The ultimate physique many of us want to achieve is a lean body - low body fat with well-sculpted muscles. Whilst all exercise burns calories, some forms are more effective at helping you lose weight and build muscle than others.
And it’s not all about the workout. What you do outside of your workouts is just as important. It's counterproductive to invest hours of your time into exercising each week if you're following it up with a poor nutrition strategy.
To help you see the results you’re looking for, we’ve provided some top tips on how to get lean fast!
Top 10 Tips on Getting Lean Fast
1) Do Cardio Workouts
Cardio exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, is a type of exercise that uses large muscle groups while increasing heart rate and breathing rate. Examples of cardio exercises include jogging, swimming, and cycling.
To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit - meaning you are burning more calories than you are consuming. Cardio exercise can burn calories in large amounts to help you achieve this, and is known to be effective for weight loss.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends performing at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week, in order to see results. Better get those running shoes on!
2) Do HIIT Workouts
HIIT workouts are a form of cardio that involves short bursts of intense exercise, such as biking or sprinting, followed by low-intensity recovery periods.
A HIIT workout typically lasts a total of 10-30 minutes, which for many of us is much more appealing, as finding the time to squeeze exercise into our busy lives can be challenging.
Although HIIT workouts aren’t as long as traditional workouts, such as jogging, research suggests that they are better for reducing body fat and are the most efficient way to burn calories in a short amount of time.1
According to one study, you can burn up to 25-30% more calories in a HIIT workout than in other forms of exercise.2 More fat burnt in a shorter workout? What’s not to love! To top it off, you’ll also continue to burn some calories even after a workout as it increases your metabolic rate. Result.
3) Do Weight Training
Now it’s time to hit the weights. Combining weight training with a form of cardio, such as HIIT workouts, is the best way to shed those pounds and build muscle, thus achieving a more sculpted and lean physique.
Whilst weight training doesn’t burn as many calories as cardio, it does build muscle, which increases your resting metabolic rate, meaning you can burn more calories at rest3. Think of your muscles as an engine that requires fat and calories to run. Build a bigger engine, and you’ll burn through more fuel!
4) Eat More Protein
What you eat is essential for building lean muscle. High-protein foods, such as meat, fish, and dairy, are the best workout foods for muscle gain.
Protein is an essential building block to help muscles grow and recover faster. It also helps you feel full for longer, meaning you’ll eat less and have fewer cravings.4
Salmon is a great source of protein, omega–3 fatty acids, and B vitamins, all of which are essential for building healthy muscles and providing energy. Tuna also provides large amounts of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamins A, B12, niacin, and B6, which may help improve energy and athletic performance.
5) Eat Little and Often
When you go for several hours without eating, your hunger levels will significantly increase and in turn, increase your chance of cravings, overeating, or binge eating.
We’re all familiar with the ravenously hungry feeling where our eyes become bigger than our stomachs, and before we know it, we’re stuffed and full of regret. To avoid this, eat before you get too hungry and stop eating once you feel full.
6) Eat More Vegetables
Vegetables are an essential component of a lean diet, as they are low in calories but are packed full of essential nutrients for muscle building, energy, and performance.
They are especially high in fiber, which slows digestion and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. By slowing down digestion, carbohydrates are also absorbed much slower, helping maintain steady blood sugar levels.
Blood sugar crashes can increase the release of cortisol, which breaks down muscle tissue and slows recovery, the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
Vegetables can also help improve the absorption of other nutrients, such as your precious protein, easily making them another one of the best food groups for muscle gain.
7) Reduce Intake of Highly Processed Foods
As difficult as it may be, reducing your intake of highly processed foods is essential for getting lean. Highly processed food can be high in calories, thus contributing to fat gain and providing very little nutritional value.
Highly processed foods, such as cakes, biscuits, and sweets, can be easy to over-indulge on. So, try to manage and moderate your intake of these particular foods to avoid the overconsumption of calories.
8) Drink More Water
Water is essential for supporting a healthy body and for it to function at its best during workouts. But who would have thought that water can actually help you lose weight too?
According to experts5, water can help suppress your appetite, increase calorie burn, and support the burning of fat. It is also important to hydrate yourself with water rather than liquids that contain large amounts of sugars, as this will significantly increase your calorie intake.
9) Try an Activity or Sport
Picking up a new active hobby, such as a type of sport, can be a great way to burn some extra calories, whilst also having fun!
Sport often involves cardio exercise, so is ideal for burning fat. Getting lean doesn’t have to be all serious, and why not try something new?
10) Plan Meals
Picture this: you’ve just got home from a busy day at work and it’s late. You’re hungry and tired, but the cupboard is bare. You can’t think of what to eat and can’t be bothered to go to the shop, so before you know it, you’re ringing up your local takeout.
Planning is key to avoiding this happening too regularly. Plan your meals for the week and do a weekly shop to ensure you always have something you can easily whip up. Cooking in batches can also be helpful so you have leftovers when you don’t feel up to cooking.
Achieving a lean physique requires hard work and determination, and doesn't happen overnight.
It’s important to remember the type of exercise you do is important, with high-intensity cardio workouts more likely to yield results.
Combine this with weight training and a healthy diet containing the best foods for muscle gain, and you should begin to get a glimpse of the lean body you are aiming for.
Don’t forget to plan your meals, reduce high-calorie foods, and stay hydrated.
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- Heydari, M., et al. “The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males.” Journal of Obesity, vol. 2012, (2012): 1–8.
- Falcone, Paul H., et al. “Caloric Expenditure of Aerobic, Resistance, or Combined High-Intensity Interval Training Using a Hydraulic Resistance System in Healthy Men.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 29, no. 3 (2015): 779–785.
- Wang, ZiMian, et al. “Specific Metabolic Rates of Major Organs and Tissues across Adulthood: Evaluation by Mechanistic Model of Resting Energy Expenditure.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 92, no. 6 (2010): 1369–1377.
- Weigle, David S, et al. “A High-Protein Diet Induces Sustained Reductions in Appetite, Ad Libitum Caloric Intake, and Body Weight despite Compensatory Changes in Diurnal Plasma Leptin and Ghrelin Concentrations.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 82, no. 1 (2005) 41–48.
- Huizen, Jennifer. “6 Reasons Why Drinking Water Can Help You to Lose Weight.” Medical News Today (2018).