It takes hard work to lose weight and get the type of lean body you see on the covers of fitness magazines -- there's no way around it. That said, having the right plan can make it much easier -- and faster -- to accomplish. Adopting healthy eating habits and choosing the right exercise program are the keys to getting a lean, toned body. While you are anxious to rid yourself of excess fat, striving to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week is the safest pace, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Prepare Your Mind, Not Just Your Body
Getting a lean body isn't just a physical challenge, it's something you must prepare for mentally. It takes some major lifestyle changes in the form of dietary changes and setting aside adequate time to exercise most days of the week. Prepare by setting a realistic goal for yourself, such as to lose 5 pounds and/or 2 inches off your waistline by the end of the first month. Unrealistic goals, such as losing 20 pounds in four weeks, will only set you up for failure. Be realistic, write down your goals, and put your diet and exercise plan down on paper. Simply writing this stuff down will add some accountability to keep you motivated to succeed day after day.
Diet Dos and Don’ts
To get lean, you have to eat right. It's much easier to cut 500 calories per day than it is to burn it on the treadmill. Eat small meals about five times per day – three meals and two snacks. Each meal should contain whole grains, veggies and lean protein. For snacks, eat a piece of fruit, granola bar, protein shake, or other low-calorie, nutritionally-dense food. If you can manage to eliminate 500 calories per day – about one large doughnut and 20-ounce soda per day – you'd be cutting the equivalent of 1 pound per week, says the CDC. Add regular cardio exercise to boost calorie burn and fat loss.
Six Days a Week for Success
The CDC says an exercise program that includes cardio and resistance training is the most effective and fastest way to improve body composition. It's like a double whammy against fat – cardio burns calories and fat, while resistance training gets your body lean and toned. Exercise six days per week for 30 minutes per session to start. Gradually increase the workout duration as it becomes easier in the coming weeks. Alternate cardio and resistance training days, such as doing cardio on Monday, resistance on Tuesday, cardio again on Wednesday, and so on.
Get Moving, Pushing and Pulling
Choose any cardio exercise you feel comfortable doing, such as jogging, cycling, elliptical training, treadmill exercise, swimming or walking at a brisk pace, to get lean fast. On resistance training days, hit the weights or do bodyweight resistance exercise. An effective bodyweight resistance session could include pushups, squats, pullups, reverse crunches, tricep dips, calf raises and supermans. Increase resistance levels with resistance bands or dumbbells. An effective weight training workout may include bench press, leg press, preacher curls, shoulder press, tricep pulldowns, weighted crunches, seated rows and back extensions. For the first two or three weeks, do just one set of 10 repetitions for each exercise and eventually work your way up to two to three sets.
Jack Up the Intensity
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, helps burn fat and promotes an anaerobic effect that helps build muscle strength in your body. It can help melt away stubborn fat before you know it. Include at least one HIIT workout day per week in your six-day-per-week workout regimen on a cardio day. You can use any aerobic exercise to do your HIIT workout. Start by doing a five-minute warm-up followed by a one minute interval at 70 percent maximum exertion or higher. Next, do a two-minute interval done at a moderate pace -- about 50 percent max effort -- to recover. Repeat this cycle a total of five times followed by a five-minute cooling down period at the end. It's a quick 25-minute workout that can really speed up your weight loss results.
Taking Care of Your Lean Machine
Get plenty of rest every night to ensure your body fully recovers – about eight hours is ideal. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, including during your workouts, to help keep your energy levels up and your body hydrated. If you miss a workout, or you overindulge at the all-you-can-eat buffet, don't get too down on yourself. You're bound to have small setbacks, but it doesn't have to lead to failure. Use these moments as motivation to get back at it. As you start seeing the new leaner you in the mirror two, three, or four weeks down the line, it will get easier to continue your new healthy lifestyle and keep reaping the benefits that go along with it.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- Precision Nutrition: Research Review – Is Cardio Better than Weights for Fat Loss?
- American Council on Exercise: All Exercises – No Equipment
- National Institutes of Health: Healthy Eating Plan
- American Council on Exercise: High-Intensity Interval Training
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: ChooseMyPlate.gov