The definitive guide to getting lean and ripped: Get your dream body

lean and ripped

Losing weight can be exhausting both mentally and physically, learn how to stay consistent in your attempts to get that lean and ripped  beach body!

Have you ever sat there observing a physically fit man/woman and wonder.. HOW THE HELL DO THEY GET LIKE THAT??

‘Well they must have to exercise like 10 hours a day, and eat salads all the time’ you tell yourself, ‘I could never do that, I hate running and eating boring vegetables…oh well’.

Im here to tell you that YOU ARE WRONG.

You see getting lean and ripped is one thing, but staying this way consistently is an entirely other kettle of fish and requires a well thought out exercise and diet structure that you ACTUALLY ENJOY!

Nearly 65 percent of dieters return to their pre-dieting weight within three years, according to Gary Foster, Ph.D., clinical director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

This is an alarming figure and suggests that the methods you use to lose weight need to be structured as such that you alter your entire mindset.

Fitness is a life long commitment and as such you need to work it into your life in a way that can only enhance it, not be a detriment to it.

There are many factors behind creating a full proof system for losing weight, and keeping it off.

I hope to shed light on some crucial mistakes you could be making in your journey and address ways in which you can optimise your diet structure to obtain the body you desire!

You aren’t losing weight….or are you?

How many times have you gotten considerable amount of anxiety when it comes around to your weekly/daily weigh in? Whilst the scale gets an extremely bad rep in the fitness community, all it truly does is present you with a statistical fact…

The scale is not your enemy, it also does not dictate how well your fat loss efforts are going.

That is down to the fact that your weight is comprised of bone,muscle tissue, water and of course fat. These variables are constantly changing.

How much water your body holds onto is directly affected by your sodium intake and for women especially fluctuations can be quite drastic during menstrual cycles, which can adversely affect how their perceived weight loss is going.

How do we eliminate some inconsistencies from the scale you ask?

  • weigh yourself the same every day/week
  • Don’t pay attention to one measurement, but the overall trend (preferably take weekly averages and assess monthly changes).
  • make sure to urinate before you take your measurement.
  • eliminate excess sodium from your diet, (especially canned foods)
  • Eat a potassium enriched diet to counter salt intake.

Another key point to make is the ‘re-composition effect’. When an individual first starts training their body is highly responsive to the adaptation stimulus and consequently it is perfectly possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

If you think about this in the scheme of weight loss, it makes a great deal of sense as losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time will mean that the scale will not shift significantly in either direction, and as mentioned above this can be compounded by other factors such as water retention, hormonal shifts and so on.

The best way to combat this problem is by using weekly averages in addition to keeping measure of waist circumference. 

Changes in body fat levels are highly correlated with changes in waist size and so it would be advisable to keep track of this measurement on a weekly basis. The measurement should be taken around the belly button (navel) as shown below.

How much are you really eating?

In a previous article on bulking for the natural lifter, I explained how TDEE calculations are just a starting estimation and not a static figure.

If you lose any significant amount of weight, your metabolic rate will slow and NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) will also lessen meaning you will be burning a lot less calories idly than you were at your previous weight.

In reality this means that you need to be paying attention to how many calories you are eating on a daily basis and adjusting accordingly as you lose weight to compensate for your body burning less calories.

Losing weight is simple in theory (apart from exceptional circumstances such as thyroid conditions, medical complications) and always boils down to calories in  vs calories out.

In order to gain weight you need to eat more calories than your body burns, and to lose weight you need to do the exact opposite and consume less calories than your body burns.

You will eventually come to a crossroad whereby you need to chose between increasing your activity levels or reducing your food consumption (or a combination of the two) in order to satisfy your bodies ability to burn fat.

An example of this would be Lucy who is a 21 year old woman 5 ft 9 tall, weighs 160 lbs and has a set maintenance calories of 1,900. Lucy has a fairly sedentary lifestyle (office job), but has managed to lose 10 pounds by lowering her caloric intake to 1,600 calories a day at roughly 0.5 pound loss a week. She has now stalled and can’t seem to budge the scale at all.

Now we know that a 500 calorie deficit equals a pound of fat loss a week, but if Lucy were to drop a further 500 calories a day she would be eating a measly 1,100 calories a day which is highly unsustainable and will lead to future rebounds.

A better alternative in this scenario would be to add some LISS (low intensity steady state) cardio into her routine to increase her activity levels and allow her to keep eating the same amount of food whilst losing those last 5 pounds.

Another problem that people will no doubt run into is mis-measurement of caloric intake, that’s right EVEN when counting calories and measuring portion sizes it is entirely possible to overestimate.

Take the example of using Cups and tablespoons used to measure certain high calorie foods such as ‘1 cup of rice’ and ‘2 tablespoons of peanut butter’.

It is very easy to get ahead of yourself and just take the biggest heap of peanut butter you can fit onto a small tablespoon, extra hidden calories can easily mount up in this fashion.

Take for example a tablespoon of peanut butter on a nutrition label which states that a 15g serving equates to 90 calories, if you then go and heap a tablespoon you could easily end up with a 25g heap of peanut butter netting you an extra 60 calories which you did not account for.. times this by two and you get 120 unaccounted calories.

This WILL add up.

The safest approach would be to buy yourself a cheap digital food scale and weigh ingredients for a certain period of time until you become accustomed visually to what portion sizes look like.

Diet structure is the key

The way you structure your diet will make or break you.

As mentioned in the opening paragraphs you need to adopt a long term orientated mindset and not be too fixated on instant gratification.

This very reason is why shows like ‘the biggest loser’ are so popular to the mass audience, losing upwards of 4-5 pounds a week is a good start for a severely morbidly obese person whose life is in imminent danger due to their weight and the fact that they cannot practise moderation, however to the average slightly overweight guy/gal looking to get beach body ready this approach is doomed to fail..

A very slight caloric deficit ensures that you are able to keep your sanity and is much more sustainable, I recommend sticking to a 0.5-1.5 pound a week loss max.

Even with this said and done, there can still be complications with those who possess larger appetites.

Believe it or not (not accounting differences between sexes and age groups)there is very little variance in metabolic rate between individuals, usually those who are more inclined to be higher body fat percentages simply have larger appetites and/or are very sedentary.

The best way to combat this is to eat highly satiating foods containing fibre and protein.

In my personal experience I have found the concept of high volume foods to be a life saver when getting into single digit body-fat levels.

Good examples of high volume foods that you can eat a lot of are vegetables, fruits, popcorn and salads. These will leave you feeling full and satisfied, and leave you with more room to include treats so you do not feel the burden of dieting, which leads me to my next point..

Willpower is a finite resource, and you will cheat on your diet if it feels like an extreme slog, believe me on this! In my experience intermittent fasting has revolutionised the weight loss game for me, and while I feel a lot of it’s benefits have been largely over hyped (e.g. increased growth hormone production, better fat burning) it is a great tool in the box and makes dieting a piece of cake.

The way in which I would suggest doing this is skipping breakfast and drinking black coffee and water until around lunch time (12-1pm) and condensing the number of meals that you eat per day down to 2 or 3 larger meals as this is far more satiating and allows for greater social freedom, i.e. you can eat out at night as you have saved more calories from during the day.

Another note would be to include foods you enjoy daily to satisfy any cravings you may have, anecdotally I have found a bar of chocolate is highly satisfying and fills my cravings.

You may find that you simply cannot control yourself with certain food groups. Cookies may be your kryptonite as an example whereby you cant practise moderation and find yourself eating ‘just one more’.

You may need some personal experimentation to see what foods you binge on and which will work for you.

Bottom line

Weight loss can be tough but it doesn’t need to be this way. Setting realistic expectations for weight loss, having the confidence to adjust your diet and exercise to bust through plateaus and having a solid diet structure that doesn’t drain your willpower are the keys to success! I wish you the best of luck…

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