How To Get Lean In 2024 (3 Easy Steps)
Here's how to get lean in 2024. In 3 simple, science-backed steps.
If you want to actually get lean this year, the odds are stacked against you.
More than 80% of people who try end up failing. But what exactly are the 20% doing that’s helping them beat the odds?
Well, there are 3 simple, science-backed steps that have gotten me, and several others, leaner than they’ve ever been before.
But before I show you the first step of how to get lean — which has to do with your diet — let's quickly create a realistic timeline for you.
What's A Realistic Timeline For You?
Take a look at the following photos. Be honest with yourself and pick the 1 that best matches your current body. Based on where you are now, this is roughly how long it will take to get relatively lean, right around 15% for men and 25% for women.
Whereas to get even leaner with good ab definition and some vascularity, this is roughly how long it would take.
Now this might be longer than you expected.
But most people highly underestimate just how much fat they have to lose and how long it takes to do so.
It’s not just in your belly, it’s all over your body.
For example, in these 2 photos, I lost roughly 20 lbs in about 14 weeks.
But I also followed the plan I’m about to share with you almost perfectly, which isn’t realistic for most people.
So expect it to take longer than you think.
But as long as you keep trying and trusting the process I’m about to share with you on how to get lean, you will succeed.
Step 1: Diet (Creating A Calorie Deficit)
You’re now ready for step 1: your diet.
This is, without a doubt, what’s going to drive the majority of your results, so please take this step seriously.
First, you need to start forcing your body to use fat for energy.
This is done by creating a calorie deficit, where you're eating fewer calories than your body needs every day.
Now, to find the right calorie deficit for your body, you can use the calculator we’ve made over here.
But figuring that out is the easy part. The hard part is creating a sustainable diet that keeps you in a calorie deficit not just for a day, but consistently for weeks on end.
And doing so starts with your food environment.
Fix Your Food Environment
So there was an interesting cross-sectional study published in 2021 that analyzed the food environment of thousands of American households.
They found that in households where it was easy for people to access high calorie foods like chips, chocolate, sodas, and candy, the more likely it was for them to have poorer diet quality.
Whereas households that had more fruits and vegetables available had a much better diet quality and were far less likely to be overweight.
Now, those interested in learning how to get lean, like yourself, may think the answer lies in willpower.
But lean people don’t necessarily have more willpower than you — as suggested in the 2021 study.
They just make it easier for themselves to stick to their plan.
I personally wouldn’t be able to walk past cookies at home every day and not end up eventually eating them.
So, here's your first tip for how to get lean.
Set yourself up for success by throwing away your trigger foods and taking advantage of your laziness by placing your high-calorie snacks and treats in hard-to-reach places.
This also applies to healthy snacks like nuts and granola.
Anything that you can easily overeat should be out of sight or hard to access.
Also, pay attention to what you’re doing when you eat.
Another interesting finding from the study is that one of the strongest predictors of being overweight was eating meals in front of the TV.
Other studies support this as well, suggesting that distracted eating tends to lead to overeating and less fullness.
So when you do eat, try to shut everything down and just be present.
Eat More Protein
Alright, so you’ve set up your food environment for success, but what foods should you include in your diet?
Well, let’s start with what seems to be the most powerful food for fat loss, protein.
How Does Protein Help When You're Trying To Get Lean?
Now I know what you may be thinking.
Protein..? You'd like to find out how to get lean — and eating protein has nothing to do with that, right? Because it's only good for building muscle?
Yes, protein is good for muscle.
But it's also arguably the most powerful food for fat loss.
For example, one study had a group of subjects simply add just 16 grams of protein into their current diet.
The researchers compared them to a group who followed the same diet but didn’t add the 16 grams of protein, and as a result, ate about 100 fewer calories every day.
The protein group lost significantly more body fat compared to the regular dieting group, despite eating more calories.
More specifically, the 2 protein groups lost significantly more body fat (-4 pounds or 1.8 kilograms) as compared to the control group (-1.5 pounds or 0.7 kilograms)!
Other studies have found similar effects, especially when this is combined with lifting weights.
As for why this happens, it’s likely related to the fact that protein is the building block of your muscles.
So by providing your body with enough protein, you’re “protecting” your muscles from being burned off for energy during a diet.
This forces your body to burn off more of your fat instead.
Optimal Protein Intake To Get Shredded
As for how much protein to eat when it comes to how to get lean, research typically shows the greatest benefit when protein is increased to about 0.8 g per lb of your body weight per day.
So if you weigh 180 lbs, you’d aim to eat around 140 grams of protein per day.
Now here’s what 30 grams of protein actually looks like from high-quality sources.
Pick 1 of these to have with each of your meals, and you should be able to easily hit your daily target.
Highly Satiating Foods
Now, in addition to protein, there are a handful of other foods that can have a powerful effect on your fat loss.
These come from what’s known as the Food Satiety Index created back in 1995.
Basically, a team of researchers ranked 38 different foods based on how well they kept people full and satisfied after a meal.
Here are the results:
Potatoes absolutely crushed the ranking and came out way on top.
Other foods that ranked very well include:
- Whole grains
- Lean proteins
- Fruits (e.g., apples, grapes, and oranges)
Unfortunately, they didn’t test vegetables, but I’d assume they’d rank extremely well because of how few calories they contain relative to their volume.
As for what scored the lowest, higher processed foods like the following all ranked quite poorly:
- White rice
- White bread
- White pasta
So, when it comes to how to get lean, what I’d suggest is to try to eat more of these highly filling, nutritious foods 80% of the time. Then 20% of the time, allow yourself to eat treats and more processed foods that, although won’t fill you up as much, will help you avoid an overly restrictive mindset.
And if you’re wondering what this looks like as a full day of eating, a sample "How to get lean" diet plan could be:
- Breakfast: Protein pancakes
- Lunch: Salmon and potatoes
- Dinner: Chicken and veggies
- Dessert: Greek yogurt with fruit
All of this comes up to just 2,100 calories. And don't worry, at the end of this article, I'll leave a link to this exact meal plan.
So incorporating what we’ve talked about should increase the odds that you’re eating in a calorie deficit, which is key for how to get lean.
But you’d be surprised with how easy it is to overeat even if you’re eating healthy.
So as a final note for your diet, I’d highly recommend actually tracking your calories and seeing if you’re on target.
Even if it’s just for a week it’ll help you at least be aware of roughly how much you’re eating and whether you need to adjust anything.
It’ll take just 5 minutes per day once you get the hang of it, but believe me, it’s truly what separates those who get results from those who just end up spinning their wheels.
Step 2: Exercise
Alright. We’ve got your diet covered, but, as you probably already know, when it comes to how to get lean, the role of exercise cannot be overlooked.
So, what are the best exercises to help you get lean?
Well, luckily for us, a recent meta-analysis ranked several different fat loss protocols from most to least effective.
Cardio, without any focus on diet, was the least effective method.
The most effective methods, however, were all combinations of diet plus some kind of exercise.
But notice how high up resistance training is.
Combining diet with resistance training performed even better than combining diet with just cardio.
Now I know this may seem a little confusing.
Lifting weights doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as cardio does, so how can it lead to more fat loss?
Well, as I’ve covered in a past article exploring the relationship between cardio and weight loss, people tend to compensate for the calories they burn through cardio and don’t actually end up burning as many net calories as they think.
How To Get Lean: Lift Weights
But more importantly, the reason lifting weights is great for fat loss is similar to why eating more protein helps with fat loss.
Lifting weights tells your body:
“Hey! We need to keep this muscle so we can lift these heavy weights! Burn something else for energy instead!”
As a result, your body will prioritize burning more fat rather than muscle for energy.
Whereas if you only did cardio, the signal to keep your muscle wouldn’t be as strong.
Leading to more muscle loss and less fat loss.
This is a big no-no because it’s been shown the more muscle you lose during a diet, the more likely you’ll be to regain fat after your diet is over.
So, when it comes to how to get lean, you should:
- Use your diet to do the hard work of creating most of your calorie deficit, but also
- Lift weights 3-5 times weekly to tell your body to keep your muscles and use fat for energy instead
But as great as lifting weights is, this doesn’t mean you hit the gym and sloth around the rest of the day.
Remember, lifting weights isn’t all that good at burning calories.
So although most of your calorie deficit should be created from eating less, part of it should be from moving more.
In fact, one of the reasons why people fail to get lean during a diet is because they subconsciously get lazier and reduce the number of steps they take as they get leaner and leaner.
To avoid this, start tracking your daily steps.
Try to build up to at least 7,000 steps per day and keep that consistent throughout your diet.
Now I do have a full daily walking routine you can check out here, but hitting your daily step count doesn’t just have to be through walking.
If you’re stuck in a desk job all day and don’t have time to go on hour-long walks, then you might have to incorporate 20-30 minutes of cardio a few times a week or after your weightlifting workouts.
But start small with the main goal of becoming just a little bit more active than you were before.
Step 3: Consistency
So if you properly apply everything we went through so far on how to get lean, you should be able to lose about 1-2 lbs of fat per week.
Repeat that for several weeks, and eventually, you’ll be at your goal body fat percentage.
But we all know that’s much easier said than done.
Step 3, staying consistent, is where most people fail when it comes to how to get lean.
And I don’t blame them.
Eating healthy, tracking your calories, doing your workouts, and getting enough steps every single day can get overwhelming.
How To Get Lean Consistency Hacks
But there are 3 consistency hacks that I’ve found make people far more likely to stick it through and succeed.
The Power Of 60%
The first of my "how to get lean consistency hacks" is what I like to call the Power of 60%.
One study compared:
- Those who tracked their calories at least 60% of the time
- Those who tracked less than 30% of the time
- Those who tracked inconsistently, so maybe even 100% on some weeks but less than 30% on other weeks
Can you guess which group lost the most fat?
The 60% group!
So, when it comes to how to get lean, instead of aiming for perfection, just aim to hit your goals at least 60% of the time.
If you look at this on a weekly basis, that’s just 4 or 5 out of 7 days of the week.
Only once that becomes “easy”, aim for more.
It’ll be easier for you to stick to, you’re going to put less pressure on yourself, and you’re still going to get good results.
As for the second "how to get lean consistency hack", let’s say you were going on a road trip across the country.
What would happen if you tried to do the drive all in one go?
While you might start off strong, eventually, you’d burn out and run out of gas.
The same is true with dieting.
As much as we want to get to the end destination as quickly as possible, we need to take breaks every now and then to recharge.
In the fitness world, this is what’s known as diet breaks.
It’s a week or two where you increase your calorie intake to around 500 calories more than when you were dieting.
While it’s not a free pass to eat whatever you want, it will give you more flexibility with your food choices and can help you recharge both mentally and physically before your next dieting phase.
As for how often to do them, typically after every 8-12 weeks of consistent dieting is when I highly recommend considering a diet break.
Don’t Focus On The Belly
The last "how to get lean consistency hack" I have has to do with your belly fat.
Most people, if after 6 weeks of dieting, they see no change in their belly, they assume it’s not working, and they quit.
But your body saves the best for last.
Usually, your body will start by losing fat around your chest, shoulders, arms, back, and even your face.
Only once it’s lost enough fat from those areas will it make its way down to your upper stomach area and then finally your lower belly.
The real “secret” is just sticking it out for longer.
Here’s an example from one of our Built With Science members, Jesse, who stuck to his plan for a year.
There wasn’t much difference in his belly in the first 3 months.
Month 8 is when you can really start to see big changes in his belly area.
Not from him changing anything, but from simply trusting the process and sticking to the plan.
Here’s another example from Archie, who ran our program for 10 months.
His face, chest, and shoulders were all the first areas to improve.
But just imagine if he quit after “month 4” because he wasn’t seeing much progress in his “belly fat”.
Here’s another one from Tamara after just 8 months of simply “sticking to the plan”.
Remember, you have a lot more fat to lose than you think.
So until you get lean enough to notice your belly fat coming off, be proud of the fat loss progress you’ve made in your face, arms, chest, and shoulders.
Bottom line? When it comes to how to get lean, you must have patience.
Don’t quit right before the going gets good.
- How to get lean? The 3 steps to follow are: 1) create a calorie deficit, 2) exercise, and 3) stay consistent.
- To create a calorie deficit, fix your food environment, eat more protein (ideally 0.8 g/lbs. of body weight), prioritize highly satiating foods, and track your calories.
- When it comes to how to get lean, exercise’s importance cannot be overlooked. Lift weights to minimize muscle loss and increase steps to keep your metabolism high.
- The 3 hacks you could use to stay consistent are: 1) aim to hit your goals 60% of the time, 2) take diet breaks, and 3) don’t use your belly fat as a measure of progress.
And if you want a science-based, step-by-step plan that guides you every single week, just like we did with Jesse, Archie, and Tamara, just take our quiz below to find the best plan for you and your body:
Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:
Congrats! You now know how to get lean for 2024. Hope you enjoyed this one, you can give this article a read next for a daily walking routine to help with your fat loss or give this a read for a full fat loss meal plan.
Thanks for sticking to the end, and I'll catch you next time!