4 steps for achieving a toned physique

Joe Birch, a Personal Trainer at The Better Body Group in Sevenoaks, takes a look at how you can get that toned look through putting nutrition, cardio and weight training all together at once. The results are quite simply, synergistic.

Nearly every client I work with uses the word toning as one of their main goals. Toning is not a special adaptation that happens to the muscle (or fat) to make you look more toned , it is quite simply a loss of body fat coupled with an increase, or just maintenance, of muscle mass.

Most fad diet plans are not appropriate for toning, or for long term maintainable fat loss, they all have one thing in common, extremely low calories. Nearly all of these low calorie diets produce weight loss in the beginning.

The problem is, none of them work for long – it’s not healthy or effective to try and lose fat by starving yourself. This type of short term weight loss does not result in the toned look that most people are hoping to achieve when they embark on a diet/exercise regime.

To lose body fat, you must create a calorie deficit. There are two ways you can create this calorie deficit: 1) decrease your calorie intake from food, or 2) increase the amount of calories you burn through exercise. Both of these methods should be considered when looking to get the best possible results.

The keys to getting a toned physique are:
• Eat more of the essential nutrients (think protein, fats, fruit & vegetables)
• Use carbohydrate to help fuel exercise (think eating most of your starchy or sugary carbohydrates in the meal before and the meal after your workout)
• Use strength training to help retain or even increase muscle mass while in a calorie deficit. For most people, especially women, it is unlikely that you will increase muscle mass when in a calorie deficit; but to look toned you want to retain as much as possible
• Use cardiovascular training and increasing your step count as tools to help you create a calorie deficit

It’s amazing how quickly you can notice the change in your physique when you put nutrition, cardio and weight training all together at once. The results are synergistic.

Always keep in mind that when attempting to go from thin or only slightly overweight, to toned, then the goal should always be fat loss, not weight loss. You must distinguish between the two, as the scales can be very misleading.

The best measure here is body fat (BF) percentage, waist/hip circumferences and before and after photos. If you have not yet got your BF percentage tested and are currently using body weight as your goal, then you should consider doing so straight away. A BF percentage will give you a much better objective measure of your success, even if the scales stay completely still.

How many calories should I eat per day?
This is hard to say and depends on your activity levels, here is a formula to estimate how many calories you should aim to eat per day to create a calorie deficit.

Step 1: Calculating your Basal Metabolic Rate
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) simply means the amount of energy used by your body during a 24-hour period if no activity is performed. In other words, if you’re inactive for 24-hours straight, you’d still burn the amount of calories equivalent to your BMR.
For Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age)
For Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.7 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age)

Step 2: Factoring in activity level
The amount of calories found using the Harris-Benedict formula is what your body burns every day, even if you do nothing all day. Obviously, the more active you are the more fuel you’ll burn. To get an adequate estimation you need to multiply your BMR by an activity level factor:

Activity level factor Activity level
1.0 Sedentary
1.2 Very light activity
1.4 Light activity
1.6 Moderate activity
18 High activity
2.0 Extreme activity

Step 3: Adjusting calorie intake
To gain muscle you should ingest more calories than you use up each day. To lose body fat you must do the opposite. A 20% increase or decrease seems to be ideal for most individuals. This isn’t a drastic increase/decrease, so it shouldn’t lead to excessive muscle loss or unwanted fat gain.

Can I get a toned look training once per week?
The answer here is quite simply, NO. If your only goal is weight loss then yes you can achieve weight loss through creating a calorie deficit through diet alone. If you want to look toned at the end of your fat loss then you should aim to exercise AT LEAST twice per week. If your serious about changing your physique, then you should aim to exercise 3-4 times per week.
What type of training should I be doing?

You should aim to do 2-3 resistance training sessions per week. Resistance training (when coupled with a calorie deficit) has been, and always will be the king of giving you a toned look. Use cardiovascular exercise to help create your calorie deficit.

What is the maximum I should train?
There is no real limit on how much you should exercise as such, however, when doing resistance training if you’re are doing a full body program then you should have one day of rest between each resistance training session. Most types of cardio can be done most days if that is your wish.

If I’m creating a calorie deficit, does it matter what I’m eating?
Someone could eat the same amount of calories in sweets while another eats predominantly meat/protein and vegetables. It is true that both would lose weight, however, when you eat the correct foods that your body requires then your fat loss will be far greater, and your resulting physique will look much better.

Should I worry about how many calories I burn in every training session?
The answer here depends on what type of training your doing. If you are doing resistance training, then the answer is definitely no. The goal of resistance training is to help increase/maintain muscle mass. Furthermore the calories burnt in your one hour weights training session won’t truly reflect the impact of weights training on your calories burnt at rest.

When doing interval training, you should train as hard as you can for whatever exercise has been prescribed. When doing longer steady state cardio (e.g. jogging, cycling, rowing etc) then you should aim to train hard enough to burn calories, but not so hard that you have not recovered enough to perform your strength training.

For a program that satisfies all of the above points check out The Better Body Group’s 6-week transformation package or call us on 01732 451979.