These are the principles I stick to and recommend for maintaining low body fat, reducing body fat, and for muscular development.
Set your goal
Decide what it is that you want to achieve from your training. Remember a goal is a dream with a deadline. Write down your goal and GIVE it a deadline. Look at your goal regularly, visualise the new you, focus on it, tell other people about your goal so you are commited to make it happen.
An important factor for goal achievement is to place a motivating force behind it. Some reason that will pull you up when you need it most, some inspiration to drive you towards your goal! If you don't find a driving force or form of motivation to propel you towards your goal, you may end up throwing in the towel. At one point or another we are all faced with varying degrees of adversity, when that time comes how are you going to react? Are you going to lie down and give up? Or are you going to get right back up and take control?
The most profound difference between those who achieve and those who don't is, pure and simply - motivation, focus AND spirit. Once you have your goal clearly set and your motivator in position...
Make a plan
KEEP YOUR PLAN SIMPLE! With any goal orientated training program the structure you follow should remain straight foward and focussed. It's easy to get caught up in the harebrained details of some new hyped up system, forget that. If you want results nothing will beat good old fashioned HARDWORK - combining weight training, cardio, good sound nutrition, supported by no-nonsense supplementation. These 4 elements have been proven by athletes time and time again to develop lean, hard bodies!
OK, now we have that cleared up, this is the strategy...
Many experts agree, and you're probably getting sick of hearing, that metabolism is optimised for energy output (calorie burning) through regularly spaced eating. Eat every 3 to 3.5 hours during your 'waking' hours. Meals spaced apart longer than this can cause your blood sugar to plummet, this can cause any number of physique and performance compromising issues.
Each meal you eat should be of relatively equal size, containing portions of protein, carbs and fat. Eating 5 to 6 x per day is usually the hardest step for most people to follow, but is a great structure for achieving lower body fat. If you are serious about your physique goals aim to achieve this!
Train with weights
At least 3 to 4 times per week. Fat is broken down inside the 'mitochondria' of muscle cells. Developing and maintaining lean muscle should be the number one essential aim of any weight loss program. The speed of your metabolism is directly linked to the amount of muscle you carry. If you make the mistake of letting your muscle waste away through a reckless lifestyle, so too will your fat burning ability! Arrrrgghhhh!
At least 20 to 30 mins, 4 days per week. Ideally before eating in the morning, or, immediately following weight training - you will be primed for maximum fat burning. Oh, and whose idea was it to drink 'energy' carbohydrate sports drinks during training? If you are aiming to get into a fat burning state those sports drinks will bring that to a grinding halt!
Maintain regular and optimum sleep patterns. Sub optimal sleep is linked with stubborn bodyfat and even bodyfat accumulation!!!
Be aware of all fat intake
You mist become aware of ALL fat in your diet, whether hidden in everyday foods, or added by you. Keep this intake well under control.
Use Essential Fatty Acid sources (EFA's)
Such as Flax Seed Oil and Fish Oil. EFA's are EXTREMELY important fats your body requires, and must be consumed through your diet. These 'special' fats are found in very few foods, so find out where they are. EFA's assist in regulating hormone production, metabolism and cell repair, and YES they contribute to fat loss!
Restrict high glycemic, sugary foods
If you must eat them, at least have them with your meals to buffer the insulin spikes that these forms of carbohydrates cause. High insulin levels caused by simple sugars and excess carb intake will do nothing positive for your mid-section! You should aim to maintain stable insulin levels by sticking to low glycemic carbohydrates such as Kumara and Brown Rice as the main carbohydrates in your diet. You will also notice you won't suffer from the energy ups and downs that high glycemic sugars cause.
Watch total carbohydrate intake, don't over indulge. Carbohydrate intake has a strong correlation with obesity and other associated dietary illnessses such as diabetes. Alcohol comes into this category too - Alcohol yields 8 calories per gram (compare that to normal carbohydrate sources which are 4 calories per gram). Alcohol is very high in calories and, I don't have to remind you, has many, many adverse effects on metabolic function.
Put protein at the top of your shopping list
I can't stress this enough. Low quality, and too low protein intake is a limiting factor for many 'physique trainers'. If you want a hard body it's imperative to design a diet that places protein as THE NUMBER 1 PRIORITY. Protein is essential for muscle maintenance and growth, but is also important for our skin and immune system.
Protein is your friend. There has been a lot of confusion and misleading press about protein intake over the years. What is known is that protein has a higher thermic effect in the body over other foods (carbohydrates and fats). This means that through its digestion your metabolism is increased, ie more calories are burned. Protein is also the nutrient least easily converted to fat.
All proteins are not created equally though, so become aware of what proteins provide the most benefit for you. Don't compromise your progress or health by not eating adequate amounts of quality protein. To meet my own needs, I have 4 - 5 x Whey Protein shakes per day as well as 1 - 2 whole food 'meat' servings per day. Whey makes up the backbone of my nutrition plan. I recommend it, whether you are training for a leaner look or for developing increased muscle and strength.
Alright that's my straight forward approach to leanness. All the best with your training, now get into it and make it happen!