You’ve been putting in hours of work at the gym, but you’re not seeing the results. To make matters worse, instead of muscle, you’re gaining an extra layer of fat. Why???
While a lean, cut body is easier to achieve than a vein-popping muscle-bound physique, that’s not to say it’s going to be a walk in the park. The hard truth about maintaining muscle while leaning out is it’s going to take time, incredible discipline and a ton of commitment. And it’s going to get a lot harder as you get older and your testosterone and metabolism levels dip.
But before you start bidding goodbye to your dreams of being a lean, mean machine, don’t. Because impossible as it seems, there are ways that even an average Joe can get cut.
Up your protein game
A strong body might be made in the gym but a lean body is made in the kitchen. That’s why it’s crucial to know what you should and should not eat for maximum results. And when you’re trying to get lean, protein really is your best friend. In addition to making you feel fuller longer, increasing your protein intake also helps you maintain muscle mass while you’re lowering your calorie intake, so you gain even as you’re slimming down.
Lean tip: Try to spread out your protein intake so you’re getting at least 30g every four hours.
Retain some fats
Consuming fats while you’re trying to get lean might seem counterintuitive but that’s what you’ve got to do. Because the truth is, eating fat won’t make you fat. Instead, healthy fats, like those found in avocadoes and nuts, provide you with energy, transport vitamins through your bloodstream and absorb nutrients into your body.
Lean tip: Balance your fat intake by loading up on both saturated (butter, coconut oil) and unsaturated (nuts, flaxseed) fats.
Don’t skip meals
Skipping meals to lose fat and weight might seem like a good idea, but it’s not. For starters, skipping just one meal causes your blood-sugar levels to take a nose dive, making you feel weak and lethargic. An unsteady supply of nutrients also affects your brain, so you become easily moody and irritable. To top it off, as your system shifts into starvation mode to conserve energy, your metabolism slows so any food you do take in is not burned off efficiently. And when you do give in to your hunger pangs, chances are, you’re going to pig out and eat more than you should.
Lean tip: Eat smaller, healthier meals packed with nutrient-rich food throughout the day.
Get some Zzz’s
One thing that many people don’t realise is the importance of sleep in fat loss. Having insufficient sleep is a nightmare when it comes to shedding those pounds because your metabolism slows down to conserve energy. Sleep deprivation also makes you have a major case of the munchies to fuel your body. And the only thing that will curb your hunger – high-carb, high-fat foods that will absolutely wreck your fat-loss efforts.
Lean tip: Get at least 7–9 hours of sleep a night. Or take a nap.
Track your progress
The best way to get lean is to by keeping track of your progress. That means measuring your body fat and weight and weighing out and recording the food portions you need to consume. Start by figuring out the calories you need daily and make a note of what you eat. That way you can see if you’re consuming too much or too little. Remember to also input the workouts and exercises you do.
Lean tip: Start off with a 40/40/20 diet (40% of calories from carbs, 40% from protein and 20% from fat) and adjust 1 variable at a time until you find the magic numbers that work best for you.
Have other tips for getting lean? Share your ideas and questions in the comments below!