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Kayla Itsines 12-Week Workout Review: Answers to All Your Questions

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Never heard of her. What is this?

Kayla Itsines is a trainer in Australia who has created two online 12-week workouts called the Beach Body Guide (BBG) 1.0 and 2.0. Each one is $69.97 and you get an automatic PDF download once you purchase it. She also has two 2-week meal plans (one vegetarian and one regular). I first stumbled up on her on Instagram and started the workouts December 2014. I think she seems like a nice normal person who has also become insta-famous and probably insta-wealthy.

Which guide did you do?

Both! I have completed weeks 1-12 of BBG 1.0 and like it so much I’ve moved on to BBG 2.0 and am currently in week 16.

What’s the program?

In BBG 1.0 Kayla lays out your week with three 28-minute high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, three 35-45-minute low intensity steady state (LISS) workouts, daily stretching/rehabilitation, and one rest day. BBG 2.0 follows a similar format but with a fourth day of optional HIIT. Your Monday, Wednesday, Friday HIIT workouts are designed by Kayla and include two 7-minute circuits that you run through twice with four different exercises in each. So you’re working out a grand total of 28 minutes. It’s awesome. (Below is a shot of what the guide looks like.) On your Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday LISS days you pick your own adventure. Kayla suggests walking, cycling or cross-training (elliptical machine) for 35-45 minutes. I use those LISS days to go to yoga, hit the stairmaster or take a group fitness class usually. She also includes stretching/rehab guides to do after your HIIT workouts and on your day off you just do nothing.

Are the workouts seriously only 28 minutes?

Yeah I didn’t believe it either. As one who has a history of over exercising more than under exercising, I was honestly pretty skeptical about this. Interestingly enough, that’s been one of the best things about doing these workouts for me–spending less time working out. I’ve always known the concept of working different muscle groups on different days and allowing rest days and going easy on excessive cardio and all that, but I never really implemented any of it in my own life. This program is the first time I ever really followed those training rules and the results have been incredible. I feel stronger (and think I look stronger too) but mostly I feel freed from thoughts about working out. Every day I know exactly what my workout is. I go in, I do give it my all and I get out. I love that.

What equipment do I need? Can I do it at home?

Some of the workouts are bodyweight only and others require minimal equipment. I prefer to do mine in the gym 1) to access equipment when I need it and 2) because I live in an apartment and don’t want to be jumping around over my downstairs neighbor. (There is a LOT of jumping.) Here’s Kayla’s breakdown on equipment and substitutions if you want to stay at home:

Screen shot 2015-04-14 at 7.56.55 AM

I have X kind of injury. Can I do these workouts?

I have no way of knowing (and am also not qualified to know) if this workout is safe for individual people. You’ll want to talk to your own doctor/trainer about that. I can tell you there’s a lot of jumping (think jump squats, jumping lunges, box/bench jumps, jumping rope, etc.) so if you have a knee problem that could be an issue. There’s also a whole lot of push-ups in different variations, including incline push-ups, burpees, etc. so shoulder problems could be an issue here too.

What if I’ve never worked out before? Is this for me?

Definitely! Kayla actually starts the 1.0 guide with four full weeks of pre-workout workouts, which is basically a light version of her regular workouts designed to ease you in if you’re not used to this level of physical activity.

What about food? What should I be eating?

Kayla does offer a 2-week food guide (both a standard and a vegetarian version) and you can read about my experience with the vegetarian guide here. Short story: I loved it and think it’s very sane and straightforward. Her basic set up is three meals + two snacks every day. I didn’t follow the guide after the first two weeks but I do maintain the frequent snacking and really like that routine. What I like about her guide is she doesn’t eliminate carbs or fat or anything. It’s just straight up whole food in sensible portions.

What do you eat?

I make most of my food on Sunday to make things easier for me throughout the week. A very standard day of food for me would be:

  • 7a breakfast – most often a smoothie consisting of frozen banana, frozen spinach, fruit of choice (usually frozen blueberries or figs), scoop of raw protein powder, 2 cups unsweetened almond milk. On days when I’m running late and can’t make a smoothie, I grab one of the pre-packed oatmeals I prepped on Sunday and take it to work with me (which is a mashed banana, 1/3 cup oats, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, coconut chips and fresh fruit).
  • 10:30a snack 1 – usually whole wheat toast with peanut butter
  • 1p lunch – usually some combination of lentils + veggies + rice or quinoa or pasta
  • 4p snack 2 – afternoon snack is almost always a Kind bar and an apple
  • 8p dinner – I’m on a flatbread pizza kick where I toast a whole wheat wrap and then top it with hummus and whatever sauteed veggies I have on hand. Sometimes I’ll also dig into my prepped lunch meal stash if I don’t feel like cooking anything and that’s usually pasta (but not if I’ve already had pasta for lunch).
  • 10p tea – I do this new thing where I have tea and three dates with peanut butter and coconut chips every single night. It has a Nyquil-like effect on me.

Why did you do this program?

Straight up vanity, honestly. I found Kayla (and her sick body) on Instagram and followed for a while until one day when I was like, “Ok I’m gonna do it and get sick abs.” To be clear I did not get sick abs but I am very comfortable in my body and am so much stronger than before and more importantly I am so much happier with the way I approach working out so it’s a win for me. I also set a goal to be able to do a pull up and I’m alllllmost there. ALMOST. In light of the “body positive” movement, I used to apologize for wanting to work out and told big fat lies about just working out to “be healthy.” The truth is I don’t work out just to be healthy (though living for a long time is a factor). I also work out to look good (according to my definition of “good” which is of course influenced by society’s not-always realistic definitions of “good” but I’m ok with that). I’ve finally decided that loving the body you have and still wanting sick abs are not mutually exclusive feelings. Maybe that sounds counterintuitive and it’s hard to explain but I have hit this point with myself where I’ve finally detached my physical appearance from my personal worth and that frees me up to let my body soften and expand (within healthy reason) OR tighten and shrink (within healthy reason) without it defining who I am. It’s just a body and at the moment I’m interested in pushing mine to its peak but that doesn’t mean I love it or myself any more or less than I would if I were more interested in giving it some time off.

How old are you, what do you weight, how tall are you, etc?

I am 29 years old and about 5’7″-ish. I don’t have a problem sharing my weight but I don’t want it to be an unnecessary trigger for anyone so I’ll just say I weigh exactly the same now as I did when I started the program.

Cut to the chase… What do you look like?

Ok! So people have very strong feelings about before/after fitness photos and I hesitated to throw mine out there. Body shots can be negative and triggering of disordered behavior for some people and inspiring and motivational for others. If you find photos like this to be a negative addition to your life, let’s stop here and scroll back up and call it a day.

If you are interested in seeing my personal experience with this particular workout, this is me at 1, 6 and 12 weeks. Nothing drastic. I think I’m a little fitter and stronger but everything else in my life is exactly the same and I’m good with that. I was also good with it all 16 weeks ago.

1 6 9

Hope this helps! I pulled this together because I’ve been getting tons of questions from my friends in real life and from people online so I thought this would be easier. In short, I am a huge fan of these workouts but that doesn’t mean everyone will like them. Do what you like to do.

35 Comments

  1. Awesome post! I follow her on Insta and it’s quite clear that she has an effective program.

    • Joanne Joanne

      Hey hun!

      I was thinking of getting Kayla’s BBG, and I came across your blog while finding reviews about Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide.

      Do you think it’s really worthy of it’s high price tag?? I saw quite a bad review at http://www.bikinibodyguides.com/kayla-itsines-review/ and I’m quite worried about it. I’m a high school student and that money is quite a huge sum for me.

      Will appreciate if you can reply ASAP.

      Thanks,
      Joanne

      • i’m a high school student too and although i haven’t tried the BBG and i have downloaded it for free from the internet. so if you are comfortable doing that (not sure if its legal ahah) you’ll save over $100!

      • Remai Remai

        That is a fake website to advertise that other (probably crappy) exercise program on there. If you look at the photo of the woman on the front page, you’ll see it’s actually Amber Heard, a famous actress, and not a simple reviewer. I’ve done BBG 1.0 and even though I find it super hard I really like it cause you get results!

    • Hi! I am on BBG 1.0, week 2 right now and am using the app – wanted to know your thoughts ans if you used it or the physical guide? If so, did your “Planner” include a LISS and a Full-Body HIIT on Saturdays? Which one should I be doing/did you find effective?

  2. So glad you did a review! I’m on week 8! I have 2 complaints about it…not enough arm toning on arm days and on full body days, it’s not really full body. So, I would swap out some things to make sure I got some arms and legs in. I definitely feel like I’ll need to do 2.0 to get the exact results that I want. I didn’t get the nutrition guide since your first review said we didn’t really need it. I know how to eat well, so this wasn’t really a problem. I started incorporating HIIT starting week 7 because I felt a little stagnant and felt progress was slow. I have definitely noticed progress, but nothing like what some of the instagram pictures are like. I sort of feel like some people do extra challenges that make their progress a little quicker(which is their choice!). If you can, please do a 2.0 update!

  3. courtney courtney

    thank you, girl! really love this review! i’m currently marathon training, but had started the guide before the training and CANNOT wait to get back into it once the race is done. one of my good friends and i actually do it together (on opposite coasts) to stay committed =]

    i also really, really, REALLY (!) love your reflections regarding loving your body and yourself AS YOU ARE, but not being afraid to continue improving yourself or working towards an image you think is smokin’ hot. i like to think i’m getting to that place, and i enjoyed reading your thoughts on it! xo

  4. courtneymmalone courtneymmalone

    Thank you for sharing your experience with it! I’m on Week 13 and LOVE it. I bought the nutrition guide but felt like it was a waste for me. Partly because I feel like I “know” what I need to do and don’t feel like i got much out of it, but also because I know that there are too many things I enjoy having (okay, wine. just wine), that I won’t cut out entirely. But I am okay with that. Like you, my shape doesn’t define my or represent my worth. I definitely feel stronger and my abs/core have never felt more solid. While I don’t have a ripped 6 pack, the ol’ abs are definitely under a much leaner layer 😉

    Thanks again for sharing your experience! Would love another update after you complete 2.0!

  5. This is awesome info! After you mentioned this was one of the hardest workouts you’d ever done, I decided to give it a shot. I’m on day 2. Hah. We’ll see how it goes. Thanks for sharing!

    • Katie Katie

      Awesome! I ran into a girl at the Y yesterday and saw she had the workout on her phone. I think we’re forming a little army here in CLT…

  6. Caroline Caroline

    This review was great to read, thank you! I’ve been following her on Instagram for a few months and I too have just got to the point where I thought “hmm I’m gona have a shot at sick abs too…”. I’m fairly fit anyway but the day 1 workout this morning had me sweating loads! I also think there is loads of difference between your first and last progress photos. So much muscle tone! Thank you for sharing.

  7. great post Katie! I have been following Kayla bc you posted about her so I was wondering about how her program was. And btw, you have SICK abs! im jealous and motivated – thanks! I need to get on this ASAP! and thanks for sharing what YOU eat. I always am curious as to how I can adjust my meal plan. THANK YOU!

  8. So, I’m on week 10(repeated week 8 due to sickness) and I used to be able to do each set twice in the 7 minutes. Now, the struggle is real. Like these bosu pushups and burpee box jumps. I mean, that shit slows me way down now. But, now I feel bad about myself because I can’t get through 2 sets anymore. I can’t imagine what 2.0 will be like. Do you recommend turning the timer off and just getting through each set twice or just pushing through and getting done what you can in the 7 minutes?

  9. Julia Julia

    Are you done with the blog? 🙁

  10. thanks for this! Great to see real progress pics 🙂 Been thinking of getting the guides (ever since I found out that I no longer fit into my clothes!!!! :P) but read on another review that the nutrition guide only allocates 1200 calories a day (!?) so wanted to ask if that was true, based on your experience? Thanks 🙂 And CONGRATS on the amazing bod 🙂

  11. Hi,

    Thanks for your Kayla Itsines review. I am thinking of buying Kayla Itsines workout guide however I’ve read some bad reviews of her guide, one example is http://www.bikinibodyguides.com/kayla-itsines-review/

    Do you really recommend her guide? Is it really good? Will it help me to lose weight fast? I really need something that is effective.. Please reply.

    Thanks

    • Katie Katie

      Everyone’s different and everyone enjoys different types of workouts. For example, if you love lifting heavy weights (like Crossfit) you’ll completely hate this. Personally, I have had nothing but a positive experience with this program and recommend it to all my friends. So I’m not just randomly posting it on the blog for strangers. If you were my friend in real life and asked me how I work out and what you should do, I would send you to this. It doesn’t mean you’ll like it too, but so far all my friends who have tried it do.

      • Kim Kim

        Katie, thanks for the review. My concern is the same as Irene Flores but I’m more worried about the cost. I just read everything on the link she posted and another site http://www.bikinibodyguidereview.com which is also a review. I was really excited about buying Kayla’s program but I’m starting to think the cheaper alternative might be the same? Have you seen or heard about the Jen Ferrugia bikini body workouts mentioned in the other review site?
        Thanks,
        Kim

    • Remai Remai

      Again, that is a fake website to advertise the Jen Ferrugia exercise program. If you look at the photo of the woman on the front page, you’ll see it’s actually Amber Heard, a famous actress, and not the author s they’re obviously lying.

  12. Tori Tori

    Ok so I just got
    This and am a bit confused, do I just get the PDF download or will I get a hard copy in the mail?!

    • Katie Katie

      Just the PDF download

  13. Kathryn Kathryn

    Hi, do you think I can do the workout after dinner? and how long should I wait after dinner to start the workout?

  14. Madeleina Snowdon Madeleina Snowdon

    Thank you! I have been thinking of purchasing this program but was unsure about the nutrition aspect (I hate cooking/ thinking about food and subsequently eat incredibly poorly). The apparent ease and relative tastiness look promising for me to actually stick with the nutrition. Thank you again!

  15. Kia Kia

    Thank you, this was sooo helpful! I am in week 3 of the first guide tomorrow and I found your blog because I searched whether other people also felt stronger aftr only 2 weeks. Because I do! It is really amazing 🙂

    Kia | Traviness

  16. Yuen Yuen

    Hiya! I would like to know at what pace do you do the 7 mins circuits? Is it meant to be full on 100% intensity for the whole 7 mins, or is the idea just to keep going and not stop (i.e you can go slower if you’re tired) Thank you!

    • Katie Katie

      I think Kayla’s response would be yes to both: go as hard as you can and don’t stop. I have to step back and catch my breath for a few seconds sometimes but I mostly try to go straight through.

  17. Renata Renata

    Great review!!! Congrats, you do have great abs!!! 🙂

    What hour of the day do you workout? What do you eat right before and after?

    Did you find it hard to me substutions in the meal plan?

    Thanks

  18. Is her work out plan only consist of three days/week work out? I want to start but a little bit confuse. can someone help me with an answer ?

  19. Jenny Jenny

    So I just started the program and of course there are skeptics out there saying it doesn’t work and everything. I just want to ask since I trust for judgement from your experience -will it work? I don’t want to put my efforts into it hoping to have a transformation and end up being disappointed. Thank you so much! I appreciate it

    • Have you seen results? I’m interested but unsure if it’s worth it.

    • Jenny, I just started doing it. I am on week 6 and I have already seen results so yes, it does work. I am NOT following her diet plan (it is sort of basic and silly to me haha) but I am cleaning up my diet on my own, etc. I have taken before photos and week 5 photos and I notice a big difference. I know you wrote this in January but I hope you tried it!

  20. Em Em

    Do you drink alcohol while doing this diet/routine?

  21. Cindy Cindy

    really appreciate this unbiased review and how its worked for you and price and everything! Its refreshing to see an honest post about Kaylas BBG as i am thinking about purchasing as well! Thanks!

  22. Wendy Adams Wendy Adams

    Can I ask a possibly stupid question? Do you only do each circuit one time through in 7 minutes or do you keep repeating the exercises till the timer goes off? Today I did circuit 1 twice through then circuit 2 twice through then circuit 1 twice and circuit 2 twice. It took 47 minutes. Should I be slowing down and only doing each circuit 1 time in 7 minutes?

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