Image: Beach goers
Roy Morsch  /  Corbis file
For looking buff on the beach, it's essential to strength-train. Building muscle will give you a toned body and help minimize jiggle.
By MSNBC contributor
updated 5/2/2006 11:20:12 AM ET 2006-05-02T15:20:12

It's May already and swimsuit season is just around the corner. Maybe you meant to start getting in shape sooner (like back in January) but it didn't happen. So now you're wondering how to get results — and fast.

The good news is that you can slim down and shape up in as little as four to eight weeks. The question is how much.

"It depends where you're at now," says Jay Blahnik, a personal trainer in Laguna Beach, Calif., and a spokesperson for the IDEA Health and Fitness Association.

If you're hoping to lose 50 pounds in eight weeks, it's not going to happen. Eight or 10 pounds is more like it.

"Have realistic expectations," Blahnik says.

Health experts say you can safely lose up to two pounds a week. So in eight weeks, you could lose as many as 16 pounds.

But that's a fairly aggressive weight-loss goal. A more modest — and probably doable — approach is to lose a pound a week, experts say. And even that could significantly alter your beach body.

"In eight weeks, 8 pounds could make a big difference in how a swimsuit looks on you," says Cynthia Sass, a registered dietitian and personal trainer in Tampa, Fla., and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Don't go overboard
Bear in mind that losing too much weight too fast could actually undermine your goals, says Sass, because if you shed more than 2 pounds a week, you're losing muscle along with fat. "You don't want to be thinner and flabbier," she explains.

Severely restricting your diet — by cutting more than 500 calories a day — also can defeat your weight-loss efforts. "When you do that, your body panics," says Sass. This can lead to cravings, irritability and even a slower metabolism as your body fights to hang onto fuel.

Working out too intensely, particularly if you've gone from couch potato to fitness fanatic, could put you at risk for injury, notes Blahnik.

  1. Don't miss these Health stories
    1. Splash News
      More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?

      Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.

    2. Larry Page's damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
    3. Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
    4. CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
    5. What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says

And rapid, dramatic weight loss is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. "The faster and the more you lose, the more likely you'll be putting it back on at the end of summer," he says.

So where do you begin? "Watch your diet and sweat," says Gregory Joujon-Roche, a Los Angeles personal trainer who often has just a month or two to whip celebrities into shape.

Joujon-Roche, who has trained Brad Pitt and Tobey Maguire and is the author of the new book "One Body, One Life: 6 Weeks to the New You," recommends doing cardiovascular activity half an hour to an hour, five days a week, for optimal weight loss.

If you're a beginner, though, start with less-intense exercises such as walking and work your way up to more challenging activities, he says. If you've been working out for awhile but not seeing results, kick up your program by working at a faster pace or trying something new.

Commitment is key
With whatever activities you do, stay the course, emphasizes Joujon-Roche. "It really takes commitment," he says.

Granted, finding the time to exercise can be a challenge, acknowledges Sass. But if you can't carve out a 30-minute block for physical activity, try fitting in three 10-minute blocks, such as one in the morning, one at lunch and one after work, she says. Fill each block with activities ranging from brisk walking to climbing stairs to jumping rope.

For looking buff on the beach, it's also essential to strength-train. Building muscle will give you a toned body and help minimize jiggle, says Joujon-Roche.

Fitness experts generally recommend hitting the weights three days a week, targeting all major muscle groups. Beginners can start with one set of exercises and build up to two or three. Eight to 12 repetitions of an activity is standard. The weight should be heavy enough to completely fatigue the target muscle by the last rep.

As for watching your diet, Debra Wein, a registered dietitian and personal trainer in Hingham, Mass., recommends maintaining a food diary of everything you eat, and when, for at least three days.

"Then take a real look at your regular food choices," she says. "Notice what the difficult times of day are for you."

To help cut calories, try reducing portions by one-third and snacking on fruits and veggies instead of higher-calorie munchies, Wein recommends. To lose a pound of fat in a week, you need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories by eating less and exercising more.

Feeling good looks good
Small changes can have a big impact, notes Wein. "Within one month of healthy eating and regular exercise, you can start to see an improvement in energy levels, a moderate amount of weight loss and some increases in muscle tone," she says. "It is definitely worth getting started now."

And even if you don't lose as much weight or get as toned as you'd like — and in our body-conscious society, who ever does? — experts say there's another big benefit to eating right and exercising: confidence.

"Working out really makes you feel like you look better and that's half the battle," says Blahnik.

Roche agrees. Attitude matters.

"Go to the beach and own it," he says.

Smart Fitness appears every other Tuesday.

© 2013 msnbc.com

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments