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Four ways to emerge from hibernation and reclaim your body for spring
You may have been a bit sluggish (or bearish) over the winter. After all, frigid weather is enough to make anyone want to hole up. But unlike grizzlies, men don’t emerge slimmer come spring. Indeed, all that extra time spent indoors subsisting on beer and Xbox tends to pack a couple of kilos on a guy, says strength and conditioning coach Mike Wunsch. The kicker: most of us never lose that weight. Here’s your exit strategy for leaving the cave leaner.
1 Start slowly
“Many men try to pick up where they left off and immediately start slinging around heavy weights,” says Wunsch. The result: sore muscles, stressed joints, and a downward spiral of missed workouts.
If you were hibernating for most of the winter, begin with half the weight you lifted previously, and then increase your load by 10% a week,
suggests Wunsch. This might sound tedious, but you’ll see the benefits add up quickly; within eight weeks you’ll be stronger than you were before.
2 Plan ahead
Research shows that eight workouts a month is the minimum required to stick to a fitness plan, says Wunsch. And the more frequently you exercise, the better the odds are that your initial effort will turn into a healthy habit.
Mark off at least two workouts a week on your monthly calendar, and try to schedule your exercise time for the same hour each day. Hormonal adaptations cause your body to “remember” when you usually exercise, making you strongest at that time, according to Tunisian researchers.
3 Grab iron first
Think running is the fastest path to a leaner body? It’s not. In fact, endurance training can inhibit muscle building, a Norwegian study found. The result: less fat burning.
“Make your first four workouts lifting sessions,” says Wunsch, who also advises skewing the rest of your fitness plan in favour of strength training. “Building a foundation of lean muscle will stoke your calorie furnace and accelerate weight loss.”
4 Feed your gains
“People often skip protein shakes after they exercise, thinking they’ll save 859 to 1275 kilojoules,” says Wunsch. “But a protein shot accelerates lean muscle growth, which in turn revs metabolism and burns more fat.”
Find a powder with at least 20 grams of protein and four or more grams of leucine (an amino acid that can boost muscle growth) per serving. In a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, leucine helped boost muscle gains by 33%.