You may have heard of the F45 challenge – short for functional 45. It has become increasingly popular among the general public and is now being advocated in a big way by the fitness industry.
What does it involve?
It involves a specific exercise regime supported by a specific diet pattern. It is a very low carbohydrate, high protein diet. The diet on the challenge also advocates the consumption of healthy fats. The idea is that while on the challenge, you need to limit the carbohydrate intake (which is the body’s preferred energy source) to 50-100g in order to push the usage of fats as energy. The protein intake helps maintain and build lean muscle. It also emphasizes the importance of including protein at every meal to help control appetite. In terms of exercise, it involves high intensity interval training (HIIT), circuit training and functional training.
What is it meant to achieve?
The F45 challenge is meant to improve your body composition, such as increasing lean muscle mass. It may not be for someone who is looking to improve their overall health through lifestyle changes. People with chronic diseases can still try the F45 challenge as it may help them achieve their weight loss goals. However, it should only be done after consulting an accredited practicing dietitian to ensure it is safe to do so.
What are the pros of F45?
There are both pros and cons of F45. We will start with the pros first. My views are based on the information provided in the F45 challenge handbook provided online.
- Healthy meal ideas are discussed during the challenge
- Promotes healthy fat consumption, including avocado and nuts into the diet
- Recommends a reduction in alcohol intake in order to achieve the desired results
- Highlights the importance of eating vegetables
- Highlights the importance of good hydration
- Recommends healthy snack ideas such as fruit and vegetable sticks with hummus
- The physical activity component can be beneficial
What are the cons of F45?
- The challenge demonises carbohydrates. The rationale behind this is that carbohydrates affect our sugar levels which produce insulin, a hormone that promotes fat storage. Hence cutting out carbohydrates will reduce the need for insulin and the body will avoid fat storage. This may have good short term results but for good long term health and weight management, carbohydrates shold not be excluded. In terms of the effect of carbohydrates on sugar levels, not all carbohydrates are created equal. For example, wholegrain bread provides a better glucose profile compared to white bread which leads to a greater insulin response. Carbohydrates provide us with 60% of our energy intake and are a source of healthy gut bacteria, as well as important vitamins such as the B vitamins. Those participating in the F45 challenge should be aware that there are side effects of avoiding carbohydrates, such as constipation and lethargy.
The F45 challenge also promotes a few false claims. These include:
Gluten causes inflammation in the body and needs to be avoided by everyone.
This is untrue as gluten only affects those are who allergic or intolerant to it. For the rest of the public, there is no benefit to avoiding gluten. In fact, certain gluten-free products may be higher in fat and sugar so choosing those products blindly in order to lose weight could actually have worse outcomes.
Lemon water for detoxifying the liver.
This is a myth as the liver is perfectly capable of performing its functions of removing waste. The liver works efficiently if you maintain a healthy diet. However, when there is an increased consumption of processed or refined foods and alcohol the liver becomes overwhelmed and cannot function as well. So making dietary changes such as cutting out processed and refined foods like chips, processed meat and alcohol can help the liver function better. Drinking lemon water will only can add flavour and some extra vitamin C.
Cooking with coconut oil is the best option and extra virgin olive oil becomes rancid on heating.
Extra virgin olive oil is in fact the most heat stable. As long as the extra virgin olive oil is of good quality such as the Cobram Estate extra virgin olive oil, it can be used for cooking. Coconut oil is not a healthier option as it is very high in saturated fat.
Organic produce is required for ‘clean eating’.
According to current research, organic produce is not any healthier than conventional produce. Terms such as ‘clean eating’ can lead to disordered eating patterns which ruins your relationship with food.
The F45 challenge has both pros and cons relating to it. If it helps you obtain the goals you have set for yourself and you have checked that it is safe for you there is no reason you can’t go for it. However, the nutrition information the challenge provides needs to be interpreted correctly to avoid long term restrictive eating. For long term results talking to a dietitian who can help you maintain your weight loss is definitely worthwhile.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian and nutritionist Juhi Bhambhaney. If you have any questions regarding health and nutrition, make an appointment with one of our dietitians. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.