So yesterday upon sharing a picture of me in a bikini on Instagram, I got asked how I stay ‘lean‘.
By lean, i assume what is meant, is how i am able to keep a low amount of body fat, so much that you can see my muscles.
So, staying lean, for me, seems to run on intuition. By looking at my body, listening to how i feel, while eating and training in accordance to that, I keep myself in ‘shape’.
When I am hungry, I eat. When I am not hungry, but feel that I will get hungry soon, I eat. If I am really full, i will either stop eating or eat a little more (lol) depending on how i feel mentally, physically, and how my training has been going. I eat a lot because I know it is fuel for my muscles. But I also eat enough to make up for the NEAT (not exercise activity thermogenisis) I am doing or not doing. So if i am riding my bike or walking more than usual, I will feel the urge to eat sightly more to make up for that.
On the contrary, when I feel my calories are not being sufficiently burned, I.e. I feel a little larger, have accumulated more fat than i would like around my stomach, or feel sluggish and lacking in confidence because of this, i adjust to combat these things.
So, I will go more intense when i ride my bike, maybe add in a tiny bit of cardio to my weight lifting workouts, do a HIIT, and also, check out my diet. When I take a brief mental look over everything I have been eating, I know if there are things that either need to be cut back, or cut out temporarily depending on the situation. So for example, If i have eaten in various restaurants over the past few weeks and they haven’t been the healthiest (i.e, lots of oil and salt etc), then I will make sure I am more conscious of what i am buying if i go out again and maybe get something lighter. Conversely, I will just not go for a meal.
Similarly, If i have been eating something because at the time when I brought it, it was a nice idea, but then it only gets eaten slowly (like a chocolate bar or something I don’t know), and i know its high sugar and makes me feel kinda shitty when i eat it, then i will either throw the rest away, give the rest to someone else, and then obviously not buy it again any time soon. These are a few examples.
I have no set times of eating, or quantities of macro nutrients I stick to. I essentially, am the only one to make decisions about when and what I eat.
However, there are foods I stick to in my every day diet, which make up the bulk of what I eat. So, when it comes to meals, my carbs come from oats, rice, couscous, or wholemeal bread. Protein is mostly fish, chicken, lean mince, eggs, cottage cheese, beans and pea and rice protein powder, and my fat comes from, houmous, nuts, seeds and cheese. All of which are pure and wholesome (other than maybe the bread). I also eat various vegetables every night, and fruit before and after my workouts.
When I feel that i want to cut down a little with these foods, i will reduce the amount of oats i eat by around 5-10 grams. This is because carbohydrates, for me, provide the most energy, and seem to bulk me up the most, since my diet is more carb dominant. I therefore find that the small tweaks in the amount of carbs i eat, whether it be to cut down or gain more size, works out the best. I find it sustainable and maintainable to slowly cut down my consumption rather than cutting it down by a large amount all at once. This is because oats are essentially the only thing i weigh, which helps me to determine whether i am eating below, above or an average amount.
However I feel that what staying lean mostly comes down to, for me, is the snacks and things I am eating in between meals. Although I stick to wholesome foods, what determines how lean I am is how MUCH i am eating, which like I say, comes down to how i am feeling, how my training is going, and what my goals are at the time.
But there are certain things which influence my food choices.
- I stay away from low fat, fat free, sugar free stuff which contains chemicals as substitutes. This is because eating actual FOOD is important to me. In no way does a chemical ever benefit you.
- I try to eat fruit before and after my workout, since they are high sugar. But still this isn’t strictly this way, it’s just the fast release carbs give me a surge of energy which i find is best utilised right before working out or after my muscles have been depleted.
- I try not to eat too many processed sugars – such as cookies, cakes, sweets, chocolate bars, icing sugar, anything junk foody really. Because if i want sugar there are things like dried mango which i prefer. This doesn’t mean i don’t eat these things in small proportions or until they start making me feel shitty physically. But it’s rare you’ll see me eating this stuff nowadays
- To stay lean I drink mostly only water, tea and coffee.
- I don’t put sugar in hot drinks anymore
- No fizzy, gassy drinks. On occasion – ok fine, but definitely not something i regularly consume
- no alcohol – its high in calories, and makes my entire body feel weak. i like feeling strong!!
I also have to consider things which make me bloat. Too much yogurt, for example, has these effects on me. I drink apple cider vinegar with honey and lemon each morning to help my body detoxify and feel fresh again.
My leanness really does all come down to what I’m eating, and how much i feel i am either maintaining my body, trying to gain more muscle (by eating more than i feel i am burning), or cutting my carbs back slightly.
I lift weights 6 times a week too, which boosts my metabolism and means I am very much able to eat a lot and remain in a good physical shape. But as i have said, it all comes down to how i feel!
I understand, that for some, it isn’t as simple as that. I understand that some people don’t really know how they feel or know where to begin. But when it comes to intuitive eating, it’s really all just about listening to your body.
I hope this provides some kind of insight in to how I eat and how I maintain my physique, build muscle and keep healthy.
If you have any other questions I’d love to hear them so ask away!
Love and light