You've probably heard that "summer bodies are made in the winter," which means that a healthy, fit body is sculpted all year long, not just when it's time to hit the beach. And that's true.
But you know what else is true? It's never too late to adopt healthier habits — and there's still plenty of time to shape up for summer. While we're not going to tell you how to lose 30 pounds in two weeks (that's just unhealthy), we will offer some simple ways to drop a few pounds and tone up before the Fourth of July (hint: you're going to want to download a calorie-tracking app like LIVESTRONG.com's MyPlate).
1. Limit Foods That Cause Bloating
You probably already know that salty snacks like chips and fries can make you puffy. But there are some good-for-you foods that can cause bloating too, including cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower) and foods high in FODMAPs (like apples) — a group of carbohydrates that can be difficult to digest. That doesn't mean you should avoid these fruits and veggies altogether, though. They're nutrient-dense, high-fiber foods that should be part of any healthy diet — just skip them on beach days.
Read more: The 10 Worst Foods for Bloating
2. Split Up Your Workouts
Instead of exercising for, say, 90 minutes in the morning, split up your workout into strategic 45-minute halves. Joel Martin, PhD, assistant professor of sports medicine and kinesiology at George Mason University, suggests a cardio-based interval workout in the morning, followed by strength training in the evening.
"High-intensity intervals keep your heart rate up hours after the workout, and strength-training builds muscle that boosts your calorie burn even when you're resting," Martin says. Why cardio first, strength second? "Resistance training requires more attention from your nervous system, so it's better to do it when you're more awake," he says.
3. Constantly Challenge Your Muscles
This is not the time to stay stuck in your workout rut. "Mix up your routine so your body is constantly adapting to different workouts," Martin says. "The body adapts best when training is manipulated either by altering sets, reps, weight or types of movement."
Your plan: Do a full-body strength workout three or four times a week, mixing it up each time. So maybe your first full-body workout focuses on heavy weights, your second uses lighter weights at higher reps and your third and fourth feature exercises you've never tried before. And be sure to still incorporate cardio and HIIT into your overall training (see No. 2).
4. Don’t Cut Too Many Calories
Yes, you're trying to lose weight fast, but you don't want to lose just any weight — you want to lose fat (not muscle). And to lose fat, you need to make sure you're eating enough. "If you have a caloric deficit higher than 500 calories, you're going to lose muscle mass," Martin says.
So between exercising more and eating less, make sure to keep your overall deficit between 200 and 400 calories to burn fat instead of muscle.
5. Exercise on the Spot
There's a reason fitness models do push-ups and crunches right before a shoot. "Working out increases blood flow to the muscles so they look larger and more toned," Martin says. The effects won't last very long — Martin says 15 minutes, tops — but we won't judge you for logging a set or two just before the selfies start. Besides, who doesn't love a good beach workout? You can try these beach exercises to upgrade your workout.
6. Load Up on Fiber
First off, fiber-filled fruits like raspberries and strawberries are very low in calories (1 cup of raspberries has 65 calories, and a cup of strawberries has 49). This alone makes berries a solid snack for those trying to lose weight.
But fiber offers another important weight-loss benefit: It keeps you full. In fact, an April 2014 study from Nature Communications shows that the digestion of fiber may release an appetite-suppressing molecule called acetate, helping to keep hunger at bay. Aim for 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day.
Read more: 10 Surprising Flat-Belly Foods
7. Drink Lots of Water
Drinking water isn't just crucial to survival, it's also an important part of your weight-loss plan. According to a September 2015 study in Obesity, people who drank 500 milliliters of water 30 minutes before each meal lost almost 3 pounds more over a 12-week period than those who didn't.
It might sound too simple to be true, but water can help you feel full, reducing how much you eat during each meal. Plus, it's easy to mistake thirst for hunger, so before reaching for a snack, ask yourself if you're really wanting food because you might just be dehydrated.
8. Adopt a Short-Term Keto Diet
Otherwise known as a high-fat, low-carb diet that trains your body to use ketones for fuel instead of sugar, the keto diet can be a quick way to tone up. "The keto diet works for weight loss, and it works quickly," says Taylor Wallace, PhD, professor of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University.
Exactly how many pounds you drop depends on how much weight you have to spare in the first place, but you may see some body benefits even if the scale doesn't budge. Since the diet fundamentally changes the way your body accesses fuel — forcing it to burn fat instead of sugar — many people say they look leaner on the diet. Wallace suggests trying the keto diet for two months for the best results. Thankfully, barbecue is allowed!
9. Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF), an eating style that incorporates short intervals (either hours or days) in which you abstain from food or greatly reduce your calories, has been getting a lot of attention lately for its weight-loss and energy-boosting benefits. The theory is that taking a break from eating forces your body to dip into its fat stores for energy and, ideally, puts you in a calorie deficit. Just be sure you don't eat everything in sight as soon as your fast is over!
Indeed, an October 2015 study in Nutrition Reviews found that alternate-day fasting over a period of three to 12 weeks six weeks reduced body weight by up to 7 percent and also reduced body fat. Participants also benefited from a drop in triglycerides and total cholesterol.
There are several different methods of IF, but one of the more popular is to limit all of your daily eating to an eight-hour window, which means you're fasting for the remaining 16 hours (including the hours you're sleeping).
10. Don’t Sacrifice Sleep
We know you're waking up early to get in your cardio (see No. 2), but make sure you're still logging seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Several studies have linked sleep deprivation to a larger waistline, likely due to an increase in hunger hormones.
And how many times have you grabbed a doughnut for an energy boost when you were exhausted? You're not alone: In an August 2013 study published in Nature Communications, researchers found that people were more likely to crave junk food (like pizza and doughnuts) over fruits and vegetables when they were tired. Time to hit the hay!
- Mayo Clinic: "Why do doctors recommend a slow rate of weight loss? What's wrong with fast weight loss?"
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: "Manipulation of dietary short chain carbohydrates alters the pattern of gas production and genesis of symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome."
- Nature Communications: The short-chain fatty acid acetate reduces appetite via a central homeostatic mechanism
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Fiber"
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: "Efficacy of water preloading before main meals as a strategy for weight loss in primary care patients with obesity: RCT."
- Cell Research: "Intermittent fasting promotes adipose thermogenesis and metabolic homeostasis via VEGF-mediated alternative activation of macrophage"
- Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology: "Do intermittent diets provide physiological benefits over continuous diets for weight loss? A systematic review of clinical trials"
- Oxford Academic Nutrition Reviews: "Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans"
- Obesity: "Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review."
- Stanford Medicine: "Stanford study links obesity to hormonal changes from lack of sleep"
- Nature Communications: "The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain"