You can't improve your fitness by popping a pill, sprinkling protein powder over your food or drinking a special shake. To get fit fast, you need to focus on eating right and engaging in both cardio and strength-training exercises. Consult your doctor before making changes to your diet or starting any exercise program.
Get Enough Calories
If you're aiming to get fit fast, you need to be at a healthy weight. However, if you need to drop a few pounds, trying to lose weight too fast won't do you much good. When you restrict your caloric intake too severely -- fewer than 1,200 calories a day for women and 1,800 a day for men -- you risk stalling your weight loss by slowing your metabolism.
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You need to find the right number of calories to lose at a steady rate of 1/2 to 2 pounds a week. Accomplish this by reducing your current intake by 250 calories to 1,000 calories a day. To figure out your current intake, record how much you normally eat in a food diary and add up the daily calories. Then subtract between 250 and 1,000 to get your new calorie goal for weight loss. For example, if you currently eat 2,600 calories a day, you can lose weight safely by reducing your intake to 1,600 to 2,350 calories a day. Since part of getting fit is exercising, you might want to go with the lower end of calorie reduction, say, 250 to 500 calories, and burn the rest of the calories through physical activity.
Eat Healthy Foods
To get the most out of your fitness program, fill your diet with foods that support your energy needs and muscle growth. That doesn't mean you need to limit your diet to brown rice, steak and egg whites. A "get fit" diet is the same healthy eating plan everyone should follow -- one filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy. Eat regularly throughout the day so you have energy when you're working out. You'll have a better workout when your body is properly fueled, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Also, be sure to eat a recovery snack after exercising to replenish energy stores and promote muscle building. Enjoy a nonfat fruit yogurt, a cup of chocolate milk or half a turkey sandwich.
Limit Processed Foods
It's not just about what you should eat, but also what you shouldn't when you're aiming to get fit. According to a 2011 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, certain types of foods are linked to weight gain, including potato chips, sweetened drinks such as soda and juice and processed meats such as bacon and pepperoni. To improve your fitness level and help you reach your goals faster, limit your intake of these and other processed foods such as white bread and pasta, sweets and fast food.
Get Fit With HIIT
Adults need 150 minutes of aerobic exercise every week for good health. But when you're trying to get fit fast, you may want to ramp it up a bit with high-intensity interval training. According to a 2012 article published in Australian Family Physician, when you're trying to lose weight, HIIT may help you reach your fitness goals faster than traditional aerobic exercise because it increases your calorie-burning capacity, even after you're done working out. The American College of Sports Medicine says you burn 6 to 15 percent more calories those two hours following HIIT. In addition to helping you burn more calories for weight loss, HIIT also helps you lose abdominal fat while retaining muscle mass, improves aerobic and anaerobic fitness and is good for heart health.
HIIT alternates between periods of intense aerobic exercise followed by periods of recovery or rest. For example, you might run at top speed for 30 seconds followed by a 2 minute jog, and then repeat this throughout the duration of your workout. This type of exercise helps you burn more calories, even after you're done working out.
Build Muscle With Strength Training
In addition to aerobic activity, round out your fitness routine with strength-training exercises that work all the major muscle groups at least two days a week. Use free weights, resistance bands or body resistant exercises such as squats, sit-ups and pull-ups to gain strength and build muscle. To get the most benefits, repeat each exercise to the point where you can't do one more repetition without help. The CDC recommends two to three sets, consisting of eight to 12 repetitions, of each exercise. You may want to consult a personal trainer for help designing an exercise routine tailored to your fitness needs.
- American Council on Exercise: Fit Life: How Many Calories Do We Really Need?
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Healthy Eating Plan
- American Council on Exercise: Fit Facts
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Back to Basics for Healthy Weight
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: How to Fuel Your Workout
- Australian Family Physician: Evidence Based Exercise - Clinical Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training
- American College of Sports Medicine: High-Intensity Interval Training
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Best Diet: Quality Counts
- New England Journal of Medicine: Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men