With the prospect of holidaymaking finally now a reality for the majority of us, there has never been a better time to properly commit to a training program to get ourselves into shape.
But, if your summer holiday (or winter escape) is just a few months away and you haven’t got a beach-worthy rig, then how realistic is it to do something about it?
To be brutally honest, it’s not going to be easy. As bodybuilding says, it is physiologically impossible to gain more than one pound/450g of muscle in a week, and that’s only if you train incredibly hard, eat the right foods and lay off alcohol and other detrimental factors that could affect your muscle and weight gain ( the good kind).
If you’re an avid Instagram user then you will be inundated with content from various so-called fitness professionals, but often the information they provide isn’t always the best to follow. In fact, blindly following certain fitness content can lead to harrowing results.
So, while you can’t expect to turn yourself into Jo Lindner before you jet off, you can still make some noticeable changes to your body if you stay committed. Of course, it should be noted that every single body is different and will react differently to training programs and meal plans. What works for one person may not work for you.
When you take body type into account: ectomorph, endomorph, mesomorph, you will find that some will find it much easier to put on weight and muscle than others.
DMARGE spoke with Ben Lucas, former NRL player and owner of Flow Athletic, to find out how much you can realistically change in a short space of time. The good news, according to Ben, is that you can “realistically start to feel better and a little lighter in a week or two.”
“But, to safely get the results you are after in a manageable way, I would say you need at least 3 months. Of course, everyone is different, but going on a crash diet to achieve this goal is likely to only work in the short term and it may also harm your metabolism.”
Ben has previously spoken to DMARGE about trying to get ripped in just two weeks (and I even tried getting a six-pack in two weeks, much to no avail). His message then, and now, is to be realistic with your goals and understand you’re unlikely to see huge changes.
“The biggest issue with having a short term body goal is that it can cause issues both mentally and physically,” he relates.
“Mentally, beating yourself up about it will not put you in the best frame of mind to enjoy your summer vacation. Physically, if you are not following a safe and reasonable program, you can really harm your metabolism, burn out and potentially even injure yourself.”
“It is better to have a long term plan, but little incremental goals along the way to keep you motivated. For example, after 2 weeks you may see a slight reduction on the scale, but more importantly, how do you feel?”
“Do you have more energy? Do you feel lighter? Are you sleeping better? These elements are an indication as to whether your health kick is working or not.”
We asked Ben to get to the crux of the matter. How much of a physical change one can expect to notice in 2 weeks, 1 month and 3 months. He alludes to the fact we’re all different, as mentioned earlier, but says, “in 2 weeks you may notice that you feel lighter, you are less bloated and have more energy.”
“In a month, your muscle may be starting to get tighter and more toned. Possibly, you have lost size in certain areas of your body. In 3 months, you are likely to be noticeably fitter. You may not be at your goal yet, but there will be a difference that others will probably notice.”
Of course, “getting in shape” will have different meanings to different people. One person may already be relatively slim or lean and will want to put on some extra muscle. Another may feel they’re overweight. Your goals will influence the style of training you will undertake, but Ben’s message of setting smaller, incremental goals is applicable to everyone.
Whether you’re looking to bulk up or slim down, strength training is one of the most beneficial routes to take. As we’ve discussed before, lifting weights and building muscle can actually be just as, if not more effective at helping you to lose body fat than cardio training.
Ben agrees, telling DMARGE, “strength training is a great place to start because research shows that your metabolism will keep revving for around 38 hours post workout. This means that you will be burning fat at rest.”
“However, cardio is also good to include as it helps to improve your cardiovascular fitness. The best exercises I would recommend would those that include compound movement, ie movements that work multiple joints and muscles in one movement as that will encourage a greater fat burn.”
“These exercises include weighted squats, weighted walking lunges, squat press, bench press, shoulder press.”
“For cardio, I would recommend the rower or ski erg because they work the entire body. Cycling and running can also be great. Ideally, do a strength workout around 4 days per week and make sure you are doing cardio most days if you want to lose fat, even if it is just a brisk 4k walk.”
As for what this would look like in a real world situation, Ben provided DMARGE with two example workouts: one for the gym, using weights and equipment and one at home, for those who don’t have weights.
- 12 x squat press with a barbell
- 12 x push up
- 24 (12 each side) x walking lunges with a barbell across your back or 2 heavy dumbbells
- 12 x chest press
- 400m on the rowing machine x 3 rounds
Complete this circuit 3 – 5 times during your session, depending on how much time you have.
- 12 X bodyweight squat press
- 12 x push up
- 24 (12 a side) x bodyweight walking lungs
- 12 x burpees
- 12 x tricep dips using the couch
- 1 minute of skipping or high knees x 3
Again, perform this circuit 3 – 5 times.
In addition to following a training program, it’s also important that you stretch to improve your flexibility and mobility. Ensuring these are the best they can be will help you to lift heavier weights because when your muscles are stretched, they can be healthier and stronger. Improving mobility will also allow you to perform exercises with the best possible range of motion, which again, can help to lift heavier weights or at the very least, ensure you minimize your risk of injury, because you’ll be able to perform them using the correct technique.
And, as we should all know, committing to a training program is only half the battle. You need to make sure you’re fueling your body with the right foods in order to facilitate your muscle gain or fat loss. If the terms calorie surplus and calorie deficit aren’t familiar to you, then you’ll want to clue yourself up.
Essentially, in order to gain weight, you need to be eating more energy than you burn and if you want to lose fat, you need to be eating less than the amount of energy you burn.
To this, Ben adds, “The easiest way to do this (lose fat), aside from eating the right foods, is to halve your portions. Many of us over eat meals, if you half your plate that’s a good start.”
“Aside from that, eat a diet that is rich in protein, lots of fruits and vegetables for antioxidants, minerals and digestion, nuts and healthy carbs. I would avoid processed foods as much as possible, instead of bread for example, opt for sweet potato.”
“Apps like My Food Diary can help you track how many calories you have eaten and the breakdown of protein/carbs/fats etc too.”
If you feel you struggle, or will struggle, to eat the right foods or are just unsure of where to start, then it’s always recommended to consult a qualified nutritionist, as they will be best educated to help you tailor your meals to your individual needs .
The takeaway? Yes, you can make noticeable differences to your body if you commit, just don’t go expecting to turn yourself into Thor. Set small goals, understand the reality and you’ll not only make physical changes, but your mentality may change too. If you feel good about yourself, regardless of how you look, that’s the ultimate win in anyone’s book.