The Meal Plan That Will Get You Lean In 4 Weeks

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Starting a rigorous exercise plan is clearly a key part of achieving your healthy lifestyle goals, but it’s important to remember that working out can only get you so far. At least as important is a healthy diet, and a healthy diet doesn’t just mean cutting out on Friday night takeaway binges. You need to keep an eye on what you’re eating at all times, so to help you out, we’ve enlisted trainer Sion Colenso to devise this four-week diet plan. If you stick to every part of it, you’ll put yourself on the fast track to losing weight and will become leaner, but even if you just use it as guide to the kind of foods that you should be eating, it will still help you make huge changes.

Perhaps the most important change most people need to make when attempting to get leaner is to replace processed foods and refined sugars in their diet. The body simply adores storing these as fat, so instead aim to eat fresh vegetables, protein and healthy fats. Making this change will see you shed that unwanted fat while maintaining your muscle.

RECOMMENDED: High-Protein Foods

Another important part of a healthy diet when trying to lose weight is to make sure your food is full of fibre. This will keep you feeling full, as well as providing your body with a boatload of vital nutrients and antioxidants.

This four-week plan is full of the food you need to be eating and also designed to ensure you’re getting all the nutrition and energy required to support your exercise regimen. It also cuts your calorie intake to around 1,800 a day, which will help you remove any excess flab on your frame quickly. After just four weeks, you’ll be leaner and fitter all around.

It’s worth noting, however, that as this diet plan is designed to help you shed fat and lose weight, gaining muscle mass will be difficult. A novice lifter with little to no training experience could feasibly build some size, but that’s owing to adaptations in the central nervous system. The good news is, though, the level of protein found in this nutritional strategy should be more than enough to maintain your existing muscle mass.

You should also consider your training times when looking to optimise performance and maintain the muscle you’ve got. It is best to work out around the times when you consume the majority of your carbohydrate. Carbs provide your body with muscle glycogen, and ensuring these glycogen levels are topped up means that your body won’t tap into muscle tissue to fuel exercise.

Having your carbs around your training means that your muscles will be primed and strong enough to tackle whatever weight you throw at them, irrespective of your wider weight loss goal. It also means that you won’t suffer a sugar rush and subsequent slump, which is commonplace in many who consume excessive food while remaining sedentary.

Monday

Breakfast: 45g oats with 300ml skimmed milk and 1tsp honey; 200ml apple juice.
Snack: 120g low-fat yoghurt with blueberries and honey.
Lunch: Grilled chicken (1 chicken breast) salad sandwich with wholemeal bread.
Snack: Smoothie – blend 25g whey protein, 80g raspberries, 80g blueberries, 50g blackberries and water.
Dinner: 120g tuna steak with stir-fried broccoli, mushrooms, green beans, sesame seeds and oil; 70g brown rice.
Snack: 250ml skimmed milk.
Daily total: 1,835 calories, 136g protein, 229g carbs, 33g fat

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Tuesday

Breakfast: Smoothie – blend 25g whey protein, 300ml skimmed milk, 100g strawberries and a banana.
Snack: 120g low-fat yoghurt, blueberries and honey.
Lunch: Tuna sandwich on wholemeal bread; 200ml skimmed milk.
Snack: Mixed nuts, raisins and cranberries.
Dinner: 100g chicken, bacon and avocado salad.
Snack: 1 apple with 2tbsp natural peanut butter.
Daily total: 1,802 calories, 131g protein, 219g carbs, 37g fat

RECOMMENDED: 5 More of the Best 4-Week Diets

Wednesday

Breakfast: Smoothie – blend 25g whey protein, 300ml skimmed milk, 100g strawberries and a banana.
Snack: 90g mackerel on 1 slice of wholemeal toast.
Lunch: 1 apple; chicken salad sandwich on wholemeal bread.
Snack: 1 banana.
Dinner: 120g fillet steak with spinach and 2 grilled tomatoes.
Snack: 100g low-fat cottage cheese and pineapple.
Daily total: 1,821 calories, 138g protein, 222g carbs, 35g fat

Thursday

Breakfast: 4 scrambled egg whites on 2 slices of wholemeal toast.
Snack: 1 low-fat yoghurt with blueberries and a handful of oats and honey.
Lunch: Smoothie – blend 25g whey protein, 80g raspberries, 80g blueberries, 50g blackberries and water; 30g brazil nuts.
Snack: 100g low-fat cottage cheese and pineapple.
Dinner: Tuna niçoise salad (100g tuna, mixed salad leaves, plum tomatoes, a red pepper and 4 new potatoes).
Snack: 250ml skimmed milk.
Daily total: 1,835 calories, 136g protein, 229g carbs, 33g fat

Friday

Breakfast: 45g oats with 300ml skimmed milk and 1tsp honey.
Snack: 10 radishes with balsamic vinaigrette.
Lunch: 1 can of tuna with beetroot; 1 low-fat yoghurt.
Snack: Smoothie – blend 25g whey protein, 80g raspberries, 80g blueberries and 50g blackberries with water.
Dinner: 120g barbecue chicken kebab with peppers and 70g brown rice.
Snack: 100g cottage cheese; grapes.
Daily total: 1,808 calories, 133g protein, 219g carbs, 34g fat

Saturday

Breakfast: 2-egg omelette with cheese.
Snack: Smoothie: blend 25g protein, 1 apple, 50g blueberries, 50g blackberries and a banana with water.
Lunch: 90g sardines on 1 slice of wholemeal toast.
Snack: 150g raw carrots and hummus.
Dinner: 100g grilled salmon with green beans, asparagus and 70g brown rice.
Snack: 200ml skimmed milk.
Daily total: 1,822 calories, 135g protein, 221g carbs, 36g fat

Sunday

Breakfast: 4 scrambled egg whites on 2 slices of wholemeal toast; 1 grapefruit.
Snack: Smoothie – blend 25g protein, 300ml skimmed milk, 50g blueberries, 50g blackberries and a banana.
Lunch: Tuna sandwich on wholemeal bread; 1 pear.
Snack: Mixed nuts and fruit bar.
Dinner: 120g fillet steak with 1 small jacket potato, spinach and 1 grilled tomato.
Snack: 1 apple with 2tbsp natural peanut butter.
Daily total: 1,840 calories, 140g protein, 228g carbs, 39g fat

The keen-eyed among you will have noticed this plan only covers you for one week. You could repeat the plan four times over, but that would get a little boring. We suggest you mix it up but keep in the things you really enjoyed eating and replace those you didn’t. Of course, you want to keep the calorie counts for each day around the same but don’t stress about making it exact. Just ensure you make swaps for similar food stuffs. Don’t like smoked mackerel? Swap it out for tuna. Not a fan of radishes? Have artichokes instead.

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This isn’t an exact science, it’s just about changing your habits so you don’t reach for crisps, chocolate or any processed foods when you’re hungry. And perhaps most importantly, avoiding sugar as much as possible. We can’t stress this enough. You could follow this plan to the letter but if you have a can of fizzy drink everyday along with it, you’ll just be shooting yourself in the foot. You’ve been warned!

RECOMMENDED: How to Stop Eating Sugar

Having said that, maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t mean you can never treat yourself. Once you’ve stuck to a strict plan for four weeks introduce one cheat day a week, whether that’s Saturday when you’re hungover and craving junk, or Wednesday because that’s date night. If you spend six days eating well (or even just five on some weeks) treating yourself to pizza, chips and all the stuff you’ve cut out isn’t a problem. We’d still recommend sticking away from sugary drinks though.

Lean Snacks for Grumbling Stomachs

While you adjust to this plan you’ll likely find hunger starts to get the best of you. Don’t abstain, instead, tuck into these healthy snacks that’ll keep you satiated without undoing your fat loss efforts

Apple slices with nut butter: Chop up an apple and eat it with two tablespoons of nut butters – almond, cashew, walnut or peanut are all fine but go for low sugar, whole options. Chunky or smooth is up to you.

Biltong: This South African variety of beef jerky packs in the protein – you get around 30g per 100g serving – is virtually zero-carb and need not taste like cardboard if you find a good butchers. Again, go for the least sugary varieties.

Crudites and hummus: Dunk fresh, crispy celery, carrots, peppers or sugar snap beans into this healthy chickpea-based dip. Choose your hummus wisely though, check the label to make sure it’s not packed with salt.

Greek yogurt: It’s full of healthy minerals including calcium, phosphorous and potassium, packed with live bacteria to improve digestion and has twice the protein of regular yogurt, so it helps your satiety levels.

Guacamole: Avoid the shop version to guarantee it’s free of any additives and make your own. Mash half an avocado and add a squirt of lime, a pinch of coriander and a bit of chopped tomato.

RECOMMENDED: Low-Calorie Snacks

5 Nutritional Tips to Help Burn Fat 

1. Drink water and lots of it

Water is important in absolutely all aspects of fitness and nutrition and it’s surprising to a lot of people how key it is in burning fat. H20 is the medium in which most cellular activities occur, this includes the transport and burning of fat. In addition to this, consuming a lot of calorie-free water can actually make you feel full meaning that you’re less likely to start snacking. Try to drink between 2 and 3 litres of water per day, it sounds like a lot but it’s a genuine difference maker.

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2. Reduce your intake of starchy carbs

Consuming a lot of starchy foods, like pasta, bread and rice (especially all at once) provides the body with more than it needs for glycogen stores and energy, anything that is left over will be stored up as fat. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (USA) revealed that when 69 overweight people were given a diet with a modest reduction in carbohydrates for eight weeks, they had 11% less deep abdominal fat than those given a lower-fat diet. Further, during a second eight-week period in which calories were reduced by 1,000 each day, those on the lower-carb diet lost 4% more total body fat.

3. Get your five-a-day

It’s drilled into our head on a daily basis but it is an important part of staying healthy and burning fat. Vegetables are laced with nutrients, packing maximum nutritional value into minimal calories, leaving you more full on less calories. Try to consume five servings a day of vegetables (not including fruit). It might sound like a lot but if you start working them into sandwiches, snacks and even junk food like burgers and pizza you can hit your quota with ease. 

4. Don’t become overly reliant on fat burners 

While fat burners do help to reduce body fat they will not counteract poor eating habits. If you are taking any fat-burning supplements it doesn’t mean that you can then hit the kebab shop three times a week, you still have to watch what you eat and exercise. Unfortunately fat burners are not magical pills that shed the calories for you, they are to be used alongside a disciplined exercise and nutritional regime. 

5. Limit your consumption of sugar 

Indeed, taking in simple carbs (sugars) prior to training does replenish liver glycogen stores and muscle, but too much sugar consumed at other times of the day will be stored up as fat. Of course we all need to satisfy our sweet tooth occasionally, sometimes a doughnut just hits the spot, but moderation is key, so limiting your intake of sugar to fresh fruit is advised most of the time. Also, remember the amount of sugar that can be found in certain beverages like fruit juice, that’s a sneaky one. Try to replace sugary drinks with water, coffee or tea (with no added sugar… obviously.)