I think I promised details about my BFL diet a long time ago and never got around to it, sowwy.
I was really inspired by Emily Alvers, the 2009 BFL Challenge Champion. She wrote a post on the BFL tracker website that detailed her journey. I read the post and commited myself to a similar diet regimen.
This is Emily's post:
"My BFL Challenge....just what worked for me
First of all, I’m humbled that so many people have PM’ed me to ask me what I did for my challenge. I must admit I have become a little overwhelmed with trying to respond to each one individually, and so instead I thought I’d post here in hopes that maybe it can help someone else. Keep in mind though, that I can only tell you what worked pretty well for me, and everyone is different. I hope I don’t disappoint anyone, but I DID BODY FOR LIFE BY THE BOOK. There are no magic tricks contained in this, but I guess I did lean towards a more disciplined Body For Life approach if anything.
Pre-Challenge: Before I started my challenge I printed out every supplemental tool I possibly could from the bodyforlife.com website (the exercise logs, the nutrition logs, the calendar, the actual entry packet) and I put it all in a binder. I really thought about my goals and tried to make ones that were SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time Driven). I re-read and reminded myself of my goals constantly throughout the challenge! I also ordered a ton of stuff from allstarhealth.com. I got 3 different cases of RTD’s all different flavors so I wouldn’t get bored. I used the AdvantEDGE and Myoplex Carb Control shakes. I also ordered ThermoDynamX. I wanted to also measure my progress as accurately as possible, so I called the closest university to see if they offered body composition testing. I really wanted to be able to measure my progress with accuracy to see what changes were happening, and I had just moved to a new town, so I didn’t know anyone I trusted to give accurate caliper readings at this point. I schedule 4 DEXA scans at Stanford (one at Week 0,4,8, and 12). This is what I used to measure my progress throughout my challenge.
I hit the ground running. I started off each day with 2 large glasses of water. I would drink 1 full glass and then take the ThermoDynamX with another glass. I took the ThermoDynamX on an empty stomach even though it says to take before meals on the label. I wanted the added energy from the ThermoDynamX for my workouts in the a.m. and I didn’t want to eat before I worked out. I only started off taking 2 pills in the a.m. and skipped it in the p.m. That was enough to keep me energized all day long. I did the alternating days of weight training and HIIT cardio just as it is outlined in BFL. HIIT was something I’d never done before and so I was a little nervous if I would “get it” but I was surprised at how quickly I started getting the hang of it. I had some experience lifting weights, but was not used to the rep/set pattern at all, so that also took some getting used to. I didn’t have a gym membership at this point and was just working out in my apartment complex tiny little gym, so a few weeks in I joined Gold’s Gym and it became a lot easier to adhere to the plan with so much more equipment to choose from as well as more incremental dumbbell weights to target my intensity level better.
Eating: I ate only foods on the BFL authorized food list for the most part. I had weighed food and counted calories in the past when trying to lose weight, so I was kind of nervous about just relying on the palm fist method to measure my portions, but also relieved that I didn’t have to weigh things and count calories. I tried to keep my ingredients simple for the entire challenge to take out too much guessing. I found there were reliable staples that I could count on being the right portions and I took the time while shopping to really read the labels. When I found a brand of a certain food I liked, then I stuck with it. I think I could be the poster child for La Tortilla Factory tortillas at this point! Ha ha! I only ate 5 meals a day, because I felt like I was always squeezing in the last meal really late. I combined a portion of carbs and a portion of protein at every meal and allowed myself slightly larger portions of protein (since I was only doing 5 meals..I wanted to make sure to get enough protein). Most times if I drank a low carb shake as a meal, I would also add a piece of fruit. One thing I think was really key for me was eating a ton of veggies! I ate way more than 2 servings per day. I would eat large salads that probably had about 2-3 servings of veggies just in that one meal. At dinner, I would fill half my plate with steamed veggies. I also tried to eat as many green veggies as possible (fibrous ones)! Which brings me to another key aspect of my diet. I tried to eat as much fiber each day as possible. I would try to get 5 grams of fiber at each meal, but some meals would be 15 grams. Fiber is important to keep you full and also to digest your food properly, and I was trying to get it in any way I could through natural foods. I also kept Fiber Sure on hand for the rare occasion that I was eating a fiberless meal (I would just add a tsp. into my water).
Water: I drank more than 1 gallon of water per day. I would drink 1 liter while working out and would always have another 1 liter cold in the fridge to grab on the go. I would also always keep a 1 gallon container in my fridge each day and would pour large glasses of water from it all day long. It was my goal to drink it all each day. Before bed, I would refill the jug and start drinking it again as soon as I stepped out of bed the next a.m.
Food preparation: My kitchen virtually became a production line at many times. On Sunday evenings I would make at least 5 big salads (1 for each day) and store them. I would grill a few chicken breasts and cut them up and store them so that I could easily add them to salads, wraps, rice, or whatever else. I always had protein on hand ready to eat. I would also take salmon or any other type of individually vacuum packed protein out of the freezer and have it defrosting in the fridge so I could easily grab it and throw it into my toaster oven to broil for dinners easily. Anytime I steamed up some veggies, I would just make a huge amount of it and would always have some leftover to easily reheat. This isn’t rocket science, but preparation is key!!! I also kept a huge bag of baby carrots at all times in my fridge to snack on anytime I wanted and especially while preparing food. That is a big thing for many people…to snack while making dinner. For me, baby carrots were my saving grace for grazing while preparing meals. I didn’t do many prepared foods at all. I cooked most all of my own food and tried to avoid things with preservatives as much as possible. I ate a lot of ff cottage cheese, but rarely ever ate ff processed cheeses for instance. I tried to keep my eating clean (meaning things that grow from the ground or come from the lean part of an animal). Of course protein shakes fit neither of these descriptions, so that is the exception to that. I still consider those part of clean eating though personally.
Condiments: I avoided anything with sugar. No ketchup, bbq, etc. I only ate low fat mayo when I had it in tuna. I stuck with mustards and even cut out honey mustard eventually, only eating spicy varieties of mustards instead. I tried to avoid anything with HFCS, but did use Wish Bone Spritzers. I also ate many salads with plain balsamic vinegar only and would use the Wish Bone when I got bored of the balsamic vinegar. I used extra virgin olive oil to sauté scallops, shrimp and occasionally on salads. I used a citrus grill seasoning on seafood and various types of Mrs. Dash on poultry. I didn’t cut out all seasonings with sodium, but I did try to use Mrs. Dash when possible instead. I used a couple squirts of ff spray butter when I just needed some buttery flavor but limited that as well. I used grated parmesan cheese on my steamed veggies.
During the second half of my challenge, I started increasing my dosage of ThermoDynamX slowly until reaching the full amount at the end (3 pills twice per day). I also added another supplement to my arsenal, EAS Muscle Armor. I really wanted to work on preserving the muscle I had and to help build more if possible, so I started mixing the Muscle Armor with a scoop of Whey Protein Isolate immediately after strength training and made that my post weight training meal each and every time I trained with weights (Thanks Mike Harris for that tip….you are the man!) Even though I actually lost a tiny bit of lean mass in my challenge, I think I would have lost a lot more without the Muscle Armor, because it is just very hard to avoid losing any lean mass when losing 21 lbs in 12 weeks, especially on a woman who is only 5 ft. 3 in. I know though that I built a LOT of strength during this challenge and that is for certain. I really believe that the Muscle Armor had a lot to do with that, because it just made me feel good. It’s like I could feel my muscles getting stronger as I was drinking it or something….cheesy I know. I’m going to continue taking it for my next challenge for sure.
At about 6 weeks, this thing called LIFE happened and I went to Vegas for my 30th bday. Let’s just say I skipped a couple workouts and didn’t exactly eat like I should have. Oh yeah, and drank a little champagne….but looking back I didn’t do so badly. I jumped right back on the horse when I returned and just renewed my drive to have even more intense workouts and kick it up a notch in the gym for the last part of the challenge. I increased my weights and speeds for HIIT even more than I had been doing up until this point. I wanted to really push my body past where it had adapted.
At about 9 weeks, I changed my mode of cardio and started doing HIIT on the bike. I think this might have helped me break through what might have been the beginning of a slight plateau and helped renew my interest level in the cardio. It felt like it was working different muscles than the running and I fell in love with the bike. I also made it a priority to start changing up some of the weight training exercises. It’s easy to get into a routine, but it’s also important to change it up so that your body will need to adapt in different ways, so avoid injury, and also to avoid boredom. Still did my squats of course, because I will never stop doing those! During the last 2 weeks before my challenge I modestly restricted carbs. Basically I just cut out carbs from the last two meals (at least anything not in the form of a fibrous vegetable). So for dinner I might have broiled salmon with a huge serving of steamed broccoli w/parmesan cheese and then a Carb Control shake before bed…just an example. I want to be careful in saying this here, because I want to be clear on one thing…I was very aware of the fact that I didn’t want to do anything in this challenge that I could not maintain for the rest of my life. One of the biggest reasons I started BFL was because I wanted to do it for life. I knew I had to be true to myself and keep that foremost in my mind. Believe me, it is very tempting when you start thinking of it as a competition to get all carried away with, how can I tweak this or that to get better results mentality, but I really really wanted to do Body For Life by the book and not get carried away with changing the program, so this was the extent of any “tweaking” that I wanted to do personally. Again, this was just a personal decision, but I felt I needed to really stick with the program as it is outlined in the book for my own reasons, mentally and physically.
I hope that this helps to answer any questions that people who have emailed me have had. Again, thank you for even asking. I am seriously humbled to even be asked this, and I hope that someone can find some useful info. in this. Best wishes to anyone embarking on a new challenge or in the middle of one right now. I’ll be starting another very soon!"
. . .
When I started the challenge after reading this, I was completely dedicated. I too started my day with at least 1 full glass of water and continued drinking water throughout the day. I ate 5 small meals each day. I tried to stick to a short list of proteins and carbs that I knew were safe. I mostly ate 1% no-salt cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt, chicken breast, fish and egg whites as my proteins. I also drank EAS protein shakes after each weight lifting workout. I mainly ate whole wheat bread, brown rice, wheat tortillas and fruits as my carbs. I added a serving of veggies to at least 1 meal per day. I cut out all sugar (except what was in the bread, etc) and I didn't add any salt to any of my foods (I wouldn't eat anything with a high sodium content, such as pickles, etc). I ate almond butter and probably way too many raw, unsalted almonds. I also ate unsalted peanuts here and there as a snack. I stayed away from processed foods and dense carbs...no cheese, no cereals (not even the healthy varieties), no potatoes, no corn, no pineapple, etc. I did eat Zone bars (Dark Chocolate Almond) as my meals when I was on the run. The only supplement I used was Muscle Armour, which I started around week 4 or 5 I think. I only used 1 scoop of it on the days I lifted weights. My downfalls for the most part: I didn't eat nearly enough veggies. I ate too many nuts. I skipped about 4 or 5 HIIT sessions.
When eating out I usually ordered some sort of salad with grilled chicken on top (no cheese, no croutons, no salty toppings like banana peppers). I always asked for no dressing and some balsamic or red wine vinegar on the side and used those as my dressings. Instead of entire "free" days I would allow myself to have 2-3 treats each weekend. For example, one week I had a bowl of wonton soup on Sat and a medium serving of frozen custard on Sun. On the weekend after week 8 we had some friends in town and I had a few alcoholic drinks and 2 free meals (instead of the 6 free meals that I typically would have enjoyed with them). I didn't eat any fast food. I had a slice of pizza once.
I am sure there are tons of things I forgot to mention above. Please feel free to ask and I'll try to answer any questions in the comment section.
Thanks for reading!