Summer is upon us once more, as people attempt to gain the body of their dreams, or at least give it their best shot. Between the months of June and September, holiday bookings reach their peak level, particularly throughout the school holidays, and this generally sees prices soar far beyond off season prices. Despite this, many people choose to jet off to destinations around the world, and in an attempt to prepare for their holiday, many people choose to go on a diet to lose some weight to fit into their summer wardrobe. The following blog post shares some tips that will be useful for those wishing to learn more about what it takes to become confident in hitting their fitness goals, and achieving the body they desire.
- Abs are Made in the Kitchen
A rather cliché term, but one that actually makes a lot of sense. As much as some people will try to tell you otherwise, dieting is the most important aspect when it comes to achieving your goals. Regular exercise including cardio and strength training will certainly help in the process, but it is generally common knowledge that you cannot out train a poor diet. One of the biggest mistakes people make regularly is that they believe once they have completed their workout, it now justifies them being able to visit a fast food restaurant, or indulge in some of their favourite treats. This essentially defeats the object of working out in the first place, so bear that in mind. A balanced diet coupled with regular exercise is what is needed in order to effectively meet your goals.
- Don’t see it as a diet, More a ‘Lifestyle Change’
The word diet itself has somewhat negative connotations, but for the purposes of this blog post I will use the term to explain essential tips in order to reach your goals. Some refer to dieting instead as a ‘lifestyle change’, and this turns it into something much more positive. Diets often leave many feeling unhappy and lacking in energy, and so called ‘crash diets’ are not sustainable in the long run, as although it is possible to lose a considerable amount of weight in a short period, many people get fed up and end up falling of track quite quickly and easily. Weight loss is something that takes time and commitment to happen, and if you make the right choices you will remain happy as well as hit your goals. Certain diets make some foods off limits, and sometimes temptation will strike. You do not necessarily have to go cold turkey on what are generally known as ‘bad foods’ in your quest to tone up and lose fat, what is important is knowing when to say no, and as difficult as it may be, paying attention to portion sizes. This is where people often go wrong, as they end up eating far more than they realise which then leads to falling off track in some cases gaining weight. One tip which will be very useful is to experiment, try new foods that you might not have necessarily considered in the past, you may end up discovering your new favourite fruit or vegetable! Adding in additional vegetables into your diet can be a sure-fire way to bulk up your meals and leave you feeling satisfied, and less tempted to reach into the treats drawer. If you really have a sweet tooth, a good option would be to incorporate more fruit in your diet, although you might want to keep an eye on your sugar intake, despite the sugars found in fruit being natural. Another tip would be to find healthy foods that you enjoy eating, and so you can keep your calories down and it feels less like a diet knowing you can eat something that is good for you but also something you can look forward to eating.
- Track Calories
One of the easiest and quickest ways to fall off track when dieting is not tracking calories. This can potentially be a big mistake as simply by guessing you could easily go over your calorie count for the day, so controlling of portion sizes, keeping a record of any food/drink you consume and weighing your food is definitely the way forward. Invest in a set of scales so you know exactly how much you are eating, and this makes it far easier when tracking calories. You could use a notepad and write down your food for the day, or you could use an app such as the popular MyFitnessPal, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. At first it can seem quite tedious however once you get the hang of it, it really isn’t so bad, particularly if you eat the same foods frequently, and it is easy to add new ones by simply scanning the barcode.
- Remain in a calorie deficit
If it is your goal to lose weight/fat it is important to factor in that in order to do so, you need to burn more calories than you consume, whether this be exercising more, or eating less. This is another reason why it is important to track your calories, so you know you haven’t gone over your calorie count for the day. Use an online calculator to work out what your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is, this is essentially the number of calories your body needs to maintain your current weight. If you wish to lose weight you need to eat less than this per day, and more than this to gain weight. However, what you also need to factor in is how active you are, and take this into account when working out the total amount of calories you need to hit your goal. This is called the TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) formula. I recommend using http://tdeecalculator.net as here you can work out both your BMR and TDEE in one simple calculation. When in a deficit, try not to start with too large a deficit at first, start off with 100-200 calories, and once you hit a plateau cut down your calories further by 50-100. Do not cut your calories too much otherwise you will sacrifice your muscle mass, and did it difficult to build or maintain muscle. To enable you to keep as much muscle mass as possible, keep your protein intake high, typically 0.8-1.0g of protein per pound of body weight.
- Don’t drink your calories, Keep water intake high.
It is no secret that keeping your water intake high is really good for the body. Especially when the sun is shining, where it is even more important to stay hydrated. When consuming water, particularly before a meal this can help you feel full, and you are less likely to overindulge when eating meals, so are far more likely to reach your goal and stay on track. Another way to suppress your appetite can be to use caffeine. As well as giving you a boost when it’s needed, caffeine can be consumed to suppress the feeling of hunger, so instead of reaching for a snack, try a cup of coffee or perhaps a tea depending on your preference, as this can often lead to the feeling of hunger going away. Additionally, it is important to consider the number of calories that are in drinks such as alcohol, fizzy drinks and fruit juices. If you do not track them you can easily go over your calorie count. If you really wish to satisfy your sweet tooth then stick to diet options, and when drinking try to stick to diet mixers with spirits such as Vodka and gin as they contain far less calories and carbs than beer and cider for example.
One thing that often gets forgotten about is cardio. If your goal is fat loss then cardio is effective in allowing you to reach your goals and burn additional calories. It is not necessary to spend hour after hour on the treadmill running at a steady state. For some this may be a preferred option and there is no harm in doing it, but particularly for those who are short on time then HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a great option. Short bursts of intense cardio at full effort followed by a short period of rest/low intensity over a period of about 10-20 minutes and you can get just as much benefit from doing this, and studies have proven the benefit of HIIT, which produces an ‘afterburn’ effect, meaning that the body will continue burning calories for up to 24 hours after completing a HIIT session. You can do this anywhere and don’t need to use of a gym in order to take part in any cardio activities. You could go for a run in your local park instead, for a bike ride, or even from the comfort of your own home doing exercises that involve no equipment. Again, several YouTube videos can be found online to mix up your workout routine and it really doesn’t take long, so throw your excuses out the window and get active!
- Meal Prep
Head on down to your local store, purchase some reusable food containers and you will be well on your way to achieving your goals. Ensure that the containers you purchase are suitable for use in the microwave, as well as freezing, depending on how far in advance you intend to prepare your meals. Meal prep is essentially preparing your meals for a certain number of days in advance. This works well because although you have to spent a certain amount of time by bulk cooking foods, this is most certainly save time in the long run, and you will be less tempted to choose fast food for convenience or perhaps you had a long, stressful day at work and don’t feel like cooking. You can choose to place your meals in the fridge and they typically should be fine for 3-4 days. If your planning more in advance then you can freeze your meals and just defrost them overnight. Either way, you know that a healthy, well balanced meal will be ready for you having done meal prep, and once you get used to it it won’t seem so much like a chore.
- You don’t need to live in the gym
For some, the idea of joining a gym can be a daunting prospect for a number of reasons. Perhaps it is all new to you, and you’re terrified of embarrassing yourself as you may not have a clue what you are doing in terms of using equipment. What you have to realise is no matter how intimidating it may seem, no one is there to judge you, and even the largest, most muscular people in the gym had to start somewhere, and maybe one day in the past felt the same way you do. Don’t be afraid to try out new exercises, and stick to a weight you are comfortable with, or at least a lighter one until your form is perfected. This is when you can move onto heavier weights. Building muscle and fat loss isn’t something that happens overnight, and it will take hard work and dedication, but when it comes to sticking to a workout plan it is definitely quality over quantity, and consistency is key.
If the gym isn’t for you, or perhaps you don’t have time to go to the gym due to work commitments or having kids to look after, there are several videos available on online sources such as YouTube, and here you will find millions of videos to watch for workouts you can perform easily at home. Often no equipment is required, and many workouts can be performed in 30 minutes or less, so if you really are stripped for time this is a great option. With dedication and consistency, you can achieve great results from the comfort of your own home.
- Have a plan, and stick to it.
The key to sticking to a habit is effective planning. This goes for both your workout regime as well as planning and tracking what you eat. Before you go for a workout whether this be at home or in the gym don’t wander round aimlessly thinking of what machine to go on next, that goes for both cardio and strength training. Figure out a plan that suits your lifestyle and stick to it, at first it can be hard particularly if you’re new to exercising but stick with it and you will eventually get used to it, then you can build upon this by upping the time spent working out, or lift heavier weights. When it comes to dieting, ensure you track your calories having worked out your BMR and TDEE, prepare your meals and weigh out your food. One of the most important aspects however is remaining consistent, no one said it will be easy but hard work and dedication really does pay off. You will feel more confident, healthier and you will be proud of yourself for sticking to your goals, overcoming any obstacles in your way.