Focus Physique
How to Stay Lean Year Round

If you’re wondering how to stay lean year round, then I’d be glad to tell you that it’s not as hard as you’d think! This article isn’t going to tell you how to get lean fast. I’m going to tell you the habits needed to maintain a low body fat year round.

Misconceptions on How to Stay Lean

It’s impossible to stay lean (like really shredded) year round. There, I said it. If you’re looking at your favorite fitness models and are wondering how they continuously stay shredded and get bigger year round, it’s because they’re probably not natural. It also gets increasingly harder to stay lean year round the more muscle mass you build.

This doesn’t mean though that you can’t look great and maintain a low body fat year round. There will just be natural periods of time when you need to do a small cut if you have been good about your lean bulk diet.

A lean bulk diet is when you eat just slightly over your maintenance calorie number (the numbers of calories you’d have to consume to keep the exact same body weight) to ensure you’re putting on muscle while minimizing fat gain. This is the only way to stay lean year round while putting on muscle mass.

In addition to a lean bulk diet, factors such as age and genetics will also affect what body fat you can realistically maintain. If you’ve always naturally been a bigger guy or girl, you naturally are going to maintain a higher body fat percentage . . . especially if you’re older than 30.

This is nothing to be ashamed about either! You can still look fantastic and crush it in the gym! It’s key that you set realistic goals for a maintainable physique along with keeping a positive body image and good mental health.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s guys and girls like me who were chronically skinny and then bulked up. We will naturally have the easiest time maintaining a low body fat even into later in life potentially!

This doesn’t mean however that we can eat whatever we want. Our physiques will be affected and the potential for weight gain is there. We too will have to learn how to stay lean year round.

A realistic body fat percentage for most body types that is maintainable is 8% – 12% for men and 14% – 20% for women. These are low body fat percentages and there will definitely be ab and muscle definition here. You will also still be able to eat the foods you love!

The Secrets to Maintaining a Low Body Fat

When learning how to stay lean year round, you need a diet that is maintainable to maintain a low body fat.
When learning how to stay lean year round, you need a diet that is maintainable. This is the only way you will be successful in maintaining a low body fat year round.

When learning how to stay lean year round, you need to know one foundational secret:

Don’t over complicate your eating, it must be maintainable.

There’s no official diet plan to staying lean year round. If you follow an official diet, chances are you won’t stay in shape year round. Keto, Paleo, the Mediterranean diet, etc., can be effective for some. Chances are though, this drastic diet change will over complicate the process and make it not maintainable.

Simply understand that if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight and if you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.

As stated above, a lean bulk will allow you to eat a couple hundred calories over your maintenance calorie number. This statement will be your priority to focus on. Calories trump all other factors when you’re working to stay lean year round.

My favorite calorie calculator to find your ideal calorie number can be found here.

If you’re like me and are or were a chronically skinny guy/girl, I’ve found that adding 150 – 250 calories to this calorie estimation is accurate for most people (the exception is those with lots of muscle mass) of our body type.

Macros (carbs, fats, and proteins) are the tier down from calories. This doesn’t have to be exact, but it should be kept within a reasonable range. A rough macronutrient ball park for someone who is lean bulking while trying to maintain a low body fat year round is:

  • Carbohydrates: 45%-65%
  • Proteins: 20%-35%
  • Fats: 20%-35%

Determining your macronutrient goal largely comes down to what you can do comfortably along with your body type and your amount of muscle mass.

For someone with a slower metabolism and not much muscle mass, I’d recommend going to the higher end of the protein recommendation and the lower end of the carbohydrate and fat recommendation.

For someone with a higher metabolism and decent muscle mass on the opposite end of the spectrum, I’d recommend going to the higher end of the carbohydrate and fat recommendation and lower end of the protein recommendation.

Creating a plan

If you’re going to learn how to stay lean year round, you’re going to need a plan. Go ahead and figure out what your daily calorie number needs to be along with what you find to be a good macronutrient goal for you.

With this information, I would recommend initially tracking your calories and macronutrients. If all else fails though, calories are number one.

The reason you will be tracking is to make your eating a habit so that it’s second nature. More specifically, you’ll be learning about things such as:

  • Calorie and macronutrient content of various foods
  • How often you should be eating
  • Proper portion sizes
Hardgainers need to be a master of reading food labels to gain weight naturally.
Calorie and macronutrient tracking will give you the knowledge you need to make your eating second nature.

Proper eating habits combined with being self aware of what you are consuming means you won’t have to track everything year round. Knowing these things about your eating will help you learn how to stay lean year round, hassle free, for better success.

Foods to eat

As you could imagine, learning how to stay lean year round involves figuring out the proper food selection. This doesn’t have to be over complicated and you can still eat the foods you love!

This is possible through moderation. I want you to stop envisioning any food as either bad or good. Sure, you could argue how green beans would be a better option when compared to chocolate cake. This is where moderation comes in though.

One piece of cake isn’t going to make or break your diet. One piece of cake also isn’t going to give you diabetes. Frequent eating of chocolate cake though will send you over your calories affecting your ability to stay lean year round. Negative health consequences may follow as well.

With that being said, I’m not going to tell you what you can and cannot eat. I will simply give you guidelines to follow.

Complex Carbs Versus Simple Carbs

Example of Carbs to get lean
Your carbohydrate choices will make a difference in your feelings of satiety and your ability to stay lean.

You’ll want to get most of your carbohydrates from complex carbohydrates versus simple carbohydrates. Complex carbs are slower to be digested by the body which will keep you fuller for longer while providing sustained energy.

Some examples of complex carbs include:

  • Brown Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Whole Grain
  • Kidney Beans

Some examples of simple carbs include:

  • Oranges
  • White Rice
  • White Bread
  • Soda
  • Table Sugar

Lean Protein Sources Versus High Calorie Protein Sources

Paying attention to the protein sources you consume can help you to save a few calories throughout your day aiding in staying lean year round!

Some examples of lean protein sources include:

  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Certain cuts of pork
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Eggs

Some examples of high calorie protein sources include:

  • Peanut Butter
  • Certain cuts of beef and pork
  • Whole Milk
  • Certain Whey/Casein Protein Supplements

IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)

Don’t freak out when you see this section! I’m not going to tell you IIFYM is everything, but looking at the macronutrient content of foods will tell you a lot about that food! Macronutrient content in combination with the calorie content will help you to make an educated decision.

Special Considerations

The information above will set you up on the right track so that you can learn how to stay lean year round! There are a few things you should know though as you go throughout the process.

Cutting Frequency

Periods of cutting will naturally be required, but if you cut too often you will seriously hinder your muscle growth! The appeal of being lean year round is obvious. Social media is a key player in that appeal factor too.

It takes time for your body to grow though. I wouldn’t recommend more than one cut a year. Two is really pushing it if you want to grow at a great rate, especially if these are long cuts.

Amount of Muscle Mass

The amount of muscle mass you carry will greatly influence your eating. If you’re carrying a decent deal of muscle mass already, then you may have to break some of the rules above when learning how to stay lean year round.

I still would recommend tracking to make your eating habitual, but there will come a point where you actually have to turn to calorie dense food options. Therefore, don’t be afraid to eat and get the calories you will need to grow!

Meal Prep

Meal prep can make the process to gain weight naturally much smoother!
Meal prepping can give you an edge in your ability to stay lean year round.

Prepping your meals can be extremely helpful when working to stay in shape year round. Essentially what meal prepping is, is creating a large quantity of a few meals or one meal to eat throughout the week.

Most people that meal prep will pick one day of the week to make all of their meals on such as Sunday. The meals are usually put into individual meal prep containers.

What’s great about meal prepping is the ability to track exactly what you are eating. In addition to this, meal prepping makes eating very convenient.

Learning How to Stay Lean Year Round

Instead of me telling you exactly what you should eat and do, I gave you the tools to find this for yourself. The reason being is that to stay lean year round, it needs to be maintainable. There’s no way around this.

First, you need to create your calorie and macronutrient plan. From there, you’ll eat according to that plan prioritizing calories first and learning what your eating should be like. Finally, you’ll turn loose from the tracking and attempt to do some of it on your own based on what you learned from tracking.

Trust yourself in the process and use the methods and eat the foods that work for you. Before you know it, you’ll have learned how to stay lean year round and will be doing it effortlessly!

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About Brennen Elboeck

I'm Brennen, the founder of I want to give hundreds of thousands of people science based, practical physique and life transforming information! To never miss a post or what's new make sure to sign up for our newsletter above!

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