Last month I wrote a post about the importance of diet and talked a bit about the challenge I was embarking on – for six weeks I would cut out all processed food. (Well, mostly. Life is too short to say no to the occasional piece of cake, bacon sandwich or slice of pizza).
A variety of measurements were taken before starting the challenge, at the half-way point and again at the end of the six weeks, including weight and body fat (the body fat was measured using calipers, which generally seem to be one of the most accurate ways of measuring body fat).
I’d like to add that I had no ambitions of weight or fat loss before starting this challenge. I was intrigued as to how a better diet might improve my running (or not!) and see for myself if there were any other benefits to cutting out the processed crap. I was already at a healthy weight and had no interest in reducing any numbers.
To give you an idea of the kinds of meals I was eating, an average weekday looked something like this –
- breakfast – pancakes (made with coconut flour), with a banana, greek yoghurt, honey and home made granola or an omelette with plenty of mushrooms/bacon and vegetables
- mid-morning snack – piece of fruit
- dinner – chicken with rice and veg
- afternoon snack – handful of nuts (soaked overnight) or some greek yoghurt and fruit. Maybe some 90% dark chocolate too.
- tea – grass fed steak burger with mash and vegetables
I varied my meals to keep things interesting and I added/reduced snacks depending on the volume of training and generally how I felt. On some days I train twice (crossfit in the morning and running in the evening) so I had to take care to ensure I got enough carbs – this really made me think about how much I used to rely on refined foods for carb intake.
Stats before the challenge
weight – 48.2kg waist – 65cm hips – 74.5cm
body fat (mm) abs – 14, suprailiac – 13, tricep – 16, thigh – 29
body fat % – 21.4
Stats at week 3
weight – 47.6kg waist – 64cm hips – 72.5cm
body fat (mm) abs – 11, suprailiac – 12, tricep – 16, thigh – 25
body fat % – 19.5
Stats at week 6
weight – 47.1kg waist – 62.5cm hips – 68cm
body fat (mm) abs – 10, suprailiac – 9, tricep – 13, thigh – 20
body fat % – 16.6
To say I’d actually increased the amount of food I was eating, I was really surprised at the results. Although I was disappointed to lose weight I was glad that it wasn’t a significant amount (one kilogram over the whole six weeks) and I can safely assume that I put on some lean muscle as my body fat dropped by a whopping 5%. I really wasn’t expecting that and to be honest I’d like to put a % or two back on as I feel that 16% is quite low for a woman (just my personal opinion about my own body).
Was the challenge difficult?
At first, absolutely! My typical day used to consist of toast for breakfast, a sandwich and crisps/biscuits for dinner and pasta for tea. During the six weeks I couldn’t have any of my usual meals. I had to spend a lot of money on new ingredients (coconut flour – I felt like a right wanker buying that) and I had to spend a lot of time planning meals and generally getting organised in that first week. I was craving bread and honestly nearly jacked it all in after just a few days.
But after that, it got significantly easier and by the third or fourth week I barely had to give it any thought at all. After the initial big spend on new ingredients, my food bill reduced and I was no longer visiting the local shop or bakery for that almost daily treat of a cake/sausage roll/bag of crisps.
Were the any other benefits?
LOADS! The numbers on a scale or a tape measure don’t really matter to me, the big difference was how I felt. I had bags more energy and just generally felt less irritable. My skin cleared up, as did my patchy eczema and I loved cooking different meals and trying new things. My body shape changed quite a lot (even though I didn’t alter any aspect of my training) and *gasps* even my abs started peeking through. No, don’t worry, I won’t be posting a picture of that! After all, my core is not any stronger than it was six weeks ago, the layer of fat that insulates them is just a little smaller.
But what difference did it make to running performance, if any?
Now you’re talking! But trust me when I say that topic deserves a post in it’s own right *spoiler alert* it made a BIG difference. More in the next post. I’m such a tease.
Now the six weeks is done and dusted I’m very happily continuing with the changes I’ve brought into my diet. I definitely won’t be as strict with it as I was in the first six weeks (Easter is coming!) and I won’t hesitate to tuck into treats and take-aways every now and again. But the next challenge for me is to try and maintain bodyweight (or even increase it a little) without eating crap. It’s easy to pile on the pounds with junk food but putting on lean muscle is surprisingly difficult. Shout up if you have any tips!