By Michael Berg, Contributing Expert
Hello, procrastinators. And yes, you know exactly who you are … those guys who promised themselves that this year would be the year they would be muscular, ripped and ready for a shirt-free summer.
But here we are, with the 239th birthday of this great country almost upon us, and you’ve still got some fatty winter remnants steadfastly hanging on like a tequila hangover.
From this point, you have two choices: You can shrug off your beach-body dreams for another year and ravenously dive into the Fourth of July barbecue spread that awaits — or you can decide to get serious, right here and right now.
It’s truly not too late to salvage your summer. You can get appreciably fitter, stronger, and more defined in a matter of a few weeks with some dedication and sweat equity. Just take these six steps to get started.
STEP 1: Spring clean your diet.
Sure, you’re a few months too late. But that doesn’t mean anytime isn’t a good time to eliminate some of the big fat offenders from your diet. If you don’t want to make a full-scale sweeping change to your eating habits — like using our Mediterranean fat-loss diet, for instance — you can still make an impact on your fat stores by implementing five new rules to dine by:
- Eat smaller meals every three hours from the moment you wake up.
- Make sure those meals include at least one to two servings of vegetables and a lean protein source (chicken breast, turkey breast, lean cuts of beef or fish).
- Ditch the three main enemies of a sound diet: Fried foods, sugary drinks and anything that can be classified as dessert.
- Make your last meal of the day simple — like a whey/casein blend protein shake mixed with water.
- Institute a weekly cheating system, where you quell your cravings without going overboard. Don’t do a cheat day, either, but just a cheat meal … a full day can become nothing more than a body fat-fueling free for all, an excuse to binge that ends with a trail of candy wrappers, empty ice-cream pints, and a stomach full of remorse.
For those who want to guarantee results, take the next step and track your calorie intake. Journal everything you eat, and adjust your calorie intake up or down depending on what the scale is telling you week to week. For a good starting point, you can use the old rule of thumb: To lose weight, multiply your bodyweight by 15 — the result is the maximum amount of calories you should consume daily. For instance, if you’re 190 pounds, your target is no more than 2,850 calories per day.
STEP 2: Weight train like you mean it.
It’s a simple fact: Muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning the more of it you have packed onto your frame, the more calories your body burns all day long, even at rest. This means that weight training is way more effective at keeping you lean than cardio workouts — that ultra-skinny girl wearing holes in the treadmill belt at your gym is going about it all wrong. (No need to tell her, though, she probably won’t take out her earbuds long enough to give you the time of day anyway.)
If you have a training program, stick with it, making sure you increase your intensity — that means striving for new personal bests nearly every workout — and stay consistent, working out at least an hour a day four to five times per week.
If you don’t have a workout plan, no worries. We’ve got you covered. Check out the Back-To-Basics primer program at the bottom of this article that hits all your key muscle groups over the course of a five-day split.
Monday: Back and Abs
Tuesday: Shoulders and Traps
Thursday: Chest and Abs
Step 3: Rev up your fat-loss efforts with these supplements.
“Ah, now we’re talking. Just take some supplements and I’ll be good to go, right? Who needs those other steps!”
Hopefully, that’s not the voice in your head right now, because adherence to this step cannot overcome a lousy diet and lackadaisical physical effort. Supplements are designed to work synergistically with those other good decisions. In tandem with a clean diet and regularly scheduled workouts, they are formulated to augment those inputs and facilitate faster, more pronounced results.
Consider two favorites among our readership, Thermo Heat and Thermo Heat Nighttime from Advanced Molecular Labs (AML). They’re designed to be taken in tandem — Thermo Heat in the morning and early afternoon (as directed on the label), and Thermo Heat Nighttime either 30 minutes before your last meal of the day or right before bed (again, as directed).
With Thermo Heat, you’ll set the stage for maximum fat burning not just during your workouts, but 24/7.
Thermo Heat is designed to help boost a sluggish metabolism. For those who keep eating too much and exercising too little, a product like this isn’t going to work magic — no product could if you’re subverting it with your actions. But taken by someone with a renewed dedication to exercise and diet, and its thermogenic effects could help keep your body in calorie deficit for longer periods of time every day.
Via a proprietary blend of researched thermogenic and brown fat-activating ingredients, Thermo Heat stimulates your beta-3- adrenergic system, raising the resting metabolic rate. The formulation also includes noradrenaline and dopamine activators, helping with cravings, appetite control and mental alertness.
Meanwhile, the nighttime formula contains a dose of powerful capsaicinoids. They not only help increase the oxidization of body fat, they may also reduce your appetite — a critical benefit when you’re in dieting mode and cravings start to rage. To further battle cravings, the proprietary blend contains the amino acid 5-HTP, while gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) may help relieve the effects of stress and induce relaxation through its inhibitory actions in the body.
To help you get to sleep faster, Thermo Heat Nighttime also includes melatonin, a well-studied hormone involved in regulating the body’s sleep/wake cycle and energy metabolism, and L-theanine, an amino acid shown in studies to improve feelings of wellness and relaxation.
STEP 4: Use cardio as your excuse to get outside.
Remember how we kinda bashed the idea of cardio in that last step? Well, forget we said that. It’s not better than weight training, but that doesn’t mean it’s not helpful to burn fat.
Thing is, it’s summer, so telling yourself you’ll spend an extra 30-45 minutes stuck inside the gym every day, running or cycling in place while reading a dog-eared copy of People from last March is simply a lie. You want to get outdoors, and the sooner the better. So we’ve built a few cardio sessions where you can get some sun while ramping up your calorie burn.
Option 1: Sprints
Either use cones or a football field if you have access to one. Rest 30 seconds to two minutes between sprints, depending on how much time you need to catch your breath.
|Action||Time or Reps
|Warm-up jog||5 minutes|
|Brisk sprint from end zone to end zone||5 times|
|Sprint from 50-yard line to end zone||5 times|
|Fast walk from end zone back to the 50||5 times|
|All-out sprint from 25-yard line to end zone||3 times|
|Walk from end zone to 25-yard line||3 times|
|Cool-down jog||5 minutes|
Option 2: Biking
Here, you could do a steady-pace ride for up to 60 minutes. Or, if you want to incorporate a sprint element, bring a timer and intersperse 30-second full-effort sprints into your ride every two minutes. Another option is to find a steep hill and do a series of uphill climbs in the middle of a longer ride, timing yourself so you can attempt to beat your best effort next time out.
Option 3: Trail Hike
Go on a 30- to 45-minute trail hike. Wear a weighted backpack (as much as you can handle, up to 50 pounds). At some point during the run, carry four or five rocks, logs or other heavy objects up a hill one by one, then bring them all back down the same way. (If you can’t find implements to carry up and down the hill, use your rucksack.) Every five or 10 minutes of your entire trail run, stop for 10 burpees.
Step 5: Take a multivitamin that improves metabolic and overall health
You’ve likely heard this advice before: “To make sure you cover all your nutrient bases, take a multivitamin.” That’s actually a good rule of thumb for a hard-training athlete who is putting out an intense effort through exercise and is demanding a lot in the way of recovery from their body. The truth is, most people don’t consume even the minimal daily requirement for many of these essential vitamins and minerals – thus the need for a multivitamin. But while most multivitamin and mineral combinations don’t enhance performance or improve the physique, Thermo Heath Multi contains several unique compounds that do exactly that.
The additional ingredients in Thermo Heat Multi are aimed at enhancing thyroid gland function, fatty acid oxidation, and brown adipose tissue activity – all which help improve overall metabolic health and help your body reach its maximum fat-burning potential.
Taken as directed, it was crafted to work in conjunction with Thermo Heat and Thermo Heat Nighttime, a one-two-three punch that can help fast-track your efforts to get leaner this summer.
Step 6: Your most important step – the first one.
With this plan in hand, you now have your fate in your hands. It’s your choice: You can keep your T-shirt on at all times (meaning you’re that guy in the pool) until Labor Day rolls around.
Or you can take action and start making progress toward that oft-stated but never-realized goal of yours. July 4 is about freedom, after all, so how about some freedom to go bare-chested without a twinge of embarrassment to hold you back?
BACK-TO-BASICS PRIMER PROGRAM
Monday: Back and Abs
|Bent-Over Barbell Row||6||20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6|
|Pull-Up||5||10, 10, 10, 10, to failure|
|Seated Cable Row||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
|Wide-Grip Pulldown to Front||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
|Deadlift||3||10, 10, 8|
|Back Extension||3||20, 20, 20|
|3||100 reps total*|
|Crunch||5-6||100 reps total*|
|* Your goal is to get 100 total reps in 6 sets or less.|
Tuesday 2: Shoulders and Traps
|Seated Barbell Press||6||20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6|
|Seated Dumbbell Press||5||12, 10, 8, 6, 5|
|EZ-Bar Upright Row||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
|Dumbbell Lateral Raise||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
|Bent-Over Dumbbell Raise||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
|Barbell Shrug||4||20, 15, 12, 10|
|Dumbbell Shrug||3||12, 10, to failure|
Thursday: Chest and Abs
|Incline Barbell Press||6||20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6|
|Flat-Bench Dumbbell Press||5||12, 10, 8, 6, 5|
|Incline Dumbbell Flye||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
|Push-up or Dip||4||12, 12, 12, to failure|
|Double Crunch||3||12, 12, 12|
|Hanging Leg Raise||3||12, 12, 12|
|Cable Crunch||3||12, 10, 8|
|Plank||3||60 seconds per set|
|Barbell Squat||6||20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6|
|Leg Press||5||15, 12, 10, 8, 6|
|Hack Squat||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
|Leg Extension||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
|Romanian Deadlift||5||15, 12, 10, 8, 6|
|Seated Leg Curl||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
|Standing Calf Raise||4||15, 12, 10, 8|
|Seated Calf Raise||3||15, 12, 10|
|Walking Dumbbell Lunge||3||20 steps|
Alternating Hammer Curl
|Close-Grip Bench Press||5||15, 12, 10, 8, 6|
|Lying EZ-Bar French Press||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
|Cable Pushdown||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
|Reverse-Grip One-Arm Pushdown||2||12, 10|
|Standing EZ-Bar Curl||5||15, 12, 10, 8, 6|
|Dumbbell One-Arm Preacher Curl||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
|Alternating Hammer Curl||3||10, 10, 8|
|Reverse-Grip EZ-Bar Curl||2||12, 10|
|Dumbbell Wrist Curl||3||20, 15, 12|