If you’re looking to tone up and develop muscle definition to your body crash dieting is NOT the answer. Forget starvation diets or excessive cardio at the gym. You need to lift weights.
Weightlifting can be a scary word for women. It will NOT make you bulky even if you are lifting heavy weights. If you feel you look chunky this is more likely to be due to the amount of body fat compared to your muscle mass.
While you will lose weight if you seriously restrict your food but you will also lose a lot of muscle as well. I have spoken about this in a previous fitness blog. The more muscle you lose the less muscle definition or toned your body will appear. Muscle will give you curves, shapes and definition. To do this you need to lift weights.
Diet yes is important and as a nutritionist, I would definately focus first on getting the macros right. But to make noticeable changes to your body shape, the right type of training is essential.
Here are some key points to consider:
You need to lift weights – particularly compound weightlifting.
Compound weightlifting may seem complex but essentially these are exercises that involve multiple joints and muscle groups. For example, the squat involves moving the knees, ankles, and hip joint and requires a whole-body coordinated effort, with the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes bearing the brunt of the load. Other examples are bench presses, overhead presses, dips, pull ups and deadlifts.
If you want more muscle definition then you will also need to gradually increase the weights you lift. So don’t stick to the same weights you a have been lifting for years. In fact you may need to decrease your reps but increase the load to notice significant changes to your body shape. Lots of repetition of light weights is not going to improve your shape dramatically.
Maintain a healthy percentage of body fat.
If you really want good muscle definition you are probably looking at between 15-20% body fat. Much less than this and you could compromise your health – particularly hormone balance. Most weighing scales can roughly tell you want % body fat you have. Alternatively get your body fat measured at the gym.
Eat enough protein
If you are going to undertake regular weight training and exercise you need adequate protein intake. Quality protein matters too – some are absorbed by the body better than others and the amino acids profiles vary too. That doesn’t mean to have to eat meat, vegetarians and vegans can get plenty of high quality protein in their diets with proper meal planning (which may include protein powders too).
I have already spoken about protein intakes in a previous blog for changing body composition. Various studies have demonstrated that those exercising 4-6 times a week will benefit from higher protein intakes.
For example various studies demonstrated that between 0.6 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight is adequate for maximizing protein synthesis.
Slightly more protein might be needed in the case of calorie restriction or frequent and/or high-intensity exercise.
One study for example recommended that compared to sedentary individuals, athletes should be eating a significantly higher amount (1.6-1.8 vs. 0.8 g/kg for sedentary individuals).
So if you weigh 9 stone (57kg or 126 lbs) you are likely to looking at 75g- 100g protein daily.
Don’t worry too much about when you eat your protein although consuming sufficient after a workout is often beneficial. Just try and ensure you are consuming sufficient of high quality protein through the day.
Don’t excessively cut back on calories.
If you want to build muscle and lose fat then cutting back too much on calorie intake is counterproductive. If you are already fairly light then it may not be necessary at all (depending on your body fat %). Read more about this in my previous blog