Cycling Fitness

Personal Training Could Make You Fatter

This might sound like an odd title coming from a cycling personal trainer but it’s time to get real about a few things. Since I started personal training in 2005 pretty much 9 out of 10 clients have come to me with one primary goal, they want to look better, and this generally means losing body fat and going after an aesthetic goal. I’m then asked “How long will it take to reach my goal?”.

Why Personal Training Could Make You Fatter

The perception in the fitness industry is, exercise more eat less and you will get results. I’m sorry to say that it’s not always as simple as that. If you think that exercising with a personal trainer or signing up to an intense group personal training program is going to fix your weight loss problems you may be in for disappointment.

I have seen over the years a new trend forming particularly around boot camps and high intensity personal training. Barry’s Bootcamp has locations globally and delivers high intensity group personal training sessions to the mass market. I don’t have a problem with high intensity exercise or group personal training and I believe it has its place however, it’s important for you to understand that this type of fitness may be detrimental to your goals. What I mean is sweating hard for an hour may not reduce body fat.

The Endocrine System

Live Science describes the Endocrine system as:

“A collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things”


One of the hormones that regulates metabolism is Cortisol. Cortisol causes the liver to produce sugar and causes a breakdown of muscle and fat to create this sugar. Cortisol also helps the body regulate its response to stress. Lastly, Cortisol decreases inflammation and decreases the immune system response. In short if you want your body to burn fat and deal with stress efficiently, you want a good Cortisol level.

Precision Nutrition has a great article on cortisol and states that inadequate nutrition, training stress which, could be high intensity training, overtraining, lifestyle stress and or a lack of sleep, can increase cortisol levels leading to inflammation (bloating) and most importantly slow down your bodies response to burning fat.

The Body Image Movement

The Body Image Movement was set up in 2012 when a women Taryn Brumfitt came to the realisation that she needed to love herself from the inside out. Taryn realised that breast surgery was not the answer and thought it would also set a bad example for her children. The body image movement focuses on women but I dont think its any different for men these days, the social pressures to look like a front cover fitness model is huge.

Personally I feel the fitness industry focuses too much on aesthetics’ and not enough on fitness and lifestyle. I don’t believe, unless you are a model, aesthetic goals are healthy. I have taken many clients to a specific weight who are still not happy in their own skin. I also feel that worrying about your weight or how you look turns into stress and unhealthy eating patterns. This can contribute to higher cortisol levels or other hormonal imbalances which could affect how your body deals with food and most importantly body fat.

What Makes you Happy?

If I had a magic pill that I could give to the entire planet that would make them happy in their own skin I would. The reason why I became a personal training is because ultimately I want to make people happier and I believe this can be achieved by being fit, healthy, having a balanced lifestyle and being comfortable in your own skin. The latter two points are often missed when someone approaches a fitness program and specifically with personal trainers I don’t think it’s focused on enough, it’s a term I like to call lifestyle coaching. Let’s take yoga as an example:

I’ve stolen this quote from Yoga Lifestyle Coach but for me it sums things up quite nicely.

Swami Satchidananda on the importance of moderation:
“Yoga is not for the person who eats too much, or who starves him or herself. Yoga is not for the person who sleeps too much, or who doesn’t sleep at all. The middle path is Yoga. The Yogi knows how much to eat, to sleep, to speak. That is the middle path. It is the Buddha’s teaching also, the golden medium. You should go neither to that extreme, nor to this extreme. So, don’t abruptly cut off your senses. Allow the senses to enjoy the world, but don’t get carried away with them. If we know there is a limitation in everything, then life will be good to us.”

Most people who attend yoga on a regular basis live the yoga way of life, they implement lifestyle changes into their life to match their goals. I’m not saying everyone should attend yoga classes, i’m just saying we need to approach our fitness goals differently and look at the bigger picture, does thin equal happiness?

Some Solutions

My number one suggestion for everyone, regardless of your fitness, level is to go and see a qualified functional nutritionist that can assess you properly and get the relevant tests done. I don’t mean someone that will give you a food plan to follow, I mean someone that has extensive knowledge and experience in nutritional testing. You need to know what is going on inside and if there are any imbalances that you should be addressing. In order to rule this out you should do it before it’s 3 months down the line and you don’t know why your body isn’t responding the way you expected.

If you have been exercising for some time and you don’t feel your body is responding in the way you want then the chances are either the type of exercise you are doing isn’t working for you, your goals and or expectations are unrealistic or you need more nutrition and fitness support.

High intensity and or circuit based training isn’t the solution for everyone but seems to be the most popular way of training. I would generally give an exercise and nutrition program 3 months before you expect to see any changes.

Define your goals in terms of lifestyle changes first, then fitness and then weight loss and looking thinner, not the other way around, if you can get the first two right the later will follow 😉

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