There is a difference between just “losing weight” and actually going in to a “shred” or “cut”. Losing weight is just about reducing your overall size with no structure or importance placed on the process as a whole, which, can often lead to muscle being lost at the same time as body fat. Successful shredding, on the other hand, is all about optimizing your body's ability to burn fat while preserving muscle. Essentially, we are dialling it in; reducing body fat that is covering muscle to reveal the hard work you’ve been putting in. Leaning out isn't an easy process by any means; it takes resilience and a focused effort in regard to sleep, diet and training. It means eating to support your goals even when you’re hungry at times, training with intensity and getting adequate sleep to promote recovery. This is another subject I could discuss in great lengths as there are so many factors at play but for right now I am going to give you the basic “laws of lean”.
I am going to break it down for you in three sectors; training, nutrition and recovery.
Compounds & Free Weights
Skip the isolation moves and opt for free weights and compound movements. Multi-joint and compound exercises allow you to lift heavier loads and hit multiple areas of the body at once. These movements help boost your metabolism, fire up the heart rate and also trigger a greater release of shredding anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone, which burn fat and help you withstand a caloric deficit.
Increasing the intensity of your sessions will mean that you need to find a training formula that works for you so that you can ensure that you have sufficient energy to train hard when dieting down. This will be different for everyone but some factors you should consider and play around with are:
- The time of day you train; do you train better in the morning or evening? This might be different for cardio and weight sessions too.
- The number of meals you feel best consuming prior to training. Some people enjoy fasted sessions, others perform better being completely fed.
- The macro combination of these meals – planned use of higher carb foods pre and post training for example.
- The types of supplements you use pre and post workout.
Once you have that sorted, we can focus on the nitty gritty inside your lifting sessions. When cutting, I suggest that you increase the intensity of your training. You can do this via a number of methods such as: density training, adding in burn outs, greater T.U.T sets, supersets, giant sets and circuits as well as drop sets. Shortening your rest periods is also really useful in building muscle and burning fat. By extending your sets, you are forcing your muscles work harder with longer times under tension and shorter rest. This elevates your heart rate and induces a process called "excess post-exercise oxygen consumption" or EPOC. EPOC triggers your body to enter an elevated state of metabolism for as long as 24 hours after your workout. Keep in mind that you still want to train hard and heavy; it is about building intensity not dropping it down.
HIIT It Harder
Doing hours on the treadmill can be extremely tedious so you might want to cut your LISS (low intensity steady state) time in half with HIIT (high intensity interval training). HIIT training involves short, intense bursts of max out effort followed by a rest period. steady State Cardio is definitely easier but who has the time to endure long sessions on the treadmill.
HIIT training generates the EPOC affect and is extremely effective in shredding fat whilst maintaining lean muscle. HIIT is supposed to be short and sweet so aim for no more than 30 minutes total per session.
Prioritise Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). We burn far more calories outside of the gym than we do in the gym so NEAT needs to be prioritised when you are trying to cut. During the day, outside of your sessions aim to more active; park further away when you’re at the shops, take the stairs, use a stand up desk, walk when you take phone calls, stretch when you watch tv etc. When you're trying to drop body fat, every extra calorie you burn takes you one step closer to your goal.
First things first here and this is absolutely essential, unless you’re doing some form of recomp programming; you want to be in a caloric deficit. You need to be burning more calories than you are consuming.
Quality Is Key
Focus on getting your macro-nutrients from whole foods first; this will ensure you’re getting a good amount of micro nutrients too. Eating whole foods will help you feel your best both inside and outside of the gym and will aid in recovery as well. Whole foods are more satiating than processed foods as they will normally contain a greater fibre content which helps you feel fuller for longer.
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient. A higher protein intake will also help you keep muscle mass when you're lowering your caloric intake.
Pre and Post Work Out Meals
Your pre and post workout meals have the ability to influence how you train and also how you recover. Don’t take the power of these meals lightly. I opt for quick carbohydrate and fast digesting protein sources pre and post workout.
Chuck The Cheat Meals
Don’t fall in to the trap of being in a deficit all week then completely ruining your hard work by spilling over targets and gorging on copious calories through cheat meals. Stick to your caloric deficit and if need be implement strategic refeed days or diet breaks in order to help you obtain your goal.
SLEEP AND SUPS
Prioritise sleep like you would your workouts. The more quality sleep you get, the more energy and intensity you’ll have in your sessions. In addition, your recovery will be more efficient, you’ll be less moody and will have less cravings and higher amounts of testosterone release. What’s not to love about sleep? You can read more on sleep in my previous sleep smarter blogs, check it out.
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