Many of us likely have fitness or sporting heroes we look up to, those we wish to emulate, and whose workouts we try and replicate in the gym in the hope of seeking sweet, sweet gains. The Internet isn’t short of them either, you’ve got Hollywood royalty such as The Rock, Chris Hemsworth and Mark Wahlberg, all the way through to fitness fanatics who live on Instagram, such as George Bamfo, Josh Golberg or Jo Lindner.
But what about those who really understand what it requires to be physically fit and mentally strong in order to succeed at the highest level? Enter Anthony Minichiello. The former Sydney Roosters wing turned fullback, who had a glittering career playing at both club and country level for around 15 years, is someone who is living proof that you need to be constantly dedicated to the cause. He also understands that a few bicep curls or the odd barbell bench press, isn’t going to be enough to get yourself into fighting fit shape.
So, just how do you trick your body into becoming ripped like the man himself? DMARGE spoke exclusively with Mini to find out what he used to do during his playing career to keep himself strong, and how he continues to maintain that level of fitness now that he’s in retirement.
Reflecting on the aforementioned bicep curls and bench presses, Mini doesn’t actually hit the weights room all that often: “I like to mix my training up nowadays from one strength session a week, mixed with 3 to 4 bodyweight MiniFit workouts.”
“Weekends are a bit of fun, with some gymnastic strength training,” – he was formally a gymnast in his younger days – “core workouts pretty much every night in front of the TV, and tennis once or twice a week.”
“You want to get into a healthy movement habit, something everyday even if it’s a stretch at night before bed. It will set you up for long term muscle and connective tissue health.”
Anthony also recognises that training is only some of the battle to maintaining a good level of fitness. The kitchen is where it really counts, and so ensuring you’re eating the right foods and good quality foods, you’re going to set yourself up for success.
Anthony has found an intermittent fasting diet to be particularly effective for him, although he doesn’t stick to a super strict regime.
“I practice intermittent fasting daily, but I don’t stick to a specific window. I listen to my body, some days you’re just hungrier than others, that’s normal, so I will eat. Other days it’s a 16 to 18 hour fast. I’ve done a few 3-day fasts before as well, and by the end you feel amazing and you realise that most of us overeat each day.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I love food as well, but my minimum daily [fasting window] is 12 hours, just so I can give my digestion system a good rest from food and allow my body to heal and turn over cellular debris. That’s what fasting does, when the body’s energy is not spent on digesting food, it can go and heal and decrease oxidative stress and inflammation that cause chronic illness.”
“It’s an amazing tool to have in your kit bag, don’t overdo it, but weave it into your life.”
We wanted to further question Anthony on his fasting habits, and, gaining from knowledge from an episode of the Huberman Lab podcast, in which Stanford University professor Andrew Huberman says it’s better to contain your eating period to the time in which you’re most active, i.e. the morning, we wanted to find out what sort of schedule Anthony adheres to.
“Fasting can be incorporated into anyone’s lifestyle. I find it easier to skip or push breakfast back each morning, but some people have an early dinner, or breakfast and late lunch. It’s totally up to the individual and what is comfortable for them.”
“I would say eating late and trying to get a good night’s sleep won’t happen, as you will still be digesting your food and your sleep hormones will be suppressed. So it’s important to leave 2 to 3 hours of no food before bed each night to get quality sleep and have a good circadian rhythm.”
While intermittent fasting might define when you eat, it doesn’t dictate what you eat. Within this, there are numerous diets that all claim to have benefits for us, with prominent figures many men look to these days starting to encourage an ancestral style diet comprising foods such as liver. For Anthony, he doesn’t stick to any one in particular.
“There are so many diets out there that confuse people…paleo, keto, vegetarian, vegan, carnivore, high carb, low carb…to be honest, I will go in and out of most of them. I have my own four principals that I follow; the simple thing that we all need to be doing is eating whole fresh food, but even that can be a minefield when you look into the food system.”
“So, my four steps are: Know the source of your food; the process of the food; decrease refined and processed foods; intermittent fast. This might not mean much when reading, but with my new online nutrition challenge launching early next year, I go deep into the reasons for the four steps and will give people the practical tools to create healthy habits moving forward. Plus I will be a qualified nutritionist by then as well.”
Similar to figuring out an effective training routine, playing trial and error with your food can becoming exhausting, as you may not see results straight away, causing you to jump to conclusions and assume your chosen method isn’t working. Anthony’s advice for those starting out is to simply eat clean.
“When I retired 7 years ago I already had a passion for nutrition because I healed my injuries with food, but I just know how good I feel when I’m on point with my eating, you just feel clear and have heaps of energy throughout the day. Nothing is too hard to do and I want live to well over 100, so you have to start now.”
“To be honest, when you eat this way, you’re much more in tune with your body and how food makes you feel physically and mentally. When you eat processed food all weekend, you really know and feel the difference, so you don’t really want to do that every week. That’s not to say I don’t have a bad meal every now and then, that’s fine, because I know my foundation is strong from consistent good nutrition.”
Anthony is also keen to stress the importance of routine, especially during the morning when you’re starting your day.
“There are plenty of lifestyle practices that I do from cold showers to red and infra-red light, meditation, natural sunlight for vitamin D, bare foot on grass on sand, good hydration throughout the day.”
“As for my morning routine, when I wake I do 1 to 2 minutes of diaphragmatic breathing: 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out, to oxygenate the body. I brush my teeth and drink 400 to 500ml of hydrogen rich water with a pinch of Celtic sea salt. I have red and infra-red light panels in my bathroom, so I turn these on and do 10-minutes of meditation, then take a cold shower.”
“After this process I feel great and ready to take on the day! Little things done consistently really create your foundation to health.”