I have a client who had a baby seven months ago. She's 5'9" and weighs 125 pounds. In the past, she always did aerobics and circuit training for "toning." She's been training with me for about 10 weeks now. We alternate tubing days with kickboxing, five days a week. When she's not working with me, she runs on the treadmill. On tubing days (resistance workouts), she will run after class also. That being said, she runs every day and does resistance training two to three times a week. She has a soft look to her. She's trim everywhere, but she has no distinct muscle on her body. Her midsection is her biggest problem area. She's particularly soft here and actually carries a little tube.
Do you think it's her eating habits (i.e., too many carbs)? She tells me she takes in a lot of protein - for her height and level of cardio, what should she be taking in? Do you think somehow with all the cardio she does, she is burning up the muscle she should have created by now? She's no weakling either. She can punch pretty hard and land a nice kick. Any advice you could offer is appreciated.
It is hard to know exactly what the problem is, but I will offer a few possibilities. First, let me address your question about protein intake. For an active person attempting to lose body fat, protein recommendations are 1.6-2.0g/kg/BW.
You mention that she says she is eating a lot of protein, but then ask if she is eating too many carbs. Why doesn't anyone ever ask if someone is eating too much protein? It has calories and can be converted to fat. Sufficient carbohydrates are necessary for optimal health and functioning, especially with your client's work load. Too many calories leads to weight gain, not too many carbs.
Perhaps your client is simply eating too much of everything; therefore, she is simply eating too many calories. Do you or your client know what her recommended caloric intake is or should be? If you suspect she is eating too many calories, then reduce them by 250-300 per day. This should get the ball rolling.
Your client is doing a lot of cardio and exercise. If caloric intake is not the culprit, then perhaps the intensity or the mode needs to be changed. I do not know how challenging the tubing workouts are, but resistance exercise is a great way to burn calories. Utilizing exercises that challenge balance and stability can use a lot of muscles and burn significantly more calories per unit of time than traditional equipment or stable exercises.
If your client has been doing the same type of cardio routine, then she has likely adapted to it. As the body adapts, its energy expenditure for that movement is reduced. This is often a big problem and inconvenient for seasoned exercisers. Their superior level of fitness leads to economy in calorie burning. Just imagine giving a car a tune up. It gets better gas mileage and uses less fuel. Same for the body; our fuel is calories.
My last possibility is this: If your client is doing that much work and truly eating very low calories, then she may be in an overtrained/overstressed situation. This is much rarer than is expected, but it does occur in the avid fitness enthusiast. Low caloric intake and high energy expenditure is very stressful to the human system. Our bodies get flashbacks to thousands of years ago when food was not as available and much energy was expended to acquire it.
This overstressed/underfed situation leads to metabolic economy or preservation; T3 (a thyroid hormone that regulates metabolism) is reduced and other hormones such as Neuropeptide Y signal that conservation of energy needs to occur. Added to the increased exercise efficiency, these adaptations can have a pronounced effect upon 24 hour energy expenditure. If this is the case, more work or less food is not the answer. The person needs to get out of the gym and destress.
I would recommend a week layoff (good luck convincing the client, though). Ensure she eats an appropriate amount of calories for her goal during this layoff. The layoff will allow the body to exit its "stress reaction." One of two things should then happen: 1) the client will maintain her weight and bodyfat level with more food and less work or 2) she may return having lost a little weight and/or bodyfat due to the metabolism perking back up. I would then start the client out with less total work (four days, 30-40 minutes of cardio) at a high intensity and different mode. Also, be sure she is taking a multi vitamin and mineral formula.
I hope this information proves helpful.