Believe it or not, Summer is almost here. The best weather should soon be with us. Have you started getting in shape for the beach season? If not, it is time to leap into action!
Every year droves of people decide to get in shape for the summer, ultimately to look good in a bikini or a pair of beach shorts. Women want to lose weight on hips and waist, men want to tone their chests, arms and lose their beer bellies. Often the natural approach is to drastically cut back on calories. However, this is not the best way to tackle the issue, as the photo above shows. In short, if you want a fantastic beach body you have to work hard for it. That means a lot of hours exercising.
Lean and Natural Diet
While dieting alone will not get you in great shape, it is still absolutely vital to start eating healthily. A natural diet is one that consists mostly of foods that are still close to their natural state when you buy them. Such foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, dry pulses (or tinned), fresh meats, poultry and fish.
Cut out all junk food. This means anything from a fast food restaurant, all packaged ready meals, all sodas and candy, all chips and snacks. Ideally you should start the day with an oat based breakfast, muesli is a good option, but make sure there is no added sugar or salt. Organic options are generally best, not because organic is better in itself, but because they are careful not to add chemicals and sugars.
Drinks should consist mostly of water, coffee, tea and fruit juices (no added sugar). Coffee drinkers should stop drinking lattes and instead have a more modest portion of low fat milk.
To help keep energy levels up and reduce hunger pangs a low GI diet is very helpful. This is really a healthy diet that people ate as a matter of course prior to the 1950’s, i.e. before food production stopped being agricultural and started being more industrial in nature.
Do not be tempted to take protein supplements to try to aid weight loss – unless you start doing a lot of weight training they really are not needed. With a balanced diet you will get enough protein without the need of supplements.
The best way to lose weight is really to have 3 meals a day, a healthy cereal based breakfast, a proper lunch with some carbohydrates, protein and fats (chicken salads or fish and vegetables are good options) and a light supper that is also well balanced. Snacks should be fruits, nuts, a glass of juice or a fruit smoothie, and nothing more.
The Exercise Plan
The first rule of exercise is that you MUST do it every day. You do not have to do the same exercise every day, but you absolutely must do something if you plan to lose fat and tone up quickly. Every athlete and fit celebrity has to exercise daily to achieve their bodies and fitness, so you should not expect a miracle transformation with just 2 exercise sessions a week. For inspiration we look to Gwyneth Paltrow who once shared her own fitness philosophy;
“It’s not luck, it’s not fairy dust, it’s not good genes. It’s killing myself for an hour and a half five days a week” ~ Gwyneth Paltrow
OK, she trains 5 days a week, however, she is already in great shape. If you need to lose fat and tone up your muscles then increase to 7 days a week. We have already discussed at some length what your weekly fitness routine should look like, so here is a brief guide.
- Every day do at least 20-30 minutes of cardio exercise
- Every day do at least 20-30 minutes of resistance / bodyweight training
- Do not do the same workouts 2 days in a row
- Do some Metabolic Conditioning – intensive intervals to boost fitness and weight loss
Really you should be aiming to do 60 minutes of exercise each day, 30 minutes cardio and 30 minutes resistance training. Cardio includes running, swimming, cycling, using an elliptical, playing squash etc. Resistance training includes weight training, bodyweight exercises, yoga and Pilates.
For quicker weight loss you should consider doing 2 workouts a day. A morning cardio session and an evening resistance session works well. Cardio in the morning can really give you a boost of energy and make you feel more alert, as well as raising your metabolism so that you burn more calories during the day. Also, cardio is generally a simpler form of exercise, so can be done with little thought, i.e. when you first wake up in the morning. If your first thoughts are “I don’t have time to exercise in the morning!” then remember why you are doing it and set your alarm clock for 45 minutes earlier than normal!
Typical Daily Routine
This is how your day should look if you are aiming to lose weight quickly, safely and in a healthy and sustainable way:
- Early morning – 30 minutes of cardio – running is a popular choice
- Breakfast – something light such as a bowl of muesli or an egg on toast.
- Lunch – chicken salad without and dressing (not even olive oil!)
- Dinner – meat / fish and 2 veg
- Evening – 45-60 minutes of weight training, bodyweight exercises or intensive fitness class
- Supper – very, very light snack, such as some cottage cheese, small whey protein drink or a piece of fish – no carbs.
So 2 workouts in a day, a healthy diet throughout the day. Yes, you will probably feel hungry at times, but the key to success is learning to ignore a few minor hunger pangs and remember that once your body realises that more food is not available it will start breaking down fat.
Summer is a great time to start doing some new activities outside. Being more active in general is an effective way to stay fitter and slimmer and if you start some activities now you may still have the motivation to continue doing them through the winter.
Some outdoor activities to consider trying:
- Hiking – take weekend trips to the countryside / hills and do some mountain walking
- Cycling – buy a bike and cycle along the many rural cycle ways and country roads
- Gardening – if your garden requires a major makeover, do it yourself. Working in the garden for 3-4 hours each weekend will burn a lot of calories.
- Walk the dog – a daily walk with your dog burns calories. Having a dog forces you to go out at least once a day!
- Rowing – just about every major town has its own rowing club, get out on the water
- Camping – experience the great outdoors, just going camping at the weekend means you will be more active and burn more calories.
- Play sports – find a local sports club and join up. There are so many team sports to pick and many are willing to take new players.
If you are looking for specific workouts then check out our fitness articles and strength section where you can find everything from a 20 minute home workout to a 3 day a week weight training plan (hint: combine these with running and you have a pretty solid weekly plan!).