Unfortunately, getting that 'standout in the crowd' lean and muscular look ain't that easy. Adding muscle itself is not that difficult. Hard training and plenty of quality food will get most people adding mass. After you've added the mass though, if you want to strip away that extra fat and reveal abs, cuts and veins, well where do you start? Most trainers think by simply throwing in a few extra aerobics and tightening up their diet, they can get ripped. Well I'm here to tell you - it's not that easy.
If you are a competitive bodybuilder, then you can resort to some of the usual tricks, like a low carb / low fat diet to quickly strip bodyfat, but this approach is difficult to sustain, and pretty unhealthy for any longer than about 2 - 3 weeks. So if you are like most other trainers who just want to look lean and muscular, you will need a more sustainable approach to training and diet that will keep you lean and mean! In this article I'm going to look at a number of approaches and tips for getting into, and staying in top shape.
Training for the lean muscular look is not to different form normal bodybuilding training. Generally, you would aim to train with weights that allow 8 - 10 reps per set in most exercises with the exception of squats, there I would go for about 15 reps per set. Train to failure and use forced reps, supersets, etc as you normally would. Aerobic activity such as stepper, stationary biking, treadmill, or brisk walking 3 - 4 time a week is also recommended.
The Low Carb Diet
I wrote an article on low carb eating some months ago and received many inquiries. Check back on the article page and read it for more details. I've seen this approach work wonders, stripping body fat and even allowing good gains. I've used it myself successfully as well. The theory goes like this. Your body's primary energy source for day to day living comes from carbohydrates. Your body rarely needs to burn fat stores if you eat plenty of carbs. If you eat a low carb diet, your body starts burning fat for energy. After cutting carbs out of your diet, you can expect to lose fat at an accelerated rate. This diet can be used for long periods but I find you get best results if you cycle on and off for 4 - 6 week periods. Other names for this diet include the Atkins diet or the Zone diet.
The Low Fat Diet
What to Eat When
Most bodybuilding nutrition articles will tell you to eat 6 small meals a day, rather than 3 larger meals. There is a lot of value in this approach. First of all, you are more susceptible to adding fat after a large meal than smaller meals. This is because a large meal will more than satisfy immediate calorific needs, and then store excess food intake as fat. Also, you tend to get hungrier between meals on 3 meals a day which will encourage you to eat more at each sitting. Smaller balanced meals tend to make you less hungry, and even if you get hungry, you know its not too long until your next feed.
Another principal to keep in mind is to eat more calories during the first half of the day rather than the second half. What does this mean - well eat a large breakfast including foods like eggs, cereal, bread etc. Have a substantial mid morning meal, a good sized lunch, and then begin tapering off your meal sizes for your last 3 meals. You will find your body can burn calories more readily on this regime. If you use the traditional large evening meal and perhaps the large before bed snack, your body has virtually no choice than to convert this food to fat while you sleep.
When you are trying to get lean, water is an essential element to your approach. As your body burns fat, it is in a state of 'ketosis', which produces toxic by-products. How do you get rid of these waste products? If you guessed urine, you're right. So you need to drink plenty of water (2 - 4 litres a day for a hard trainer) to keep your system well flushed. Water has another good benefit, it keeps hunger at bay, so its essential if you are watching calories to keep drinking.
There are lots of wonder supplements around promising to get you lean, cut, ripped, etc. I've said this before - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are no magic pills or potions that will let you eat what you like and stay lean - you have to work at it with a consistent approach to training and diet. Having said that, there are a number of supplements that can give you that extra 5 - 10% advantage. Lets look at some of these:
Protein Supplements - Look for a pure 90% protein supplement with no added sugar. I always recommend Ionised Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) as the best you can buy. Countless studies and experience show that this protein source builds lean muscle better than any other protein. Taking WPI Protein twice a day will help improve muscularity. MAX'S has developed a specific fat stripping protein called SuperShred that is designed to be used in conjunction with a low carb diet to strip fat. for more information click here.
L-Carnitine - This amino acid transports fats into muscle cell for fuel. You can take 2 grams about 30 minutes before main meals for best results. Look for products that contain L-Carnitine or buy the powder and take it directly.
Caffeine - Often available in the form of Guarana, this supplement increases the mobilisation of fatty acids into your blood. In the US, Caffeine is combined with aspirin and ephedrine to form a thermogenic stack. This approach can have some side effects but is quite effective. It is not legal in Australia. One alternative we have seen successfully used is combining Caffeine with L-Carnitine.
Chromium Picolinate - This compound has been shown to improve insulin metabolism that increases muscle synthesis and accelerates fat loss. Chromium need only be taken at low levels to realise benefits.
Getting lean and staying that way is not about dieting; it is more about a lifestyle approach that promotes sensible nutrition and training for the results you want. Lean, muscular bodybuilders don't get that way by chance, it takes a complete approach. If you strive for this look, don't try and get there in 2 weeks. Severe dieting will not only reduce fat, it will also cannibalise significant muscle. A slower steady approach to getting ripped, and a smart maintenance approach will really pay dividends, and help you achieve a really impressive physique!