Spring Back Into Shape!

Spring is in the air. You can see the trees starting to change, the sun sets later in the day and the temperature is slowly starting to rise. If you have spent the last six months hibernating inside your house, eating the wrong foods, and not getting enough (if any) exercise, the emergence of warmer weather and, yikes, swimsuit season could be a cause for panic.

No one enjoys the prospect of walking around half naked with a body that is better off viewed with clothes on. If you have been neglecting your body during these long winter months and need to shape up fast, put these ideas into action ASAP.

Get Back into Regular Training
The first step you need to take to shape up your body is to get back into a regular training program. It doesn't matter how long it has been since you last worked out or how inconsistent you have been, it's time to get back in the groove right now.

Sit down and figure out a way you can fit a regular workout routine into your weekly schedule. Begin with at least 2-3 weight training sessions and 3-4 cardiovascular workouts each week. If you have a very demanding work and family schedule during the week, don't hesitate to fit in a couple workouts on the weekend.

If you don't have a lot of days you can devote to your workouts, I would recommend two or three days a week of weight training and cardio in the same workout. If you have many days during the week you could train but are limited in the amount of time you could devote to each workout, you should plan on doing 3 shorter weight training sessions on non-consecutive days alternated with cardio workouts.

If you are new to weight training or you have been away from the weights for a long time, you could begin with a full-body workout that includes one exercise for each muscle group (chest, back, shoulders, arms, abs, thighs and calves) for 2-3 sets and use a weight that limits the amount of repetitions to 8-12 reps.

Those that are more experienced in training with weight resistance equipment can use more exercises for each muscle group and split the body up over two workouts (ex.; Chest, back, shoulders and abs on workout one and legs, arms and calves for workout two). Those who are splitting up their muscle groups over two workouts can use 2-3 exercises for each bodypart instead of just one.

For maximum fat burning, you want to perform your cardio exercise at the right time and the right intensity. If you have enough time to do both the weight training and cardio in the same workout, you want to schedule your cardio session immediately after you finish weight training.

Have a Definite Eating Plan
All the workouts in the world will have little effect without a proper nutrition program. This is particularly true if the goal is to lose excess body fat. It's vital to consistently eat the right amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fats with just enough calories to feed the muscle tissue but starve the fat cells.

Losing fat while maintaining muscle requires enough calories to stimulate the metabolism but enough of a calorie deficit to encourage fat loss. Not eating enough meals or following a diet that is too low in calories will downgrade the metabolism and lead to muscle tissue loss.

In order to constantly stimulate the metabolism, one should eat a meal every three hours. Feeding the body consistently every few hours will keep the blood sugar level stable and stimulate the metabolism to shed body fat while retaining muscle tissue. Skipping meals or eating only a few meals each day will lead to fat storage and muscle tissue breakdown.

The first macronutrient to consider when designing a fat loss diet is protein. Protein is the most important component in building muscle tissue after an intense workout. Although it is generally recommended to eat one gram of protein for each pound of bodyweight each day when engaging in a weight training program, that amount can be increased to 1.5 grams of protein for each pound of bodyweight when trying to lose stored body fat.

Complete protein foods are those that contain all the essential amino acids that are required to rebuild muscle tissue. It's important to eat complete protein foods that are low in fat when you are trying to lose body fat. Foods such as egg whites, chicken breasts, turkey breast, fish, and lean red meat are great choices for your low-fat protein sources.

Because it's often inconvenient to eat a whole food meal every three hours, supplementing the daily diet with protein drinks makes it possible to eat enough meals and consume the proper amount of protein while still living a busy lifestyle. If you ate the standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day and consumed a protein drink in between each meal, you would be taking in six meals each day, spacing them out every three hours.

It's important to choose a protein supplement that is a complete protein source, containing all the essential amino acids. Optimum Nutrition has several protein products that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. ON 100% Whey Gold Standard contains 130 calories with 24 grams of all-whey protein, 3-4 grams of carbs and 1-2 grams of fat per serving. ON Pro Complex is even higher in protein with 260 calories, 60 grams of protein from a blend of whey proteins, egg white, and glutamine peptides, 3 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of fat per serving.

Another protein option for those who are trying to lose body fat is ON Complete Protein Diet. Complete Protein Diet is made from a combination of high quality protein sources including whey, egg white, and calcium caseinate with additional Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids. One serving of Complete Protein Diet contains 200 calories, 35 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbs, and 5 grams of fat.

In addition to consuming enough protein, it's also important to obtain enough carbohydrates as your primary fuel source. Complex carbs that contain plenty of fiber and are low-glycemic are the best for losing fat while maintaining muscle. Good sources of complex carbohydrates include oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and vegetables.

Eating small amounts of carbohydrates throughout the day in conjunction with protein foods is the key to losing body fat while still providing the muscles with the fuel they need for intense workouts and muscle tissue recuperation. I usually limit my complex carbs to breakfast and lunch when trying to lose body fat. I have found that excessive carbohydrate consumption in the evening encourages fat deposition so I usually limit my carbs in the evening in order to starve the fat cells.

With the combination of the proper diet and an intense training program, anyone can successfully change the look of their body in a short time period. Now that spring has arrived, warmer weather and the swimsuit season are right around the corner. Get your summer shape-up program in gear now so you can show off that lean, muscular body this summer!

John Hansen
Natural Mr. Olympia
Team ON Athlete

The author is a compensated ON Athlete, however, the views, opinions, and comments expressed here are those exclusively of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Optimum Nutrition.
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