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10 rules to get lean

The key to creating the lean physique you’ve always wanted is dropping body fat levels while building more muscle.

With that goal in mind, here are the 10 rules to achieving the ultimate beach-ready lean look…

1, Eat lean

Your diet is the most important factor in your quest for less body fat. Use your time in the kitchen to prepare healthy meals for the week so that you’re never caught without diet-approved meal options.

And control your calories! You need to maintain a negative calorie balance (more in point 2). Your meals should consist of fewer carbs (and don’t eat carbs at every meal – more in point 9), be free from sugar, and include sufficient healthy fats and adequate protein to support muscle maintenance.

2. Create a (slight) negative calorie balance

If you eat more calories than you burn on a daily basis, you’ll pick up weight, regardless of the other dietary manipulation tools you use (read more in point 10).

Get a little analytical. Know exactly how many calories you consume each day, and how many calories you burn through the combination of your training, your resting (basal) metabolic rate, and the rest of your daily activities.

Use this info to create a negative caloric balance every day. Just don’t go too extreme in this regard as that is a sure-fire method to burning more muscle.

3. Use a thermogenic fat burner

Thermogenic fat burners are the most effective aids when it comes to burning body fat. Well-formulated products also have ingredients that help you preferentially burn fat as your primary energy source.

Just stick to label recommendations on how to cycle these products.

You can also use other effective fat burning products such as L-carnitine and CLA over the long-term and in combination with thermogenic products to support fat loss.

4. Avoid food rewards

Leave out the cheat meals, snacks and junk food. Reward yourself with the leanest physique you’ve ever achieved! The satisfaction will lasts a lot longer than the taste of cake.

5. Don’t skip the cardio

Cardio can be an invaluable tool to help you tap into body fat stores, but only if you use it properly. Steady-state, fasted cardio, done at 50-75% of your maximum heart rate, has its place in any fat-loss programme as it helps your body become more efficient at tapping into stored fat for energy.

However, that only happens when glycogen stores are manipulated in the correct manner. In addition, high intensity interval training (HIIT) can also boost your metabolism, even after your session has ended.

6. Manage stress and overtraining

Unchecked, runaway stress is another important element to consider as stress hormones such as cortisol create an environment where that preferentially stores fat rather than burn it.

7. Intensify your efforts

Boost the intensity of your weight training sessions to build more muscle and burn more calories and fat. The best approach is to use training techniques such as supersets, giants sets, pyramids and high-intensity circuit training. Reducing the rest intervals between sets and exercises, and performing supersets with opposing (antagonist) muscle groups are also great ways to increase the intensity and volume of your weight training sessions.

8. Boost your protein intake

Additional protein helps to spare muscle during periods of calorie restriction and intense training, and aids recovery.

9. Manipulate your carb intake

Carbohydrates and insulin, when combined with excessive calorie intakes are the main reasons for excess body fat. It is essential that you are strict about the types of carbs, the total amount of carbs, and when you eat those carbs each day.

Eat more fibrous vegetables while limiting processed carbs and simple sugars as much as possible. High glycaemic index (GI) carbs are ideal for use before, during and after workouts, while natural, low GI carbs are the better option for use at other times of day.

Carb manipulation techniques such as carb cycling and carb backloading are ideal tools to ensure you consume enough carbs to fuel workouts and promote muscle gain, without increasing fat stores.

10. Consider meal frequency

Conventional wisdom dictates that eating five or six smaller meals a day provides bursts of food-derived energy, which are more efficiently utilised, leaving little over to be stored as fat.

Eating in this manner also helps to ‘rev’ up your metabolism and keeps your body working to digest food throughout the day, which helps to increase your basal metabolic rate in its own small way.

However, intermittent fasting is also effective. This approach requires you to consume all meals within a specific, limited timeframe each day, which is then followed by longer periods of fasting. Common structures include an eight-hour eating window, followed by a 16-hour fast each day, or a 5:2 weekly cycle of five days of normal eating followed by two days of fasting. The major concern with intermittent fasting, for the physique conscious at least, is that the likelihood of muscle loss is higher.

Both ‘healthy’ approaches seem to aid both weight and fat loss for certain people though. The trick is to find what works best for your genetics, physiology and lifestyle.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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