Getting lean and changing your body shape is a tough and often tricky business. It’s hard work and takes time, focus and determination. You have to eat right and train hard. Every person’s body is different and can respond differently both to food and exercise in their own, unique way. There is no one rule for everyone for a lean, hard body.
Over the last twenty years these tips have proved to be the most effective methods to achieve the best results possible, both with my 1-2-1 clients and in my own training regime. All ten may be overwhelming to start with at once, so maybe start with the one you feel is most relevant and add a new rule to your routine each month until you have mastered all ten. Good Luck!
10. Do at Least 3 Cardio Sessions Per Week
Cardiovascular exercise is a fantastic fat burning tool and literally uses fat for fuel while you are doing it. Apart from the obvious gym based CV machines such as treadmills, exercise bikes, step machines, rowers, etc. there are many other ways to have an effective aerobic workout.
Circuit training (where you link resistance and speed based exercises back to back with very little rest) is an amazing cardio workout and is something you can do at home with no cost. Boxing training and swimming are fantastic too along with mountain biking, football, racket sports and even plain old walking.
You can push yourself hard, over a short period of time, then rest and repeat (High Intensity Interval Training) or you can do long duration based workouts. Both have their merits. Either way, you should be doing these types of workouts at least three times a week ideally for a minimum of 20 minutes per workout for the best results.
9. Eat Balanced Nutrition
Your main food groups are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Carbs give you energy. Protein repairs muscle, tissue and strengthens your immune system. Fat also helps give you energy and helps the function of your nervous system. All are vital for a healthy body.
For the best results, your plate should look like the diagram opposite. 50% carbs in the form of fibrous carbs (vegetables) and starchy carbs (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, porridge) 30% proteins (lean white meats, fish, low-fat cheeses, low-fat yogurt, pulses, chick peas and eggs) and 20% fats (extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, olives).
It goes without saying that chocolate, alcohol, pastry, sweets, desserts, cake and all that lovely stuff is actually all pretty useless for helping you lose unwanted body fat and should be avoided.
8. Eat Little & Often
Your body is like a steam train. Over-fuel the furnace and the fire suffocates slowing the train down. Throw some logs on every now and then and the fire stays nice and hot, ensuring the train runs at top speed.
Eating big, heavy meals slows down your metabolism in the same way. Your body has to process lots of food all at once and it needs energy for that, which is why you feel tired after that big old Christmas dinner.
Small meals, no bigger than two cupped hands every 3 – 4 hours fuel the body and keep the metabolism high, balancing your sugar levels and keep your energy up all day.
7. Do Resistance Exercise
Weight training, body weight circuit training, Power Bags, TRX, resistance cables – these are all effective methods of working your muscles to help develop tone and growth.
Having more muscle on your body means your metabolism runs faster and needs more fuel – that in turn will mean burning more fat naturally away from the gym.
6. Get Plenty Of Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important parts of a successful training regime. It ensures that you are able to fully recover and repair those achy muscles after your hard workouts and will keep your energy tip-top too.
A lack of sleep can cause physical stresses to the body, meaning you are more likely to injure yourself when working out, plus you are more likely to suffer from slower recover times after exercise.
Poor sleep patterns will also affect your mood as well resulting in low motivation and can often lead you to want to quit your regime entirely.
Not having enough sleep and pushing your body when tired are also linked to the over production of the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked to digestive disorders, depression and weight gain, especially around the abdomen area.
5. Overload Your Workouts
In my mind there is a difference between exercising and training. While both are beneficial, exercising can be merely moving the body with a slow walk or gentle stretch. Training on the other hand, should be something different.
The remarkable machine that is your body will cleverly adapt and change to what you do to it. Run regularly and you get good at running. Lift weights and you get stronger. Sit on your backside and you get very good at doing that too.
To overload the body means to challenge it beyond its comfort zone. It’s there we find true success to our workouts and the body shape we so desire. If you imagine a scale between 1 – 10 when training, 10 being the hardest possible, ensure your work outs are always at least an 8.
4. Stretch Properly
Stretching has to be one of the things that people like doing least… ‘Its boring’, ‘I haven’t got time’ and ‘I would rather work hard than just lay there doing nothing’ are all things, as a personal trainer, that I hear all the time.
The people who say those things are often the ones who pick up injuries, exercise with poor technique and have poor posture.
If you are invested in your body and want to spend the rest of your life fit, lean, strong and toned… Being injured every 5 minutes is going to ensure that you find those goals pretty unachievable.
Being flexible is one of the best ways to avoid injuries and to ensure that you are exercising safely. In addition to that, being flexible and loose is one of the most rewarding feelings a person can have especially in later life.
Remember, for every hour that you exercise, you should be doing at least 10 minutes of stretching.
3. Be Responsible For Your Own Actions
Human beings are not solitary creatures by nature. We like to lead and to be led by others. It’s in our instinct. Peer pressure when it comes to coming off the diet and exercise wagon is probably one of the major causes for relapse with an individuals personal regime.
‘I didn’t want a glass of wine, but everybody else was having one’ or, ‘I really didn’t fancy a dessert, but he ordered one and I felt obliged’ are things we all hear and say all the time.
Remember that you may have embarked upon your health and fitness goals on your own. It would be great if the people around us supported us 100% of the time. The reality, however, is that people are generally led by their own habits and needs first and the needs of others often comes secondary without them even realising they are behaving that way.
That’s not to suggest that you can’t have a little treat now and then. Life is far to short for no little indulgences at all, ever.
We often have two little voices in our heads. I like to think as them as Logic and Emotion. Logic says ‘NO, those foods wont help me lose weight’ while naughty little Emotion argues back and says ‘Oh go on, you deserve the treat’.
Controlling the inner voice is key for long-term fitness and fat loss success. Like a muscle, it needs strengthening, conditioning and practice.
You are the only one in control of your inner voice. It’s not your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or your next door neighbours dogs fault that you let yourself slip, it’s yours.
2. Control Your Calorie Intake
It sounds like an obvious thing to say but over-eating makes you fat. The key questions here though are how much is too much and how do we know?
Do you have any idea of the calories in your food or even how many you need per day?
Fat loss is basic science. Energy consumed vs energy burned off. If you burn off more calories than you consume, you lose weight. Ideally, you should be eating around 500 calories less than you need, in order to start losing unwanted body fat. So, how can we work all this out easily?
One of my favourite tools both for my own personal use and that with my clients is the brilliant MyFitnessPal app and website – It is essentially an electronic food diary that will work out your daily calorie needs for you.
When you eat something you simply enter in what you have eaten via its massive database of foods and if what you are eating isn’t there, you simply scan the bar code and enter it yourself. It will then tell you how many calories you have left and even what percentage of carbs, proteins and fats you have eaten that day.
1. Be Consistent
This is my all time, number one top tip bar none. If you only choose to do one thing from this list, it will change your life if you do it daily and stick to it forever.
The challenge with falling off the wagon as I mentioned earlier is that it causes a disruption to your routine. You stop, then start. Then stop. Then start again. The phrase ‘two steps forwards and one step backward’ comes to mind.
If you want to be slimmer, you have to think and behave like a slim person. Likewise if you want to be more muscular, stronger or leaner. ‘Forgetting’ to eat healthy or not being bothered to go to the gym will not change your body… Changing your bad habits into good ones and sticking to the changes consistently, will.
We cannot expect a now and then approach to achieve anything great in this life. If you want to be different you have to think different and behave different.
Knowing the right thing to do simply isn’t enough. The outcome of your training and food plan is a direct consequence of your own personal actions.
Push yourself in the gym, consistently. Eat healthy, consistently. Stay motivated, consistently. Do that, then reap the rewards.