If you’ve lost momentum in your diet or fitness routines, you may be wondering if it’s possible to get in significantly better shape by Memorial Day. There’s good news: You can make real progress over the next few weeks without feeling excessively hungry or exercising like crazy. You don’t need to sacrifice your sanity in order to achieve noticeable progress quickly, while also working toward longer-term health goals.
Instead of pressuring yourself to fit in a particular swimsuit or to hit a certain number on the scale, you should set a body recomposition goal. This means focusing less on the number on the scale, and more on reducing excess body fat to reveal greater lean muscle definition.
The key to a body recomposition goal? Dialing in your nutrition and training to support fat loss. Eating little to no food will actually work against fat loss by lowering your metabolic rate and forcing your body to move into starvation mode. Muscle burns energy at rest, and if the body thinks it is starving due to lack of food intake, the body will choose to part with muscle and instead hold onto fat as a means of survival. Simply undereating will make you look “skinny fat” and feel lacking in energy. To ensure that you actually lose body fat, follow these guidelines:
To drop body fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit. This means that your total caloric intake needs to be relatively lower than the amount of calories needed to sustain your current body mass. In order to drop one pound of body fat in a week, you need to be in a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day. Check out the video below for a detailed tutorial on how to calculate these values for your personal needs:
Protein gives your body a positive nitrogen balance, which in turn forces the body to utilize fat for fuel.
Alcohol consumption adds more calories than protein and carbs—and your body isn’t able to store those calories. Thus, when your body is focused on metabolizing alcohol, fat loss is paused for at least 48 to 72 hours.
Working out with weights enables the body to reveal more muscle definition. By shifting the primary focus of your fitness regime to weight training, you’ll be able to burn more body fat at rest while improving the appearance of your physique.
You don’t need to train like an endurance athlete to look good in a swimsuit. Too much cardio-based exercise can eat away at lean muscle mass and leave you feeling excessively hungry. If you’re not training for a marathon, it’s only necessary to get in 30–35 minutes of cardio, five times a week, while training at 60-80 percent of your target heart rate.
If you follow all of these parameters, you can expect to drop one pound of body fat, and approximately one-half inch off of your midsection, per week. Losing a few pounds of body fat won’t drastically change the numbers on the scale; however, this process will leave you with a more dramatic physical change than if you were to simply lose several pounds (which includes losing water, muscle and fat).
Take weekly progress photos and measurements to monitor your progress. With consistent effort, you will look noticeably leaner by Memorial Day—and be on track to live a more healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Christine Hronec is the co-owner and food scientist of Muscle Gauge Nutrition, a dietary supplement manufacturing company based out of Philadelphia, and the founder of Gauge Girl Training, an online meal-planning, training and coaching service.