When it comes to maintaining a lean physic, its not just about time spent in the gym. What you do outside of the gym and how to you live your life matters too.
Your body constantly adapts to changes. Your body is a reflection of how you live and how you eat. If you want to be lean, you need to live an active lifestyle, not a sedentary one. This may look like hitting 2-4 strength training workouts each week, along with daily movement that includes mobility and/or walking and getting an average step count of around 7-10k steps/day.
If you work an office job where you're sitting most of the day, this can make it more difficult to get in daily movement, but not impossible. In those situations I often recommend taking frequent movement breaks every 30 minutes. In a movement break, you can stand at your desk and march in place or perform 10 body weight squats. Movement breaks are important because sitting for hours a day has a negative effect on our metabolism. Even if you workout for an hour on that day but you were sitting for 8+ hours, that's not enough activity to cancel out the negative effects.
Not only are there negative metabolic effects, but sitting too much can also increase low back pain and upper cross syndrome. Upper cross syndrome is where the pecs and upper traps start to get tight, while there is weakness of the middle and lower trap muscles. Overtime, our upper backs can start to round forward. This can be the cause of many aches and pains.
This typically occurs because we are unaware of our posture when we are focused on our work. For every inch forward our heads are, an extra 10lbs of pressure is added to the upper traps.
When it comes to exercise for maintaining a lean physic, people often gravitate towards cardio. Cardio is not bad, you should definitely do it to maintain cardiovascular health but it doesn't help to build lean mass. Lean mass is muscle. The toned look people are after is muscles with some fat over top. You need to strength train in order to build and maintain lean mass.
Getting enough sleep 7.5-9 hours/night is often overlooked but can be the missing link for many people. Sleep is the foundation of our health and wellbeing. Even if you frequently exercise and eat well, if you're missing sleep, you can't recover optimally between workouts. Lack of sleep also means you won't achieve peak performance during your workout and you may not be getting the most benefits. Lack of sleep also impacts recovery time which inhibits the muscle building process. If you're tired, you are most likely not going to move as much throughout the day, you also tend to crave more carbs and fats which leads us to the next thing.
Reaching your daily protein goal is very important for quite a few reasons.
If your goal is fat loss, protein needs to be a priority. This is because if you aren’t hitting your protein, and you are currently in a deficit you will lose muscle. That would equal weight loss which includes (water weight, muscle, some fat) instead of just fat loss. Protein also helps your body stay satiated preventing excess snacking throughout the day.
If your goal is to gain muscle and strength, protein is required for your body to build muscle so, if you aren't feeding your body the proper building blocks it needs, it will not be able to do what you want. The more muscle you lose, the less defined you will look and the slower your metabolism will be.
Metabolic rate is the rate at which your body is converting food to energy. Having a high metabolism means you burn more calories at rest and mostly through movement because muscle is very demanding and inefficiently uses calories, meaning it requires lots of calories to maintain itself.
Fat burns less calories at rest and through movement. Since fat burns less calories, this can lead to poor metabolic function, or skinny fat. Skinny fat means you appear small in size but your body fat percentage is high. The more muscle you have, the more your metabolism speeds up and burns more calories.
THERMIC EFFECT OF FOOD (TEF)
This refers to the amount of calories/energy it takes for your body to digest, absorb and metabolize your food. Protein has the highest thermic effect of food. This means by eating more protein you automatically burn more calories by eating it. Have you heard of the meat sweats? Have you ever noticed feeling warmer after you eat? This is because food has a thermic effect.
The amount of protein you should consume varies from person to person but the recommendations are typically (0.8g - 1.1g) per pound of body weight.
When it comes to nutrition for maintaining a lean physique, think of it this way, calories determine your weight. Macros (amount of protein, carbs and fats you consume) determine how defined/firm/toned you will look. The quality of food you eat will determine how you feel on a daily basis.
Track & Record
Tracking and recording your food can be very eye opening. It's not required to succeed but it makes success much easier and more efficient. When you're not aware of how many calories you're taking in, you might not be eating enough, you might be over eating, or you might not be getting enough of a specific nutrient. When you track your food, you know what you need and how much you need so you can make progress faster and more efficiently.
Calories in vs calories out is the biggest influence on if you gain weight or lose weight. This means, if you ingest more calories than you burn off, you will gain weight. If you burn off more than you consume you will lose weight. If your caloric intake matches your output, then you will maintain your weight.
Notice I keep using the term weight not fat. Weight loss, which includes (water weight, muscle, some fat), instead of just fat loss. Again, calories determine your weight. Macros (amount of protein, carbs and fats you consume) determine how defined/firm/toned you will look. The quality of food you eat will determine how you feel on a daily basis.
Staying hydrated can be a real asset in staying lean, maintaining good well being and preventing health complications. When your muscles are hydrated, they perform much better than dehydrated muscles. This allows for better workout performance, better energy throughout the day, and feeling more satiated with our meals, which helps to prevent excess snacking during the day.
In conclusion, in order to maintain a lean physique, you need to be consistent in living an active lifestyle, strength train 2-4x a week, get enough sleep, eat enough protein, stay hydrated and match your caloric intake with your activity level. There is no shortcut or cheating your way through. In order to achieve a lean physique, it requires dedication, awareness, and making lifestyle changes to adopt healthy habits and routines.
Not sure where to start? Looking for a coach or program? Don't hesitate to reach out.
All coaching inquires: