Joe Warner (@JoeWarnerMF) is the deputy editor of Men’s Fitness magazine. His mission is simple: to get in cover model shape in just 12 weeks.
What did you have for breakfast this morning: toast or cereal? What about lunch: sandwich and crisps or a jacket potato? And for dinner: pasta, pizza, maybe even a risotto?
I haven’t eaten any of those delicious dishes for eight weeks now. Why? Because they are all forms of carbohydrates, and for the duration of OCMB, carbs need to be kept out of the reach of me.
Yes, carbs are delicious. They make you feel good and give you instant energy, so what’s not to like? Well, it’s a bit complicated, but bear with me as I attempt to be Professor Brian Cox and inject a little science into this weekly progress report.
Whenever you eat carbs - especially white bread and pasta, potatoes and sweets, which release their energy into your system very rapidly - your blood sugar (or glucose) levels rise dramatically.
Having elevated levels of glucose rampaging through your veins is bad: it’s called hyperglycemia, and its immediate symptoms include blurred vision, fatigue and itchy skin among others, and - if left unchecked - it can lead to diabetes. Your body’s response to this is to defend itself by releasing the hormone insulin from your pancreas into your bloodstream.
Insulin makes cells in your liver, muscle and fat tissue take up this glucose from the blood so it can be stored as glycogen. In simple terms, think of each of your cells being locked by a thick wooden door, which glucose can’t get through until insulin arrives with a set of master keys.
Appetite for destruction
So an insulin spike, caused by consuming carbs, is exactly what you need after a tough workout because it unlocks your muscle cells so they can soak up all the nutrients you have just swallowed. But eating carbs around the clock is extremely detrimental to your fat-loss efforts.
That’s because insulin also prevents your body from tapping into your reserves of lard to use as energy. All those delicious carbs tell your body that there is loads of energy available, so it should store of it up now while times are good.
That’s the trouble with your body. While your brain thinks like a modern 21st-century man, your body still acts like it’s a caveman. It doesn’t want to be ripped: it wants to have enough energy stored around your body as fat so that you can survive an ice age.
When I first met Nick Mitchell, personal trainer,
founder of Ultimate Performance Fitness
and the man charged with carving me into cover model shape, I realised pretty quickly that he doesn’t sugar-coat bad news. How could he when he’s explaining that the only carbs I’ll be allowed for the foreseeable future will come from vegetables? These are OK because they are fibrous carbs and release their energy into your blood very slowly, so there is no big release of insulin.
So for the first six weeks I ate all the broccoli and cauliflower I could manage (not much) but avoided every other form of carb. It’s only in the past two weeks since I have started to really ‘lean out’ that Mitchell has reintroduced carbs into my diet to help keep my muscles sufficiently fuelled. At first it was about 25g in my post-workout shake. This has since increased to about 75g per smoothie. Oh, and I am allowed a small sweet potato or bowl of porridge (with cinnamon!) just before bed on the days he’s trained me.
Final four weeks
So, I’m into the last month of OCMB and although a little chub is still stubbornly sticking to the lower part of my stomach, preventing my four-pack becoming a six-pack, I think I’ve got enough time to shift it - so long as I stay super-strict on the diet.
Mitchell had promised me a cheat day as soon as I got below 8% body fat, which happened this week, but I think I’m too close to the end to risk it now. Instead my thoughts have turned to the first thing I’m going to eat after my final photoshoot. It’s a tough decision to make, so I may just head to an Italian restaurant and order one of everything. For starters.
For more exercise and training advice, get Men's Fitness magazine. Subscribe now and we'll give you five issues for £5. And don't forget to check out this video of the MF team training with Mitchell and Charles Poliquin.
Cover model supplements
As part of my cover model transformation challenge, Nick Mitchell is making me take an assortment of supplements. I’ll be explaining the reasons behind a different one each week.
What? Vitamin D3
Your body can synthesise this vital vitamin through exposure to sunlight, which means most of us Brits are severely lacking in the nutrient that supports bone health and a strong immune system. Many studies also suggest that vitamin D may decrease risk for many diseases and conditions including certain types of cancer, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, weight loss and even longevity.