9 Things that People Do to Stay Lean Year Round

Want to get leaner? Lose some belly fat? Get some tight and sexy lean muscle?

Most of us do but we’re going about it the wrong way. Getting consistent with your goals and being able to maintain results year round is tough but not as tough as dieting and restricting, only to fall off and repeat the cycle forever. Here are 9 things that people do to stay lean all year round.

#1 – They Don’t Rely on “Diets”

This may be the most important thing all people who stay lean year-round do, which is why it’s first. They are the people that make everything seem pretty effortless (more on this later) and if you asked them what plan they follow or what diet they are on, you may hear one of these responses:

  • I just eat a lot of protein, veggies and pretty healthy stuff
  • I eat when I’m hungry and don’t really snack
  • I stay away from processed foods
  • I eat to fuel my workouts and make me feel good

The bottom line is that they aren’t jumping from program to program. They aren’t talking about the latest Paleo, low carb or any other “solution.”

They eat to perform, have a good awareness of what they’re eating and why, and 80-90% of their diet is probably healthy foods.

One of the biggest stressors is actually constantly freaking out about your diet or jumping from one thing to another. Your body can’t decipher types of stress and we all have tons of every day stress, so don’t make it worse.

#2 – They Train Harder Than Most

Most people just don’t work hard enough to elicit a response from their body. As healthy as it is to take a 30 minute jog on the treadmill, if you’ve been doing that same thing for 6 months straight and your body isn’t changing, you need to look at ramping up the intensity.

I’m not talking about going balls-to-the-wall with the latest Crossfit WOD, but you need to find a middle ground. Make sure you have a solid plan, you have someone to coach you to ensure proper form and you are progressing your workouts (i.e.: trying to hit little milestones each day and each week to guarantee that you’re making progress).

There is no perfect way to train but for the general purposes of this article, women who want to lose fat and develop some lean muscle, train 3-4 days per week using these principles:

Hit the following movement patterns:

  • Push (push up, press)
  • Pull (chin up, row)
  • Lower body (squat or dead lift variation)
  • Lower body single leg (single leg squat or single leg dead lift variation, complimenting what you did above)
  • Core stability (plank variation, ab wheel, valslides)
  • Power (jumps, slam ball, throws)
  • Conditioning or Finisher (sleds, Battle Ropes, sprints)

The key take away is that everyone who stays lean gives everything they have on each rep. Focus on the muscle or muscles that you are working, don’t daydream and don’t worry about what’s coming up next.

#3 – They Count Their Macros and Calories (Or Have Done So Before)

I think counting and tracking versus a more intuitive approach is all personal. Some people love the numbers and some people get pretty obsessive about it and it controls their lives (remember, we like balance).

You have to find what works for you. I believe that everyone should track initially, just to gather some data. If you have a general idea of your patterns and any issues you need to work on, you can create your plan from there.

If you want to track daily, have at it.

A general rule of thumb to get lean and develop that great looking muscle is to set up your macros something like this:

  • 40% protein
  • 30% fat
  • 30% carbs

#4 – They Have A Plan

I mean this in two different ways. First being that they have some form of structure in not only their nutrition, but definitely their training.

Almost nobody who stays lean year-round just goes into the gym each day and wings it. Having this approach doesn’t allow us to progress or know whether we’re progressing or not.

How many people have you seen in the gym doing the same workout, week in and week out?

You might be one of them, and that’s okay. You’re reading this article so we can make some changes there. Think about it though- how much different does that person look? Probably not much. As I mentioned before, it’s great to be healthy and get some exercise. I’m not knocking that. I am however, a big fan of being efficient and effective, so why not make sure what you’re doing will actually get you results?

The easiest way to do this is to have a coach who can structure your training, help you set goals, make sure you’re hitting milestones and then of course celebrating those results.

#5 – They’re Committed

The last bullet leads me right into this one. It’s not sexy, not fun and definitely isn’t as motivating to hear or think about… But it’s the truth and key behind staying lean year ‘round.

You need to commit. They’ve committed to the lifestyle and may not reap the benefits after a week or two of living it, but after a month and more they absolutely do.

One thing I can guarantee is that if you do make the decision to fully commit – that commitment becomes easier to follow once it is made. The hard part is the strong decision and change, but once it is set it becomes habit.

One final point on this. Is one good workout going to make you lean? Is one healthy meal going to burn off all that body fat? No way. You need to work on the small things every single day so that they all add up to the result you ultimately want.

#6 – They Understand that Recovery is Non-Negotiable

You do need to train hard, I covered that. If you are training hard, you should recover twice as hard.

A lot of people ask me if they aren’t sore, does that mean they should work out harder? My answer is that you should actually try to NOT be sore.

That means your recovery was on point. You ate enough protein, drank enough water, got good sleep and kept up with your mobility.

Sure, you will be sore occasionally if you do a new exercise or start a new training program. If you are constantly sore and beat up, it’s time to re-evaluate your training and your recovery.

Training hard is key, but you cannot be going crazy every single day. Your muscles heal and grow when you’re not training. Here are a few recommendations for recovery:

  • Spend 5 minutes at the end of the day doing soft tissue work on your tight areas (typically hips and shoulders)
  • Drink enough water: take 1/2 your body weight and drink that in ounces per day
  • Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep in a dark, cool room
  • Take a 30 minute walk on the days you don’t train

#7 – They’re Generally More Active Than Most People (Outside The Gym)

To bounce off the last point that established the fact that they know how to recovery well, they also know that a rest day can be a little more than sitting on the couch all day.

They usually go on easy hikes, take walks at lunch break, stand at their desk, choose to take the stairs, and essentially just try to move a little bit more than the average person. See what most people underestimate is the power of “NEAT” (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis).

Some of the greatest coaches implement this more so often than typical cardio and I personally have used this to get better results with many clients and myself alike. They’ve even done studies showing that those who fidget more often than others tend to be leaner and have a higher metabolic rate because they’re moving more frequently throughout the day.

So my suggestion is simple, just move more.

  • Sit at a desk? Get up and do 10 bodyweight squats on the hour every hour.
  • Have a lunch break? Go for a 20-minute walk.
  • Have a FitBit or iPhone? Shoot to hit 10-15,000 steps a day.
  • Get a standing desk
  • Take the stairs

Here’s some numbers for you – 10,000 steps a day equals 70,000 steps per week. 70,000 steps can burn 3,500 calories. 3,500 calories is 1lb of fat.

Now if you’re already doing 10,000 steps a day and not losing a single pound of weight, up that to 15,000 steps a day and you more than likely will lose .5lbs per week assuming nothing else changes across the board.

With the sedentary lifestyle that many of us are chained to due to work, driving and school, we need to take steps to combat that. I really like the FitBit challenge of hitting 10k steps every day. Start there if you need a kick start in your activity.

#8 – They’re Flexible With Their Plans

This is a major key for results and I really try to instill this in every client I work with. Having macros and calorie limits are great, but you cannot expect to hit it on the dot every single day.

As I mentioned above, one good workout or healthy meal is not going to get you lean. On the other side of the spectrum, enjoying one slice of pizza is not going to derail your plan unless you mentally let it.

The issue with having a treat is not that treat. It’s the mindset that comes after it. So many people have something that doesn’t fit into their “diet” and they figure they blew it, so they keep going for the day or for even days at a time.

The real middle ground, which takes some work to get to, is to be able to eat healthy, hit your macros (if you’re counting) and occasionally enjoy some treats. We will all have a life- birthday parties, dinners and wine.

The key is to enjoy and then get right back to normal, because that’s just how you eat. Don’t stress or feel guilty about “falling off the wagon” because it just leads to that perpetual “starting on Monday” trap of diet-binge-repeat.

If you can come within 5-10% of your daily goals, day in and day out, you’ll get some great results.

#9 – They Have a Strong Support System

Having supportive friends is great. The last thing you want is the person who will pressure you because you ordered a steak and salad instead of a big plate of nachos. Usually those people are just putting their own insecurities on you or making you feel bad because they actually wish they could do it.

It’s easy enough to say cut those people off, but friends are friends sometimes. You just have to stand your ground based on the goals you’re trying to achieve. Saying things like “I eat this food because it makes me feel good” is a really simple way to just get your point across.

In addition to having supportive friends, a group of likeminded people and a coach are both important. Training or working in a nutrition group will take your life to the next level. Why? Because you can feel like you’re a part of something. You can share successes and struggles with those people. They get it.

Having a coach is a simple addition you can make as well, but so many people don’t do it. If the best athletes in the world have coaches, why can’t we as a regular person?

People try to do way too much on their own. Investing a little bit of money each month to ensure you’ve got consistent, efficient results is worth 10 times that investment. A coach will give you structure, accountability, motivation (some days we all need some) and will help you course correct your goals and then celebrate those little wins, which none of us do enough.

So there you have it, 9 things that people do to stay lean all year long. The thing about each one is that they translate into a lifestyle, not a quick fix for the moment. It’s not the sexiest stuff, but it’s the daily consistent work that will get you where you want to be.

It’s mentally exhausting to stay on the diet, binge, fall off and repeat wagon.