What do we mean when we say tone up? And is it just a goal for women?
When asked about fitness goals, a lot of ladies always say they'd like to 'tone up’. But what does this actually mean and how can we achieve it?
First of all, muscle tone is actually entirely different from what we talk about when we say 'toning up’! Muscle tone is actually the continual low level contraction of muscles. This makes sure our muscles are ready for action, and helps us balance and maintain our posture.
The popular use of the word ‘tone’ is to make our muscles more defined, more noticeable, more visually appealing. And there's only one way to do this - improve body composition. That means maintaining or increasing muscle mass, whilst decreasing body fat. You can have the biggest, most amazing muscles (and everyone does indeed have a 'six pack’ - it's the rectus abdominis muscle), but if you have a layer of fat covering that you are not going to look 'toned’.
So how do we improve our body composition? We exercise! It uses our muscles and burns calories. Add more daily activity into your life - a couple of hours in the gym a week is not going to counteract the detrimental effect of an inactive lifestyle. More walking, more taking the stairs, more sex - whatever it takes ladies! And, finally. Lift weights. Lift heavy sh*t, until it doesn't feel heavy anymore. Repeat.
You also HAVE to sort your diet out. To lose body fat, you have to be in a calorie deficit (i.e. taking in less energy than you burn). Crucially, you're trying to lose body fat and not muscle mass, so you need a high intake of protein to ensure that your body does not lose muscle in preference to fat. Plus you will feel fuller for longer. If you are inactive, this is about 0.8g per kg of body weight, up to 2g per kg of body weight for the very active. I aim for about 20-30% of my overall calories daily coming from protein.
Finally - spot reducing DOES NOT WORK. A tricep exercise is not going to get rid of your bingo wings! Your triceps may get bigger but if they're still covered in fat, those bingo wings are there to stay. You have to improve OVERALL body composition, there is no way of just decreasing the amount of fat in one part of your body.
The other thing that women tend to say - I want to tone up but not get bulky. Lifting weights will not make you look like a man! We don't produce enough testosterone to get anywhere near the level of muscle that would make you look like that.
The good news is, that with forward planning, expert advice, and some will power this is all incredibly achievable! What are people's experiences of trying to 'tone up’? What has worked for you?