I was contemplating whether I was going to write about my journey doing the F45 8 week challenge but when I cut out coffee on the first day of the challenge and all my mind was doing was saying COFFEE.COFFEE.COFFEE.COFFEE. I knew I had to share my experience for others who decide to embark on this journey and because I remember googling all I could before starting 🙂 obviously!
Firstly, to those who have no idea what I am talking about… F45 is a fitness franchise with studios all over the world with the emphasis on functional movements in 45 minutes! Some may call it a cult but I call it a community! All classes are fast paced, with pumping music and 45 minutes long with the exception of Hollywood/ West Hollywood on Saturdays, which are 1 hour. 4 times a year they run an 8 week fitness challenge consisting of before and after pictures and weigh ins, getting your diet in check and working out of course! At the end of the 8 weeks, each studio picks their top 3 winners (male & female) and then there is a global winner chosen from all of the top male and female in each studio. It’s actually pretty neat because the app is free to download and gives you a meal plan to follow (if you want) during the challenge and even does maintenance meal plans when there is no challenge in progress so a great resource for sure! You can check out their website for more information by clicking here.
To give you some insight into my fitness level… I should mention that before committing to the challenge, I had already been going to F45 classes 5-6 days a week for about 1-1.5 months (I was on vacation for 2 weeks during that time). BUT before that, I had lost my drive, motivation, any positive feelings I had towards fitness as I was BORED of my routine and unhappy with my fitness level (funny how those two are related). Pretty much a really long rut. I was very into the gym for about 10 years before that but then I hit a wall and I hit it hard. I would barely drag myself to the gym 1-3 times and just couldn’t get back into it…until, I found F45 of course! What started as an innocent 7 day trial turned into a reoccurring monthly membership and so far, I’m loving it!
So back to the challenge. In a nut shell, you work out as much as you can and then the diet app has 3 phases:
- Spring Training (2 weeks): with the idea being to reset and shock the system. Here you start by giving up gluten, refined sugar and high-fructose fruits and temporarily give up dairy, caffeine and red meat.
- Regular Season (4 weeks): here we can reintroduce dairy, caffeine & red meat & focus on medium amounts of complex carbohydrates (to fuel workouts) & focus on high protein intake.
- World Series (2 weeks): this is the slow sprint to the finish line where we dial in the diet and continue to power through workouts. The meal plans shift to high fat, low carbohydrates. Kind of like modified keto. I say modified because most people are likely not transitioning into ketosis during this period.
My thoughts on the SPRING TRAINING (2 WEEKS – FIRST PHASE):
I already eat a relatively clean diet with a lot of home cooking and meal prep on the weekend. Giving up alcohol, dairy & red meat was not a huge problem for me since I already barely drink alcohol, don’t eat cow dairy and I can survive without red meat for 2 weeks (although I did cheat 1 day early for our anniversary dinner). Coffee was the definitely the hardest of those to give up! Not necessarily because I think I NEED IT but because I do enjoy it as part of my routine and so I definitely missed it and that first day headache was next level y’all. Like all across the forehead and pounding…I survived, thankfully! Confession: I did indulge in 2 cups on the weekends (not loaded with cream & sugar and you know what, no regrets!). I think there is a basis for the things you are asked to eliminate but I also am a Nutritionist so I know the WHY and can read my body a bit better and know that 1 thing isn’t going to completely hinder my process (EXCEPTION: if you are the kind of person that can’t stop at that 1 little thing and don’t have self control and/or don’t have good habits in place before starting the challenge, then these two weeks train you to have willpower and take care of your body first, which I love.
Each week, I got ideas from the meal plans but mostly made my own meals and roughly counted macros using the app, My Fitness Pal. At this point I didn’t weigh and portion out my food to a T. I tried to incorporate more small snacks and eat more vegetables, more lean protein and limited grains as much as possible. I quickly learned that you need those 2 snacks they recommend because without them you are definitely hungry in the day as meals are alot smaller than you may be used to. Also, not sure about you but if I get a wiff of hamburgers or something super sugary when I’m starving, I will legit be craving that for the rest of the day and likely cheat so being prepared with snacks was key. I even took blueberries to Ikea and managed to escape without a hot dog or cinnamon bun!
I kept up with my workout schedule ~6 days a week and tried to eat low carb as much as I could and decided to strategically place my carbs for after my workout in the morning and at night (since I work out in the a.m.). I can’t sleep when I’m hungry and I can’t workout fasted if I’m starving the next day! This system worked for me. Some of my favourite low carb meals were my High Protein Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Paleo Tuna Cakes. Some of my favourite snacks were hummus and cucumbers/snap peas and boiled eggs.
Throughout the entire program, if you follow their suggested meal plan, women are recommended to consume 1300 calories and men 1900. I thought this to be low for most people to retain muscle mass but since my BMR (basal metabolic rate) was about 1200, I decided to follow that guideline and eat in a deficit as my goal was body fat loss. If I was hungry, I added up to 300 calories to account for my workouts and tried to stick to less than 1500 most days. This number is SO INDIVIDUAL and really not something you can just grab and use. If I was hungrier on some days, I ate more and vice versa. This is also why it’s so important to cook and prepare the majority of your meals because 1 meal out can EASILY take your entire day’s calories plus not to mention the amount of sugar, salt and oil in restaurant meals. If you’re at the start of changing your lifestyle, as a nutritionist, I wouldn’t recommend cutting your calories by more than 30% at a time. You want sustainable results, not a quick fix so your goal should be long term and not always just the 8 week challenge. If you find you can go lower in your calories later on, then great but if you’re (for example) an overweight male consuming let’s say 5000-6000 calories a day. Going to 1900 would be a complete shock to your body and really tough to maintain for long term fat loss or even energy for that matter since it’s such a drastic change from your normal. I love the results people get from the challenge but at the end of the day, you want a lifestyle you can maintain long term too!
I can imagine this phase would be the hardest part for most people when you want to give up but you just have to keep going! It definitely shocks your body and way of life depending on what your diet is like before you start the challenge. If you’re looking to do this challenge in the future, I’d suggest to slowly start cleaning up your diet so it’s not such a shock when it’s go time!
At the end of the first two weeks, I was feeling good! I was pushing my workouts more and SO sore, less bloated and visibly more trim according to friends and the home scale that said I had lost about 2 lbs. I missed my daily coffee but it was nice to not be so reliant on something every day and since I wasn’t drinking coffee, I found myself drinking more lemon water so I felt AMAZING being so hydrated. I had more energy, my skin looked better and I definitely felt less anxious most days (coffee tends to up the anxiety for me some days).
My thoughts on the REGULAR SEASON (4 WEEKS – SECOND PHASE)
Well I decided to reincorporate a bit of red meat and coffee back into my diet during this time and right away I could feel that I was more bloated from the coffee. This was really disappointing to me because I loved how I felt the first two weeks and didn’t want coffee to be the reason I didn’t reach my goals or feel my best. I tried switching my coffee to be after my breakfast and I found that helped a bit.
I kept slaying my workouts 5-6 days a week and it was feeling good. I could feel and see myself getting stronger and picking up more weights each week. Not sure if the workouts are harder during the challenge or if I was just pushing myself more but I could tell we were doing more core work and sculpting our back muscles etc. I loved being in the Burnaby studio!
One thing I definitely started to miss during this phase, was being social. Since I did the challenge during the summer, every time I thought about calling up a gf for happy hour or a weekend hangout I realized that it would have to be a lot more tame and stressful for me to find things to eat without feeling bad and literally eating my entire’s day calories in 1 meal if I wasn’t SUPER careful. This definitely made me do my own thing most days although when I would go out, I would make it a day time thing (not much of a night owl anyways) and just pick healthier spots where I could get a basic meal with protein, grains and vegetables. I opted out of things with a lot of sauce, fried food, gluten or super carb heavy dishes. I also avoided sharing appies as this usually involves things like yam fries, fried chicken, sliders etc. all which make portion control difficult and hard to order a healthy option of everything.
My weight continued to decrease but at a slower pace because not going to lie, I was definitely less strict during this phase. The time after dinner is hardest for me because I like snacking so I tried to replace that with fruit or seaweed snacks. I also ended up digging up my old food scale to more accurately count macros! I didn’t follow the meal plan to a T but did try to control portions and boy was getting a scale a game changer! I’ve never really properly weighed my food so when my “medium avocado” ended up being 100 calories less when I actually weighed it in grams, I was stoked! The opposite is when I weighed my chicken breast and since I didn’t know what 100g looked like… my chicken came in at approx 180g and 47g of protein! WOWZA – way too much to eat in one sitting. Your body can only process so much. If you’re looking to really hone in on the nutrition and portions, I definitely think investing in a scale is worthwhile even if just to learn what a serving even is!! There are a lot of scales under $30 on Amazon you can invest in. Like this one by Accuweight or this one by Amazon basics. Super easy to use by placing a container on the surface, zero out the scale and then measure whatever you want and enter it into an app like My Fitness Pal.
This middle phase was also the toughest because you kind of lose sight of the end goal and just want to be done since you’re doing the same thing for 4 weeks. There’s nothing “new” and you just putter along in my opinion. To be honest, I was excited for the next phase because 1) IT’S ONLY 2 MORE WEEKS and 2) I wanted to push and reach my goals and 3) fat is delicious. I was excited to have more avocados, nuts and meats is a win for me!
My thoughts on the WORLD SERIES (2 WEEKS – THIRD PHASE)
I tried to dial in my diet…HARD. It was tough but I could see the finish line. It was kind of a game of limbo to see how low I could go on carbs. I wanted enough so I had energy for my workouts but not so much that it was a primary fuel source. I again, didn’t follow the meal plan but would make things like chicken, green beans and sweet potato where the meal plan was chicken, green beans and feta. I’m dairy free so couldn’t follow the mainstream plan to a T any ways. The cravings during this phase were so hard… I swear I was on the verge of bingeing on a whole pizza almost daily. It was definitely tough because a) I’m a food blogger and b) I pride myself in being “balanced” and being so strict on a diet wasn’t really my thing but I just wanted to see it through and then go back to my more balanced diet after. Looking back I could have probably gone a bit more keto but I tried to listen to my body and balance having goals at the same time.
That is all! WE ARE DONE!! Good job to all Challenge 23 participants and winners.
Oh you want to know my results? Well in 8 weeks, I lost 5.4 lbs. 4.7 lbs of fat, 0.7 lbs of muscle. I wish I would have lost more fat but I also want sustainable fat loss and to keep my muscle mass vs. being super strict and then gaining it all back plus I learned SO much from the challenge that I would definitely do it again. I’m thinking to skip the next one but will be doing the one after for sure. AND GUESS WHAT? I actually won 3rd place at my studio between the females. I was 10000% shocked as I definitely didn’t expect that since I didn’t have that much weight to lose. Each studio picks their own winners and then the first place male & female move on to compete for the global prize. F45 evaluates you on overall transformation and takes into account percentage lost so this helps to make it more fair for everyone who enters the contest.
In summary…I think you should do the challenge FOR YOURSELF and not to win. To feel more confident, to have your clothes fit better, to gain friendships. All of which are invaluable!
My biggest tips would be:
- make your own meals! At least during the week. With the amount of calories recommended on this plan, you could easily lose yours for the day by eating out.
- get a food scale regardless of if you plan to follow their meal plan or not and to measure your fats, proteins and carbs at least loosely while meal prepping. Diet is HUGE and it was amazing to see results just by shifting my food intake.
- create a support group with some regulars so you can complain when you’re eating veggies together 😉
- meet your body where you are at. Any progress is progress so don’t get so hard on yourself looking at everyone else. Take it one step at a time and if you mess up, that’s okay! Start again.
- have fun! you’re doing the challenge to be a better YOU so don’t lose sight of that.
Good luck friends! Have any questions? Thinking of doing the challenge? Hit me up friends!