Great bodies don’t just happen by accident. And any trainer worth their protein powder will be the first to tell you that there are no shortcuts on this road. Getting a rock-hard body will take significant effort and dedication. Whether you’re aiming to be lean and mean or big and yoked, it’s going to take some time. So if you’re expecting to get ripped fast in a week or so, let us just be real and say. that's just not going to happen. But if you’re ready to put in the work and just want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to get the most from your effort, well, that’s a plan we can get behind.
To help, we’ve checked in with some experts and trainers to share a few helpful tips to create your own path of least resistance. Because there are some recommended ways for you to achieve your goals without wasting time—or worse, falling into common traps that can actually undercut your efforts. The goal is to chisel away and uncover that dream body without it seeming like a sisyphean task. Of course, it’ll still take time. And depending on where you find yourself on the fitness spectrum, it could take anywhere from a couple of weeks or months to a year to get to where you want to be. But that’s no problem. After all, no pain, no gain, right?
Track Your Food Intake
Yes, you need to put in regular (and consistent) time at the gym to see those muscles pop, but you might be surprised to know that you don’t necessarily need to put in more gym time. Far more important, several experts told us, is to focus on your diet. Abs are made in the kitchen, as they say. Doug Miller, professional bodybuilder and co-author of Biology for Bodybuilders,suggests tracking what you eat, focusing on macros first.
In recent years, this approach to eating (also called IIFYM, or “if it fits your macros”) has taken the fitness world by storm. A much more flexible way of thinking about nutrition, it turns old-school, calorie-based dieting on its head by focusing instead on the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats making up those calories. According to an IIFYM eating plan, if you stick to your daily macro goals, you'll automatically consume fewer calories, which can lead to weight loss and muscle gain. That's not possible when you're depriving yourself on a crash diet.
Focus on Fiber
Even if the only change you make to your diet is increasing your fiber intake, you'll shed pounds. Dieters who were told to get at least 30 grams of fiber a day, but given no other dietary parameters, lost a significant amount of weight, according to researchers who published their findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Fiber-rich foods not only fill you up faster and keep you feeling full and satisfied longer, they also prevent your body from absorbing some of the calories in the foods you eat. That's because fiber can actually bind with fat and sugar molecules as they travel through your digestive tract. How’s that for an added bonus?
Consider a Meal Delivery Service
This isn’t an imperative step, but it was mentioned several times, in terms of keeping the amount of work and calculations to a minimum. There’s never been more healthy meal services available to us, able to be customized and delivered right to our door. Yes, most do have a cost premium to them, but think about all the time and energy you save by offloading all the planning and meal prep. Even if just for a few weeks at the beginning of your journey, these services can really take the guesswork (and the prep work) off your plate.
You might’ve heard that you should go lighter with your weights and do more reps to cut those muscles. But Miller is adamant: This is the worst thing to do! He says we need to keep challenging ourselves with heavy weights so the body will want to hold onto its muscle while cutting. Why exactly does this work? Lifting heavier weight (approximately 70-75% of your one-rep max) activates Type 2 or “fast twitch” muscle fibers, which are important in developing strength and promoting hypertrophy (muscle growth along with an increase in the size of muscle cells). The added bonus? You get more bang for less time in the gym.
Get More Sleep
It’s not always easy to carve out ample time to get eight (or more) solid hours of shut-eye, but in the scheme of things, it’s the easiest thing you can do to ensure you’re building muscle and losing fat. When you’re using your muscles, you’re tearing them down, which supports strengthening and growth, but the actual building of muscle happens when you are sleeping. And when it comes to fat loss, poor sleep has been linked to increased belly fat in numerous studies.
Don’t Skip Rest Days
Rest is essential for recovery in general, because it helps us keep our energy levels high and mood stable—both of which can affect our desire to work out and stick to a healthy diet if not managed properly. In that sense, rest days are just as important to training as the days you’re working out. When resistance training for the major muscle groups (like your legs, your core, or your upper body and arms) personal trainer Chris Gagliardi suggests resting 48 to 72 hours before training the same muscle group again (which is also the recommendation by the American College of Sports Medicine). That means you could strength train on as many as four or six days a week, as long as you’re alternating muscle groups, he says.
* FYI: BodyBuilding.com has a macro calculator that can help you determine your daily targets for three goals: Weight loss, weight gain and overall health maintenance.