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How to stay lean year round

How to Stay Lean Year Round: 11 Must-Know Tips

“Staying lean year-round is not sustainable!” many people say online. 

I agree with this statement if you’re aiming to sustain 10% body fat and below. 

We all love the image of having a lean physique; however, the not-so-fun part is the rest of the things we need to do to stay lean. 

And I’m not talking about staying on a “diet” throughout the year. That’s pretty extreme.

Some people can naturally stay lean without much effort, while most others struggle to maintain.

This post is for the people who fall into the latter category, the people who struggle to lose weight and want to get lean and maintain it year-round. 

Is it going to be easy? 

Not quite, but if you implement some of the tips I’m about to share with you, it may make the process of staying lean relatively easier. 

Muscular Man

1. When in doubt, track your meals

Tracking your calories is a great way to get a closer look at the calorie and macro content of your meals.

If you’ve ever weighed and tracked food, you’d immediately realize just how much you’ve been eating. (I know I was shocked the first time I did it.)

Tracking your food is humbling, and when you know you have to log in to the meals you eat each day, you start to wonder twice whether that box of jelly donuts is worth it.

Now, I’m not suggesting you track all the time; heck, I don’t and won’t do that. I’m saying that when you know you’ve been slipping on your diet…tracking your meals can put you back on track. 

2. Limit your sugary beverage intake

Sugary beverages are silent calorie bombs, and we don’t even realize it. If you take 1-2 drinks within the week, then that’s fine.

However, if you feel like you need to have sugary beverages and sodas every day, then staying lean may not work for you.

I know a guy who lost a ton of weight just by eliminating drinks from his meals. It was surprising and kind of scary how too many drinks can impact your body.

If you want to get lean and stay lean, limit your sugary drinks to 1-2 per week or substitute them for fresh juices, like just squeezed oranges or pineapples. 

3. Eat lots of protein 

Protein foods

If you want to stay ripped and shredded after building a decent amount of muscle mass, you know protein is like the golden elixir. 

When you get lean, you can’t expect to build any more muscle. You build muscle when you’re eating at a surplus or when you have some fat mass on you. So, the least you can do is maintain the muscle you already have.

And that’s where protein comes in. Protein pretty much feeds your muscles, among the many things it does for the body.

Plus, foods high in protein are usually filling, allowing you to get full on fewer calories. 

Check out: 9 Nutrition Mistakes Lifters Are Making Right Now (Avoid These)

4. Include fun sports/physical activities in your week

This isn’t talked about a lot, but engaging in sports you actually like doing is like fun cardio; you get the same rewards without hating yourself while doing it.

Take me for example: I hate jogging or running. It just feels really boring to me.

However, when I’m playing football; I run like a madman, and I actually enjoy it.

Adding sports or physical activities you like to your week can help you maintain your weight almost effortlessly if it’s a challenging sport like football, basketball, tennis, swimming, and the like. 

5. Don’t stop doing cardio

Now, to finish up the last point, you shouldn’t stop doing cardio.

People have this perception that once they get lean, the struggle is over; they can just relax and enjoy their favorite foods and not have to worry about climbing the treadmill again.

However, as you know or should know, stopping all the habits that got you lean will take you right back to where you started.

You don’t have to do anything crazy for cardio. A 20- to 30-minute jog or a treadmill 3 times a week will keep you lean.

If you don’t like running like me, then riding a bike or doing the fun activities I mentioned in the previous point will work.

The key here is to do what you know you can consistently do.

Don’t feel like you have to hit a 30-minute jog every time you jog. Some days your body is going to say 10 minutes and you should probably listen to it.  

6. Resistance train

Vascular guy

If you’ve gone through the trouble of getting lean, then I’m pretty sure you’d want to maintain your new aesthetic physique.

Resistance training, whether that’s using weights, bands, or bodyweight exercises, is essential at all times, whether you’re lean or bulky.

Regular resistance training at least 3 times a week, along with adequate protein, will keep you looking ripped.

Remember, the whole point of being lean isn’t about being thin (if you’re a fitness guy/girl), it is to look aesthetic, and although resistance training doesn’t burn as many calories as cardio does, it will help you lean year-round. 

Related: 4-Week Aggressive Mini Cut Guide for a Lean Physique

7. Try intermittent fasting

When the talk about intermittent fasting first came out, everyone was on the train.

Intermittent fasting became this new weight-loss phenomenon and I’m sure you see the reasons why.

This won’t work for most people; most people love their breakfasts and getting deprived would probably feel like hell.

However, if you don’t fancy breakfasts all that much, then intermittent fasting will go a long way for you.

Additionally, if you work out in the mornings in a fasted state, your body will burn more body-fat directly. 

8. Go on mini-bulks and mini-cuts

Staying completely lean year-round is attainable…  if you don’t want to see any new gains in the gym or in your muscle size.

Going on a mini-bulk—eating at a calorie surplus and adding some weight over around 2–3 months while doing resistance training—will help you add more muscle to your frame.

Then, going on a caloric deficit and cutting back down reveals your newly gained muscle. 

You might say, “Then I’m not going to be lean year-round.”

If you’re truly satisfied with your physique, then ignore this tip.

Additionally, mini bulks give you a much-needed break from subtly worrying about calories and watching what you eat.

It may be the reset you need to come back even stronger.

Check out: The 10 Benefits of Being Lean You NEED to Know Now

9. Prioritize staying hydrated

Staying hydrated is a commonly overlooked tip for most people.

People tell you to “stay hydrated,” but how does it help you stay lean?

Well, for one, being hydrated helps regulate the appetite, which prevents the body from misinterpreting thirst for hunger.

Yes, your body can sometimes confuse being dehydrated for hunger. Secondly, drinking water while you eat may help you feel fuller quicker.

This is because when you’re properly hydrated, your brain activates a hormone called leptin that signals your system with the feeling of fullness.

Take more water, guys! 

10. Include more low-calorie, high-volume foods in your meal plan

Fit Man holding healthy food

Tweaking your meal plan a bit to substitute high-calorie foods for high-volume, low-calorie foods is pretty much a hack to getting and staying lean year round. 

You get the benefit of feeling full with fewer calories. 

However, foods like this are usually not the most delicious, but sometimes you have to choose foods that will make you feel satiated rather than eating little amounts of calorie-dense foods and still feeling hungry.

Some examples of high-volume, low-calorie foods include: 

  • Cauliflower rice
  • Zucchini noodles
  • Whitefish
  • Egg whites
  • Fruit bowls
  • Jelly

These foods are really low in calories compared to their volume and are a great replacement when trying to lose body fat or stay lean all year. 

11. Quality sleep is essential 

Quality sleep is essential for so many reasons when you’re trying to lose/maintain weight and build muscle.

It is an integral component of staying lean year-round because it influences your hormonal balance, appetite regulation, metabolism, and overall well-being.

It is integral to exercise and muscle recovery, plus you get to avoid late-night snacking.

Faysal Tahir
Faysal Tahir
Articles: 74

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