The desire to transform is a great motivator to eat right and exercise. Whether you're shedding excess fat or filling out your physique with a few extra pounds of muscle, the desire to capture the perfect physique keeps you motivated and on track.
But what happens once you've achieved your goal? How do you sustain your transformation and maintain the physique you've worked so hard to build?
Preserving a healthy body weight is often easier said than done—and for many, it's a lot harder than the transformation. Once you remove the driving force to reach a goal, motivation can become difficult to sustain.
IFBB pro Amy Updike shares her best tips for maintaining a healthy body—including daily movement, proper hydration, mindful eating, and updated goal setting—so you can stay lean and fit for years to come.
Be Active Every Day
The key to keeping your metabolism high and sustaining a healthy body weight is to move as often as possible. This doesn't mean you have to hit the gym every day, but it does mean you have to find ways to keep your body moving.
"Try to do something active every single day," says Updike. "Walk the dog, play with your kids in the park, or clean the house."
When she decides she needs a break from her normal gym workouts, Updike incorporates other activities to help her burn calories and stay fit.
"I'll do hiking, trail running, or go out and do some jump squats and walking lunges in the park," she explains.
For more ideas to get your daily move on, check out my article "Revving Up Your Summer Calorie Burn: Outdoor Activities that Blast Fat Fast!"
Drink More Water
You've heard it before and you'll hear it again: Healthy bodies need plenty of water. As Updike explains, adequate hydration allows for optimal bodily functions—and that includes fat loss.
"Drinking enough water also helps prevent those hunger thoughts," she explains. "Usually, you're not hungry, just thirsty."
Updike makes an excellent point: People often mistake thirst for hunger and eat when they should hydrate instead. This pesky habit can raise your daily calorie intake. It also can destroy your efforts to maintain that chiseled body you worked so hard for.
Power Up with Protein
When it comes to eating for a healthy body weight, Amy Updike cannot overstate the importance of protein. In her words, getting a good amount of protein in every meal you eat "allows for stabilized blood sugar levels and helps you feel fuller." Protein is also essential to build and repair muscle and maintain lean mass.
Choose lean, high quality sources of protein like chicken, turkey, lean red meat, fish, egg whites, and whey protein powder. Consume at least 15-30 grams of protein per snack or meal, increasing this number if needed for your individual macronutrient needs.
Eat Your Veggies
Another must for your diet plan is eating plenty of fresh vegetables.
"Eating an adequate amount of vegetables each day will help your body maintain regularity, help you feel fuller, and help supply your body with fiber, vitamins, and minerals," says Updike.
Vegetables are low in calories, so they have a minimal impact on your total calorie intake. But avoid high-calorie cooking methods or adding sauces or condiments that contain extra sugar, fat, or other unnecessary calories.
Updike recommends consuming at least three servings of vegetables per day—if not more—to help maintain a healthy weight. Include a variety of vegetables in your plan to avoid boredom. Experiment with fresh, seasonal vegetables whenever possible for added nutrients.
Ditch Yo-Yo Dieting
If you plan to simply diet your way back down to a healthy weight every time you put on a few pounds, rethink your approach. Up-and-down "yo-yo" dieting is hard on your body and unsustainable—neither of which will help you maintain.
To keep the body you've worked so hard for, find a plan you can adopt as a lifestyle, not a short-term fix.
"Focus on eating and living in a way you could maintain lifelong," says Updike.
Constant hunger, feeling deprived of favorite foods, and viewing meal prep as a major time suck are all signs your current plan is not working for you.
A proper diet should leave your body, as well as your mind, fulfilled. This is not an excuse to eat as much food as possible whenever you want. But if you're craving chocolate, take a bite or two to satisfy your hunger.
Maintenance is all about sustainability, which is a huge reason why Updike supports flexible dieting and counting macros. Using this approach—and being mindful of portion control—you can work your favorite foods into your meal plan so you never have to feel deprived again.
Keep Setting More Goals
Fitness is a journey, not a destination. Just because you've reached one goal doesn't mean you can't set new ones. In fact, you should. However, Updike cautions against using weight as your only measurement of success.
"It's important not to focus on only appearance or bodyweight related goals," she says.
Single-minded emphasis on appearance can be dangerous—especially if you've already achieved an ideal body weight and are trying to work beyond what is healthy.
If you're not looking to add or lose weight, try making your next goal a physical challenge. Examples include training for a half marathon, adding 30 pounds to your squat, or learning a new skill like yoga or boxing.
Whatever you choose, set the goal and create a plan to reach it. This will help you stay focused so you feel as though you are making progress while you maintain your healthy physique.
As Updike puts it, "Feeling great and being able to live life to the fullest are the real goals of fitness."