Spring is here and summer is right around the corner — and you know what that means. Suddenly, everyone’s obsessed with their “summer body.”
Four-week shredding challenges are popping up all over the place and everybody’s frantically Googling to try and figure out how they can drop 5-10 pounds before their upcoming beach vacation.
There’s plenty of information out there geared toward telling you what to do get your summer body.
Here’s the problem with a lot of that information, though: Most of it’s crap.
What’s Wrong with These Summer Body Programs?
A lot of these programs are based on dropping your calories super low, eliminating entire food groups, spending more time than is healthy in the sauna, and/or doing tons of cardio.
Sure, you’ll lose weight in the short term following one of these plans. If that’s all you really care about, I guess they’re a viable option.
I’d rather have you focus on long-term results and a healthy lifestyle, though. That’s why, today, I’m here to talk about four things you shouldn’t do if you want to get a summer-ready body.
Every Body’s a Summer Body
Before I go any further, here’s a quick side note:
If you have a body that exists during the summertime, it’s a summer body. If you have a body that you put a bikini on, it’s a bikini body. You don’t have to do anything to get “summer-ready” if you don’t want to.
At the same time, though, I get that everyone wants to feel their best running around in their swimsuits. I’m no exception. I don’t blame you or judge you if you want to lose a little weight before summer. There’s a right and a wrong way to go about this, though.
Read on to learn more about what I don’t recommend doing if you want to lean out in time for swimsuit season. I’ll also share some tips for what I recommend doing instead.
Don’t Drop Your Calories Super Low
If you ask your average weight loss app what you ought to do to lose body fat, it’ll tell you that you should cut your calories to 1200 if you’re a woman and 1500 if you’re a man. That’s really, really low.
When you’re eating such a small number of calories per day, you’re almost guaranteed to lose weight. You’ll likely end up down-regulating your metabolism in the process, though. This, in turn, is going to make it harder for you to sustain your weight loss long-term.
Eventually you’ll plateau or start regaining the weight you lost. Then, you’ll be back to square one.
Instead of dropping your calories to 12-1500, I recommend following the information in this post and calculating your current maintenance calories.
Then, cut from there to enter a reasonable, healthy caloric deficit (around 250-500 calories). I don’t recommend cutting more than 500 calories at once, and even that’s pretty high for most people.
Don’t Do Hours of Cardio
Another common recommendation for people who want to lose weight and get leaner is to do tons of cardio. In my opinion, this is one of the worst things you could do to try and lose weight quickly. Here’s why.
First of all, you actually don’t burn that many calories when you’re doing steady state cardio. Your body adapts to that stimulus pretty quickly, and it won’t take long for you to plateau. You might lose a little weight initially, but it won’t last long.
Doing tons of steady state cardio also, in most cases, won’t help you get the look you’re going for. I’m assuming that, if you want to look lean for summer, you want to have a decent amount of muscle definition.
Steady state cardio isn’t going to help you get that definition. In order have defined muscles, you need to build those muscles. Neglecting strength training to focus on cardio to try and lose weight will, for most people, have the exact opposite effect of what you’re going for.
This isn’t to say that cardio is bad. There are plenty of benefits that come with doing steady state cardio, but I don’t recommend it for fat loss.
Instead of doing extended amounts of cardio for fat loss, I recommend focusing on strength training and adding in a couple of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts during the week. HIIT will allow you to burn body fat without sacrificing muscle mass.
Notice that I said a couple of HIIT workouts during the week, not every day. Daily HIIT is way too intense and could increase your injury risk.
Remember, too, that HIIT workouts should be short (like 15 minutes tops).
If you’re doing 30+ minutes of HIIT, it’s not HIIT. HIIT involves exercising at 85-95 percent of your maximum capacity for short periods of time, and each of these short bursts of activity should be followed by longer periods of rest.
If you can sustain a particular pace for 30 minutes, it’s not 85-95 percent of your maximum capacity, I promise you.
Don’t Sit in the Sauna for Hours at a Time
Do not sequester yourself in a sauna for hours at a time (and definitely do not wear a garbage bag and/or try to do cardio while you’re in the sauna, for the love of God).
Yeah, you’ll sweat a lot if you do this, but lots of sweat is not tantamount to weight loss. If you’re sweating gin the sauna for hours at a time, you’ll also increase your risk of heat stroke and injuries.
You’re also not burning fat doing this. You’re losing water weight that you’ll gain back after you rehydrate and eat your next meal.
Like steady state cardio, sitting in the sauna is not inherently bad. In fact, it’s really good for you. Not for hours at a time, though.
I wouldn’t recommend sitting in the sauna for more than 15 (may 20) minutes at a time. Even that’s a lot for most people.
If you do want to utilize the sauna for its myriad of other benefits, by all means, do so. But stick to shorter sessions instead.
Don’t Needlessly Eliminate Entire Food Groups
Finally, don’t needlessly eliminate entire food groups from your diet.
I’m including the word “needlessly” here because some people do legitimately need to cut out certain food groups. I, for example, have to cut out dairy so I don’t feel like garbage all day long. Other people need to cut out gluten or grains or other food groups.
If you don’t have a sensitivity to a particular food or food group, though, there’s no need to cut it out altogether. You can still eat in a calorie deficit and lose weight without giving up foods that you enjoy.
Instead of eliminating whole food groups, focus on eating foods that make you feel your best and adjust your portion sizes to make sure you’re eating in a way that promotes weight loss.
I do have a bit of a caveat that goes along with this “don’t.” I generally do not recommend cutting out whole food groups.
The exception, though, is things like alcohol, sugar, and processed foods. These foods aren’t doing your body any favors, from a health standpoint or an aesthetic standpoint. If you do cut out or limit our consumption of these foods, you’ll likely feel a lot better, even if you don’t change your calorie intake.
In theory, you could still enjoy these foods in moderation and reach your fitness and aesthetic goals. For some people, though, moderation doesn’t work. If you’re an abstainer instead of a moderator, it might behoove you to cut out these problematic food groups and focus on eating whole foods instead.
That being said, there is still such a thing as too much restriction. If the list of foods you will eat is shorter than the list of foods you won’t (and you don’t have any health issues that are influencing that list), there might be a more serious issue going on.
Get Your Summer Body Without Losing Your Mind
Here’s the thing. If you really want to do one or more of these things in preparation for summer, you’re welcome to. It’s your body and you can do what you want with it.
I don’t recommend doing any of these things, though, if your goals are long-term health and sustainability.
You might not see progress as quickly as you would if you followed a crash diet or did a crap ton of cardio, but you also won’t sacrifice your health for temporary results.
In my opinion, that sounds a lot better than looking shredded in a bikini for a couple of days.
What’s your opinion on the whole “summer body” thing? Let me know in the comments below!