Busy Is Not An Excuse
No matter how busy you are, if you prioritize a goal you'll get it done. And unless you make getting lean a top priority, it probably won't happen. But you're busy, you say. Your schedule is tight. Sorry, not an excuse. You just need to learn to become efficient with your time spent in the gym and kitchen.
Here are the best tips to get lean if you're pushed for time:
The best way to save time in the kitchen is to batch cook. There are many ways to do this. The key is finding what fits your lifestyle.
One method is to get all your cooking done for the day in the morning. Get your meat, rice, and veggies on the stove, then go about getting ready for the day. After your shower and breakfast, everything will be ready.
Some people don't like cooking everyday. So instead, pick one or two days in the week to cook everything for the subsequent days, then store it in the fridge. Sunday is usually the best day because you'll generally have more time to get organized for a big batch cook.
It's a lot easier to stick to your nutrition plan when you have your meals ready to go. Remember, if you have to decide what to eat and how to make it when you're already hungry, chances are you're going to stray from your diet plan.
This doesn't mean you need to eat the same thing for the rest of your life. Instead, busy people do well eating about the same things every day, or at least Monday to Friday when at work. This removes a lot of the thinking and calculating out of dieting, and allows you to go into "autopilot" with your nutrition.
If you do like variety, a better way would be to change your menu slightly each week. This way you can still batch cook and stay organized. When you change the menu every day and use different foods throughout the day, batch cooking becomes a nightmare, and your time spent in the kitchen will actually increase.
If your goal is to get lean, keep it fairly simple and boring. An example from my own diet:
- Meal 1: Eggs, Smoked Salmon, Oats
- Meal 2: Chicken, Veg, Rice (premade that morning)
- Meal 3: Shake (blended the night before and ready to go)
- Meal 4: Chicken, Veg, Rice
- Meal 5: Chicken, Veg, Rice
If I wanted to make a change, I could do this the following week:
- Meal 1: Eggs, Oats
- Meal 2: Turkey, Veg, Sweet Potato
- Meal 3: Shake
- Meal 4: Turkey, Veg, Sweet Potato
- Meal 5: Turkey, Veg, Sweet Potato
Boring but effective.
Shakes make things much easier if you're busy. Protein powder is super convenient to use, easy to consume, and makes hitting your protein target a hell of a lot easier compared to chewing down endless grams of chicken breasts.
If you're busy this template works really well:
- Breakfast: Whole Food
- Mid-Morning: Shake
- Lunch: Whole Food
- Mid-Afternoon: Shake
- Dinner: Whole Food
You can have a shake and a handful of nuts or pre-make some protein pudding. Mix the powder with almond or peanut butter and just enough water to make a "paste." The taste is unreal when dieting. Chocolate protein powder and peanut butter is like melted Snickers in your mouth!
When you're busy, it's tempting to skip meals, which can be disastrous for your productivity and fat loss.
The problem with skipping meals is that it can lead to unstable blood sugar levels. This wreaks havoc on your cravings and hunger levels, and makes cheating on your diet much more likely. You forget to eat for 6-7 hours and then it hits you: blood sugar crashes and next thing you know you're reaching for a chocolate bar.
Consistency on your diet is ultimately what determines your results. If you know you're going to be busy, plan ahead, know when you're going to eat, and take the appropriate steps to make sure you don't fall off the wagon.
If you're busy, you don't have time to mess around in the gym. It should be a focused period of 45 to 60 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week, of hard work. Your focus in the gym should be on progressive overload through a wide variety of rep ranges. Set goals, pick big compound movements that suit you, and get after it.
Focus on increasing your NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. NEAT, your basal metabolic rate (BMR), and the thermic effect of the foods you eat are what make up much of your energy expenditure in the day.
What makes NEAT so important is that depending on how active you are, it can make up anywhere from 15 to 50% of your total energy expenditure. It includes activities such as cooking, cleaning, walking, fidgeting etc. But it's extremely significant. It can make the difference between being at calorie maintenance or in the deficit you need for fat loss.
One of the best way to gauge NEAT is to track your steps. Start being conscious of it in daily life and build extra movement into your routine. Examples:
- Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
- Take phone calls while walking.
- Walk to the bus stop or train station. Get off a few stops earlier on your commute. If you drive to work, park farther away than you need to.
- During your breaks at work, go for a walk.
- If your office has a standing desk, stand.
Tracking NEAT also becomes important when you're in the latter stages of a body transformation or contest diet, when calories and body fat are low. It's at this time you feel drained, low on energy, and lazy, so you'll subconsciously move less. It becomes critical for you make the effort to stay active throughout the day so you maintain the deficit required.
When you're busy, the first thing that you'll tend to sacrifice will be your sleep. Most people don't sleep enough, and it isn't always in their control. So you need to learn how to sleep better and smarter to maximize the quality of the time you do spend with your eyes shut. A few strategies:
- Wake up at the same time every day.
- Don't hit the snooze button.
- Do something physical when you wake up, like a quick morning walk.
- Avoid caffeine ten hours before bed.
- Limit electronics at least 30 minutes before sleeping.
- Eat some carbs at night, and perhaps use a supplement like magnesium.
One of the best things you can do to accelerate your progress is hire someone to take all the thinking out for you. When you've got a million things to worry about, wondering whether you should do 3 or 4 sets, or whether you should eat 100g or 200g of carbs, is the last thing you want on your mind.
That's why I always have a coach myself. I believe in the power of it, so I invest in one. Doing so allows me to focus all my "thinking energy" into my work, and not worry about what I've got to do for myself.