Building Long, Lean Muscle


5985819263_83deb358b1_o Photo credit: Ana Ivanovic Eastbourne 2011 via photopin (license)

Diana Robinson- Nutritionist

As a nutritionist working in both clinical practice and in retail health, I see a lot of people wanting to tone-up and build lean muscle without looking pumped-up. The truth is, it actually takes a lot of hard work and strict dietary planning to get to that level of body sculpting. The most common comment I hear is, “I want to start using protein, but I don’t want to look like the guy on the packet.”  But, it’s important to keep in mind that the people you see on advertising material are elite athletes or body builders and they have dedicated their lives to getting their body that way. For the average person, wanting to tone-up and build lean muscle is achievable, all you need is the following key ingredients:

Adequate Protein in Your Diet is a Must

You don’t need to be consuming fancy protein supplements so long as you are getting it from your food. The rule of thumb is you need 0.8g protein per kilo of body weight, and 1.1g per kilo if exercising more than 2 hours a day. To put this into perspective, one medium sized egg contains on average 6g of protein. A 100g steak contains about 24g of protein.

Weight Bearing Exercise is Crucial

Working with heavier weights will tear the muscle, which will, in turn, increase its size as it repairs. If you are wanting to tone-up without the bulk, focus on lighter weights with more reps, or try strengthening exercises which use you own body weight and focus on your core like Pilates and yoga.

Go Easy on the Carbohydrates

Reducing the amount of sugar and starchy carbohydrates in your diet will help to keep you lean. For general health you should not be consuming refined foods such as white bread and sugar, but it’s also important to look at the portions of good carbs in your diet such as brown rice, buckwheat etc. A good way to measure your portions is to use your own body as measurement. A serving of complex carbohydrate should be no bigger than the size of your fist. Protein, the size and thickness of the palm of your hand, and oils no more than the size of your thumb.

Aim to incorporate a combination of cardio and weight bearing exercise, preferably something you actually enjoy. You can also have fun with your outfits and even your drink bottles. These small details may give you the extra motivation you need to get your butt off the couch and put it into gear.

DianaRobinson_PhotoDiana Robinson is a Melbourne based nutritionist working in clinical practice with a special interest in food intolerance, fitness and mood disorders.

Diana graduated from Melbourne’s Endeavour College of Natural Health with a Bachelor Degree in Health Science – Nutritional Medicine. She is a firm believer in living life to the full and taking care of your body by feeding it healthy, nutritious food but not forgetting to nourish your mental wellbeing also.

Diana encourages patients to seek enjoyment from the food they eat rather than having a negative relationship with food. When you learn to eat right, you will learn that food is your friend and not your enemy. 

You can follow her Instagram for inspiration and recipes @dianar_nutrition.

Matt Thambirajah – Personal Trainer, Empowerment Coach and Counsellor

In a world that has been inundated with the ‘perfect’ male and female physiques, I often get asked by clients, “How can they can build a leaner, firmer and more toned body?” I often tell them, “It’s not easy to explain, especially not in just one sentence, but that there are a couple of steps that they can take to get the right results.”

These steps are as follows:

Watch Nutritional Intake

The basis for creating the body that you want starts with two things; mindset and nutrition. For this purpose of this article, we will focus on just the nutritional aspect of things. The first advice that I always give my clients is to make sure that they are eating the right foods for their ‘transformation’. This means eating Macro Nutrients – proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Avoid Junk Food

The most important fact of building muscle is to eat the right foods. Why is this? Because even though, you can get your macros eating junk foods, you are getting too many calories all at once, rather than spreading it out evenly over your day and having the best foods possible. Again, we want to feed the muscle so that it grows, rather than just having a huge calorie hit. We also want to eat so that we have a higher chance of burning body fat instead of putting on more unwanted body fat.

Exercise to Get that Lean Look

There are a number of ways that you can build that lean muscle. But the best, in my opinion, is a combination of cardio and weight training that will help burn calories, build strength, and build lean muscle mass.

Know Your Body Shape

How you burn fat and build muscle is entirely dependent on your body, and its shape. Typical body shapes are Ectomorph (small build), Mesomorph (average build), or Endomorph (bulky build).Body type

Either way, you need to find that common ground where you are training to burn body fat, and can build muscle to achieve that long, lean look. To achieve this, I suggest that you work hard at burning calories – circuit-based training will hit the muscles and fat harder than just doing a straight cardio workout. Hit a 30-minute circuit three times a week where you are focusing on the main muscle groups. Then hit the pavement for a brisk walk to get into that fat-burning zone. You can also change this around and instead of circuit and walking, you do a ‘Reps/ Sets’ based workout with weights, and compliment it with HIIT on alternate days.

In conclusion, there are two main things that you need to focus on; eating to feed the muscles and then training to put that nutritious fuel to work. Once you hit your peak, you’ll then get into that zone where you are shredding fat which will help you to get that lean look.


Matt Thambirajah is a Personal Trainer, Empowerment Coach, and Counsellor. He is also a loving husband to Catherine and father to 2 boys. He specializes in empowerment through fitness, nutrition and holistic counselling. He also runs a stuttering empowerment program the only 1 of its kind in the industry.

He runs Conscious Mind & Body Coaching, a personal training business that takes the focus away from the beach body/fitspiration focus, and shifts to a self-confidence/esteem building focus. He also writes regularly on various blogs, and has contributed to many websites that specifically helps women/mums.

Anne Iarchy – Founder and Owner of The Finchley Weight Loss Centre by AI Fitness, and Public Speaker

I rarely meet someone that somewhere deep down doesn’t want to look like all those nicely toned celebrities on TV, in the movies or in glossy magazines.

Most adverts you see in gyms and fitness studios include pictures of nicely toned men and women all with a good looking 6-pack. After seeing these images, many people begin to ask can anyone achieve this look? How does one get there?

The answer to these questions are, “Yes, anyone can achieve this, and yes, you can get there.” But, for some, it will take longer than for others. All you need is persistence and to make it a daily goal, then you can be achieving this long lean look.

Hormonal Imbalances

If you suffer from hormonal imbalances, you can still achieve long, lean muscle. This is providing that you work on re-balancing your hormones first. This includes women who are going through the menopause, or individuals with an under-active thyroid, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (POS), or any other condition.

Achieving that Long, Lean Look

It’s all about reducing your body fat percentage, while building lean and strong muscle mass. Slimming down is the first stage to achieving this, which means you need to focus on a combination of wholesome, healthy eating and a good exercise regime.

  • To start off with, cut out all the C.R.A.P – Caffeine, Refined Sugars, Alcohol, and Processed Foods.
  • Then focus on cooking from scratch with fresh foods that have a maximum of five ingredients on their labels.
  • Make sure you have some lean protein with every meal, and if you do have carbohydrates that they are complex ones, and come as a side dish, instead of half or the main focus of your meal.
  • Make sure to drink lots of water. It can be naturally flavoured water by infusing water overnight with some fresh fruit, or cucumber, or some mint leaves.
  • Exercise is next. When I mention strength training to women, they generally look at me in horror, for fear of bulking-up. But, even heavy weights won’t make you bulky. Unless you overdo it on the protein, and start eating a huge amount of calories, you will only be building-up lean muscle mass.
  • Combine weights with a good cardio program, and you have the ideal combination. Combine two to three cardio sessions, with two to three shortish, but intense, full-body strength training sessions, as well as one good Pilates or Yoga class to increase your flexibility and stretch you out properly each week.

Persist with that regime for a minimum of 12-weeks, and you’ll be surprised at the changes that occur in your body shape. Keep going, and you will discover a whole new you.


Anne Iarchy is the founder and owner of The Finchley Weight Loss Centre by AI Fitness. She helps busy professionals create a healthy lifestyle for weight loss, exercise, nutrition and mindset change.

Anne’s passion was developed after struggling with weight and health issues herself while working in the corporate world as an IT security director. She found being on the road, traveling and in meetings made staying healthy a challenge.

At the time, she was working with a personal trainer herself, but never received a full-solution to her struggles. So in 2010, Anne left the corporate world, and started helping people just like her.

She continues to develop her knowledge in nutrition, supplementation, as well as mindset. And is a regular speaker within her local community in North London.

Anne’s latest eBook, ‘Ditch the Diet‘ is now available.

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Tina Horwood – Personal Trainer

Aha…. it’s the ambition of many women to be toned with long lean muscles.  Is it even possible to build long muscles? And what is lean muscle anyway, do you know?

I asked a hundred women what ‘building long, lean muscle’ meant to them and interestingly, the answers that I received all had a similar theme. For many of these women, long and lean muscles meant tall and sleek, elegant, confident, happiness in achieving their body goal, and strong.

So Let’s Break it Down – Building Long Muscles

If you are a yogi or enjoy a session or two of Pilates you will feel confident that what you do each session is helping you build long muscles.  Now I am not here to diss yoga or Pilates because from a fitness and wellbeing perspective, both have worth and serve your body well.  To go as far as helping you to build long muscles, well I must chuckle, muscles are and will always be the same length.  They are connected to the bone in specific spots, it is impossible to change the length of a muscle without surgery.  While we cannot physically make our muscles longer, we can instead increase their flexibility.  Perhaps this is what is really meant when promoting building long muscles.

How Do We Increase Flexibility?

Flexibility can be increased with regular stretching and foam rolling which will release the myofascial (the outer tissue that covers and protects the muscle).  Or by going to an organised and structured session focused on flexibility – yoga or Pilates anyone?

So, If I’m Doing all this Stretching, How Do I Get Lean Muscle?

I’m glad you asked!  I will let you in on a little secret… lean muscle simply means ‘a muscle that is independent, and not covered in fat.’ The good news is, we all have lean muscle, for some of us however, it is covered in a layer or two of fat.  Women tend to carry around more body fat than men because at some point in their lives, they may nourish a baby from their own reserves.

Healthy people naturally have fat reserves, it’s necessary for the proper functioning of our bodies.  However, if you are wanting to lose the fat and increase the visibility of your muscles then two things must occur.  Firstly, you need to tweak your nutrition to support fat loss, and secondly, your training will need to include a level of resistance that challenges you.


A past fatty, mum of two and a personal trainer Tina Horwood’s passion for fitness and making her goals a reality has inspired many women. Tina has built a successful fitness coaching business called ‘FIIT MUMMA‘ and motivates women across Australia.

Having struggled with her weight for most of her life, Tina is using her personal experience, empathy and understanding of being mum to help other mummas achieve their ultimate body goal.

Tina competed in the INBA bodybuilding fitness model contest in 2013 and placed 6th. She is fun engaging and full of encouragement.


Justyna Kalka – Zak Australia Nutritionist and Brand Ambassador

When it comes to building muscle, resistance training appears to be the fastest way to that lean and toned body. But, regardless of the type of exercise you choose, there are a few additional things that will help your body strengthen and condition.

There are many factors that appear to contribute to our body’s overall ability to build lean muscle tissue. Scientists have long studied the role of nutrition on sports performance, recovery, muscle maintenance and growth.

Dietary factors such as the type, amount, and timing of your meals, both pre-and-post workout can somewhat enhance protein synthesis and overall building of muscle. Supplementation with free-form amino acids has demonstrated greater muscular adaptations when combined with resistance training; meaning how your muscle responds and grows after being challenge at the gym.

However, that does not necessarily mean that you need to time your every meal to the minute or carry a travel-size protein supplement in your bag. In fact, most studies show that neither the type, nor the amount of protein matters a great deal as long as the daily total stays within the recommended range. In resistance training, for maximum results that can range between 1.2 – 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. However, for the motivated, it is best to consult a sports nutrition professional who can construct an individualized pre-workout and post-workout plan to cater to your specific goals.

It’s Not All About Protein

Contradictory to common beliefs however, muscle building is not all about protein. Your overall nutritional status plays a big role. Inadequate intakes of vitamins and minerals can hinder even the best efforts during exercise. Busy schedules, dehydration, unplanned low-nutrient snacks, high consumption of processed food and sugar, infrequent nutrient-rich meals or low calorie intakes due to appearance concerns may all contribute to a less than perfect nutritional environment. Building long, lean muscles and having the energy and endurance for exercise all needs the nutritional building blocks that only a wholesome, balanced diet provides. Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, hydration and rest are all as important to building muscle tissue as dietary protein intakes.


Justyna Kalka is a qualified nutritionist, professional speaker and health educator who specialises in promoting optimal health through wholesome, nutrient dense food and movement. She completed a Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Movement at Victoria University and a Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Medicine (Human Nutrition) at Endeavour College in 2012.

Justyna is now a practicing nutritionist in Albert Park (Melbourne) devoted to educating others about the true vitality that comes from a careful balance of real food, the right mind set and a healthy dose of movement. With a special interest in helping mums create a healthy food culture at home, Justyna educates parents and children about the importance of proper nourishment for growth and development.

Justyna is also a popular motivational speaker, inspiring women of all ages to gain a deep sense of self-confidence, health, strength and vitality in a body they love and appreciate. Justyna’s nutrition expertise has featured in the media, having contributed to nutritional stories in Nourish Magazine and Australian Natural Health Magazine, as well as Herald Sun and Daily Life.

Outside of her work, Justyna is an avid fitness lover and martial arts expert, and a proud mother of a beautiful little girl.

Disclaimer: The information published in this column are based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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