Fact: To reduce body fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Cutting requires 55% protein, 15% complex carbs and 30% healthy fats. Lean gains require 50% protein, 25% complex carbs and 25% healthy fats. When you work out, don’t do so purely for adoration. Do so primarily for personal health and happiness. Making lean gains can be challenging, but the reward at the end is worth it. Here are some things to keep in mind as you look to make some lean gains.
Lose Fat At A Steady Pace
When trying to lose fat, some people cut calories too quickly or drastically, causing starvation or what I call hibernation mode, where you put the visceral fat you lost back on as soon as you return to a surplus. This is due to the body storing adipose tissue to survive, since it cannot predict when it will be fully replenished. In this instance, our bodies become catabolic, making retaining or building lean muscle mass more difficult. It is likely most of the weight loss in crash diets is muscle, and less muscle generally means you will have a slower metabolism.
What Is Visceral Fat?
Visceral fat is the stubborn tissue around the stomach region, which develops as a result of chronic under-eating (or predisposition), where the body is holding onto it as stored energy and insulation. A decrease in growth mediators like IAAT, as well as increased visceral fat can attach to bone marrow and reduce bone mineral density, as in osteoporosis. It also relates to insulin resistance.
Making Lean Gains
When you're looking to make lean gains, it’s advisable to start with a cut, particularly if you already have a fairly high body fat percentage. This is because once fat cells are formed, they never disappear, you can only shrink them. Therefore you are better off minimizing the amount of cells you have to begin with when you embark on your journey for making lean gains.
The Misconception Of Bulking
It's been said before but I will say it again – You will build the most amount of muscle in your first three years of lifting. From your fourth year on, fours pounds a year is, on average, what you can expect to gain. Contrary to popular belief, muscle cannot turn to fat. There is no point doing a 'dirty bulk', where you eat anything and everything to gain weight. The weight you can will be mostly fat, and in order to achieve that ripped physique, you will have to lose most of the weight you gained. Dirty bulking simply isn't worth it.
Making lean gains may require a lot of manipulation when it comes to your diet, but you can't forget about your training regime either. You need to pick the right training methods in order to ensure you make those lean gains. Here are some quick training tips you might want to implement.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – Put simply, one minute of intense work, followed by one minute of steady work. HIIT is super effective, as it boosts your metabolism and insulin sensitivity. For those building muscle, a 20 minute HIIT session following weights (or on non-weight training days) promotes fat loss and lean gains. The reason sprinters are so ripped is due to effectively doing HIIT for a living, in association with resistance training. HIIT is ideal for aesthetics, but you have to push yourself if you want to see results. A good session incorporates some short, sharp bursts of sprints or jumps, followed by a jog or walk. Other benefits of HIIT are that it helps you maintain a healthy heart and high red blood cell count, meaning you can lift with more volume and go harder in the gym. Don't do too much steady cardio, as endurance cardiovascular activity generally burns more muscle mass than HIIT cardio.
Regardless of your goals, the person who avoids excuses, is disciplined and consistently exercises, is the person who has the most success and achieves their goals. The difference between a goal and a dream, is one has a plan. A one-hour fitness session is only 4% of your day, and aside from heart, respiration, fitness and health benefits, cardio exercise is simply a catalyst to help you achieve a caloric deficit. Experience the pain of discipline, or suffer the pain of regret.
Resistance (Weight) Training – Even resistance training will burn fat to an extent, due to a boost in metabolism, as well as the fact those with higher muscle percentages burn greater fat at rest, given each pound of muscle uses 6 calories a day to sustain itself. It’s recommended to perform some resistance training whilst reaching your fat burning goal, in order to retain toned definition and shape.
Abs & Core – Abs are made in the kitchen, but if you want them to pop, you need to be training them during your lean gains period as well. If you have a high body fat percentage, they’ll be hidden, so training and nutrition must align. Blocky abs are built using weighted vests or free weights for core isolation exercises. Fat is stored primarily in the stomach, hips and thigh area on men, meaning this is the slowest and last place to burn it off. There are no exercises to spot reduce fat, so the only way to make abs visible is to decrease your overall body fat with HIIT cardio, be in a calorie deficit, or both.
Metabolism Plays A Significant Role In Making Lean Gains Metabolism is generally fastest in the morning, due to the fact your body goes without food for 7 – 9 hours while you are sleeping. When sleep deprived, your metabolism slows to conserve energy, so ensuring you have sufficient sleep increases metabolism and makes you burn more calories for longer. Increased overall mass will also equal elevated fat loss. It's a pretty simple formula really – the more physically active you are, the more calories you burn, and by incorporating things like HIIT into your routine, you can boost the afterburn effect.
The Afterburn Effect Or EPOC Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) means you need more oxygen after brief, but intensive workouts such as HIIT or heavy lifting. This allows you to target more fast-twitch muscle fibres that tend to grow stronger compared to slow twitch. Interval training and alternating between high-intensity and low-intensity also effectively increases your resting metabolic rate, lowers blood pressure and improves nutrient partitioning and VO2 max (the maximum oxygen your body can process). It is important to always change your routine so your body is continually pushed, challenged and avoids muscular adaptation to any single exercise alone. EPOC requires more energy to recover after a workout and causes the body to increase its fuel consumption (body fat), resulting in a break down of fat stores and free fatty acids to be burned. This creates a boosted basal metabolic rate that aids in burning more calories throughout the day, even when at rest for several hours following exercise.
This is a concept which involves your metabolism slowing to the point that you put on fat easily. Genetics and hormones play a part, but it’s often a result of chronically under-eating and minimizing calories for a period of time in the hopes to maintain a certain weight. If you go from under-eating (an excessive caloric deficit) straight into over-eating (a caloric surplus), this can result in rapid fat gain given you have just come from a state of homeostasis. This can affect libido and elevate levels of cortisol, also lowering testosterone.
The best option is to sort out your meal plan so that you are not under-eating, and when you do come out of a deficit, make sure you slowly increase your caloric intake. Remember, to boost metabolism, balance testosterone & cortisol levels, and to avoid the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin, it’s vitally important to sleep for 7 – 9 hours, even if you have to do it in two periods.
To put yourself in a surplus slowly, add 200 calories to your daily intake every 2 – 3 weeks, so your body adapts, until you reach your caloric baseline. Done at this rate, the body uses it to build muscle and maintain body fat, whereas if it is increased too fast, the body stores the extra calories as fat, so timing is key. In total, this process can take 8 to 16 weeks.
Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism, organs and digestion, heart rate, cholesterol levels, body weight, temperature, energy, muscle control, skin, hair and bone maintenance, fertility, menstrual regularity, libido, mood, memory and other bodily functions. Thyroxine is an inactive hormone secreted into the bloodstream via the thyroid gland, before it is converted to the active form, called triiodothyrine, by the liver and kidneys. Excess thyroxine (thyrotoxicosis) or over-activity of the thyroid gland is known as hyperthyroidism, namely Graves’ disease, which is inflammation of the thyroid or a benign tumor. On the other hand, too little production of thyroxine is called hypothyroidism, caused by an autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), insufficient iodine, or certain medication. 200 million people globally have a form of thyroid disorder which can play a part in how much weight/fat you do or do not gain.
Diet & Nutrition
Now we can talk about probably the most important part of any fitness lifestyle – Nutrition. When looking to gain muscle, lose fat, or even just to maintain weight, portion control matters. You can often eat more food than you think you should, but you have to make sure you are eating the right foods. The quality of the calories you're eating is vitally important.
Some chicken and brown rice may be one small meal, which contains protein and complex carbs. Whey protein powder can be used as a meal replacement, when you don’t have time and you need something quick, easy, and obviously high in protein. Try to have some protein throughout the day, to ensure it’s all metabolized and is constantly supplied to your muscles, organs and cells. Your macronutrients are important, but you better not forget about those micro-nutrients either, which aid in the absorption of macros.
Eating constantly throughout the day is not essential, but can be helpful if you are in the fat-loss stage prior to making your lean gains. Eating in this way boosts metabolism due to the thermic effect of food (the calories it takes to break down and absorb it), anywhere between 3 – 30%. Proteins have a high thermic effect of 30%, and carbs are around 20%. This means the frequency of meals affects the amount of calories burned. Doing so also retains a balanced blood sugar level, prevents hunger and enhances energy, while protein throughout the day ensures the body has a constant supply of amino acids, helping you build and maintain muscle, while burning fat. Preparing food in advance makes it easier to be consistent. Many people count calories, although an easier method is to use portion sizes (in relation to a hand or fist), so when you organize meals, ensure you have a portion of protein, a portion of carbs, and a portion of fats.
Nutrition Plan For Lean Gains
In order to build muscle and burn fat simultaneously, you must carefully monitor your macros, to make sure they are well balanced. Protein, carbs and fat should all have a place in your diet, while for those who already have a high or average body fat percentage, keeping carbs low can be a good option. The only way to figure out what will work best for you is to visit the MEAL PLAN page and use the calculator to come up with your own numbers. Understand that dieting in particular is not always about you want, but what your body needs in order to recover, repair and grow. Think of yourself as a complex engine that requires fuel and maintenance to be fully efficient. Without proper food, it will not operate to the best of its ability.
Drinking 2 gallons of water spread out over the course of a day, increases your metabolic rate by 30% and produces a diuretic affect that puts your body into a flushing mode of reduced water weight, thus helping you burn fat and make muscles look fuller due to water retention.
Healthy Fats Fats help you lose weight and are essential for metabolism, vitamin absorption, recovery and brain function. Monounsaturated (omega 9) and polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 & 6) lower LDL cholesterol, raise HDL, and steady blood sugar helping to reduce diabetes, heart attack risks, certain cancer risks, osteoporosis and obesity.
Carbohydrates Lowering starchy complex carb intake before resistance workouts or on rest days will reduce insulin spikes, therefore increasing the burning of fat. Eat plenty of green vegetables, as they do not contain many carbs and they are full of nutrients. After a resistance workout, your muscle cells crave more carbs to send a rush of amino acids to aid recovery. Cardiovascular exercise does not always require this. Therefore, following resistance training, your body needs those carbs to refuel glycogen reserves, so they will not turn into fat cells. Mixing protein with healthier complex carbs is a great idea. In general, women are more efficient at burning fat, but less at burning glycogen stored in muscle, meaning they may operate better on a low carb diet compared to men.
Sugar, Spice & Everything Nice Avoid simple carbs, trans-fats (hydrogenated), as well as processed and refined foods, as they deplete essential nutrient absorption during metabolism. While moderate sodium is essential for water regulation and bodily function (movement of sodium generates electrical signals that the brain, nervous system and muscles require for communication), you easily get this without pouring salt over everything. Wisely avoid labels marked ‘low fat’ or even ‘low sugar’, and artificial sweeteners. These often contain aspartame, a synthetic sugar alternative that is similar to pesticides and carcinogenics.
Rarely buying snacks takes away temptation, but an occasional cheat meal is fine, assuming it increases your focus to maintain your overall lifestyle. When dining out, opt for grilled or boiled instead of fried. All of this also depends on your goals and how important it is to you that you succeed. Think about how much you want it and what you are willing to sacrifice. Would you prefer short-term satisfaction, or long-term reward? Which is greater? There is always a choice, you just have to make the right one. Foods That Boost Metabolism For Fat Loss All calories are not equal, but when you boost metabolism it becomes an easier process to burn fat. Factors that affect metabolism include age, gender, BMI, muscle mass, calorie intake and hormones. Having said that, several dietary items accelerate this effect. Combining some of these is an effective way to see results.
Cinnamon (2/4g – half/1 teaspoon): To regulate blood sugar for energy so less is stored as fat. It can also stabilize insulin, hunger and LDL cholesterol levels.
Ginger: An anti-inflammatory digestive aide that can be added to teas, meals and sauces.
Green tea ECGC, and particularly Matcha (3 – 5 cups): A compound that revs metabolism. Tannins: Reduce iron absorption. However, tea with lemon or lime (vitamin C), or only drinking between meals reverses this effect. Do not drink it whilst on certain medicines.
Red peppers (hotter the better), or flakes and cayenne pepper: Capsaicin revs metabolism.
Whey Protein: Stimulates chemicals in the digestive system that reduce hunger and promote hormones beneficial to weight loss.
Papaya: Has an enzyme papain that improves digestion and absorption of protein.
Turmeric: For anti-inflammatory ability to fight fat cells, and its joint strengthening effect.
Black Pepper: Enhances absorption and alkaloid piperine speeds metabolism.
Tomatoes or tomato juice: Contains lycopene, an antioxidant that protects the mitochondria.
Citrus fruit or foods containing vitamin C.
Whole grains and high fibre foods: Make you fuller for longer and take more energy to process.
Garlic: Is anti-bacterial and regulates blood sugar. Garlic and onions promote concentration of smooth muscles in the intestinal wall to aid digestion.
Certain berries (especially blueberries): Low on the glycemic index, although this chart is not a solid indication of health.
Coconut oil: Has medium-chain fats that enhance energy production, thyroid activity, reduce adrenal fatigue, boost HDL and stimulate metabolism.
Low-fat yoghurt: Contains probiotics, reducing the amount of fat your body absorbs.
Milk: Has calcium that boosts caloric expenditure and metabolises fat more efficiently.
Salmon: High in omega 3 fatty acids that increase metabolic rate and improve insulin response making you fuller for longer. Mono-unsaturated fats also increase metabolism.
Green leafy vegetables: For vitamins & minerals, antioxidants and chlorophyll to detoxify.
Nuts and seeds: Due to choline and inositol that remove fat so it isn’t reabsorbed.
Apple cider vinegar: Accelerates fatty acid oxidation enzymes, which break down fat and redirect it before it can become stored.
Eggs, fish and sunlight: Increase vitamin D, which avoids production of hormone ghrelin.
Pak choi, napa cabbage and choy: Aid digestion and high in vitamins A and C.
Fruit and vegetables: Often reduce risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
Wasabi peas: Heat elevates metabolism and the fibre makes you fuller.
Vinegar: Slows absorption of carbohydrates and insulin response.
Supplementation Whether you want to gain weight or lose it, only use supplements in association with a balanced weight loss programme. Science is continually evolving due to new studies and research, meaning results should be taken with a pinch of salt unless proven a sufficient number of times and by unbiased sources. This is also the reason journals state supplements are ‘likely’ or ‘possibly’ effective. You don’t need most supplements, but some help and are convenient. Many websites allow you to mix raw ingredients, which is beneficial and cost-effective. Things like fat burners are designed to give you an edge when it comes to weight loss, just like mass gainers are designed to give you extra calories. Neither supplement alone is going to ensure you reach your goals, and for the most part, your overall diet should be what dictates whether you lose fat or gain muscle. Don't rely on a supplement to do the job for you.
Ice Baths/Cold Showers
An effective fat burning tool, these can be used three to four times per week (in addition to your diet and exercise regime). When the body is cold it generates internal heat to stay at 37 degrees Celcius (98.6 Fahrenheit). In order to do this it converts available and stored energy (fat cells – brown adipose tissue) into thermal body heat, causing you to burn more calories than when warm.
These are just some tips I hope will help you on your journey. Nobody said this would be easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. What you should know is that it will be worthwhile when you alone have accomplished this feat. Sometimes the greatest rewards are those you have to fight to achieve. May you be blessed with the strength and passion to succeed.
A diamond cannot be polished without friction,
Nor a person perfected without trials – Chinese Proverb
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