Ready to ditch the excess? Here’s your essential fitness and food guide
Your Cardio Guidelines
- Beginner : Aim to do two 20-minute sessions a week. Alternate between intervals of 60 seconds high intensity and 45 seconds low intensity.
- Intermediate : Aim to do three 30-minute sessions a week. Alternate between intervals of 75 seconds high intensity and 40 seconds low intensity.
- Advanced : Aim to do three 30-minute sessions a week. Alternate between intervals of 90 seconds high intensity and 35 seconds low intensity.
- Try to be as active as you can throughout the day. Aim to burn as many calories as possible by walking or cycling wherever you can-and take the stairs! Avoid sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time; get up and gone for a quick walk, even it’s only for a minute. Every little bit of activity makes a difference.
- Work on your core strength in the rest intervals between cardio and toning. Increasing your core strength improves posture, giving you a longer, leaner look, plus doing core exercises when you would otherwise rest boosts calorie burn.
- Use interval training for an effective workout. Alternating between high-intensity work and lower-intensity rest allows you to work at a higher average intensity. Try working at 90-100 per cent for 60-90 seconds then at 75 per cent for 35-45 seconds, alternating for the duration of your cardio workout.
- Go for a cardio that works your whole body, like rowing or swimming. Workouts that use the upper and lower body burn calories than those that just work the legs. Increasing the number of calories you burn each minute means you use time more effectively.
- Push yourself to work harder in each workout. Make a note of how many number of reps you managed to complete or how long it took to cover a set distance. Use this number as a target that you’ll aim to beat in your next workout.
- Reduce your portions. To cut calories, put away the bowls (it’s amazing how much food you can fit in what seems like a small bowl!) and serve your meals on small dinner plates, or even side plates, instead. Your stomach is the size of your first, sop the aim should be to eat only a fist-sized portion at any given meal.
- Stop grazing. While one or two healthy snacks a day can be a good thing, constant picking at whatever’s around you will sabotage your hard-won dieting efforts. Resist the urge to cut off that little sliver of cheese while you’re cooking and ban the office cookie jar.
- Control your blood pressure. Blood sugar spikes and crashes fuel your cravings and cause fat to be stored. Avoid foods that are made from processed white flour and sugar and try to eat plenty of whole grains, meat, fish and vegetables instead. Swap out fruit juices and smoothies for more fibrous whole fruit, too.
- Go low fat, not no fat. The healthy fats found in nuts, seeds and oily fish are essential for making your body’s fat-burning mechanism work effectively. Believe us, you need to eat fat lose fat! Just eat it in moderation-think a small handful of nuts, not the whole bag.
- Make vegetables your friend. On any plan, it’s a good idea to have one food you can fill up on. Apart from starchy veg such as potato, sweet potato, turnip, Swede and beetroot, which need to be restricted to three servings a week, all vegetables are unlimited, so pile your plate high with greens!
Tap into your inner power with this smart guide to boosting muscle.
Your Cardio Guidelines
- Beginner : Aim for two short cardio sessions of around 20 to 30 minutes each week. Work at a constant intensity of 70-80% throughout.
- Intermediate : Aim for three 30-minute cardio sessions each week. Work at a constant intensity of 70-80% of your maximum capacity throughout.
- Advanced : Aim for three cardio sessions of around 30 to 40 minutes each week. Work at a steady intensity of 70-80% of your maximum throughout.
- Gradually increase the weight you lift every week or two weeks. Continually challenging your muscle will prevent your results from plateauing. If you can manage one extra rep with good from on your final set, increase the weight. A small increment will do the job; 1-2 kg for the upper body and 2-4 kg for the lower body.
- Focus on the muscles you’re working during each exercise. This helps you perform each rep with proper technique, increasing the effectiveness of the exercise and reducing the risk of injury. Don’t neglect your breathing, either. Breathing out as you perform the effort part of the move helps keep your core engaged and mid-section tight, protecting your back.
- Rest a little longer between sets if you feel you need to. It’s more important to lift a heavier weight with good technique than to quickly fatigue the muscle and fail to complete a set. For exercise that really tire your muscles quickly, such as squats, you may need to break for up to two minutes between your sets.
- Do strength training before cardio. You’ll be mentally and physically fresh and able to give the exercise your all. Doing cardio first can sap your energy stores and prevent you lifting the load you need to build strength.
- Wearing gloves improves your grip on heavier weights and allows you to perform more reps. The muscles of your hands and forearms are small. They tire quickly and perform better with support. Gloves also protect your hands from developing rough calluses!
- Eat plenty of protein. Boosting strength means growing your muscles and you can only do this if you eat enough protein. The easiest way to calculate how much protein you need to eat is to multiply your body weight in kilograms by 1.5. So, a 60 kg woman needs to eat around 100 g of protein a day.
- Don’t ignore carbs. While you build muscles with protein, you still need plenty of carbs to help you power through the workouts necessary to trigger that muscle growth. Complex carbs such as wholemeal bread, porridge, brown rice and pasta should be part of your strength-boosting diet.
- Make the most of your metabolic window. This is the 90-minute timeslot immediately after an exercise session. It’s when you can do the most to boost muscle growth. Forget complex carbs here: you need a hit of sugar as this stimulates insulin and helps to promote muscle repair and growth. A small banana whizzed into a whey protein shake, a small bunch of grapes or a handful or dried fruits are all good choices.
- Choose foods high in BCAAs. Branched-chain amino acids are important for muscle repair and growth and you can get these from dairy products, Keep it low fat though, so pass on the ice cream and go for some cottage cheese instead.
- Eat plenty of calcium. If you’re putting your muscles under strain to build them up, you’re probably also increasing the load on your frame. Nosh on low-fat dairy and dark green leafy veg to help bear the brunt.
Ditch wobbly bits for good and flaunt your best body with this tightening strategy
Your Cardio Guidelines
- Beginner : Do three 30-minute workouts a week. Perform 30-second intervals of 90% effort with high resistance, then 75% with moderate resistance.
- Intermediate : Do three 35-minute workouts a week. Perform 30-second intervals of 90% effort with high resistance, then 75% with moderate resistance.
- Advanced : Do three 40-minute workouts a week. Perform 30-second intervals of 90% effort with high resistance, then 75% with moderate resistance.
- Increase the resistance and reduce the speed of your cardio exercise. Your muscles will have to work harder to overcome the increased resistance, acting like a form of weight training. Try alternating between moving very slowly against a higher resistance and moving faster against a moderate resistance.
- Perform reps at half speed – moving slowly requires greater control and means your muscles are kept under tension for much longer. You’ll challenge your muscular endurance, and the pay-off is increased muscle tone.
- Increase the number of reps you complete one week, and the weight you lift the following week. Increasing the number of repetitions increases the volume of training, whereas increasing the weight ups the intensity. Increasing both in the same session is unrealistic, but alternating between the two goals means you’ll always be pushing yourself to work harder.
- Don’t focus on your trouble spots. Improving your muscle tone means developing muscles and reducing your overall body fat. It’s better to work the large muscles as part of a balanced programme than to focus solely on your abs on your triceps. Taking whole-body approach is the most effective solution.
- Don’t neglect your core. A toned midsection is based on a really strong core and lower back. Working on this area also improves your posture and will help to reduce your risk of injury. Make sure you include two core exercises in each workout.
- Eat plenty of protein. Toning up means building muscle, and your body needs protein foods such as meat, fish, dairy, when and tofu to help build that muscle. Eat some protein at every meal and opt for protein-based snacks such as a whey shake, some nuts and seeds or a hard-boiled egg.
- Keep a tab on calories. While you need to eat to fuel your workouts, there is absolutely no point killing yourself in the gym to increase your muscle tone if that muscle is hidden under a layer of fat! Reduce your usual calorie intake by around 500 calories a day to lose about 1lb of fat a week.
- Drink at least 1.5 liters of water a day to flush out toxins from the body and help you on your quest for a super-toned turn. Water helps to banish fluid retention, which can often leave you looking bloated. Add a squeeze of lemon for a metabolism-boosting kick.
- Increase your fiber. Foods that are high in fiber help to sweep your system clean from the inside, reducing constipation and giving you a flatter-looking, toned tummy. They also fill you so you’re less likely to binge. What to eat? Vegetables and whole grains are naturally high in filling fiber.
- Cook with coconut oil. Coconut oil may be high in fat, but it’s a special sort of fat called medium-chain triglycerides, which is processed differently to other fats and is used as an energy source, rather than for storage. So, eating this oil will give you plenty of the energy you need to work out hard, while keeping you lean. Result!
Want to go harder, for longer? Boost your stamina with our expert tips
Your Cardio Guidelines
- Beginner : Aim for three 40-minute workouts each week, working at 75% of your maximum intensity throughout the session.
- Intermediate : Aim for three 50-minute workouts each week, working at 75% of your maximum intensity throughout the session.
- Advanced : Aim for three 60-minute workouts each week, working at 75% of your maximum intensity throughout the session.
- Factor steady – state training into your routine. This means moving at a constant speed or intensity for the entire duration of your workout. Steady-state training helps ti increase the endurance of your heart and lungs as well as your muscles, as they’re all called on to work for prolonged periods of time.
- Build your reps. To boost your endurance you need to train your muscles to be able to work for longer periods of time, so gradually increase the number of reps of toning moves that you complete until you hit 25, or gradually increase the length of a set until you hit the 60-second mark. Once you can comfortably complete this, increase the weight you lift or slow the speed of each move to really ramp up the challenge.
- Work each side of the body independently. Your dominant side can take over when doing exercises such as press-ups or squats where both arms and legs move at the same time. Alternate between the left and right side with each rep or set to increase the endurance of your non-dominant side.
- Don’t neglect rest. Proper recovery helps protect against injury. Avoid doing the same type of training on consecutive days as this can contribute to overtraining. Alternate between toning and cardio, interval and steady state.
- Pay attention to your technique. Your stabilising muscles tire quickly and they’re called into play more often if your technique is poor. Fatigue in these muscles can increase your risk of injury.
- Eat plenty of complex carbs of dinner. Endurance requires a good energy store to draw on. The complex carbs in wholemeal bread, brown rice and pasta, oats and porridge will replenish your energy stores. Complex carbs take longer to digest, so don’t eat them too close to a workout. Eat five to seven portions per day; one portion is a slice of bread, 50g of pasta, 200g of beans, or a cup of cooked rice or quinoa porridge.
- Go simple before a workout. Boosting your blood sugar before you work out also boosts endurance, without giving you an uncomfortable tummy. Try a slice of white toast with peanut butter, one small bowl of cornflakes with a little milk, or a banana, 15 minutes before you exercise.
- Drink water during a workout. Keeping well hydrated during exercise has been shown to improve performance. If you’re exercising for longer hours than an hour, add some sugar to your liquids to keep you going. Try a sports drink or simply add glucose powder to water.
- Boost your immunity. Endurance exercise can cause a hike in the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses immunity. If you stress your body through overtraining, you’ll catch every cough and cold going. Take probiotic capsules and a vitamin D3 supplement.
- Protect yourself against ageing. Long stretches of exercise put a huge free radical load on the body, which may cause premature ageing. Counter it by upping your intake of antioxidant-rich fruit and veg.