You've said it before: "This is the year I get in shape for the summer!" Yet, before you know it, it's already July and your master plans have fallen victim to delicious barbecue meals, after-work cocktails at the rooftop bar, and lazy Sundays by the pool.
Sound familiar? Even with part of summer already behind you, you can still turn it all around before September, and we have exactly what you need! The following six tips courtesy of Dymatize athletes Mike Hildebrandt and Alicia Ziegler will serve as the blueprint to help you build your best summer body yet.
1. Build Strength And Size With A Compound Approach
Although aesthetics may be your primary target, a calorically restrictive summer diet doesn't mean you need to put your strength and muscle-mass goals on the back burner.
"Increased protein and exercise intensity are both key components to maintaining and even possibly building strength and muscle while you're on a more restrictive diet," says NPC physique competitor Mike Hildebrandt. "Even if you're eating fewer calories overall, it's important that you continue to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass per day.
To build strength and muscle mass in the summer, personal trainer Alicia Ziegler recommends compound lifts such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press. "Science has proven that compound movements recruit multiple muscle groups, thereby eliciting a larger hormonal response," she says. They're much more effective for building strength and muscle than isolation movements like a leg extension or lateral raise."
Ziegler is quick to add that there's nothing wrong with isolation exercises; they just don't make the best use of limited calorie intake. "To build strength, keep your working sets to 5 reps or fewer," she suggests. "If you want to add mass, go for 6-12 reps per set, and use heavy enough weight to reach failure in those last 1-2 sets."
2. For Muscle Gains, Leave Nothing To Chance
Adding quality muscle is not a guessing game! "It requires daily accountability of your calories and macronutrients combined with regular weigh-ins and body-fat measurements," says Hildebrandt. "The only way to know exactly what adjustments you need to make is to keep a food journal and compare it with your body-fat measurements.
"That being said, set simple rules for yourself, so you know you're on the right track," he adds. "Split your calories across 6-8 meals throughout the day, eat lots of protein, and don't skip your workouts."
"There's no secret to adding mass without a lot of extra body fat," agrees Ziegler. "The only way to do it is to eat clean and train hard. That's it. Unless you're an endurance athlete working out six-plus hours a day, your splurges should be few and far between. That includes alcohol consumption, which inhibits fat loss."
Ziegler suggests using a calorie calculator to help gauge your proper targets. "Getting lean or building muscle is a science. Knowing how many calories you should be eating per day can help you stay accountable."
3. Choose High-Efficiency Cardio
To preserve muscle tissue and lose fat, opt for high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. This type of cardio combines short bursts of all-out efforts combined with lower-intensity intervals, and it burns more calories in a shorter amount of time than steady-state cardio like jogging or biking.
For instance, if you run outdoors with a stopwatch, you could perform a sprint for 30 seconds followed by a one-minute slow jog. Cycle these intervals for 15-25 minutes, depending on your fitness level.
One of the best things about HIIT is that it's so customizable. "Feel free to jump into that volleyball or soccer game, or go for a dip in the pool," Ziegler says. "Just be cautious of long endurance rides, runs, and the like. Those can be counterproductive if you're trying to gain muscle mass on a lower-calorie diet."
4. Stoke Your Energy Stores
Following a lower-calorie diet doesn't mean you have to feel sluggish. "For super energy, I turn to iced black coffee or Dymatize's Lemon Lime Amino Pro with caffeine," Ziegler says. "Caffeine always helps me feel energized, and Amino Pro is an optimal way to replenish the electrolytes you lose through sweat."
For especially hot days when you're active outdoors, Ziegler suggests icing all your beverages and adding frozen fruit for the electrolytes and flavor.
5. Get Specific With Sport Training
If you're goals this summer are more about performance than aesthetics, you need to get your sport on. If your sports season starts this fall, you can't just rely on your overall fitness levels in order to excel. You need to focus on the specific skills you want to improve upon.
Look for plyometric, cable, and bodyweight movements that mimic the actions you'll perform in your chosen sport, such as a cable woodchop for batting or 90-foot sprints for base-path running. It's also smart to incorporate on-the-field agility drills, such as dribbling and cone work with a soccer ball.
"Anyone involved in sports should pay close attention to nutrient timing around the event," Hildebrandt says. "For example, a good meal that is high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat and fiber would be an excellent choice 60 minutes before an athletic event. Eat a fast-acting hydrolyzed whey protein isolate shake, such as Dymatize ISO-100, along with a piece of fruit to quickly start the recovery process afterward."
6. Learn To Love Water
You've heard it before, but it's too damned important to ignore: Hydration is key. The combination of warm weather and extra activity means your body needs lots of fluid.
Hildebrandt drinks about 0.7 ounces of water per pound of body weight each day to ensure adequate hydration. So if you weigh 175 pounds, drink at least 124 ounces of water over the course of the day. "Studies have shown that being even slightly dehydrated can have a negative impact on your performance, so it's not something you want to ignore," he adds.
You have all the tools, now you just need to put these tips into action! Go forth and build your best summer body, and don't forget to have fun as you're doing it!