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 pounds on a guy. 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. The result: sore muscles, stressed joints, and a downward spiral of missed workouts.
Your move: If you were hibernating for most of the winter, begin with half the weight you lifted previously, and then increase your load by 10 percent a week, suggests Wunsch. This might sound tedious, but you’ll see the benefits add up quickly; within 8 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. And the more frequently you exercise, the better the odds are that your initial effort will turn into a healthy habit.
Your move: 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.
Your move: Make your first four workouts lifting sessions. 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 200 to 300 calories. But a protein shot accelerates lean muscle growth, which in turn revs metabolism and burns more fat.
Your move: Find a powder with at least 20 grams of protein and 4 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 percent. Try Nitrean+ by AtLarge Nutrition. $60, atlargenutrition.com***