Five techniques to maintain your gains
Congratulations! You're in great shape, but now how will you stay there? This is the question many people struggle to answer after working hard to get the body of their dreams. Don't give up; below are five things you can do to supercharge your workouts and keep your body burning fat even if you're less than perfect with your diet.
Follow a high to low carb cycle
If you want to stay in shape, you have to eat healthy. But your body can handle a couple days of eating questionable foods, so that's why I plan to relax a bit on the weekends, taking in more calories, carbs and a couple of cheat meals to satisfy my cravings. First thing Monday morning, though, it's back to basics, and I reduce the carbs to a manageable level and eat only lean, healthy foods that cleanse my system and help me quickly get back to normal. This technique allows me to splurge and enjoy the foods I love. It also provides a spark to get the body burning fat again without putting on extra pounds.
Morning fasted cardio
Upon waking, your body is on empty because you have not eaten for eight hours, making it a perfect time to burn fat as an alternate source of fuel. The trick is to do at least 25 minutes of high-intensity cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach before you eat. You may add to the burn by drinking a strong cup coffee before you start. If you can't get your whole sessions done, just finish the rest later in the day when you go back to the gym to lift weights.
Hold the carbs
I always eat every two to three hours, but after fasted cardio I hold the carbs until lunch and have liquid protein only to avoid interrupting the fat-burning process. This way I still get my meals and my body will be forced to burn fat through the morning instead of slowing down. I'll include carbs with lunch instead.
Ever have a weekend full of cheat meals, drinks and calories, and waited until midweek to get back to your routine? By this time, your body is holding more water than the Hoover Dam, and getting back to normal will take much longer. That's why it's important to immediately shock your body to minimize the damage by working out as soon as possible. So if I ate what I wanted on Saturday, I like to start Sunday morning with fasted cardio and then hit the weights later in the afternoon to get the full effect.
Work bigger muscle groups
Larger muscles burn more calories, so it makes sense to start with bigger muscles like quads, back and hams to get your body functioning in high gear and the metabolic flame burning off the extra calories again. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, dumbbell rows and walking lunges are great choices to do at the beginning of the week and save the single-joint exercises like curls and tricep pushdowns for later.
Once your body is in shape, it's a lot easier to stay there, but you must utilize the best techniques available to stay on top your game, or the gains you worked so hard to achieve will fade away. Try adding the above techniques to your routine and maintain your gains by creating the perfect environment for fat burning.
Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at Askthetrainer@antoniostraining.com or check out AntoniosTraining.com for training tips, news and inspirational stories.