Kayla Itsines has been a weightloss guru and "fit-fluencer" for going on 6-7 years. Her wildly famous SWEAT program which started as a PDF and has since been turned into a convenient app. I joined the Kayla cult and did the "SWEAT" app for the full 3 months. I have a lot of feelings (some good and some bad) that I think need to be discussed as I haven't seen this in the countless reviews that I've read myself.
(For the purposes of this review I'll be using SWEAT and BBG interchangeably - SWEAT is the name of the app but BBG aka her Bikini Body Guide is what the community is known as and what her program used to be called)
1. First and foremost, the program in app form has a great user experience (UX). The fitness regime is broken down into three sessions of H.I.I.T (high intensity interval training) that target your abs, legs and arms. Then there are three sessions of L.I.S.S (low intensity steady state cardio) with the option for a 4th. In total, you're doing 28 min of HIIT three times a week and 35 minutes of LISS at least three times a week. That's a lot of workouts, but it's easily tracked in the app. There's also set challenges like 600 rep workouts, additional H.I.I.T training as well as yoga and recovery - there's pretty much something for everyone.
2. The BBG community is fantastic at encouraging you to share your progress and motivate yourself and others. Not just through the app but across social media as well. With an enormous community rallying behind you, you're not suffering alone (because let's be honest, there's a lot of pain to be had in just 28 minutes - you think you're going to die from this workout but somehow....just...don't...🤷). I managed to rope my partner into it who is insanely fit and HE struggled. It's a refreshing feeling to have hundreds of thousands of people having a shared experience with motivation and help to fall back on.
3. It works. Oh man, it works. BUT (and it's a big but) your progress depends on a) how realistic your goals were to start, b) the body composition you started out with (regarding your fat and muscle mass), c) your nutrition and d) how often you stick to the program (some of this is also a con which I will discuss further down). Within 12 weeks, I noticed a massive difference in my overall fitness - my lung capacity, my cardiovascular health and my mental health from all the endorphins I was pumping six days a week. From the aesthetic side - my abs started coming through and my legs looked more defined.
4. There are lots of workout options. Depending on how you like to work out and your fitness level, you can do basic SWEAT with Kayla or you can turn it up a notch and do SWEAT in the gym using weights, or take advantage of the other trainers that have hopped on board the SWEAT train with Kayla. You can do weight lifting or weightlifting at home, *almost* bodybuilding or yoga. There's also mindfulness and stretching for when you're feeling sore. It really is more than just a 1 type fits all fitness app.
1. The price is affordable - for some. Some people don't have 5 extra bucks to spare a week so I use the word affordable with hesitation. If you're spending $20 a month on an app and then all the extras like scales (food and body), weights, resistance bands, or a gym membership - the price starts to really stack up. Depending on what you have access to in your house and your fitness level, you can potentially get the same results without a gym membership or the SWEAT app. Just take into account what your actual body goals are. If it's just to lose weight (if you're starting from a much heavier weight) you can walk, run and use your own body weight for training, therefore, you definitely don't need the app. If you want super defined muscle definition then you're probably going to need some weights and maybe the gym - but still not the app. Think of the SWEAT app as paying extra for a trainer because you don't know how to get there and need extra help.
2. I wasn't joking when I said the cult of Kayla - when you join and you see the before and after pics of some absolutely AMAZING transformations, you start thinking that this is what you're going to look like after three months. Progress photos are encouraged to be taken in a certain way (i.e. feet together so we can see that #thighgap) and quite often the captions in the photo don't explicitly explain how long it's been between progress photos - you often have to actively look for yourself. You're thinking that this woman has had an amazing transformation in just 12 weeks but in reality, the woman in the photo is often on her second or third (or even fourth!) round of BBG. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, I'm saying that for a lot of people coming into this with no prior knowledge of fitness or realistically how long it takes for your body to look like a fitness influencer is misleading. Yes, you can look like a fitness model, but not in 12 weeks. Side note: you should be exercising and eating healthily for your physical and mental wellbeing. Looking good should be secondary on your priority list to ensure the progress you make is actually sustainable.
There's a part two to this - I (like many other women whose reviews I've since read so I know it wasn't just me) felt like there's an unspoken need to "please" Kayla. I started adopting unsafe and unhealthy fitness practices for the sake of trying to look like one of Kayla's amazing transformations. At the end of my 12 weeks, I thought it was me who had failed - I hadn't in the slightest though. I was so much stronger, faster and healthier. But I felt like I had somehow let Kayla down because at the end of my three months I didn't look how I thought I was supposed to. To the credit of the Instagram transformations, they do show all shapes and sizes. Yet there is definitely an element of pushing yourself unnecessarily hard for the sake of approval that you don't actually need. You are your own cheerleader and the only one you should be competing with is yourself.
3. The nutrition part has me worried, to be honest. If you know anything about nutrition, you'll know that if you're burning a lot of calories and you're not eating a lot you're going to see rapid results. I'm not saying that the BBG program promotes crash dieting. However, the nutrition section of the app (it gives you a meal plan with food ideas) doesn't give you a lot of food to play with - you're looking at roughly 1200-1400 calories a day. This is NOT enough if you're working out six days a week, simple as. A lot (not all) of the results come from overtraining vs undereating.
4. This leads into the final point I have against the program - there is NO FITNESS EDUCATION. It is simply a workout and fitness planner in an app. The type of exercises available is varied which is a great plus - however, the method to get you "bikini ready" in 12 weeks is one size fits all. Unfortunately, everyone is different and the human body doesn't work like that. This isn't necessarily a problem if you know what you're doing or have a background in fitness/nutrition. However, so many are joining this program with no prior knowledge and don't understand how the body gets and uses energy, or how macronutrients work for the overall result of your body composition. Nor does it address the importance of calories and why not all calories are created equally. It doesn't mention anything about basal metabolic rates, the body mass index or nutrition in general. It is simply a one-size-fits-all workout program with basic nutrition guidance thrown in. I myself am a shortie. I'm only 5'3" which means my BMR is naturally very low. Someone with my body type shouldn't be doing so much cardio (hi increasingly ravenous hunger, how are ya?) and eating so little because I don't have very many calories to start with. Everyone's body is different so take this into account before starting.
Would I recommend this program? I would, but with some disclaimers. I would get an understanding of my BMR, TDEE and BMI before starting, ensuring I follow a good meal plan that works for MY body and just trust the process. I started seeing abs and better muscle definition, I was fitter, stronger and faster yet I didn't look like an Instagram model. But then again, I wasn't supposed to after 12 weeks. Or even at all, I'm ok to just be a healthier version of me, I don't need to look like Alexis Ren to think I succeeded and neither do you. Everybody is different, everybody's fitness journey is different and that's ok.
This is my before and after photo:
There's nothing wrong with my before, I just didn't feel healthy and happy in my own skin. After, as I mentioned, my cardiovascular and general fitness improved. My abs and legs looked more defined - but didn't have the definition I thought I'd have. That's cool - now I know. It's only post program, and having studied fitness and nutrition that I gained a better understanding of everything I mentioned above and started seeing the results I personally wanted. Education is so important.
Download it and learn to enjoy the fitness journey and learn how your body personally responds to better nutrition and daily exercise - not as a cure-all or quick weightloss fix. There's no miracle in a jar here. Hard work, dedication and consistency. That's it.