Beginner's Guide to Getting Lean the Right Way

You have made the decision to get in shape, lose weight and reduce body fat. Getting fit and leaning out are great goals but implementing proper methods will be vital to your success. Using your friend's fitness program or newest fad diet may sound good but what works for one isn't always best for another.  

The next step to achieving your fitness goals is knowing how to do it the right way. This will mean researching evidence-based nutrition shown to really work. Magazines and unreliable online sites don’t always represent complete truths about fitness and nutrition. It will be important to approach getting fit realistically and with the proper information to reach your goals. 

Many do-it-yourself (DIY) nutrition and fitness programs are not recommended for newcomers or even for active adults. It can be tempting to use the newest fad diet promising a fit body in a month, but empty promises equal disappointing results. When it comes to your health and fitness goals, it's essential to be prepared with the proper tools that can actually lean you out right and provide lasting results. 

Why Restricting Calories Can Work Against You

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Many of you believe cutting back calories is the best way to lose weight and reduce body fat. Quick fix diets stand behind this theory but research indicates reducing calories may actually work against you.

Nothing exists in a very low-calorie diet, pill or powder that creates a healthy body. Getting lean requires a healthy lifestyle change. This includes consistent healthy eating and exercise to achieve your goals. 

The American Council on Exercise has stated calorie restriction can result in fat storage. When calories continue to be reduced, the body begins metabolizing lean tissue and muscle mass instead. Other adverse effects may include fatigue, dizziness, constipation, stomach upset and even an increased overall cholesterol level. 

In order to lean out the right way, eating right and not necessarily less is a better philosophy. Healthy food, especially plants are lower in calories but higher in nutrients allowing us to eat more in our daily diets. 

When we eat healthy forms of all macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats), we are able to lean out without disrupting proper body functions. Appropriate caloric intake maintains our metabolism, allows us to lose fat and increase muscle mass.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, women should consume no less than 1200 calories per day and a man no less than 1800 calories. If an individual is participating in regular exercise, caloric values would increase to meet increased physical demands.  

Takeaway: stay away from very low-calorie diets, eat for health, eat for realistic goals, and eat for athletic performance. This combination will promote getting fit and lean while being able to maintain good health. 

Apply Nutrition That Works

Nutrition plays the largest role in achieving a lean muscular body.  Without proper food intake to support muscle growth, you will most likely be disappointed and frustrated. Active adults and athletes consider healthy food intake as an enhancement to their workouts and body composition. 

If you apply healthy eating from the start you will have an edge up on those wishing they would have put in the research. Exercise alone is beneficial but it will be the addition of good nutrition making the difference in how our body looks. Do you want to change your body? It will take changing what you eat on a daily basis. 

Many active adults and athletes apply an 80/20 ratio strategy. This type of plan indicates 80 percent of our fitness success comes from healthy food intake and the remaining 20 percent from exercise. 

We can also look at the 80/20 ratio in strictly nutritional terms. This would mean 80 percent of what we eat comes from quality healthy foods, mostly plants. The remaining 20 percent allows for those little indulgences part of a balanced diet. 

Either way, applying healthy nutrition that works will be vital to losing weight, reducing body fat and gaining muscle. 

Takeaway: Apply a healthy nutrition plan to support muscle growth, maintain a healthy metabolism and stimulate fat burning.

Bonus info and sample foods: Plan healthy meals and snacks to achieve your goals.

  • Power breakfast may include a healthy protein source like scrambled egg whites, a slice of organic seeded toast, and 1/4 sliced avocado. (lean protein, healthy high-fiber carbohydrates, healthy fats)
  • Snack could include a sliced apple with one tablespoon of natural peanut butter or other nut butter. (simple good carbohydrates and healthy fats)
  • Lunch may include 4oz grilled skinless chicken breast with a side of green veggies. (lean protein, fibrous carbohydrates)
  • Snack may include 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese and 1/4 cup fresh pineapple. (protein, simple healthy carbohydrates)
  • Dinner may include 4oz grilled salmon, 1/2 baked sweet potato, and power green salad (spinach, kale, chard) topped with balsamic vinegar (protein, healthy carbs, fibrous carbs, healthy fats)

Focus on Muscle Gain and Not Weight Loss

Getting lean the right way ensures we are able to reduce body fat while gaining muscle. This is not the time to restrict essential nutrients needed to support body functioning. Building muscle is hard work and requires excellent sports nutrition. Muscle is highly metabolically active tissue requiring all the macronutrients, especially protein.

When our focus shifts to healthy food intake being a powerful tool to achieve our goals, we relax about depriving ourselves. The goal is to become lean and muscular and this is unobtainable without adequate nutrition. 

Avoiding the typical diet mistakes of restricting carbohydrates and fats will work in your favor. Carbs are the primary energy source for the body and healthy fats stimulate our metabolism and help maintain hormone function. Additionally, eating enough protein is vital for muscle growth and repair. 

Takeaway: Apply an eat right not less philosophy to stimulate fat loss and muscle growth. Consuming the right balance of healthy carbs, fats and proteins will enable you to achieve your fitness goals.  

Workout to Create Muscle Definition

Applying a progressive workout program is vital to creating lean mass (muscle) and reaching your goals. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, resistance training is an important part of an adult fitness program. It should be challenging enough to improve muscular strength and endurance while increasing muscle size. 

It will be important to select the right exercise program for you. Allow yourself to be a beginner and enjoy the process of learning how to challenge your body physically. Already active adults and athletes should continue on with progressive programs to create muscle confusion and reduce workout plateaus. 

Takeaway: Incorporate weight resistance training as a vital part of your fitness program. Allow yourself to be a beginner and continue with a consistent progressive workout program. 

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