If your body fat percentage is too high, reducing that percentage is the first step to fine-tuning your performance. There are 3 main ways to lean up – dehydration, lean body mass loss, and fat loss. Performing in a dehydrated state and losing lean body mass are obviously not ideal (or healthy) choices. If you’re losing lean body mass, it is a result of either cutting back on food intake by too many calories, losing weight to fast, not eating the macronutrients in the proper ratio, or not training properly. That means your body is breaking down muscle tissue – or there has been a reduction in bone or connective tissue (all of which are not good – especially for athletes). Fat loss should be your desired goal.
Begin your program to lean up by setting realistic goals. One of these goals should be to reach a reduced body fat percentage that is not only realistic but can also be achieved within your time constraints.
Keep in mind the following guidelines when you start your program to lean up.
- Eat 5 meals/day – this will minimize cannibalizing muscle tissue as well as keeping your metabolism raised throughout the day.
- DO NOT skip meals. Maintain proper macronutrient (CHO, PRO, fat) ratio.
- Monitor your body composition.
- Keep your fat intake to no more than 20-25% of your total caloric intake.
- Start reading nutrition labels.
- Eat according to the next 3 hours of your day – if you’re going to be inactive (sitting in class), eat fewer calories.
- Eliminate junk food. Avoid foods that are high in sodium.
- Eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables/day. Mix in lots of fresh foods.
- Use low-fat protein supplements to help meet your daily protein requirements.
- Increase your intake of foods that are high in fiber.
- Make sure you’re consuming enough water.
- Start taking a (certified) multivitamin.
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