My Epic Revamp: Health Edition (Final Update)

  1. Take care of HSK: An ongoing process, though the summer heat is giving me heat rash and drying out my hair.
  2. Increase water intake: Now that it’s summer, this is much easier.
  3. Balance micro- and macronutrient intake: Eh.
  4. Take better care of teeth: I’ve been clean for 13 months now šŸ˜€

Of course, a downside on the health front is my soy allergy diagnosis. Fortunately, that does not extend to soy sauce so I can sushi as much as I want šŸ™‚


I’ve hit a plateau again

Right on schedule, it seems. I’m amending my previous plan of action and will now switch up my regime once every two weeks.

I’m currently in Week 2 of restricted calories and 40/40/20 C/P/F. Next week I’ll go back to carb cycling for another 2 weeks with restricted calories and spikes on HCDs.

What I’ve found interesting after returning to a more normalised level of carbs (still only from unprocessed sources though) is that my hunger has returned. The amount of protein I was eating during my carb cycling experiment ensured that I was always satisfied after a meal, never full.

Now that I’ve scaled the protein down, I’m definitely feeling the effects, particularly after supper. I’ve increased the amount of veggies with the evening meal to compensate, but I’m thinking I should increase it even more for this week.

I also started taking a second cup of coffee as a morning snack again. I had become used to the protein powder/Futurelife breakfast which would keep me going until lunchtime. My oats/Futurelife combo is nowhere near as satisfying.

I’ve also decided to add another cardio session on what used to be my rest day. I’m now counting the two days I do Pilates/resistance training as “rest” days. There’s only 3 and a half months left to complete My Epic Revamp.


A quick update on the current carb cycling and exercise regime.

After my last update, I carried on with carb cycling using my adjusted formulas. I’ve now reached the point where, because my food is basically the same each day, I don’t rely on the formulas any more but more of a general “feel” for what I should eat.

In the long run, this will be the way I will need to operate. Tracking all these data points in such obsessive detail is not a viable long-term strategy. It’s just helped me to learn that this is the kind of commitment it takes to pull off an epic revamp within a single year.

I’ve managed to maintain a steady ~1kg/week loss over the last month. Unfortunately, last week I had another (3rd time this year!) allergic reaction to…something, and my jawline/neck broke out in a rash again. I got something over the counter, and decided to skip exercise for 3 days as the sweat was exacerbating it.

The scale was not too happy with me at yesterday’s weigh-in, but fortunately the result was within the fluctuation margin (+ 0.5kg). Since the rash has now almost dissipated, I will return to my regular schedule.

For this week, I’ve decreased my minimum carb intake by another 5g/day and will be adding an extra 10 minutes to my Tuesday cardio session. I hadn’t realised that the Tuesday session was only 50 minutes while the Friday session is 60 minutes. The length of the combination of Rockin’ Body videos caused me to calculate wrong (whoops).

Right now, it’s all about incremental changes to the routine. I’ve now shortened my regime to 2 weeks i.e. the food/exercise routine needs to be changed in some way every 2 weeks. This way, the body does not even have a chance to think of plateauing, because the regime doesn’t stay the same for long enough for it to realise that a routine has developed.

I would love to engage in some progressive overload, but I’m really concerned about my knee, so I tend to “go harder” with my upper body to compensate. I’m happy that with 18 kg loss (and counting) so far, the pressure on my knee has obviously decreased dramatically.


My month-long carb cycling experiment is over: Pitfalls, and the way forward

The experiment wasn’t all upsides only. Out of my 8 weight-ins, at 3 of them I registered a higher weight than the previous one. This, I believe, was due to normal fluctuations in body weight (and then there’s the whole “I’m a woman” thing as well).

I am also aware that I am undergoing body recomposition, so the measurements I see every week won’t always make sense based on my activities and diet throughout that week.

Also, I’ve hit a plateau (again) over the last week and a half. This could be because my muscles have developed visibly over that same time period.

However, I think it’s because I’ve realised that using the bodybuilder’s formula doesn’t really work for me (no kidding). It was enough to get me started on this process and to get me into this mindset, but it’s time to leave that.

I’m now using a formula more geared at weight loss. I’ve scrapped the MCDs, so now I’m doing LCD/LCD/HCD, then LCD/LCD/LCD/HCD. I’ve also greatly increased my daily protein intake and dropped my minimum carb intake, with the intention of pushing it lower every two weeks or so.

I am hoping to drop another 10kg by the end of the year (or lose 10% body fat….), although I believe I could achieve 15kg in that timeframe. I do realise that shifting those last few kgs will not be the easiest task, but I’d also settle for increased muscle definition.


My month-long carb cycling experiment is over: The results

When I started this experiment, my main goal was to get out of the weight loss plateau I was experiencing, and to lose body fat (as opposed to lean mass). So did I lose any weight?

Yes. I lost 4 kg at a roughly constant rate of 1kg a week, bringing my total lost this year to 16kg. Annoyingly, I only lost 4% body fat, but considering it had taken me 5 months previously to drop 2% body fat on the low carb/calorie deficit kick I was on, this was a big improvement.

Also, not that BMI is a good indicator of anything besides a very, very generalised score, but I’ve now shifted down into the category called “Overweight”. Of course, the BMI will become more useless to me over the next few months because of my fitness results.

I have biceps now! Well, I always had biceps, but now they’re more defined and toned, and when I flex my arm, they bulge out to the side. Overall, I’ve experienced a dramatic increase in muscle definition – I am genuinely worried I am on my way to getting Madonna thighs.

I can also push harder (for longer) in all my workouts. When I do my ab exercises, I no longer feel a crushing pain but instead feel some resistance coming from the inside.

My heart rate no longer goes wildly out of control during intense exercise, as it used to before. My general fitness has improved, and I can feel the difference in everyday activities. Even getting up from the couch feels easier now that my core is strengthening.

Based on these results, I can say that my experiment has been successful. Tomorrow, I will discuss the pitfalls of this method, and the way forward.


My month-long carb cycling experiment is over: The workouts

There’s no point to this carb cycling business if you’re not pairing it with exercise. As per the numerous forum discussions on the subject, I linked up the intensity of my workout sessions with the level of carbs for the day.

This meant that on LCDs, I was doing a 20 – 30 minute session of Pilates and stretches on the mat. On the bodybuilder forums they recommended either doing no exercise on the low day, or a light 20 minute session of cardio. That’s madness.

On MCDs, I chose to an hour of cardio, made up of different Rockin’ Body videos. On the first MCD I’d do Dance Party, and on the second MCD I would do Booty Time and Party Express.

HCDs require the toughest workout, so this would be up to an hour and a half long. On Wednesdays and Sundays, I would do the Rock It Out video with 2kg dumbbells, followed by a boxing session, ending with some kettlebell exercises and dumbbell curls.

I also became partial to starting the cardio workouts with the 10 minute Hardcore Abs video. It served as an effective warmup, and getting in some extra ab time never hurt anybody.

I just needed a reason to put this here.


Mixing up the workouts like this ensured a steady build and then drop, the same with the food. I thoroughly enjoy all my exercise routines now, though on most days it still takes me until about 20 minutes into the workout to get my body to agree with me.


My month long carb cycling experiment is over: The food

Getting the food part right is the most critical aspect of carb cycling. To start off, I tweaked Hugh Rivera’s formula to calculate the amount of carbs I needed per day.

My weigh-in days are Wednesdays and Sundays. I would take the Sunday reading from the Withings and plug those values into the spreadsheet.

The values needed are body weight (kg) and body fat (%). My spreadsheet converts my weight to lb and calculate my lean body mass in lb. That last measurement forms the basis of the formulas for calculating macros.

  • Low Carb Day (LCD): 0.8 * lean body mass
  • Moderate Carb Day (MCD): 1.25 * LCD
  • High Carb Day (HCD): 2 * LCD

By the end of this cycle, my lean mass was at 102 lb. This means that last week I ate 82g, 102g and 151g on LCD, MCD, and HCD respectively. Protein and fat are constant amounts (1.3 * lean body mass and 0.25 * lean body mass).

The problem I had for the first two weeks was because I was coming out of my extended low carb calorie deficit, having so much carbs again was a shock to the system. As my my weight was higher, and for the first week I used the formula without changing it, I was consuming 175g of carbs on HCDs.

This was far too much for me to handle, but I forced it down so that I could see this experiment through to the end. As the weeks went by, I adjusted the formula slightly to what I’ve mentioned above. My overall calorie intake ranged between 1200 and 1600 calories.

The source of carbs is also very important. All carbs need to come from clean, unprocessed sources. I’ve favoured rolled oats and sweet potato, with brown rice, lentils and couscous as alternates.

The typical meal plan I followed consisted of the following:

Breakfast (all days)

  • 20g rolled oats
  • 15g soy protein isolate
  • 10g Futurelife Smart Food (Chocolate Flavour)

Morning Snack

  • 1 medium apple (~90g)


  • 100g soypea balls (not sure when I’ll post this recipe, but it’s basically soybeans and chickpeas)
  • 100g protein (tuna/mackerel/chicken/pork)
  • 50g fat free chunky cottage cheese
  • Couscous/sweet potato (HCD)

Pre Workout

  • A large orange (~100g) (MCD+HCD)

Post Workout Shake (MCD + HCD)

  • 1 medium apple (~90g)
  • 25g soy protein isolate
  • 10g Futurelife High Protein (Chocolate)
  • 1 cup water infused with 2 green tea bags
  • 1 tbsp mixed raw seeds
  • 1 tbsp dried cranberries


  • 100g chicken breast
  • 1 large egg
  • 100g fat free chunky cottage cheese
  • Sweet potato (HCD)
  • Couscous/lentils (HCD)

Yes, I ate like that for the entire month of July. No, it didn’t really bother me. Once I am determined to do something, very little can make me change my mind. I have overcome my fear of salt though. Also, I’m quite sure I will never eat tuna again once I’ve reached maintenance.

What may stand out about this plan is that there are no “reward days” or “cheat meals”. That’s because that’s nonsense. You either do something right, or don’t do it at all. I haven’t had a jelly sweet in over 8 months, and I think I’ve forgotten what chips taste like.

I have made provision for some dark chocolate once every few days or so, because can a life without chocolate be called a life?



My month-long carb cycling experiment is over: What, why and how

Last month, I embarked on an experiment. I had hit a plateau in My Epic Revamp (Fitness Edition), so I was willing to try anything to kickstart it again. Now that the month is over, I’m taking this week to write a series of posts about it.


Carb cycling is a technique used mainly by bodybuilders to drop their body fat percentage, usually before a competition. About 8 weeks before, they will enter the carb cycle to get their body fat down as low as they can, before bringing it up again gradually after the competition (or whatever). It involves cycling the amount of carbs you eat over a set period of time.


Seeing as my extended calorie deficit was not helping me, I needed to switch things up and try a new approach. I feel like I’ve been levelling up my fitness and nutrition skills over the last few months, so I’ve been discarding long-held myths and embracing my newfound knowledge to my goals. I wanted to keep my momentum going, and break out of the plateau.


I chose to do the LMH approach: low carb day, moderate carb day, high carb day. Starting on a Monday, I would have minimal carbs, then build up to Wednesday, when I would have my max carbs. From Thursday, I would do low, moderate, low, then high on Sunday. The intensity of the workout session would match the amount of carbs i.e. low carb day has Pilates and stretches, moderate carb day has cardio and high carb day has weights and boxing.

I’ll go into more detail about the various aspects over the course of the week, share my results and the way forward.


Vitals has once again read my mind

Since embarking upon my epic revamp, and more recently, my improved WOE, I have yet to take a cheat day. Besides not liking the concept, I haven’t felt the need to go off my chosen path. At all.

It’s not even about resisting the urge to partake in whatever food debauchery is happening around me, it just does not bother me any more. Once I had made this decision, and for reals this time, those previous temptations – Burger King, other fast foods, milk chocolate, pasta, chips, those damn jellies – have become non-issues.

nice try mom

I’ve actually been en route to get a BK Fusion as a treat, before losing the craving for it and going back home. Yesterday though, I was thinking about the sushi lunch the SO and I have planned for next week.

I then sit down and open my feedly to find this at the top of my LifeHacker feed. It’s precisely the way I’ve been approaching this concept, except articulated in a much better way than I could.

This is why I’m convinced that I’ve been doing just fine, and next week I’m going to enjoy my sushi, and not dwell on the fact that it’s 250 calories per roll.

sushi not healthy

Nope, this will not kill my buzz


My Epic Revamp: Health Edition

In this second part of My Epic Revamp series, I will be focussing on Health. Having already covered Fitness, Health cannot be far behind.

  1. Take better care of HSK: Since entering the QLC, I’ve been told I need to take better care of my skin since the first signs of ageing are appearing (according to cosmetics companies who want to sell me products to combat these first signs). While I beg to differ, there is always some better way to look after your hair, skin and nails.This is why I’m going to be more rigorous about doing a face & hair mask once a week, exfoliate twice a week and CTM everyday. I’m also taking a HSK multivitamin and additional selenium.
  2. Increase water intake: I’ve been trying to stick to the “Drink water when thirsty” rule, since the 8 glasses a day rule is a myth. However, I don’t always feel thirsty, even after doing a boxing session. Also, your body will take hydration in any form, so even the black rooibos tea at teatime counts towards the daily hydration goal.Drinking pure water of course is ideal, so I’m only going to log actual glasses of water. This increase in water intake will of course contribute greatly to HSK maintenance and overall health.
  3. Increase micro- and macronutrient intake: Fruit! It’s very hard to find good fruit and veg in Cape Town these days without breaking the bank at Woolies, since a lot of our good stuff goes overseas. While my mother will sometimes make us fresh juice at home, it’s really time to whip out the smoothie maker and pack in that morning snack for work. I’ll also be mitigating any Friday night food debauchery by having salads for lunch on Fridays.
  4. Take better care of teeth: By that, I mean the sweets have to stop. For a while there, I was hooked on the jellies: wine gums, jelly babies, jelly teddies, soft gums, juicy gums, tangy tops. All of them. I still am, but I’m no longer purchasing them because my teeth cannot handle it. I’ll be going to the dentist soon to do total damage control. I figure that if I’m going to get some sugar, at least let it be in the form of premium Swiss dark chocolate.

That’s it for the health edition. Simple changes, which can be incorporated daily, to contribute to a healthy lifestyle.