PT on the Net Research

Are You Willing to Pay the Price to be Lean?

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the costs the client will have to pay in the process of getting very lean.
  2. Assess client readiness to become very lean.
  3. List the ways trainers can support clients during this process.
  4. Understand that becoming very lean may not be feasible or desirable for some clients.

Whether it is to get a beach body for the summer, an upcoming vacation, a special event, or improved health, one of the most common goals in the fitness industry is weight loss.  However, there is a select population of clients who want to take getting lean to the next level and bring their body fat down into the single digits.  Here we will discuss the price that clients will need to be prepared to pay in the quest to getting very, very lean and how trainers can support their clients during this process.

Most will agree that there are many benefits to a lean physique. Besides the aesthetic appeal, those who are in a healthy body fat range usually have good energy throughout the day, maintain normal hormone levels, and may not be as prone to chronic diseases or illnesses.

However, some clients want to get extremely lean and look like a fitness model or bodybuilding competitor.  This takes weight loss to another level entirely.   While there are benefits to attaining a healthy level of body fat, there are drawbacks to being extremely lean.  Many assume that losing just a few more pounds to get single digit body fat is as easy as the first couple of pounds they lost.  They do not realize that as you get leaner, it takes more work to continue losing weight.  The lower the desired body fat level, the higher the cost.

Let's take a look at the price that both the client and the trainer will have to pay throughout this process. Looking at the cost of getting lean will ultimately help your client determine what they can and will commit to doing.  It will also help you as a trainer determine if you are prepared to work with and support these clients.

The Price Clients Have to Pay

Losing weight and getting extremely low levels of body fat requires a lot of effort on the part of the client. Each of the points below are important components to getting extremely lean.

Nutrition and Meal Prep

Activity and Recovery

Have your clients fill out the table below and then discuss whether or not your clients are ready and willing to do each of these.  While they still can lose weight, unless they are willing to do each item below daily, acquiring extremely low levels of body fat may be out of reach.

For clients to fill out:

I am willing to:


Most Days

Less than 5 days/week

1-2 times a week


Prepare meals in advance
Eat frequent meals
Avoid eating out
Avoid processed foods, alcohol and calorie-containing beverages
Follow workout program, which may include multiple workouts daily
Prioritize rest, including sleep, naps, meditation, Epsom salt baths,
massage, etc.
Track calories

Other Costs

If a client does desire to get down to single-digits, it is important to go over each item listed above to ensure the client is willing to endure the consequences of their goal. If they are not, reevaluate and choose a goal that they can be confident in adhering to given their lifestyle, time, schedule, and ability.

It’s also important for the client to realize that they will more than likely not maintain such a low body fat percentage. It’s very difficult both physically and mentally to maintain very low body fat percentages. It can actually be very unhealthy to do so. Like bodybuilders and fitness competitors, after their competition, they consume higher numbers of calories, resulting in increased body fat percentages until it’s time for the next competition. So, make sure the client is aware of this fact, as they may want to reconsider how low they are willing to go if the goal is also to maintain a lower body fat percentage.

How Trainers Can Support Clients through This Process

While the client is the one that has to make a lot of sacrifices, as a trainer, you need to be prepared to put in more time, effort, and support for clients who desire extremely low levels of body fat.

Nutrition Plan

While staying within a trainer’s scope of practice and legal regulations within your state, plans for clients who want to be very lean must be much more detailed with:

Activity and Rest

Evaluate your knowledge and skill level for each of the areas above.  If you aren’t prepared to do each of these, you will want to get more knowledge or training so that you are best prepared to support a client who wants to get very lean.

For bodybuilders or other athletes whose performance necessitates being extremely lean, you will want to work with those clients very closely not only in getting them ready for their competition, but also in maintaining more of a healthy balance once the competition season is over.  Extreme leanness can lead to eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and a host of other physical and psychological problems.

There is a price for getting extremely lean, but there are healthier and less healthy ways of going about it.  Clients desperate to get lean may take extreme measures, including drugs.  As a trainer, the objective is to help the client reach their goal in the healthiest way possible.  Work closely with your client to help them do this and also to understand the cost.


Hulmi, J. J., Isola, V., Suonpää, M., Järvinen, N. J., Kokkonen, M., Wennerström, A., Nyman, K., Perola, M., Ahtiainen, J.P., & Häkkinen, K. (2017). The effects of intensive weight reduction on body composition and serum hormones in female fitness competitors. Frontiers in physiology, 7, 689.

Rossow, L. M., Fukuda, D. H., Fahs, C. A., Loenneke, J. P., & Stout, J. R. (2013). Natural bodybuilding competition preparation and recovery: a 12-month case study. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 8(5), 582-592.