IT’S the final countdown to the big beach unveil and, despite pounding the treadmill religiously at the gym for the past three months, the annual flesh flashing is still a daunting prospect.
However, if you still have a few weeks before you pack up and head off to exotic climes it is still possible to make some last-minute slimming changes. And if you have already been too embarrassed to bare your body on the beach this year, here are some tips for your next holiday.
We’ve spoken to Scotland’s top health and fitness experts to find out how to get beach-ready.
EAT YOURSELF SLIM
Forget last-minute crash diets and do your waistline – and your health – a favour by upping your intake with nutrients.
Nikos Jakubiak is a performance nutritionist at the sportscotland institute of sport, and is part of a multidisciplinary team of experts who provide specialist support to Scotland’s top athletes to help them perform to the best of their ability on the world stage. According to Nikos, it’s vital to choose the right nutrient-rich foods instead of empty calories.
“Fad or crash diets are far from ideal,” explains Nikos. “This approach to dieting usually means a considerable period of inadequate nutritional intake that can lead to loss of muscle mass, which in turn is the reason for the drop in metabolism.
“It is important to note that such diets cannot, and should not, be maintained for a long time and the vast majority of people who follow such practices end up simply returning to previous bad dietary choices. This is often the reason why a lot of people continually repeat this cycle over many years.”
So, what should we be eating to squeeze into that bikini or those trunks? Nikos says: “Fill up on colourful salads, and for dinner opt for lean protein with a healthy portion of vegetables.
“Opt for foods with a good nutritional value, for example a wide array of cooked vegetables, salad vegetables, fruits, fish, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. And engage in regular physical activity.”
LET’S GET PHYSICAL
“To transform your body the healthy way you do need much longer than a few weeks. However, you can lose weight and tone up fast”, explains Scottish personal trainer Will Sturgeon of Will Power Personal Training.
But don’t waste precious time plodding along at the gym, as now is the time to make every single workout matter. Avoid exercise that only involves one muscle group at a time and focus on combination exercises that will tone and burn calories.
“Focus on aerobic activity for fast results,” says Will. “In fact, all of your toning exercises should be done in an aerobic style. Rowing is perfect as it tones the upper back and arms, plus it works the core and legs. It is a full body workout with the all-important high calorie burn.”
Step classes burn calories and tone fast, as do circuit classes. And for quick results, opt for interval training. “To burn 600 calories in one session, start with two minutes of skipping or jogging followed by two minutes of a specific body weight exercise such as squats or lunges, and keep alternating for 20 minutes ensuring you don’t rest between exercises. This will burn almost 1lb of fat a week if you commit to it four times per week.”
And for that last-minute tightening effect, hit the gym for some big weight workouts just before your holiday as your muscle tissue becomes full and tighter.
MIND OVER MATTER
You may be tempted to slog it out at the gym alone but, according to the experts, if you want to achieve the best results, now is the time to buddy up.
“Exercising with a friend is also great for motivation as it makes us more accountable,” explains Kris Dun, above right, sport psychologist at the sportscotland institute of sport. “It is all too easy to stay at home when there is no one waiting for you, and relying on you.”
Kris also advises to make a date in the diary. “You’re more likely to keep your fitness appointment. This forward planning is really important so you don’t put it off and then eventually lose all motivation.
“Keep your exercise regime varied, and pick something new that excites you. Pounding the treadmill when you loathe running will not give you the mental, or physical stimulation you need to keep at it and give it 110 per cent.”
KEEPING UP THE MOMENTUM
With the copious amounts of local delicacies and attractive-looking cocktails at the pool vying for attention on holiday, it’s easy to undo all that hard work. Indeed, your once flat stomach can easily develop into more of a pot belly in just two weeks.
Nikos says: “In an ideal world we would all avoid the usual holiday excesses and be more sensible with the type and volume of food and drinks we consume. The reality is that many people will go away on their holidays this summer and will over indulge. I would recommend including good food in daily meals, even if you prefer to go for the unhealthy options. For example, including lots of fresh salads, vegetables and fruits is going to be somewhat beneficial when the rest of the diet includes lots of less healthy foods.”
So avoid the breakfast buffet, go fresh and eat a balanced lunch to avoid snacking.
“For lunch, opt for protein [a portion of fish, lean red meat or poultry], a little pasta or rice or granary wholemeal bread; a piece of fruit, some dark green vegetables and maybe a piece of chocolate,” says Nikos.
“And don’t forget about good hydration. People often try and hydrate with sugar and sport drinks. You can’t beat plain old water.”
Be wary of cocktail calories. “It is worth pointing out that gram for gram, alcohol (in the form of ethanol) and fat are similar in their calorie content (about seven and nine calories per gram respectively],” says Nikos.
“Each unit of alcohol is around 60 calories. Three units of alcohol is enough to match the number of calories of a regular ham sandwich but without offering any of the nutritional value you would otherwise get from consuming this number of calories in the form of food.
“In practical terms, three units of ethanol translate to one and a half pints of lager, or two small glasses of wine, or in many cases a single cocktail.
“If people want to have a drink to unwind and are sensible with the volume they consume then any drink will be equally effective. For those who are that bit more health conscious, then a glass of red wine is arguably the best choice.”