Getting fit in 20 days

After a few months in Europe eating too many pastries and too much cheese, the inevitable happened; I gained weight!

Over 20 days, I set out to combine 3 weight-loss tactics I’ve used in the past into one strict routine:

  • Run twice per day
  • Fast for 16-18 hours per day
  • No carbs or sugar for 20 days straight

I had never tried running twice per day before and never tried doing all 3 of the above together before. It turned out to be a grueling challenge!

On day 20 I had lost a total of 6cm around my waist. While I wish I had lost more, I know a huge part of the reason was continuing to drink wine with my evening meals.

I also went from struggling to finish a 1km run to finishing my first 10km run in years.

But the biggest takeaway from this experiment was how mentally fit I feel right now. I feel sharper than I ever have before, and I’m also a lot more productive.

And I’m addicted. I have no plans to stop fasting daily, eliminating carbs/sugar from my diet (although I will introduce a cheat day once per week) and I will continue to run or go on long walks every day.

All in all, it was a great way to get myself back to being healthy again.

Lessons learned

1. Running twice per day is a terrible idea. It turns out your legs need time to recover between runs (doh!), especially if you’re not used to running regularly. I now give my legs at least a couple of days before 5km-10km runs.

2. My daily food/drink diary (below) highlighted how much alcohol I consume. This is the first time I’ve written down what I drink on a daily basis and it has highlighted I drink too much. It’s something I need to work on. Everyone who has a nightcap should try writing down what they drink over a week.

3. No carb/sugar meals can be delicious. I’ve cooked and eaten some of the best meals of my life over the past 20 days that are really easy to make. Let me know if I should post some recipes!

4. Cheat day is important. We don’t allow our kids to eat sugar in the week and traditionally the whole family indulges on treats during the weekends – starting with pancakes for breakfast on Saturday morning. I really missed joining in and from here on out, I will enjoy a cheat day on the weekends.

5. Food preparation is key. The diet was the biggest challenge for me in this experiment, and looking back, every time I messed up it was due to not being prepared and knowing what I was going to eat next. Therefore, planning out what’s for lunch/dinner over the next 2-3 days is key to continue eating healthily.

The diet

There is a lot of cross over between no/slow-carb, keto/no carb, and lots of different variations. What I mean by “no carbs or sugar” is carbs and sugar in the form of bread, pasta, rice, desserts, cakes, cookies, and candy. Basically all the good stuff in life 😉

Almost all my meals in this experiment consisted of protein (lamb/beef/chicken/pork/fish) with vegetables – either cooked or in salad form, and often spiced up for maximum flavor.

From time to time I did add legumes, eggs, and fruit.


Day #1

AM run: 0.97 KM, 6:41, 6:50/KM
Lunch: Chicken with soy, ginger and garlic served with stem broccoli, bell peppers
Snack: Bannana
PM run: 0.96 KM, 7:07, 7:23/KM
Dinner: Steak, sauteed spinach with garlic and chili
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 1x Gin and tonic, 2x glasses of red wine

Notes: Running today was brutal as I haven’t run in months and it was really cold out. Legs are sore. No problems with the diet apart from regret having the Gin and tonic (I did have diet tonic). I’m excited to perform better tomorrow.

Day #2

AM run: 2.54 KM, 20:01, 7:52/KM
Lunch: Chicken marinated in Thai green curry paste and, grilled and topped with peanuts, simple salad with lime dressing
Snack: Handful of raisins
PM run: 3.69 KM, 1:01:21, 16:37/KM
Dinner: Fish (cod), Asian slaw
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 2x glasses of white wine, 2 pours of bourbon

Notes: The day started out strong with both my fasting and an early 2.5km morning run, but come noon, my 1yo had had an allergic reaction to some food. He is fine now, but this did through the whole family of our normal routines. So instead of heading out for an afternoon run by myself, I took my 4yo out for some fresh air where we walked 3.6km in the fields. Back at it tomorrow!

Day #3

AM run: 2.00 KM, 16:10, 8:03/KM
Lunch: Chicken marinated in Thai green curry paste, grilled jalapeno peppers
Snack: Nothing
PM run: 1.05 KM, 08:45, 08:20/KM
Dinner: Fish (cod), sauteed spinach with garlic and chili
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 2x glasses of red wine, 2 pours of bourbon

Notes: Getting out for the afternoon run was a real struggle (lots on with work), but once completed, it felt amazing!

Day #4

AM run: 2.01 KM, 15:22, 7:38/KM
Lunch: Chicken salad
Snack: Nothing
PM run: 2.11 KM, 17:18, 08:10/KM
Dinner: Roast lamb with chickpeas
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 4x glasses of red wine

Notes: I moved my afternoon run forward from around 5pm to 2.30pm and this made a huge improvement to the rest of my day (it meant I was not constantly thinking about it). Also, from now on – I will leave out the wine due to the sugar content in it.

Day #5

AM run: 2.14 KM, 16:23, 7:38/KM
Lunch: Stir-fried lamb with garlic, peppers and onions
Snack: Handful of raisins
PM run: 1.20 KM, 11:54, 09:53/KM
Dinner: Chicken with broccoli, cauliflower and marinara sauce
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 4x pours of bourbon

Notes: The afternoon run was a real struggle as my legs stiffed up from the morning run. On the plus side, my waist is getting noticeably smaller.

Day #6

AM run: 1.16 KM, 8:44, 7:30/KM
Lunch: Chicken and veg stir-fry
Snack: Sausage roll
PM run: n/a
Dinner: Steak with mixed veg
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 4 glasses of red wine, 1x whiskey sour, 3x pours of bourbon

Notes: After my morning run, I decided to give my legs a rest for a couple of days as they are so stiff and I know I’ll compromise them if I don’t allow them to recover properly. As for the wine, the plan was to have just a glass with my steak but before I knew it, I was having fun with the whole family, was in the moment, and drank a few glasses more. No regrets.

Day #7

AM run: n/a
Lunch: Steak and onions
Snack: 2 lemon cookies
PM run walk: 6.5KM
Dinner: Chicken and salad
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 1 glass of white wine

Notes: Enjoyed a 6.5km walk with the family. Feels great giving my legs a rest. Regret eating 1 of the 2 freshly baked lemon cookies my son baked this afternoon. All in all, a bad weekend I know I need to make up for this week.

Day #8

AM run: n/a
Lunch: Grilled chicken
Snack: Nothing
PM run walk: 6.5KM
Dinner: Steak with vegetable bake
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 2x pours of bourbon

Notes: I really missed running today!

Day #9

AM run: n/a
Lunch: Grilled chicken and salad
Snack: Nothing
PM run: 5 KM, 34:10, 06:49/KM
Dinner: Lamb chops with vegetables
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 2x glasses of wine, 4x pours of bourbon

Notes: After giving my legs a rest I felt great running today and was happy to complete my first 5k run of the year at a respectable pace. If there’s one thing we can take away from this experiment, it’s the importance of giving your legs time to recover.

Day #10

AM run: n/a
Lunch: Vegetable stir-fry
Snack: Handful of almonds
PM run walk: 6.5KM
Dinner: Bunless burgers with beetroot salad
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 2x glasses of red wine

Notes: Halfway point! I feel smaller than I did 10 days ago and have lost 4cm on my waist so far. I feel much healthier and fasting has become the norm now (no more hunger pains in the morning). For the remaining 10 days, I’m really going to try cutting out my nightcaps to see what effect will have (I’m guessing, a lot). I’m also really looking forward to my run tomorrow.

Day #11

AM run: 6.08KM, 54.43, 132m elev gain
Lunch: Fish (cod) and salad
Snack: n/a
PM run: n/a
Dinner: Pork and vegetable stir-fry
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, half a glass of pineapple juice

Notes: Went on what was probably the most difficult and beautiful runs of my life today. Feeling very grateful and fortunate.

Day #12

AM run: n/a
Lunch: Vegetable soup
Snack: n/a
PM run walk: 6.5KM
Dinner: Steak with bean salad
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 4 glasses of red wine

Notes: It’s fair to say I like wine more than I do this experiment.

Day #13

AM run: n/a
Lunch: Chicken with tomato salad
Snack: Handful of mixed nuts
PM run walk: 6.5KM
Dinner: Pork with tenderstem broccoli
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 1 gin and tonic

Notes: I had planned to run today but my legs are still feeling a little sore from Thursday’s run, but damn I’m so eager to get back out there tomorrow!

Day #14

AM run: 5 KM, 38:53, 7:46/KM
Lunch: Steak and grilled asparagus
Snack: Handful of mixed nuts
PM run: n/a
Dinner: Lamb chops and grilled peppers
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 2 glasses of red wine

Notes: Was great to get back to running today!

Day #15

AM run: n/a
Lunch: Steak with salad
Snack: n/a
PM run walk: 6.5KM
Dinner: Bunless burgers with green bean salad
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 3 pours of bourbon

Notes: Rest day. Seriously craving carbs now.

Day #16

AM run: n/a
Lunch: Steak with peppers
Snack: Handful of nuts
PM run walk: 6.5KM
Dinner: Roasted eggplant with 6 peices of Sushi
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 2 gin and tonics

Notes: First time eating carbs in this experiment.

Day #17

AM run: n/a
Lunch: Steak with peppers
Snack: Handful of nuts
PM run walk: 6.5KM
Dinner: 3 slices of pizza
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 4 glasses of red wine

Notes: 2 diet fucks-ups in a row. Feel really disapointed in myself.

Day #18

AM run: n/a
Lunch: Half a chicken sandwhich
Snack: Handful of nuts, fruit
PM run: n/a
Dinner: 3 slices of pizza
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 4 glasses of red wine

Notes: 2 diet fucks-ups in a row. Feel really disapointed in myself.

Day #19

AM run: 10 KM, 1.14:00, 7:28/KM
Lunch: Roast chicken with vegetables
Snack: n/a
PM run walk: 6.5KM
Dinner: BBQ ribs
Drinks: Black coffee, Water, 2 glasses of red wine

Notes: The 10km run destroyed me but I’m so glad I did it.