Kayla Itsines has positioned herself as the undisputable queen of fitness. Her legions of followers, known as Kayla’s Army or BBG Girls, back her up by following, succeeding in and sharing her BBG Guides.
A Personal trainer since 2008, Kayla Itsines released her first online training guide in January of 2014. That guide, known as BBG (Bikini Body Guide) has spawned 2 more guides, a food guide, product line and an app. Two and a half years later, the Kayla Movement is in the millions, with BBG Girls around the world using her 12 week guides to get fit and healthy.
A quick peek at her Instagram page shows a slew of incredible before and after pictures. It’s these pictures that have been selling her workouts. But in an age where all you need is a good app and filter to create the image you want, you need to stop and wonder – does BBG work?
It’s all well and good to look through Instagram for inspiration by what does reality look like when you take away the screen and filters?
Each of Kayla Itsines’ Guides is centred around 3 to 4 28-minute workouts a week, high intensity and low intensity cardio sessions and recovery sessions (foam rolling and stretching). They follow a 12 week guideline and according to Kayla, most girls see visible results within those 12 weeks.
To answer the question does BBG work, we spoke to a group of local BBG Girls who have completed or are in the middle of completing at least one round of BBG. A few have been doing it for over a year, with no plans of stopping.
Most girls discovered Kayla Itsines through her transformation pictures. True to Kayla’s insistence that BBG is not about her but the community, they were sold by real women’s transformations and not by Kayla’s perfect physique.
As Jacqui (@beatsandbbg) puts it “Have you seen those transformations on social media?”
Kyla (@kbctbikiniadventure) echoed that sentiment “The Instagram transformation photos were incredible…and in only 12 weeks! For 28 minutes a day!”[bctt tweet=”I wanted a gyming program that would help me stay focused and help me gain a fitter lifestyle #BBGComunity ” username=”nutreats”]
For others it was the community and the built-in support all BBG Girls get.
“I started working out at home a few years ago and that’s where your self-discipline gets challenged at a next level. BBG appealed to me due to the community” Lucinda, (@fit_metalhead)
And for others it was the need of a structured fitness program “I wanted a gyming program that would help me stay focused and help me gain a fitter lifestyle” Dune (@dunes_fitlife)
BBG & THE H.E.L.P Eating Guide
Along with the BBG Guides, you can purchase Kayla’s H.E.L.P food guide, or if you have the app, you get recipes and food plans. Exercising is great, but if abs are made in the kitchen, we wanted to know how much these girls changed their diets.
Most of the girls did not use the H.E.L.P guide at all and for those that did, they didn’t use it for very long. The recipes are said to be too expensive to make regularly, as Lucinda explained “Some of the ingredients are a little too pricey for my budget”.
Despite liking the variety in the H.E.L.P guide, Kyla found that they require too many different fresh ingredients in the fridge which is expensive and tended to be wasteful.
Others opted out of the H.E.L.P guides because they enjoy coming up with their own new recipes “I like getting creative and making my own eating programs and recipes”, Dune
The more time you spend strengthening your body and working out, the more aware you become of what you put inside your body.
They may have not been using the H.E.L.P guides, but all the girls we spoke to adjusted their diets as they started doing BBG. It’s a common side effect of working out. The more time you spend strengthening your body and working out, the more aware you become of what you put inside your body.
Aside from Kyla who follows a Blood Type diet and eliminates foods that she is sensitive to, like wheat and dairy, most girls simply adapted their existing diets to consume more fruits, veggies and whole foods and less sugar.
“My approached has always been to eat balanced and not deprive myself of anything. I’ve been focusing on getting more greens into my diet (yay for green smoothies!), getting more than my 5 a day in. As well as eating less sugar” Lucinda
This is an approach that Dune takes as well;
“I wouldn’t say that I’ve changed my diet but rather adapted it. I’ve always loved healthy food but I’ve certainly taken it to a new level of health. In summer the majority of my food intake is Fruit and Vegetables, where as in winter I prefer a carb free, sugar free program”
Others like Tayla (@bbgtaylasouthafrica_positivity) admitted that diet is crucial to seeing those results. “Changing your diet is crucial as you build a ton of muscle. You need to reduce the fat around your muscle otherwise you have fat underneath muscle and this makes you seem very big and you would of course pick up more weight”.
Kayla Itsines often posts about her choice not to drink alcohol, and interestingly most of the girls we chatted to, mentioned removing or cutting down on alcohol.
“The one major change to my diet is my decision to reduce alcohol consumption drastically, to almost no drinking at all. It’s made such a positive impact on how I spend my weekends and I appreciate spending quality time with people” Jacqui
Does BBG Work By Itself?
The BBG guides are intended to be comprehensive fitness guides, with no supplementation needed. With the sheer amount of fitness classes, events and options available today, following one program strictly is not always done or desired.
Kyla followed a strict BBG only schedule
“When I did BBG I stuck strictly to the BBG guidelines and didn’t do any extra things. After 9 months I had gone from a size 36 weighing 70kg to a size 32 weighing 62kg. I still had no six pack because my body fat percentage was sitting at 21%”
Once she gained fitness she started incorporating more exercises. “Since finishing the second guide I’ve been doing weight training and HIIT sprints”
However, most were doing more than just BBG. Activities like running, yoga, gym classes, the Nike Training App and more, were used for variety.
“On top of BBG I joined FitKey and use that to book functional training classes 3 times a week and a Yoga session or 2. I get bored easily. I also use the Nike Training Club App for home workouts when I’m not doing BBG” Lucinda
Jacqui, a self-proclaimed sucker for endorphins is not only doing BBG 2 but the LiveFit Trainer Programme by Jamie Eason, AMPT workouts in JHB, and running.
Dune, 24 keeps it simple by rotating between BBG and FBFM [Fresh Body Fit Mind] by Amanda Bisk. “Both programs are amazing and complement each other”.
So Does BBG Work?
When asked if they saw changes, all the girls said yes. But those transformations weren’t always as fast, physical or as “transformational” as those seen on instagram.
“I have definitely seen changes! Not as quickly as I would have hoped and not as definitive as I would have liked but my body definitely shrunk in size and my endurance and fitness levels improved” Kyla
“I can see a difference in my entire body, muscles, endurance, better mood, higher energy, I’ve seen how loving your body changes how you judge your body”
“My body is slimmer and more defined, I’m more confident in my own skin. It’s funny, I started this journey because I hated my body but I continued it because it taught me how to love my body” Dune
“My most personal physical change is my um, bum. I never thought my pancake bum would ever develop any sort of shape, ever. With all my running people would question me about my lack of ‘substance’ back there. I actually fill my jeans a bit better than I ever have” Jacqui
“BBG has showed me my weaknesses and my limitations, how far I can really push myself. A humbling but strengthening experience. I never thought I’d be able to do decline push ups or box jumps in my whole life” Lucinda
So, does it?
The transformations that BBG helped these girls achieve and the impact it had on them was not all physical, but rather in large, mental. What BBG does do, and do well, is change your mindset.
This is arguably harder than changing your physical appearance and crucial if you want healthy active living to become a part of your life – long-term. It changes the way you view exercise, health, your body and self.
It gives you respect for yourself
“[BBG gave me] a love for what my body can do, respect for myself, self-discipline and a love for exercise” Kyla
“[BBG] has taught me that you don’t need to spend hours at the gym to break out into a massive sweat! Work smart not hard. I’ve gained so may wonderful friendships too” Lucinda
“[BBG gave me] Confidence and respect for my body” Tayla
“I’ve become a lot stronger both physically and emotionally. I’ve also made some amazing connections through the BBG community on Instagram” Dune,
In terms of recommending BBG, all the girls we spoke to would. It’s a great way to start exercising if you’ve never before, challenge yourself if you already exercise and tap into a sisterhood of girls ready to give you all the support you need.
So, does it work?
Does BBG work? Well, it depends what you’re after. If your only goal is to come out of 12 weeks looking like a living walking breathing snapshot from Kayla’s Instagram account, you might want to sit this one out. But, If you want to change your life in more ways you can imagine, go for it.
Thank you to the BBG South Africa girls for their help with this article. To follow their fitness journeys find them on Instagram
image: Kayla Itsines
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.