Summer Ahead: 8 Steps to a Leaner Body
Summer might seem like light years away, but the season of pool parties, barbecues, and beach trips will be here before you know it. Here are eight easy ways to ditch extra flab and pack on lean muscle before the warmer weather hits.
Take a “Before” Picture
Maybe you’ve been talking about getting fit for a while. If you’re like most guys, you’ve said the words “I’ll start training on Monday,” more times than not. But once you snap your Before picture, there’s no looking back. Even if you hate getting your photo taken on the best of days, this step shouldn’t be ignored. Weeks down the road, your Before pic will be a powerful visual reminder of how far you’ve come. While your scale weight might not have budged much with your newfound muscle (after all, muscle weighs more than fat), a photo will show improvements to your overall frame. You don’t have to make your Before pic public, but it’s a good idea to have someone else take it versus going the selfie route. Wear comfortable clothes (like shorts or a bathing suit) that show your body well – especially your stomach region – and take photos of your front, side, and back to get the full effect.
Share Your Goal
Verbalizing your goal can be scary. Once it’s out there, you’re going to feel obligated to follow through. That, of course, is the point. Sure, you can work out in secret … but you’ll have greater success if you let at least one person in on your get-fit mission. Tell your girlfriend, spouse, buddy, co-worker, or whoever else you trust to hold you accountable. You’re not looking for someone to be a drill sergeant; just to give you a friendly push when needed, or to motivate you when you’re tempted to quit. The arrangement can be as casual or as formal as you like – a friendly “get off the couch” text here and there, or a pre-arranged day once per week to provide a status update. If your accountability partner can join you in the gym, even better. Not only will you have a built-in spotter, you’ll be more likely to exercise longer and have more fun in the process.
Keep Things Simple
You know the quote, Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS)? Originally coined by the US Navy in 1960, this motto states that “most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than complicated.” The KISS principle works well in all facets of life, including health and fitness. As you put your new program into motion, strive for simplicity. In the nutrition department, that means easy recipes with a handful of simple, natural ingredients – or supplements that can go where you go. If you’re looking at too much prep time or hassle, move on. When your nutrition plan becomes too complicated, you’ll quickly go back to your old eating habits. The same goes for your workout plan, which we’ll touch on more in a bit. Try to incorporate simple exercises that you can master quickly, good form and all.
Of course, a summer physique doesn’t happen all on its own. That would be too easy. Instead, you’ve got to commit to exercise five to six days per week, with a rest day somewhere in the mix to give your hard-working muscles a break. A combination of cardio and weight training will do the trick if your goal is to lose stubborn fat (we’re looking at you, love handles) and build some eye-catching muscle (bigger chest, back and biceps, to name a few). There’s no shortage of workout tips online, but the videos found here are great for covering all the basics. Just progress at your own pace, and try not to compare yourself to other guys at the gym. Put in the effort, and your results will show soon enough.
Do a Clean Sweep
Junk food lovers, listen up. We know those chips and cookies taste delicious, but the reward of a new summer physique will be so much sweeter! You can enjoy your favorite foods in moderation, but the cleaner your diet, the better. Stock your kitchen with high-quality protein (such as chicken breasts, egg whites, tuna, protein shakes, and protein bars), complex carbs (such as whole grain rice and sweet potatoes), fruits and veggies (the greener, the better), and healthy fats (i.e. Omega-3 fatty acids). If a shiny new set of rock-hard abs is your goal, resist the urge to binge right before bed. Your last snack or meal should be approximately three hours before you hit the sack.
Fill Up on Fiber
Do you struggle to consume the recommended 25 grams of fiber per day? Most of us do. Unfortunately, we’re also missing out on a host of health benefits. Fiber supports weight management, helps keep you full in between meals, lowers your blood sugar, promotes regularity, and supports the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria. Some high-fiber foods include broccoli, beans, and lentils, but an easy, cook-free way to up your fiber intake is to add some fresh spinach to your morning protein shake. Once you hit “Blend,” those spinach leaves will be diced so small you won’t even taste them!
Shop for Success
A word to the wise: Don’t grocery shop on an empty stomach. Nothing good can come from going in hungry. You’ll end up buying foods that don’t mesh with your program, and then feel compelled to eat them since you spent money on them. Want some other helpful grocery shopping tips? Do the bulk of your shopping around the perimeter of the store, since that’s where the fresher foods are located – i.e. fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy. It’s also best to shop for what’s in season, as these products typically retain more nutrients. Lastly, take the extra time to do some light reading – of food labels, that is. Just because the packaging contains the word “healthy,” that doesn’t mean you can fill your cart with it. Turn the pack around and check out the Nutrition Facts. You’ll want to pay special attention to Protein (the more the better), as well as Carbohydrates, Sugar, and Trans Fats (the less the better).
Ignore Your Scale
Fast forward to Week 4 of your get-lean program. You’ve been eating healthy and hitting the gym like a champ, and you’re positive the scale will reward you for it. But then the unthinkable happens. The number your scale spits back at you is only two pounds less than what you started out at! What gives? As alluded to before, scale weight isn’t always a good indicator of fitness level. If you’re losing fat while gaining muscle, the numbers won’t show a huge drop. Your weight might even increase. Depending on how your body stores water, your weight will also fluctuate from day to day. That’s why it’s better to focus on how many inches you’ve lost around your waist, or how your clothes fit. If you suddenly need to tighten your belt buckle, then you’re on the right track … regardless of what your scale says. Stay positive and focused. Your summer physique is ahead!
About the Author
Nicole Kepic is a freelance copywriter who specializes in health, wellness, and lifestyle writing. She has also had articles published in a variety of fitness and bodybuilding magazines. When she’s not busy writing for her clients, Nicole is either keeping active with her family, curling up with a great mystery novel, or dreaming of her next sunny vacation. To learn more, visit www.nicolekepic.com