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Olympic body challenge: You are what you eat

Olympic body challenge: You are what you eat

A journey of a thousand miles starts with just one step. But no matter how flat the road may be, that first mile is always a bitch.

And so it was with my three-month challenge to look and feel like an Olympian before the London 2012 games kick off in the UK capital in July.

With the help of Maximuscle, the UK and Europe’s number one nutrition brand, I am ditching the junk food and hours slumped on the sofa in front of the TV in favor of a healthy diet, the gym and heart-pumping exercise and sport.

However, the biggest hurdle so far has not been working up a sweat in the gym, but denying myself the food and drink which I have, for years, derived so much pleasure from.

Gone are the afternoon cake snacks, chocolate biscuit tea breaks, eating until my belly aches for lunch and dinner and tucking into a greasy kebab after a night swigging pints of lager.

Because pumping iron and pulse-racing cardio alone isn’t enough to get in shape and achieve that ripped and shredded body.

Eating a nutritious diet is equally important.

The trick is to develop a calorie deficit. In other words, burning more calories than you are consuming, forcing your body to use fat stores for energy.

Many diets would recommend a daily calorie reduction of 500 to 1,000 calories. However, to help maintain training intensity and avoid any muscle wastage, due to a calorie deficiency, it is recommended that you limit your calorie reduction to 500.

But while having a negative calorific balance will lead to weight loss, radical measures like skipping meals is not sustainable and all too often the increased hunger response will lead you to eat more in your other meals.

A more sustainable approach to weight loss is, therefore, to eat little and often; eating the right things at the right time.

Aiming to consume around 1,800 calories a day instead of the, oooh, millions I am used to, my day now consists of seven smaller meals instead of three stomach hemorrhaging feasts.

And to help continue building that all important muscle, I am making sure I fill my diet with plenty of protein rich foods, including three pieces of lean red meat a week, as well as fish, seafood, chicken and turkey.

Unwittingly I have become one of those irritating stick-thin women on low-fat cracker adverts, pointing at packaged food and wagging my finger in disapproval at the astronomic calorie count, all the while munching on a piece of cardboard, wishing it was covered in chocolate, dipped in beer and deep fat fried.

Grazing throughout the day does, admittedly, just about stave off the hunger, but when your body feels like it’s been hit by a truck after a particularly strenuous work-out, sometimes the last thing you’re hankering for is a healthy salad and a wheatgrass shot.

But while I may not have quite passed that all important milestone which marks the point from which this challenge becomes less of a grind, the seemingly impossible task of eating a balanced diet in a sea of decadent gastronomy is at least becoming more routine.

And, more importantly, I am already seeing results. Or at least my colleagues are, commenting that I looked that little bit thinner.

Eating like a rabbit may be anti-social at times, saying no to your weekly binge drink and pizza and DVD night, but when I’m grating cheese on my washboard abs and cracking walnuts between my iron buttocks, who needs fat friends with drinking habits?

Because I’ll be with the beautiful people then, sunning myself next to Tom Daley and rubbing oil on Matthew Mitcham's perky pecs. Bring it on!

Follow my Olympic body challenge progress on Twitter @matthewjenkin

My seven day diet plan

Using the diet plan provided by Maximuscle nutritionist Gareth Nicholas, my morning begins with a bowl of cornflakes with skimmed milk (around 100 calories).

By mid-morning it’s time for my first Maximuscle Promax Diet protein shake (228 calories), before tucking into a 300 calorie lunch of salad or soup.

Mid-afternoon it’s time for cottage cheese on crackers and a banana (200 calories) and then for an extra boost of energy before my evening training session I take one Maximuscle Thermobol supplement. Always follow the work-out with a shake.

Dinner is around 450 calories, high in protein of course, and the day is rounded off with a glass of skimmed milk before bed.

Diet myths busted

Should I cut fats from my diet?

Many fats have a beneficial effect on your health. Your body also uses fat to make many of its own muscle-building hormones. Good sources of fat include olive oil, deep-colured cold-water fish (e.g. salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines), peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, avocados, macadamia nuts or pecans. Fat should make up 20% of your calorie intake.

Should I avoid carbs at night?

The timing of consuming carbs does not alter the way in which it is used and stored.

Of course, during the hours of sleep we are less active and therefore our metabolic rate is slower than when you are up and about.

However the notion that eating late causes weight gain is dumbfounded. The truth is that overeating, often the last meal of the day, causes weight gain.

Yes, your carb intake should be reduced, certainly as it is the most abundant food in your diet. Although avoiding carbs could have a number of other consequences, for example, reduced training intensity, suppress immune function and be more susceptible to injuries.