Body For Life

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Body for Life is a popular 12-week diet and exercise program, and also an annual physique transformation competition. It was created by Bill Phillips, a former competitive bodybuilder and the founder of EAS, a manufacturer of nutritional supplements. It has been popularised by a bestselling book of the same name.
The first annual Body for Life competition was held in 1996. (It was then called the “EAS Grand Spokesperson Challenge”.) Entrants write about their experience of the program, and send this to EAS along with their ‘before’ and ‘after’ swimsuit photos. Prizes vary each year, but in 2005 the first prize was US$1,000,000.
None of the principles behind the Body for Life program are entirely original or unique to it. Body for Life makes use of principles that have been widely known in bodybuilding circles for many years. Its innovation lies in the way it has been packaged and marketed so as to appeal and be easily understood. It is the first such program to attract widespread interest from ordinary individuals since Charles Atlas’s. It has inspired numerous imitations, and supports an extensive ancillary industry of gyms, nutritionists and personal trainers.
Diet
The Body for Life diet consists of six meals a day, each of which consists of a portion of a lean protein-rich food, a portion of an unrefined carbohydrate-rich food and a portion of a vegetable. The vegetable is included for its dietary fiber and vitamin content, and to help bulk out the meal. A portion should be approximately the same size as the person’s hand, either open or clenched into a fist. The meals should be spaced about every three hours.
“Approved” protein-rich foods include skinless chicken or turkey breast, fish, egg whites, low-fat cottage cheese, whey protein shake, very lean ham or beef etc.
“Approved” carbohydrate-rich foods include brown rice, whole grain bread, pasta, potatoes, oatmeal, fruit etc.
“Approved” vegetables include spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms etc.
The diet should be supplemented with a tablespoon per day of safflower, flaxseed, sesame or canola oil, perhaps in a salad dressing, to provide necessary Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids. A popular alternative is a small handful of walnuts or almonds. At least 10 cups of water should be drunk throughout the day.
One day a week, typically Sunday, is considered a “free day,” on which any foods can be eaten. This is considered an important “breathing space,” both psychologically and physically.
At several points in the book, Phillips unsubtly promotes EAS nutritional supplements. This attitude has attracted widespread criticism. The program does not rely on EAS products: in fact, any brand can be used. It is also possible to follow the program without taking any nutritional supplements.
The diet program relies on three key principles:
Increased protein
This is considered crucial. Its benefits include:
Unlike carbohydrates, protein provides long-lasting energy without an insulin surge (which promotes fat storage).
Protein tends to suppress the appetite.
Protein is essential for building muscle.
Protein takes quite a bit of energy to digest, which boosts the body’s metabolism.
Lean protein-rich foods are much less calorie-dense than carbohydrate-rich foods. For example, the ham in a common sandwich may have 343 kilojoules (kJ) per 100g, whereas the bread has 1011 kJ per 100g. Like vegetables, they help to bulk out a meal.
Reduced portion sizes
One reason that diets can fail is that weighing food and counting calories can become just too much of a hassle. Estimating portion sizes by comparing them to the size of your hand is quite simple, potentially reducing mistakes and making it harder to cheat. The diet also adjusts naturally to the size of a person’s frame, without the need for complex calculations.
Eating more frequently
Carbohydrates provide the main energy source for the body, but three to four hours after eating there is little glucose left in the bloodstream, which can lead to symptoms of hypoglycaemia, including a slowing down of the body’s metabolism. Frequent but small meals prevent this from happening, and also increase the metabolism slightly by keeping the body geared towards digestion. The overall insulin challenge is reduced, thereby reducing the risk of reactive hypoglycaemia and the risk of triggering diabetes.
Exercise
The human body adapts itself to changes in nutritional intake. If the calorie intake is reduced, the body responds by slowing down its metabolism, and by burning muscle in preference to fat. This reduces the metabolism long-term. When the diet comes to an end and normal calorie intake is restored, the individual starts to gain weight even faster than before. This is known as yo-yo dieting. Diets that focus exclusively on calorie reduction often fail in this way.
With these concerns in mind, Body for Life addresses energy expenditure (i.e. exercise) in addition to energy input. For best results, Body for Life holds that this exercise should include weight training to build skeletal muscle and increase the metabolism over the long term. This also helps to maximise the energy expenditure and fat loss from aerobic exercise.
Body for Life’s exercise program is more complicated than its diet program. It suggests exercising six days a week, normally Monday to Saturday, and alternating between weight training and aerobic exercise. The seventh day, usually Sunday, is a rest day. Weight training sessions alternate between exercises for the upper body and exercises for the lower body. This allows the exercised muscles enough time to recover fully before the next training session.
Each fortnight follows the same pattern:
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Week 1
Upper-body
Weight
Training
Aerobic
Exercise
Lower-body
Weight
Training
Aerobic
Exercise
Upper-body
Weight
Training
Aerobic
Exercise
Rest
Week 2
Lower-body
Weight
Training
Aerobic
Exercise
Upper-body
Weight
Training
Aerobic
Exercise
Lower-body
sessions are limited to 20 minutes duration. They compensate for this by following the same “wave” pattern of steadily increasing intensity as the weight training sessions. During the first five-minute period the intensity should be gradually increased from 5 to 9. The second, third and fourth five-minute periods repeat this pattern, except that the last period should finish at an intensity of 10.
Aerobic exercise is more effective for fat loss when done first thing in the morning, because it raises the metabolism for the remainder of the day, and because the body draws more heavily on its fat stores after fasting overnight.
Consumer guidance
Potential consumers should bear in mind several points:
The program is tough, but it is meant to be. Its aim is to obtain the greatest benefit for an ordinary person in the shortest reasonable period of time. It demands an intense degree of commitment during the 12 weeks. Some people are more likely to succeed with a milder regimen that is extended over a longer period.
A sudden start to an intense exercise routine is often the cause of exercise-related injuries. It is better to learn the exercises properly, and to build up the intensity gradually. Many of the individuals who have described their Body for Life experiences on the Internet mention their struggles with injury.
Likewise, it appears that people did better if they were rebuilding a level of fitness and strength that they once had.
Published before and after photos belong to contest champions. By definition, these results are not typical. If they were, then these individuals would not have won the competition.
Highly obese individuals may need more than 12 weeks to recover a “normal” body shape.
Vegetarians have few choices for “approved” protein-rich food; vegans have none.
The diet can be expensive, particularly if extensive use is made of nutritional supplements.

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