The 3 Habits You MUST Stack To Get Lean and Athletic

The 3 Habits You MUST Stack To Get Lean and Athletic

What does it mean to be lean and athletic?

It means being in your ideal body fat range while having the functional strength and endurance to tackle activities, sports and everyday life like a boss.

To get lean and athletic, you’ll need to stack the following 3 habits:

  1. Metabolic Strength Training
  2. Meal Prepping
  3. Sleeping 7-8 hours

Take 1-2 weeks to focus on each one to ensure that you’re stacking permanent habits.


Metabolic Strength Training

Functional Strength Training is THE most beneficial way to burn calories while exercising.

When programmed properly, you will avoid most knee, back and shoulder issues because you’re realigning your posture for optimal function and performance.

In the meantime, you’ll increase your metabolism and get the “lean and fit” look, versus just being “thin” from cardio.

When you do legit strength training with short rest periods, you get a great cardio effect that is beneficial for lowering resting heart rate, improving heart health (through eccentric hypertrophy, which increases the amount of blood the heart will hold), and endurance along with the other benefits of strength training.

The foundation of your functional strength training program will focus on the following lifts (along with the main areas of benefit):

  • Squats – Quads, glutes, core
  • Deadlifts – Glutes, hamstrings, quads, core
  • Hip Thrusts – Glutes, improving lower body alignment
  • Bench Press – Chest, shoulders, triceps
  • Rows – Upper back, biceps, improving upper body posture
  • Overhead Press – Shoulders, core

Don’t be fooled by light weight alternatives. If you can do more than 12 reps with a weight on these lifts then it’s not legit strength training

Adding core and other movements will help provide the ideal shape and performance to truly be lean and athletic. 

A common concern for females is that by adding weight to movements like this will get them big and bulky.

The truth is, that is likely years of progression away, and very unlikely to ever happen. The dream physique of many women can only be achieved with strength training, and the ideal weight on these exercises is likely somewhere in the middle of a beginners weights and that of a bikini or physique model’s.

For men, strength training is absolutely essential to getting closer to the Men’s Health appearance that most men desire.

To improve your endurance, you must do different types of cardio. Earlier, we spoke of the more moderate intensity cardio that strength training can provide, but running or more conventional steady state cardio fall into this category.

The star of the show is High Intensity Interval Training (HIITs) for burning calories rapidly, improving endurance and increasing the cardiac output from your heart (mostly from concentric hypertrophy, which increases the amount of blood that the heart pumps out).

The ideal blend to improve endurance and get an optimal metabolic effect is a fun variety of both, so your body never adapts.

We call this smarter approach to cardio “Metabolic Conditioning“.

While cardio will make you feel like you had an amazing workout, we must be mindful that our body adapts to cardio rapidly. Just because your heart rate monitor says that you burned 700 calories, that doesn’t mean you’ve just burned a fifth of a pound of fat (which is 3500 calories).

For the average person, the current trend of cardio 4-6 times a week will actually lead to a vast increase in the efficiency of your heart, leading to a huge decrease in the calories (and stored body fat) that you burn from exercise.

Unless you have a specific endurance goal such as a half marathon or climbing a mountain, then you should NOT aim to do long cardio sessions at this frequency.

We’ve found that the sweet spot is 3-5 Metabolic Strength Training sessions per week, year round. 

To be more specific, 2-3 of those days should have more focus on functional strength training with short rest periods for a moderate cardio effect, and Metabolic Conditioning at the end of the workout. 1-2 of those days should be Metabolic Conditioning sessions that are cardio focused with some functional benefits (unlike most cardio programs, which do the opposite).

When you put them together in a well planned week, you have Metabolic Strength Training.

Consistently challenging yourself with Metabolic Strength Training will ensure continued progress on your way to get lean and athletic.


Meal Prepping

Now that you’re in the habit of training smart, it’s time to address the ultimate limiting factor: Nutrition

I’ll lay out the perfect day in a minute, but know this: integrating meal prepping into your routine is critical for continued success.

When done properly, it will save you tremendous time and money while making eating healthy done for you.

Most people will go to the store and cook once a week, but for some, twice a week is better.

Plan on busting out the skillets, oven, crock pots, grill and other cooking tools to make this fast!


Here’s an example of a perfect day for someone that is trying to lose body fat.


Breakfast: Protein shake (Quest or Orgain for dairy free) and a handful of nuts

Lunch: Salad with chicken (Women: 4-5 oz or 1 palm size portion, Men, 6-8 oz or 1.5 palm size portion), low fat balsamic dressing, cranberries and pecan slices

Snack: Protein bar (One, Quest, No Cow for dairy free), optional: low glycemic fruit such as strawberries

Dinner: Ground turkey tacos (Women: 4-5 oz or 1 palm size portion, Men, 6-8 oz or 1.5 palm size portion), plain greek yogurt (sour cream substitute), peppers, salsa. Optional: 2-3 corn tortillas


If you wanted to maintain your body fat while improving your performance, you would simply add carbs such as oatmeal at breakfast and/or bread at lunch.

If meal prepping isn’t in the cards for you, then looking into a local service like Fit Flavors is a worthy investment. At the least, be start being intentional about creating an average day like the one above, and buying healthy food to find a rhythm that works for your lifestyle.

While focusing on meal prepping is arguably the single most important habit that you can learn to help you achieve and maintain your goals, but there’s still 1 more key habit that we need to stack…

Sleeping 7-8 Hours

Sleeping 7-8 hours uninterrupted is the foundation of healthy metabolism, stress management, and being lean and athletic.

Our job, relationships, workouts and life take a beating on our body. 7-8 hours is a great start, but 8-9 hours a night is even better.

If you don’t feel refreshed everyday you wake up, then you’re lacking sleep quality, quantity, or both.

Here’s some tips that can help you improve your sleep:

  • Have an unwinding routine at night that clears your mind by the time you’re ready to go to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine after 2:00 pm
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time 7 days a week, or as close as possible
  • Consider ears plugs and/or an eye mask
  • Take Melatonin (Fast Release and/or Time Release) – Typical recommendations: Women: 5-15 mg, Men: 5-20 mg
  • Take Magnesium – A calming mineral that adrenaline depletes. Increasing Mag at night will increase GABA function, which makes you calmer during sleep, along with tons of other benefits. Typical recommendations: Women: 500-700 mg, Men: 600-1,000 mg


There are many other habits that will help on your journey to get leaner and athletic…but don’t overlook the 3 most important.


At Faster Fitness, we specialize in helping people like you stack these 3 habits, and make transformations like this:

If you want to make 2019 your best year yet, we’d love the opportunity to see if we’re the right fit for you.

Click the link below to learn more about our program and to get you on the path to Faster Results!

About the Author: Marshall Ray

Marshall Ray is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Level 2 Poliquin International Certified Strength Coach (PICP), Biosignature Practitioner and a certified Precision Nutrition Coach (Pn1). He is the founder of Faster Fitness and co-founder of Femme Fit. He's passionate about building a community of people who love fitness and taking control of their health.