How to stay lean all year? After you reach your fitness goals by completing a fitness challenge or a physique transformation, the last thing you want to do is give it all up within a few months. You’ve dedicated so much time, energy, and effort just to throw it all away so easily. So why does this happen to so many people and can it be avoided altogether?
The Short Answer:
Yes! EVERYONE has the ability to sport an amazing physique all year round; it’s just a matter of maintaining focus and utilizing all the right strategies. Nobody ever truly intends to lose all of their hard earned results; most people just end up losing sight of their goals. And if there’s no goal, there’s no plan; no plan means no action; and if there’s no action? Yup! No results.
“Honestly Though, Is It Really Worth It?”
You know… at first, I didn’t even really understand this question well enough to answer it effectively. I mean… is “what” really worth it? Feeling your best? Being your best? Looking your best? Isn’t this all kind of a no-brainer? 😕
“No, no, no!” they’ll often respond. “Obviously all of that stuff is worth it! What I’m really asking is… is it actually worth all of the hard work and the sacrifices?”
To which I always respond, “Hard work? Yes. Sacrifices? Absolutely NOT.”
The truth is, I don’t sacrifice ANYTHING! I don’t diet, I eat all the foods I love, I have a social life, and I only train 3–4x per week for an hour or so — and in that regard, as far as I’m concerned, the time commitment is an investment, not a sacrifice.
By the end of this article, my hope is that you’ll have a better understanding of the benefits of maintaining your physique all year round and various different ways you can achieve this with the least amount of effort and obstacles possible.
When you’re done reading, leave a comment down below to let me know if I succeeded with that. And if I didn’t, be sure to let me know that too! Your feedback is important to me and will help me improve the content on this blog. 😃
Feel free to use the navigation box above to skip ahead at your leisure. I think all of these strategies are equally as effective and important; however, if there’s something that’s really standing out to you right now, then go after it!
1. Stop Going on Diets
Yup! You read that correctly. 🙃
If you’re truly looking to stay lean and have a sexy, sculpted body all year round, stop going on diets effective immediately. They’re stupid.
Just think: People fall into this trap all the time! They sign up and commit to a diet for X amount of days, weeks, or months, and they adhere to a particular eating regimen, which is usually very strict and entirely null and void of everything they love to eat.
They eventually make it to the finish line (hopefully anyway) and shortly thereafter, they just stop… dieting… altogether. Why? Well — because they’ve reached their goal, right?
Ummm… no. Because it’s just not realistic to keep up with.
The truth is, they’ve been eating clean for months now and they can’t f%#$in’ WAIT to sink their teeth into a deep dish pizza, a hamburger and fries, some donuts, a pack of oreos, some candy, a bag of doritos — and the list goes on.
Sound familiar? 😄
Herein lies the major problem with ALL diets — they’re temporary.
And this article isn’t about looking sexy temporarily. Who the heck wants to do that?
We’re trying to stay lean and sexy ALL year round and possibly even for years to come — maybe even for an entire lifetime! So, obviously, temporary measures won’t cut it.
Pass on the yo-yo dieting schemes and do this instead…
2. Build an Effective Fitness Program
Duh! No-brainer, right? Sort of… The key, of course, is that you need to build one that you can actually follow… ALL YEAR ROUND! 😄
Can’t live without pizza all year? Then don’t cut it out of your diet, silly!
Can’t find time to train at the gym with the new baby? Train at home instead.
Like dining out with “bae” on Friday nights? Don’t stop; just do it smarter.
No chance in HELL you’re missing:
- beer and wings with the bros 🍺
- red wine and chocolate with the ladies 🍷
- insert something else you LOVE doing here 👈
Build all of the s#!% you love right into your fitness program and remove all of the obstacles while you’re at it! Because if your program isn’t realistic and easy to adhere to, then you’re going to break; and if you break, you’ll lose your amazing physique.
Great Idea, But How the Hell Do I Do That?
There are essentially two key components that I use for both me and my clients:
I cover these topics in more detail on their own, so I won’t get into too much detail here, but let’s briefly discuss the importance of them both.
Flexible Dieting Plan
I’m a HUGE advocate of flexible dieting, for one single reason: If people’s nutrition plans are too restrictive, they’re eventually going to break; and when they do, they’ll binge hard and constant, losing their results in the process.
I’ve experienced this many times in the past, and it’s absolutely demoralizing. One of the strategies I, and my clients, have had the greatest success with is flexible dieting.
There are a number of strategies you can use to build out a flexible nutrition plan:
- intermittent fasting
- cheat meals
- re-feeds (cheat days)
Once you figure out how many calories you need to eat to maintain and you’re tracking those calories (which we’ll discuss momentarily), you can pretty much eat whatever you want. Seriously! That’s the beauty of flexible dieting.
In addition, if you’re someone who loves eating out, you’ll definitely want to check out these 8 tips to eat healthy while still being able to enjoy your social life.
Naturally, each individual is unique and will therefore require a completely tailored approach. The most effective nutrition plan for staying lean is one that’s going to be easy for you to follow in order to elicit long-term success.
Realistic Training Program
The same should be said about your training program. If it isn’t something you’re actually going to adhere to, then you’ve got to find a way to make it more realistic.
If that means you have to reduce your training frequency or work out at home (or at the park) when you can’t find the time to make it to the gym, then do it!
I’ll tell you right now: There’s no way you’re going to stay lean all year round by working out 5 to 7 days a week for 2 hours per session, and then killing yourself for an additional hour on the dreadmill. That’s just not realistic; nor is it going to be enjoyable.
Plus, I’m sure we can all agree that you’ve got much more important s#!% to do. 😄
Some basic strategies to keep things as efficient as possible are as follows:
- flexible home workouts
- training less often
- shorter workout duration
- training outdoors
- group classes
- HIIT cardio
Once you’ve got a realistic training schedule, you’ll be able to better assess your nutritional requirements. Because as I’m sure you already know, you should never, ever, try to out train your eating habits.
There are a tonne of variables involved in building the perfect training program. Ultimately, the BEST plan is going to be the one that’s most enjoyable while still being challenging, and the one you’re able to stick to.
Does This Sound Like Too Much Work?
Are you scratching your head right now completely overwhelmed and confused wondering how the heck you’re going to figure this all out on your own? Don’t stress.
As with most things in life, practice makes perfect. And in time — with a bit of trial and error — you’ll eventually figure out a system that works perfectly for you.
If you don’t feel like experimenting and would rather have a custom-tailored nutrition and training program built to your exact needs, you’re in luck!
That’s actually exactly what we do with our MyQuest Coaching program.
We perform a comprehensive needs assessment to learn everything about you — your goals, your schedule, your fitness level, your eating preferences, and more — and then we build a fully-customized fitness program for you from scratch.
Sound like something you’re interested in? Click one of the buttons up above. ☝️
Your fitness program will only be effective at keeping you in shape all year round if it’s designed to be one that you can actually follow… all year round.
3. Always Track Your Calories
Being flexible is important because it keeps things interesting and realistic, but at the end of the day, you still have to manage your food intake.
If you’re fairly new to dieting and want a crash course on exactly how to track your calories, then check out this article: Calories 101: Track Your Calories Like a PRO.
If you’re having trouble figuring out a way to track all of your meals and calories effectively throughout the day, download our free Calorie Tracking Worksheet. 👈
And just in case you’re still wondering, “Do I REALLY have to track my calories?”
The answer is quite simple: yes.
And yet still you might be thinking, “But recently I read a number of articles where numerous experts say that counting calories is actually a bad idea. Plus, the guy at my local gym who always has abs told me that he NEVER counts his calories!”
“What’s that all about?”
Excuse me for being blunt here, but I’m at my wits’ end with “certified” nutritionists, “educated” dieticians, and fitness “experts” spreading bulls#!% information and having people who are new to dieting treat it like the gospel.
Here’s the real truth: You absolutely MUST track your calories if you’re trying to stay lean all year round — at least until you’ve got everything down to a science.
Also, this rule is ESPECIALLY true if your goal is to remain shredded (really lean).
As far as I’m concerned, anyone telling you NOT to track calories is one of two things:
- a complete idiot; or
- a very experienced dieter
If they’re #1, you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly, since they obviously won’t be sporting an amazing physique themselves. 👎
And if they ARE in amazing shape, then they’re obviously #2.
Confused? Let me explain…
Unfortunately, fitness enthusiasts with a tremendous amount of dieting experience have a really bad habit of giving people misleading nutritional advice.
Don’t get mad at them; they’re not doing it intentionally! It’s just… they’ve become so accustomed to managing their food intake, that it’s entirely intuitive to them now.
They don’t see food as food anymore; it’s all just energy and numbers.
You see… while you may just see a bowl of oatmeal with a few prunes (up above), they’ve started to assess how many cups it is, that it was made with milk and not water, and as such, they have already accurately gauged how many calories it all contains.
And this happens almost instantly; it’s like a super power! ⚡
Don’t believe me? Try this out with the fittest person you know next time you sit down to have a bite to eat and let me know what happens in the comments below. 😄
My point is, if they want to stay lean all year then they must be VERY aware of their daily caloric consumption and what they’re eating overall; they’re just not displaying the same level of focus that a beginner or intermediate dieter would because it’s simply a regular part of their life now.
So when one of them says something stupid like “I never count calories!” what they’re really saying is “I don’t really have to count or track my calories anymore because I’ve already got this whole thing figured out.”
If you need help figuring out exactly how many calories to eat to maintain your current physique, check out our easy-to-use Calorie Calculator. 👈
The Bottom Line:
If you’re a beginner, intermediate, or even an advanced level dieter and you want to stay lean all year round, you absoutely MUST track your calories.
4. Prioritize Rest and Recovery
This is easily one of the most important ingredients missing in almost every single individual’s fitness plan.
Everyone is taught the basics when they first begin their fitness journey — eating smarter and exercising more often — but we’ve done everyone a HUGE injustice by leaving out the importance of sleep and recovery.
Practice Better Sleeping Habits
I’ve written an entire article on the importance of sleep as it pertains to your fitness goals, but let’s cover some of the important points.
A lack of high-quality sleep:
- significantly reduces your cognitive abilities
- causes you to make poor food decisions
- increases your hunger cravings due to an imbalance of hormones
- increases your cortisol levels, often resulting in unwanted fat gain
- hinders your physical capabilities and gym performance
- prevents your body from building and repairing muscle tissue
If this list hasn’t already made it obvious enough, your sleeping habits weigh HEAVILY on your overall health and fitness goals. If you’ve been doing everything else right, but your sleep has been lacking, you may have just found your “secret sauce”.
There are a number of sleep studies that very clearly support the claim that 7–8 hours of sleep per night is absolutely ideal for optimal cognitive function alone.
When you begin to factor in multiple intense training sessions per week, my advice would be to start aiming for a minimum of 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
A few great ways to ensure the highest quality sleep possible is by utilizing black-out curtains, avoiding caffeine and/or alcohol within 5 hours of going to bed, and also making sure the temperature in your room is cool.
Train Hard, Recover Harder
Lebron James spends $1.5 million per year to take care of his body.
Yeah! Seriously! ☝️ People are often stunned by this and I love talking about it because it illustrates just how important recovery really is.
If PRO athletes take it this seriously, we probably should too, right?
For argument’s sake, let’s just assume that’s 2% of his annual earnings. For someone making $50k or $100k per year, that would be like investing $1,000–$2,000 per year on physical therapy. I don’t think that’s such a tough ask, right?
And if physical therapy just isn’t in the budget for you right now, that’s still no excuse!
There are a TONNE of self-therapy methods you can employ right at home:
- stretching / yoga
- mobility training
- foam rolling
- massage gun therapy
- fascial release therapy
- spot-icing after workouts (where necessary)
- ice baths
- soaking in epsom salt baths
All of these things can be performed by yourself, by way of a few minimal one-time investments. All you need is a little discipline to make sure it all gets done.
Personally, I do every single thing on this list, but I don’t expect everyone to do the same. I’m sure most would argue that they just don’t have the time, which would just be an excuse not to do it, of course.
So, let’s make things simple: Focus on just one or two strategies — the ones you find most enjoyable and that’ll have the biggest impact on your body’s specific problem areas — and then incorporate them into a weekly recovery program.
This can literally be as little as 20–30 minutes 3–4x per week. Just be sure to do it!
I don’t care how great you look right now, you’re not going to stay that way if you become injured or immobile. The key is to be proactive in your recovery, instead of waiting for small nagging injuries to build up into much more serious problems.
When you’re physically healthy, you can remain active; when you’re physically active, you’re burning more calories and are more likely to eat healthy.
And when you can do all of the above constantly, enjoyably, and 100% pain-free, it won’t be very difficult to stay lean all year round.
The Bottom Line:
Your body is your vehicle for life; unlike your car, there are no trade-ins. Drive hard and enjoy the ride, but don’t forget about your regular maintenance.
5. Commit to a Long-Term Goal
Note: This is, BY FAR, the most important tip in this entire article. If you’ve made it this far, just know that this last piece of advice matters most.
It seems like everyone is after the same thing:
- Men want 6-pack abs, a wide back, and a huge chest
- Women want a lean midsection, nice booty, and toned arms
But it’s one thing to have an ambitious physique goal and it’s another thing to have a truly meaningful health and fitness goal that stands the test of time.
So, why is it so difficult to maintain a great physique? Let me explain…
Short-Term Goals Eventually Lead to Failure
This’ll be WAY easier to explain with an analogy. So here goes nothing:
Would you ever work really, REALLY hard for an entire year or two to start a business and make millions of dollars, only to blow all of your hard earned cash and bankrupt your company within 3 to 6 months?
The obvious answer is NO.
I mean… that certainly could happen, but would you do it intentionally?
Of course not! You would fight to grow that business for years and years to come and want to see it flourish; you’d be in it for the long haul!
And the best part is, it would only get easier and easier over time, since your knowledge, resources, and experience would continue to grow exponentially.
So, why then do people do the exact opposite with their bodies and their health? 🤔
Simple: because they have unambitious short-term fitness goals.
They’ll do things like:
- sign up for a 90-day fitness challenge just to get abs
- join a rapid weight-loss program to get fit for a vacation
- train for 10 weeks to run a half-marathon
- compete in an obstacle course with a friend
And then what happens once it’s all over? Everything goes back to normal.
Start Making Your Journey More Meaningful
It’s easy to sign up for something short-term; both mentally and physically.
You only need to be half-committed, you know the finish line is right around the corner, and worst-case scenario, you can just quit early when (not if) s#!% hits the fan. Who cares? Nobody’s watching, right?
However, when your goals are long-term and they really mean something to you, and you’re committed to your achievements like your entire existence depends on it, no matter what life throws your way, quitting just isn’t an option — ever.
Now… I know I’m talking about this as if it’s a total no-brainer, which it kind of is in hindsight, but this didn’t click for me this easily for many, many years!
Here’s the real secret: If you want to keep that wonderful physique you’ve worked so hard to attain for ANY amount of time, you’ve gotta have a REASON for needing to keep it.
And with THAT being said, if you want to stay lean ALL YEAR round, for years and years to come, you’d better have a DAMN good reason as to why you’re “all-in”.
When people look at other people who are excelling and say things like “He’s always so motivated!” or “How is she so determined?” or “He’s got so much willpower!” or “Where does she find all of that energy and passion?” what they should really be asking is…
“Why are they doing this?”
Behind all of that willpower, motivation, and determination, there is true and genuine sense of PURPOSE. None of those things exist on their own; they’re merely a byproduct of an internal burning desire to achieve greatness.
My advice: Identify a perennial goal that has true meaning to you and just GO.
What does that mean exactly? Well, if you were to ask me…
In a nutshell, I want to be turning heads and still be physically active at a high level well into my senior years; partly for my own personal benefit, of course, but also to be actively involved with my children and to inspire others to do the same.
As a result, every single day that I wake up, I ALWAYS have a reason to focus on my overall health — to eat better, train harder, recover, inspire others, and, of course, to STAY LEAN.
If I were to ask you that same question, what would you tell me?
Do you have a long-term goal? Do you know EXACTLY why you’re even doing all of this? Do you have a legitimate reason and a burning desire to stay lean all year round?
If you’re struggling to answer ANY of these questions right now, then you desperately need to check out our free Mindset Guide. 👈
The Bottom Line:
Figure out your long-term end goal. No goal, no plan, no action, no results.
Need Help Staying Lean This Year?
Do you struggle with maintaining your physique and find yourself having to get back in shape over and over again from season to season?
We can help you end that cycle. Let us help you discover your path to better health.
In our MyQuest Coaching program we perform a comprehensive needs assessment and then build you a fully-customized fitness program tailored to your every need.
This includes the much needed implementation of a fully personalized training and nutrition program as we’ve discussed here today, and much more.
If this sounds interesting to you, click one of the buttons below to get started:
By now, I hope you realize that sporting an amazing physique year-round isn’t as hard as most people think. If you have all of the right strategies in place, the maintenance phase is actually the easiest part of the entire journey.
For starters, remember to make sure that your nutrition program is realistic, flexible, and something you can stick to for the entire year.
Next, train hard (obviously), but utilize a workout schedule that fits seamlessly into the rest of your life, and place just as much attention on your rest and recovery as you do on your workouts.
Finally, figure out the REAL reason why you want to stay lean all year. Goal setting is extremely important. If there’s no goal, there’s no plan; if there’s no plan, there’s no action; and if there’s no action, you’ll lose all of your hard earned results.
I hope you can utilize these 5 tips to your advantage like I do. Stay lean, my friends. 💪
I’m interested: What are your thoughts? How do you stay lean all year round? What are your BIGGEST challenges? How do you overcome them? Why is being lean year-round even important to you at all? Leave a comment down below and let me know!