Right now, going to the gym and getting ‘ripped’ with lean toned muscles is pretty popular. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford a qualified personal trainer to give them good nutrition and exercise advice. Not that you 100% need one if you’re just looking to tone up. The biggest thing a lot of people get wrong is the diet. Specifically, they underestimate how important it is to get the diet right and they go full out on the exercise. This can be quite dangerous. Think about it. You’re asking your body to do all this work and you’re not giving it the right fuel, or in a lot of cases enough fuel, to do it!
I’m going to go through a few basic ‘must know’ when it comes to achieving a leaner, stronger body!
Exercise To Maintain and Build Muscles
First off, exercise is important. I know I said the right diet is also super important and this still stand. You need diet and exercise to be balanced. When it comes to muscle if you don’t use it, you lose it. Kind of like a car. If you don’t drive it for a long period of time the battery runs out. It’s recommended we do different types of exercise. So cardio to keep up our endurance and resistance training to build muscle strength. Picking the right type of resistance training is important when it comes to deciding whether you want large obvious muscles, or long lean toned muscles. Lifting weights is the best type of exercise to bulk up. Resistance training like Pilates where you use your own body weight and gravity as resistance is better if you don’t want bulky muscles.
Also using equipment like TheraBand’s and resistance bands are great. I also recommend to always stretch after a workout. Even if you aren’t aspiring to be able to do a full split if you don’t stretch after working those muscle they will tighten up, and that can be painful. Foam rollers are also great to massage those tight muscles. Exercise isn’t just for people wanting to build and strengthen muscle. It helps control weight. It boosts immunity, mood and mental wellbeing and it has been shown to protect against long-term-health-conditions such as type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.
Fuel Those Muscles Right!
Don’t starve yourself! Whatever your goal is a very low-calorie diet is not the answer. Diets lower than 1200kCals/day can be detrimental to your overall health because your diet is likely to be deficient in many essential nutrients. It could also cause your body to hold on to your fat stores and start to breakdown muscle (which is made of protein) to use as a source of fuel. This is called glycogenesis and is not an ideal situation as protein has many important functions only it can carry out. Not to mention, only protein can build and maintain muscle..Speak with a qualified Nutritionist to figure out a calorie deficit that is safe for you. Remember if you are doing intense physical activity everyday your caloric needs will be a lot more than if you are just exercising a few times a week.
Don’t Let Age Hold You Back, Keep Those Muscles Working!
A lot of people find that as they get older, they can’t build muscle or lose weight like they could in their teens or twenties. That is because after the age of 30 (approximately) our bodies stop producing Growth Hormone (GH). This leads to the decline in lean muscle mass and an increase in fat mass especially around the abdominal area (Cummings and Merriam, 1999) (sound familiar??) Don’t worry! This is completely natural. It is a bit of a pain though when you feel you must work harder to stay in shape! Still following the simple advice given in this article will help you stay healthy, and a lot of studies have shown that staying active and eating a varied balanced diet full of antioxidant rich foods like fruit and vegetables, slows down the aging process (Di Daniele et al., 2016).
Give Muscles Time To Repair By Getting Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep isn’t something we think about when wanting to build muscle despite it being a really important factor. Why? Well, when we sleep out body has time to repair and rejuvenate. Doing physical activity, especially resistance and weight bearing exercise builds muscle by basically tearing it down and rebuilding it stronger. So, if you don’t give your body the rest it needs to recuperate, you’re going to burn out and possibly injure yourself. Stress also isn’t great for your body when you’re trying to build and strengthen muscle. You should find something that helps you relax whether that be meditation, listening to music, taking a warm Epson salt bath (me!). Love your body and it will love you back!
Carbs are Key!
Don’t forget the carbohydrates! It frustrates me when people talk about a high protein diet as if it is the be all and end all of staying lean. You need a BALANCED DIET. That means sources of Fat, Protein and Carbs with plenty of essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre from pant-based foods. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred sources of energy and it is stored in the form of glycogen. The muscle can hold up to 500g of glycogen, that’s worth up to 2000Kcals! The liver also stores glycogen, but not as much. Only up to 100g which is about 400Kcals. So, if we use up all our glycogen stores during exercise, we need to replenish then to be able to workout at the same level, or harder, the next day. You should consume carbohydrates within 1 hour after completing a workout as this is when our body processes it best.
Pack In The Protein (Naturally!)
I left the Protein last not because I don’t think it’s important, but because like I said above, it’s not the ‘be all and end all’ when it comes to muscle growth. Proteins main function is to maintain and growth muscle cells, so Protein is essential to build toned muscles. Yes, if you are an athlete or if you want to build muscle you probably do need more protein than the average recommended amount, which is 0.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight. The International Society for Sports Nutrition recommends “For building muscle mass and for maintaining muscle mass through a positive muscle protein balance, an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) is sufficient for most exercising individuals” (Jäger et al., 2017). The ISSN also recommends getting this Protein from Whole food sources when you can, which I ‘wholly’ agree with!
I feel people put way too much faith (and money) in Protein supplements. You can get the same protein from foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, soya based products like soya milk, tofu. It is also 100% possible to get more than enough protein on a Vegan or Vegetarian diet without protein supplements. This is something qualified Nutritionist can help you with. I think it’s better to get your protein from real food sources because you’ll get the added benefit of the vitamins and minerals and other essential nutrients. It’s safer. Dietary supplements can be risky. You need to be sure you’re buying them from a reputable source, especially if you’re buying online. If you want to learn more about Protein check out blog that will tell you all about this essential nutrient! https://sorchashealthyliving.com/protein/
Just to recap. To build those lean toned muscles you desire.
- Enough calories
- A balanced varied diet full of fruit and vegetables
- Enough good quality sleep and relaxation
- Get enough Carbohydrates
- Get Protein from food sources
I hope these tips can help you achieve that lean healthy body you are aiming towards!
Cummings, D.E. and Merriam, G.R. (1999) ‘Age-related changes in growth hormone secretion: should the somatopause be treated?’, Seminars in Reproductive Endocrinology, 17(4), pp. 311–325. doi:10.1055/s-2007-1016241.
Di Daniele, N. et al. (2016) ‘Impact of Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome, cancer and longevity’, Oncotarget, 8(5), pp. 8947–8979. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.13553.
Jäger, R. et al. (2017) ‘International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise’, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), pp. 1–25. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8.