There’s a huge obsession about being lean these days.
And as a result, we’ve seen the number of fad diets and HIIT style training systems skyrocket.
The truth is, there’s better ways to accomplish fat loss if true fat loss is your goal.
A lot of people don’t like to hear it, but slow and steady wins the race when it comes to both fat loss and muscle growth.
Making small changes to your nutrition and overall lifestyle will do more for your body composition than drastic changes in your diet or high intensity training.
Now… if you were just trying to lose as much weight as possible in the shortest amount of time, that might change. But, most of the time, that helps no one.
In fact, you’ll lose a lot of lean body mass in this attempt and be vulnerable to a harsh rebound.
So, let’s discuss a workout that will have you maintain your lean body mass during your fat loss phase and then get into some nutrition tips and lifestyle tips that will ultimately help you arrive to your goal.
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Livin’ Lean: 8 Week Kick-Starter Workout
Getting “lean” is all about realizing what to prioritize in your training and nutrition.
While it may be tempting to increase the intensity of your workouts via cardio or increase the volume to create the “shredded” look from higher reps, neither proves to truly help in the long run.
The best things that helps you build muscle in growing phases will be the best things to do to maintain muscle during fat loss phases.
This means you must optimize training volume, frequency, and intensity to your individual capabilities… and also realize that your capabilities might be hindered while in a calorie deficit.
For those that are truly newbies to the gym, progressing the weight used week to week might still be beneficial during fat loss phases. But for intermediate-advanced lifters, you’re going to have to perform to the best of your abilities while also realizing that this isn’t the time to be setting PRs.
To accomplish all of this, I generally recommend upper/lower splits. As you progress towards your goals and become more advanced, you can turn to adding additional training days via push/pull/legs, upper/lower, and full body every day.
The following is a template you can use. It follows a 4 day per week upper/lower split.
Weight selection will be rather individualized, but you should finish each set feeling as though you have 1-2 reps still left in the tank. Rest periods will also be based on you as an individual. Rest as needed to recover fully from each set while also still being within your personal time constraints for working out.
Monday: Upper Body Workout
|Barbell Bench Press||3-5||5-8|
|Machine Shoulder Press||2||8|
|Lat Pull Down||2||8|
|Standing Cable Fly||2||15|
Tuesday: Lower Body Workout
|Barbell Romanian Deadlift||3-5||5-8|
|Bulgarian Split Squat||3||8 Each|
|Standing Calf Raise||4||8|
Thursday: Upper Body Workout
|Dumbbell Bench Press||3||10|
|Incline Bench Press||2||12|
|Close Grip Pull Down||2||12|
|Seated French Press||2||12|
|Seated Dumbbell Curl||2||12|
Friday: Lower Body Workout
|Seated Calf Raise||4||15|
Nutrition Recommendations for Fat Loss
You’ll notice there isn’t any cardio work mentioned. You can certainly add cardio if it is something you enjoy doing or you’re at a sticking point with your progress. It would be recommended to perform 1-3 hours total of weekly cardio utilizing a form you truly enjoy performing.
Instead of doing hours upon hours of cardio, it is recommended you dial in on your nutrition for fat loss.
This means prioritizing eating in a calorie deficit and consuming enough protein to maintain lean body mass.
Find out your calorie needs with our daily calorie counter.
After you have that number, subtract about 500 calories from that.
Once you have your total calories you need to lose body fat, you’ll want to optimize protein intake for your goal. General guidelines are usually 1g of protein per pound of lean body mass. Since this can be rather difficult for some to calculate, the standard recommendation becomes 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
The additional protein consumption will likely keep you slightly more satiated anyway, so it’s not that big of a deal.
From there, you can fill out the rest of your macros however you see fit, honestly. If you want some additional tips on macro calculation you can read the article linked here. It should provide you with a decent understanding of how to experiment to find what is best for you individually.
At the end of the day, by simply getting your calories and protein in check (paired with the workout above – or something similar) you’ll see some great progress.
Lifestyle Tips for Fat Loss
If there’s one tip that will drastically improve your body composition and quality of life it is to maximize the quality and amount of quality sleep you get each night.
Muscle & Strength has several article written about this topic. I’d recommend reading through them and implementing the tips as best as you can:
- Science Tells All: Get Shredded While You Sleep
- Hacking Your Sleep 101: Nine Tips For Better Gains
- Sleep Science: Nature's Most Effective Performance Enhancer
- Sleep Science: Nature's Most Effective Performance Enhancer (Part 2)
- Straight Z's: Sleep Science for College Students
Other than that, make it a habit to take time for yourself each and every day. It doesn’t have to be a super long amount of time. 3-5 minutes will do the trick. If you have longer to devote to a personal practice that is fine too.
During this time meditate and/or journal. Get familiar with your thoughts and track how you react to those thoughts from a mental standpoint. You might be surprised by how hard you are on yourself which adds a lot of unneeded stress into your life. Write that down and work on improving your self-talk.
Both of these little tricks, combined with your workout and nutrition tendencies will likely add to your overall quality of life. If you find it’s subtracting from it, take a second to analyze what’s going wrong and try to think through a solution while never losing track of your goals.