Diets are easy to come across these days, but so hard to adhere to. As someone who has tried Atkins and the South Beach diet, along with other “lose weight quick” schemes, I have seen some flat out fail, and others have initial success, only to let me down (or sabotage myself) in the long run. When I picked up the Champions Body for Life book from the bargain bin, I figured it was worth the few dollars I paid for it, if nothing else because it had some detailed exercise diagrams I could understand. I ended up getting so much more out of this book.
When I began the Body for Life challenge, I arrived at the gym the first day to face my nemesis, the scale. When it read “251,” I almost walked out right there. Being only six feet tall, my ideal body weight should be under 180 lbs. I fought off the urge to split, however, and banged out a solid 20 minutes of aerobic exercise on the elliptical. The exercise portion of Body for Life requires three 20 minute cardio work outs per week, alternating between three lifting days that run around 40 to 46 minutes long. Pretty specific, right? That’s what I thought, until you buy in to the fact that if you stick to the plan so easily laid out in front of you in the book, you will see results.
A basic week exercise wise would look like this. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you hit your aerobic workouts. Now when I say “hit,” I mean HIT! You may think that a combined 60 minutes a week in cardio workouts wouldn’t be so tough, but Body for Life outlines a measurement system (a 1 – 10 scale) that asks you to be honest about how much effort you are putting in. In the 20 minute sessions, you would warm up at an effort of “5,” then with every minute bump it up a notch in your effort. Once you hit “9,” you stay there for a minute, then drop back down to a “6.” On your last cycle, instead of dropping once you hit “9,” you bump up to a “10” and really push yourself with maximum effort for one minute. Remember, your “10” in week one may not be at a blistering pace, it’s what maximum effort is to you individually. And you will see improvement fast!
That leaves us with our lifting days, which would be Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday on our plan (you get Sundays off). The lifting is divided between upper body and lower body/abdominals. So for each calendar week, you would do two upper body days and one lower body day, then reverse it the next week. You will pick out two exercises per muscle group (i.e. biceps, shoulders, etc.) and increase weight while decreasing repetitions with each set. Then, on your last set, you lift 12 reps with as much weight as you can cleanly get through the exercise. If you follow the reps and resting plan that the book lays out for you, you should knock out your lifting workout in 46 minutes or less. Don’t skip out on the lifting if you want to be successful! Remember, cardio revs up your metabolism for roughly an hour after the workout, while lifting keeps it high for up to eight hours, burning more calories while you are just recovering.
The diet pretty much consists of high protein, high fiber, complex carbs and a whole lot of water! The book suggests eating lean meats, such as turkey, chicken breast, fish and lean beef (of course if none of it is deep fried!) Surprisingly, you are not restricted from most carbs, as potatoes, whole grain breads and crusts, and non-white rice are OK, once again as long as they are prepared in a healthy way. Of course any deep fried meats, cookies and cake, white breads, chips and sodas are on the no-no list, along with fatty oils and butters. The book advocates having six smaller meals per day, spaced out about every three hours. If you are like me, sometimes you’ll actually have to make time to eat because you won’t be used to eating that frequently, however you will stay satisfied much longer. One way to make the diet portion of the program work is by using meal replacement products.
The Champions Body for Life book does a good job of being forthcoming regarding their alliance with EAS nutritional supplements, such as protein bars and shakes. Although the book exclusively lists the EAS products by brand name, the EAS line is a bit pricey. You can buy the EAS items in bulk through the Body for Life website at a discount, however I found it best to shop around and try out different brands of protein bars or shakes that you may like just as well without the higher price tag. Local nutritional stores usually have house brands that are just as effective at a great price, however I do like the EAS ready made protein shakes a lot taste wise. The protein bars are pretty much as wash no matter who you go with, however if you plan on entering the Body for Life contest, you must be currently using at least one EAS product in your development.
So, bottom line is, how did the program work? Well, ten weeks in I have lost 21 lbs, and that is including nearly a week off for vacation. Because the eating plan is so simple and enjoyable to stick to, even when you have a week when you can’t get in your exercise, you don’t backtrack on your success. I feel much lighter going up and down the stairs, and, even though I have a long way to go, I am starting to see definition in my arms and legs for the first time since high school! I would highly recommend this program for those who have failed or reverted to old habits using other diets, as this one is much more natural to stick to, especially for those who are short on time. Most exercises can be done at home, along with the aerobic workouts, and other than the cost of the book and the meal replacement items, you won’t be spending any more in groceries. I do recommend buying the book, because the time it will save you in laying out your workout plan and illustrating the exercises are invaluable.