep in mind when working with a trainer or coach that may seem obvious but I still feel the need to point them out:

  • always try to go with someone you have been referred to by a friend or relative or from someone in the industry that you trust.  It won’t guarantee a good trainer, but it’s better than nothing.
  • prior to beginning a program with them, find out what their credentials are.  What personal training education and/or certifications do they have? Are they licensed dietitians or nutritionists?
  • ask what type of clients they typically work with.  If you are looking for a bikini prep coach, you will want someone who has competed and specializes in competition athletes.
  • if you do not feel comfortable with an exercise or some aspect of the nutrition that has been set up for you, voice your concern and ask WHY they have included it in your plan.  They should be able to back up their ideas with facts, references, etc. and not simply  say something to the effect of “Well, this is what I did to get XYZ so this is what you should do!”
  • if at any point you feel like you are being pushed too hard, putting your body at risk for injury, OR your mental well being is beginning to suffer as a result of diet or training, re evaluate your plan and your trainer/coach and voice your concerns.  They should be their to support & encourage you on your journey, not tear you down.
  • if you are working with someone online, you should be able to contact them by email at the very least.  I know quite a few girls who are able to utilize text messaging which is great.  Your trainer/coach should be doing regular check in’s (preferably twice per week) and ask for progress and update pictures.
  • know up front what their rates are.  The prices can range drastically but ultimately you need to work with someone in your budget BUT that you still feel 100% comfortable and safe with.

Bottom line for me (like always) is that you must not only think about your short term goals and achieving the maximum amount of fat/weight loss in the shortest amount of time.  Love yourself and be smart enough to know that there is a better and healthier way to achieve ALL of your fitness goals that doesn’t include depriving yourself of foods you love, hours and hours at the gym, missing out or fearing family functions because you will not be able to “stay on track”, and living a life of yo yo dieting.  If you don’t feel like you can achieve your goals on your own and need the guidance and expertise of a trainer or coach, set yourself up properly with someone who truly believes in you and your health (short and long term).

I’m not sure how other everyone else feels, but I assure you that I NEVER feel like I’m on a “diet”.  I train hard when I lift.  I’m eating for my goals.  I don’t consider ANYTHING I eat a cheat meal even though I do have pizza, pasta, and/or treats almost daily.  I’m healthier (mind and body).  And most importantly, I’m happier and more comfortable with my body than ever in my life and please note that I haven’t even come close to achieving all of the goals I have set out for myself.  This speaks volumes about how educating yourself, getting to know your body, and properly feeding & fueling yourself all work hand in hand to creating a much better YOU mind, body, and spirit!

Don’t get guru’d!  Know the difference between trainers & coaches who care and ones who are strictly after a profit!
Photo courtesy of www.youqueen.com

  • Sam - So who do you recommend or who did you end up using as your coach?ReplyCancel

  • Heather - I’m in shock that someone would suggest that low of a caloric intake for someone without determining their TDEE. If I ate that few calories in a day I would go in to major starvation mode.ReplyCancel

    • corina - Sad isn’t it? Whats worse is that there are so many trainers and coaches giving the same basic plan AND these girls are following it without a single question 🙁 I’d seriously die if I ate that little and I’m a small girl lol!ReplyCancel

  • Letty - Hi corina. I’m a big fan of yours and I want to start off by saying thank you for all that you so honestly share. My question to you is, where do you get all the recepies and have them all fit in your macros?ReplyCancel

    • corina - Hi Letty! Thank you so much for your kind words! As far as my recipes go, I pretty much make them all up as I go, they are adjusted from old recipes I have made in the past that weren’t quite as healthy, or I see inspiration somewhere like Pinterest or magazines and then just put my own spin on them. And fitting food into my macros is never a problem 🙂 I always start off with the things that will cause numbers to go really off balance (i.e. eating out, dessert, etc.) and then fill in where I need to. Tracking takes time to get used to, but I can really log each day now in under 5 minutes! Eating a lot of the same food/meals also helps 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Sydney - Hi, I came across you site from pinterest and began reading a few of your posts, one being this one. I recently began herbalife in order to lose my weight from my first baby that I had struggled with for the last year or so. After the first two months I have lost 20lbs without working out and started going to the gym as well. However I was told to shoot for about 1200 calories a day and have had a hard time after the holidays getting back to the two shake meal replacements, I am just curious if you could give me some advice on calorie intake since you seemed pretty shocked by the low calorie amount given by these coaches. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • corina - HI Sydney!

      1200 calories is fairly low (to me) but macronutrients really all come down to your goals, your eating history, if you need to/want to fix your metabolism, your lifestyle, how you train, etc. Lots and lots of things go into finding out what the right amount of calories are and its not the same for every person. For me, I simply couldn’t function on 1200 calories nor would it benefit me or my goals eating that low. That would be a SEVERE deficit for me and Im only 5′ tall. In this blog post, that calorie amount I was given was even more disturbing because the coach/trainer NEVER discussed all of the things we should have prior. It was the caloric intake they gave to ALL clients which simply is unacceptable in my opinion. Say for example you are eating 1200 calories, lost a good amount of weight, but then you start to increase how much you eat too quickly. Chances are you will likely gain weight so for me, I chose to to reverse diet prior to dieting in order to build my metabolic capacity. I hope that makes sense!ReplyCancel

  • Sydney - Thanks for responding so quickly. Some of that makes sense to me but I am new to trying to change my eating habits. Where did you start when trying to figure out what you needed, if you don’t mind me asking. I search the web a lot but haven’t really found much information to help me build a good foundation. I’m only 24 and have been going to the gym 4-5 days a week but since the holidays and not sticking with only 1200 calories a day I have noticed a few pounds adding back up.. I have really enjoyed reading your posts now that I’ve found them. Thanks again.ReplyCancel

    • corina - In all honesty, I spent a good couple of months trying to figure out what would work and felt like I wasn’t going anywhere so I got a coach to help me with that part of my journey. We have continued to reverse diet and I am not starting my cut… again, I feel like 1200 calories is very low and at some point your body will stall. Eating less doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose weight. Its extremely unhealthy (physically and mentally) to be so restricted and where do you go from 1200 calories? Thats the exact reason I chose to reverse diet prior to dieting, easier to go into a deficit when you prepare your body! Hope that helps!ReplyCancel

  • Cathia - Corina,

    I have been following you now on various social media for 3 weeks. And you have helped to revolutionize my understanding of living a fit and healthy lifestyle without compromising my need to enjoy food or hurting myself in the process. I am in the process of changing to a iifym lifestyle and I am excited.(still trying to figure out reverse dieting) My question for you is about “intermittent fasting.” I have just come across that in my research online. A lot of people are using it hand in hand with flexible eating. And you mentioned it once in this blog entry. What is your opionion/experience with it? Thanks and please keep up the great work you are doing.ReplyCancel

    • corina - Hello Cathia, I personally don’t do fasting but know some women who do. Ultimately, I think its a personal preference and a tool that make work for some in terms of their schedules. I have heard many women report that it severely impacted their hormones and the amount of muscle they lost while dieting so I have stayed away from it.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Jewell - Love this blog, totally on the money 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Rita - Hi Corina,

    I was wondering if you would recommend signing up with a coach right away or trying to learn on your own first. And how much does an online coach usually cost from your experience? Thanks! Just started perusing your blog and love it:)ReplyCancel

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