During the seasons of chilly and cool days, the desire to hide beneath sweaters and jackets becomes irresistible. But it doesn't have to be all or nothing—you can keep shredded even when the sun goes down during the colder months.
Win the war on winter by following these simple tips to help keep the pounds off as the months pass by.
1. Ditch The Excuses
People use bad weather as an excuse to go soft both on their workouts and bodies. But, as we say in the military, "Rain won't hurt you, but bullets will!" Don't let a little slush stand in your way. Go to the gym and make yourself bulletproof, no matter what is falling from the sky.
Also, make the clear distinction between exhausted and lazy. When I don't feel motivated, I ask myself if I'm legitimately tired or if I'm just being complacent. If I've trained to the point of exhaustion, then I take a day off to recover. After all, recovery is imperative when trying to stay shredded, since your body needs time to rebuild.
But, if I catch myself being lazy, I remember that no one has ever regretted doing a workout, and I get my butt to the gym. It's OK if you can't bring 100% intensity each and every time you hit the gym—the only bad workout is the one that didn't happen at all.
Another common reason to make excuses boils down to boredom. When I feel like vegging out instead of putting in work, I consider whether I'm sick of my routine. Changing up variables such as rep range, frequency, body-part pairings, rest periods, and tempo can rejuvenate your workout. This way you'll be more likely to go to the gym and train as hard in January as you did in July.
Whether it's getting up early to work out, making conscious decisions about your diet, or committing to train at a certain time during the day, it's important to maintain your good habits, even when summer ends. Stick to your guns, and you'll be leaner for having done so.
2. Track Your Macros
Knowing what, how much, and when to eat is vital to keeping your summer body year-round. If you go from consistently weighing out your grams, milliliters, and ounces to optimistically eyeballing two tablespoons of peanut butter and teaspoons of dressing, you'll likely slip back into poor nutritional habits. If you don't know what's going into your body, it's very difficult to tweak your nutrition to meet your goals.
I keep track of my protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake regularly to ensure I'm always on point. That way, I can adjust when needed. I track about 80 percent of my weekly food through MyFitnessPal, taking the occasional day off to enjoy life and be human. If you are consistent 80 percent of the time, you don't need to be overly concerned with the other 20 percent. This enables me to maintain my physique for months on end.
If you're not big on MyFitnessPal, there's an app called Nutritionist that I highly recommend. You can also use a traditional written journal if you prefer.
3. Keep Up The Cardio
Keeping a solid cardio routine year-round gives you the flexibility to have a slightly more forgiving diet. Now, I'm not talking about an all-out pizza, pasta, and brownie meltdown, but increasing your caloric expenditure through exercise does give you slightly more room to play with your food intake.
The kind of cardio you do is totally up to you, but personally, I like to go for an early-morning walk. 75 minutes, a few times a week is a convenient activity I can easily incorporate into my routine to get my heart rate going.
I also like to do occasional high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on the treadmill. I set the belt to 11 miles per hour and do 30 seconds on and 30 seconds rest for ten rounds. HIIT is great for burning fat, especially when you're short on time but don't want to bypass cardio. Be sure to choose a form of cardio that you enjoy so you'll be engaged—rather than just obligated—year-round. Aim for 2-3 sessions per week, and you'll hold on to that summer shred a little bit longer!
4. Know Your TDEE
Some people fail to maintain their summer bodies because they take extreme measures to achieve it, like doing endless amounts of cardio and restricting calories far below what's maintainable. Though they might achieve great results in the short term, they ultimately fail to sustain that routine and lifestyle.
To properly fuel your body for your workouts and everyday living, you must know how much energy you need. This can be discovered by using a total daily energy expenditure calculator (TDEE) that takes your height, weight, and activity level into account to give an estimation of the calories needed to maintain your physique.
Once you calculate the number of calories needed to sustain your body, break that number down into smaller meals and snacks. Personally, I like to eat three large meals, two snacks between meals, and one bedtime snack.
Your meal frequency might change depending on your plans for the day. If you're going out for a nice, rich meal, account for that by slightly reducing your calories throughout the day. Don't cut any meals out completely; that will slow down your metabolism. Just shuffle your macros around a bit so that you can stay on track without drastically changing your plan.
5. Eat Properly Around Your Training
It's also important to fuel yourself properly before and after a workout. This is where a lot of people falter. Either they don't eat enough calories before a workout to stay energized, or they fail to refuel post-workout when their bodies need the most nutrition.
I train in the morning, so breakfast is my pre-workout meal. About 2-3 hours before I hit the weights, I'll have a cup of oats with almond milk, a teaspoon of peanut butter and cinnamon, and a Grenade Hydra 6 protein shake. I always recommend having some protein before training—either with carbs or fat or both. Not only will this give you energy throughout your workout, it'll help jump-start the muscle repair and recovery process.
Try out different combinations and see what provides you with the most energy. Remember, what works for one person might not work for someone else. After working out, I have another shake and some Skittles.
Post-workout is the best time to have high-glycemic foods, since they're immediately converted into glucose and go toward replenishing glycogen stores and repairing muscles. I take advantage of this window to satisfy my sweet tooth with a handful of candy—within moderation, of course.
6. Lift Heavy
Lifting heavy means a number of things. First, you'll continually challenge yourself, pushing your limits and demanding that your body perform better each and every day You'll also add muscle, which boosts your metabolism daily. Most importantly, lifting heavy causes hefty metabolic stress, which allows you to continue burning calories even after your workout. This means you'll stay leaner and meaner, regardless of the season.
I also like to have a bedtime snack. Not only does it calm any late-night cravings, it also gives my body the fuel needed to repair and rebuild my muscles, keeping my lean mass high and my body fat low.
I recommend implementing a plan of action in which you steadily increase your load. Just be sure to track the weight you use. Constantly trying to improve your lifts—whether that be breaking your own personal record or limiting rest time between sets—will keep you motivated and on track. This will give you a tangible goal to strive for as you forge through the cold months ahead.
I usually work in three ranges: my 5-rep max, my 8-rep max, and my 12-rep max. I cycle through these ranges from week to week or month to month, depending on my goals.
7. Be Accountable
Need help keeping your shred? Become accountable for your actions! Finding a gym buddy or training partner is a cost-effective way to stay on track. Your partner should have similar goals, strength, and endurance levels. Of course, you want to find someone who will push you, but you don't want to be working with Minnie Mouse if you're Godzilla—or vice versa.
I've been working with my current training partner, Sam Bird, for about a year now. He's a men's physique competitor and transformation coach, and he holds me accountable—not only to show up to the gym, but also to do one more rep, add some weight, and spend more time under tension.
Setting goals is another way to stay accountable and motivated. I like to give myself specific dates and goals throughout the year to keep me on track. Whether it's a photo shoot, competition, or 10K run, I set out to do it with complete intention and purpose. Having a set start and finish helps me stay strong for the course.
8. Embrace an Off Season
OK, so this isn't really a way to keep your shred— it's more of a simple thought. We go to the gym and fuel our bodies to grow and progress, and part of that progress is building more muscle.
The most effective way to build muscle is having a calorie surplus, and when you stay in that surplus phase long enough, you'll eventually put on a little body fat. This is not always a bad thing: it enables you to build and grow, increases your strength, and, most importantly, enables you to eat more food and grow even more.
When I'm in my offseason, which typically lasts 8-12 weeks. I try to relax and keep my calories high. My offseason calorie intake is between 3,600 and 4,000 calories: 25 percent protein, 45 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat.
This keeps me sane and also fires me up when it's time to get shredded again. When I am getting into shred shape, I decrease my intake to 2,900-3,300 calories a day and cycle my carbs until I reach my goal level of lean. Once I reach that point, I keep my macros the same and manipulate my fats instead. The foods I eat don't really change—just the amount I take in at one time.
So, as hard as it may be, realize that it's OK to temporarily "kiss your abs goodbye"—especially if it means looking twice as good next year!