A while ago, I wrote an article called 3 Simple Ways To Burn More Fat During Your Workout which detailed a few ways to burn more fat while you workout.
I stand by everything I discussed in that article and I utilize all those things to stay shredded, but when it comes to acheiving a lean physique, working out is only half the equation. You can exercise all you want and take all types of great fat-burning supplements, but if you sabotage your fat-loss efforts with a terrible diet, you’ll never make progress.
When it comes to acheiving a lean physique, most people have absolutely no idea how to go about it. The reality is, there really isn’t just one way to go about it. If you want to get leaner, there are quite a few things you can do to help your cause.
Some have to do with the way you exericise, like the things I discussed in 3 Simple Ways To Burn More Fat During Your Workout, and some have to do with nutrition. The latter is what I’ll be discussing this article.
So without further ado, here are 3 simple tips to help you get lean and stay lean (provided you stick with them).
Cut out the sugar
Dietary fat has been vilified by the mainstream fitness media over the years, but research now indicates pretty overwhelmingly that sugar is actually what you should be avoiding as much as possible.
Glucose, the simplest of sugars, is the body’s preferred source of energy. When you consume carbohydrates, simple or complex, they are broke down into Glucose that the body can use to generate energy.
So, your body does need sugar to function properly, there’s no denying that. However, the average diet in the United States contains far too much sugar, usually in the form of Juice, Soft Drinks, Snack Foods, etc.
While it is true that individuals who work out regularly can use a little extra sugar in their diet, most people are taking in way too much and this appears to be a primary driver of the Obesity epidemic.
The Problem With Sugar
The problem with sugar is two-fold. First off, sugar contains 4 calories per gram, and most soft drinks contain dozens of grams of sugar. Most people don’t track their liquid calories like they track they’re solid food, but all those calories add up!
If you’re taking in 2500 calories a day, and burning that same amount, you’ll stay the same weight. If you’re taking in 2500 calories a day, a burning the same amount, but add on top of that 3 sodas, juices, etc., you’re going to gain weight.
The second issue with sugar is the more serious issue. After all, weight gain is about calories in vs calories out. If you drink a couple soft drinks a day, but burn those calories off in the gym, there’s nothing to worry about, right?
Unfortunately not. You see, there’s the whole issue of Insulin Resistance. Insulin Resistance occurs when you continuously bombard your body with nutrients that spike Insulin levels. Carbs and Protein increase Insulin release, but simple sugar spikes Insulin dramatically.
Insulin, for those who aren’t aware, is a hormone secreted in response to carb/protein intake which tells the body to stop burning fat and start storing it because it now has carbs available for energy. You’re body will always choose to burn carbs as its primary energy source, but when you’re low on carbs, it starts burning stored fat.
If you repeatedly spike your Insulin levels by consuming simple carbohydrates day after day, week after week, you’ll become more and more resistance to Insulin and your Pancreas will keep producing more and more, eventually leading to what’s referred to as “Insulin Resistance”.
Since your body burns less fat for energy when Insulin levels are high, having a bunch of Insulin floating around your bloodstream will cause you to store more fat, rather than burn it.
Insulin Resistance is associated with weight gain and can lead to Diabetes. Don’t screw your Insulin sensitivity up by shoveling away the simple carbs. Take it easy, and try to eat low glycemic carbs.
FOCUS ON PROTEIN ABOVE ALL ELSE
Tracking your macronutrients can be very helpful when it comes to managing your weight and/or body composition, but if nothing else, you should be tracking your protein.
Protein is required for muscle building. When you consume complete proteins, you’re body breaks them down into the individual amino acids which comprise them and then sends a bunch of those amino acids to your muscle tissue where they are re-constructed into complete proteins as muscle tissue.
Exercise increases dietary demand for protein quite drastically, so athletes or people who work out every day need to pay especially close attention to their protein requirements.
Neglect your protein intake and your body won’t have the supplies to build muscle, no matter how much you work out. In fact, if you’re working out a lot and not taking in enough protein, chances are you’re actually doing more harm than good.
If you’re goal is get lean and stay lean, then by definition, your goal is to build or at the very least maintain muscle. So, even if you’re not tracking your macronutrients in general, you should at least be aware of how much protein you’re consuming and how much you should be consuming to reach your goals.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
I wrote an article on this very subject on SuppWithThat.com which is DEFINITELY worth checking out if you really want to understand your protein requirements. You can check that out here, but I’ll summarize as well…
Research indicates that people who weight lift regularly require atleast .8g of protein per pound of body weight just to maintain muscle. People who want to GAIN muscle need to be taking in north of 1g per pound of body weight.
Think about your protein intake. Are you taking in atleast 1g per pound of body weight? Unless you’re really trying, you’re probably not!
If you’re exercising daily and are already eating as much protein as you reasonably can, but aren’t hitting your protein requirements as described above, you should absolutely consider supplementing with Leucine.
Leucine is the most potent amino acid when it comes to stimulating protein synthesis and research has shown that it can preserve muscle mass in individuals taking in less protein than they should.
This makes it especially useful for dieters who are cutting calories but want to maintain muscle mass.
When it comes to BCAA supplements, there is nothing superior to Amino Beyond. It contains clinical doses of Leucine, guaranteed to help you maintain/build muscle, and provides several other unique benefits as well.
Drink LOTS OF WATER!
When people ask me what I do to stay lean, and I tell them I drink a lot of water, they often look at me like I’m joking. While it is true that I also do a lot of other things to stay lean (like the things in this article), drinking lots of water is absolutely part of the equation. Don’t believe me? I’ll explain
Because your body is constantly adjusting it’s temperate up and down to keep itself at 98.6F, any time you consume something that much colder, you must burn additional calories to heat it up to 98.6. Since cold water contains zero calories, but your body is forced to burn calories to return to heat it up to 98.6), drinking cold water will slightly elevate your Metabolic Rate and cause you to burn extra calories.
This thermic effect of water has been observed in clinical settings. The magnitude of this increase is slight, but day after day, year after year, the difference can become meaningful.
Research indicates water consumption is associated with reduced body weight, and while the link may be small, it’s still there. Drinking water all day every day (within reason of course) is definitely helpful when it comes to longterm weight-loss.
Furthermore, drinking water before meals has been shown to reduce food intake, offering another potentially meaninful way by which water may influence weight-loss.
The Bottom Line On Getting Lean
Like most things in life, getting lean is simple but not necessarily easy. If you’ve made a habbit out of:
- consuming sugary-drinks/foods
- not eating a high protein diet
- not drinking water often and consistently
Then you may find it difficult to make the necessary changes, but if you just adjust your nutrition habbits in accordance with everything we discussed above, you may be (pleasantly) surprised with the results.
To be clear, you should always exercise. Eating right will keep you healthy, but only working out will build muscle and burn fat at an accelerated rate, giving you that lean/shredded look.
Another great thing about exercising on a regular basis is that it gives you much more freedom when it comes to eating what you want when you want. If you hit the gym and burn 300 calories, that’s 300 extra calories you can afford to eat without gaining weight.
The Bottom Line On Staying Lean
Getting lean isn’t so hard. It’s STAYING lean that tends to be difficult. People go on all types of insane diets to lose weight but then as soon as they reach they’re desired weight, they loosen up their standards and let themselves go.
Consistency. That’s the key…
Go ahead and have some cake at your friends party or drink a few beers (if you’re over 21 OR live in a country where the laws actually make sense). Just don’t completely abandon these basic rules and remember: Everything in moderation.
I'm Matt, Founder of Momentum Nutrition and SuppWithThat.com. I've spent the better part of the last decade researching and experimenting in the areas of fitness, nutrition, and supplementation, and this is where I write it all down.