When you are already fairly lean, you have to REALLY want to lose that last 5lbs! We all see the images of those people with the coveted 6-pack and what look to be shrink wrapped muscles, so how can we achieve that look?
First off, remember that what you see in pictures are what people WANT you to see and those images can easily be enhanced or photoshopped. The folks that do get super lean may do it for a competition but other than a month or so around that competition they typically are not that lean. Getting chiseled not only takes some serious commitment but it also isn't healthy for the long term. In order to get cut you make some serious sacrifices. Your social life will definitely suffer, you may be tired and not a lot of fun to be around, your libido drops, and you can send your hormones out of whack. In order for female hormones to be balanced and to have a healthy menstrual cycle we women do need some body fat like it or not. The level of body fat needed to keep your body happy is specific to you.
Heeding this warning, if you do want to push yourself without going overboard, here are my get lean tips:
1) Dial in your nutrition plan. In order to lose fat you need to be in a calorie deficit. Understanding how many calories you need as well as how much of each macronutrient (carbohydrates, protein, and fats) is integral to fat loss and to optimizing body composition. Generally speaking you want to prioritize balanced meals consisting of lean protein, non starchy veggies and healthy fats (portion sizes are individual depending on goals and other variables). Choosing starchy veggie carbs over processed carbs which are timed primarily around your workout (pre & post) and preferably in the morning will also improve performance, recovery and physical results. You want to be focusing on nutrient dense foods, taking in veggies that are high in C and B vitamins as well as iron to help with energy, recovery and immunity.
2) Add HIIT (high intensity intervals) into your training. High intensity intervals can actually increase the size of the mitochondria in your cells. Those little furnaces increase fat metabolism. How to add HIIT? Here are some ideas; do a 20 minute interval cardio session (30 seconds all out with 30-60 seconds of recovery), or increase your intensity a level each minute for 5mins and repeat the sequence 4-6 times. Add 30-60 seconds of jump squats, mountain climbers, kettlebell swings, skipping or another high intensity activity in between your sets in the gym. With HIIT, if you can go longer than 20-30 mins then you aren't working hard enough as you should be busted. You should try to incorporate HIIT 2-3x a week.
3) Be more disciplined. That little glass of wine, square of chocolate, your kids toast crusts (whatever it is for you) all add up. Getting to that next level of lean takes serious discipline on the nutrition front. Abs are truly 'uncovered' in the kitchen.
4) Push yourself in the gym! Have a training program to follow where you are consistently weight training 3-5 days a week. Utilize compound movements that incorporate many different muscle groups giving you the biggest bang for your time! Examples are: squat & press, lunge & biceps curl, deadlift, plank, pushup, etc. The last few reps of every set should take some serious mental fortitude to get through. It should feel like a challenge and should get your heart rate up.
5) Get enough rest. When you are working hard and calories are limited your body needs rest to recover even more than normal. If you are well rested you are more likely to stay focused on whole foods that nourish your health and your goals. Aim to get 8 or more hours of rest per night. Having a sleep routine is so important....turning off electronics early, keeping the room dark, maybe sipping some sleepy time tea (chamomile, peppermint, and/or lavender), wind down with some quiet reading, meditate (acknowledge your thoughts and let them drift away) before you doze off to dreamland.
6) Supplement. Use correct doses of good quality brand of vitamins C, D, E, zinc, and B vitamins to recover. A good quality multi can cover all of these bases. CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) has been touted to help with fat metabolism. I like a good quality fish oil, powdered greens, maca root, chia, and bee pollen for helping increase immunity, recovery, to reduce inflammation. Maca helps with hormone health and libido as well.