We’ve all been there before: A huge gala celebration, beach vacation or other photo-worthy event is a week or two away, and you want to look your best. Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute members and trainers-to-the-stars Ramona Braganza and Mike Ryan recommend the following exercise and diet tips, whether you plan to walk the red carpet or wander the world.
1. Plan your attack.
Before you hit the gym for the first time, grab a journal and write down your workouts. “You don’t want to be stuck at the gym trying to figure out what to do,” Braganza says. “Workouts should last no more than two hours, with a 60-minute max on weight training and 30 to 45 minutes of cardio.”
2. Adjust your meal plan.
A healthy diet is the single biggest factor for success. Eat every two-and-a-half to three hours, but stop eating an hour before bed. Keep portions smaller than the size of your fist and cut out alcohol and high-sugar items like candy and soda. Stick to grilled chicken, fish and turkey for protein, while staying away from lunch meats or processed foods that can be high in sodium. For carbohydrates, reach for vegetables and yams rather than bread, rice, cereals and pastas. “Cut carbs for the last two meals of the day,” Ryan says. “A couple of days out, I would eliminate carbs entirely, eating proteins and good fats like nuts and avocados.”
3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, then stop.
Throughout the week, drink at least one to three liters of water a day. On the final day, sip rather than chug as you want to be bone dry—make sure to drink less than a liter. For an extra boost, Ryan suggests trying dandelion root the night before, because it acts as a natural diuretic.
4. Stay in the fat-burning zone.
Determine your target heart rate by subtracting your age from 220, then multiplying the result by 0.7 for beginners and 0.75 for more advanced athletes. High-intensity training boosts metabolism, so between sets of weights, do a minute-long sprint on a treadmill, skip rope or run in place. Braganza counsels her clients to add a spin or kickboxing class to push their heart rate above normal. Ryan advises his to do cardio on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, the optimal time for burning fat.
5. Target big muscle groups.
Two or three weeks isn’t enough time to target one specific muscle group, so stick to workouts that focus on large areas like the legs, chest and back, or the entire body. “For example, manmakers—burpees with dumbbells—are great,” Braganza says.
6. The last-minute pump.
The day is here. You’re toned and ready to go. Time for the final push. Before a competition, bodybuilders drink a few sips of red wine to dilate their veins so the veins are more prominent and do a quick pump to boost blood flow and provide last-minute definition. Curls in the limo, anyone?