How Do You Get So Lean?

“If you stay ready you don't have to get ready”
- Suga Free

People always ask me how l get so lean? My answer is simple, l stay lean. If I stay lean I don' t have to get lean. Right? I mean, that's pretty simple. Ah, but is it? A casual stroll through the domestic terminal of your basic international airport, in any city (my de facto example of the most diverse cross section of America), and you will find an extraordinary number of people who don't pay attention to Suga Free, cuz, they ain't ready. Well, maybe for a pie eating contest, but nothing remotely espousing a healthy body fat level, let alone anything to the extreme that we expect from a bodybuilder. So, stay lean? 

Yes, if you want to be lean, stay lean. I was an obese kid and I've stayed lean for over 40 years.  If there's anyone who doesn't have the genetics to be lean, it's me. If I can do it anyone can do it. If that was a cliche, here come the rest of them: “yeah, easier said than done.” “Easy for you to say, you workout all the time.” “I can't diet.” “I have bad genetics.” Blah, blah, blah...... 

All you're doing by saying and falling for that crap is affirming a negative. Our sport is full of people who have overcome the most incredible adversity and accomplish the most amazing things, including getting shredded. Most of us have no adversity to overcome, except that which we create for ourselves, and can't seem to uncover any part of a six pack, let alone the whole thing.

Staying lean is not rocket science. It merely requires that you stay, with the exception of the odd cheat meal once or twice, a week, on a diet. Period. All the time. By diet, I don't mean eating like a bodybuilder. I mean eating like a dieting bodybuilder. “Oh, but that's hard.” So is buying a Ferrari, unless you have the money. Dieting is easy, if you have the discipline. And, discipline – or willpower -  is a matter of one thing – a decision. A very simple decision: Do I stay on my diet or not? The problem is that your brain gets in the way. Let me give you an example. 

Let's say you climb into bed after a long hard day. You're dead tired. You could fall asleep the second your head hits the pillow – which, you've fluffed and arranged just exactly how you like it. Your head sinks languidly into it, you wriggle your body one last time into that amazingly comfortable position you and the sandman love, you've maybe even tucked another pillow between your knees. You're an inch from dreamland. Then, you look up and realize you left on the bathroom light. What do you do? What few of you will do is just get up and turn off the light (you guys are probably pretty lean too). Most of you will hem and haw and needlessly complicate the issue, and procrastinate because you just don't want to get up out of bed, especially if it's cold. Some will actually just leave it on! It's a simple decision though, just get up and turn off the light! Like the saying Nike made famous, just do it. Dieting to stay lean is no different.

Most of you reading this know that and know damn well what it takes to stay lean. You now there's no magic pill, no magic drug, no magic method, nothing secret. The matter is doing what it takes -  doing what's hard, doing what's uncomfortable. Problem is, humans like to be comfortable and do what's easy. You can't have it both ways. You want to stay lean? Then you know what to do. It's a simple choice – just like getting up out of bed and turning off the light. Unfortunately, temptation rears it's ugly head and then, the next thing you know, you're just another squishy American strolling through the airport. You know that in order to stay lean you have to eat good, clean, healthy food, in a favorable macro ratio, and burn more than you take in, so that the body will liberate stored fat to make up the difference. Simple. The only problem is just doing it.

So, what do we do? Come up with excuses of course. And some are pretty good: “I have kids and the junk they eat is always in the house” (why do you buy it for them?), “Diet food is too expensive” (duh), “No time to prep the food,” “I have no energy on a diet,” “I get too hungry,” “I get hypoglycemic,” “I crave pizza.....” Blah, blah, blah. It's all meaningless bullshit. Suck it up buttercup. Everything desirable has a price. If you want to stay lean, quit complaining and just do it. It's either that or stay fat. Simple equation: Diet = lean. No diet = fat. (remember the bathroom light).

Now, here's where the big debate that has raged for decades comes in. One camp says “calories in calories out.” This basically means that if you eat fewer calories than your base metabolic rate indicates, you'll lose weight. It doesn't matter what you eat, so long as you create a calorie deficit. The problem here is “weight” is an ambiguous term. You can hack off an arm and get back on the scale and it will read less. You get the desired intent, but the effect is not too good. What you want to lose is not “weight” but rather, body fat. Which brings us to the other camp. They say that if you eat only “clean” food – lean protein, complex carbs and healthy fats, you can eat all you want and, with adequate exercise, you'll lose body fat. The only problem with either camp is that they're both only partly right. 

If you want to become, and stay, lean what you need to do is eat a balance of high protein, moderate good quality fats and few complex carbohydrates, spaced out over five to six small meals a day with a total calorie count somewhat less than your base metabolic requirement.  It's important that you keep a nice even flow of nutrients coming in so that your body does not perceive starvation and slow down your metabolic rate. This will not only stymie fat loss, but also muscle growth.

So, just how much below your base metabolic rate should you eat when you consider your activity level? Too low and your body will strive to hang on to those reserves you have on board, too high and you wont lose fat. Unfortunately, there's no specific formula for this, it's a matter of trial and error. If you use an accurate measure of your body fat each week, you'll want to lose between 0.5 – 1.0% of body fat per week. Slow and steady. Once you arrive at your desired body fat level, gradually increase the size of your meals until you level out where you feel and look lean. Then stay lean. 

A little help from high quality supplements? Absolutely. But, they're NOT the answer. Of course they can help and I can swear they make a big difference. But, the work and the sacrifice is going to be 85% of the deal. Luckily, modern silence has given us supplements that can help the fat burning process. Not only fat burners, but also low calorie protein powders offering complete protein with few calories or added fats, and quality vitamins and minerals to make up what a calorie restricted diet may leave out. 

At the end of the day, it's going to be exercise, a well constructed, low calorie meal plan, combined with state of the art supplements, dedication, consistency and discipline that is going to deliver incredible results that can last and last and keep you lean. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

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