As many of my clients have heard me say, “getting lean” and “staying lean” are two completely different things. Getting lean is like going on a trip. You get a map and you set off on a trip from point A to point B. Sure, you may encounter a few detours along the way, but generally you know where you're headed and you have a plan. It's often not easy, but if you just stay the course, you'll get there. A new, leaner you.
So what happens when you arrive?
You may be leaner, but there's also a chance that your mindset still hasn't changed. Especially if you were following a plan that you can't sustain.
See, the secret is that staying lean is a side effect of living well. It's how you live that will determine whether you are lean or not. There are personal, social, and environmental factors that all play into this. Some of the issues to consider are:
*Why do you want to be lean?
*What are your core values? (Are you living your values?)
*Who do you spend your time with - healthy or unhealthy people?
*How do you structure your home/work environment?
*Do you make the healthy/lean option the easiest option? (keeping veggies convenient and junk food out of the house, for example)
My favorite author, Ryan Andrews at Precision Nutrition, wrote an excellent piece on this. Consider it required reading. Seriously, if you or anyone you know has ever wondered about the secret to keeping weight off, read this!
From a performance perspective, having the ideal amount of body fat depends on the sport. For example, runners need to be very lean while swimmers can still be successful with a bit more body fat.
The most competitive/fastest runners in any race will usually be the leanest (around 5-8% for men and 12-16% for women). If body fat levels that are lower than that, you may not have enough to support a rigorous training regimen and may run the risk of nutrient deficiency and hormone imbalance. However, extra body fat is detrimental because it does not help you move faster, it simply weighs you down and costs your body more energy.
Losing 1 pound of fat will improve your pace by about 2 seconds per mile. No additional training required! Free speed. I like it. Now think of your next marathon. 26.2 miles x 2 seconds per mile = about a minute better just from one lousy pound!
Sometimes it's not more workouts or harder workouts that will bring about the most dramatic change in someone's run performance. Your lifestyle (not just training or just diet) is key.
So I hope you read the article and start to appreciate all of the factors involved in maintaining a lower amount of body fat. It really comes down to how you live! Do your ingrained habits support a lean lifestyle or not? If not, let me know if you need help.