We always try to live a healthy lifestyle, but no one can eat virtuously and exercise diligently 24/7. With that said, this is the plan to follow when you need to kick your shape-up efforts into overdrive. Whether you have an upcoming wedding to attend or you’re heading home for the holidays and want to impress relatives, this expert-approved routine will have you looking your very best. In order to bring you the most effective diet and exercise recommendations, we turned to Patrick Murphy, the celebrity trainer with everyone from Cameron Diaz to Olivia Wilde on his client roster.
Scroll through for your day-by-day plan!
When you’re in a time crunch you have to eliminate the obvious diet disasters. That means no eating out at your favorite restaurants—any of them. “Both high-end and low-end eateries use more salt, sugar, and fats than you would ever use at home,” Murphy says. “Crunch time means stocking your home with healthy snacks and meals.” On day one, head to the grocery store with a list consisting of a rainbow of vegetables, leafy greens, lean proteins, fish, nuts, seeds, and eggs.
It’s also time to start planning out your workouts for the week—the key to success. You’ll be doing one hour of high-intensity cardio in the morning or afternoon and taking an hour-long power walk after dinner. Getting moving after a meal is great for your digestive system and metabolism. Try to make your first workout of the week a cardio class. You’ll be more motivated to finish out your hour if you work out in a group. No gym membership? Power up an exercise video to keep yourself from slacking off.
Start the day and every day with 16 ounces of water with one whole lemon squeezed into it. This detox water helps flush out your system. You should also be prepared to drink more water than you’re probably used to. Murphy recommends 100 ounces daily. “Staying hydrated will increase the efficiency of all your bodily functions, including your metabolism,” Murphy says. “Drinking more water will also help to eliminate hunger pains as you eat smaller portions for the week.” By day two you should be watching your portion sizes. They’ll be smaller than usual, but it is only for a week and you can snack on raw fruits and veggies throughout the day. Before your workout, eat a breakfast of protein and fiber, such as a hard-boiled egg and an apple.
Since you did cardio yesterday, make today’s workout all about full-body resistance training. Focus on compound exercises that involve multiple muscle groups. Exercises like squats with a one-arm cable row, step-ups with a one-arm shoulder press, and lunges with bicep curls are excellent calorie-burners because they spike your heart rate. Unless you’re already very comfortable working up a sweat twice a day, resist the urge to turn your evening power walk into a run. “By only doing the power walk for your second workout for the day, not running, you'll avoid burnout,” Murphy says.
Now is the time to try to eat more raw foods. For the foods you have to cook, like chicken and fish, be sure to either bake, broil, or poach them. Murphy says eating raw foods and proteins prepared this way means reductions in excess salt and calories, which will help lean you out. For lunch, try a spinach, cranberry, and walnut salad with baked chicken and olive oil and vinegar dressing. At dinner, switch things up and make poached salmon with asparagus or Brussels sprouts.
Try out circuit training for today’s high-intensity workout. Or if you’re already starting to get sick of the gym, go for a hike; you’ll work all of the major muscles in your lower body and core. Today is also a good day to grab a buddy for your post-dinner power walk. Walking with a friend is always more enjoyable.
On day four, focus on implementing foods and beverages that help purge excess water. “Asparagus, apple cider vinegar, tomatoes, garlic, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, dandelion leaf (tea), green tea, fennel, juniper berries, parsley, celery, lettuce, watermelon, gingko biloba, coffee, watercress, and beetroot are great examples,” Murphy says. Snack on watermelon with green tea in the morning, and celery and beetroot with dandelion leaf tea in the afternoon.
Day four is the perfect time to introduce endurance training into your routine. You’ve gotten into the swing of your daily workouts, but you’re not burnt out from what you’ve been doing for the past three days. Murphy says the goal with endurance training is to keep your heart rate up by doing a high number of reps (up to 20) with minimal rest between sets (30 seconds is ideal).
Keep up everything you’re doing—drinking lemon water in the morning, having lots of water throughout the day, eating raw foods and lean proteins cooked properly, incorporating water-purging foods and beverages into your diet, and focusing on portion control—but remember variety is important. Murphy cautions against repeating your daily routine because boredom leads to throwing in the towel.
By day five you might be starting to get sick of your daily workouts. To keep yourself motivated, take your workout back to a different group fitness class or a new high-energy video. And make sure you’re eating a good breakfast and drinking plenty of water to keep your body going these high-intensity workouts.
Come day six, you should be feeling pretty good. Congratulate yourself for making it this far, and use that as motivation to finish out these last two days on a high note. Even though you are eating smaller portions, make sure you’re getting enough protein. Sipping on coconut water with a scoop of whey or vegan protein powder after your morning workout is a quick, easy way to get in your necessary protein.
Remember Murphy’s words of wisdom: Change evokes change. “Variety is the key to avoiding plateaus.” So challenge yourself to never repeat a workout this week. Even if interval training on the treadmill will always be your go-to, try to run a different routine each day.
By the final day of your seven-day shape-up plan, you know what you’re doing. All you have to do is make it count. Push yourself to have your best workout yet and maintain your healthy eating efforts. Murphy says avoid salt and load your plate with plenty of those excess water-eliminating foods for one last chance to beat the bloat. And make your full-body workout a mix of calorie-torching cardio and muscle-toning movements.
Would you try this seven-day shape-up plan? Tell us what you have coming up that you’ll want to look your best for in the comments!