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Lean and Mean, Part II

By Jason Gootman and Will Kirousis

Last week we shared two of the six things you can do right now to boost your wellness, naturally get leaner, and race faster. Protein and a nutrient-dense diet can make a big difference, just like these four suggestions you can easily focus on to make minor changes in your daily routine.

breakfastEat a Good Breakfast
Studies show that people who eat breakfast eat better throughout the day and are leaner. People who skip or skimp on breakfast tend to crave sugary foods more, tend to eat large dinners and tend to eat more after dinner, all of which prevents optimal leanness. To get out of that cycle, start eating breakfast. Just do it. Do it for a few weeks and it will be your new habit. You’ll notice that you’ll eat better throughout the day and that you have more energy.

Don’t have a lot of time for breakfast? These options are quick and easy:

  • Have dinner leftovers. This works great as soon as you get over the idea that you are not eating “traditional” breakfast foods. This is a quick, easy, and nutritious way to go.
  • Eat a vegetable omelet with some fruit on the side.
  • Make a blender drink of fruits, vegetables, eggs, protein powder, or whatever foods you like. The powerful blenders on the market allow you to make delicious, nutritious concoctions in minutes.

Go Hard in Your Workouts
Keep the intensity down and you’ll burn more fat, right? Not right! It’s true that exercise intensity is inversely proportional to the percentage of energy burned that is fat. That is, at higher exercise intensities, you burn a higher percentage of carbohydrate and a lower percentage of fat. But at higher exercise intensities, you burn more total energy and thus more total fat. You also burn more energy in the hours after exercising when you workout intensely. The primary way to swim, ride, and run intensely is to perform regular interval workouts. Of course, all your workouts should not be interval workouts, but don’t shy away from them in the name of keeping the intensity down in order to get lean. That’s a mistake.

Sleep More, Sleep Better
Did you know that people who sleep less and don’t sleep as well tend to have less control of their appetites and tend to have more fat on their bodies? Here’s how it works. Two hormones have a big impact on your appetite and satiety levels. Leptin is secreted by fat cells and tells your brain that the amount of fat being stored is sufficient. Leptin signals that your body has plenty of energy in reserves. As a result, with high amounts of leptin, your brain sends signals of satiety.

Ghrelin is a hormone secreted by the digestive system when there is little food in the stomach. With high amounts of ghrelin, your brain sends signals of hunger, to increase your appetite. When you don’t get good sleep, blood levels of leptin drop and blood levels of ghrelin rise. Together, this decrease in leptin and increase in ghrelin alters your normal satiety response. You remain hungry even when you’ve had enough to eat. Over time, this leads to excess body fat. We see this often. People who workout like crazy and have good diets, but have that extra 5-10 pounds of fat on their abdomen or hips. These athletes are often not sleeping very much and/or not sleeping very well.

To up your sleep game:

1. Get as much sleep as you can. Sleep is one of those areas where more truly is better. Seven hours is better than six, eight is better than seven, nine is better than eight. That said, don’t judge yourself and don’t compare yourself to others. Get as much sleep as you can realistically with the other things you choose to make part of your life.

2. To get more sleep, get to bed a bit earlier. For many people, sleeping in later in the morning is not an option. But many people can get to bed a bit earlier by simply turning the television off a little earlier.

3. Go to bed at the same time on most nights. Getting to bed consistently at the same time helps ensure you get as much a sleep as you can and promotes good sleep quality.

4. On days when you don’t need to get up early for work and/or workouts, sleep in. Yes, sleep in. If you feel guilty or anything like that, let it go. You don’t need it. Sleep is one of the keys to wellness. Enjoy it!

5. Make sure your bedroom is very dark. The darker the better. Make sure there are no lights from any electronic devices. Your body perceives this light as daylight and this negatively affects the quality of your sleep.

6. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable: not too hot and not too cold. If you’re too hot or too cold, you won’t sleep as well as you can. Keeping your bedroom at 60 to 65 degrees at night is best for most people.

7. Avoid eating within a few hours of bedtime. Give yourself some time to digest your dinner before you to go to sleep. Also, avoid drinking excessive amounts of water in the few hours before bedtime. Drink throughout the day, but back off in the evening.

8. Ideally, spend the few hours before bedtime resting. This makes it easy to wind down, fall asleep quickly, and sleep deeply.

Chill Out
Do you have a stress belly? When you are under stress of any kind, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol. This fight-or-flight hormone stimulates the release of carbohydrate for fuel and shunts fat burning. Are you always on the go? Can’t sit still? This could be the cause of the extra fat lingering on your abdomen or hips. To rectify this, chill out! Make time for high-quality rest as often as you can. Rest is a lost art, but you can bring it back. Lay in a hammock, get caught up in a good book, watch that movie you’ve already seen five times, but can’t get enough of. Become a master at chilling out.

Being lean is a natural byproduct of living well. As we always tell our athletes, wellness is the foundation of athletic ability. Live better today with these tips—you’ll get lean, go faster, and reap many other rewards.

Learn more about Jason Gootman, Will Kirousis, and Tri-Hard at