Possibly the most common answer to “What are your goals?” when it comes to body composition in females, and a lot of males too! A flat tummy, toned arms & legs and a nice bum. Ideal! Simple? Lets dig deeper and clear a few things up.
First of all, there is no such thing as ‘toning’ the muscles in your body. Building muscle-yes, dropping body fat-yes, looking lean and ‘toned’ as a result of this-YES!
So we all have muscle and we all have fat, everyone knows that. However, we all seem to want the same thing; this ideal body shape that we see in magazines! Some even go as far as showing a picture of a celeb and saying they want THAT body. Okay yes, I can see they have a nice lean physique, but we are all different when it comes to body shapes and sizes, so it isn’t exactly possible to just choose a body you want!
Now, we can however be categorized as one of three body shapes (Somatotypes):
Ectomorph, who is generally long and lean and they can find it hard to gain weight.
Endomorph who is quite stocky or round, for want of a better word & tends to gain weight (muscle and fat) quite easily.
Mesomorph, who has a V-type body structure and we hate them for being able to maintain their shape and get lean very easily if they want – as well as packing on muscle well. You all know at least one of them and yes we do hate them! Haha I joke! Kinda…
So that’s generally the 3 types of people there are when it comes to body shape and size. There are also some diet guidelines that have been shown to match each of the body types well, for example, Endomorphs generally work best with the majority of their carb intake being Post-Workout. That’s a topic for another day!
Back to getting toned… Some of us may hold more body fat than others, and some of us might need to build more muscle mass than others. A combination of both is needed for many! How do we do it though?! It’s quite simple on paper, and it should be the same in reality, but it requires dedication, willpower and motivation. If you aren’t serious about changing your body for the better or finding out how to, then you may as well stop reading here 🙂
For those of you who are interested, here’s a few Diet & Training tips you can do to kick-start your quest for that lean and, dare I say it, “toned” physique *cringe*. All about the ‘Strong not Skinny’ look these days guys 😀
I hate the term diet, mainly because of what people associate it with; which is usually the fad diets that crop up every so often. However, a diet is a diet, it’s how you fuel your body to get the most from it i.e., preventing diseases that can be prevented, as well as allowing you to perform optimally in whatever sport or fitness related exercises you may take part in.
So you don’t go ‘on a diet’ but you may ‘tweak’ your diet in a different way at times in order to reach a certain goal. And that’s fine, as long as you know what you are doing & you are still reaching your nutritional needs whilst doing so. None of these nonsense juice-only fads or meal replacement shakes please!
The majority of people either want to lose weight or gain weight, males wanting the latter more-so than females obviously. What does it come down to? Calories in vs Calories out as I’m sure you have heard before. (One of my first blog posts goes into this in a bit more detail).
There are no magic pills/potions, it’s as simple as that so if you don’t want to change your body enough to work your ass off for it, then that’s fair enough; but if you are motivated to change, don’t expect it to happen overnight and don’t expect it to be easy!
If you are someone who has no idea about nutrition and just eats whatever they want, then these few food swaps/tips alone should help you on your way to a healthier you:
-Swap your toast in the morning for wholegrain breads such as Rye Bread toasted.
-Always carry water with you, if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated!
-If you love chocolate, try adding some 70% dark chocolate or above to your diet to cut out some of the more processed chocolate.
-Add protein to every meal (meat, eggs, chicken, fish, turkey, low-fat cheese, yogurts (try to buy them low in added sugar e.g., Greek), nuts, beans/lentils, whey powder.
-Switch up your rice for some cauliflower rice, much lower in carbs.
-Only buy peanut butter that has no added sugar/ingredients that aren’t peanuts! Bear in mind peanut butter is very calorie dense – you might think you are being healthy however just one tablespoon can have around 100 calories!
-Try to keep the majority of your carbohydrate intake until after you workout.
-Be cautious of the amounts of fat you are eating, even though it may be good fats, it is still calorie dense and can be what is stopping you from dropping those unwanted pounds. A lot of people forget to track the fats they consume as they are in the form of olive oil/coconut oil or butter etc which we cook with. These calories all add up so just be aware of them.
-Control your portion sizes, you should fill half your plate with veggies and have some meat around the size of your palm for women and 2 for men.
-Remember, fruit & veg contain carbohydrates, so make these the bulk of your carb intake daily and keep the starchy carbs like potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, etc for after you train, if you want them.
-Don’t cut out all bad foods from your diet at once, you are setting yourself up for failure. Make one change/swap to your diet weekly and you will soon see your diet has changed for the better without feeling deprived.
Try some of these tips to get you started and see how you feel after a few weeks.
Now, for the more advanced person who trains often but just isn’t quite sure what their diet should be like when it comes to how many calories they should have or the breakdown of these ‘macros’ everyone is talking about, then I’ll try to break it down a bit for you:
When you think of a food, you know it has calories, right? That’s the energy the food is providing you with. Just like when you exercise, you are using this energy to do so, aka burning calories.
Food can be broken down into the 3 main macronutrients as well as just having a caloric value. These macronutrients are: Protein, Fat & Carbohydrates.
Each food will have a different breakdown of each. For example, a cooked breast of chicken may be 100g in weight, and contain 165 calories, no carbohydrates, 4g fat & 31g protein. That means that this is a high-protein food as the protein content is much higher than the carbs and fat.
How much of each macronutrient should you eat? Well it varies from person to person and this is where trial and error is key! You have to play around with your diet to see what works best for you.
I’ll give you an example (Look away if you don’t want the maths 😀 ):
Somewhere to start might be having 2g protein per KG of your bodyweight.
E.g., A 70kg individual would have 140g protein per day (70 x 2). Multiply this by 4 to get your protein intake in calories (560).
Make 25-30% of your food intake come from fat (another general starting value). Again, trial and error guys!
So if I was to eat 2000 calories per day, I would make 25% (example) of that come from fats, which would be 500 calories. How many grams though??
Fat contains 9 calories per gram so you just divide 500 by 9 and thats your Fat in grams per day (56).
To figure out the carb intake, you would just add the protein and fat values (in calories) together, and subtract from your daily intake and this is your carbohydrate intake in calories. Divide this by 4 and you get your carbohydrate daily intake in grams.
E.g. Protein = 560 calories
Fat = 500 calories
So, 500 + 560 = 1060 calories
Subtract 1060 from 2000 and you get 940 calories – this is your carb intake in calories so divide this by 4 to get the carb amount in grams.
940/4 = 235g Carbs per day.
Now you have your calories (2000), Protein (140g), Fat (56g) & Carbs (235g) per day.
A very basic but good place to start you off. But how do we know the macronutrients each food contains? This means it’s time to start calorie counting! An effective way to get your eyes opened about what you are eating and to see what’s in certain foods. I would advise calorie counting until you get the hang of your diet and you are in the right direction of your goals, then it’s easier to eat without being as strict, yet you still have control.
There are lots of apps nowadays that you can track your food with. Myfitnesspal and Caloriecount being 2 popular ones. These apps calculate your calorie intake using the information you provide them with, including height, weight, age, sex etc.
The value they give you as your daily caloric intake is more often than not too high if you are looking for weight loss. A way of testing this is to stick to that intake they give you for a week or 2, weighing yourself the first and last day (and middle if you track for 2 weeks) and see what the difference in your weight is. Keep your training the same as this can change the outcome.
One thing I would advise you to do is edit the macronutrient breakdown the app gives you to the values you have worked out (as above) because the app’s carbohydrate content is normally much too high and protein too low!
If you have gone up in weight after tracking your calories, then they’re too high so drop your calories slightly (100-200calories). If you have stayed the same, then this is your maintenance level so if you want to lose weight, you’ll have to drop your calories slightly as well. And if you have lost weight, then you should be on the right track, yay! Stick to this number and keep tracking your weight. Remember, if your diet is full of processed, high sugar and refined foods, and you are still under your calories, that doesn’t mean you are being healthy. We want to change our diets so they contain good foods that aren’t processed and are rich in nutrients!
Track your changes through pictures. Progress pictures are by far my favourite form of tracking your changes. The camera doesn’t lie! Getting your waist/arms/hips etc measured is also a good way to notice changes, but overall you should feel and notice the differences in yourself, how you feel and how your clothes fit.
When it comes to getting “toned” I believe that changing your diet is definitely the main factor, however training is of course important too! As I said earlier, you must build muscle to get that shredded, lean physique. Tweaking your diet will help you lose body fat, now it’s time to build the muscle.
Realistically, you need resistance to build muscle, therefore you must start lifting weights! Yes ladies, you heard! This will not, and I repeat WILL NOT make you look manly. All those ridiculous photos you find on the internet of big, bulky women who look super masculine are not natural. These women are most probably on drugs to get that physique. Simple as. We women have around one tenth the amount of testosterone than men have. This means we can’t physically get that big even if we tried!
Train the same as men, and you will start to see your body taking shape, the fat will reduce, and you will start seeing some definition. That is the “toned” body you are going for! Do not let the fear of getting too bulky stop you from lifting heavy! I dare you to try it and if you do think you are getting too big (which you won’t), you know what you do, you stop. Easy!
The majority of men that DO want that big and bulky look spend their lives trying to achieve it, so I don’t think you lifting weights a few times a week will get you there before them! 😉
Squats, deadlifts, bench press, leg press, lunges, rows, and core work are to name only a few of the exercises you should get to know and add to your training. If you don’t have a gym, don’t use that as an excuse! Most of those exercises can be done using your bodyweight. There are literally no excuses, if you want something bad enough you will find a way to achieve it. This goes for your body as well. Join a class/bootcamp/gym, or get a trainer to start you off on the right foot. It’s worth the investment!
Everyone wants a nice Bikini Body and we see hundreds of posts about them every day on social media. Until you decide that you really do want to push yourself and get that toned body instead of just instagramming about it, no one else can do it for you.
Get off your ass and start working for it. Don’t make excuses, don’t wait for Monday, don’t wait until next summer, don’t wait until all the crap food you bought is gone before you start working it off. Start today. Start now. Only YOU can take that first step.
“It will take time to accomplish. The time will pass anyway”.