Bodybuilder Anita Albrecht, Who An NHS Nurse Branded As Obese, Talks BMI And Keeping Healthy

Super fit Anita Albrecht, a competitive bodybuilder and personal trainer, hit the headlines after an NHS nurse branded her as obese.

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According to the nurse, Anita needed to 'eat less', which - apart from insulting her - showed that BMI is a poor standard of measurement as it doesn't break down muscle and fat.

Here, she spoke to HuffPost UK Lifestyle about her views on BMI and what she does to keep fit.

You recently were in the news because a nurse called you obese despite being fit. What does that say to you about the 'healthy guidelines' the government works to?

The guidelines are heavily flawed, lacking for individuals and sadly letting a huge percentage of the public down. There has to be a better way to diagnose people as individuals and BMI is not the way to do it. Hydrostatic weighing is the best option but not practical and very expensive. I do all my clients with body composition tests which is in my opinion the next best option.

This includes doing their measurements top to toe, and more importantly calliper testing which measures the amount of body fat they have vs muscle. It is not 100% correct but is far more correct than BMI could ever wish to be! This method helps me work out an individual's overall body fat percentage, muscle and fat mass in accordance with their overall weight to understand what their body is made up of and what I need to help them do about it.

How did you get into fitness? Was it something you were always into?

Fitness has always been one of the biggest things in my life. Even at the age of three years old I was hanging off the clothes line outside from one leg giving my mother a near heart attack so she got me into gymnastics straight away.

I did competitive gymnastics until I was around 13 years old and also did ballet and modern dancing for many years from a young age into my late teens. Fast forward to high school and I was playing cricket, touch rugby and soccer and just before I left high school and went to University, I started training with weights. I have had a love of iron ever since.

You also do 'natural' bodybuilding - what made you get into this, and how do you find it empowering?

When I hit puberty, despite always being sporty, gaining weight and losing it all became a constant battle. Having dabbled with weight training at my local health club I decided through advice from a friend at the age of 19 that I would go to a more 'hardcore' gym to see a guy called Shawn who was a brilliant personal trainer for advice to really get into shape.

He took one look at me and said "you are short and muscular and will never be a skinny girl. Why don't you give bodybuilding a try?".

Horrified at the thought I dismissed it then after some thought decided to give it a go! I trained and dieted hard for 4 months and did my first small competition in New Zealand at the age of 20. It was the only thing that truly changed my body shape and many years later after another few more years of battling up and down with weight and trying other sports and ways of fitness, I returned once again to my love of lifting in 2004 for good as it is the only thing that works for my body to keep it looking and feeling its very best - I have not looked back since.

Natural (drug free) bodybuilding challenges not only the body physically but also the mind and the crossover of the total discipline it requires rubs off into every other area of my life and the lives of those around me which is an incredibly positive and empowering aspect of my sport. The feeling of not only looking strong but being strong and having muscle tone to me is incredibly beautiful on a woman.

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Pregnant bodybuilder mum back in shape after just four months

What is natural bodybuilding for those who don't know?

There is an enormous difference. A true natural bodybuilder which is what I do is someone who has never used drugs of any kind in their sport to build muscle or get lean. It is done purely with hard work! In fact, natural bodybuilding can be so much harder as there is no assistance from drugs to achieve a certain result.

When it comes to natural competitions, the federations I have competed with have drug testing and some go even so far as to polygraph their competitors to ensure they are drug free.

In your opinion, what is the biggest misinformation around body fat and calorie intake?

One of my biggest pet peeves is BMI (body mass index). I cannot fathom it is still used especially in the medical profession. It purely takes into account weight and height only but does not even consider body composition (muscle vs fat) at all. For this reason it deems many people either underweight or overweight who may not be at all.

It does not relate reliably for a huge part of the population, in particular athletes or very active people nor anyone with a certain amount of muscle and should not be used as a means of testing individuals as it does not give an accurate or individual result.

If a person's result ends up with them being overweight or obese and they are actually not due to their composition then it could give them the wrong amount of calories recommended to consume on a daily basis (often too little if they come out as obese with BMI when they are not by true body composition).

This can result in telling people to eat too little calories when in fact it doesn't support their lifestyle, sport or retain their muscle mass if they have a high muscle to fat ratio. I know from personal and professional experience that you do not have to count calories to lose weight and I do not believe that is the easiest lifestyle method for most people to adopt forever.

Yes, calorie counting has its place but it is not always practical for most people to stick to day to day. So by watching portion control and quality of foods as an alternative and instead of focusing on calories, eating the right portion sizes of the right macronutrients (proteins, carbs and fats), consuming unprocessed foods, drinking lots of clean water and avoiding alcohol a person can easily be healthy and in great shape inside and out. I have done it for years and I advocate and encourage this method with my own clients and it has never failed.

On average, how much do you train and what do you do?

I train 5-6 days a week. My training changes around every six to eight weeks depending on my goals or if I am in off season or in competition season. I weight train between 3-5 times a week and teach 4 Metafit (intense body weight HIIT classes) a week and in addition to this and my weight training I add 'drills' into my training regime which include lots of cardio-type movements.

This is done instead of doing the traditional LSD (long slow duration) cardio which a lot of bodybuilders like to do. I prefer the metabolic effects from drill training instead as well as finding them much more exciting, rewarding and they keep me super fit!!! This might include Crossfit moves, battle ropes, box jumps, kettle bell work, sprints, medicine ball work, plyometrics, body weight training and even tyre-flipping or skipping drills.

Occasionally I throw in the odd boxing session too as my partner is a coach and gets me exhausted with a half hour session.

What is your daily diet like?

At the moment this is my average day which only varies slightly and as much of it as possible is organic.

Breakfast: 20-30g gluten free oats, scoop Vyomax whey protein, 1 tsp Udo's and sometimes a few fresh blueberries. Snack 1: 6-8 almonds. Lunch: small grilled chicken breast, lots of broccoli, green beans or other green veggies, 1 tsp Udo's.

Sometimes I have turkey or white fish for dinner or even salmon 1 to 2 times a week for not only variety but the Omega 3's that oily fish provides are good for joints, hair, nails, brain and energy. I occasionally have a little brown rice with lunch if I feel I need the extra energy but I've always been quite sensitive to too many carbs so my main carbohydrate sources are my oats, rice cakes, vegetables and fresh berries.

If I miss more than a meal/snack throughout the day I have a couple of tablespoons of plain organic full fat Greek yoghurt in the evening after dinner with some fresh blueberries or raspberries for gut health and extra antioxidants. I also have daily lots of vitamin c, vitamin b complex and fish oil tablets. Daily consumption of water is always around 3 - 4 litres too.

What are the benefits for women having muscles?

Apart from the fact that they look fantastic and keep a woman looking super sexy and toned they are the most metabolic thing a woman can do for her body. A pound of fat burns only 1 calorie at rest in a day where as a pound of muscle burns 50 calories.

Muscle is much more dense than fat and therefore takes up less room. It does not weigh more, it is the same pound for pound. So, if muscle take up less room than fat, then get weight training ladies as weight training will make you smaller not bigger.

Weight training and gaining lean muscle for ladies means it is easier to lose fat, less chance of osteoporosis, an elongated life, better posture, better sleep, fabulous energy levels, healthier metabolism and not to mention a heightened sex drive. I could go on and on and on.....what is there not to like about building lean muscle I say? It won't make you look like a man as the testosterone levels in a woman do not allow us ladies to build 'bulk'. I should know!

As someone who has been bodybuilding for over two decades, it's extremely hard to build even a pound of muscle naturally and when I am in my best ever shape for a competition I fit the smallest dress size I have ever been! The benefits are endless.

Here is an example of how much room fat takes up compared with the same amount in pounds of muscle:

You don't drink for nine months of the year, why is that?

If I am competing, the competition season can mean dieting for anything up to 9 months of the year. If that is the case, alcohol is out of the question. If I am in off season I enjoy 1-2 glasses of red wine occasionally.

What words of encouragement do you have for women too scared to go to the gym?

Don't be! I used to be overweight, lacking confidence and turned my life around. I now devote my life and career to helping others do the same. If we can, so can you.

Lift those weights, become in your best ever shape and health inside and out, get your composition done regularly, forget BMI and enjoy the changes the gym can make for you. Cardio is not going to change your shape, weights will and you may even get noticed for the right reasons while you are at it.