It’s that time of year where lots of us are looking at booking holidays, getaways or just planning the dates for weddings/festivals and events that come around over the summer months. Regardless of whether you want to look great in a bikini or tight t-shirt or leaner in a dress or a suit, hopefully today’s tips will help you get that little bit leaner over the summer months.
Now nothing beats the basics when looking to get in shape – get into a calorie deficit through your nutrition i.e. eat less than you burn, add some resistance training to your workout regimen (to burn more calories while you rest) or increase your cardio (to burn more calories during your actual workout) but I wanted to build on those ideas and talk about some fitness tips that you’re probably not doing that could help you progress even faster.
1) Use Your Coffee For Fat Burning Purposes Only!
Translation: Save your coffee for pre workout: If you’ve been following my stuff for a while, you know that I’m a full blown coffee addict- I could happily drink five or six cups every day and although my anxiety would be through the roof and I wouldn’t sleep that night- the temptation to ‘have another cup’ is a daily battle. That being said, caffeine when used properly is an incredible ingredient that can speed up fat loss, improve sporting performance and help you build muscle by pushing harder in your workouts.
Caffeine is one of the most scientifically backed performance enhancing supplements on the planet – its the only supplement in my book ‘The Fitness Mindset’ that I recommend for those of you looking to burn body fat AND build muscle.
As a fat burner, it’s been shown to help release fat from cells- the reason its normally the first ingredient in every over the counter fat burner and it can support elevated energy levels higher through a calorie deficit (when you are eating fewer calories).
For muscle building- it can increase your lactic acid threshold, meaning you can push harder in your workouts and allow you to tear more fibers by moving more weight or creating more tension on the muscle with your regular lifting weight, again tearing more fibres (muscle fibre tears + nutrition/sleep/recovery in general = muscle gain) so coffee can work tremendously well whatever your goal.
However as you may have already noticed, you build up a caffeine tolerance pretty quickly. If you remember your first cup of coffee, can of energy drink or pre workout – the amount of energy you got from it was probably out of this world.. I was ready to solve all the worlds problems after my first ever double espresso; but now you need the same amount just to get out of bed. This is because we build up a tolerance to caffeine meaning we need to take more of it to get the same original hit. One of my personal hacks that I recommend experimenting with is limiting your caffeine to before your workouts only. That being said, I also have one more cup before I write, record a podcast or do any ‘thinking or creative work’ – but that’s my daily limit and I don’t take any caffeine at weekends to try and keep my tolerance low. If you really want to step up a notch, try going ‘caffeine free’ for two days a week. I do every weekend and I replace it with a coffee replacement called Dandyblend and I mix with MCT oil so I don’t get that cognitive low that can come with caffeine free days. Adding any form of medium chain triglyceroide (MCT oil) on these days has been a game changer for me.
Tip: A cup of black coffee works great before your workout as a ‘kick’ or to increase lipolysis (for fat burning) – just be careful not to add loads of milk, sugar or sweeteners as this has been shown to minimise its fat burning effect when compared to plain black coffee or double espresso.
2) Unplug The CrossTrainer and Throw Away The Key!
Translation: add in HIIT cardio or finishers: Now this is a bit ridiculous for two reasons. 1) cross trainers are a decent bit of equipment for certain demographics (discussed below) and 2) cross trainers don’t have keys but I think it helps to cement my next point.
Cross trainers don’t have keys either
There a couple of ways to get leaner – you can to get your body into a calorie deficit through your nutrition i.e. eating less than you burn, you can tear more fibres in your workouts to elevate metabolism (the calories your eat goes towards repair from the workout and are less likely to be stored as body fat) or you can increase your heart rate throughout the day (to burn more calories overall). All work great in isolation but if you combine the three, then you can get this wondrous snowball effect.
Personally I’m a huge fan of HIIT cardio (high intensity interval training), its quick, effective and works great for fat loss or preserving muscle. Now LISS (low intensity steady state – i.e. 25 minutes on a cross trainer) can work well too, but from my experience- with the exception of people who have been training for several years, have their nutritional really dialled in and know their body inside out, LISS tends not to be as effective as HIIT for the majority.
The reason I love ‘finishers’ (HIIT/resistance/bodyweight workouts that you do the end of your normal session to replace cardio) is that I combines the best of resistance training, tearing fibres to elevate metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day with the best of HIIT, increasing your heart rate to burn more calories during the actual workout.
Try this sample finisher from Week 3 from the intermediate version of my next Top 50 Program (starting June 4th) at the end of your next workout.
- Barbell Thruster
- Spider Push (male)/Mountain Climber (female)
Reps: 3,3, 3
rest only as you need to
3) Eat Carbs Until You Get Sick!
Translation: cycle your carbs: As mentioned above your overall calories in and out is what determines how much body fat you’re going to lose and although there are other physiological factors that obviously come into play, this is true for 95% of people.
Now I’m massively exaggerating when I say to ‘eat carbs until you get sick’ but one thing that you shouldn’t shy away from if you are training really hard is the benefit that carbs can have on your recovery, workout intensity and metabolism in general, especially if you’re cycling them.
One thing I like to layer on top of a calorie deficit to speed up fat loss results is carb cycling. This is effectively where you have a different intake of carbohydrate on each day depending on what you’re training that day.
For example if 200g of carbs is your high day, 100g for your medium day and 50g for your low day, you might have 200g on leg day, 100g on normal training days and 50g on a rest day.
High day: 200g carbs
Medium day: 100g carbs
Low day: 50g carbs
Again context is key and the numbers are going to vary if you’re a 45kg beginner female compared to a 85kg guy with five years training experience but the concept is the same.
You can build your own carb cycling nutritional strategy yourself, just don’t make the common mistake of cycling carbs and not changing up the other macros to make up your calories. For example if you’re calorie target is 1,600kcal each day- on your high carb day, you will need to reduce your fat to make up the calories equal to 1,600kcals. The same is true for the low carb day; your fats will be considerably higher to make up 1,600kcals. Again play around with it yourself or get a professional to design it. The key is use high quality foods, whilst making sure you’re not eating way too much or way too little as you go along.
Side note: eating too little is a real problem if you are constituently hitting a fat loss plateau. If you’ve ever lost weight or lost body fat only to rebound back to your starting point as soon as you went back eating ‘normal foods’ again, you were probably eating too little. This is very common with juice and bar diets but also from just dropping your caloires way too low. Unless you are a 45kg female who sits on a couch all day, you’ll probably never need to drop your calories below 1,000kcals… Ever! Just saying.
4) Bin Those Damn Protein Bars!
Translation: switch your protein bar for 85% dark chocolate (for one week only): This one is really more of an experiment as protein bars are one of those ‘split opinions’ topics amongst trainers and fitness professionals. Some think they are glorified chocolate bars (and some definitely are) and other think they are great ‘treats’ to fit into your macros. The answer again is somewhere in the middle. Both arguments are right; the key is finding what works best for you. If your daily protein bar is keeping you on track with your nutrition and it’s the little ‘treat’ that you look forward to each day, then I would 100% keep it in. However, if you’re someone who battles daily with cravings and even though you had a protein bar at lunch time, you could still devour a huge dairy milk bar or a box of biscuits by dinnertime, then it might be worth experimenting with cutting out the protein bars for a week (diet drinks are another common culprit here but that’s a blog post for another day).
As an experiment, try switching your daily protein bar for 50g of 85% dark chocolate – if you find your cravings have disappeared and your energy is steadier, keep this change for the summer. If you notice no difference and miss your daily bar, go back to normal protein bars. Find what works best for you and then double down on it.
Double Down On What Works
None of these tips work in isolation, as I mentioned at the beginning, its your overall nutrition, training, supplement and recovery that’s going to determine how your body responds for the summer but hopefully these tips go a long way towards getting you in shape for the summer months. Try adding them all in or pick the ones that stands out most to you and be sure to let me know how you find it.
For more information on my Summer Top 50 Program, starting on the 4th June, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the title ‘Top 50’ and I’ll send you all the information on it and you can see if its what you’re lookin for.