Men's Health: Get In Shape Fast

If, like most flabby guys, you prefer waiting until the last minute to shape up, hear this: It is now, officially, the last minute. Beaches still are teeming with nubile bikinied women — but not for long — and millions of portly guys across the nation are sucking it in as they prepare to remove their shirts by the shoreline.

It's now or never, dude.

Why It’s Not Too Late

In a perfect world, you would have started chipping away at your excess poundage months ago. But even if you're planning to hit the beach in two weeks, that's still enough time to make a significant dent in your front bumper.

With this quick-start program, you'll put your eating habits on track with your very next meal, and you'll begin a simple, effective exercise plan that starts burning fat right away.

And this time, it will work. The genius of our program — and the reason it will work for you, even if you've tried to lose weight before and failed — is quite simple: It eliminates the need for thought. By following our simple meal plan for 14 days, you're relieved of the burden of making decisions about food. (This is highly significant, since a series of bad decisions about food was what landed you in your current flabby state.) And your mental cruise control will also work with our fat-burning, muscle-building exercise program — we've done all the math for you, so there's no need to worry about whether you're burning enough calories or lifting the right amount of weight.

Finally, since life is longer than 14 days, next week we'll show you how to (1) keep on losing even after the immediate crisis has passed and (2) keep the pounds off when you get to where you want to go, by eating the way thin guys eat. We're talking about nine simple rules you can hang onto for the rest of your life — they can keep you from ever having to go on another weight-loss program.

So give us two lousy weeks. Come beach time, you'll feel a lot better about taking off that T-shirt.

The Quick-Start Meal Plan

Step 1: Check your brain at the door. There are no calories to add up or fat grams to count. These menus, from Leslie Bonci, director of nutrition at the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health and team nutritionist of the Pittsburgh Steelers, will average out to about 2,000 calories, divvied up as 60 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent fat, and 15 percent protein.

Step 2: Look at your watch and figure out when your next meal is. Start then. Waiting till tomorrow is a bad idea: Even if you ate a box of donut holes for breakfast, today is not a lost cause.

Step 3: Eat. Trust us. We tried these menus ourselves, and we can guarantee that the food is edible and the portions are big enough to keep you going all day. Also, the meals are basic enough that any guy can assemble them.

Day 1 * Breakfast: Smoothie (blend 1 mashed banana and 1 cup skim milk); 1 slice whole-grain toast with 1 tablespoon peanut butter * Lunch: 3-ounce hamburger on a whole-grain bun; 1/2 cup coleslaw; 1 piece fruit * Snack: 1 bagel * Dinner: 2 medium pork chops; 1 large baked potato with 1 teaspoon margarine; 1 1/2 cups broccoli with 1 teaspoon margarine

Day 2 * Breakfast: 1 egg, fried in cooking spray; 1 slice whole-grain toast with 1 teaspoon margarine; 1 piece fruit * Lunch: Chicken-salad sandwich (1/2 cup chopped chicken mixed with light mayo, 2 slices whole-grain bread, lettuce, tomato); 2 plums * Snack: 1 soft pretzel * Dinner: 2 cups chili; 12 whole-wheat crackers; salad with 2 tablespoons low-calorie dressing

Day 3 * Breakfast: 1 whole-grain English muffin, topped with 1 slice baked ham and 1 slice light Swiss cheese; 1 piece fruit * Lunch: Roast beef sandwich (3 ounces roast beef, hard roll, mustard, lettuce, tomato) * Snack: 1 cup grapes * Dinner: 2 turkey tacos, hard or soft (4 ounces ground turkey, 1/2 cup light Cheddar, 1/2 cup salsa, lettuce, tomato)

Day 4 * Breakfast: 1 English muffin with 1 tablespoon peanut butter; 8 ounces skim milk; 1 banana * Lunch: 3 slices cheese-and-vegetable pizza; 2 pieces fruit * Snack: 3 thick pretzels * Dinner: Spaghetti with sauce (2 cups pasta, 1 cup low-fat meat sauce); salad with 2 tablespoons low-calorie dressing

Day 5 * Breakfast: 4 ounces orange juice; 1 cup oatmeal with 2 tablespoons raisins and 1 tablespoon honey; 8 ounces skim milk * Lunch: Grilled chicken sandwich (3 ounces grilled chicken on 2 slices French bread with 2 tablespoons low-calorie honey-mustard dressing); 1 piece fresh fruit * Snack: 1/2 cup frozen yogurt * Dinner: Grilled steak kabobs (4 ounces sirloin, cubed and marinated in 2 tablespoons light Italian dressing, 1 cup sauteed onions, peppers and mushrooms); 1 cup rice pilaf

Day 6 * Breakfast: 3 medium-size pancakes with 2 teaspoons margarine and 1/4 cup light pancake syrup; 1 banana; 8 ounces skim milk * Lunch: Corned beef sandwich (3 ounces very lean corned beef, 2 slices rye bread, 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard, 1/4 cantaloupe) * Snack: 1/2 cup pretzels * Dinner: Turkey fajitas (4 ounces turkey breast, cut into strips, sauteed with onions and peppers; 2 flour tortillas; 1/2 cup salsa)

Day 7 * Breakfast: 4 ounces orange juice; omelette (1 egg and 2 egg whites, 1/4 cup tomato, 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms); 1 English muffin with 2 teaspoons margarine * Lunch: 1 cup chicken-vegetable soup; 1 roll with 1 teaspoon margarine; large salad with 1/2 cup chickpeas and 2 tablespoons light dressing; 1 piece fruit * Snack: 1 slice angel-food cake with strawberries * Dinner: 2 slices meatloaf (each slice should be the size of a deck of cards); 2 ears of corn, spread with 1 teaspoon margarine each ear; 1 cup steamed carrots with 1 teaspoon margarine

Day 8 * Breakfast: 4 ounces orange juice; 1 cup bran cereal; 8 ounces skim milk; 1 slice whole-grain toast with 1 teaspoon margarine * Lunch: Chef's salad (Large bowl of salad, 1 ounce each turkey, ham and provolone cheese, 2 tablespoons light dressing); 1 roll with 1 teaspoon margarine; 1 piece fruit * Snack: 1/2 cup pudding * Dinner: Chicken Parmesan (4 ounces chicken breast, 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce, 1 slice mozzarella); 1 cup rigatoni with spaghetti sauce; 1 cup snap peas

Day 9 * Breakfast: 4 ounces orange juice; 1 whole-grain bagel with 2 tablespoons light cream cheese; 1 container light yogurt; 1 banana * Lunch: 1 1/2 cups chili; 12 whole-grain crackers; 1/2 cup coleslaw; 1 cup grapes * Snack: 1 soft pretzel * Dinner: Pasta with seafood (1 1/2 cups pasta, 1 cup shrimp or crab cooked in herb/clam broth); 1 cup steamed broccoli; 1 cup fruit salad

Day 10 * Breakfast: 2 waffles with 1 teaspoon margarine and 1/4 cup light pancake syrup; 1 banana; 8 ounces skim milk * Lunch: Smoked-turkey sandwich (3 ounces turkey breast, 2 slices whole-grain bread, light mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato); 1 piece fruit * Snack: 1 individual-size bag light popcorn; 1 plum * Dinner: 3 slices cheese-and-vegetable pizza; salad with 2 tablespoons light dressing

Day 11 *Breakfast: 1 egg, fried in cooking spray; 1 bagel with 1 teaspoon margarine; 1 piece fruit * Lunch: 6-inch hoagie (1 ounce each ham, turkey and provolone cheese; 1/2 hoagie roll; lettuce, tomato and mustard); 1 piece fruit * Snack: 1/2 cup frozen yogurt * Dinner: 5 ounces flounder sauteed in light margarine; 1 large baked potato; 1 cup steamed carrots and peas

Day 12 * Breakfast: 2 slices whole-grain toast topped with 2 slices light American cheese; 1 banana; 8 ounces skim milk * Lunch: Roast beef sub (3 ounces roast beef, 1 ounce provolone, 1 small hoagie roll, lettuce, tomato, spicy brown mustard); 1 piece fruit * Snack: 2 NutriGrain bars * Dinner: Chinese stir-fry (4 ounces skinless chicken breast and 2 cups of vegetables stir-fried in 2 teaspoons oil and light soy sauce); 1 cup steamed rice

Day 13 * Breakfast: 4 ounces orange juice; 3/4 cup bran cereal; 8 ounces skim milk; 1 slice whole-grain toast with 1 teaspoon margarine * Lunch: Ham sandwich (2 slices ham on 2 slices rye bread with lettuce, tomato, light mayo, spicy mustard); 1/3 honeydew melon * Snack: 1 soft pretzel * Dinner: 3-ounce turkey burger on a whole-grain bun, with lettuce, tomato, light mayo; 1 cup oven-roasted potatoes; 1/2 cup coleslaw

Day 14 * Breakfast: Whole-grain English muffin with poached egg and 1 slice light American cheese; 1 piece fruit; 8 ounces skim milk * Lunch: Chicken-salad sandwich (1/2 cup chopped chicken with light mayo, 1 pumpernickel roll, lettuce, tomato); 1 piece fruit * Snack: 2 oatmeal cookies; 8 ounces skim milk * Dinner: 5 ounces grilled steak; 1 cup rice; 1 cup steamed vegetables; salad with 2 tablespoons low-calorie dressing

30-Minute Fat-Burning Workout

You need to burn flab. You want to build muscle. To do both at once, circuit training with aerobic intervals is the most efficient way, says Alan Mikesky, director of the human-performance laboratory and associate professor at Indiana University-Purdue University. By elevating your heart rate for at least 20 minutes, this workout throws your metabolism into overdrive. Building bigger muscles also helps you burn more calories round the clock: A gain of two or three pounds of muscle means you'll expend an additional 70 to 100 calories a day.

For each exercise, use a weight that you can lift with good form 10 to 12 times, but no more. In between exercises, keep active for 60 seconds so your heart rate stays elevated.

This version of the workout is for guys who are moderately fit. If you're really out of shape, do one circuit and march in place between exercises. If you're pretty fit, do the circuit twice and jog (or cycle or jump rope) between exercises. All told, it should take you 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how many circuits you do. As you become fitter, you can make the workout tougher by increasing the amount of weight you lift, lengthening the aerobic intervals, or both.

Depending on the length and intensity of the workout, a 180-pound man can burn between 300 and 600 calories per workout, says Mikesky. Do it three times per week for fast, safe muscle building and weight loss.

Squat: Works the front of the thighs and the buttocks Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your weight over your heels, slowly bend your knees and lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your knees should stay above your feet — don't bend forward. Keep your eyes focused straight ahead during the movement, and keep your feet flat on the floor and your toes pointed slightly outward.

Run Run in place for at least 60 seconds.

Dumbbell Bench Press: Works the chest Lie on your back on a flat bench with your knees bent and your feet firmly on the floor. Hold one dumbbell on each side of your chest, a few inches above your shoulders, palms facing away from you. Slowly press the weights upward, extending your arms straight above your chest, but stop before your elbows lock. As you push the weights up, rotate your wrists so your palms end up facing each other. Slowly lower the weights to the starting position.

Jump Do jumping jacks for 60 seconds.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row: Works the upper back With your right knee and hand on a weight bench and your left foot flat on the floor, grasp a dumbbell in your left hand and let your left arm hang toward the floor. With your back flat, not rounded, and parallel to the bench, lift the weight to just below your armpit. Then slowly lower it to the starting position. Repeat with your other arm.

Climb Climb up and down a flight of stairs for at least a minute.

Standing Lateral Raise: Works the shoulders Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms hanging at your sides and your palms turned toward your body. With your shoulders back, back straight, and elbows slightly bent, slowly raise your arms out to your sides until the dumbbells reach shoulder level. Your palms should face the floor. Hold a second, then lower your arms to the starting position.

Skip Rope Skip a jump rope for at least 60 seconds. Or run in place instead.

Biceps Curl: Works the biceps Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms at your sides, palms facing forward and the insides of your elbows resting lightly against your sides. Bend your elbows and slowly curl both weights toward your shoulders, keeping your elbows still. Return to the starting position and repeat, keeping your elbows stationary.

Jump Do 60 seconds of jumping jacks.

Barbell Triceps Extension: Works the triceps Lie on a bench, with your head resting on the bench and your feet on the floor. Hold a barbell with your hands roughly 6 inches apart and your palms facing up. Press the bar to arms' length above your shoulders. This is the starting position. Now, bend your elbows and lower the bar in a semicircular motion toward, but never touching, your forehead. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Step March up and down a single step for at least a minute.

Calf Raise: Works the calves Holding a dumbbell at your left side with your palm in, step up on a stable platform high enough for your heels to hang off the edge and your weight to be supported by the balls of your feet. Place your right hand against a wall for support. Tuck your right foot behind your left heel. With your back straight, rise on the toes of your left foot. Hold for a second, then return to the original position. Do 10 to 12 repetitions, then switch legs, holding the dumbbell in your right hand.

Climb Climb up and down a flight of stairs for at least 60 seconds.

Crunch: Works the abdominals Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands behind your head. Keeping your head tucked, slowly curl your upper body toward your legs until your shoulder blades are 4 to 6 inches off the floor. Hold for a couple of seconds. Do 15 reps.

March March in place for a minute or more.

Next week: You've stuck to the plan. Now learn how to keep the weight off. Learn the secrets to eating lean for life from the habits of those who know — men greeting middle age still wearing size-32 Levis.