One of the most common things asked by new visitors to this site is how to get a lean body, which is lucky really because it is the main focus of ChilledFitness.com
There is definitely more than one way to get lean. In fact are a lot of different paths to take which could give you the kind of physique you want – the question is are you willing to follow one?
I certainly have my preferred methods; ones that have proven to work for both myself and the readers of ChilledFitness.com. The key thing about the methods I use and teach is that they will not take over your life.
In this informative post I will cover the basics of how to get lean in 17 bite-size chunks; we start with nutrition and then move on to training.
Nutrition: Essential For A Lean Body
This first set of tips will focus on diet and nutrition. “You can’t out-train a bad diet” – this saying holds true for the vast majority of us. Luckily nutrition isn’t as complex as it’s often made out to be; eating in a way that minimizes body fat and develops lean muscle is actually fairly simple. I have a nice post on eating for effective body fat reduction which you may like, but the basics are right here.
On to nutrition tips for the lean body…
1. Wave Goodbye To Sugar
Sugar is one of the most vicious enemies of the lean body. Eating it is unnecessary and almost always detrimental if your goal is to shed fat. Many people think that the fats we eat are what we store as body fat; the truth is that actually sugar is responsible for fat storage. Sugar intakes in the Western world are incredibly high and certainly contributing to the astounding rise of Diseases of Affluence. None of them are pretty.
Most of the sugar people eat is refined and unnatural – this leads to many of the problems our bodies have when trying to deal with it. Sugars from fruits (not fruit juices) are OK to consume though, just don’t go crazy eating fruit if you are struggling to lose body fat.
If you are wondering how to get lean and cut then removing sugar from your diet is an excellent starting point. Do it for 2 weeks, a complete sugar detox, and see how you feel. After the first few days, which can be difficult, almost everyone finds the experience extremely positive.
You will lose fat.
2. Calories Should Be Chewed, Not Drank
Drinking your calories can be very bad news for fat loss. Ideally you want to be drinking water (a lot), green/herbal teas and black coffee. These drinks should not be sweetened with sugar or any artificial sweeteners – these are really quite damaging. Try sweetening with natural Stevia instead if you need to have the sweet taste. Coffee is one of my favorite drinks but you need to be careful what you put in it. Read my post about how to make healthy coffee for more details.
It should go without saying that sodas, even diet ones, should not be drank. They add nothing except empty calories and the ability to burp far too loudly. If you try and stick to the rule of chewing calories and not drinking them then you can’t go far wrong.
Take this opportunity to try some of the delicious and exotic teas that are on offer. Many of them are a delight
3. Load Up On The Protein
Protein is essential for building and maintaining lean muscle, which in turn aids fat loss. Countless studies have shown that a diet high in protein is highly effective for getting lean. Forget about low-fat diets and those gimmicky foods that keep popping up in supermarkets – eat protein, and lots of it.
Keep in mind that thousands of years ago, before we had access to grains in an edible form, protein would have accounted for a lot of our daily calories. We just couldn’t stop hunting, catching and eating animals – and we did pretty well on that diet. Basically we are designed to eat a lot of animal proteins, evolution says so.
If you you happen to come across the idea that we are not able to properly digest meat, don’t worry, it simply isn’t true
4. Go Against The Grain
One of the best ways of getting lean fast is by cutting out grains entirely from your diet. No bread, rice, flour, wheat etc. These foods tend to cause blood sugar spikes which are counterproductive for body fat reduction. Many people feel this is impossible because grains are so widely consumed – just try it for two weeks though, you won’t go back.
Followers of the Paleo Diet have been removing grains from their diets for years and seeing excellent results in terms of fat reduction, not to mention vast improvements in overall health.
I know that a lot of bodybuilders with single digit fat levels eat grains regularly, especially brown rice and whole grain bread. As I mentioned at the start of this article there is more than one way to skin a cat (get lean) and cutting grains out is one of the most effective in my experience, and that of countless others. There are lean people who eat grains of course, but removing them works like a charm.
Fat loss aside, there is also a whole list of reasons why grains are very unhealthy.
Grains don’t provide us with anything useful that we cannot get from other, far healthier foods. We didn’t evolve to eat them, we just chose to because of their low cost and convenience.
5. Eat Massive Amounts Of Veggies
Vegetables should be a major source of carbohydrates for you, our ancestors thrived on them and did excellently. All sensible nutrition plans should include a LOT of veggies. It goes without saying that they are a fantastic source of all kinds of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidents and a whole lot more.
It actually feels silly to be explaining the benefits of eating a lot of veg, so I’m going to stop there.
I will say this though: Make sure you go organic wherever possible; reducing your intake of the articifial chemicals we like to add to crops and soil is always a good thing.
You shouldn’t really have trouble eating enough veg – just have some with every meal. If you do though, or if time is often an issue, consider a supplement such as Athletic Greens. It is an excellent choice and uses only the finest ingredients.
Their slogain “The Ultimate Nutritional Insurance Policy” is pretty damn accurate in my opinion.
6. Forget About Meal Timing
This is a big one; controversial too.
Meal timing is a hot topic in the fitness and nutrition world. The standard advice seems to be that ‘grazing’ or eating little and often is the way to go – it keeps your metabolism burning calories and stops it from slowing down. It is common to see 5, 6 or even more meals recommeded each day for people who want to know how to get a lean body.
We are not saying this doesn’t work; fitness models prove that it is effective. We are saying that breaking these rules is not going to slow down your progress, or your metabolism for that matter. The medical research just doesn’t support the idea that eating small, frequent meals is the most effective way to lose fat. In fact, most studies conclude that the number of meals you eat in a day has no effect on metabolism – you need to restrict calores for a long time (several days) before negative effects creep in.
The frequent meal method works, but it is not the only way, and certainly not necessary based on the research and our own results.
Take a look at Intermittant Fasting and the LeanGains.com website; the results people achieve here are astounding. The meals these guys and girls eat are BIG – they are also far from evenly distributed throughout the day. Some of them don’t eat breakfast until after midday and will consume 2-3 meals maximum in a 24 hour period!
Most nutritionists and personal trainers would totally freak out at the thought of skipping an early morning breakfast. People are doing it consistently though and maintaining 5% body fat.
Apart from the fact that spacing your meals perfectly throughout the day is not necessary, the other major down side for me is that it is very inconvenient. Who wants to carry around a bag full of plastic boxes containing food all day?
Because these schedules are hard to stick to, the rate of compliance is low. People just get fed up and don’t see things through long term. This is the most common reason why these strictly scheduled eating plans often don’t work – low rates of compliance. Not because they aren’t effective.
Concentrate on what you eat and your calorie intakes, not when the meals are actually eaten. Read my in-depth post on meal timings for more information.
7. Cheating Is Fine, Even Encouraged
Cheating occassionaly and breaking your nutrition rules can play an important role in get lean diets for men and women of all ages.
Common methods of cheating are:
- Taking one day off each week and eating literally anything, without restriction.
- Eating clean Sunday to Thursday and being less strict on Fridays and Saturdays (without going over the top).
- Allowing yourself a single cheat-meal each week – this is the strictest option.
Without getting scientific, cheating on your diet can be an effective way to keep your hormones in check and tuned for fat loss.
More importantly for me though…
Another benefit of a designated, scheduled time for cheating is the fact that you are more likely to stick to your nutritional plan; you have the knowledge that tasty treats will soon be allowed. Tim Ferris highlights this point in the 4-Hour Body and explains how it helped some of the people he tested the concept with.
Cheating prevents random binges that throw people off of the nutritional rails far too often. It improves compliance.
Currently I uses the weekly ‘cheat-day’ method: on Fridays, anything goes. I don’t go out of my way to be unhealthy, but I am allowed to eat literally anything I fancy on this day and usually end up indulging at least a little, and usually a lot. I find the psychological benefits mentioned above to be a huge bonus.
Sometimes cheats do win. Try cheating on your diet.
8. Fast For Fast Fat Loss
Although the above is not one of my best tongue-twisters, fasting is actually a great tactic to try for fat loss.
Fasting is not as bad as it sounds; I actually do it pretty often with excellent results. What we are actaully talking about here is Intermittent Fasting. This concept has been made popular by sites such as LeanGains.com and Eat Stop Eat.
The basic idea behind using intermittent fasting (IF) for getting lean is not eating for extended periods of time – anywhere from 14-24 hours or more. This can be done daily, weekly or somewhere in between; timing usualy depends on the length of your fasts. All food for the day is consumed in the ‘feeding window’ – the hours outside of your fast.
Proponents of IF have really done a great job of putting to bed any conerns about muscle loss, reduced metabolism or blood sugar issues while fasting. They have done their research for sure and actually found that IF is a very effective way to reduce body fat and build lean muslce – training is often done in a fasted state as well by the way.
Using Intermittent Fasting techniques is not necessary to sculpt a lean physique, but in my opinion is well worth trying. If you have hit a plateau then IF could be a great way to blast through it. I will be experimenting with IF a lot more in the future and will definitely write more on the topic after some more testing.
I highly recommend you check out LeanGains if you want to look into this further. The content there is incredible.
9. If You Are Going To Eat Breakfast, Get It Right
Earlier we mentioned that when designing diets to get lean, meal timing does not need to play a role. It can if you like, but it is not necessary.
The important stuff to focus on is what you are eating and how much.
On that note, let’s have a look at breakfast…
Some call it the most important meal of the day. I am not sure about that but you definitely need to make sure your first meal is protein heavy. Protein will help to control your blood sugar levels throughout the day, which is very important. Protein is also satiating – it will keep you feeling full and satisfied more effectively than the worthless carb calories most people eat for breakfast.
Traditional American breakfasts of bagels, cereal and pancakes are jam packed full of refined carbs which are going to get you off to a bad start from a blood glucose point of view. These calories are essentially empty and will leave you hungry for more (carbs) after not long at all – this is how people end up yo-yoing all day long and slowly piling up the body fat.
10. Pay Attention To Calories – They Are Not Complicated!
Although there is some disagreement over the best way to get lean (there are actually a number of very good ways), most sensible nutrition plans are going to consider your calorie needs for your specific goals.
A lot of people get a little nervous with this topic, thinking that it is too complex and they are unable to work out the ‘secret formula’ to lose fat and keep muscle. We are not bodybuilders here though, we are not keeping tracking of the intimate details relating to exactly what is eaten and when. We are not preparing for competitions either.
All we need is a solid, low-fuss strategy for working out roughly how many calories to eat for losing, gaining or maintaining our weight. Everything else is taken care of by eating correctly and efficient, intense training.
Calorie intake fundamentals apply to everyone:
- A slight calorie deficit is required to lose weight – body fat in our case.
- A slight calorie surplus is required to put on weight – lean muscle for us.
Calculating your needs is not a difficult task. There is no excuse for training hard, eating the right food and then throwing everything out the window because you haven’t taken 5 minutes to work out the maximum number of calories you can consume in a day or week in order to lose fat.
I am going to write in-depth on this subject soon, but for now, check out this simple post on the topic. It will walk you through the correct steps.
Training: How To Workout For A Lean Body
The 10 nutrition tips I have just given will certainly serve you well. Implement them, keep following them, and you will be well on your way to getting lean.
Although nutrition is the biggest part of the fat loss equation, training still plays a key role. The ChilledFitness.com training methods are simple, efficient and effective. Here are some of my favorite workout tips that will help you move towards your ideal physique as quickly as possible…
11. Don’t Train Like A Body Builder
…Unless of course you are or want to be a body builder.
This site is not about gaining massive amounts of muscle and looking like the hulk, it’s focus is on getting a lean, sexy physique without letting gym sessions and meal plans take over your life.
A lot of people start out with body building style workouts when these really do not suit their goal of simply getting lean.
When I mention body building style training I am talking about workouts that:
- Use a lot of isolation exercises, focusing in on one specifc body part
- Train only a small area of your body in any one session
- Involve a lot of rest (more than a minute) between sets
- Include slow, steady-state cardio sessions
- Last longer than 45 minutes
The above points are far from optimal for our goals of shedding fat and building lean muscle as efficiently as possible. We need to be focusing on short, intense workouts that set our heart rate racing and leave us totally exhausted by the end. We will usually complete only 3 sessions per week, each lasting less than 30 minutes – we do not have time for traditional workouts!
Any of the workouts you find me writing about on this site are designed for people who want to know how to get lean – that is all we focus on.
Stop training like a body builder and start trying the ChilledFitness workouts. I can promise you they are anything but ‘chilled’ in practice! An excellent starting point is this post on Metabolic Resistance Training, as is our Fat Loss 101 Guide.
12. Up Your Intensity
Intensity is one of my favorite words when talking about workouts.
Everything taught here is based on intensity. Whatever you are currently doing to get lean – up the intesity of your sessions. Intense workouts for our purposes involve fairly heavy weights and very little rest. I like to perform exercises in groups of 2, 3 or 4; mini circuits if you will. Take no rest between exercises and a maximum of 60 seconds between circuits.
The benefits of training at high intensities are perfect for getting a lean body as efficiently as possible:
- Rapid fat loss due to mass calorie burning
- Heavy weights allow us to maintain muscle
- No need to train every day, or for hours on end
The Fat Loss 101 Guide goes into more detail on my training techniques, make sure you pick it up for free and start adapting your sessions for effective fat loss!
13. Re-Invent Your Cardio
It is nothing new to say that high intensity cardio, often called High Intensity Interval Training, is more effective for burning fat than steady-state cardio. We are big proponents of HIIT, which basically involves varying intensity between moderate and very high levels at set intervals during your workout. Sessions are usually fairly short and can be perfomed running or cycling.
For some reason though whenever I am in the gym, almost everyone in the cardio section is going for the ‘long and slow’ approach – running or cycling at a constant pace for 40 minutes or more. I assume they haven’t heard yet that the fat burning zone is just a myth. Although regular steady-state cardio can and does burn fat, it is not as effective as HIIT, which burns far more calories overall.
One of the primary reasons HIIT beats regular cardio for fat burning is a principle called Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. You can read all about it here on Wikipedia, but in short it puts your body into a kind of ‘afterburn’ mode where you are burning calories for a considerable time period after your workout ends – sometimes this period can last a day or more.
If you want to know how to get lean then looking at some HIIT workouts is an excellent idea… I will be posting some interesting ones soon!
14. Mix It Up
Variety is hugely important in your training schedule. It seems most people are aware of this but choose not to do anything about it for some reason.
Even though all of the ChilledFitness get lean workouts are designed to be short, intense and efficient, there is still a HUGE amount of variation between them – you wouldn’t get bored if you worked out with us for the rest of your life.
Other than being the spice of life, variety is important for two reasons:
- It is great for keeping your motivation up. Getting bored of your program is likely going to torpedo any chances you have of reaching your fat loss goals.
- Your body can easily adapt to repetitive workouts after a relatively short time period. Mix things up so your muscles are constantly adapting to new movements, new levels of physical stress and different calorie expenditure during workouts. This is how you move forward.
The great thing about ChilledFitness workouts is that once you have learned the principles they are based on you can quite easily come up with your own variants. Mix in some HIIT to and you will literally have years worth of different training schedules available.
Take a look at your current workouts for the last few weeks – are they getting stale? If so, you may need to throw your body a few curve balls.
15. Train Your Full Body
The benefits of full body workouts vs. split workouts is a hotly debated topic.
Both methods can be effective and definitely have their uses, depending on your individual goals. I like to lean more towards full body workouts for a few reasons though. If I am not training my whole body in a session then I am at least focusing on multiple large muscle groups. I don’t currently focus specific training sessions on just one or two body parts – this is more applicable to body builders and too inneficient for our needs.
Utilising compound, multi-joint exercises which work the major muscle groups is one of the best ways to get lean. When relatively heavy weights are used you can burn a lot of fat while maintaining lean muscle with this training style. The number of calories burned is going to be very high in a full body workout, especially if you are keeping rest periods short.
My methods mean I can train effectively with only 3 short weights sessions each week – there is no need to train every day to make sure you cover all the muscle groups. Full body sessions are highly efficient for fat loss and allow you to achieve great results without committing too much of your time to the gym.
Many ChilledFitness readers are somewhat time limited, or just don’t want to be in the gym every day – they find our methods are perfect for the modern lifestyle.
There are a whole host of full body workouts for getting lean on this site. Start by reading our post on Metabolic training and go from there.
16. Less Arms, More Legs
In general people tend to spend far too much time training their arms. You guys just love those biceps dont you?
These exercises are typically ineffective for shedding fat and getting a lean body though. They isolate muscles and do not burn many calories when compared to my preferred fat burning workouts. Also, building huge biceps is pointless in my opinion if you have a layer of fat which hides any definition – I’m sure you agree
On the other hand, training your legs is an excellent way to burn calories and really give your metabolic systems an hard workout.
Your legs contain the largest muslces in your body, hence the calorie burn. Squats are probably the most popular leg exercise; they are extremely effecetive for burning fat and getting a lean body.
As well as your leg muscles, squats give your core an excellent workout too. This is especially true if you perform front squats, or my personal favorite: overhead squats.
Don’t lose your arm exercises completely, just shift more attention to your legs. Any arm isolation exercises you perform should be part of a short circuit or tri-set in my opinion – this way you are still getting the fat burning benefits of ChilledFitness style workouts.
17. Your Body Is A Gym – Use It!
Bodyweight exercises, especially when performed in intense circuits, are an excellent way to lose fat and develop lean muslce. There are whole training programs that are based around these exercises alone – and they work.
You can easily get your heart rate racing with these workouts and even create an afterburn effect for rapid fat loss as I have discussed before.
I like to add resistance and use weights in most of my workouts, however a bodyweight session is absolutely ideal if you are pressed for time or unable to get to a gym. I am planning to put together a course based on just these kinds of sessions, so keep an eye out for that soon.
The obvious benefit of training with no equipment is that you never have an excuse to miss a session. No matter where you are, if you understand how to put your body into a fat burning state and have a nice set of bodyweight exercises in your head then you are good to go. Master these workouts and you will know exactly how to get a lean body – no matter what situation you find yourself in.
As I mentioned, there is some specific bodyweight content coming soon. For now though the following exercises are excellent starting points. Dont forget there are a whole bunch of variations for each one too…
- Push ups
- Pull ups
- Chin ups
- Jumping jacks
- Mountain climbers
- Tuck jumps
There are literally hundreds of workouts you can put together using that list alone. Just make sure you keep things intense and minimize rest as much as possible during the session.
What Do You Think?
There are a whole bunch of excellent ideas in this post, each of which can help you get lean fast. The individual tips are expanded on throughout this site but I really wanted to give you some bite-size bits of information here to get you interested concepts you perhaps hadn’t considered before.
Please use the comments section below to ask any questions you may have or to give any feedback. I would love to get a discussion going for everyone’s benefits. Also feel free to suggest any tips you would like added!