Fad Fitness: You Are What You Eat

Staff Writer
Insanity Week 2: Nutrition to fuel an intense workout while losing weight

For those of you who tuned into Insanity Week 1, you’ll remember how I found great incentive (while leaning over my toilet) to eat much better.

At the beginning of Week 2, I discussed my strategy to completely overhaul my diet with my colleague, Lisa, a straight-shooting Insanity veteran. Lisa (currently testing Barre Method) looked me right in the eye and said,

“Oh, you can just keep eating what you’re eating. You’ll still see a difference.”

But here’s the thing: Now that I'm kicking my butt six days a week with the hardest cardio I can remember since my high school athletic days, I just don’t want to eat the bad stuff. With Insanity on the horizon, I not only want to eat better, but also less (although more often).

Insanity must have seen this coming because the program’s meal plan, Elite Nutrition, encourages you to eat five meals a day, each with 300-500 calories. You choose from the listed recipes based on your unique caloric needs, determined by your weight, activity level, height and age (the program guides you through this process, as well as helps you figure out how many calories you should eat to maintain, gain or lose weight).

When I started the program, my “very active” 26-year-old, 5-foot-4, 128-pound body needed approximately 2,300 calories to maintain weight or 1,800 calories to lose weight. My goal is to shed a few extra pounds and to keep them off during the holiday season, so I went with the 1,800-calorie plan.

Even within this boundary, what I eat still counts.

After a day of poor nutrition, I went through cardio power and resistance and ended up lying on my boyfriend’s kitchen floor, nauseous and trying to stomach the idea of eating dinner. After a day of eating well, I could power through the workout and feel chipper, albeit tired, by the end.

Although I’ve been sore every day for the last two weeks, I feel stronger than when I started and can see a difference in my body. It’s been years since I used plyometrics and, based on the locations of my soreness, the system is shaping parts of me that I thought were unreachable, such as my calves and upper thighs.

I also learned a key lesson in week 2. Because the workouts are so hard, it’s important to find substitute moves to fill when you “break.” That way you’re not just sitting on the floor, staring mournfully at the screen when you can’t push any longer. For instance, when I can’t do additional pushups, I switch to modified. When I can’t do jump squats, I switch to static squats. Then, when I’m ready, I go back into the harder moves.

Learning to modify this program is key, as is identifying where you should and should not do the routines. More on that next time…

About the Project: The Active Times' Fad Fitness Challenge is a six-week-long project in which five hapless writers will immerse themselves in five popular fitness programs—CrossFit, Insanity, Barre, Flywheel and Kettlebell classes—for the dual purposes of getting in shape and evaluating them for our readers. We guinea pigs will bust our butts, burn calories and discover muscles we'd long since mothballed and, if all goes well, emerge into the New Year with a well-rounded perspective of the top fitness fads. Check back every weekday from now until the New Year to come along for the ride without breaking a sweat. Click here to check out the rest of the programs.