Whether you are someone who spends a lot of time exercising and eating healthily, or someone who takes a more sporadic approach to a fitness plan, there is nothing quite like the prospect of a summer holiday to focus your mind.
To get the results you want in the short time you have available, you are going to need to calculate your macro-nutrient needs, plan all your meals to help you avoid any temptations…
Now, those who have read my views on health and fitness before will know all too well that I am not a huge fan of aesthetic goals for long-term health, but they can give that sometimes necessary jolt of inspiration to take a good look at what you are doing and step it up – even if it’s just temporary. It’s one thing wanting to mix your routine up a bit, but if you are going to make some significant changes to your body in the 6-8 weeks leading up to your summer holiday, then you need a strategy to get you there – so here are the three steps that you need to take to get fit fast for summer.
3 Steps to Get Fit Fast For Summer
1. Act SMART
The first step of any fitness or nutrition based programme is to establish your goals and track your progress. I like using the SMART goals method.
SPECIFIC: What are the specific outcomes you’d like to achieve in your fitness goals? Are you trying to lose a certain amount of weight or reduce your body fat by a set percentage? Maybe you want to see an increase the size of your muscles or make sure you are fit enough to do coastal walks or swim in the sea. Whatever it is, once you have decided your specific goal you will be able to programme effectively.
MEASURABLE: This is no time for subjective goals – you want to see solid, measurable improvements in fitness, strength, body composition, circumferential measurements, etc.
ACTION ORIENTATED: You need to choose goals that you can take control of and that can be achieved via positive action. For example: If your goals require you to workout 5 days a week, then you need to take action to make sure it becomes a priority in your life for the duration of the plan.
REALISTIC: What is the point of setting yourself unachievable goals? Yes, we need to push the boundaries and get out of our comfort zones, but aiming to achieve a cover model physique in a couple of months if you’re a few stone overweight and a total beginner, would not be realistic (despite what the interweb says). Remember all these goals are relative to your starting position and are totally personal to you – so be honest with yourself or you’ll simply give up a few weeks in.
TIME BASED: Putting a time on goals like this helps in two ways. First of all, it will keep you focused as you are under pressure to hit your deadline, but secondly and most importantly, knowing that the higher intensity exercise and stricter dietary guidelines will end at some point is a psychological boost and will help you stay on track when you feel like giving up.
2. Train Efficiently
I reiterate the importance of relativity (in your fitness level) when choosing your exercises, but generally speaking any exercise can be tapered to fit ability, so it shouldn’t be a problem choosing exercises if you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced exerciser. Personally I have always said that ‘bang for your buck’ exercises are without doubt the best way to approach a short-term routine such as pre-holiday training. What do I mean by this?
Bang for your buck means using exercises that work multiple muscle groups, that work you harder and will develop strength faster and help burn fat more effectively. Think squats, deadlifts, pushing, pulling. Then combine them to build exercises like a ‘squat to press’ or a ‘lunge and twist’ to name a couple. I would recommend that your sessions are either based around lifting heavy things (weight training or strongman sessions), moving very quickly (sprinting, skipping, jumping) or a combination of the two (such as circuit training). This approach is time-efficient, energy-efficient, and is focused on developing athletic power. If you want to look more like an athlete, then it makes sense to train more like an athlete.
If you’re stuck for ideas on how to start choosing exercises that are right for you, then I’d highly recommend booking a few sessions with a local PT to give you a programme, or find a CrossFit box with classes that fit your ability level.
3. Eat, Think, Sleep Like An Athlete
Ok, you’re training like an athlete, so now you need to start eating like one – not only in terms of food choice, but in your whole approach to planning your diet. To get the results you want in the short time you have available, you are going to need to calculate your macro-nutrient needs, plan all your meals to help you avoid any temptations, get to grips with pre- and post-workout nutrition to maximise your energy levels, and start planning correct recovery protocols to deal with the extra exercise load you are taking on.
How much carbohydrates? Carbs are not the devil – they are completely necessary in your diet and provide plenty of energy, which will be needed with all the extra training you will be doing. Just try to avoid too many simple carbohydrates, as they will only provide short-term bursts of energy and have a tendency to play havoc with your hunger levels. Carbohydrates are often the first thing to be slashed in a weight loss routine, but you don’t need to go ‘low carb’ (often defined as under 50g per day) to see results. Mark Sisson, author of the Primal Blueprint suggests you should aim for 50-100g of carbohydrates per day to hit the sweet spot for effortless weight loss. Remember though, if you do reduce your carbohydrate levels you will still need to consume plenty of dietary fat to use as energy and to prevent any muscle wastage during exercise. Good sources include oily fish, avocados, seeds, nuts, coconut oil, and butter.
Your protein levels will also need to be adjusted to cope with the higher intensity exercise. The International Olympic Committee recommends eating 15-25g protein with each main meal, as well as immediately after exercise. As a general rule though, to make sure you are getting plenty of protein during a period of sustained heavy training, you should aim for between 1.4-1.8g protein per kg bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 80kg and are doing lots of strength training and high intensity exercise each week, you’ll need to consume (80 x 1.4 = 112 / 80 x 1.8 = 144) between 112g and 144g of protein per day. Check out this link for a list of high protein foods and their values.
Keeping to an athletic type diet will take planning and discipline, so make sure you write weekly meal plans, do all of your food prep daily so you know what meals are coming, and never shop hungry or the voices in your head will lead you to the banned foods aisle. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water, too – not only will it keep you hydrated and improve your performance in the gym, but it will also help keep those hunger pangs at bay when trying to adapt to a slightly stricter regime.
One last piece of advice: get plenty of sleep during this period. The results you want will not happen if you are burning the candle at both ends. Sleep deprivation increases the levels of cortisone (stress hormone) in the body, which can make it harder to burn body fat. Let’s face it, there’s no point putting in all that hard work if you have nothing to show for it at the end and still feel like covering up on holiday – so put that smart phone away at night, get to bed early, and get yourself 8 hours of rest and recuperation.
- (2016, no-date). The Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve. In Mark’s Daily Apple. Retrieved 23 May 2016, from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/press/the-primal-blueprint-diagrams/ .
- (2016, 2nd April). List of Simple Carbohydrate Foods. In Buzzle. Retrieved 23 May 2016, from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/simple-carbohydrate-foods-list.html .
- (2016, May 20th). The Ultimate List of 40 High Protein Foods. In Bodybuilding.com. Retrieved 23 May 2016, from http://www.bodybuilding.com/content/ultimate-list-40-high-protein-foods.html .