Monday 26 October 2015

The Truth About Getting Lean

Do you really want to be lean? Are you sure? If asked, I bet most people would say, “Yes!” However some of those people might change their answer if they knew what it really took to get athletic lean. Even though I sell a book on fat loss, write about fat loss on this blog and work with clients and athletes who have fat loss goals, I don’t want to sugar coat this issue (bad pun I know). Too often the fitness and diet industry tells people what they want to hear instead what they need to hear. If you really want to get lean, its time you know the truth. 

You will have to play by the rules that your goal requires
Your goal must dictate your actions. The confusing thing for many people with this issue is that fat loss for an obese person is different than it is for someone who is going from lean to leaner. Take Jared for example from the Subway commercials. He achieved amazing weight loss success by simply walking and eating Subway sandwiches. This method may work for you to lose over 200lbs – IF you are starting at 425lbs as Jared was. However, if you want to have abs and get athletic lean, the Subway diet won’t cut it!

You will need a healthy, balanced approach to genetics
While it is possible for virtually everyone to get lean, it may not be reasonably attainable for everyone to get really lean. This is not a licence to just give up and eat donuts. However, be sure to consider your goals in light of your relationships, responsibilities and other life goals. You are not a professional fitness model. Let your training goals be challenging but realistic based on these other factors.

Respect genetics, but don’t underestimate the synergistic power of lifestyle, diet and training. I admit to having good genes for being lean. However, you have to train, live and eat with me for a week before we talk genetics. 

You will have to want it more than food
The greatest secret to getting lean is that you have to desire being lean more than the foods that make you fat. The problem for many people is that if they are truly honest, they want certain foods more than they want to be lean. However, once you flick this internal desire switch you are on your way to leanness. The problem for some folks is that they have never been lean. They don’t know how good lean feels and thus they routinely choose certain foods over leanness. Give getting lean a fair shot, you might like it.

You will be psychologically hungry
Avoiding true physiological hunger by eating good foods is an effective strategy for anyone trying to lose weight. Getting lean is absolutely miserable if you are truly starving all the time. However, you will have lots of times when you will be psychologically hungry. If you can win these battles, you will be on your way.

You will need to do countless “reps” of “no thank you”
Life is full of people offering you foods that will block your road to leanness. Don’t be an arrogant, “I’m better than you” jerk. Be polite, but firm when you are offered these sabotage foods. Some people will respect this, others won't get it. However, this is the right of passage on the path to leanness. 

You will have to stop searching for the easy way out
While there are plenty of fat loss fallacies out there, everyone already knows the most important things to do for fat loss. Lyle McDonald summed up fat loss in three simple steps:
  1. Eat less
  2. Move more
  3. Repeat forever   

However, most people trying to lose weight waste their time, effort and money searching for the miracle “secrets” to fat loss. Getting lean is not about taking some special herb grown only in the Himalayan Mountains. It is not about a supplement, pill, powder or cream. It is not about using some special new exercise no one has heard about or a useless “miracle” program pushed by some celebrity. You don’t need a fancy piece of cardio equipment (in fact avoiding these is a great idea). The secret to fat loss (as with any training goal) is to first focus on a relentless, consistent, unwavering application of the basics. 

You will have to make the right nutritional compromises 
With eating, you always make a compromise. That compromise might be: money, time, convenience, taste, health, variety or body composition. If you want to get lean, you have to consistently choose compromises other than the body composition one. This means that you might not always have a flavor explosion in your mouth with each meal. It means you will have to spend more time chopping vegetables and doing dishes. If you are busy, it may mean that you don’t end up with a huge amount of variety in your diet. Look to making the right compromises most of the time for your goals.

You will need to move way more
Too many people try to build a hard, lean athletic body training two or three days a week. While I recognize this is all some people can truly do, this makes getting lean very, very difficult. In this case, be sure you are maximizing your training efficiency and focus more on maintaining while you make the necessary adjustments to be able to train more. Even just getting to four 45 minutes training sessions per week can do wonders compared to two or three days a week – if you know how to train efficiently and are willing to work. Also, learn to move more outside of the gym – especially if you have a sedentary job.


You will need to get comfortable being uncomfortable
For decades the fitness industry focused on making exercise as comfortable as possible. Big mistake if you want to get lean. If you want to get lean you have to go out of your way to pick uncomfortable (i.e. really hard, but not in a bad way painful) exercise options in the gym. Shun easy exercises like leg extensions and cardio machines and embrace the uncomfortable ones like squats and sled pushing. 

You will need to make permanent dietary and nutritional changes
Many people fail to ever get lean. While some get lean, few stay lean. If you want to get and stay lean year-round you have to give up the temporary diets. If your diet and lifestyle caused you to gain weight in the first place, going back to it after getting lean will make you gain it all back. The secret to permanent fat loss is permanent nutrition and lifestyle changes. 

Okay, I know that was not what you would call an encouraging post. However, it is important that you know the truth about getting lean. If you are still up for this rewarding challenge, stay tuned and we’ll look at the right ways to make getting lean a little easier and more effective. As always, I invite you to leave your comments or questions below or on my Facebook page.


  1. Thank you so much for your honesty and great article. You're doing an incredible job educating people and spreading the truth about fitness, health and nutrition. Love your blog

    1. Anna, thank you for taking the time to comment and for your encouragement. Thanks also for reading!

  2. Hi, this is great and its nice to hear the no nonsense approach. I am a little bit stuck because I had anorexia and then in recovery, I got fat! And I mean, I really did, not just an anorexic idea of fat - like genuinely overweight. Its so unlike me because I had always been naturally lean. Skinny even. Now I have adrenal fatigue as well and I can't seem to digest protein of any kind. I have been vegetarian for ages and I was perfectly healthy before, but now I am wondering how to get any protein in. Do you think amino acid powder would be a good place to start? I am aware that it will be impossible to get healthy and lean again if I am just eating carbs and fat! Thank you so much in advance and keep telling it like it is.

    1. Punkstar Bear, thanks for your question. Amino acids such as leucine may help. You may also need to experiment with different types of proteins to see what your body responds best to. If you can, try to find a good health care professional in your area who can work with you on the underlying health issues. Body composition goals will be much easier when you are healthy. You may also be able to get some food sensitivity tests done to help you know which foods might be better or worse for you. For more info on vegan eating, check out: All the best!

    2. Awesome dude thank you so much. I really appreciate your taking the time to help me. Have a great day yourself :)