Midsummer has arrived, and you still haven’t gotten that beach-ready body you were hoping to unveil this year? That’s OK. We’re not here to lecture — we’re here to help. It may be time to step back and take a quick-stock analysis of what you’re doing to peel away those last few stubborn layers of fat because making some simple adjustments to your diet, cardio, supplementation and overall lifestyle can be what really pushes you to that next level. Los Angeles-based celebrity trainer and fitness expert Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS, advocates this type of “big picture” approach in these five tips.
1. Staggered Gains
When trying to get lean, some people just go with lighter weight, more reps and shorter rest periods. But the key may be to keep your focus on heavier weight while building in strategically shorter rest periods. “Shorter rest periods (30 to 60 seconds) with heavier weight (six to eight reps) have been shown to have a greater effect on postworkout metabolism,” Peña says. “The shorter rest periods also positively affect your calorie burn during your workout. It’s win-win.” The key is making sure you’re lifting as much as you can handle and not sandbagging on your weight selection — as he says, small weights build small muscles.
2. Make the Switch to HIIT
It’s OK to jump on this fitness-trend bandwagon — high-intensity interval training is here to stay. “High-intensity interval runs send your post-exercise oxygen consumption through the roof, and that means more calories burned, again, postworkout,” he says. “Also, because of the super-high intensity of these workouts, you burn plenty of fat in less time — 15 to 20 minutes a few times a week is plenty.” Plus, Peña adds, HIIT training is more favorable for those looking to hold on to as much muscle as possible. The ideal work-to-rest ratio is 1-to-2 (for instance, a 30-second sprint followed by a one-minute active rest).
3. Get Caffeinated
There are so many supplements out there that it may get overwhelming trying to decide which one to enlist in your war on fat. And while they all have their perks, the one that you should absolutely turn to is caffeine. “Caffeine anhydrous helps fight fatigue, increases mental sharpness and gives an immediate boost in strength,” Peña says. “These all combine to help you push more weight for more reps, which means more muscle in the long run. Remember, muscle is metabolic, so the more of it you have, the more calories you burn all day long.”
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4. Reduce Your Carbs Late
Carbs are not the enemy — you need them to build muscle and keep energy levels up. But if you’re looking to get lean, you need to employ a bit of a game plan. “Even on a low-carb diet, you should taper your carbs off as the day wears on,” Peña says. “I recommend having most of your carbs before noon and not having any after 6 p.m., unless they are consumed postworkout.”
5. Make Being Lean a Lifestyle
Subtle additions to your life as a gym rat can pay big dividends when you’re trying to get extra lean. “Try to go for a short walk after every meal, sign up for a sports league, chew sugarless gum to suppress cravings, fill your work drawer with healthy snacks,” Peña says. “Once your diet and training are squared away, adding some of these other things can send your cumulative fat-fighting effort through the roof.”