For anybody who follows me on Instagram, you’ll know that I have spent the last 5 weeks on a diet. Me, a diet, I know!
Now, I wanted to do a full blog post on this so that I can explain why I decided to do it, why I decided to refer to this as a diet, why I decided on 5 weeks and what this was all for in the long run.
First things first, the D word.
The reason I’ve been calling the last 5 weeks a diet is - because it is. There is no other label that you can put on it. This has been a short-term plan for me to follow to really give my body a kick up the a*se and a chance to see what it is capable of. I have never followed any kind of diet for this length of time before and I was genuinely curious to see how me, and my body would respond.
Why 5 weeks?
I decided on 5 weeks as I thought this would be enough time to really challenge myself. After 4 weeks of anything it starts to feel routine. I also wanted to try and keep the diet going through my time of the month (TOM) which is always the hardest time for me to keep track on my nutrition. If I’m honest this is the time when I went off plan more than any other over the 5 weeks.
What did I do?
I did something called carb cycling. Initially I followed the Chloe Madeley 4 Week Body Blitz structure of lower carbohydrate and higher fat days. This was just a starting point for me, and the book has some quick, tasty recipes which I used throughout. My personal favourite being the peanut butter chicken stir fry which is amazing. As I got into week 5 the carb cycling structure became slightly more relaxed and when I needed to move a higher carb day to fit better with the plans I already had with friends and family, I did.
The reason I started using Chloe's plan was just to have a structure to start with which I could then manipulate to better suit my lifestyle and job. Sometimes the hardest part of any diet is planning out what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. This was always just a structure to use to get things off the ground and it worked really well for me.
Carb Cycling – What is it?
In its simplest terms Carb cycling is a way of utilising higher and lower carb days to reduce overall calories and help a diet feel less like a diet. It means you’re not cutting out carbs all together which is brutal and something I wouldn’t do. I also found it had interesting results on my workouts, the day after a higher carb intake I felt significantly stronger and had more energy. The higher carb day itself felt not much different, although I was much fuller and more satisfied on the days when higher amounts of carbs were included in my meals.
Throughout the five weeks I was exercising at the gym on average 5 times a week. I did a combination of weight and resistance training, some circuit style higher intensity training and cardio on average 2/3 times a week. One thing I will say is that I didn’t follow Chloe’s workouts that she provides in the 4-week plan, purely because I wanted to do my own thing (I’m a control freak PT after all)
This was the most consistent I have been with my training since the summer and boy could I feel it. After the two weeks I utilised my heavier training days for the day after a higher carb day. This worked well for me. I have noticed that my overall strength and fitness has improved, and I am starting to look leaner.
One of the biggest improvements I noticed was doing 5k treadmill runs. There were days when I felt like I could just keep going, the movement and the pace felt comfortable and strong. That didn’t happen every day, but I literally never thought I would say that about running.
Now I am never a fan of scale weight but for the purposes of this challenge I did weigh myself weekly to keep an eye on how I was doing. The first week was my biggest weight loss (water weight) and the week I was on TOM I maintained but didn’t lose. The scale weight was never really the driver behind this challenge, it was more how I looked and felt that I was focused on. I am also conscious that whilst losing fat I would be building muscle with a significant increase in my training.
Over the 5 weeks I lost 8 pounds, just over half a stone.
Starting weight: 10st 2
End weight: 9st 8
How did I feel?
Pretty good actually. Every day I had 3 meals and 2 snacks and played around with how I consumed them based on my schedule. I also noticed I enjoyed my food a lot more. I was excited to sit down and eat and felt satisfied without getting that too full sensation that I often eat to the point of.
In the first two weeks I had some days where I felt hungry and in part, I think this was down to the amount of food I was consuming over the Christmas period. Those feelings certainly didn’t last and once I had figured out, I was better to have my snacks in the afternoon/evening because that’s when I had more cravings, it didn’t feel all that difficult.
There were times when I felt I could eat more and there were moments of feeling hungry. For me, this was important. In the lead up to Christmas I couldn’t tell you the last time I had felt properly hungry. I was enjoying pub lunches and buffets left right and centre and it was wonderful. However, I do think recognising and understanding your own hunger is an important part of feeding your body what it needs. I don’t agree that you should be consistently hungry all the time.
Now I have played around with carb cycling this is something I will be taking forward into my ongoing nutrition. I don’t think this is something I will manipulate day by day and I may instead focus on higher and lower carb meals around my workouts. It also helps that from the 4 Week Body Blitz I have a few recipes that I really enjoyed, and I know fill me up and that the BF will also eat.
This challenge has helped me to see that when I set my mind to something anything is possible, I am proud of what I have managed to achieve so far.
It has shown me there are some alternative options that still satisfy my need for daily peanut butter and dark chocolate. Having chocolate protein mug cakes (I used this from the Diet Kitchen) and G&B velvet salted caramel dark chocolate throughout this challenge has been a life saver.
Training wise, variety was key for me and scheduling in my tougher workouts around my busy PT days and higher carb intake is the way forward. I also prefer to exercise in the morning. We have all heard it a million times before, but I genuinely believe that being consistent with my exercise has been the real key to how much improvement I have made in my body composition. It has also hugely improved my mental state which dipped around Christmas due to my lack of regular exercise and having no control over my nutrition. My intention is to continue to train 5 days a week whenever I can.
G&B Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate, I had two squares of this every day in the evening with a cup of tea. It was a genuine life saver for all those sweet cravings.
Protein Mug Cakes are a thing of wonder, the recipes are super easy to make and for less than 160 calories you get a warm, gooey and chocolatey desert that tastes good. I used this recipe.
Drink plenty of water, it made a big difference for me and left me feeling like I had more energy.
Peanut Butter Chicken Stir Fry is amazing if you’re a peanut butter addict like me.
Chicken Sausages taste fantastic, are low in fat and high in protein and are a stable in my house these days. I used Aldi's own version as they're cheaper than any I found elsewhere.
I didn’t count calories over my 5 weeks, but I did use hand measurements for portion control because this is something, I didn’t have a handle on. Here's a good one to use.
If, like me, you don’t mind having the same thing a few days in a row this makes prepping and staying on track much easier.
My five week challenge has ended but I have learnt so much about my body throughout the challenge. I am excited to take what I have learnt forward and see what else I am capable of achieving in my own fitness.
Any questions at all just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.