In order to get in shape for our upcoming TV project and two and a half week expedition in Peru, Neale and I have been on a fairly rigorous diet and exercise regime for the past 10 weeks. Neale is already a super fit 51 year-old who leads a very active lifestyle. He hits the gym most days of the week, puts in a lot of distance on his road and mountain bicycles, and usually spends at least every other weekend training on dirt bikes, just to name a few of his favorite workouts. However, the pressure has been on lately to turn it up a notch, so that he can not only be a fit host for the camera, but so he can also have the strength and endurance to easily lead a group of motorcyclists on an arduous third-world journey. As the one guiding the training and nutrition plan, I figured it was not a bad idea for me to also push myself a bit, as it could be bad for business if my gut is hanging over my pants when the cameras start rolling.
The diet over the past 2 months has not been anything extreme. However, it has been strict, and what some might call “super clean”. The pattern of eating has been designed to build muscle, while trying to burn fat, as well as promote energy and reduce inflammation. All of these goals can be difficult to attain, but they are far from impossible. The meal plan revolves around foods such as oats, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish and legumes, which are high in protein, fiber, healthy fats and low-glycemic carbohydrates. This anti-inflammatory way of eating leaves little room for processed foods, added sugar, and alcohol.
Other than cutting out nutrient-idle junk, few other foods have been totally eliminated from our diet. Most dairy has been cut out due to its often negative effect on digestion and inflammation. However, Greek yogurt has had its place in smoothies and the occasional slice of good quality cheese has been an allowed indulgence. Gluten is another common allergen that has not been completely eliminated, but it has been greatly minimized. Every couple of weeks, I will use some whole-wheat tortillas to make wraps when we are on the road, or we might splurge with a whole wheat pasta for dinner on occasion, but for the most part, there has been very little flour in the diet.
Most days we do not find that much is missing from the table. However, Neale struggles with the lack of sweets, as he always will due to being quite the sugar addict, and I feel a bit of a void without tortilla chips when sitting down to a bowl of chili or Mexican chicken soup. We are both looking forward to a celebratory beer sooner than later.
As far as the physical training, we have taken cross training to another level. We hit the weight room 3-4 days a week for strength training, working one to two muscle groups each day, while trying to switch up the type of exercise, along with the number of sets and reps from week to week. Cardio often depends on the schedule, but it has included mountain biking, running, brisk walking three miles in the morning and three at night, swimming, elliptical machines and personal training sessions that focus on building core strength, speed, and agility by doing quick sprints and plyometric exercises. We have also thrown in the occasional boxing lesson, as well as a yoga class into the mix some weeks. I’ve even picked up a tennis racket for the first time in 20 years (Yeah, that’s right. I was 10 the last time I played) in order to take a beating that I am not accustomed to taking. An off-day might consist of a brisk walk or a sweat in the sauna or steam room.
In addition to the generic exercise routine, Neale and I have also kept active with other activities. We have volunteered ourselves day laboring with manual work, swinging a pickaxe and hammering nails, and we have spent most weekends riding and training with a mad South African dirt bike champion. Ike is a 63 year old anomaly who still rides a moto x bike like a rabid teenager, and is as lean and gnarly as most 35 year olds. Needless to say he’s pushed us well passed our physical abilities on occasion, and to avoid any more injuries we’ve backed off the past couple of weekends.
The program that Neale and I have been following for the last 10 weeks is nothing totally new to us. Honestly, it is not drastically different from how we live most days of our lives. However, the current regime is a more disciplined and cleaned-up version of how we function majority of the time. One of the many benefits of getting on such a program is that it helps lay a foundation for a healthier way to live. It is similar to any other training one does in life. Once a person gets finished with school or job training, they do not necessarily perform the same exact tasks in the same way thereafter, but they have laid the groundwork and been educated on what will make them perform efficiently. It is much the same with diet and exercise. Once the big event is over, it is likely that the training will decrease in intensity, and the discipline for avoiding indulgence may wane. However, when the bar has been set high, then the slip backs will also likely be much less severe.
While the diet and training regimen of the past 12 weeks has been fairly grueling, it has been totally doable. Unlike many crash diets or “12 Weeks to Rock Hard Abs” programs, our plan is not impossible to remain on in the long term. As stated before, we have incorporated small changes throughout the duration that we plan to continue indefinitely.
Neale and I are both happy with our results. He is by far the leanest and most muscular that I have ever seen him, and he says he feels less of the aches and pains than often plague him. I’m down about 5-10 pounds with more strength and endurance than before I started the regimen. Mentally, we both feel good, sensing improvement in our mood.
Sample Day’s Menu
Oatmeal, with fruit, chia seed, almond milk, cinnamon and half a scoop of protein powder
Fruit and Vegetable Smoothie with, avocado, banana, kale, blueberries, yogurt, almond milk, and protein powder
Bowl of hearty bean or chicken soup or a vegetable omelet
Handful of almonds and an apple or sardines on whole-wheat crackers
Salmon, sweet potatoes and vegetables or chicken vegetable stir-fry with a small portion of brown rice
Sample Day’s Workout
We would usually hit the weight room about 3-5 times a week, splitting it up into sessions focusing on muscle groups such as back and biceps, chest and triceps, and shoulders and abs. We would try to switch the routine every few weeks as to do biceps and triceps, back and shoulders, etc. Some weeks we would go heavy with low repetitions and other weeks would do lighter weight and higher reps. Most of the time we averaged 4 sets with 8-12 reps.
Cardio workouts would vary, but we squeezed it in whenever there was time. Most days started early at 6am with a brisk 3-mile walk, and if the days were nice and time allowed, we would mountain bike for 15-20 miles a couple of times a week. Other cardio workouts included running, swimming, boxing and tennis. Most weeks the workouts were mixed up 5-6 days with the duration and intensity dependent on the amount of time in the schedule.
¼ cups oats
¼ cup water
½ small apple, diced
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ scoop vanilla whey protein powder
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon raisins
2 oz plain almond milk
½ medium banana, sliced
- Put the first 3 ingredients in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes (It can also be done on the stovetop, brought to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated).
- Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together well. Add a splash more water or almond mix for a thinner consistency.
Saturated Fat: 1g
½ cup chopped kale, stems removed
½ cup spinach
1 cup frozen blueberries
½ cup nonfat Greek Yogurt
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
2 T chia or ground flaxseed
1 cup almond milk
½ cup water
juice from 1 orange or lemon (optional)
Simply mix all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more water if needed for a thinner consistency.
Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Saturated Fat: 1.5g
Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw and Greek Yogurt Sauce
1 pound white flaky fish, such as halibut or mahi
1 T Blackened Cajun Seasoning
1 T oil
4 whole wheat tortillas
¼ head white cabbage, shredded
¼ head red cabbage, shredded
½ red onion, sliced thinly
1 large carrot, shredded
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 T olive oil
2 T honey or agave
dash hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Greek Yogurt Sauce:
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons lime juice
½ teaspoon dill
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
dash hot sauce
- First, prepare the cabbage slaw by simply mixing all of the ingredients together. Adjust seasoning as needed, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow all of the flavors to merry.
- Season the fish liberally with the blackened seasoning. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet. Brown the fish on both sides until cooked all the way through. Finish in a 400 degree oven if the pieces of fish are too thick to cook through in the pan (About 5 minutes).
- In a bowl, whisk together ingredients for the yogurt sauce.
- Layer cooked fish and a spoonful of cabbage slaw on a tortilla. Drizzle yogurt sauce over top and serve.