Archive | June, 2011

5 Ways To Get Lean And Keep Your Muscle

14 Jun

It’s the beginning of summer and well it’s the time of the year where many of us are trying to drop our body fat percentage and raise our sex appeal. Unfortunately,  to the average misinformed gym-goer this means hours of long slow cardio on some space age machine at the globo gym.  Not only is this method ineffective but I’m pretty sure it’s only one step from waterboarding as far as torture goes.


The bottom line is that hours of long slow cardio wont get you looking lean and muscular anytime soon. In fact, you’re destroying your lean body mass and turning yourself into a weakling who’s most impressive physical quality will be running in place for 60 minutes. In this post I’m going to give you the TOP 5 NO FAIL tips to lose fat and keep/gain muscle mass. So, while all the cardio nerds are killing themselves on the elliptical and destroying all of their hard-earned muscles you can get after it in the weight room, lose fat, keep muscle and get the girl (or guy). So here we go..

1). Cut the carbs, except for post workout

             There is no way you are going to get lean if you keep a boat load of carbs in your daily diet. If your going to cut all that fat you need to create a deficit so that your body begins tapping into all of that adipose tissue for energy. In addition to this ingestion of sugars cause hormonal reactions that are not favorable to fat loss. I tell all my clients to cut out the carbs everywhere in their diet except for in their post-workout window. In addition to this I tell them to eliminate grains from their diet completely. This tip works wonders. We should be getting our calories primarily from protein and healthy fats at every meal. We need carbs post-workout for recovery but when it comes to losing fat we’ve got to pull them out of the diet everywhere else.

A sample day for me might look like this

  • Meal One: 5 Eggs with Spinach and Salsa + Fish Oil
  • Meal Two: Cottage Cheese + Plain Greek Yogurt + 1 Scoop Sugar Free Pink Lemonade Metamucil + Fish Oil
  • Meal Three: (Pre-Workout): Whey Protein Shake with Water + Creatine
  • Meal Four: (Post-Workout): Whey Prtoein Shake with Almond Milk and Waxy Maize + Creatine
  • Meal Five: Grilled Chicken with Brocolli + Fish Oil
  • Meal Six: Whey Protein Shake + Natural PB + Ice + Fish Oil

Here are my bullets.

  • Protein at every meal.
  • Only eat carbs at post-workout meal.
  • Eat healthy fats. (Fish Oil, Coconut oil, Natural PB)
  • Done.

    Nature didn't intend for us to eat bread anyways..

2). Lift heavy

           When your in the gym don’t waste your time with long slow boring cardio. Get under the bar and lift heavy. Most people don’t associate heavy lifting with weight loss but according to Alwyn Cosgroves Hierarchy of Fat Loss the best way to lose fat after nailing you nutrition is to perform “activities that burn calories, maintain/promote muscle mass and elevate metabolism.” Lifting heavy does all of these things.

When I’m trying to get leaner I choose to stay on 5/3/1 for all of my main lifts and just change my accessory work and conditioning choices and it has worked great. I get my heavy sets out of the way and simply pair up all of my accessory work into circuits and complexes to make the second part of my workout as dense as possible. Doing this allows you to get stronger and get your metabolism up. I get stronger and lose fat now that is a win/win.

3). Perform complexes and strength circuits 

          As I mentioned I will use complexes and circuits as my accessory work to ramp my metabolic intensity a bit after my strength work. You can perform the complexes with anything you want a barbell, kettlebells or dumbbells. I prefer barbell circuits as it lets me move the most amount of weight possible. Some people try to rush these ala crossfit and finish them as fast a possible. This is a mistake. Take the time to perform each rep perfectly to ensure good form and prevent injury. It is not a race. Do the reps perfect, you’ll be gassed and your grip will be smoked.

Maybe the barbell lifts aren’t for you. No problem put together a strength/power circuit of full body exercises that will rev up your metabolism. Check out the videos below for examples of everything.

Barbell Complex

  • Clean x 5
  • Front Squat x 5
  • Push Press x 5
  • Reverse Lunge x 5 ea
  • Deadlift x 5
  • Bent Over Row x 5

KB Complex

Here Neghar Fonooni does an awesome kettlebell complex better than I ever could. This makes for great conditioning if you prefer KB’s to barbells.

Strength/Power/Conditioning Circuit

            Here was a killer conditioning circuit from last summer that had everything. Ropes, Jump Squats, Med Balls, Push-Ups, Bike Sprints and even some ladders. In fact it was so good I’ll probably never do it again. ; )

4). Sprint           

            Run, pedal, pull or push something as fast as you can over a short distance then rest and repeat. I don’t care how you sprint just do it. Why? Well, numerous studies show that sprinting is found to increase growth hormone levels post exercise. This makes for a potent formula for fat loss and muscle growth at the end of your workout. In comparison, spending your time jogging or bouncing around on an elliptical for an hour isn’t only an inefficient use of your time but it isn’t getting you any leaner and is only going to slow your muscle gain.

Who would your rather look like?

I prefer pushing the prowler as follows

Sled + 90 lbs:15 yards sprints: Rest and Repeat

5). If your going to cheat, then you better workout

            I understand no one is perfect when it comes to following a diet. Now and then we’re all going to crack. Well, if your going to fall of the lean eating wagon be sure to at least capitalize on your binge so that you get something out of it.

See when you’ve been eating lean for long periods of time and then hit a “speed bumps” in the form of a cheesebugerfriesperpperonipizzaandciecream etc. etc. then your body will be sent into an anabolic state. Insulin will go up and growth hormone will spike and we have a great opportunity to build some muscle. Now remember anabolic could mean a couple things depending on how we approach the situation.

Diet disaster or an opportunity to pack on muscle?

Scenario 1: We cheat on our diet and then sit on our ass and do nothing. This will result in an anabolic effect around your waistline where we simply gain body fat and reap no benefits as far as muscle growth goes.


Scenario 2: We cheat on our diet then get after it at the gym as soon as possible. Being proactive and moving some iron in the gym allows us to capitalize on our “anabolic window.” Doing this lets us use this as an opportunity for muscle growth and recovery for our body that has been in calorie restriction for an extended period of time. When we trip up on our diet periodically and workout it functions almost as a reset button for out hormonal system that can keep ups moving along steadily to being both muscular and lean. You’ll find that if you capitalize on these periodic slip-they will actually help you build muscle and accelerate your fat loss so long as you stay on track with your diet 99% of the time.


I found this box under Brendon Rearick's bed...

At the end of the day getting lean and having some muscle to show at the end of it all has almost everything to do with nutrition. If you’re living off Ho Ho’s and soda you’ll never get there and frankly exercising won’t make the slightest difference for you. So, step one is to control what your stuffing down your throat. From there it’s not rocket science. Lift to maintain/promote muscle mass and an active metabolism and eat to promote low body fat.

Thanks for reading!