Summer is nearly upon us! And while we’re not a fan of those gimmicky “BIKINI BODY!” posts, we do know that the promise of summer can be great motivation to get fit- and there’s nothing wrong with that!
With that in mind, we put together this basic guide to getting lean for summer.
Get Lean: A Basic Guide
The first and most effective step you can take is cleaning up your diet. There are a lot of little steps you can take, and we recommend doing each one at a time. Gradually cutting processed & unhealthy foods out of your diet – rather than going cold turkey – helps you to create new lifestyle habits without becoming overwhelmed.
Here’s a 6-week diet cleanup plan. Try cutting out – or even just cutting down on – the following items each week:
Week 1: Soda, diet soda, and/or energy drinks.
The number of calories on the label doesn’t matter – it’s been proven that both soda & diet sodas foster weight gain both through their high levels of sugar, as well as interfering with your ability to feel full (causing you to eat more).
Week 2: Cow milk & products made from cow’s milk.
An incredibly fattening substance meant to double or triple the weight of baby cows in mere weeks, this is not a substance an adult human should be drinking. Switch out cow milk & products (ice cream, etc.) with alternatives such as soy, almond, or rice milk.
Week 3: Margarine, shortening, & other high-trans fats foods.
Out of all the fats, trans fats by far the worst & should be avoided at all costs.
Week 4: High fructose corn syrup.
This little devil is known to cause double the weight gain in rats, compared to a control group whom ate the same number of calories only in white table sugar. Check the ingredients lists on all foods and choose ones without high fructose corn syrup.
Week 5: Refined grains (white bread, rice, etc.).
Empty carbs are doing nothing for you. Switch them out for whole grains. For example, whole-grain breads & tortillas, brown rice, etc.
Week 6: Sugary drinks such as mochas, frappucinos, vitamin water, fruit juice cocktails, etc.
Drinking your calories is the easiest way to consume an excess without even noticing. If you’re trying to cut down, cut out the beverages high in calories with no nutritional value.
When it comes to getting lean, consistency is key. This means that the best form of exercise for you is whatever you are most likely to do on a regular basis! However, if you do exercise on a regular basis & are not happy with the results, or there is not any form of exercise you particularly enjoy, then here are our suggestions.
1) Incorporate HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) into your workouts
Studies have shown that repeated short bursts of high intensity activity has a more dramatic effect on your weight & fitness than long bouts of steady-state cardio. It’s quite easy to turn your regular workout into a HIIT workout. For example:
- If you usually do a 10-15 minute steady-state run, adjust it so that you are alternating one minute of fast-pace running with one minute of easy-pace running.
- If you usually walk, then try turning it into intervals of 30-seconds of power walking & 60 seconds easy walking.
- If you prefer bodyweight workouts, try high-intensity variations of movements. For example, do jump squats instead of air squats, or plank-ups instead of a standard plank.
Below are three standard types of HIIT workouts. Try experimenting with one of these workout styles & see how you like it.
1) Turbulence Training:
8 reps of weight training alternated with 1-2 minute high intensity cardio, for 45 minutes maximum.
Example Turbulence Training workouts:
- Sets of 8 back squats x 2 minutes jump rope
- Sets of 8 deadlifts x 1 minute burpees
- Sets of 8 bench presses x 1:30 minutes sprints
2) Tabata Method:
Each “set” is 30 seconds long, and consists of 20 seconds work alternated with 10 seconds rest. Repeat sets eight times for a total of four minutes. For Tabata “rest” sets you stop moving completely, unlike the rest sets in other HIIT workouts, which are low-intensity but you continue moving.
Example Tabata workouts:
- 8 sets of jump squats + 8 sets of push ups
- Alternate sets of planks and sit ups, do 16 sets total
- Simply do 8 sets of burpees
3) Power Intervals:
90 seconds work alternated with 30 seconds rest, usually used for cardio activities such as running, walking, rowing, swimming, etc. Use maximum effort in the work sets, then 50% effort for the rest sets.
Example Power Interval Workouts:
- 10 minutes (5 sets) of running power intervals
- 4 minutes (2 sets) of jump squat power intervals
- 20 minutes (10 sets) of rowing power intervals
2) Don’t ignore strength training
It’s true that when it comes to weight loss, the conversation usually revolves around calories, and because of this people often choose cardio over strength training for the calorie-burning. However, while burning calories through cardio is good for losing fat, it won’t help you become shapely. Think of it this way: cardio will help you reduce your size, but it will not effectively change your shape. This is why a lot of people on cardio-heavy plans end up looking & feeling “skinny-fat” (thin arms & legs, but a flabby torso).
For shapeliness, strength training is key.
You can strength train both with free weights & bodyweight exercises. Here are our suggestions for whole-body strength moves.
- Jump squats
- Jump lunges
- Walking lunges
- Push ups
- Hollow rocks
- Pull ups
- Hanging leg raises
- Back, front, & overhead squat
- Bench Press
- Weighted lunges & walking lunges
- Weighted sit ups
Get Lean: In Summary
- Cut out the “unclean” foods from your diets- the added sugars, processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, liquid calories, and cow milk.
- Start doing HIIT workouts
- Incorporate some strength training