Staying lean all year long isn’t a fantasy.
Gaining fat year after year, getting tired of fad diets, and disliking the image in the mirror, isn’t what life is all about.
Yet day after day, it seems like you’re constantly exhausted, bombarded with fitness advice from every angle promising you 6-pack abs, sculpted chest, and bulging biceps.
No wonder most people think being lean is impossible.
It’s time for the fitness industry to start being honest with people and helping others realize that being lean and fit doesn’t mean gobbling down 10 supplements a day, living off of salad and broccoli, or living in the gym.
The image projected of being lean and fit doesn’t need to be something that only the elite 1% of human beings can achieve.
It’s something that each of us can achieve with nothing more than your will, drive, and hard work.
But why do most people fail to stay lean and continue to gain more and more weight every year?
The truth is yo-yo dieting, binge eating, and lack of consistency won’t help you make real progress for your fitness goals.
Forget about being lean.
If you’re constantly being driven by the 3 factors mentioned above, your chances of being healthy are slim to none.
But being a lean year long doesn’t mean you have to live off out of Tupperware containers…
Without fueling your body with high-quality foods that support your health, body, and training, trying to build up a solid base of consistency will be like a house of cards.
So what exactly does high-quality nutrition mean?
At the basic level, each part of your meals should contain a lean protein, starchy carbs, fibrous carbs, and healthy fats.
Each component of these foods contains a vital component necessary to rebuild lean muscle tissue, shed unwanted body fat, and fuel your body with the necessary nutrients to keep you lean and satiated throughout your day and year.
Focus on building a solid foundation by adding foods from each category and aiming for the 90/10 rule. Aim to eat healthy 90% while maintaining your nutrition goal, whether deficit, maintenance, or surplus.
The other 10%? Still, eat healthy (contrary to popular belief) but enjoy the foods that you love (personally pizza fills up my 10%) while still being mindful of your training goals.
Mastering this level of your nutrition allows you to upgrade to the next level of the nutritional pyramid.
Remember nutrition should fuel your life with quality foods that supply you with the right amount of macro and micronutrients which support your hard training.
Eating pizza and cake EVERY night isn’t going to cut it.
The amount of food should be the next step of your nutritional pyramid.
This is where most people try to start their fitness journeys. Especially with high performers who go right to the problem, they recognize that they’ve been eating too much and start cutting back on all their favorite foods.
While that’s great and it’s good to maintain a consistent caloric deficit especially while you’re shredding fat, the truth is without a solid foundation of high-quality foods supplying your physique with the right nutrients, you won’t be able to maintain long-term progress.
Again, if you need to refer to Level 1, make sure you master the quality of food entering your body before moving to the next level.
That being said, once you’ve mastered the first level, moving onto Level 2 is much easier because you’ve built the right foundation below you. Now the only change is shifting the amount of food that you need to reach your specific goal.
If your goal is to shred off fat and drop the sagging belly fat, aim for a slight caloric deficit. Aim for a 200-300 deficit per day.
While you could be more aggressive and aim for a higher deficit, the price of overeagerness and impatience is crash and burn.
More often than not, you’ll also end up sacrificing your most valuable asset as well which is lean muscle tissue.
Building muscle and crafting a physique that turns heads take time and dedication.
There are no shortcuts to building lean, hard, muscle tissue although the supplement industry would like you to believe so.
Aim for a slight caloric surplus, between 200-300 calories extra per day to help minimize fat gain and maximize muscle growth. One caveat though. If your training volume isn’t there, building muscle will NOT become a reality.
Muscle is an adaption to the stimulus imposed by training.
Read here to review if your training volume is high enough to continuously build muscle without overtraining. Remember to keep your training intensity high, eat slightly more, and track your progress vigorously.
Scared of putting on too much fat?
You can minimize fat gain by tracking your body stats each week, using a combination of progress pictures, measurements, and body fat percentages to make sure that your body fat levels aren’t going up rapidly.
This can help ensure that your main increases are coming from lean muscle rather than fat.
Use this free body fat percentage tool to help track your progress.
This may be one of the simplest goals to calculate. Once you know your specific caloric goal, then maintaining it is a lot easier than you may think.
The body naturally wants to stay in homeostasis (balance). For most people, eating the right amount of calories to maintain their body weight comes much more easily than reducing or increasing the number of daily calories.
Calculate your numbers and aim to maintain your caloric goals on a daily basis if you’re not interested in gaining or dropping. Ideally, this goal works best for those who have reached their ideal physique or for athletes who need to maintain certain body weight for their specific sport.
While not necessarily a specific caloric goal, I thought I’d drop this goal here just to address it and help clarify a bit more about the infamous muscle gain and simultaneous fat loss goal.
While most well-read people believe that muscle recomp is impossible and most people who are fooled by the supplement industry believe that it is possible, there are studies that show muscle recomp is possible especially for the novice trainee.
The key takeaway? Novice trainees may see a simultaneous drop in fat and build in muscle until they reach a more advanced stage.
Not sure what goal you should be working on?
Use the body fat percentage chart below to help you navigate towards the right training goal.
Whether your goal is to shed fat and reveal your 6 pack abs or craft muscle and get bigger, the amount of calories you put into your body is directly related to the amount of fat or muscle that you want to lose/build.
Master the foundation of this pillar by focusing on tracking your nutrition on a daily basis. Remember if you want to lose fat you need to be in a caloric deficit. Building muscle? Stay in a caloric surplus.
The top of the pyramid is capped off by consistency. Now that you have a solid foundation underneath you, the final component to staying lean year long is being consistent.
There’s nothing that can beat solid consistency. The ability to see real progress in your fitness and physique will always come down to how consistent you can be.
This doesn’t mean giving up your lifestyle, but rather it means you’re consistent enough each week that these 3 principles become a part of you.
Staying lean all year long doesn’t mean giving up your favorite foods, lifestyle, or performance.
Master these 3 principles and you’ll find that by applying them constantly to your life, physique, and training, your goals won’t be that far away.
Interested in more science-based articles to help you MASTER your fitness? Head over here.
References and Further Reading:
1. Body Fat Calculator: https://www.calculator.net/body-fat-calculator.html?ctype=standard&csex=m&cage=26&cweightlbs=164&cheightfeet=5&cheightinch=7&cneckfeet=&cneckinch=13.5&cwaistfeet=&cwaistinch=34.5&chipfeet=&chipinch=34&cweightkgs=70&cheightmeter=178&cneckmeter=50&cwaistmeter=96&chipmeter=92&x=86&y=19
2. Body Fat Percentage Chart: https://veganfitnessredefined.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Male-Body-fat-percentage-chart-262×300.jpg