Though as 100% drug free natural bodybuilders our dreams of becoming 250 pound mass monsters must die, getting and staying lean and mean all year round is a realistic goal that can be a piece of cake to achieve… just so long as you stick to a few basic things, stay disciplined, and don’t fall back into old unhealthy habits.
Last week I touched on a few eating tips for the guy who wants to bulk up and put on some mass.
This week I’d like to change the pace a bit, and help out the guy (or girl) on the opposite end of the spectrum, the one who is simply wanting to be lean, athletic, aesthetic, and light on their toes day in and day out while still enjoying some of their favorite foods.
To start, getting lean in the first place is probably a lot easier than you’d think. My wife even leaned out for her first bikini competition in only a matter of a short (but very disciplined) 6 weeks! If she could do all that even after being pregnant and giving birth to our two beautiful boys, it’s a real possibility for each and every one of us.
Sure getting started on your journey can be tough… but once you get the ball rolling, you’ll notice improvements week after week and before you know it you’ll be a happier, healthier, and much leaner version of you. So stop waiting around, today is the day to get started!
Once you have gotten down to a healthy weight (this article will definitely help on the journey), maintaining the level of leanness you’re comfortable with is actually quite simple.
#1. Give intermittent fasting a shot
Intermittent fasting is so effective for burning fat, it makes putting on any weight almost impossible! And that’s without even tracking a single macro. Hence, why I suggested last week that you might want to consider dropping it if you’re hard pressed to pack on some mass.
If you’re trying to get cut up and stay that way however, fasting is a great tool to stay in a calorie deficit in the simplest way possible.
There’s plenty of different intermittent fasting techniques out there but what i’ve found to work best for me is to simply push my breakfast as late into the day as comfortably possible, then follow up with 2-3 big meals. I don’t follow any special timing on this, I just wait until I’m hungry before I eat my first meal which generally isn’t until later in the day anyway. This leaves plenty of room to take in a large amount of calories when I am finally eating those 2-3 big meals, all the while keeping my calories at maintenance level even when eating until I’m stuffed.
With that being said intermittent fasting may not be for everyone.
If you’ve tried intermittent fasting before and found out it wasn’t for you or you have a doctor who advises against it, my suggestion would be to keep your breakfast light and easily digestible… an apple, a handful of blueberries, and maybe an egg or two should do the trick.
A light meal like this will only run you about 300 calories, leaving plenty of room for a big lunch and giant dinner later in the day and still have calories to spare. And as an added bonus, if you do go with an apple at breakfast time, I recently learned that apple peels contain urasolic acid, which helps preserve lean muscle mass and aids in fat burning. Pretty cool! You can read more on urasolic acid and it’s effects in this examine.com article.
#2. Hit the weights hard
Getting yourself into the habit of hitting the weights on a regular basis will turn your body into a fat shedding machine!
An intense lifting session is a great way to burn extra calories, and the energy it takes to takes to repair your muscles afterwards will have you in a calorie burning state well after you get home from the gym (source)! Some cardio definitely has it’s place in achieving your goals, but never neglect the weights!
For cardio, sticking with long moderate paced walks, sprints, and high intensity interval training. A bit of long distance running is fine, but in excess can easily lead to overtraining which is actually counter productive to staying lean and mean. So if you must run, keep it to a minimum. 20 minutes here and there should do the trick for burning some calories and maintaining muscle mass without stressing your body out too much.
#3. Stay active even on days off from the gym
Just because it’s an off day from the gym doesn’t mean you should sit around and do nothing all day!
Getting out and moving your body will save you from boredom, provide you with some active rest to help your sore muscles recover, and most importantly for your journey towards leanness: burn plenty of extra calories.
A simple moderate paced walk can burn between and extra 300 and 500 calories depending on your weight and the terrain, a game of basketball or football will burn between 500 and 900 calories in an hour, and an intense martial arts session can burn well over 1,000! All without even stepping foot in the gym. (source)
So whether it’s riding bikes, going for a light jog, taking a nice long walk somewhere nice, wrestling with the kids, learning a martial art, playing a game of basketball at the park, going dancing, ice skating, doing some yard work or whatever else you can think of, staying active will keep you lean!
#4. Learn to cook for yourself
…or at least find a spouse who is willing to cook for you 😉
Let’s face it. Aside from a select few places, the restaurant industry does not care one bit about your health and fitness goals. The foods are generally ultra high in carbs and fat, plus cheap ingredients that have very little nutritional value whatsoever. Plus, with the big portions and endless appetizer and dessert options, its easy to turn what should just be a simple meal into a 3,000 calorie eating fest.
That’s not to say that you should never go out to eat, just don’t do it for every meal of every day! Once or twice a week is fine (we love our chipotle), but making a habit of it will set you further and further away from your goals. So learning to cook delicious meals for yourself at home will definitely help in the battle to stay lean.
When cooking at home, you’re the one in control of every single ingredient that goes into all of your meals, keeping macros accurate, and your food as healthy as possible. It also saves you a ton of money as going out to eat can get expensive, and gives you and your spouse/significant other something fun to do together!
Need some new healthy recipes to cook at home? Be sure to check out the Sweet Machine Fitness recipe section. We’ve got you covered.
And speaking of food choices…
#5. Stay away from pop (soda), bread, fast food, and processed junk
The only thing those are good for is helping you put on fat.
Our bodies are the temple of the Lord. What sense does it make to fill up on a bunch of junk with little to no nutritional value?? Stick to nutrient dense whole foods and you’ll be on your way to a leaner, fitter, healthier body… and make it easier to stay that way when you get there.
Like the going out to eat I’m not one to say to never eat some of these things, but if the bulk of your diet is made up of junk you won’t feel good and definitely won’t be healthy. I’m a big advocate of the 80/20 rule with eating so I don’t lose my mind with a bunch of dietary restrictions (that means 80% of calories come from nutritious whole foods), but there are still a few things I rarely ever eat aside from maybe once or twice a year.
Take pop for instance.
A bottle of pop has around 250 calories and 66 carbs depending on the brand. So that’s an extra 66 carbs to your day from a source that does absolutely nothing good for your body. I’d rather spend those carbs on on a giant baked potato or sweet potato that will actually provide me with vitamins and minerals. Makes much more sense to me.
In conclusion, getting lean can be a tough journey but once you’re there, staying that way is a piece of cake! Share this article with a friend who is on their journey to becoming a lean body fat burning machine.
Check with a physician or qualified healthcare provider before embarking on any changes made to lifestyle, training, supplementation, or eating.