There’s one caveat, though: Don’t train your abs. (You’re welcome.) While you need to work abs most weeks, the point of workouts at this stage is to get the muscles that pump up well to swell further with increased glycogen storage. Since abs don’t get pumped like biceps or shoulders, it doesn’t make sense to drive glycogen into them—in fact, doing so can cause them to inflate too much, blurring definition.
You're probably familiar with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). When it comes to cardio, HIIT is definitely the best way to strip off body fat, to the extent that there's literally no reason to hop on a treadmill and run at a steady pace for 30 or more minutes unless you're an endurance athlete. And if you're reading this magazine, chances are you don't desire the physique of a marathoner.
Nuts, the second food to watch, contain a fair amount of carbohydrate, and it’s very easy to unwittingly scarf down large quantities. Cashew nuts are among the worst carb-wise – you’ll find that they contain around 20% carbohydrate by weight. For someone following a strict keto diet with a 20 grams of carbs per day allowance, this means that consuming 100 grams (which happens in a flash!) will have filled their daily quota. Peanuts tend to be around 10-15% carbohydrate – not putting them in the clear either.
HIIT was originally developed by track coaches to train runners, but it has crossed over to the fitness industry due to its fat-burning benefits confirmed many times over in scientific studies (see "HIIT Findings"). A lot of these studies found that subjects performing HIIT burned significantly more body fat—and in less time—than those who did steady-state cardio programs.
If you want to lose weight you should start by avoiding sugar and starch (like bread, pasta and potatoes). This is an old idea: For 150 years or more there have been a huge number of weight-loss diets based on eating fewer carbs. What’s new is that dozens of modern scientific studies have proven that, yes, low carb is the most effective way to lose weight.
On the physiological side of things, it’s important to realize that the vast majority of your daily caloric burn comes down to just basic functions like breathing and keeping your heart beating, Moore says. Called your basal metabolic rate (BMR), your muscle does play a role in setting it, but extra muscle isn’t going to turn you into a supercharged calorie-torching machine. And even though exercise does burn calories, that total is often significantly less than what we expect and would need to create a large daily caloric deficit, he says.
Testing your limits brings about than just bragging rights. Lifting a heavier weight for fewer reps burns nearly twice as many calories during the two hours after your workout than lifting a lighter weight for more reps, according to research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Feel smug in the knowledge you’re still torching calories in that 10am meeting.
Not a jock? Find other ways to fit activity into your day: walk to school, jog up and down the stairs a couple of times before your morning shower, turn off the tube and help your parents in the garden, or take a stroll past your crush's house — anything that gets you moving. Your goal should be to work up to 60 minutes of exercise every day. But everyone has to begin somewhere. It's fine to start out by simply taking a few turns around the block after school and building up your levels of fitness gradually.
Don’t work out later than three days before your event. If your party’s on Saturday, for example, do your last workout of the week on Wednesday—muscles bulge most when they’re flush with glycogen (the carbohydrates stored in muscle), so you need to give your body time to recover and replenish its glycogen stores before your unveiling. If you train too close to the big day, the carbs stored in your muscles will be depleted, and you’ll end up looking flat and soft. Furthermore, make sure this last workout focuses on the areas you want to highlight, such as chest and arms. Glycogen is replenished fastest in muscles that need it most—i.e., the ones that have just been worked—so if you want your pecs and biceps to pop, you have to make sure they soak up as many of the carbs you’re taking in as possible (explained in the next step).
You already know that a perfect diet doesn't exist, but many of us still can't resist the urge to kick ourselves when we indulge, eat too much, or get thrown off course from restrictive diets. The problem: This only makes it more difficult, stressful, and downright impossible to lose weight. So rather than beating yourself up for eating foods you think you shouldn't, let it go. Treating yourself to about 200 calories worth of deliciousness each day — something that feels indulgent to you — can help you stay on track for the long haul, so allow yourself to eat, breathe, and indulge. Food should be joyful, not agonizing!
Gaspari lives by this rule. "In the weight room, I shorten my rest periods and use advanced techniques like supersets, compound sets, and dropsets to build muscle and burn fat. The key here is to keep training hard and heavy," he says. "Don't trick yourself into thinking that you have to use really light weights and high reps. If you put your mind to it, you can still train just as heavy at a fast pace."
Considering that only 1 in 10 Americans meet their produce requirements, it’s pretty safe to say you need to eat more veggies. And no matter what food philosophy you subscribe to, veggies are a big part of the program. Vegetables have a lot going for them: They fill you up for very few calories, and they flood your body with the nutrients it needs to fight diseases, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
"It’s easy to become impatient and frustrated when you’re trying to lose weight and haven’t seen the results yet. But be realistic – you won’t see the affect overnight. Your brain’s wiring plays a huge part in resisting changes in lifestyle, and it takes time to establish new habits – up to 12 weeks. Stick with it for at least eight weeks and you should notice a change."