Eat and Recover Like an Athlete
First of all, the human body can only build and maintain it's self with the dietary inputs it receives. Quite literally, you are what you eat. In order to become lean and muscular, you must give your body the necessary nutrition and recovery to do so. For most people struggling to lose body fat and gain muscle, this means sleeping 7-8 hours per night, consuming unprocessed carbohydrates surrounding periods of physical activity, consuming lean protein with every meal (a daily total at around 1g per pound of body weight), eating 5 servings of vegetables per day, and consuming water at a minimum of half your body weight in ounces (150lbs= drink at least 75oz daily) with additional hydration surrounding physical activity. Now I don't expect that the average person to be willing or able to maintain a 100% adherence to this style of eating, so I personally coach people to strive for 90-95% adherence to these standards. This way if someone is on top of his or her training and nutrition 95% of the time and happens to go out to enjoy some pizza, he or she will be able to get right back on track and not feel guilty about having a "free" meal. My best recommendation for staying on track with nutrition is to cook food in bulk 1-2x per week including an assortment of veggies (using frozen is ok), lean protein (chicken, lean meat, fish, etc), and unprocessed carbohydrates (quinoa, sweet potato, brown rice, oatmeal, fruit, veggies etc). All of these foods can be cooked up in a big batch in under an hour once per week and will keep for the entire week making meal prep a breeze. I personally prep twice per week and find it takes only 5 minutes to prepare 2-3 Tupperware meals to bring to work each day. For most individuals who are trying to lose body fat and or increase lean muscle mass a daily diet consisting of unprocessed foods that that either grew from the ground or had parents should be consumed. With that being said I acknowledge that there are ways of flexible dieting that allow for a wider variety of foods including less "clean," options, however this is up to the individual to explore and I am merely giving my advice on where to begin building a solid foundation of proper nutrition. If you are struggling with reaching your physique goals, the first place to look to is diet. In order to develop a lean, strong, and enduring physique you must fuel your body like the high performance machine that it is. In short, eat like an Athlete!
Train like an Athlete
The most effective method of increasing strength, building muscle, and dropping body fat is through training with compound movements (movements involving multiple joints). These exercises will give the "biggest bang for your buck" because they allow the body to be trained as one integrated system. These movements include squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, swings, push-ups, pull-ups, and generally any movement where more than one joint is in motion. Despite what the salesman at the local health club would lead you to believe, all of those fancy machines and isolation equipment that are touted as the latest in high tech fitness are nothing more than bells and whistles to sell gym memberships. Machine based training teaches the body to operate in a compartmentalized fashion by training the body in parts rather than a whole and is therefore inferior and ineffective when compared to properly performed, training completed with barbells, kettlebells and dumbbells. Athletes develop astonishing physiques through the use of these tools and so should you!
The human body will only adapt to a stimulus that requires an adaptation. This means that laying on your side raising your leg for 100 reps will not "tone and lift" your butt. If all that was required to develop a lean and muscular body was super light body weight movements weights no heavier than 3lbs than every person who walks up a staircase on a daily basis and carries a suitcase of more than 10lbs would have a shredded and muscular body. Developing muscle is a very expensive process for the body and it will only do so when absolutely necessary. In order to build muscle you must expose the body to progressive resistance, volume, and intensity most typically through resistance training. To add to that, the resistance used in training must be strenuous to the body in order to cause adaptation. Now for the most common statement told to personal trainers on an initial meeting with a prospective client: "But I don't want to look big and bulky like a bodybuilder!" to which I respond "Don't worry, you never will." Muscle gain does not occur overnight, it is a gradual process. In order to look like a bodybuilder it takes many years, sometimes 10 or more, of CONSISTENT HARD WORK, dedication to nutrition, sleep, and recovery, as well as a strict lifestyle that few are capable of. So if you're worried about accidentally looking like a bodybuilder, don't worry you will never look that way unless you have the desire and ability to devote your life to that goal and even then your genetics, hormones and gender also play a large role. For the average individual who strength trains hard at least 3 days per week striving to IMPROVE every time and eats a healthy diet as described above 90-95% of the time will notice very significant improvements to their physique including a decrease in body fat and increase in lean muscle mass which will allow for that much desired athletic look.
For those individuals who seek to learn and do more than just these bare minimums set forth in this article I encourage you to contact us at True Fitness and Nutrition as we are not only trainers, former and current professional educators, but also competitive strength sport athletes and we are proud to practice what we preach.