Struggling to get lean?
I get it dude, the grind of everyday life can be ruthless to a body. It can get downright stressful trying to find the right program for you. At least that’s the way it was for me. You’ve got all the so-called “experts” who say all you need to do is join this program..
Or only do compound lifts
Or just do cardio
Or Crossfit is king and everything else is plebeian.
And when it comes to nutrition just forget it with all the “diets” people say are the best.
Cut out this macro
Or never have dairy
Or stop eating fruit
Man I heard and tried most of them when trying to get to where I wanted to be. You see, a goal of mine was always to be able to see my abs. I tried every diet, every workout program, and all I got was frustration at my lack of results. But now not only am I at the leanest I’ve ever been, but I can do it while still living my life and not turning down food when I go to parties or out with the wife. I’m able to enjoy the things I like and not give up carbs, never drink alcohol, and never even have a freakin slice of meat pizza. So I thought I’d give you a list of the things that would give you help you sift through all the nonsense out there.
Before we start though a couple fair warnings:
These efforts work but they require you to put some work in, in the weight room and the kitchen.
Most of the people reading this will only do a couple, if any of the things on this list. They’ll choose the things that require the least amount of effort and sacrifice on their part, and skip out on the things that might even temporarily cause them to get out of their comfort zone or try something new. And God forbid having to take the 20 seconds 3-5 times per day to record their food in a calorie app.
And they won’t be consistent which is the main thing in this fitness game. If you aren’t willing to be consistent you won’t get the body you want. If you aren’t willing to put the effort in then you may as well leave now…
Because mediocre effort produces mediocre results. But if you’re fed up with the way you look, and want to get the best body of your life (and keep it) then carry on my weary friend.
1.) Put the fork down!
When you’re full stop eating! You can save some for tomorrow dude, chill out! If you are feeling like you are gorging yourself, then you are eating too much! Oh and you know you can have white space on your plate right?
2.) Lift Weights
This is the best form of exercise for body recomposition.
Read that again ^^^
Not cardio, but weight training is going to give you the toned, hard muscle definition you are looking for. Often on a traditional weight loss program, it’s all about losing weight rather than gaining muscle. The problem when you take that approach is, a lot of the weight that you lose is not going to just be pounds shed from fat. It’s also going to be muscle that you are losing. That’s why when most people lose a lot of weight, they are left with loose, wrinkled skin rather than a toned physique. When you lift weights we can burn fat and gain muscle simultaneously.
I always tell my clients, think of weight training as a fat burning workout, and cardio as a calorie burning workout. There is a difference! And the best programs (Like ours at Iron Will) have you doing both!
How often should you lift weight? Well studies show that a hard weight training session can burn calories up to 48 hours post workout. So if you want your metabolism running at a higher rate every day of the week, I would recommend either 3 full body days per week with one to two days of HIIT training since we know it has a similar metabolic effect (see tip #10), or 4-5 split muscle group sessions per week.
3.) Take a Walk/Get a Dog
You know that 10,000 steps per day crap. Our bodies weren’t designed to be stagnant. Depending on your weight (obviously) you can burn anywhere from 250-600 calories just getting in 10,000 steps per day. And it’s not hard! If you have a smart phone you can download a free app that will track it for you. Whatever you don’t get from walking during the work day, make up with an evening stroll. Or wake up 30 minutes early and get a jump start on it. Just get off the couch man! And go rescue a dog while you’re at it! You’re welcome dogs!
4.) Eat more Protein
Protein has a higher thermal effect then the other macronutrients. That simply means it requires your body burn more energy (burn more calories) to digest protein than it does for carbs and fats. Protein increases your metabolic rate by 15-30% compared to carbs at 5-10%, and fat at 0-3%. Protein also builds and repairs damaged muscle tissue. If you want to reap the benefits of your hard workouts, you must have a diet rich in protein. This goes for vegans and vegetarians too. For muscle gain about 1g per lb of body weight for men and .08g per lb of weight for women.
Foods high in protein are eggs, Liquid egg whites, chicken, pork, fish, turkey, shrimp, lean beef, whey protein, Greek Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, milk, Lentils, Hummus, oats, almonds, quinoa, beans, and seeds of several kinds.
5.) Drink that H2O Bobby Boucher!
The RDA for drinking water is 64 ounces (or 8 cups) of water per day. For active people it’s 96 ounces per day. Water boosts your metabolism, lubricates your joints, and energizes your muscles with electrolytes. Water has also been shown to increase pain tolerance, i.e. help with muscle soreness from lactic acid build up.
5.) Don’t be afraid of fruit.
I’m so sick of this fruit phobia everyone suddenly developed. Fructose is the sugar found in fruit. It is a natural, unprocessed sugar. There’s a big difference in eating an apple and eating a Kit Kat bar. Nobody in the history of mankind has become obese because they ate too much fruit. They became obese by eating too many Big Macs and cookies, and pasta! Fruit is full of vitamins and minerals like folate, vitamin c and potassium. They are full of antioxidants and fiber to maintain a healthy gut, which prevents bloating and lowers your risk of bowel cancer, inflammation, heart disease and diabetes. Don’t you remember the saying an Apple a day keeps the doctor away? Shoo, There I feel better!
6.) Fill up on Vegetables
The best way to get full every meal, is to have a serving or two of vegetables. If you fill 40-50% of your plate with vegetables, you will be full after your meal, and you will eat less calories. Eat 4-6 servings of vegetable daily to get your micronutrients, and to get your daily fiber. Vegetables also like fruit are full of those vitamins and minerals that prevent all kinds of disease. There’s so many options here as well. If you don’t like something, don’t eat it. There are enough vegetables in the world that you can find a handful that you actually don’t hate. Eat those and eat a lot of them.
7.) Intermittent Fasting
I’ve personally used, and had certain clients use I.F. numerous times when we just wanted to drop 5-10lbs quickly. It’s so effective. I know people who have been doing IF for years. Don’t think of it like a diet, think of it as a pattern of eating. When your body goes through periods of fasting, your body has a fight or flight response because it doesn’t know when it’s going to get fed again. How does it react? It burns into more into your fat cells for energy. Basically that just means your body is burning into your fat stores and using that as energy due to the lack of immediate calories.
12/12, 16/8, 18/6 whatever works with your schedule. If you eat on a schedule, you will eat less. But if you want to build and keep muscle get your protein up!
8.) Drink Tea…Especially Green Tea
A cup of Green tea does not have nearly the amount of caffeine of a cup of coffee. But it still has enough to have a mild effect on fat burning. The good thing about green tea, however and where it really shines is in all the antioxidants it increases in your blood. One of those antioxidants is called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). This antioxidant in particular has been shown to increase metabolism.
9.) Drink coffee
Coffee is one the most natural forms of caffeine you can consume. Caffeine is a well known stimulant that has been shown to aid in fat loss. Caffeine has also been shown to increase exercise performance. So why not skip the expensive pre-workout and just drink coffee? Personally I buy the main ingredients in most pre workouts, Beta Alanine and L-Argenine, and I make my own pre workouts for pennies on the dollar. I mix in water with a little creatine after drinking have a half cup of coffee for caffeine. Bam! Ready to go. Oh and if you’re doing intermittent fasting, it’s your best friend. Coffee is a great appetite suppressant.
10.) HIIT it hard
HIIT is an acronym that stands for High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT Cardio is fast and effective. I personally don’t do ANY steady state cardio; aside from walking my German Shepherd. Not because it doesn’t work, I just don’t want to take the time to do it with my schedule. I value my time more and more these days as I get busier, and high intensity cardio allows me to get the heart and conditioning benefits of steady state cardio, in a much shorter amount of time.
And best of all it’s the most “muscle sparing” Cardio you can do. Don’t you want to keep those gains instead of burn them off? There’s nothing that will take muscle gains away like logging hour and hours on a treadmill. Ever seen a jacked long distance runner? I’d prefer the look of the sprinter or wide receiver. To perform hiit, you simply combine short bouts of explosive movement at a maximum effort, followed by either resting or movement at a moderate pace. An example would be to simply sprint as hard as you can for 20 seconds, and then rest the remainder of the minute, or jog the remainder of the minute before sprinting again. Or you could pick several moves like a mountain climber, jump squat, and kettlebell swing and perform each circuit style at a maximum effort for each exercise for 30-45 seconds, and rest the remainder of the minute before moving on to the next exercise.
11.) Eat Cruciferous Vegetables
At least one serving per day no exceptions no matter what. Cruciferous vegetables keep your estrogen levels low, which in turn keeps your testosterone levels up. Your testosterone is what is going to help you increase your muscle mass. Now Which are the cruciferous ones? You know… the leafy green ones: Broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts, bok Choi. Oh and cauliflower. That cauliflower pizza might be a mistake though.
12.) Train to Failure, or at least within a rep or two of failure with good Form
Simply put, if you want to maximize muscle fiber recruitment, especially the recruitment of those Type II muscle fibers (the ones that “grow” and make you look “toned”, you must maximize muscle damage. This is not just for men, it’s for women too. If you want to gain lean muscle, look athletic, and increase your resting metabolism then your goal HAS to be lean muscle gain. That DOES NOT mean overtraining; it just means when you lift, make sure you are doing as many reps as you can with the weight you are using.
13.) Carbs are your Friend…Well the good kinds of carb
When you have a consistent workout routine, carbohydrates, specifically complex carbs will give you the energy to fuel your workouts. Complex carbs are slow digesting, and aid with protein synthesis. Good examples of complex carbs include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, quinoa, and brown rice.
14.) Stop Cooking with SO MUCH Oils!
Ok so you heard that cooking oils are healthy. Well they are and they aren’t. Yes you are getting healthy fats with coconut oil, and canola oil. But you forgot one thing…they are full of calories! One tablespoon adds about 120 calories to your meal. If you are wanting to lose weight and stay lean, you can use cooking oils if they fit in your calories, but wouldn’t you just rather have another serving of whatever you are eating?
15.) Stretch for Pete’s Sake!
Stretching burns calories, helps with connective tissue strengthening, improves range of motion, prevents muscle imbalance and poor posture, and keeps your joints from getting stiff. I can’t tell you how many injuries, surgeries, and aches and pains that could have been prevented just by taking 5-10 minutes per day to stretch. If you can’t touch your toes, or stand with your back and butt against a wall and take your arms back to where your elbows can touch the wall…that’s a problem. We’re in this for the long game my friends! If you want to stay young and able into your elder years, make stretching a priority and habitual practice now!
16.) If you overeat one day, Under eat the next.
I want you to start thinking of your calories as a weekly average. Too often I see clients blow it on their diet one day and feel so dejected that it’s a free for all the rest of the week! If you are trying to eat 1800 calories per day but one day you eat 2300, just simply eat 500 calories less the next day, or 250 calories less the following two days.
Wow! Just breathe guys! Wasn’t that so easy to get back on track? As a matter of fact, here’s a free tip that I wish I knew a long time ago. If I know that the wife and I are going to Good Fellas Pizza, or Guiseppi’s Italian Ristorante on a Saturday beforehand, I’ve been known to intentionally under eat by 100-200 calories a day or two during the week so that I have the extra calories for that meal I really want. I know I’m a genius!
17.) Stop this endless cycle of “bulking” and “cutting.”
First of all you never need to “bulk” so let’s get that word out of your vocabulary. And if you can’t see definition in your stomach then why would you ever need to bulk anyway? Work to get as toned or lean as you want, and then when you reach that goal, just eat 50-100 calories more per day. All these people telling you that you need to eat 500 calories over maintenance to gain muscle need to look at their gut. Let’s do some simple math shall we? If there’s 3500 calories in a pound of fat, and we are eating 500 calories more, every day of the week then we need to, to stay the same weight, how much fat are we gaining every single week? Try one pound of fat every week. Yikes! That bulk just got dirty real quick. More is not always better. All you need to do is be in the slightest of surplus’ and you will gain just as much muscle then if you were in a large surplus, and you won’t gain the fat.
18.) Stop the exclusionary diet madness
Exclusionary diets like paleo, kept, south beach, atkins, etc all have good track records at having people lose weight. The problem is that 90% of people can’t stick with that way of eating for life. And when they start to introduce those foods back into their diet…well they put all that weight back on. Why not just have a balanced diet where nothing is off limits, we just simply eat within a weekly calorie range, allow a couple junk meals per week, and make sure we get enough protein to build muscle? It’s really not that complicated. Or why not try intermittent fasting (see #7) so that we don’t have to be as strict about what we eat, just when we eat it? Why not instead of putting ourselves on a “diet” we eat in a sensible way that we can stick with for life? Then it’s really not a diet at all.
19.) Use the 80:20 method in the gym and your nutrition
Some people do bicep curls every time they go to the gym because logic would dictate that the more you work that muscle the more it will grow right? Not quite. You see you need to spend the majority of the time working on the larger muscles like the chest, back, and legs. Why? Well two reasons really, when you perform exercises like pushing, pulling, and squatting you not only hit those larger muscles, but the secondary or smaller ones too. So you’re burning more calories, while also still hitting those “show” muscles that you want to stick out. So spend 80% of your time working on those big movements that work multiple muscle groups at once, and only 20% of your time on the simple movements that only work a tiny area of your body.
The same thing goes with your nutrition. If I eat 4 times per day, which I personally do, that’s 28 meals per week. That means about 23 out of 28 meals need to be “healthy” in order for me to be batting .800. But that also leaves me 5 times during the week to have something outside of my normal foods that I really want (within my calories of course, don’t overdo it). And if right now you are only eating healthy 50% of the time, just think about how much better you would look if you made a 30% improvement on your nutrition. It would be HUGE!
Now the leaner you want to be will dictate if you want to go further then 80:20. If you want to be absolutely shredded, then you might have to go 90:10. It’s up to you how far you want to go, but it does require some amount of sacrifice.
20.) Live a little!
This is kind of a continuation of #19. I’ll get a lot of flack for this, but it’s just the way I feel. This is a lifestyle, not a short term fix. If you can’t go out on the town with your wife or hubby and enjoy a junk meal or drink once in awhile, then you WON’T stick with this. Make room in your daily calories a few times per week to have something that you really want. Don’t go out and buy a whole cheesecake, go out and buy a slice! I make it a point to never keep junk in the house. That way if I really, really want it, I can go out to get a single serving of it at a restaurant.
I’m one of the most disciplined people with my nutrition that I know, but l still allow two meals per week within my calorie range to eat something I normally wouldn’t eat. It gives me something to look forward to and helps me stay with my normal nutritional habits the rest of the week.
Do you have to eat “healthy” 90% of the time like me? Well it really depends on your goals. If you want to see your six pack, then yes, you probably want to be eating pretty healthy somewhere between 80-90% of the time. If you are just looking to be at a healthy body fat percentage for your age, maybe you can get away with eating healthy 70% of the time. It really comes down to your goals and how bad you want it.
But a warning here at the bottom…Do not over do your junk meal. If you can fit it in your calories, then go for it. If if puts you over by a few hundred calories, then make up for it by eating under a few hundred calories the next day. But DO NOT eat so much of something that it doubles your calories and ruins what you’ve worked so hard on all week.
That’s it guys. Take these tips and live a lean healthy life! If you want to join me in my 90 day transformation program so that you have someone side by side with you on this journey, go back to the email and reply with “I’m In” in the subject line and I’ll get you the details.