How to Get Leaner
Do you want to get LEANER? Do you know how to LOSE BODY FAT?
Do you know how to maintain MUSCLE MASS?
Do you know how to get SHREDDED?
Let me teach you…
First, this article is a continuation to our previous article, JACKED (How to Build Muscle), which teaches you about your basal metabolic rate, activities for muscular growth and nutritional concepts to manipulate your weight. If you have not done so already, I recommend you go back to that article first to get a base for what we discuss here.
“…to lose weight you simply must eat fewer calories than you expend through your basal metabolic rate and daily activity, or exercise.”
So what do we mean by getting SHREDDED? What most people want to do when losing weight or getting leaner is lose body fat while maintaining, or even increasing, muscle mass. This helps to give an aesthetic look that shows off the muscle you have already built, but often times people have a non-optimal way they go about losing body fat that also decreases their muscle mass. Before getting into the details, let’s review a little. First, to lose weight you simply must eat fewer calories than you expend through your basal metabolic rate and daily activity, or exercise. Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories you expend before activity and can be raised by increasing your muscle mass, as muscle is calorie expensive tissue compared to body fat. If you want to increase or maintain muscle you must give it a reason to exist by placing enough overall stress on the muscles. This is the basis for using muscle mass to your advantage when manipulating your bodyweight.
Our bodies are designed very efficiently and only have one goal in mind…survival. Our body systems work in unison for us to be able to survive out in the wild on our own. With this in mind, we were not designed to have a plentiful supply of food throughout the day. We can see this through our ability to absorb almost all of the nutrients we consume and our capacity to store body fat. Our bodies were designed to be ready for fasting, or starved states. So everything we consume is absorbed and what we do not use is stored. Knowing this we can see that storing excess calories as body fat is a necessary adaptation for survival but does not always fit into the current goals of most people today. Many people of today want to lose body fat but maintain muscle so that they can look good, or SHREDDED. The problem is our body does not care how we look. It just wants to survive and, unless properly stimulated, body fat is more valuable to survival than muscle. This is because muscle is energy costing and vascular, or has blood vessels. These characteristics of muscle make it difficult to maintain compared to body fat which is stored energy that can be used for survival when needed. This poses a problem for those trying to maintain their muscle while losing weight, but there is a solution…exercise!
“Cardio burns calories today, muscle burns calories forever.”
Overall, lowering bodyweight is an easy concept to understand, the same as gaining size. You just have to eat fewer calories than you expend daily. This is easier said than done because many people do not like to feel hungry. Still, what do people do to lose weight? They eat less and start to exercise more by doing “cardio”. This can work, but it is not an optimal way for your health or long term success. If you exercise more, you must eat more, or be in caloric balance, to adapt to the new workload. Also, “cardio” is not the most optimal way to lose weight. Cardio is great for conditioning but it does not have long lasting effects extending beyond 24-48 hours after training. Think of this…cardio burns calories today, muscle burns calories forever. What that means is that by doing a cardio workout you will burn calories during and after the session, but the effects will wear off within 24-48 hours, depending on the intensity, to where you have to do another session. When building muscle, though, through increased stress, or resistance training, you can build new muscle that burns calories during your training session and everyday thereafter as long as you maintain it. Of course, resistance training and cardiovascular training can be used in combination and together can present the greatest results. Just remember that whatever you do, it must be intense. Resistance training must be intense enough to stimulate the muscle to grow or maintain itself and cardio training is best done with higher intensity intervals such as sprints. So it is better to use muscle stimulating training that will cause growth in combination with some intense cardio training, such as sprint intervals, to obtain the greatest overall calorie deficit.
“Weight loss is NOT 10% training and 90% diet!”
How many times have you heard people talking about losing weight, or losing body fat and they say something like, “It’s 10% training and 90% diet.”? I’m here to tell you that is not true. Not even close! How can it be? Diet has limits much smaller than that of exercise and you do not get the same adaptations through diet as you do for exercise. Diet affects your energy balance but exercise effect everything. Exercise influences your energy balance, muscular growth, hormonal changes, cardiovascular system, digestive system, central nervous system and so much more! Still don’t believe it? Let’s think of it like this…an elite athlete is going to look like an elite athlete even on a poor diet, and a sedentary will not no matter their diet. Sedentary individuals can be lean but they cannot have a strong muscular look without some form of activity level enough to create muscular growth. This is because diet does not influence your body as much as exercise and activity does. It almost doesn’t matter what an endurance athlete eats because their energy expenditure is so high that even if they only eat what we consider to be “unhealthy”, they will still have low body fat, assuming that their caloric intake to energy expenditure is balanced. However, a sedentary individual that is in caloric and energy balance, meaning they eat the same amount of calories they expend through their basal metabolic rate and any activity, will be much more likely to lose muscle and gain body fat even on a healthy diet. Diet only plays a role in energy balance and performance, but has minimal influence on your ability to lose body fat alone. Exercise, however, plays a major role in the stimuli of muscle and reduction of body fat. When it comes down to it, exercise is what makes people look SHREDDED.
“When it comes down to it, exercise is what makes people look SHREDDED.”
Losing weight is as simple as eating fewer calories than you use to survive on or use for activity. This is true, but when losing overall weight on a caloric deficit you will likely lose muscle faster than you lose fat unless you give the proper stimuli. If you stimulate your muscles for growth or at least put enough stress on them to maintain them you will lose less muscle and more body fat. Again, your body just wants to survive, so if you put stress on the muscles where it needs to adapt by growing you will maintain your muscle mass while using your body fat to balance your caloric deficit. This is beneficial in two ways, by allowing you to maintain your muscle mass and burning more body fat that you would have without the exercise. Now in order for this to work most optimally, and allow for the least muscle loss, you must make only small, incremental changes over a longer period of time. You should start by being in a 200-500 calorie deficit while training in order to start losing weight and only drop another 200-500 calories after it has stopped working. This should occur while doing intense exercise such as strength training, sport training or intense cardiovascular exercise, such as sprint training or endurance training. Whatever you choose, the exercise MUST be intense. Without enough intensity and volume, as discussed in the previous article, your muscle will not have enough of a reason to be maintained. You must do the same amount or increase your total work for your body to be forced into muscular adaptation or maintenance. With a caloric deficit and intense training you can force your body to survive in a low body fat state, making you look SHREDDED!
“Eat more, exercise more, and then start to drop weight.”
For most people trying to lose weight, it is best to simply start increasing their workload through exercise. Start small and progressively increase over time to allow the greatest adaptations to occur. As you increase your activity, you should actually eat more before trying to lose weight. This allows your body to adapt to the stresses of exercise while increasing your basal metabolic rate, before decreasing body fat. As you exercise more, you need to eat more to meet the energy needs of your new activity level. By eating more you will have muscular growth and increase your basal metabolic rate to where you can eat more calories than before. This allows you to have more room for free eating, or cheat meals, so that you can stay satisfied with little effect on your total caloric balance. This can be best viewed by thinking of two situations. One where an individual trying to lose weight eats 2,000 calories daily and then cuts out 500 calories to be in a deficit. After plateau they then cut out another 500 calories to again lose weight. They are now down to 1,000 calories per day which greatly limits the amount of food they can have to reach their nutrient needs and poses health risks. The next individual exercises and eats more calories until they reach a 3,000 calorie daily balance. They then have a much greater amount of calories they can cut down on to lose weight while still getting in enough food to be satisfied and healthy. So the best approach is, eat more and exercise more. Then you can start to decrease your caloric intake by 200-500 calories while maintaining the same workload. This allows you eat more than you would have previously so that you can feel more satiated, while still allowing you to lose weight. Eat more, exercise more, and then start to drop weight.
So, the next time you start on your goal to look SHREDDED or hear of someone trying to lose bodyweight, you have an idea of what it takes. I recommend anyone trying to get leaner does so with a partner. You can make each other accountable and help each other during the times when it gets hard. Just remember, consistency is the key. Exercise intensely while consuming appropriate amounts of calories before starting to slowly decrease calories over time. As you reach your goals, keep training hard but then you may begin to eat more so that you are in caloric balance with your activity level, or excess to build muscle. I wish you the best of luck and remember to keep getting STRONGer!
Strength to you,
The STRONGer Coach- Ryan Mathias, CPT
Owner and Creator
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