It's February, the middle of a cold, dark winter. The last thing most people are thinking about is the beach, but now is that best time to start thinking about your beach body. The week before a spring break or summer cruise, everyone starts flocking to the gym for a last minute body transformation. If you wait till the last minute to prepare, you won't have a nice beach body, you'll have a fat winter body. Start preparing now and the changes you make will show a huge difference when it's time to get into your bathing suit.
Regardless of what steps you take to get a beach body (amount and types of exercise, calorie intake or supplement use), the most important one you can take is to start early. Small changes over a long period of time will have a much bigger impact on your results than huge changes over a very short period of time. Starting early and building a solid foundation of diet and exercise can also help steer you into a healthier lifestyle which will negate the need to get your beach body ready every year.
If you start and maintain healthy habits now, your beach body will be ready all year round. Cementing healthy habits into your daily routine is a lot easier when the changes are spread out over a long period of time. Those who wait until a week or two before they need a beach body take much more drastic steps which are unlikely to lead to long term healthy habits.
Molding your beach body requires an understanding and practice of proper calorie balance. The difference between how much you eat and how much you burn is your calorie balance. Only your calorie balance will determine whether you burn fat or gain weight. Getting a beach body requires that you get rid of body fat, or tone up. Creating a calorie deficit, a state in which you burn more calories than you eat, will force your body to use fat stores for energy causing weight loss and a more toned appearance.
There are two ways you can create a calorie deficit: eat less or exercise more. Combining the two will yield the quickest, healthiest and longest lasting results.
Both diet and exercise can help you tone up and get rid of body fat. You should however, focus most of your effort on exercising more. When you drastically cut calories, your body can slow its metabolism to compensate for the decreased calorie intake. A slower metabolism will result in a smaller calorie deficit. Smaller calorie deficits lead to slower results. Exercising has the opposite effect on your metabolism than cutting calories. Exercise helps speed up your metabolism which leads to a larger calorie deficit. Instead of drastically cutting your calorie intake, focus on replacing high calorie junk with healthier, low calorie alternatives.
Since junk food is much higher in calories than healthy food, when you move to a healthier diet, your calorie intake will come down by itself, with little or no calorie counting. Yes it is possible to get fat by eating healthy food, but it's a lot harder to binge on carrots and apples than it is on Oreo cookies or doughnuts. By moderately cutting calories in a way that will improve your overall health, you're much more likely to avoid the effects of a slowing metabolism.
Foods to avoid:
- sugary foods
- candy, soda, cookies, doughnuts, fruit juices, sports drinks, potato chips
- junk food
- fast food, pizza, hamburgers, french fries
- foods high in saturated/trans fat
- red meat, whole dairy: cheese, milk, sour cream, butter
Foods to eat:
- foods high in fiber and complex carbs
- fruits, vegetables, 100% whole wheat flour products: bread and pasta, brown rice, beans, legumes
- foods high in unsaturated fats
- seafood, vegetable oils (particularly canola and olive oils), nuts, avacados
- foods high in lean proteins
- seafood, chicken, turkey, lean cuts of beef, egg whites, low fat or fat free dairy
Cardiovascular exercise is a must for a good beach body. Cardio burns a lot of calories which helps create a larger calorie deficit. Good forms of cardio include running, biking, stair climbing, circuit training and most sports. Cardio should be done 3-6 times per week lasting 30-60 minutes per session. If you're not in very good shape, start off at the low end (3x per week at 30 minutes per session) and work your way up from there.
Although often overlooked, strength training is also a must for a good beach body. While cardio can help you lose fat, strength training will help you add muscle which will give you a toned and muscular look. Focus on compound movements: exercises which use more than one muscle group. Examples of compound movements are squats, bench press, rows, push ups, pull ups and deadlifts. Sticking to these compound exercises will allow you to hit all of the muscle groups in the body in the shortest amount of time. You can do a full body workout 2-4 times per week. depending on your overall fitness level. Again, start off at the lower end if you're not in shape and work your way up.
If you take all the steps above correctly, you will make progress towards getting your beach body. You can measure your progress in a number of ways to ensure that you're moving in the right direction including progress pictures and tracking body weight/body fat. If you're not seeing any progress in your pictures or numbers, make the appropriate changes by either exercising more and/or cutting down on your calorie intake (moderately).
The Bottom Line
By taking steps to creating a healthier lifestyle, you will improve your overall health and create an environment in which your beach body can thrive all year round. Temporary diets work exactly as they're described: temporarily. They help you lose weight in a short period of time only to require you to repeat the process over and over again every time you need to get in shape. By creating a healthy lifestyle, you will never again have to worry about losing your winter weight or getting into beach shape. Your body will always be beach-ready.