‘AT 53 WEIGHING 82KG, I FEEL AMAZING and fitter than I was in my 30s!’
Angus BoxshallSmith went from carbo-loading for bike races to intermittent fasting, which gave him far better results all round!
‘Ihave always been an active guy. Though rugby was my main passion, I embraced all things outdoors: mountain biking, swimming, kiteboarding – you name it, I loved it. But after a pretty serious car accident, I stopped exercising for roughly four years, got stuck into work and family, and before I knew it, the number on the scale had shot up. Just shy of 100kg, the only sport I played was golf, and without fail, I would end off the 18 holes with several rounds of beer with the guys.
I reached a point where I felt too embarrassed to take off my shirt. But the lowest point was when I went diving in Mozambique. Our boat lost us on a dive and we had to swim back to shore. I honestly questioned whether I could make it back – I was that unfit. When I did eventually clamber onto the shore, I made a pact with myself to get back into shape.
At 38, I picked up cycling, and absolutely loved it! The weight gradually declined 1kg at a time, but it plateaued after about an 8kg loss, and I couldn’t get rid of the bulge around my stomach. Though I was heavier than my ideal weight, I was arguably the fittest I’d ever been and I entered big races like the Epic and Joburg2C. Being naturally competitive, I was always looking for the edge, and my cycling buddies told me that if I wanted to avoid “crashing”, I needed to load up with carbohydrates before, during and after a big ride.
‘I wasn’t necessarily losing kilos – although that came later – but the inches were disappearing from my waist.’
So I did. Carrying an extra 12kg, and training 20–25 hours a week, I replenished with carbohydrates. But still, I was always hungry! I felt like I needed to eat all the time.
Whenever I took a few days’ break from the bike to recover, I packed all the weight I had lost right back on. It was incredibly demotivating. Then three years ago, someone mentioned that I should consider banting.
I was never interested in dieting to lose weight, but I was intrigued. I did a lot of my own research and after reading Tim Noakes’s book, the big revelation for me was that I needed to eliminate sugar and carbs completely. Being an all-or-nothing type, I started banting in full force. Soon I noticed I had started to trim down. I wasn’t necessarily losing kilos – although that came later – but the inches were disappearing from my waist. I dropped from a size 38 trousers to a size 32 effortlessly. After seeing the speedy results, my wife Alex and I decided to try to become fat-adapted. We knew it would be hard work, but we are both very determined.
After overcoming the initial carb-flu period, I began to notice exceptional changes other than weight loss. I experienced the usual benefits: reduced hunger, no feelings of bloating, and no afternoon slump. But there are two things that have really cemented this as a way of life for me.
Firstly, my dad was a type 2 diabetic and suffered from both high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I too suffered from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and the way I was going with sugar, I was sure to end up with the same lifestyle disease he had. What was even scarier was that three years pre-banting, at age 47, my eyesight had started to decline rapidly. I needed reading glasses and quickly went from 0.5 lenses to 1’s, then 1.5’s and eventually 2’s! But, after three months of banting, all of these symptoms disappeared. I didn’t need glasses to read any more, my blood pressure was down and all my other markers were in the right place.
The second thing is the energy. Both my wife and I find that our energy levels are amazing. We carried on with sport throughout the whole process, and as we became fat-adapted, we found our energy levels were sustained throughout the day – even during and after exercise. Previously when I used to do big races, I had to consume carbs all the way through; now, I can fast for 16 hours before a race, complete it on just water, and feel amazing.
In the past, Alex had really struggled with digestive problems and had tried everything, from a 10-day green juice fast to a three-month raw food diet. But every time she went back onto a normal eating plan, her problems returned. She has always eaten “healthily”. Her diet consisted of rye, whole grains, absolutely no wheat. Every dietician and gastrointestinal specialist she saw said there was nothing wrong with her diet and that she should just forget about her digestive issues. But she refused to accept that. When I was told about banting, Alex and I decided to dive in together, and since then her problems have completely disappeared! She also used to get the flu often, and now she can’t remember the last time she was sick. She is really strict. Yes, we cheat a bit on G and Ts, but she will never return to grains. She limits dairy – particularly cheese – but otherwise, this diet is a no-brainer for her too.
We both felt amazing, but we wanted to be sure we were on the right track. So after three years of banting, we went to Dr Schoonbee, knowing that he supports the ketogenic diet, and the results confirmed that – for us – this diet just works. I feel great, I feel fitter than I have ever felt, and the test results underline that.
Because the results have been so remarkable, we are strict with what we eat, but we don’t allow this diet to affect our enjoyment of life. We do drink wine and socialise, and we often go out to dinner, but we are selective about what we have. For us it’s about balance – we are 95 percent banting, but every now and then we venture off track.
There are several things that really work for Alex and me: • Intermittent Fasting (IF) IF fits hand in glove with our training. I fast intermittently every day – 16 hours fasting, 8 hours no fasting. I have my last meal in the evening, miss breakfast, and finish off the fast with a high-intensity workout – after that, food just tastes amazing! Every so often I do a 24-hour fast. With this way of life, my clarity of mind and energy levels are great.
‘I didn’t need glasses to read any more, my blood pressure was down and all my other markers were in the right place.’
IF has a hugely positive effect on my exercise. Because I am fat-adapted, and eating less often, my body isn’t using up all my energy to digest food. Rather, it is given the chance to go into autophagy. The benefits are amazing: I have increased human growth hormone, improved testosterone levels, much more energy, and to top it off, my craving for pudding after meals has disappeared.
At 53, weighing 82kg, I feel amazing and fitter than I was in my 30s. It has been an astonishing transformation. In the past, I was obsessed with food and couldn’t go two hours without gorging myself; now, I am in complete control. When I fast, I don’t feel like I am starving myself; in fact, I am never really hungry during the 16 hours of not eating, it is just part of my day.
Alex does struggle a bit more with the fasting. She does IF occasionally, but if she does it for more than three consecutive days, finishing off with exercise, she crashes. You need to figure out what works for you. Now, when she needs to give her digestion a break, she does a one-off 24-hour fast and she’s ready to go again. • Support The second most important thing is support. Because we took on the challenge together, we were eating all the same foods, which completely cut out temptation. It’s a lot easier to have someone do it with you – particularly someone as strict as Alex. I didn’t stand a chance! • Simplicity
The reality is: if you cheat, you balloon, so we don’t really cheat and we eat very simply. We don’t bake with alternative flours because we believe that by simply replacing the “bad” stuff with the same thing, just a healthier version, you’re allowing the carb addiction to simmer below the surface. Instead, we choose to eat real food like a cut of meat with veg or salad. We do indulge in the odd banting ice-cream treat, though! We also only drink water, tea and coffee, with the exception of a few glasses of wine. You can’t live in wine country and deny yourself a glass of this tantalising beverage! We’ve also figured out that we can get away with a lot less fat – now that we are fat-adapted, it’s not necessary. People often ask, “How do you guys do it? How do you restrict yourselves so much?” but the thing is, it’s just conditioning. Once you understand what foods to cut out and how to eat correctly, it’s not that hard. You just have to want to make the change. It was challenging in the beginning, but as you chip away at it, your body improves and you learn what works for you. It’s a journey. As for me, I want to use my restored eyesight to carry on reading for as long as I can without glasses. So I will never go back. This is a lifestyle.’