Everybody wants to look great in a bathing suit, but not everybody has been preparing their physiques for the summer season. If you're in the latter camp, that means you're probably looking for ways to burn some body fat before pool parties and lakeside barbecues become weekly events. Well, you're in luck!
Here are 16 ways you can fire up your fat burning before for the upcoming swimsuit season. Apply these tips and you'll soon find yourself looking damn fine in your Daisy Dukes or board shorts.
Believe it or not, water is the best fat-burning agent on the market. Your liver, which processes fat, needs a lot of water to function well. Dehydration slows the fat-burning process down and has negative effects on your muscles and joints. If you want to beat dehydration, drink up!
I'm sure you've heard the advice: Drink eight glasses of water per day. Although that's a great starting point, your weight, diet, activity level, and even your altitude will influence your hydration needs. Judge how much you should be drinking by the color of your urine. If it's pale yellow to clear, then you're probably drinking enough water. If it's a darker shade of yellow, you need to do more water drinking.
Staying well hydrated can also keep you from feeling hungry. "Thirst is often mistaken for hunger," says Gaspari athlete Ashley Kaltwasser, an IFBB Bikini Pro. "If you're feeling hungry, you well could be slightly dehydrated. If you suspect this may be the case, drink a few glasses of water before you eat."
Don't Be A Crash-Diet Dummy
Although fad crash diets like the grapefruit diet or the cabbage soup diet can help you slim down quickly, your leaner body won't last long. As soon as you introduce regular food back into your diet, you'll be worse off than you were before. Moreover, these crash diets are missing key nutrients that are essential for a healthy body.
Kaltwasser believes that using a diet you can maintain is the best way to lose fat. Sticking to a diet for longer than a week or two will help you burn fat faster and will allow you to maintain your lean physique for a long time.
Although it might seem like crazy talk, increasing the frequency of your meals can help you lean down. Don't get me wrong—eating frequently isn't as important as the quality of your food. Gaspari athlete Collin Wasiak, an IFBB Pro, says, "Quality is key. Complex carbs, healthy fats, and lean proteins spaced evenly throughout your day gives your metabolism a boost which in turn promotes fat loss." If you're still eating just three squares a day, it's time to change your routine.
Bodybuilding legend Rich Gaspari knows exactly how the frequency and quality of his meals will transform his body. "When my goal is to shed fat," he says, "I make sure I eat 6-8 times per day and keep my portions small. The increased meal frequency is great for boosting metabolism and I don't eat any meal so big that it's likely to store fat."
I hear a lot of people claim that if you want to lose fat, you have to do more reps with lighter weight. Wait, you're telling me that you'll get more benefits from doing 20 reps of biceps curls with 10-pound dumbbells than 10 reps with 20-pound dumbbells? It doesn't make sense. The more muscle you have on your body, the more energy it takes your body to operate. Lily lifting is not the answer.
Your weight should always be challenging, but don't sacrifice good form for heavier weight. Kaltwasser advises: "If you aren't using good form, you aren't stressing the muscles as you need to in order to receive good benefit." Without the mental connection to the muscle you're working during the exercise, you'll just be going through the movement pattern without stressing your muscles for growth.
Eat After You Train
The post-workout meal is critical for improving recovery, building muscle, and re-energizing after a tough lifting session. However, you can't rely on your post-workout nutrition to make your gains for you.
What you eat before you train and throughout your day is a huge factor in getting lean. In other words, if your nutrition isn't great, eating a protein-packed post-workout meal isn't going to do much.
One of Kaltwasser's favorite post-workout meals is a serving of cooked cream of rice mixed with a scoop of Gaspari Nutrition Cinnamon Roll Myofusion protein powder and a tablespoon of almond butter. This meal has it all: protein, carbs, and fats!
Do Compound Lifts
A great way to efficiently work more muscle fibers is to do compound lifts. Doing compound movements will allow you to lift more weight, creating a higher hormonal and metabolic response. That means more fat-burning for you!
Include lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and row in your program.
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When Wasiak really wants to crank up fat burning and dial in for a show or a photo shoot, he uses cardio to help him get there. "Perform cardio after you lift, not before ," he explains. "Performing cardio post-workout has helped me increase my fat-burning potential because I'm burning through my glycogen stores."
Doing your cardio training after your lifting workouts also allows you to maintain the most energy for when you need it—during those big compound exercises.
Gaspari, on the other hand, has a different style. "I prefer to do cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. When I want to get ripped, I start with 20-30 minutes five times per week. As fat loss slows, I add 10 minutes each cardio session. "
Everybody will have different needs and preferences for their cardio. Choose whichever method works best with your plan.
Shorten Your Rest Periods
Gaspari lives by this rule. "In the weight room, I shorten my rest periods and use advanced techniques like supersets, compound sets, and dropsets to build muscle and burn fat."
"The key here is to keep training hard and heavy—don't trick yourself into thinking that you have to use really light weights and high reps. If you put your mind to it, you can still train just as heavy at a fast pace."
Wasiak also utilizes this technique to burn fat. "High intensity with shorter rest periods maximizes your efforts in the gym," he says.
"It has worked very well for me when I'm dieting down for a show and trying to lose those stubborn pounds of body fat."
When it comes to fat burning, intensity is the name of your game.
Getting enough sleep at night is paramount for optimal fat burning. People who sleep less at night suffer a slower metabolism, a lower testosterone release (which assists in fat burning for both men as well as women to a smaller degree), and a higher level of hunger throughout the day. All of these factors will work against you if you're trying to lean down.
Prioritize sleep like you would your workouts. Yes, it's that important.
Supp with BCAAs
The branched chain amino acids L-Leucine, L-IsoLeucine, and L-Valine are extra important to muscle building and recovery because they're metabolized in the muscle instead of the liver. That means they can be used to build new proteins for energy!
Wasiak recommends taking BCAAs before and after your workout "to keep your body in an anabolic state so you can maximize fat burning." BCAAs can also help your muscles recover and can (indirectly) aid your hydration.
BCAAs are a great choice for those of us looking to stay lean because they don't have many calories. So put a scoop into your water bottle and enjoy!
Sip Green Tea
When it comes to your choice of morning beverages, consider swapping your usual cup of coffee for some green tea. Green tea is ideal for aiding your fat-burning goals because it can enhance your metabolic rate and provide strong antioxidant support for recovery from intense exercise. Even better, green tea is a much more hydrating beverage than coffee!
Too much stress can cause you to binge eat, drink more alcohol, or make poor lifestyle choices. Stress also causes a surge in the fat-storing hormone cortisol. When you have a high amount of cortisol in your system, it can quickly translate into muscle breakdown and extra storage of that tough-to-beat belly fat.
To manage your stress, schedule some stress-beating activities into your schedule. Take a bath, read, chat on the phone with a friend, play outside, take a walk, exercise, or take a nap. The better you can control stress, the better you'll feel and the faster you'll see progress.
Ditch The Scale
Although your goal for the summer is to look better in a tank top or bikini, the scale is not usually a great tool for measuring success. "For a lot of women, the number on the scale is just a mind game," says Kaltwasser.
"Don't let the number on the scale determine what kind of day you'll have." Remember: we're trying to alleviate stress here, not make it worse.
Worrying about your weight and how it fluctuates can also make sticking to a nutrition and workout plan difficult.
If you're not seeing changes on the scale, then it's a lot easier to just give up on your fitness goals altogether.
Instead of focusing on the number on the scale, use the mirror, your clothes, and how you feel to measure your improvements.
If your summer shorts fit much better than they did two weeks ago, that's progress—no matter what the scale says.
Carb Up Now And Then
A low-carb approach can be an effective fat-loss tool. However, using a very-low-carb diet for an extended period of time, without breaks, can slow your metabolism and reverse the coveted fat-burning effects.
If you're going on a reduced-carb diet plan, schedule carbohydrate re-feeds into your nutrition plan once per week. Not only do these re-feeds help keep the fat burning hormone leptin in check, but they'll help keep you mentally sane while you're on a stringent diet plan.
I know you're looking for ways to make your lean-body goals come faster, but only consistency in your diet and training will make progress. Wasiak explains, "Maintaining proper nutrition and training programs that are catered to your body and your goals will consistently promote fat loss." If you stick to your plan for at least a month, the quality of your results will surprise you.
Set Goals You Can Achieve
"I'm a big proponent for reaching for the stars, but at some point you have to respect your limitations, too," says Kaltwasser.
Your physique goals should be attainable. If you have 50 pounds to lose, don't expect to lose it this month. If you want to put on 20 pounds, know that it's a long process that may even take you a year. If you focus on smaller steps as you go, you'll find better long-term success!