Spring Back Into Shape: Part 2

In Part 1 of "Spring Back Into Shape", I covered the training and nutrition strategies needed to get your body back into shape in time for the warmer weather. If you've been inconsistent with your training over the winter months and let your diet slide over the holiday season, now's the time to shed that excess body fat and tone up the muscles for the beach season.

To recap, it's important to do a minimum of 2-3 weight training sessions per week in order to build and tone the muscles while losing body fat. The number of days you train per week and the amount of sets you do for each muscle group depends on your level of experience and how much muscle you're looking to build. If you're a complete beginner to weight training or if you haven't touched a weight in years, I would recommend training the whole body in one workout with at least one exercise for each bodypart. Those with more weight training experience can split the muscle groups up over 2-3 workouts instead of training the whole body in one training session.

Your nutrition program is just as important, if not more important, than your training when it comes to getting in great shape. The most effective way to build muscle and lose fat is to eat six small meals a day to keep your metabolism stimulated and to consistently feed the muscles to help them grow. Eating complete protein foods that are also low in fat is a great way to allow the muscle cells to grow without contributing to excess fat. Foods such as egg whites, chicken, turkey, and fish are essential staples of a healthy fat loss diet.

Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for the body. Sticking with complex, fiber-rich carbs such as oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta as well as green, fibrous vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, and asparagus will provide your body with the energy it needs for your intense workouts. Because of the slower-digesting nature of these complex carbs, your body will be less likely to store these calories as fat.

Eating these nutrient rich foods in a daily diet that's structured to allow for 6-8 small meals a day will feed your muscles while simultaneously starving your stored body fat. Of course, supplements such as protein and meal replacement powders can prove very beneficial in acquiring the right amount of protein every three hours.

ON 100% Whey Gold Standard and Pro Complex are popular world-wide for providing the highest quality protein with the best taste. The brand new Whey Force Shake from American Bodybuilding is also a great product to take with you to work or to the gym. With only 120 calories, 21 grams of protein and only 7 grams of carbs, ABB Whey Force Shake is a great way to consume a delicious protein drink on the run. And it's the only ready-to-drink protein shake made exclusively with whey protein.

Getting Motivated!
Just knowing what to do with your exercise and nutrition program isn't enough. Many people have great difficulty just taking that first step and getting started. You may have your gym membership all paid up, you have your food at home, and your supplements are waiting for you in the kitchen. Now all you have to do is get motivated and get started!

I've found that I'm always much more motivated when I have a goal to shoot for. I started competing in bodybuilding competitions when I was 16 years old and this was always a great source of motivation for me. You can't help but get motivated to train hard in the gym and stay on a diet when you'll soon be stepping onstage in front of an audience wearing nothing more than a pair of skimpy posing trunks. If you cheat on your diet or your training, everyone will know the minute you step underneath the lights onstage.

Of course, you don't have to compete in a bodybuilding competition to get motivated to get in shape. You don't even need a special event to get ready for like a wedding or a class reunion. What you do need is a vision of what you want to look like.

You should begin by taking measurements. Most people look forward to putting a measuring tape around their waist as much as getting a root canal from the dentist. However, you'll never know how far you have to go until you know where you are now. Take some honest measurements of your waist, chest, arms, thighs and calves along with your bodyweight and write it down in your new Nutrition Journal.

Your Nutrition Journal is where you will start writing down your daily diet every day. Even if you eat the same things every day, you should get into the practice of writing down everything you eat in your notebook. At the end of day, take 10 minutes from your busy life and sit down to add up everything you ate for that day. Calculate your total calories along with the grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats you ate.

In order to be exact about the amount of calories and macronutrients that you are consuming every day, you should purchase a food scale to weigh foods like chicken, steak, sweet potatoes, and vegetables. You can get nutritional information on any food from the internet or from publications like the Nutritional Almanac. When you begin weighing, measuring, and writing down everything you put in your mouth, you'll be much more aware of your eating habits and will be less likely to stray off your diet and cheat.

In addition to your diet, you should also be recording every workout you perform in your Workout Journal when you're trying to get back in shape. Writing down your workouts makes you accountable for the work you do in the gym. You'll be less likely to skip a workout or just coast through it when you are looking at what you did at your last workout before you step into the gym. Trying to beat what you did last time (more weight or more reps with the same weight, for example) is a great motivational tool for having great workouts.

Looking at the Big Picture
When you start to get back in the groove and your workouts and diet program are consistent again, it's very important to look at the big picture. In other words, you need to assess where your body is at and where it's going. When you are writing down your diet and workouts every day, it is easy to lose focus and fail to see the forest for the trees.

It's important to have a Weekly Assessment Sheet to record your progress (or lack of) each and every week. You should write down your bodyweight and your waist measurement along with your average caloric intake and your average carbohydrate intake for that week. This will allow you to see if you are making consistent progress each week and if your hard dieting and training each day is paying off.

You're also less likely to cheat on your diet or skip your workouts when you know that you have to record your waist and bodyweight each week. This Weekly Assessment Sheet makes you accountable for what you do day to day each week.

Here is an example of my own Weekly Assessment Sheet when I recently got in shape for a photo shoot in February. I began my diet on October 23rd, 2006 for a photo shoot on February 14th, 2007.

WeekDateWeightWaistAvg. Cal.Avg. Carbs
110-2922036 2403193
211-522036 2460189
311-12221.536 2510196
511-26218.535 2476186
612-3217.535 2443182
712-10216.535 2520186
912-24212.534 2366166.5
1012-3121334 2488182
111-7-07210.534 2447177
121-14212.534 2525184
131-21209.533 2545177
141-2820733 2552177
152-420933 2598182
162-11205.533 2582174.5
Photo Shoot2-14-0720133

Next article, you'll learn how to put your training, diet, cardio, and weekly assessments all together in order to achieve the best physique of your life 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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