How to Build Lean Muscle

Though many people say they want to build lean muscle, most aren’t exactly sure what it means. In fact, there really isn’t such a thing as lean muscle – muscle doesn’t have fat, so it can’t be anything but lean. But there is such a thing as being lean and having strong healthy muscles that look great because there isn’t a layer of fat hiding them. That is the look that people are referring to when they say that they want to build lean muscle, and getting there really isn’t that difficult. It just requires a fair amount of discipline and attention to three basic areas – diet, strength training, and cardiovascular training.

The most important thing to remember about building lean muscle is that no matter how many set or crunches you have done in the gym, you’re not going to have a visible six-pack or sexy, defined arms if there’s a layer of fat hiding it. It’s kind of like hiding a fantastic body under a big puffy down coat – it may be there, but nobody can see it. So at least half of your effort has to be devoted to shedding that fat overcoat you’ve built up. To do so, you need to make sure that you are combining fat-burning exercise with a clean, protein-heavy diet.

Sexy muscular man on dark background

Eating for a Lean Toned Body:

Meat
To make sure that you are shedding the fat and building a beautiful body, start paying attention to the fuel you’re feeding it. To build muscle you need to be taking in quality protein at every meal – this means lean cuts of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Dairy is good as long as it is fat-free or low fat. You also want to make sure that you are cutting out any unnecessary fats and sugars (now is not the time for that cupcake!), and that any fat that you do consume is the healthy variety that is found in olive oil, nuts, or avocadoes. Load up on plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and most importantly, stay away from refined, processed carbohydrates.

In order to avoid hunger, try to eat five small meals a day instead of only two or three larger ones. Perhaps most importantly, make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water. The old adage about drinking eight glasses a day is absolutely correct. Staying hydrated will not only help prevent you from feeling hungry, but your muscles will also function better and build protein more efficiently if they have plenty of liquid nourishment.

Burn off that Fat with Cardio!

Group at a gym - cardio

Cardiovascular exercise gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing at an accelerated rate. It burns off calories quickly, and when you’re eating a healthy diet that’s loaded with protein and low on excess fat, it’s going to pull those calories from that fat that you’re trying to obliterate! And in addition to burning off calories during the course of your exercise session, a good cardiovascular workout will keep your metabolism burning at a higher level long after you’re done, thus increasing and extending its caloric impact. If you really want to maximize the impact of your cardio, then look into doing HIIT training – High Impact Interval Training. This is where you alternate a short burst of maximum with longer recovery periods done at a lighter output. Research has shown that HIIT not only burns more calories, but keeps your metabolism revved long after you’re done. Another benefit of cardio is that it can boost the hormones that cut back on your appetite. Cardio doesn’t need to be hard. You can walk, swim, run, climb onto an elliptical trainer – but make sure that you’re putting in a good 40 minute workout at least twice a week, preferably alternating it with strength training, which is the final piece to the puzzle.

Build that Muscle!

Finally, you want to make sure that you have a good, effective strength training program that you are engaging in at least two to three times per week. A good program that involves every muscle group in a balanced way will not only make your muscles stronger and bigger, but will also help you with your fat-burning efforts because muscle boosts your metabolism. It is important, however, that you understand exactly how muscle grows so that you don’t work in a way that is counterproductive. The muscles that you have in your body have been with you since you were a teenager; when you work out, you are not growing new muscle fibers, you are just enlarging the ones that you already have. That building process doesn’t happen in the gym; it happens once you’ve left the gym. When you lift weights or do strength exercises, you create microtears in your muscle fiber that your body then attempts to heal when you’re at rest. It is this healing process that enlarges your muscle, and the only way for it to happen is if you give your muscles some downtime. Make sure you allow a muscle group 48 hours between workouts in order to maximize their effect.