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Stay Lean Through The Summer

No matter where you are on the fitness scale, there’s a better version of you locked inside of you that wants to get out. 99.9% of all fitness material is geared toward telling you what to eat or what exercises to do to unlock your best self. But this article is focused on things to AVOID, so your best self has an easier chance of coming to fruition!

1.)Avoid sticking to light weights and high reps

“Heavy weight just bulks you up,” says the shapeless gym enthusiast. “Lighter weights with higher reps is what really gets you ripped.” Tsk, tsk tsk. Mr. Nonsense and his amoebic physique have good intentions, but this way of thinking is as archaic as eight-track cassettes.

High-rep sets definitely have their place increasing muscular endurance and pump, for instance but they should never form the backbone of your program when you’re trying to get lean. Sticking to lightweight sets (12-20 reps) for an extended period robs you muscles of what they need most: a constant challenge. In the absence of new stimuli, such as constantly increasing weight loads, your muscles will simply grow content and either plateau or backtrack in size and shape. Lifting heavier will help you gain more lean tissue, which allows you to be slightly more metabolic at rest. Plus, heavy training (6-8 reps) increases the total caloric expenditure during and after your workout.

Best Tip

Base your program on heavy, multi joint lifts such as squats, deadlifts and various presses that recruit and build more total muscle and burn more calories. Use moderate (10-12 reps) and lightweight (12-20 reps) sets to complement your heavy training, not the other way around.

2.)Avoid cardio before weight training

Some silly folks like to shamelessly exploit a fundamental training mantra that you should always train for priorities. If losing body fat is your primary goal, for example, then cardio should be your primary focus in the gym, right? This is one case where your priorities are just backward, pal. While cardio by itself is certainly productive, doing cardio after your weight-training session is almost twice as productive at burning fat.

Research

Japanese researchers recently determined that doing a weight workout before cardio resulted in significantly more fat-burning than doing cardio alone. In the study, a cardio-only group burned just more than 20% of their total calories from fat, while another group who did cardio after weights burned nearly 50% of their total calories from fat. One reason for this amazing disparity is that the body plows through stored glycogen during your weight routine, making fat the primary fuel source once it’s time for your cardio.

Best Tip

Perform cardio when it’ll be most productive for you after you hit the weights. Try mixing in 3-4, 20-30- minute, post lifting cardio sessions per week.

3.) Avoid eating fast-digesting carbs pre workout

Before you hit the gym, you definitely want to have some protein, but some people still reach for white toast, Gatorade and other fast-digesting carbs to round out their pre workout meal. Somewhere on a cave wall it is written in ancient Sanskrit: A crab is a carb is a carb. Today, we know better. You definitely don’t want to head to the gym on an empty tank, which is why you should fuel up in the 60-90 minutes or so before your first rep.

But before you guzzle a sports drink or have a baked potato, know this: Fast-digesting carbs will have a negative impact on your body’s ability to burn fat for fuel in the gym because they boost insulin. This anabolic hormone is great to boost after the workout for encouraging muscle growth, but during the workout it blunts fat-burning.

Best Tip

While having some carbs in your system is ideal pre workout, you’ll want to make smarter choices to keep your fat-burning high. Take in 30-40 grams of slower-digesting sources such as oatmeal, whole-grain bread, fruit or sweet potatoes 15-30 minutes before training. Research shows that athletes who eat these foods burn more fat.

4.) Avoid doing steady-state cardio at 70%-80% of max heart rate (MHR)

We love those skinny dudes who hit the treadmill with a heart-mate monitor strapped around their chests; it helps round out their already stylish headband-and-Adidas Gazelles look. But that leisurely prance is simply no match for a hard-sweat, fat nuking interval session. Steady-state cardio done at 70%-80% of your max heart rate will definitely eat away at body fat, but you may be selling yourself short.

Your best bet is to train using intervals, where you frequently alternate between bouts of high intensity (80%-90% MHR) and low intensity (50%-60% MHR). This method of training leaves the body burning more fat long after you put in your last sprint no heart rate monitor required.

Best Tip

Perform 20-30 minutes of interval training on a treadmill, elliptical or bike 2-3 times per week. Try one minute of high intensity (a fast run) followed by one minute of low intensity (a slow walk) and keep repeating.

5.)Stop avoiding caffeine, green tea and carnitine

Men. We’re too proud to ask for directions, sure. That’s because our navigational prowess makes it unnecessary for us to do so. But we’re here to tell you that refusing to use supplements to power your fat fighting efforts could leave you feeling as though you’re driving in circles. When it comes to shedding body fat, there’s no substitute for hard training and sound dieting. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use everything at your disposal to speed up your results. Virtually every fat-burner on the market contains some form of caffeine, green tea or carnitine. Why? All three attack fat-burning from different sides, making your training and nutritional efforts all the more productive.

Caffeine binds to fat cells to enhance fat-burning during exercise, green tea prevents the breakdown of the metabolism-regulation neurotransmitter norepinephrine and carnitine helps transport fat into the mitochondria of cells, where they’re burned for energy. Avoiding these supps is an easy way to downshift your progress.

Best Tip

Take 200-400 mg of caffeine with breakfast and 200-400 mg 1-2 hours before your workout. Take 500 mg of green tea extract three times a day, including one serving just before your workout. Take 1-2 grams of carnitine three times a day, including one serving just before and one serving immediately after your workout.

6.)Stop avoiding protein or amino acids before cardio

If you’re a member of Shredded Academy, you should know just how important pre and post workout nutrition and supplementation is. It’s easy to eat like a maniac after a hard workout, but some guys miss the mark when it comes to the pre-workout prep, particularly in terms of halting muscle catabolism on a cardio-only day. What a shame, because it’s an easy fix.

Leaning out isn’t nearly as fun unless you have some muscle underneath that blubber. So before hitting the treadmill Maurice Greene-style, make sure you’ve primed your body to hold on to as much muscle as possible. Taking 10-20 grams of fast-digesting whey protein or 3-6 grams of amino acids before a hard cardio session, particularly those done in the morning on an empty stomach, will help ensure that your body has available energy for the work ahead rather than tapping into muscle protein.

Best Tip

Take 3-6 grams of amino acids or consume a light, 10-20 gram whey protein shake before cardio. This is especially important for cardio before breakfast.

7.)Avoid eating three square meals a day

We don’t blame you entirely for this one. The whole, “breakfast, lunch and dinner” approach to nutrition has been an American mainstay seemingly since time began. It has worked wonders, too, what with us Yanks now in the midst of a national obesity epidemic. This philosophy works for our armed forces, but unless you’re doing 8-mile hikes with a 70-pound rucksack twice a day, you’re better off consuming 5-6 small meals a day. While some people rely on three squares to meet their daily caloric needs, such large infrequent meals can cause stomach bloating, overeating, drops in blood sugar and greater fat retention.

Smaller, more frequent meals keep your metabolism higher, allowing your body to use more of the food for fuel instead of dropping it off on your waistline.

Best Tip

Even if you’re chained to a desk for 10 hours a day, make sure you consume small meals or snacks every 2-3 hours. Protein powders, canned tuna, nuts, jerky, fruit and protein bars are all good things to keep on hand.

8.) Avoid sticking to straight sets in the gym

Three sets of 10 on every exercise, 1-2 minutes of rest between sets, huh? Yawn. How long have you been doing that, and how much has it helped you lean out? If you’re reading this, the answers are probably, “too long” and, “not much.” If your really want to blast away at stubborn fat stores, you need to kick things up a notch. Supersets are a perfect way to do that. Performing two or more exercises back-to-back without rest can boost post-workout growth hormone levels, thus increasing muscle mass and stoking fat-burning without really increasing your workout volume.

Plus, moving from one exercise to another with limited rest in between increases your calories burned during exercises.

Best Tip

Try using an all-supersets workout for 2-4 weeks to elevate your metabolism, burn more calories and boost HGH levels.

9.) Avoid eating carbs alone

Even the most dedicated, carb-deprived bodybuilders need the occasional carb-heavy snack to keep their sanity intact. So if your diet makes you feel as if you need to chow down on a plain bagel from time to time, feel free to do so. Just don’t have it alone! If you eat carbs by themselves, particularly outside of training times, you might as well start shopping for wider-waisted jeans.

It’s okay to have carbs when trying to get lean just make sure you have some protein, too. An extra glass of milk, some egg whites or some cottage cheese are all suitable items to add to a carb-rich dish. The addition of protein will help slow the digestion of carbs, keeping your body from storing them as fat.

Best Tip

Never eat carbs alone. Always have them with protein and small amounts of fat to slow digestion and keep your blood sugar levels in check. Eating fibrous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower and green beans helps ensure slower digestion of all carbohydrates.

10.)Avoid being a night owl

We know how it is. After a hard day’s night at the gym, you like to come home, refuel with food, plop down on the couch and take inventory of your DVR list. After your sixth episode of Rescue Me, however, you find that the night has gotten away from you. Is it really 1:15? You finally commit to exiting your recorded shows when you realize, Hey, that’s Jessica Biel on Late Night with Conan O’Brien! There goes another half-hour. Go to bed already!

Studies have shown that those of us who like to stay up late be it channel surfing, web browsing or just reading and get up early for work suffer the consequences by way of the belly. That’s right, getting less sleep actually contributes to higher levels of body fat over time.

Best Tip

If you’re looking to drop body fat, then you need to manage your time better, especially in the evening.

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