Who doesn’t want a toned physique?
Ask the average gym-goer what his/her fitness goal is, and the most common response will be to “tone my muscles.”
What exactly does toning mean anyway?
“Toning” is actually not a scientific term, but it’s commonly used to mean firming up your arms/legs and wanting to see more muscle definition. But many people don’t truly know how to achieve more definition.
My goal for this article is to clear up a lot of misconceptions about toning, as well as make sure that you’re more effective and efficient in your current process so that you can see more results more quickly.
Toning is really just reducing your body fat percentage to be able to see the muscle that’s underneath the fat.
In order to “tone” and see more definition, you have to lose the fat that’s on top of the muscle. A common misconception is that you are aiming to turn fat INTO muscle. Let’s first clear up that myth.
Fat and muscle are two different things. You cannot turn one into another. The goal is to LOSE fat and either KEEP your muscle or grow it.
When you’re aiming to lose fat, you’re typically not going to have significant muscle growth, because you have to be in a caloric deficit to lose fat, and you have to be in a caloric surplus to gain significant muscle.
This is why most people prioritize one of these two goals over another. If your body fat is high, it’s normally easier to focus on losing a significant amount of fat and then grow muscle after the fat loss.
There is already some muscle under the fat, so you may not need to grow your muscles significantly to achieve the look you want. Your overall goal is to reduce your body fat percentage.
Often, people put way too much emphasis on their exercise and not enough into the nutrition, so they are never able to create and maintain the caloric deficit needed to lose significant body fat.
If you’re mainly relying on your workouts to give you the body you want, you will never get the body you want.
I have a couple examples for you to make this process a little more clear. I’m also going to show you why just focusing on exercise and not necessarily putting as much emphasis on your nutrition is not going to get you the results that you want.
Example 1: Exercise
The average gym-goer works out about three days a week for about 45 to 60 minutes. In that 60-minute workout, you’re going to burn somewhere around 400 to 600 calories. Of course, you can burn more or less depending on what you’re doing. The number of calories you burn depends on your height, weight, age, amount of muscle mass you have, the intensity level, etc. There are a lot of different factors, but on average, you’re going to probably burn about 400 to 600 calories per workout.
If you’re going three days a week, that means you burn 1200 to 1800 calories for that week.
Do you know how many calories it takes to burn one pound of fat?
It takes about 3500 calories for you to burn off ONE pound of fat. If you’ve gone to the gym three days a week and worked out for about an hour, you haven’t burned a pound of fat yet for that week.
Now, let’s go a little bit deeper.
Let’s say you got in your three days a week, the weekend comes, and now you feel like you can splurge a little bit since you’ve been working out.
Time for happy hour!
You decide to grab a couple frozen margaritas to get the weekend started. Two frozen margaritas equal about 1000 calories (the calories are higher in frozen drinks because of the sugar content).
That’s already 1000 calories just from your drinks.
Remember how long it took for you to burn off 1000 calories?
That’s the whole week of your workout that you’re drinking back with a couple margaritas. And that’s not taking into account the food you’re eating during happy hour or any other indulgences over the weekend.
It all starts to add up.
So now you’ve cut your results short because you burned off 1800 calories for the week but then you ate them back over the weekend. And when you hop on the scale on Monday, you may be wondering why you haven’t lost weight.
If your food is not on point, even if you exercise, you’re not going to make the progress want.
Example 2: Nutrition
So let’s look at it from the nutrition side because that’s where the money is.
Let’s pretend you have a friend named Allison. Allison is 5’6, 30 years old, 200lbs, and does not work out at all. She hasn’t quite gotten to the gym, but she’s decided to start making changes to her food first.
I used a calorie calculator to determine how many calories Allison needs for her goal, and to maintain her weight, Allison needs to eat about 2000 calories per day. When you’re wanting to lose weight, you reduce your calories by 250 to 500 calories per day to create a deficit for weight loss. All “deficit” means is you’re eating less calories than your body needs to maintain its size. That gets us to 1500 calories per day. So, Allison needs to eat about 1500 calories per day to create a 500 calorie deficit.
If Allison is eating 500 less calories per day, and she’s doing this for seven days out of the week, that already gives her a 3500 caloric deficit for the week (500 calories times 7 days a week).
Remember what 3500 calories equals?
That’s a pound of fat.
Because Allison has been consistent with her food intake for seven days out of the week, without even exercising, she’s already lost one pound of fat
That’s how important the nutrition piece is.
It took you three days a week, 60 minutes each day, to equal half a pound of fat. Allison was consistent with her food for the week, has not worked out at all, and she has already lost about a pound.
Of course, this is not a cut and dry formula. Your body burns different amounts of calories each day depending on how active you are, how sedentary you are, what you’ve eaten, how much you’ve eaten, and the list goes on. So, Allison may actually lose more weight or even possibly not lose weight at all, depending on her body. But on average, this formula will work for most people.
So, the truth is, in order for you to “tone” your muscles and reduce your body fat percentage, your nutrition has to be on point. Exercise is a small piece of reducing your body fat percentage. You can be killing it in the gym, but you won’t see the changes you want without the food component.
Of course, exercise has its own benefits, like gaining strength, increasing your endurance, giving your body shape, and maintaining your lean mass as you’re losing weight. Plus, it provides an additional calorie burn on top of the deficit you created from your food intake.
You need both components for health and to create the look you want. But for weight loss and toning, your nutrition is going to be the biggest factor. I can’t stress that enough.
So, what’s your current goal? Do you want to reduce your body fat percentage? Are you prioritizing your nutrition intake?
Please leave me a comment and let me know!