Sam Wallace reckons the weather gods were having a good old laugh at the weatherman this week. They threw everything - head winds, searing heat and blinding rain squalls - at the TVNZ Breakfast presenter.
A tired and terribly sore Wallace crossed the finish line in Pukekohe yesterday, having cycled 800 kms from Wellington to Auckland in the week-long BDO cycle challenge.
It was that challenge, put to him by BDO last November, that forced Wallace to transform his body from that of a slightly flabby 34-year-old to one that is trim, taut and, well, verging on terrific.
Aware that he faced the most gruelling challenge of his life, Wallace, a former professional basketball player, paid a visit to Professor Grant Schofield, director of the Human Potential Centre at AUT Millennium, for a check-up. The news wasn't good -- out of shape and, says Schofield, way too much carbohydrates in the diet. Schofield put Wallace on a high-fat, low-carbs diet and, 11 weeks ago, started him on cycling training with double Olympian cycling coach Tim Gudsell.
The result, over three months, is startling and Wallace was yesterday fizzing about his new diet and exercise regime.
The diet, he said, had turned him into a "versatile fuel burner"and meant he could sustain exercise exercise far longer than before. "It's just blown me away," he said.
The new diet was a matter of changing a mindset, Wallace said. Think chicken fried rice, without the rice.
"Breads, pasta and rice are fillers. You don't need them."
Now, rather than cereal or toast, Wallace downs a breakfast of eggs and a protein shake before heading off for a 3.30am to 4am start on Breakfast.
His energy levels, moods and nervousness over presenting had improved too, he said. "It sounds cheesy but I'm actually a better human being."
In the past his exercise regime was focused on what made him look good. "Like most males it was fairly upper-body dominant."
The diet and cycling had transformed his body, not necessarily for good looks. "I've got these weird muscles that fall out the top of my shorts. They're quite horrible."
Schofield's description of Wallace's diet sounds mouth-wateringly wicked. Leave the fat on the bacon? No problem. The skin on the chicken? Absolutely. Full-fat milk in your latte? Sure, even cream.
"When you're having your veges you'd be chucking some butter on," Schofield said.
What you won't be having much of are carbohydrates and sugar. "Those are the things that stuff you up."
Fruits, Schofield said, "tend not to be created equal". For example a cup of grapes contained 12 teaspoons of sugar, a cup of berries had only two teaspoons, he said.
Schofield swears by the diet, follows it himself and says it suits not just high-performance athletes as a way of losing weight but ordinary people as well.
"Contrary to what you think, you end up eating less because fat fills you up. Sugar just makes you more hungry."
Sarah Hanrahan, a dietician with the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation, said the high-fat, low-carb diet was not "the answer to everyone's prayers". It worked well for some people but equally there were diets that worked well for others.
No single approach was right, she said. The foundation had analysed a list of popular diets and found that many had the same principles.
"What they all have in common is plenty of whole (unprocessed) foods, vegetables, plenty of water and a healthy lifestyle," she said. "How you package it doesn't matter."
There was nothing wrong with grains and potatoes, she said. Hanrahan advised eating lean meats, and the "good" fats in oily fish and olive oil.
"Bacon is one of those foods that is a really nice treat. It's not an everyday food."
Weight: 85 kgs
Exercise: Basketball, weight lifting, boxing
Diet: Pasta, pies, potatoes, rice, bread, meat, vegetables and beer
Goal: to look good and stop the "withering effect" of ageing
Weight: 80 kgs and dropping
Exercise: Cycling, lots of it
Diet: Plenty of fat, low carbs, meat, eggs, protein shakes, vegetables, low sugar and low-carb beer
Goal: To burn body fuel efficiently, keep fit - and save the $28,000 needed to buy the Pinarello Dogma loan bike he's been riding