We’ve all seen them: athletes, bodybuilders, Olympians, Abercrombie models, and our favorite actors and actresses. We have all wondered at some point, “How in the world do they get so lean?” Constantly we are fed instructions and “facts” from the fitness world. Eat six times a day, do more cardio, reduce (insert macronutrient here), etc.
In reality, if these things worked, there would be many more super lean people walking around. Let’s cut the you-know-what and dive into specific diet strategies to get as lean as you want, anytime you want.
Cutting the you-know-what to get really lean
To get really lean, you must realize that there are specific strategies to use to get there, but the key word is strategies not strategy. If there is only one set way to get to really low body fat, how do you explain athletes, models, and all the other classes we mentioned above all being able to get to the coveted point of leanness? However, fitness magazines and some blogs (other than mine and Mr. Nielsen’s of course), prescribe routines “identical” to the ones professionals use. The kind of program I recommend is a hybrid. I cut out the stuff you don’t need, and tailor a program to meet your individual goals.
In this article, I will cover specific diet hacks to use to get incredibly lean. When using these hacks, be sure to keep up a good resistance training program, including heavy weights. For a good training program check out Mr. Nielsen’s Reveal the Steel, or head over to leanandathletic.com and check out our online coaching.
The Three Phases
To get really lean, there is a truth proven over and over. Diet is vital to success.
When I teach people the guidelines of weight loss, and becoming noticeably lean and athletic, most people will need three basic phases. These phases follow the body’s nutritional needs, and are easily customizable to each person. Don’t follow these phases as a cookie-cutter diet. Please. Tinker with them, and discover what works for your body. Closely monitor your energy levels, weight room performance, and most importantly the image looking back at you in the mirror.
Phase 1: Lower Calories
Assuming you are not already eating a low number of calories, the first step is to lower your calories. Contrary to recent claims, eating lower calories than normal will NOT make muscle waste away and add countless pounds of fat. To find out how many calories to eat in this phase, calculate your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). Use the Harris-Benedict formula.
Women: BMR = 655+ ( 9.6 x weight in kilos )+( 1.8 x height in cm ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men: BMR = 66+ ( 13.7 x weight in kilos ) + ( 5 x height in cm ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )
After you have completed the above math, multiply that number by 1.35.
Subtract about 600 calories from that number and you have an estimated daily number for caloric intake.
At Lean and Athletic, we have a few special tactics to lower your calories and have it be actually enjoyable!
- Count calories, but not by day. If you multiply your calorie number you figured out above by seven. That is your weekly intake goal. Try to get within 100-200 calories of that number each week and you will see phenomenal progress.
- Use FitDay to track calories.
- Don’t exclude foods. For this phase, there are no “bad foods”. Eat anything you desire as long as your calories match at the end of the week.
- Fast 24 hours once or twice a week. This causes no harm to your body. In fact, it does the body good to skip meals once in a while. After the first couple weeks, you will actually look forward to the fasts. These will drastically lower your weekly caloric intake and you will be able to enjoy four more meals worth of food on the other days!
This phase should last three to five weeks. For this phase go by the mirror and by the scale to track progress. Keep in mind that your muscles may appear smaller, but that’s just because the fat is melting away around them.
Phase 2: Lower carbs (with re-feed)
This is the phase that will get you lean
Fast. Follow it as long as desired. In a time frame you never even thought possible for your body, you’ll be at 10-12% body fat. End this phase when you get to this point. If you are checking progress in the mirror like you should, the top four abs should quickly come into sight. Remember to keep training with heavy weights and heavy intensity. Here is how phase 2 is done.
Lower your carbs
Stop worrying about calories. In fact, you can stop all counting for this phase. Six days a week, keep your carbs under 30 grams. This means net carbs, which basically gives you the liberty of eating any vegetable (minus some root ones). Don’t worry about meal frequency, just don’t eat more than 30 grams a day and not over 10 g in a meal. Base your meals around protein/fat sources. Since we just got off of low calories, you most likely won’t need to eat too much. However, if you aren’t making visible progress in two weeks, eat a little less.
Wait, I almost forgot…
There is a fun part to this phase! On the seventh day, eat low carb until about 4 P.M. Then, all restrictions are lifted. Eat as much of anything you want. This is supposed to be a high carb time period. Load up on the carbs from any source you want, junky or not junky. Do this all the way until 10 P.M., where you will eat some cottage cheese or casein protein. The next morning, start the low carbs again.
This is a simple, but incredibly effective method to getting down to a lean state. The high carb day will refill glycogen stores and stabilize leptin levels to increase fat burning. Really what is happening is you are preparing your body through the week to burn fat like crazy the next week. Once you get down to 15% body fat, or so you can the top two abs, you can have a high carb day every fifth instead of seventh day. Talk about motivation!
Phase 3: Cycling
Phase 3 is where you get really, really lean
Follow this phase until you finish of stripping your body of its fat. Personally I like to use pelvic veins as a guide to if I’m where I want to be. Once you can see pelvic veins well, you will have a nice six pack and will be in a very lean state. The best part about this phase is that once again, it is pain free. Keep training heavy and watch the fat be stripped off your body.
First, you need to find your TDEE again
Through these three phases, especially phase two, you will have dropped significant fat. Revisit the Harris-Benedict formula above and find your TDEE. However, DO NOT subtract the 600 calories. This is your baseline number of calories, known as +/-0%.
Next, configure your nutrition around your training schedule
On training days, which will be three or four times per week, eat high carb and low fat foods. On rest days, eat higher fat and lower carb foods. Protein will be kept high on both of these days. You should eat at +10% for your training days, and -35% for your rest days. For example, if your TDEE is 2400, subtract 35% of that for your rest day calories and add 10% for your training day calories. The answers would be 2640 calories on training days, and 1560 calories on rest days. For exact calculations of macronutrients see below.
Protein grams: 1.5 x Bodyweight. Calories = answer x 4
Fat grams: Rest days = 60-95g, Training days = 40-65g. Calories = answer x 9
(Ratios depend on bodyweight. Choose a fat level that will keep carbohydrates under 350 grams)
Carbohydrate grams: Remaining number of calories after finding protein and fat divided by 4.
For six days of the week once again, skip breakfast. This phase is basically Leangains, with exact macronutrients being calculated.
If you eat out, don’t sweat it. Just try to train before so you can eat high carbs. Or, if you choose not to train that day, try your best to limit the carbs. Please don’t count when you go out. Just enjoy yourself!
There you have it
Following these three phases and using the diet hacks found in them will strip your body of its extra fat and get you in quick beach shape. Realistically, these phases will take about three months depending on your starting body fat percentage. Put what you’ve learned into action and get lean! Head over to leanandathletic.com to learn more fitness strategies and to get a free report on training your abs to look as sharp and athletic as possible!