This is the age old question everyone asks me, and one of the most common questions asked to any fitness professional is “how do I lose the fat around my (fill in the blank)?”. The short answer to this question is probably not what you want hear: you cannot spot reduce. I know, I hate that answer as much as you but it’s the truth! You can work out specific parts of the body to try to tone or build muscle, but burning fat or getting rid of fat in certain areas of your body just isn’t going to happen. What’s the key to getting rid of fat, what’s the magic pill? I’ll give you the answer in one word: muscle! That’s right, building lean muscle is really the only way to get rid of body fat. Muscle actually burns fat while you’re at rest, so the buff guy at the gym is burning more fat just sitting still then you are during your sweaty cycle class. The more muscle you build, the more fat you are going to burn.
So how do I build muscle without looking like a meat-head, you might ask? One of the biggest misconceptions people (especially women) have about muscle is that once you start lifting weights you will blow up into the Hulk; it doesn’t happen like that. These bodybuilders and fitness competitors work REALLY hard to build that much muscle, tons and tons of calories, protein on top of protein, tons of supplements and hours of weightlifting. So while it is possible to build a body like a bodybuilder, it isn’t something you do passively, it takes commitment and a TON of food. To build lean muscle, you do need to hit the weights though. It doesn't have to be super heavy weights every day; it could be as simple as going up a couple pounds in your bar class, grabbing the tighter resistance band for arms in dance cardio, or grabbing the heavier medicine ball in your sculpt class. Weight training, along with adequate protein, is going to be the best way to build and maintain lean muscle. It is weight training, and can help tone and build lean bodies. And, to build the lean body you want it is a combination of weight training AND the right amount of protein.. One without the other will result in you burning through your muscle during your workouts (the result: “skinny-fat”) or just eating a ton of protein for the sake of eating protein. You need both to create and maintain muscle.
Here’s how it works. Weight training puts stress on your muscle fibers which then have to repair themselves. These repaired muscle strands increase in thickness as they repair creating muscle growth, as long as your body is adequately nourished and rested. You see, this process happens when you are resting, not while you are working out. If you are not nourishing your body between weight training bouts, you are just going to continue damaging these little muscle fibers so they never repair themselves which means they never have chance to grow to build lean muscle. The long and short of it is this: you can’t spot reduce fat (sorry!) but if you want to lose body fat you need to begin weight training while keeping yourself nourished and well rested!
Here are some tips to doing and strengthening the body.
First, incorporate some HIIT workouts that use combo moves i.e. moves that require multiple muscle groups HIIT workouts are great because you get a lot done in a short amount of time and it is quick intense bursts of exercises which gets your body burning fat. But using some combo moves in your HIIT workout does double duty, because not only are you getting your heart rate up, but you are using multiple muscle groups which ups the calorie and fat burn. High intensity interval training is a great way to lose weight; these short bouts of exercise rev up your metabolism and will keep your burning fat and calories even after you have stopped. This type of training is so much more effect than slow steady cardio or longer low intensity sessions. It’s more bang for your buck and definitely more effective. Think of putting moves like deadlifts, wall balls, burpees, thrusters (squat to overhead press) together with cardio moves like jump rope, mountain climbers, or rebounding (jumping not eh trampolines is a great way to get radio in AND tone!)
Next, eat protein! This goes along with the first tip about weight training, but the same rules apply: muscle will help you burn more calories at rest than no muscle. Protein is needed to hold on to your muscle and will help keep fat at bay. Strength training alone with eating adequate protein will help get hate BMR up and get you in fat burning mode!
Third, a tip here: be careful not to do too much cardio.
When building muscle you have to be careful about the kinds of cardio you are doing. Many times people go for too long or too hard in their cardio sessions and they end up burning into the muscle they are trying so hard to earn. Cardio does not necessarily mean weight loss. There are a dozen ways to lose weight and while cardio can help, it is not the end all. In fact, in many cases too much cardio can actually stall your weight loss efforts because instead of burning the carbs you are trying to burn off, you could be burning away your hard earned muscle, especially if you are not fueling and refueling properly. If you are going to include cardio, you should definitely include some strength training as well to help build muscle instead of burning through it. Cardio without strength training can lead to "soft" bodies with no tone or definition. So they key is to incorporate a combination of both. And of course, you cannot have a proper weight loss plan without the right nutrition (fuel on protein!)! When building muscle, you should stick to HIIT type cardio sessions (short bouts of intense cardio) and limit it to only 2-3 times per week.
The best method to tone up must include both cardio and strength training which will help reduce overall body fat; then you can start toning and build muscle around the areas you want to improve. And above all, nutrition is 85% of the equation, so the right balance of carbs, protein and fat is crucial!