I’ll be competing in the Anytime Fitness 8 Week Challenge, which started on 3rd February 2020.
For 2020, one of my goals is to reduce my body fat percentage to 15. And whilst I feel as though I could get there myself throughout the year, I thought that this challenge would be a great way to motivate me to reach it faster. While I don’t think I can reach 15% from 22% in 8 weeks, I should definitely be able to drop at least a few percentage points – if I could get to around 17-18% by the end of these 8 weeks, I really feel as though I could have a chance of winning the challenge. Depends on the competition though – the ‘most transformed’ male and female will win $5,000.
If you’re interested in seeing my video about this challenge, check it out below!
Week 1 – 3rd February 2020
As a starting point, I’m not in a particularly bad position. I’m not overweight, or have areas of my body that could lose a lot of fat other than around my stomach. But even then, it’s not that much. The picture below shows front, side, and back images with measurements.
At the start of this challenge, I was 84.2kg and 22% body fat. So my best shot at this challenge is to work towards having a visible six-pack
I am using home scales for my weight and a measuring tape. For the body fat estimates, I am using the mPort 3D body mapping device – which is a walk in service within the shopping centre and you can scan yourself whenever you want (for a fee). This is a single point bioelectrical impedance analysis, where my body estimates are determined from my feet contacting their instrument. For a simple explanation, check out this article.
Whilst this isn’t anywhere near the most accurate method to use, this is a reasonable price ($40 a year) and I can scan as many times as I want. I’ll just be using the same method over time, so that will help see any change over time.
Training and Nutrition
As I’ll be trying to lose as much body fat as possible, I’ll need to incorporate what has been shown to work. For training, I’ll need to add in more high intensity interval training (HIIT) and cardio. A meta-analysis in 2018 of HIIT and the more common steady state cardio found that:
“High-intensity (above 90% peak heart rate) training was more successful in reducing whole body adiposity, while lower intensities had a greater effect on changes in abdominal and visceral fat mass.”
Therefore incorporating both HIIT and low intensity cardio, whilst keeping up with regular strength training (for strength and hypertrophy) will help to reduce my fat mass and maintain my muscle mass.
For nutrition, it’s simply a matter of being within a slight caloric deficit (rather than a larger deficit) with a focus on increasing dietary protein intake to preserve muscle mass, noted in Dr. Eric Helms’ paper on nutrition and supplementation in natural bodybuilders. However, methods such as alternate day fasting has been shown in some cases to decrease fat mass compared to prolonged caloric restriction. I am unsure whether I will follow any sort of intermittent fasting protocol during this, as the research is still varied.
This was a little faster than expected, but due to following my meal plan (~1,900 calories per day, 171P, 60C, 108.5F), it’s quite a drastic change (less) from how much I would normally eat.
I have been taking branch-chained amino acids as a way to preserve muscle mass due to the lower calorie intake. This has also increased my water intake which I’d say was needed anyway.
I have been including slow, steady state cardio a few times a week in the form of rowing, elliptical, and walking/running. I’ve only been doing this for about 30 minutes at a time. Other types of cardio have included gym classes at the gym, including boxing and functional fitness classes which go for an hour. I sweat an unbelievable amount during these sessions :P.
My meal plan is going well, I do feel hungry more often throughout the day, especially a few hours after lunch/before dinner. A few days I’ve felt quite weak and a lack of energy, most likely due to few calories but it could also be due to lowering the amount of carbohydrates I’m having. I’ve been swapping rice and pasta with tofu, which has drastically changed the protein:carb ratio.
On the weekends, I did stray slightly from my meal plan. I did allow myself some treats as I’ve been pretty strict with it, and I feel as though it has energised me for another strict week.
At the end of week 1, I have dropped 1.2kg to 83kg.
I watched an interesting video regarding the effect of outside-of-the-gym energy expenditure throughout the day. Essentially, if you follow a meal plan, workout, but for the rest of the day you’re sitting down and not doing anything, you will lose less weight than someone who does extra activity such as walking to work, using a standing desk, or going up a flight of stairs. It seems obvious, but the person who just relaxes for the rest of the day may not actually lose any weight at all. It’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about, and may help me burn a few hundred more calories throughout the week and result in extra fat loss by the end of the challenge.
Non-Exercise Active Thermogenesis (NEAT) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1a8zuTfZhK0
During week 2, I did a few sessions of cardio. This included rowing, jogging, and the elliptical. I feel as though I need to do a bit more, probably push it up to at least 3 times a week of 30min-60min, low intensity steady state. I am still attending boxing and functional fitness training sessions at the gym – which is my dose of high intensity interval training.
At the end of week 2, I have dropped 1.6kg to 81.4kg.
It’s a steady drop, but again, probably more than is needed. I need to focus on losing a slightly lower amount of weight per week to ensure I keep muscle mass. An interesting study regarding the amount of calorie deficit showed that the group with a lower deficit over 12 weeks had a higher loss of body fat and a higher preservation of muscle mass, than the group with a larger deficit.
My weight came in at 80.6kg, a drop of 0.8kg in a week. This is the optimal amount of weight loss for preserving muscle mass and ensuring that there is no drawback later down the track for gaining weight. My diet plan is going well for this. I have been keeing up with my workout routine, and it’s given me some good results.
Looking at the comparison photos from Week 1 -3, I can definitely see and I notice the changes in how I’m feeling in terms of body fat level. I just need to stick to my plan.
For the end of week 4, I weighed in at 80.9kg, an increase of 0.3kg. During the weekend leading up to the weigh-in, we took a weekend trip to the coast for some surfing. But admittedly, the drive there and he weekend included a lot of food that I wouldn’t have normally eaten, as well as straying from my meal plan. It just shows what a small amount of time off can have on your results. While this most likely could be water retention from eating sugary snacks, I also think I can dial in my diet more.
However, my scan on Sunday afternoon showed that my body fat has dropped from 22% to 19% in 4 weeks. Which I’m really happy about. What I’m more excited about though, is that my fat free mass has stayed the same since starting (66kg). This shows that I’m retaining muscle mass and losing fat – my exact goal!
I notice that there has been some changes in my photos from day 1 to day 30. There is a bit more definition. Unfortunately I haven’t had the best lighting for the full body pictures as required – it’s a bit easier to see change in my weekly shots. There wasn’t major changes across my measurements – there were slight drops almost everywhere, but happy to see that my waist measurement dropped 5cm and my helps (around the glutes) dropped 3cm.
After reaching the half-way point, I probably relaxed a bit too much and strayed from my meal plan more than expected. I also had another weekend away from home – while it is more difficult to stick to a meal plan when away – I didn’t really stop myself from eating sugary snacks on the long drives. At the end of week 5, I ended up gaining an extra 700g of body weight. But considering what happened, I really kicked myself into gear for the last 3 weeks.
By going back to what worked, I came in at week 6 losing 900g. It’s a great start. It’s crazy how important your diet / meal plan is in your fat loss journey. I kept up with the exercising, including strength training and cardio, but at the end of the day, if you don’t optimise your meal plan for your goal (losing fat, gaining muscle, building strength) you’ll only ever get so far. Better to find a meal plan you enjoy and can easily stick with. Only two weeks left!
I’ve started cycling to work again 5 days a week – this is a great way to burn extra calories. My ride is about a 13km round trip, which takes roughly 40-45 minutes – a super easy way to burn about 300-400 calories. This definitely helps in the long run.
Another week of strict meal plan and exercising, and I was stoked to see that I dropped another 1.7kg in a week. A bit faster than planned, but the weekends away I lost some ground that I needed to pick back up. By sticking to the meal plan, I had to make some tough choices – no random pancakes in the morning and no random snacks from the shops! A bit sad really..
Throughout this time of the challenge, I was feeling pretty exhausted at the end of the day. I was eating the right amount calorie wise, perhaps a bit lower than expected, but I had really strong cravings to just eat more food! At this time, I was thinking to myself that there is no way I could get through the day by eating any amount less – the amount of food I was eating felt like the lowest amount of food I could handle while still functioning properly.
When you’re eating less, you also feel more fatigued and not really willing to get to the gym or go for a run. I felt like my energy levels plummeted mid week and I found it hard to even cycle back home. Considering I was doing the extra cycling, I probably could have incorporated an extra meal in my day to feel more satiated and to replenish energy.
One more week!
Final week of the challenge! At the end of week 8, I came in at 78.6kg, losing 400g from last week! In total, I lost 5.6kg and dropped roughly 4% body fat.
I haven’t been this lean for probably about 5 years now. It would appear that with my usual eating and working out habits, my body likes to stay at the low 80s. Really happy to see that I broke the 78kg range throughout this challenge!
I wasn’t able to get my bodyfat scan at the local shopping centre due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, so I would estimate that I lost at least 1% of body fat from week 4 to week 8, which brings me to ~18%.
My official submission photos from the front, side, and back look pretty good! As I’ve mentioned, there wasn’t the best lighting for these shots, but you can still see some differences in my physique, most notably around my hips and waist, as well as my back.
As mentioned above, I am unsure of my body fat at this point due to not being able to get the scan. But I definitely feel much lighter, less bloated, and definitely thinner around the lower stomach!
Below is a comparison through each of the weeks, starting at 84.2kg and ending at 78.6kg and looking much better! There are definitely some noticable changes! More so in the beginning, but it all leads up to my final form 😛
That was my journey through the Anytime Fitness 8 Week Challenge (#AFChallenge). It was great to be a part of it, and to use that for some really great motivation to push me towards my goal of 15% body fat.
At the end of the challenge, I did not end up winning.
But I’m not fussed at all. Going into this challenge was a win win for me. Either win the challenge and win the prize or enter the challenge and come out the other side with progress towards my goal. And that’s exactly what I did. The challenge gave me that boost of motivation to get into the right habits. I’ll be using what I learnt throughout this as my guide towards my goal!
Until next time, keep challenging yourself for the better.