Tweak Your Summer Physique: 13 Actions You Can Do Today to Dial Your Body in and Tone Up!

Copyright Max Wettstein, 2006 **Not Medical Advice**

Most of the following is collected from various other fitness topics I have written about and posted in my training library, such as my Top 12 ways to burn fat, and Top 12 ways to maximize energy, and Insulin: Friend or Foe, and Cortisol, etc.  So for more in depth information please be sure to refer to my training page and library page.  I realize I’m about 2 weeks late in posting this article, but we have at least 3 more months of swimsuit weather ahead of us so it is not too late to get motivated.  Enough rambling then…read on for actions you can take starting right now to shed a few pounds of fat and tone up! 

  1. Triple your water intake (and stop drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages):  Proper hydration makes every physiological action function at its optimum, and, flushing your system with lots of water, especially with a little fresh-squeezed lemon in it, is one of the best ways to purify yourself and expel toxins and excess sodium.  A can of non-diet soda contains 35 grams of sugar in it – 7 teaspoons – causing an immediate and giant surge in your blood sugar followed by a giant secretion of insulin, which then stores the excess sugar as fat, and finally causes a sugar ‘crash’.  Also it is now thought that ingesting such large quantities of refined sugar at one time, stresses your immune system, sets up an acidic pH in the blood, and aggravates inflammatory conditions throughout your body.  Soda in itself is very acidic and causes stress on the body as it attempts to neutralize the pH.  Artificially sweetened fruit juices are almost as bad, especially when full of added high-fructose corn syrup.  Therefore, either eat whole fruit, or drink fresh-squeezed.


  1. Divide up your daily caloric intake into 5 to 6 smaller meals/snacks:  In doing so, you keep your metabolism revved up…your furnace stoked, and you tend to burn the calories for energy instead of storing them as fat.  This is the ideal way to eat for both building muscle and burning fat.  Ideally you’ll eat about every 2.5 to 3 hours throughout the day.  Yes, this means you have to pre-plan and pack some food in your travel bag.


  1. Limit sugar and ‘simple’ carbs to your pre and post-workout meals:  This is how you manage insulin and use it tactically to your advantage.  The sugars you eat before working out will be used as fuel.  The sugar you eat after working out, will be used to recruit insulin to shuttle glycogen and nutrients into your muscle cells for repair and recovery, and will not be stored as fat.  If your sweet tooth is still not satisfied during these two meals, then if you must, you can have some sugar-foods during breakfast, because after fasting all night, your liver is low in glycogen stores and needs to be replenished.  The one caveat is that if it is your cardio/aerobic work-out day, then you can maximize fat-burning by doing cardio on an empty stomach or just consuming a little bit of Whey protein to spare muscle tissue.


  1. Your post-workout meal/shake should contain some whey protein:  If you’re going to buy one supplement buy a multi-vitamin.  If you’re going to buy two supplements, by fish oil capsules.  If you can afford three supplements, then buy a tub of Whey protein.  Whey has the highest biological value and absorbs into your bloodstream from the small intestine the quickest.  Ingesting 20 grams, (80 calories), of Whey protein within 30 minutes following your workout along with about 30 grams, (120 calories), of simple-carbs, will kick start muscle repair, glycogen replenishment and take full advantage of insulin’s anabolic effects.  Yes, insulin is essential to muscle growth and NOT just an evil fat-storing hormone as many would have you believe!


  1. Perform Cardio/Aerobic workouts on an empty stomach if fat-burning is your primary goal and NOT performance, (i.e. if you’re training for a marathon you’d better eat some carbs before hand or you’ll bonk fast!)  Without immediate dietary carbohydrate supplying fuel, your muscles will access stored glycogen and liver glycogen, and, fatty acids for fuel.  It is impossible to burn ONLY fat for fuel unless you are in a state of ketosis, in which case you are also catabolizing your very own muscle tissue for fuel as well.  If you want a androgenic performance enhancing advantage to help you ‘unlock’ more fat stores, then have some caffeine 30 minutes prior to your cardio workout which is clinically proven to enhance fat burning.  Green tea will further yield a synergistic fat-burning effect, so try brewing some coffee with a bag of green tea in it.


**Note: If you haven’t noticed so far, all of these actions are assuming you’re working out daily.  If you’re not, then you may as well stop reading!**


  1. Include some form of strength training in your regimen:  Listen up…you need to lift weights, or do some form of resistance training if you want to attain your ideal physique and balanced fitness.  Cardio is essential for burning calories and accessing fat stores, but you need to target your fast-twitch muscle fibers as well.  Muscle mass, also known as your lean-body mass, is what drives your Resting Metabolic Rate, (i.e. this is how you burn more calories at rest, just by breathing).  Strength training is clinically proven to be the primary method to protect your bone density as you age – even more so than supplementing with calcium alone.  Strength training causes your muscles to utilize insulin more efficiently and store carbs/glycogen as fuel, instead of fat.  Strength training IS what gives you muscle tone…not cardio, not starving, not tanning.  Muscle tone is defined as the state of partial contraction that is maintained in part by the continuous bombardment of motor impulses originating reflexly, which increases after being trained/stressed repeatedly.


  1. Be discriminate about what type of fats you eat:  Bottom line, you should strive to swap out the ‘bad’, LDL cholesterol-raising, processed, hydrogenated, trans-fats such as those found in vegetable oils, refined crunchy snack foods, fried foods, and margarines with fresh, essential fatty acids: Omegas 3, 6, and 9, (including ALA, DHA, and EPA).  You find these healthy, unsaturated fats in fish, olive oil, flax, nuts, and avocados.  By increasing these types of fats, you will combat all types of inflammation from arteriosclerosis to arthritis, raise the ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol, and improve brain health.  While this is more about long term health with no immediate effects to be seen in the mirror, you will feel more energetic with less aches and pains and be able to exercise to your full potential.  Start by tossing out old, rancid oils in your pantry, as ideally they need to be refrigerated to keep long term.


  1. Regain a normal balance of hormones essential to lean-body mass including Cortisol, testosterone, and growth hormone:  Remember, Cortisol is not all bad, and serves very important functions including inflammation control, keeping the immune system in check, mobilizing glucose/energy and making you feel alert during times of crisis, and even helping you wake up in the morning.  Middle-aged, stressed out individuals with too much on their schedule each day, who do not exercise or eat right, tend to develop chronic elevated levels of Cortisol leading to, among other bad things, a redistribution of fat around the mid-section and face.  Also, as we age past 30 years old, two very important hormones that help you maintain a lean-body mass start to decline – testosterone and growth hormone.  In a very brief nutshell, you can improve adrenal health and re-balance Cortisol, testosterone, and growth hormone by taking steps to de-stress: exercise, yoga, meditation, napping, relaxation-breathing, better time management, playing, etc.  Getting a good night’s sleep is essential, as that is when most growth and repair takes place in the body.  Intense exercise also directly boosts testosterone, IGF-1 and growth hormone – the 3 most important hormones in creating a lean, and tone body, in both men and women.  You can also supplement with vitamin C, B-complex, L-Glutamine, DHEA, zinc, to support adrenal health, block Cortisol, and support testosterone.


  1. Get a good night’s sleep:  This can’t be over emphasized, but is easier said then done, I know.  7 to 8 hours a night is recommended, but 6 can get the job done, with a 10 to 20 minute power nap in the day.  When more hours are needed in the day, it has to come from somewhere and night time is when we all find some peace for ourselves.  It is common sense to most of us that sleep is when almost all growth, and repair takes place in our bodies, Cortisol levels drop to its lowest, and a powerful antioxidant hormone/neurotransmitter known as melatonin kicks in.


  1. Don’t eat two hours prior to bed time:  Going to bed on a full stomach can disrupt your sleep, but more importantly for vanity’s sake, you’re more likely to store late night snack calories as fat.  Keep late night snacks low in carbs and sugar.


  1. Limit alcoholic drinks:  Limit to one per day if you’re a woman and two for a man.  Not very fun I know and we all need to party on occasion but as a habit, know your limit.  While 1 to 2 drinks per day can be healthy for your heart and lowering cholesterol, more than this and you will lower testosterone levels and disrupt your deep-sleep cycle, not to mention the excess calories.  Lastly…consider what mixer you are using as it is probably loaded with insulin-boosting sugar!


  1. Eat raw, unrefined, whole-grain, high-fiber foods: (Abundant with greens.) Not always an option for an airline pilot on the run, but in general, make the effort.  In doing so you will fill up on foods that have more fiber-bulk making you feel fuller for less calories, which are more nutrient dense.  Digestion will also be slower and insulin will not spike.  Everything else in your body will get a secondary health benefit, especially your colon, and you will also be pH-balancing your blood, and combating inflammatory diseases.


  1. Lastly, Set a Fitness Goal!  Switching from physiological to psychological, this could be the most important thing you do, because without a clearly defined, personal goal and a real timeline you won’t have any motivation.  Your ‘goal’ could range from a 5K race, to a Hawaiian vacation, to a before-and-after contest, or just lowering your cholesterol.  Set a goal NOW and you will be empowered with the discipline and will power you never knew you had!


**Bonus Motivational Quote: “Love the work-out, not the results.” – Gregg Plitt, Fitness model, U.S. Army Ranger**

Back to Max's Training Page