However impressive they look, the guys who appear on the cover of Men’s Health each month aren’t from another solar system. Nor, in most cases, are they winners of the genetic lottery or fanatics prepared to live lives defined by monk-like asceticism. Looking the way they do – the defined musculature, the conspicuous abs – needn’t involve any of those things. Which is not to say that hitting stellar shape is a stroll across the sand hills.
Two people who understand this as well as anyone are MH fitness director Chief Brabon and Emilie Brabon-Hames, the husband- and-wife duo that specialises in chiselling human bodies. Give this pair eight weeks and they’ll transform a committed bloke who’s in mediocre shape into cover-model material. They’ve been doing this routinely for years, most recently with Osher Günsberg in last month’s Men’s Health, while Guy Sebastian and Home and Away’s James Stewart got the treatment last year.
The keys to achieving your ultimate physique are working out with purpose and consistency, while eating cleverly, explain the co-authors of 8 Weeks To Wow. Typically, they say, guys tend to overemphasise their training while neglecting nutrition. Big mistake.
“Exercise and diet are equally important,” says Em. And if you’re messing up nutrition, the “wow” outcome will elude you.
“Our eating plan has evolved from a training program for elite athletes to a program for everyday people who want to get fit – fast,” says Chief. “The aim is to reboot your body so that it can best use the foods you’re eating. It’s a high-protein, low-fat and super low-carb plan that’s designed to reset your body’s resting metabolic rate. And that means burning more fat, all the time.”
To make easier things for you in the kitchen, here are Chief and Em’s 10 Golden Rules of transformative eating. Then turn over for four recipes from 8WTW, covering off breakfast, lunch and dinner (including a muscle-fuelling dessert). Good luck. Put it all into practice, and who knows? Maybe we’ll be shooting you for an MH cover in 2019.
1. QUAFF WATER
When your goal is fat loss, H2O is your new best buddy. By occupying space in your stomach it suppresses appetite; it also flushes waste that can slow down your metabolism.
Consuming lots of water also discourages your body from retaining the stuff, ridding you of the puffy look that’s obscuring your armour-plated pectorals.
“Aim for about three litres a day,” advises Em. “And, no, juice is not water. And nor are diet soft drinks. Or beer. Sorry.”
One twist: take at least some of that water warm, ideally in the morning. The science isn’t rock-solid (yet), but ingesting warm water appears to speed up the rate at which your body burns kilojoules, while aiding digestion and blood circulation.
2. SLASH YOUR INTAKE OF CARBS
Yep, some tasty (and essentially healthy) stuff needs to go, at least for a while. For two weeks, Chief and Em had Sebastian, for example, fuelling up for his morning workouts with a combo of eggs, bacon and avocado. No toast, oats or beans.
The idea is to put your body into a metabolic state known as ketosis, where you’re burning fat for fuel instead of glucose. When the fortnight’s up you should reintroduce carbs in clean forms – think brown rice and sweet potatoes, not white bread or pasta – to ensure your muscles are being properly fed. The idea, after all, is to get muscular and lean, not skinny.
3. CUT BACK ON RED MEAT
Despite its strong nutritional profile (and potential succulence), red meat will barely feature in your plan. The problem with beef, lamb, veal and pork, explains Em, is that your body takes too long to digest them – up to three days, in fact, depending on the efficiency of your digestive tract. That kind of labouring equates to delayed elimination of wastes and toxins, as well as slower energy burn and fatigue – all antithetical to your goal of rapid fat loss.
“In contrast, your body takes less than a day to absorb and expel white meats like chicken and fish,” says Brabon-Hames. “Better to get your proteins from them.”
4. CONTROL YOUR PORTIONS
“You’re probably eating too much in one sitting,” says Em. What’s too much? Any meal that makes you feel full rather than merely satisfied. Any meal that you wouldn’t be ready to eat again in two or three hours’ time.
And remember, adds Em: “Your brain won’t tell you you’re full until a good 10 minutes after your last mouthful.” So wait
a bit before deciding what you’ve eaten just didn’t do the trick. Operating by feel is simpler than counting kilojoules – and just as effective if you’re honest with yourself,” says Em. If, however, you need something more concrete, correct portions per sitting are a fist-sized serving of protein, a palm- sized serving of carb-rich vegetable (eg. sweet potato), two palms of leafy greens and a thumb of fat (eg. avocado).
5. BANISH “BOREDOM EATING”
Snacks like Doritos (with or without guacamole) are a pleasurable way to kill time. They also go down a treat with televised sport and any coming together of people
you like, aka friends. These are normally sound reasons for indulging. But shooting for cover-model shape requires you to be highly selective about when to take in thousands of surplus kilojoules.
“Eating out of habit, boredom or stress will derail your efforts,” says Em. “Be mindful about your food by sitting down at a table to eat and savouring each mouthful.”
6. ESCHEW FRUIT (FOR TWO WEEKS)
Huh? Fruit? “Regardless of what your mum or grandma told you, you don’t need to eat fruit every day,” says Em. The same goes for fruit juice; in fact, with its higher concentration of sugars and less fibre, juice is off the menu entirely.
“Consuming fruit or fruit juice can cause your blood sugars to spike and your pancreas to release more insulin, the hormone behind fat storage. That’s the very process we’re trying to regulate,” says Em. Don’t worry: this isn’t a policy for the long-term, but rather a shock tactic to retune your body for fat burning.
7. MAKE VARIETY A DAILY GOAL
One of the quickest ways to become jack of an eating plan is to restrict yourself to too few tastes. “As much as you might dislike broccoli or eggplant, there are plenty of ways to cook them,” says Em.
Superior cookbooks like 8 Weeks To Wow reveal both the range of flavours available to you and how to combine them for maximum taste appeal.
8. MAKE FRIENDS WITH FIBRE
“Although there are plenty of supplements out there like Metamucil and BeneFibre that can help, if you’re following our rules then you shouldn’t need them,” says Em.
Most importantly: eat your greens. “Make sure you have plenty of spinach, zucchini, broccoli and Brussels sprouts: these are great sources of soluble fibre that will keep the train moving through the station.”
9. MAKE SHREWD SUBSTITUTIONS
Bread will be off limits (too many carbs), but if you love the stuff, there’s an out of sorts. For his transformation, Gus Sebastian subbed in Protein Bread (theproteinbreadco.com.au), which has 17 grams of protein and a mere 1.5 grams of carbs per serve. While you make it yourself from a packet mix, it’s idiot-proof – and edible without being something to write home about. And for rice and pasta, Slendier products (slendier.com), made from the vegetable konjac, allowed Sebastian to keep consuming the kind of meals he grew up on, like his mum’s curries.
10. TAKE A BREAK FROM THE BOOZE
To get cover-model cut you simply can’t afford the dead kilojoules abundant in your favourite tipple.
The other point about grog is that your body recognises it as a nutritionally bereft toxin and prioritises its elimination, effectively shutting down fat-burning.
“For guys, alcohol can be an important part of time spent with mates and not to be drinking can be seen as antisocial by some crowds,” concedes Em. “But again, it’s not forever.”