Well first off, I gotta’ question for you, and those following this. Does anyone else think the new T-mobile girl is hot? Is it just me? Some of my friends think I’m crazy, which makes me think I may be going crazy. That is entirely possible.
Ok Body For Life? Lets get this thing rolling.
If your goals are purely cosmetic (appearance first, performance second or not at all) which it sounds like they are, and you plan to consistently engage in a regular strength training program — which it sounds like you do, then I think Body For Life is one of the best commercial programs out there. I’d take it over any of the new trends towards low-carb or Paleo eating, or cross fit/cross-training.
Again, this is assuming regular anaerobic activity and appearance-based goals. If you are sedentary, a low-carb/Paleo-style diet is more appropriate because you aren’t burning a ton of carbohydrates and don’t need to replenish glycogen stores (a car sitting in the garage doesn’t need gas).
And if you have performace-based goals (improving strength, power, or muscular endurance), a cross-training program may be more appropriate. Programs geared towards performance should be different than those geared towards hypertrophy and fat loss. This reiterates what I’ve been saying on all along. There is no one universal program that is right for everyone, everywhere. The fitness industry needs to stop trying to slot everyone into one diet or training program. It should be the other way around. Every person needs to make sure their training program and diet MATCH their individual goals. Or in other words, prioritization necessitates specificity.
I’d say my nutrition advice has been influenced by several different resources: Paleo Nutrition, Sports Nutrition, the traditional Japanese Diet, and various authors in the fitness and bodybuilding communities — Bill Phillips and Body For Life being one of them. With your specific goals, I’d say you are heading down the right path. But pulling from my research and professional experiences, I’d say Body For Life is far from perfect. So I figured the best way to help you out is to go over the pros and cons of both the diet and training recommendations. You can decide from there what you think is the best approach.
Since diet has, by far, the biggest impact on body composition transformation, lets start there first.
BODY FOR LIFE DIET PROS:
1. Overall the diet composition and macronutrient ratios are basically a higher protein, moderate carbohydrate, lower fat approach. I think this is the best plan for anaerobic athletes. Sedentary folks (or those who are obese and/or diabetic, pre-diabetic, insulin resistant) would follow a more moderate protein, lower carbohydrate, higher healthy fat approach. But you ain’t sedentary right?
2. Each meal/snack is centered around a LEAN protein source. This helps provide the steady stream of amino acids you will need to initiate protein synthesis and build/maintain muscle. It also helps control blood sugar, hunger cravings, and feelings of satiety.
3. You are instructed to include a serving of complex carbohydrate with each meal/snack. This provides the glucose your body needs to refill glycogen stores. Essentially, it provides the fuel you need for training, and provides the anabolic stimulus your body needs to build muscle and respond to training sessions (carbs, and the resulting insulin release, shuttle amino acids into the muscle cell to initiate protein synthesis). So despite what you’ve heard, insulin is not all bad, especially for the athlete. No NATURAL hormone your body makes is all good or all bad, you just have to use diet and lifestyle factors to control them. The combination with protein helps to moderate insulin release better than eating carbs alone.
4. SIMPLICITY. The diet basically says to combine a serving of lean protein with a serving of complex carbs at each meal and snack. How simple is that dude? He even gives you serving shortcuts — a serving of protein is about the size of a deck of cards, a serving of carbohydrates is about the size of a fist. No measuring or weighing necessary.
5. There are some cool transformation stories, and pictures of hot bodies (girls in bikini’s, guys in board shorts — whatever you prefer).
BODY FOR LIFE DIET CONS:
1. The author is (or at least was) the owner of the supplement company EAS. So the diet, at least in some part, was created to promote and push supplement sales. He recommends 3 of the 6 meals/snacks come from his protein shakes or bars. I disagree with this. Whole foods are always better than supplements. The shakes and bars can be used for convenience from time to time (its better than a cheeseburger), but they should not be the core foundation of your routine. Too many artificial, chemical ingredients.
2. 6 meals/snacks is too much for most people, and too inconvenient for those living in the real world. I recommend spreading calories over 4-5 meals.
3. FOOD choices. I like the lean proteins, but I don’t like all of the carb selection recommendations. I’m with the Paleo-crowd on this one. He recommends a lot of the whole grain bread and cereal products. These can be problematic for a lot of people because (1) most people have a sensitivity to gluten (the protein in wheat, rye, and barley), if not a full blown allergy and (2) whole grains contain anti-nutrients like lectins and phytates that block mineral absorption and can be very hard on the digestive tract.
I would stick to more natural carbohydrate sources — think caveman or cultural carbs — so things like yams, potatoes, rice varieties, vegetables, and 1-2 pieces of WHOLE fruit.
BODY FOR LIFE TRAINING PROS:
1. It was one of the first commercial programs to acknowledge the importance of strength training for FAT LOSS, not just building muscle. Strength training is crucial for fat loss because it helps build muscle, boost metabolism, improve insulin sensitivity, and stimulates natural lipolytic (fat-burning) hormones like growth hormone.
2. It emphasizes a 3-day a week strength training program, which is great. It is also realistic and sustainable for most people.
3. It uses simple, basic bodybuilding-style exercises, which I believe are the best for transforming a body, not the new-age circus acts that are going on in gyms today (stand on one foot on a Bosu ball, close your eyes, touch your nose, then do a dumbbell curl). That stuff looks cool, and is marketable, but the basics are the basics for a reason — they are far more effective. Just look at the bodies of some of the trainers prescribing some of the more complicated, “innovative” stuff. Do they even look like they work out? Remember, fitness trends come and go, but basic barbell and dumbbell exercises have stood the test of time.
BODY FOR LIFE TRAINING CONS:
1. In addition to the 3-days a week of strength training, he also recommends 3-days a week of high intensity cardio. I think this is way too much for most people to recover from. I think 4 days of high intensity activity is plenty for most NATURAL athletes. Beyond that, you start impairing recovery ability.
2. While I believe strength training should be the core of any fat loss plan, I think traditional cardio is overrated anyway.
3. Modifications. If I were to modify the training program I would just tell you to do 4 days of strength training and cut the traditional cardio. Or you can stick to the 3-days of strength training, and go outside and do some non-exercise specific walking on the days you were supposed to do the high-intensity cardio. Walk for your errands kind of a thing. This will allow you to burn a few extra calories without all of the negative drawbacks of traditional cardio (cortisol elevation, muscle loss, reduced testosterone levels, the need to wear high and tight running shorts, etc.).
*Last tip. You don’t need to buy the book. The website tells you all you need to know, and has the food lists, etc.
Alright, hope that helps.