I know for many people the term “lean” is rather general and covers a wide rang of body fat. For some “lean” is 6% and for others lean is 10%.
For the sake of this article and my own personal opinion let’s consider lean to be anything under 9% body fat.
Before I get started I want to mention that all of us have a ceiling or a range that we allow ourselves to live in throughout the year. For example, when I have obligations photo shoots, competitions, and things of that nature, I generally like to be around 5-6% at the most. This takes consistent effort, training and precise eating.
Come Christmas time, depending on how many cookies I stuff in my face post workout, or if I am looking to make some gains in size, I reach my personal ceiling and probably walk around closer to 8-9% (meaning my abs are still there and defined just a lot thicker than 5-6% Jeremy)!
For some people that window might be anywhere from 13-18% or higher. The point is that all of us live our lives in a certain body fat range. I am here to tell you today why and how I personally live in the 5-9% range 24-7-365 and still enjoy my life to the fullest when it comes to eating and drinking socially.
3 Major Keys to Staying Lean and Making Gains 24-7-365
Staying Consistent - Key #1
The biggest factor of all is being consistent with your training, but more importantly, with your nutrition plan. Eating to get lean and stay lean is not always sexy.
Most of you know I come from the world of intermittent fasting, which by itself helps me stay relatively lean just based on the eating pattern itself. I practice fasting every single day of the year.
I never eat breakfast and under no circumstances do I waiver from this. It helps me stay on a consistent schedule.
Even if you are not a intermittent fasting person, you can still stay consistent with your macros day after day by - you guessed it; planning ahead. Writing down and knowing what your macros are for the next day. This enables you to plan accordingly.
If it’s important to you, like any goals in your life, you need to be writing them down at first anyway. Over time you will just know but at first writing down what you should be eating in advance will help you be successful.
The reality is with most anything, be it training, playing sports, running a business, or in this case eating to stay lean, consistency is key. If you are constantly eating real, clean, whole foods that fit your macro nutrient breakdown day after day week after week, eventually the results will follow.
What doesn’t work is eating perfect for 3 days and then smashing 2 pizzas because you think you earned a cheat. If you want to break it down numbers wise, think 90/10. 90% of the time you are 100% perfect and 10% you can enjoy whatever you wish. I find most people dominate and are happy, healthy, and leaner on average if they follow the 90/10 protocols.
Eat What You Like - Key #2
This is so important for long-term success when it comes to living lean 365 days a year.
I remember years ago when I first started competing I would eat fish during contest prep. I hated fish but for some reason I always thought it was a must….NOT TRUE. I have been on stage numerous times over the past 3 years and not once have I eat fish at any point unless I really wanted to eat it.
The point is there is no one way to get lean, no one magic food. If you hate chicken don’t eat it. If you hate broccoli don’t include it in your meals. Try bison, give asparagus a shot…find foods that you generally enjoy consuming.
It makes it a lifestyle and not a “DIET” or “CONTEST PREP” because that only works for so long until you crack. Eating should have not be terrible. There are so many amazing foods out there and ways to prepare them. You just need to find the combos and foods you love that fit into your own nutritional plan.
At that point it stops turning into you preparing for something or dieting it turns into how you live your life. You love the meals you eat and your hitting your macros. Being lean is now your lifestyle not just something you chase for 6-12 weeks and then blow up as soon as the shoot or the show is over.
Don’t Deprive Yourself - Key #3
Enjoy your life. When I say that I mean it.
If you want to eat a pizza now and then, or have drinks with your friends, you can. I mentioned the 90/10 rules above which works for most people, but if you want to take it a step further on this journey check this out. I am all about eating something you love at least once a week, or drinking something depending on your preference.
Now I know people who eat perfect for 10 weeks for a show and the minute they get off the stage they tank it. They blow up and gain a shit ton of horrible weight back in a week.
Does this sound healthy to you? No.
It blows my mind and I can’t understand it. Depriving yourself of everything only to eat all of it when the show ends. So my suggestion is on your journey to get lean don’t deprive yourself.
Pick just one - and yes this means just one time per week; pick one 60 minute window and eat whatever you'd like. Yes, even when you are trying to get peeled like an onion take a 60 minute window and tank it if you really need to. Pizza, ice cream, whatever is calling your name.
Just make sure you limit it to 60 minutes. This way you get the urge out of the way and you can be refocused moving forward. It works best for me post workout after a killer training day – example heavy legs, back day I like to do personally.
If you have been 100% clean for 6 and a half days on a lower carb plan and end up packing in 300g carbs in your 60-minute window so be it. Odds are, depending on your training and overall nutrition plan, it might just help you out more than you think and act as your re-feed day, depending on what type of food you consume.
Stay Lean, Make Gains
Again these are tips to stay in your “lean” window 24-7-365. So if you are trying to get ripped to the bone, like 5% body fat, or trying to put on some size while staying lean, like 9% - these tips should help keep you on track and still living a life.
Being shredded and putting on size doesn’t mean you have to live out of Tupperware, eating every 3 hours and skipping every meal or happy hour with your friends. You simply need to stay consistent, find clean foods you enjoy eating, and don’t deprive yourself for too long.
This is a lifestyle guys. I don’t think in terms of diet or contest prep. I am just trying to live my life large and lean.
Hopefully with these simple keys you can do the same!