What do you think of when you hear the phrase “spring cleaning”? For most of us, this time of year means welcoming the warmer temperatures by ditching the bulky sweaters and indoor exercise, and heading outdoors to get some sun. And while many of us will focus our extra bursts of energy on our home, upcoming summer vacation plans, and possibly even those drawers we keep shoving stuff in, spring is also a great time to fine-tune your nutrition and fitness program. Check out these 13 simple tips to help you revamp your program and kick your motivation into gear—just in time for summer.
1. Clean Out Your Kitchen Cabinets
Jan Hauser, a 14-year veteran in the fitness industry as a weight loss coach master trainer, and yoga instructor advises clients to grab a garbage bag and go through your cabinets, pantry, fridge, and freezer. Take a look at all the foods hiding in the nooks and crannies and ask yourself “will this help me achieve my goals?” If it’s not going to help, toss it in the bag. If you have trouble deciding, keep healthy things like meats, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, cheese, and nuts. Toss the rest. For more ideas check out this article on making healthy eating simple.
2. Go alcohol-free
“Alcohol is a major contributor to the fat that is covering your abs, even no or low-carb booze can keep you from losing weight,” says Hauser. “If you know you’ll be missing your evening night cap, pour some fancy sparkling water in a wine glass instead. You’ll end your day more hydrated, sleep better, and wake up refreshed the next day.”
3. Go Green
Hauser also believes in swapping bread, pasta, or potatoes, with greens for your meals. So for a sandwich, ditch the slices of bread and wrap everything up in lettuce. For steak and potatoes, have steak and broccoli instead. Substitute a bed of mixed greens for starchy pasta.
4. Balance is the Key with Meals
Building your diet around lean protein, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, will help you eliminate processed food and excess sugars. Many people find adopting the 80/20 way of eating, helps with quicker fat loss and easier maintenance. Eighty percent of your day is made up of these core building blocks while the other twenty percent is to be used at your discretion.
5. Eat Protein at Every Meal
Your body needs protein to maintain lean muscle mass, keep hunger at bay, and burn calories. Protein requirements range from 0.8 to 1.6 grams/ kg bodyweight per day. A position statement published by the ADA, DOC and ACSM recommends that endurance and strength-trained athletes eat between 1.2 and 1.7 g/kg of protein for optimal performance and health.
6. Eat Breakfast
When you wake up, the blood sugar your body needs to make your muscles and brain work their best is usually low—breakfast helps replenish it. Eating in the morning also kick-starts your metabolism, helping you burn calories throughout the day and giving you the much needed energy to get things done. Pair a breakfast burrito (tortilla filled with black beans, eggs, and salsa) with fresh fruit and a handful of raw almonds to get your day going.
Aim for five days a week of moderate to intense exercise for at least 30-60 minutes/day. The ideal exercise plan should include: aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility (including yoga and/or pilates). Here’s a great spring blast to get you started at home: Perform 3 rounds of the following exercises (for time)—subtracting 5 reps each round. 15 burpees, 15 push-ups, 15 body-weight squats, 15 mountain climbers.
8. Strength Train 3+ Days per Week
Increasing lean muscle mass is a necessity in the quest for fat loss and health gains. Strength training increases your metabolic rate, causing the body to increase lean muscle mass and burn more calories throughout the day. Check out this workout for an intense strength training calorie crusher.
9. Add HIIT to Your Routine
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) combines a number of short bursts of intense exercise with short recovery breaks in between. Studies have found that HIIT increases cardiovascular capacity and burns considerably more body fat (consider HIIT 2+ days/week).
10. Take It Outside
Combine TRX with a HIIT track workout for a full-body blast. TRX, or suspension training, is a highly portable performance training tool that uses gravity and the user’s body weight to complete hundreds of exercises. You can anchor the straps to a variety of places and perform exercises in between laps around the track.
11. Keep Track of Your Day
Track your meals and exercise in a journal or using an app on your phone. This increases adherence and keeps you accountable. Check out these apps for more information.
Ditch the screens at night and consider incorporating meditation into your routine to help you wind down and sleep better. Start with five to ten minutes of uninterrupted time to practice mindfulness meditation. Don’t have a clue how to start? Check out the app Headspace for a daily program that guides you through every step.
If you’re looking to lose a few pounds as part of your spring cleaning then you better get enough sleep. According to a 2010 Wake Forest University study, less than five hours of sleep per night increases visceral fat levels. So, what is ideal for overall health and fat loss? Looks like aiming for seven to nine hours a night will do the trick.
Image: Fit Approach, CC-BY
Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness, and wellness.