Many people set their sights on getting ripped for the summer. It is, after all, when you are most likely to be seen wearing your swim suit. However, as summer draws to a close, some people relax both their diets and their training and regain all that fat they lost. Subsequently, when spring rolls around, they have to go through the pain of losing all that fat all over again!
If this sounds like a waste of time to you (and it is) you should consider trying to stay lean all-year round. Yes, you can gain a few pounds during the “off season” but there is no need to bulk up like a bear preparing to hibernate through the cold months!
Use these tips to help you stay lean all-year round so you only have to drop a few pounds to get ripped for the summer.
1. Plan your cheat meals around training times
Getting ripped often means giving up your favourite cheat foods; it’s the price you have to pay for getting really lean. However, it’s unreasonable to give up treats indefinitely but too many treats can cause rapid fat regain.
Thankfully, you can make your cheats and treats work for you rather than against you by simply consuming them AFTER training.
After a workout, your body is much more receptive to both carbs and calories. Insulin sensitivity is up and your muscles and liver are crying out for energy. Eating treats at this time means that those extra grams of carbs and calories are much more likely to end up in your muscles and your liver and much less likely to be converted to ugly fat.
It’s only natural that you’ll want to relax your diet a little after eating clean for so long but by doing so immediately after a workout, you are much less likely to experience fat gain as a result.
2. Train for strength and size
Muscle is biologically active which means it needs calories to sustain it; the more muscle you have, the more calories you need. Building muscle is also a calorically expensive process. Both of these facts mean that, if you want to stay lean all year round, you should train for increased strength and size.
Cardio is still important but you don’t need to do a lot of it to maintain your current body fat levels – unless you are overeating of course. Assuming you are not eating too much, heavy and strenuous strength training will help you maintain a lean physique.
3. Prioritise protein
Protein is essential for getting and staying lean. Firstly, eating plenty of protein (1 gram per pound of bodyweight) will help preserve your muscle mass which, in turn, will ensure your metabolic rate remains high. Also, protein has a high thermic effect which means that eating protein uses a lot of calories – far more than carbs or fat. Protein is filling too – and if you are full you are much less likely to overeat.
Make sure you prioritise protein by including it in every meal or snack you eat. Choose lean protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, whey etc. to save calories. Also consider using BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) which are a major component of muscle, help initiate fat loss, are important for muscle growth and recovery from exercise, and also much lower in calories than protein.
4. Try metabolic resistance training
When it comes to building muscle AND shedding fat, metabolic resistance training, also known as circuit weight training, is hard to beat. By moving quickly from one exercise to the next with little or no rest, you elevate your heart rate, increase your calorific expenditure, increases lactic acid production, and get a great cardio workout in disguise.
Once or twice a week, replace your usual strength training workout with a metabolic resistance program like this one:
- Bench press
- Dumbbell rows
- Lat pull downs
- Reverse lunges
- Dumbbell curls
- Bench dips
Move quickly from one exercise to the next and only rest after the last exercise. Take a 1 to 2-minute break and then repeat.
5. Crank up your NEPA
NEPA stands for non-exercise physical activity and is something that many of us do very little of – especially during the colder, wetter winter months. This can lead to weight gain. Even if you exercise five hours per week, unless you purposely seek out NEPA on a daily basis, you are probably guilty of being sedentary. Increase your NEPA to help avoid regaining weight during the winter. Good NEPA opportunities include:
- Walking or cycling for transport instead of driving or taking the bus
- Taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator
- Walking to speak to colleagues instead of emailing or phoning
- Standing up for phone calls
- Walking meetings
- Carrying your groceries in a basket instead of using a shopping trolley
- Washing your car by hand
- Playing sports or outdoor games with your kids
- Walking your dog
Try to clock up around 60-minutes of NEPA a day to increase your daily caloric expenditure and prevent regaining the fat you worked so hard to lose.
6. Weigh in and take action
During your fat loss diet, you probably weighed in regularly to check on your process. However, once summer is done, you will probably pay much less attention to your weight. Big mistake! If you do not weigh yourself (or check your body fat percentage or objectively look at your reflexion in the mirror) it’s all too easy for fat to creep back on without realising it.
Continue to use whatever methods you prefer for monitoring leanness regularly and take action as soon as you see things are starting to go the wrong way. Do not let fat regain get out of hand.
If you are fed up of the lose weight/gain weight seasonal cycle, it’s time to make some changes to your diet, workout plan and lifestyle. Off-season weight gain is not inevitable but you will need to take action to prevent it.
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