In todays world of instant gratification and low attention spans, people want to get in shape quick, once they decide on fitness as a goal. Nobody wants to wait for anything and if it takes too long for results, they will forget why they even started to exercise in the first place! There are many ways to get in shape and the definition of “in shape” is really a matter of opinion. Depending on how much weight you need to lose or muscle you need to build, you may or may not be able to do it quickly.
In most cases, especially for people that are overweight, losing fat is more important than anything in order to look more in shape. If you lose fat without gaining muscle, you will still usually look more muscular. By the same token if you gain some muscle, but it is covered over with fat, you won’t neccessarily look any better.
I have seen some really bulky guys, like the average powerlifter physique, that were extremely muscular but just looked fat. Once they dieted down and lost the fat, they looked incredible, and way more muscular than before. They were like uncut diamonds that just needed polished. This goes the same for women. A little bit of fat loss can make some women look incredibly different and sexier than ever.
[Here's a perfect example of a guy that doesn't really have a lot of muscle, but looks really muscular because of how lean he is. If he added ten pounds of fat, he would just look like the neighbor kid down the street!]
(On a side note, don’t buy in to the Hollywood perception that we have to be ultra lean and muscular in order to look good. In reality, the average person is not going to achieve the level of fitness that some of the superstars of the silver screen do. That’s why they’re in the movies. Just compete against yourself and chart your progress from where you were to where you are at now. If you try and use an athlete or movie star as your gauge as to whether you are in shape or good looking enough, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Besides, so many models and movie stars may look great on screen for a specific movie, but don’t look this good year around.)
So, in order to get in shape quick, you should focus on fat loss. Losing fat is best achieved by your diet and from doing resistance training. Doing resistance training will help you to build some muscle also, which is an added bonus. Once you start to lose some fat, you will immediately feel better and look better. This will help give you the drive and motivation to continue and make even better progress in the future.
To lose fat, you need to take in less calories than you are using on a consistent basis. There are a number of ways to do this, including:
1) Restrictive diets (which I don’t recommend and you won’t stick to long term)
2) Excessive exercise to burn calories (again not recommended by me)
3) Magic pills or supplements (waste of money and don’t work as advertised)
4) Cutting you carbs and limiting empty calories in your diet ( Good Idea, do this one!)
5) Intermittent fasting (ding, ding, ding, show him what he’s won Johnny . . . A new body! But wait, that’s not all, he also gets to end to his dieting frustrations for life!)
I know I’m kind of a weirdo, my wife tells me that all the time! Ok, back to business. Of course fasting isn’t the only way, it’s just the easiest, and you are more likely to stick to it long term.
Once you get your diet and calories on track, you need to focus on some form of resistance training to increase your lean muscle mass. This will cause you to burn more calories as well as burn calories long after your workout is over. If you add in some cardio as well, your body will turn in to a fat burning machine!
Here are a few older posts that I wrote a while back that go over my thoughts on resistance training and cardio:
If your calories are low enough to cause a calorie deficit and you are doing resistance training as well as the right kind of cardio, you will be doing the best that you can to get in shape quick. You will soon start to see progress and you won’t have to waste your money on useless magic pills that don’t work. Good luck, I’m rooting for you!