As you look on enviously at the physiques of fitness models on Instagram, the temptation can be to throw in the towel on your body ambitions, resigning yourself to never looking that lean. It’s their job to be in that type of swole, right? Well, you’re right. Kind of.
What these body types are more indicative of is that there is no quick fix and a low body fat percentage is a matter of consistency. The best way to do this, according to the powers that be of the fitness industry, is through habit forming—incorporating subtle lifestyle tweaks into your everyday routine.
A short-lived resolution list and gym membership gathering dust are not the answer. Instead, try adding these daily habits of ripped men into your regimen to see your waistline shrink and muscles grow.
They Never Fail To Prepare
Because, as the old saying goes, they’d then be preparing to fail. “Mapping out your sessions and meal prepping for the week are the most effective first steps to success,” reveals Third Space personal trainer, Leo Savage.
Book in a fitness class that costs cool hard cash to avoid any urge to drop out. If you’re not a morning person, score more sleep by soaking oats overnight for a pre-prepared carb-loaded breakfast. A little prior thought goes a long way.
They Never Skip Breakfast
Whether it’s the aforementioned overnight oats or smoked salmon and eggs on rye bread, making a proper breakfast every day is essential. That cereal bar on the train doesn’t cut it.
Researchers at the University of Bath revealed that opting for an extra 10 minutes in bed eats into your weight loss potential. Instead, a morning bowlful kickstarts your metabolism to the sum of an extra 442 calories burned every day.
Add a black coffee (put down the latte, please) and further investigation found you’ll burn calories 11 percent quicker, too. A useful safety net when you’re booked in for a client lunch that doesn’t exactly fit the rest of your nutrition plan.
They Set An Alarm
And not just so they don’t sleep through a morning workout session. Interestingly, a recent study in the Journal of Health Psychology found a trigger cue (be that a ringing phone before every workout or a calendar reminder to signal your next protein shake) associates an action with a sound, forming an internal prompt.
This conditions your brain to crave a workout every time you hear it. It’s nerdy science, but it works.
They Never Take A Rest Day
For those of you with even a passing knowledge of exercise plans this may seem sacrilegious, but listen up: “This does not mean daily strenuous exercise,” explains founder of the Brotherhood Training Club, Kemo Marriott. “However, it does mean that some form of activity is completed everyday–you need to move daily in order to maintain a habit of exercise.”
This not only increases your total calorie expenditure but promotes the hormonal releases that can help you recover from major sessions. So, in addition to your boxing HIIT class and deadlift session, add in some low intensity hot yoga and a long slow swim to your week. No one said a habit has to be boring.
They Prioritize Protein
Protein may be best associated with the lumpy shakes chugged by tattoo sleeve-toting gym bros, but this macronutrient is also incredibly important for fat loss: “It has a high Thermic Effect,” says Marriott. “About 25 to 30 percent of its energy is utilized in its metabolization.”
For the bamboozled amongst you, this basically means that you burn more calories digesting this food than others, helping you to lose weight. Protein is more filling, making diets more manageable, and it also reduces the amount of muscle you lose while restricting your calories. Stock up.
They Set And Reset Goals
“The guys you want to emulate in the gym always have a clear goal,” says Savage. “They don’t just exercise for the sake of it, but train for a purpose.”
Make sure you update the way you plan to achieve these goals, too. The same bench press session every Monday for two months will result in plateaued progress.
They Use Teamwork
“We subconsciously mimic the behaviors of those we spend a lot of time with,” says Marriott. “It’s called the ‘Chameleon Effect.’” It’s also the reason why there’s safety in numbers when following a fitness plan.
Surround yourself with the friends who support your healthy habits, and save seeing those most likely to prop up the bar for Friday.
Set up a group chat on your phone where you can share meal pictures for recipe inspiration, or join a sports team where squad training can drag your enthusiasm levels out of the doldrums.
They Lift Heavy
Bicep curls may pump you up in the short term, but heavy, compound lifts like deadlifts, squats and bench presses are the preserve of the ripped elite: “It’s been proven over and again that lifting heavier recruits more muscle fibers,” explains Savage.
More muscle fibers not only repair larger, meaning you’ll pack on size and mass, but you’ll also burn more calories post-workout. So reach for the barbell and start setting PBs.
They Down Pints
But not the ones you were hoping for, sadly. Increasing water intake is an effective way to feel full, helping you to eat less. Moreover, it can boost your metabolism.
The nutritionist-approved way to stay hydrated on a training program is by working out your fluid losses: “Weigh yourself before a session and afterwards towel dry before weighing again,” says Jo Travers, author of The Low-Fad Diet. “Figure out how much weight you have lost and replace it with double in water weight.”
As an example, let’s say you weigh 165 pounds before your workout and 164 pounds after. During your workout, you drank 16 ounces of water so the overall loss there is one pound. You should replace with 32 ounces of water to ensure that you’re properly hydrated.
They Don’t Avoid Cardio
Nobody wants to be a cardio bunny, doing hours on a treadmill—or worse, an elliptical. But the fact is, getting moving has quite the impact on your weight loss. There are plenty of ways to get that cardio in that won’t make you miserable. Take your dog for a walk, go for a run with friends, or kick a ball around in the park.
Another key to upping your metabolism? NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis)— otherwise known as everything we do that isn’t intentional exercise, eating, or sleeping. It’s especially key if you’ve been cutting calories: the lower that caloric intake is, the more likely your body will down-regulate activity, meaning you need to make sure you’re burning calories somehow.
They Get Enough Rest
“Poor sleep has been shown to increase the hormone ghrelin [which stimulates hunger] and decrease the amount of leptin [low levels signal a need to eat more],” explains Marriott.
With all the willpower in the world, walking the supermarket aisles with primal hunter in the pit of your stomach is bound to undo your hard work, with at least one pack of Doritos or frozen pizza going into your cart.
In fact, American research found that weight gain increases by up to 30 percent if your shut eye drops from a restful seven hours to below five. Log off work emails and tech an hour before bed; this will shield you from the blue light emitted by your phone, allowing your body to ease into sleep mode. Lights out and good night.
They Start Their Mornings Off Right
We’ve already discussed the need to use a proper alarm, but once you’re up and at ‘em, it’s important to get your day off on the right foot. Having a set morning routine can help your day become a more positive one.
Whether you want to take a longer shower, sit down and read the newspaper, or just contemplate the dawn on your front porch, make sure that you’re leaving some time for yourself. If your mornings are generally busy, consider a few minutes of stretching and silent meditation at the very least. Starting your day off on a positive note will lead to success throughout the day—and in the gym.
They Actually Deal With Emotions
Don’t worry, we’re not getting all self-help book on you here. But there is plenty of evidence that shows that emotions can affect our weight gains and losses, as well as our success in the gym.
If you find yourself eating based on your emotional responses to situations—whether those emotions are stress, happiness, anxiety, sadness, or anticipation—you probably aren’t paying attention to your physiological needs. Figure out a healthier way to deal with emotions, good and bad, and focus on eating to fuel your body instead of your mind.
They Take The Proper Supplements
No, supplements aren’t going to make or break your routine. But they can help fill in the gaps that your otherwise nutritious meal plan may leave. Not everyone can devote every hour of their day to making perfect choices and planning their post-work gym session. That’s where supplements step in.
They aren’t magic, so don’t rely on them as such. But choosing the proper ones with the help of your doctor or nutritionist can make a big difference. Amino acids, multi-vitamins, protein powders, and creatine can make your gains bigger and your health better, provided that they’re taken consistently on a long-term basis.