Crafting a hard, lean physique is all about the basics: Lifting weights, doing cardio, using calories to shift your body into a thermogenic state, and taking a couple of strategic supplements to chase specific goals and fuel intensive workouts.
Within this simple fat-burning recipe, however, you can find some hidden tricks to nudge you toward your goals. The relentless scientific pursuit of fat-fighting advancements and continued experimentation from the world's best trainers result in a constant flow of new, improved methods to help you get shredded.
Here are six ways to accelerate your get-ripped efforts this summer.
Tip 1: Stop Eating…For A Little While
Sporadic or "intermittent" fasting has gained a lot of media buzz lately. Instead of spanning several days like more traditional fasts, the fasting period is instead broken down into shorter increments—for example, eating all your meals during the day in a "window" of 8-10 hours.
Of course, fasting goes against the conventional weight-loss advice to eat smaller meals throughout the day for maintaining steadier blood sugar levels and keeping your metabolism elevated. But many scientists started to question this recommendation after a 2012 rodent study discovered that mice who grazed throughout the day gained more weight, exhibited higher levels of inflammation, and had unhealthier blood sugar variances than mice who only ate within an eight-hour window.[1,2]
Though research is ongoing, you can still benefit from this innovative concept. Here are a few popular methods to try:
- The "Eating Window": Each day, consume most or all of your calories in a defined period of time, preferably earlier in the day. This is usually a period of 6, 8, or 10 hours. If your training falls outside of your window, consider taking supplemental BCAAs to help protect your muscle mass and maintain strength and energy. Some approaches will allow you a little leeway, such as a piece of fruit or a protein shake, outside of the designated window.
- Alternate-Day Modified Fast: Although some people choose to fast completely every other day, most hard-training athletes don't find it feasible. A more workable variation is to eat about 25 percent of your normal caloric intake every other day, followed by a normal day of eating.
- The "5/2" Fast: This popular approach is built around the week and the weekend. After five normal calorie days, you undertake two days of limited calories. On fasting days, men should aim for about 600 total calories, and women 500. You can pick whichever days you want to fast, as long as there's at least one non-fasting day in between. For non-fasting days, just eat as you normally would.
Tip 2: Combine Weights and Cardio
Standard workout protocol encourages a separation of cardio and weights so you can focus your efforts on getting the maximum benefit out of each endeavor on its own—calorie burning and heart health during cardio, and strength and mass building during weights.
However, this separation doesn't always lead to ideal results when getting lean is your goal, says RSP Nutrition Athlete Hannah Eden, founder and owner of PumpFit Club.
"When we spike our heart rate, this causes our heart to push more blood into our muscles," she explains. "The blood carries oxygen and nutrients, generating a greater muscle pump while promoting muscle recovery after your training is complete."
To accelerate this effect, consider aerobically supercharging your resistance workouts. For instance, you can intersperse running on a treadmill with a superset or circuit of exercises—such as a 30-second sprint followed by 15 reps apiece of squats and lunges.
"This hybrid style of training, combining intense cardio with resistance training, will shed fat, and increase muscle strength and endurance," Eden says.
With a little creativity, you can easily blend the two styles of training into one efficient, productive 30-minute session. Look up any of Hannah's incredible "hybrid" routines in the RSP Triple Threat: 4-Week Fitness Plan to get a taste of her style.
Tip 3: Skip the Stimulant
Caffeine is a popular and effective weight-loss aid, with numerous studies showing it can prompt thermogenesis—a fancy term for fat burning—while giving a quick energy boost. It can also help blunt hunger for a short time. These reasons make it a go-to for people who are calorically restricted or dieting.
However, if your caffeine intake is propping you up during the day or keeping you from sleeping a full 7-8 hours a night, it might be doing more harm than good in your quest for a lean, strong physique. That's when a stimulant-free fat burner can be your best friend.
Wondering what to look for in your stim-free capsule? Start with these:
- Chromium—is an essential trace mineral that participates in insulin regulation in the body and has been linked in scientific study to an increase in fat loss.
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)—is an omega-6 polyunsaturated essential fatty acid that can increase fatty acid oxidation from fat cells and skeletal muscle.
- Acetyl-l-carnitine—is composed of the aminos lysine and methionine and is part of the body's process to release energy from fat molecules. It also potentially helps to reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream.
- Green tea extract—which, it's important to note, does contain a small amount of caffeine—is an antioxidant with six types of catechins in all, including the powerful epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), and has been shown to increase energy expenditure.
- Paradoxine—is a grains of paradise extract that may help activate brown adipose tissue, thus prompting greater overall energy use by the body and may help prevent fat storage from ingested dietary sugars.
Tip 4: Think Rotations, Not Speed, During HIIT
Science backs high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as an effective fat-burning strategy. But with the booming popularity of HIIT, most cardio workouts in this style end up looking pretty much the same: high speed then low speed. Once you've done them a few times, it's surprisingly easy to sleepwalk even through what is supposed to be a brutal workout.
RSP Nutrition Athlete Kieon Dorsey, Fitness Director at Sportscenter Athletic Club, offers a solution for when this happens.
"If you have access to a machine for cardio such as the elliptical or Arc Trainer, try locking in on a challenging level of strides per minute (SPM) or rotations per minute (RPM)," he says. "By locking in on a target number for SPM/RPM, you force your body to go, instead of varying your speeds and falling back on doing what's comfortable and easy during the cardio session."
Of course, always be vigilant for signs of excess fatigue, and stop the session if you feel faint, dizzy or nauseous. It's your job to listen to your body, not destroy it!
Tip 5: Catch 'Em All
What we're about to recommend may seem a little weird, but hear us out: Go to the app store and download Pokémon Go. Or if a young person in your life has already done that, consider joining them on the hunt.
Nintendo's real-world game may not have the same cache it did in the heady days of summer 2016, but it's still addictive—and you can use this to your advantage.
One study found that Pokémon Go players increased their average daily step count by 955 in the six weeks following the installation of the game. Another study concluded players increased their step counts by more than 25 percent. Researchers estimated the popular app added a total of 144 billion steps to the U.S. population's physical activity in just a 3-month period.
Of course, going a few blocks out of your way because you simply must have that Snorlax for your Pokédex doesn't exactly equate to a "workout." But along with your strength and high-intensity cardio work, those extra steps can definitely help you in your quest to be your most shredded self. Every bit helps!
- Hatori, M., Vollmers, C., Zarrinpar, A., DiTacchio, L., Bushong, E. A., Gill, S., ... & Ellisman, M. H. (2012). Time-restricted feeding without reducing caloric intake prevents metabolic diseases in mice fed a high-fat diet. Cell Metabolism, 15(6), 848-860.
- Salk study may offer drug-free intervention to prevent obesity and diabetes. (2012, May 17). Retrieved June 30, 2017, from http://www.salk.edu/news-release/salk-study-may-offer-drug-free-intervention-to-prevent-obesity-and-diabetes/
- Howe, K. B., Suharlim, C., Ueda, P., Howe, D., Kawachi, I., & Rimm, E. B. (2016). Gotta catch'em all! Pokémon GO and physical activity among young adults: difference in differences study. bmj, 355, i6270.
- Althoff, T., White, R. W., & Horvitz, E. (2016). Influence of Pokémon Go on physical activity: study and implications. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 18(12).