Tank tops, shorts, and swimsuits… oh my! It's May, which means you'll have to peel off your winter clothes soon. While only you know what you've been hiding underneath all those layers, you're not the only one who feels insecure this time of year.
Although you can safely lose only about 1 to 2 pounds of body fat a week, you can feel more confident by swimsuit season if you begin making changes today. Here are 7 attainable goals to set and stick to, starting now:
1. Get your sweat on with strength training! If you want to feel good in your bathing suit, this is non-negotiable: Fit your workout in, no excuses! Commit to a full-body strength-training program at least three times a week to burn calories during the workout, boost your metabolism's calorie-burning power for 24 to 48 hours after, and develop lean muscles that look and feel better than flab. Perform exercises that use more than one muscle group such as squats, pushups, rows, and lunges in a circuit to make your workouts most efficient. Tip: Try working out in the morning to get your metabolism revved up for the rest of the day.
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2. Make your butt and belly your top priorities. Your glutes (butt muscles) are the biggest muscles in your body, so working them out is one of the best ways to burn calories--and prevent a saggy bikini-bottomed butt. (There's nothing worse!) Of course, everyone knows that the real key to looking great in a bathing suit is having a flat belly! Give both areas extra attention during workouts leading up to and during bikini season by performing this move right after warming up at the beginning of each workout, 2 to 3 times a week:
Bridge Marching: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the floor so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees, keeping your hips parallel to the ground. Maintaining that straight line, lift your right knee upward, so your foot comes up off the ground. Then, return it to the starting position and lift your left knee the same way. Continue alternating (as if you are marching in place), keeping your butt muscles contracted the entire time for a total of 10 on each leg.
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3. Drink extra water. Skimping on water can reduce the effectiveness of your workouts because even mild dehydration can affect your performance and fat-burning potential. If you need another reason to drink up, swallow this: the best way to rid yourself of excess water weight is to flush your body with water. You should drink at least half your body weight in ounces each day (e.g., a 150-pound woman should drink 75 oz. or the equivalent of about four and a half 16.9 oz. bottled waters a day). Just don't skimp on the ice! Research has shown drinking ice-cold water causes your body to work harder (i.e., burn more calories) to maintain its ideal core temperature. So gulp down the cold stuff like it's your fat burning fuel--because it is!
4. Increase your daily intake of natural diuretics. These are foods that increase the speed at which fluids pass through your body to help you de-bloat. Natural diuretics include cucumbers, asparagus, lemon, green tea, and any foods with a higher concentration of magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and/or caffeine. Tip: Try adding cucumber or lemon to water.
5. Cut back on processed, starchy carbohydrates such as breads, pastas, bagels, cookies, and crackers. Most of these foods are loaded with extra sodium and preservatives that can contribute to water retention and bloating. If the ingredients on a packaged item list more than a few ingredients--or anything you can't pronounce--don't eat it. Instead, opt for a serving of one of the many fresh fruits and veggies now in season, with lean protein to keep you satisfied.
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6. Reduce your alcohol intake. If you're used to having a glass of wine or pint of beer every night, try cutting back to two or three nights a week. You'll reduce your total calorie intake and set yourself up for a better night's sleep to energize you for your workout the next day. Tip: When you do indulge, always sandwich your drink with a glass of water before and after to avoid alcohol's dehydrating effects.
7. Stand up taller and engage your core muscles. Think about tucking your hips underneath and tightening up your stomach as if you were going to be punched. Improving your posture will instantly make you look thinner--even if you haven't lost a pound yet!--and train your body to hold everything in once you're in a swimsuit. Every 15 minutes, set an alarm for a "posture check" to train your body: If you're standing, stand up straight and hold everything. If you're sitting, pull those shoulders back and engage your stomach muscles.
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