We often read or hear about how it is better to be Leaner for health; it’s also an aesthetically desired trait. We all gravitate towards others with lean, tight and muscular bodies, as well as desire it for ourselves. In this article we will focus on how to begin this journey towards a leaner self.
DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE
There are many plans, diets, programs telling you what to do and what to avoid. Some of these programs claim miracle results, often with complicated explanations as to why our current system towards leaner is not working – while marketing their own product. This is often the strategy of many companies to convince or scare us, into purchasing their products.
The reality is you do not need to be on some crazy, unrealistic diet, starving yourselves (chewing some piece of lettuce) and thinking about nothing but food. Conversely, it’s equally damaging, to prepare the same chicken, broccoli and brown rice for 7-days straight – a varied diet is the key towards health. We live busy, stressful, modern day lives and these methods are counterproductive, often with reverse affects as people end up braking their diets or waiting for that cheat day – where, unless you have a iron clad will-power, all things can fall apart.
When it comes to training – to become leaner – we also don’t need to do endless weight training sessions or running many miles (kilometres) in order to burn extra calories. Resistance exercise will provide initial result as the body goes through its adaptations, but will begin to level off. Eventually, you will need to lift more weight, run harder, change your routine in order to continue burning calories.
To become leaner is a straight forward process; however it goes a little beyond calories consumed have to be less than calories used by the body. To elaborate on this statement, we consider three parts that we already do: eat, sleep and exercise. It is important to understand how each of these parts fits into our leaner goal, from there we can tailor the overall process to fit into our individual lifestyles.
WHAT IS LEANER?
Leaner is the result of making the body more metabolically active – burning greater amount of calories throughout the day. To do this, we would need to create an environment for our body to increase muscle mass, while decreasing body fat.
Most of us are aware of the flow of energy – in form of food calories – that is used by our bodies to create an effect on how we perform, feel and look. Therefore, we need to consider what it takes in terms of energy requirements, beyond food calories, for us to be leaner. It all comes down to one thing – metabolic flexibility.
Food calories provide energy through different sources including protein, carbohydrates (aka sugar; and yes both are the same thing) and fats. Excess food calories – that the body does not currently need for it’s maintenance – are stored. The survival of our species, through times of food scarcity, has resulted in the body evolving towards storing as much energy as it can. This excess energy is stored in three ways:
- Ready-made energy in molecule form called ATP – very limited amount of excess calories are stored this way. ATP is the highest in weight compared to glycogen and fats and not very stable for long-term storage. ATP is easily broken down by water – water makes up ~70% of our body weight.
- Energy stored in carbohydrate form called glycogen (long chain of glucose molecules connected to each other). Glycogen weights more then fat but less then ATP, additionally it requires water for storage – providing bulk to muscles.
- Energy stored in fat form called triglyceride (which is stored as body fat). This is the best way for the body to store large amount of calories, packed into small fat cells, low in weight and does not attract water.
Metabolic flexibility is the body’s ability to switch from one fuel source to another. All three levels of energy contribute to our daily demands where one is more prominent – depending on what activity we are engaged in. People who are metabolically flexible often have better capacity to transition between energy sources. When focusing on fat loss, toward our goal for being leaner, we want to utilize the stored energy that the body does not give up easily – body fat, reserved for times of dire need.
The healthy way to approach nutrition is – variety. Remember that to become leaner, we need to consume foods that will be used as energy, as well as assist with repair and building of muscle; while creating an environment for us to burn fat. To begin this leaner journey, start with small incremental steps that will be achievable and manageable for your system and your lifestyle. Eat nutritionally rich foods from wide sources like fruits, vegetables, grains and lean meats are a good start. Do not fall into specific focus as to high-protein, low carb or food-elimination type diets like gluten-free or dairy-free. To get more details regarding healthy lifestyle nutrition towards a leaner self, check out our The No-Diet Book.
The desired response from training should be to increase lean body mass while decreasing fat storage. Muscle is metabolically active and requires more energy to use and maintain itself. A training program towards leaner should utilize each energy system; the main goal however will be to increase the anaerobic (without oxygen) capacity – using ATP and glycogen during training. Training that predominantly involves glycolysis system (glycogen use) translates into conditions resulting in greater lean body mass. Scheduling workout sessions comprised of short intense training intervals lasting 30 seconds to two minutes in duration; followed by a short active recovery period are the best to accomplish this.
Rest and recovery is just as important as training and nutrition. It is during rest, that our body really goes to work utilizing our desired form of energy – Fat Burning. Glycogen and ATP reserves have been depleted during training, now during rest the body will fill these back up – utilizing fat stores along with proper nutrition.
Being leaner has numerous advantages within physical and psychological categories – more energy and confidence, and less aches and pains. Besides looking better, our body system becomes more effective in utilizing different energy systems within. Eating nutritionally rich foods of wide variety; while engaging in anaerobic style (utilizing ATP and Glycogen) resistance training will create an environment for muscular hypertrophy; while providing ample recovery energy through fat burning. Taking small but steady steps, will ensure your body is challenged but not overwhelmed with newly applied stimuli, safeguarding a continuous progress towards a leaner You. For more on energy systems and metabolic flexibility relating topics check out our Stronger Leaner Faster Book here.