Wednesday, 15 June 2016

90 day SSS plan - Cycle 1 tips by Bex

A couple of friends have been asking about the plan in more detail and one has even signed up and asked for tips.  I thought I'd write a summary of how I found each cycle with my tips for each month.

I've seen a lot of people comment on how much info arrives with each cycle and how much there is to read.  Mine was 99 pages long but in reality I found it was mainly recipes.  Apart from a few pages at the start with the majority of the information about the plan, exercises, supplements and how to plan your meals, it was just recipes and then a discount code and links to HIIT videos.  It works out really simple in the end, I got used to it and didn't need my printed sheets except for my chosen recipes.

Basically, when you are going to workout, take your BCAA before and after your HITT.  Take your Whey Protein and Vit C after as well.  (Reasons for these are explained and these are all optional.)  After working out, you have a meal from the carb section.  I stapled together 3 packs of recipes - one for snacks, one for carbs and one for proteins.  The rest of the time you eat meals from the protein section and you choose 2 snacks per day, only one of which can be fruit.  Take other vitamins and supplements at night if you wish.  Simple.

I would recommend joining the Unofficial 90 day SSS Facebook page for tips, encouragement and people to ask questions.  Although you're assigned a coach who you contact via email, they only respond during office hours and if you suddenly have a query you can't find in the website FAQs, there might be someone on the Facebook page who can help.  I had a couple of questions which people had already asked and had the answer to or could give an opinion on.  I also joined the Facebook page someone set up for those of us who started in April so it's a much smaller group with us all around the same stage.

The downside to the Facebook page I found was some people complaining about certain things in the next cycle for example.  Some were finding the exercise hard and taking a long time, some were hungry, some were disappointed in their results.  I found this got me worried about the next cycle unnecessarily (the exercises did take longer and I do get a bit hungry on rest days but generally it's fine and I'm enjoying it!)  The majority of the time though, people are inspiring and positive.

As for the rest, here are my top tips:

1 - Find the recipes that you like

I went through and wrote down the page numbers of each recipe I liked the sound of and just printed those ones.  After trying a few, I got a better idea of which were quicker to make, which were more filling and which I just didn't really like.  I also made a few minor changes to some like the Cashew Nut Chicken Curry (a favourite), I preferred it if I really finely ground the nuts in the food processor and when I made a big batch, I used much less of the garam masala (NOT 4 tbsp for a batch of 4!  Yuck, far too strongly favoured and powdery.  I used 1-2 tbsp.)

I found the chicken stir fry was my go to quick meal for when I hadn't any prepared but this wasn't the most filling.  Some people find that the food is too much, I guess it depends on your appetite and what you're used to eating.  I found they were just about right once I picked the more filling snacks (see below).  If you're struggling, I'd suggest the less filling options like the stir fry and tuna salad.

2 - Choose good snacks

I found I was quite hungry on the first two days before a friend recommended making the turkey egg muffins.  They were delicious and SO filling (I much preferred them with normal potato rather than sweet potato, this is allowed on the swaps page).

I don't recommend making the fish pate with tinned salmon as suggested (I've never bought tinned salmon before but it comes complete with skin and bones and smells awful).  Use tuna or poached salmon fillets.  I also found this a bit bland so added some unauthorised capers, seasoning and chives.

3 - Aim for 5 HIIT sessions a week

You can choose do do 4 or 5 HIIT exercises a week but I always planned for 5.  That way if I had to miss one if the twins woke early or if I really couldn't face it one morning, it wasn't a disaster as I still had the other 4.

4 - If taking the optional supplements, ADD ICE to shakes.

I'd also be careful choosing your flavours.  Joe recommends avoiding the unflavoured as it tastes awful.  I can imagine this being very accurate.  I LOVE my Whey Protein shakes but HATED my Peach & Mango BCAA.  Obviously this is subjective but having now tried the Blue Raspberry (bright blue, no need!) and Cherry Limeade, both of which were reasonable but the cherry was my favourite and least medicinal tasting in my opinion.    The BCAA is the most expensive so I'm still forcing down my Peach & Mango flavour.

TOP TIP - add ice!  Adding ice makes the flavour less obvious and makes them much more palatable.  I also make them with much less water than advised (only 100-200mls) so I can down them quicker and wash it down with more water afterwards.

The Whey Protein can be bought in sample sizes to try first.  They come in handy pouches containing one serving so are also handy to take to the gym or pack for a night away if not working out at home.

I've recently bought a few more just for a bit of variety as I've almost finished my blueberry.  Some obviously work better in certain recipes than others and would be better just as shakes but for adding to the green smoothie or pancakes, I prefer the chocolate or fruity ones.

For the record, I love the Salted Caramel, Blueberry, Raspberry and Vanilla flavours.  (Raspberry & Vanilla together is also nice.)

I didn't like the Chocolate Brownie, Apple Crumble & Custard (too sickly sweet) or Latte.  The Latte was disgusting, smelled and tasted fishy!  The Chocolate Coconut tasted like Bounty which I'm not keen on but if you like them you'd probably love it.

(Once you get to cycle 2, the protein shake is a nice sweet treat on rest days when you're not allowed fruit.)

5 - Do the prepping when you can

As Joe himself says, prep like a boss!  If you can spend a couple of hours (or more) in one go to get a few meals prepped in batches, it really will help you stick to it after a long day.  Although it's a lot of work, the rest of the week is easy, just reheat your chosen meal and your evenings are yours.

I made huge batches as it saved so much time, cooking the same thing times 4 or 6 was so much easier than cooking 4 or 6 different meals with extra pans, etc.  I just weighed the finished batch in a big bowl and divided it into equal portions, trying to keep them even with veg/meat/sauce.  We kept old take-away tubs and I found these were the perfect size and easy to stack in the fridge/freezer.  You can buy those type of plastic food containers pretty cheaply too.

I'm lucky my husband has been very supportive and helped keeping the twins occupied so I could get on with cooking on the weekends.  He's also cooked some of the dinners for us, having the same thing as me (but with added rice or pasta usually).

6 - Download a funky track list for workouts

I made my own mix on Spotify for my workouts, high tempo, loud, energetic tunes to get me going in the morning.  Even now when I hear one of my workout tunes, I feel energised and think of my sunny morning bike rides.

For my HIIT sessions I only needed 6 songs:

Lush Life - Zara Larsson
#thatPOWER - Will.I.Am & Justin Bieber
Burn - Ellie Goulding
Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado & Timbaland
Jai Ho - Pussycat Dolls & A.R. Rahman
Sexy Bitch - David Guetta & Akon

7 - Workout in the morning

The plan advises working out first thing on an empty stomach (well, other than BCAA if you're taking it) to get the best results but I'd also recommend it so you're not thinking all day about working out when you get home from work/put the kids to bed.  After I worked out in the morning, I felt great about the day and was definitely more energetic than non-workout days.  On the day I planned to workout in the evening, I was dreading it all day and then felt so tired after work it was a big struggle to make myself do it.  After that I just made sure I did it at home in the morning (with the odd Sunday exception when I went to the gym in the evening.)

The twins sleep well so I just got up an hour early and did my HIIT, prepped my bagel and showered before they woke.

8 - Find the HIIT that works for you

I started off doing Joe's beginner HIIT Youtube video but I really struggled with the burpees and mountain climbers.  I would end up doing one or two and collapsing and struggling to keep going.  Instead I tried other HIIT videos like Millionaire Hoy who came recommended on Facebook and ended up picking 4 of the exercises I liked the best which I felt got my heart rate up, got me sweaty and out of breath.  I downloaded an interval timer app and set my own 30 on, 30 off timer with a warm up and cool down section and did my 20 minute HIIT 5 times a week.  When I first started though I used a 20 on, 40 off ratio as I was finding it tough!

I did Joe's warm up, high knees running (until I hurt my ankle) and power squats and then skipping and planking (which although didn't get me out of breath, did get my heart rate up and was very hard to hold for 30 seconds) with a few mountain climbers if I could.  I also enjoyed doing HIIT on my bike if the weather was nice, I just put my phone in a pouch on a belt and set the timer going with my Spotify playlist through my headphones.  The dings and bells ring through the music.

I also tried a running HIIT but this made my ankle very sore so I switched back to low impact indoor training and found my in-laws cross trainer helped.  I ended up getting a second hand one for our garage which was only £10!!!

9 - Frozen Veg!

I've always like frozen chopped onion for it's ease but on this plan, I've made use of frozen slices of red onion, mixed peppers, broccoli florets and spinach.  It's so much quicker and easier to measure out (gram for gram) pre-chopped frozen veg for the recipes.  I steam the green in the microwave but you can add the frozen chopped veg (and garlic) straight to the pan for stir-fries, etc.

It's also a good idea to freeze a pick of bagels as you probably won't eat them all before they go stale.  Just take one out the night before your workout so it's ready to slice and toast in the morning.

10 - Get used to greens

There are greens with almost every meal (every meal in C2).  Luckily I love broccoli so I mainly stick to this but the spinach is nice in things when wilted down (I had seriously huge piles of spinach to get through).  I wilted it in a pan first before adding to things so the moisture from the leaves didn't water down my recipes, particularly for the omelettes.

You can cook any of the greens, I had thought the spinach had to be raw from the way it's written in the plan (and some have apparently thought all the greens were to be raw!) but it's just the raw weight.

11 - Get creative

You can adapt recipes by making omelettes into eggy muffins which makes them easier to transport and handier to reheat at work for example.  Some people have developed recipes utilising snacks to add fruit to oats to make flapjacks, etc.  Again, these are things you will find on the Facebook page, lots of them are on the files tab.

I've made desserts by using my berry snack allowance with my yoghurt from the curry recipe, using frozen berries makes it cheaper and more like fro-yo once mixed, you could also blend it together.  Delish!

12 - Make the meals work for you

If you don't like eggs for breakfast, use the porridge, pancakes or granola recipes (apparently there's a brand called Lizi's which you can get approved by your coach to save you making it but it's full of nuts I'm allergic to so I've never tried it) or smoothies.  If you don't like sweet things in the morning (like me), stick to the omelettes, build up bagel, etc.  I'm not averse to a random dinner recipe (Thai curry?) for breakfast either!

13 - Get some good digital scales

They don't have to be expensive but you need a good set of scales as you have to measure EVERYTHING.  It gets quite tiresome when you like cooking but can't just chuck in a bit of this or a few of them.  Everything has to be measured to the gram.

14 - Get a heart rate monitor

Obviously this is optional and not advised as part of the plan but I found I wanted one to see the effects my HIIT had on my heart rate and to push myself to work harder.  It's worked.  I do find I try to get my heart rate up higher in the HIIT sessions and I love deciphering all the info (including sleep patterns) from my new Fitbit Blaze too.  You could go as cheap or expensive as you like but I love the features on mine, as recommended by my friend.

15 - Discount codes

Although you get a discount code for My Protein from Joe, you might find a better one on line or even on My Protein itself.  The first day I went to order my protein powders, I ended up getting 40% off, not 10%!  I also compared the cost of the other supplements with those in supermarkets and health food shops, some of them were cheaper in Tesco/Adsa.

Also for general grocery shopping, Aldi & Lidl for all the veg and meat definitely saves you money - your shopping budget will most likely have to increase to allow for all of the extra meat!

16 - Funky, comfy active wear

I have invested in a few new pieces of gym clothing and feel great when I wear them.  I love bright colours, they cheer me up and help me work out better.  I've got some great bargains from Primark (leggings with a zip pocket - great for bike rides) and some seriously gorgeous patterned leggings from Tikiboo (not so cheap but they do 25% off on bank holidays!) which are so comfy, I feel great in them.  I also got a new sports bra and protein shaker from Sports Direct, also good for bargains!

17 - Don't be tempted to weigh yourself once you start

Joe says to stay off the "sad step" and he's so right.  It can make you feel down if you think there hasn't been much change, especially if you notice a big drop initially due to the drastic change in diet/water levels which then might level out.  I didn't have a massive loss (I did weight myself half way through as I thought it might motivate me further to see a big drop, I didn't.) but noticed a big change in my photos and how I felt.  I managed to resist measuring myself until the end of the 4 weeks and I'm glad I did.

18 - Throw out off-plan treats (or make your husband eat them all!)

If they're there, there will always be that temptation.  I had some leftover icing in the fridge after making a cake and succumbed to a teaspoonful a couple of times!  If it hadn't been there, I obviously wouldn't have!  Same goes for chocolate.  I bought some 85% chocolate which I read somewhere (maybe Joe's book) was the best option and if I REALLY needed a wee extra treat or a chocolate hit, I had a square of that rather than super sugary milk chocolate.

19 - Be ready

The most important tip is that you have to be ready to start.  Accept the fact it is a big commitment and make sure you are ready for it to take over your life for a while.  I have become a little obsessed with it but that means I'm sticking to it and seeing results!  I never would have managed this last summer when the twins were so little but now I felt so ready to change my lifestyle and make it work.  I also found it got easier after the first week or two on each cycle as you get into a new routine with both exercise and cooking.

So there you have it, my top tips for Cycle One.  I hope you find them helpful and I will be sure to come back and add more if I remember any.  Annoyingly I only have 19, I must think of a 20th!

I loved cycle one although did find I was looking forward to a change by the end as the recipes were getting a bit monotonous as I was batch cooking and sticking to those I knew I liked.  I definitely had more energy despite getting up earlier and I noticed an obvious difference in my overall fitness.


Unknown said...

Thanks Becky. I found your blog both informative and inspiring. Although I am still struggling with what I can have for lunch. Which needs to be both transportable and not need reheating. So I feel choices are limited. Or am I using that as an excuse to get started!

Unknown said...

Thanks Becky. I found your blog both informative and inspiring. Although I am still struggling with what I can have for lunch. Which needs to be both transportable and not need reheating. So I feel choices are limited. Or am I using that as an excuse to get started!

Mrs Mayo said...

A really positive blog about the 90daySSS.
I agree with your point about the Facebook page - btw the unofficial one has disappeared now - the negative comments were a bit dispiriting.
I do still struggle with the food and the advice to not weigh yourself. I confess to having a terrible habit of stepping on the scales daily, which after reading your post I am going to stop. I am also rubbish at prepping, so am aiming to remedy that before I return to work in September. I am about 3/4 of the way through C1 and have adapted it slightly - I do use weights twice a week, but have added three Hiit sessions - which I love (a spin class and treadmill or cycle sprints. I don't like working out at home so I do all mine in the gym, I did them after work in term time, and now any time of day that suits me.

I'll continue to follow your progress and blog.

PS - I am also a mum of twins (identical girls), they are now 18. I already had a 3 year old when they were born, so I know how busy it gets, and could not have done this plan when they were small, and I considered myself an organised person- you must be amazingly organised!

Bex said...

Thanks Jan, the group hasn't disappeared, it's temporarily gone "secret" as they had a huge influx of requests since an article was written in Cosmo recently.

I'd definitely recommend not weighing yourself as I think I would have lost motivation had I done so regularly. Having said that, I did weigh myself halfway through cycle 3 when I was losing the will to continue and found it was still working and wanted to give a final push. I have also been rubbish at prepping lately but managed to cook 8 portions of fish pie last night :)

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