Food for thoughtThink getting the body of a god takes too much time and effort? In this weekly blog, our man is out to prove that a couple of months of hard graft can be revolutionary. In week two we find out the importance of a balanced diet, and how giving up carbs is not as easy as you think.
I’m Tom, I’m 29 and in terms of lifestyle I’m what I consider a fairly average guy – I spend a lot of time sitting down in front of a computer in an office, don’t make it to the gym much (twice in the last six months!), enjoy a drink and give in to the temptation of a takeaway a couple of times a week. Like everyone I’ve tried making a decision to eat healthily and do more exercise many times before, but Friday night comes calling and I’m back to square one. For my willpower to stand the test of time I need to see real results, fast. Is it possible to seriously change your physique in a couple of months? London-based transformation specialists Embody Fitness say it is, so I’ve decided to put it to the test. This is the story of my quest to become fit, healthy and, most importantly, buff as hell in just eight weeks.
Week 2 – On Carb Omissions
So I’m into my second week of weight-heavy workout sessions with trainer Greg, and after ten full days of healthy eating and iron pumping (not to mention resisting the pints!), I’m feeling genuinely irritated that I don’t look like an extra from the film 300 yet. Patience really isn’t my strong point.
The reality is that muscles left to their own devices for years are making their displeasure at being rudely awakened by dumbbells very clear. But I’m persevering, keeping that image of a Spartan warrior’s body with my head in mind at all times.
That also helps stave off the temptation to snack. The strict nutrition plan that Chris at Embody Fitness has created for me leaves no room for my favourite sugary pick-me-ups, causing my brain to shout at me more loudly than my aching muscles: ‘Where the hell is my sugar fix?’, ‘Call that a meal?’ Turns out I can be pretty mean on a comedown.
Giving up sugar really does produce a similar feeling to coming off drugs (so I’m told). Sugar lights up the same endorphin centres in the brain as heroin. This may help to explain certain recent behaviours of mine. For example yesterday, in what I can only describe as a moment of sugar-deprived madness, I crammed two mini Cadbury’s Cream Eggs into my mouth, before an immediate tidal wave of guilt forced me to spit the un-chewed chocolate into the nearest bin. Not my proudest moment.
Essentially, being me right now feels like having a gang of whining layabouts where my muscles should be, and a Trainspotting-style addict going cold turkey in my brain. I’m exhausted. But realising how addicted I am to my bad habits has really woken me up to how much I want to change them.
I’ve zoned in on the main cause of my current pain: carbs. Well, almost a complete lack of them to be precise. Carbohydrates include sugar, breads, pasta, potatoes… It goes on and on. I would never have guessed that carbs were so vital to my mental health. What if my sanity fundamentally relies on bread, cakes and booze? I might be about to step through the looking glass here people.
Fake it when you make it
One of the best tricks I’ve learned so far is to use veg I’m allowed to eat, to imitate the carbs I miss.
- 1. Courgetty spaghetti - Also known as Coodles (courgette + noodles), or Courgetti
It looks like spaghetti, but it’s made of courgettes. It’s very good. No, really. Courgettes are never my go-to vegetable, but once they’re covered in (homemade) tomato and tuna sauce, they’re dreamy. Plus no need to purchase a pricy spiralizer to create the strands: simply slice the courgette lengthways with a cheese slicer, then cut into strips.
2. Cauliflower rice
It’s rice. Made from cauliflower. What could be easier? I actually prefer this to normal rice. Just grate the cauliflower with the biggest holes on a box grater, add to a frying pan with a thumb of melted butter, and season with a tiny bit of powdered stock. Fry for 3-4 minutes, so the cauliflower cooks through but doesn’t become mushy.
There is, Greg assures me, a method to the madness induced by kicking the carb habit. It’s not that carbs are bad per se, he explains, just that too much of the wrong sort can really slow you down when it comes to burning fat and creating lean muscle. As I tell him how tired I feel, while lying on my back panting and, yes, sweating profusely, Greg nods sagely and explains the process.
The low-carb nutrition plan that accompanies the first three weeks of training is designed to wake my body up. It will help me lose up to four per cent of my body fat (at the start of this my body was 16 per cent fat) by making my muscle cells seek out glucose in lieu of carbs, thus making them more efficient at fat burning. And, as my resistance training has now depleted everything my muscle cells have in stock, I’ve gone into a state called ketosis, or ‘fat burning mode’ as laymen like me understand it. And while all this is happening, Greg tells me, it’s normal to feel knackered. This is reassuring news: maybe I’m actually making progress rather than falling apart!
I’m getting used to the diet. Each meal is measured with the hands to make portion sizes quick and easy to work out. I’m allowed two palms of protein, two fists of certain vegetables and one thumb of certain fats in each meal. The options for protein are pretty endless – almost all meats, most fish. And the veg options are actually fairly wide-ranging too – minus those carby root vegetables. So once my brain kicks the sugar habit, there should be enough variety to get me through another six weeks. And I’ve now got faith that my sanity and dignity levels will grow with my muscles.
Proof is in the pudding
Embody Fitness aim to deliver outstanding results whilst providing a client experience that is as professional and enjoyable as possible, and they have many success stories to prove it. Find out more on their website: embodyfitness.co.uk