Everyone searches for a magic workout that makes their bodies look exactly how they want in a minimum amount of time, but there is no quick fix.

The most effective way to get lean is through a commitment to good nutrition habits and a workout cycle combining strength training and cardio/respiratory exercises.

Depending on your starting point, you could see results in a few weeks. Certainly, you’ll notice a difference in eight to 12 weeks.

Make food prep a habit
Commitment to proper nutrition is critical to setting yourself up for success, and that doesn’t mean just making good decisions in the grocery aisles.

The key is preparing food for the week ahead, so you’re not tempted to grab something on the go when you’re rushed in the morning or too tired to slice and dice those veggies after a long day at work.

For example, cook your protein such as chicken breasts on Sunday for your breakfasts and lunches. You could reheat some for dinners, but fresh protein is preferred. Chop up veggies or prepare your sweet potato or squash mix. Package as meals and put them in the fridge so you can easily take them out in the morning.

The warm-up
Before you begin your workouts, get your body ready to move.

Do five to seven minutes of mobility drills to warm up your muscles. These can include squats, leg swings, walking lunges and hip and arm circles. Ensure some are specific to the targeted exercises you’ll be doing.

Two-pronged workout plan

1. Strength training
Start lifting weights three to four times a week, with your 60-minute workouts consisting of:

  • First 20 minutes

Compound movements should be the main part of your workout. For 20 minutes, do exercises such as squatting, deadlifting, bench pressing and overhead pressing.

The weight you lift should be moderately heavy, using 60 to 80 per cent of your one-rep maximum. That means when you've finished the set, you could do another two to three reps of that weight.

  • Next 10 to 15 minutes

Do some accessory movements for 10 to 15 minutes. Those include exercises where you’re moving in a similar plane as your main movement, but there’s a change in position.

Connected to the earlier deadlift, you could do a barbell hip thrust on your back. Lie down with the bar across your hips and push up with your glutes. Use moderate weight and a rate of perceived exertion of six to eight. That means doing the exercise until you have two to four reps remaining that you could have done but you stop before failure.

  • Another 10 minutes

Follow up with 10 minutes of supplemental work. These focus on small body parts through isolation exercises. With the dead-lift theme, do leg curls, lunges or some back extensions.

These exercises use lighter weight, pushing blood flow into the smaller muscles to feel the pump!

  • Final 15 minutes

Do some core work for five to 10 minutes, followed by a “finisher.”

A finisher focuses on high-intensity movements such as sprints on the treadmill, rower or bike. They could also be sled pushes, burpees or a Tabata workout you can find online – anything five minutes or less using all your muscle groups to burn extra calories.

2. Cardio workouts
Since you’ll do three to four days of strength training each week, break it up with two or three days of cardio workouts. Or you could do three and three and one day of recovery. If it’s more muscle you want, do weights four times a week and cardio twice.

Cardio exercises should vary. Some should be short-duration, high-intensity training of 15 to 20 minutes. Other days, the duration should be longer.

Once a week, incorporate a cardio exercise emphasizing distance. It might be a five-kilometre run or walk, or a combo of running and walking.

Rest day
Rest doesn’t mean doing nothing. Stretch, do yoga, have a sauna, lie in an Epsom salt bath or go for a light walk or hike. The key is to move, but not intensely so your body can recover.

The results
Results may vary depending on your starting weight.

If someone already exercises consistently, the general rule of thumb is seeing some changes in your body-fat composition in one to three weeks.

It’s also important to focus on your performance and not just aesthetic changes. How’s your strength? How does your body feel? How quickly are you recovering from the cardio days? If you can improve your cardio condition and strength at the end of an eight- to 12-week cycle, it's impossible not to lose body fat.

The key is being patient and not throwing your nutrition out the window after you hit what you believe is peak condition.

Everybody goes through peaks and valleys – just don’t let your valleys be so deep.