Australian fitness model champion, coach and Oxygen covergirl, Anna McManamey knows a thing or two about health and fitness. Living a disciplined nutritional lifestyle and limiting sugar from her diet, in this interview, Anna talks to us about the importance of moderation in any diet and becoming more responsible for your food choices. She also shares with us her amazing sugar-free Churros Protein Cupcakes recipe.
How did you get into fitness modelling?
I was born into a very athletic family. My mum competed as a sprinter in the Commonwealth Games and my dad still plays competitive field hockey at 60! Growing up I was a competitive dancer and rhythmic gymnast, so it’s no surprise my interest later turned to figure and fitness modelling. I competed in Physical Culture (aka. “physie”) for 23 years and hold two Australian titles. I also represented my home state and Australia in rhythmic gymnastics throughout high school and while I was studying journalism at university.
I was first introduced to the world of fitness and figure sculpting shortly after joining my local gym. At the time I was feeling out of shape and uncomfortable having retired from gymnastics and dance. A number of instructors and gym members were prepping for competitions and I was inspired by their amazing transformations. So I found myself a personal trainer who introduced me to weight training and healthy eating and finally I started seeing results. My next goal was to take my fitness journey to the next level and compete, so I found myself a prep coach, and so began the start of my competitive fitness career!
How long have you been following a low sugar diet and how has this affected your life? What made you want to quit sugar?
Growing up in such a fitness-focused family, I’ve always been a healthy eater. We rarely ate take away, and the demands of my gymnastics and dance training meant I had to ensure I was fuelling my body with enough of the right nutrients. BUT… I’ve always had a bit of a sweet tooth – lollies were my weakness! It was during my time as a news journalist that this weakness started to turn into a regular habit. Working long hours on shift work left me feeling tired most of the time and looking for quick sugar hits. It was no surprise I started gaining weight and feeling uncomfortable with how I looked. I was still training hard but as we all know, “you can’t out train a bad diet.” It wasn’t until I made the commitment to compete in my first fitness competition that I really buckled down on my nutrition. I started eating more regular meals, focusing on mostly fresh and minimally processed foods, and started seeing and feeling the changes almost immediately. I had more energy, my skin improved, I was recovering better from my training, and I was eating more and losing body fat!
I wouldn’t go so far to say that I “quit sugar”. Sugar, when consumed in the right amounts at the right times, can in fact accelerate results from training and does have a place in a successful body transformation plan. I still enjoy the odd treat from time to time, but the difference is now I am a lot more responsible about my food choices and serving sizes.
What are your thoughts on following a LCHF diet and if you follow this, what have been the highlights of it?
I think it’s important to realise that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to nutrition. I have clients who respond exceptionally well to a low carb, high fat plan, whereas others feel and function much better on higher carb and lower fat. I actually respond best to something in the middle and find a moderate carb and fat intake allows me perform at my best while staying lean. It ultimately comes down to trial and error. I think the first step for anyone looking to improve their health and body composition is to start by consuming more fresh, nutrient-dense whole foods, and aim to limit sweets or junk food to no more than 10% of your diet. Once you’ve laid the foundations of a healthy diet, you can then start experimenting with carb/fat ratios to find what works best for you.
What are some foods that you had to part ways with once you started LCHF?
I don’t believe in banning foods entirely from your diet, as this only exacerbates cravings. If I say “don’t think of chocolate cake,” what do you think about? I bet you’re thinking of chocolate cake! It all comes down to eating in moderation and being responsible with your food choices. These days I know I can enjoy a small handful of jelly beans from time to time (they are actually a great source of energy right before an intense workout!), I just don’t need to have the whole bag.
What is your fitness routine?
My fitness routine is focused predominantly on weights training with minimal cardio. I lift weights 5 – 6 days per week, with 1 or 2 high intensity interval cardio sessions. If I am dieting down for a fitness competition I’ll incorporate some medium intensity cardio sessions to assist fat loss, but I try to keep these sessions to a minimum.
What do you love about using Natvia? What is your treat you made with Natvia?
Substituting sugar with Natvia is a terrific way to reduce calories in your favourite foods without sacrificing taste. I use it in everything that calls for sugar – in baking, beverages, desserts, even savoury sauces, stir fries and marinades. I am a sweet tooth though, so here is the recipe to my sugar free Churros Protein Cupcakes (see recipe below).
What are your top tips for living a healthy lifestyle?
Living a healthy lifestyle requires establishing healthy habits – that is, actions and rituals we repeatedly do, day-in, day-out with minimal effort. You shouldn’t need a pep talk to get you out the door and to the gym everyday, so find a form of exercise you genuinely enjoy. Focus on eating a variety of fresh, whole foods and learn to get creative in the kitchen. Realise that you don’t need to eliminate your favourite treats from your diet, but learn to practice moderation and be responsible. Finding a sustainable routine is the key to long lasting results, so if you can’t see yourself keeping up your current training and diet regime 6 months, 1 year or 5 years down the track, it’s time to reassess.
CHURROS PROTEIN CUPCAKES
200g UPS Protein Pancake mix, apple cinnamon flavour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Natvia
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
220g extra light cream cheese
1tsp vanilla extract
Cinnamon to serve
1. In a mixing bowl combine pancake mix, salt, baking powder and Natvia.
2. Using an electric mixer, gradually add the almond milk, mixing until it forms a batter. You may need to add a little water to reach desired consistency.
3. Bake in a lined cupcake tray at 170 degrees C for approx 30 mins or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool.
6. To make the frosting combine all ingredients and blend using an electric mixer.
7. Once cupcakes have cooled, spread frosting onto the cupcakes and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Follow Anna on Instagram @anna_mcmanamey