Lose Weight, Get Toned
A lot of people want to lose weight and get that toned, healthy look, but with an overwhelming amount of quick fix products and commercials, most people don't know where to start. But let's get one thing straight, right off the bat; Getting into great shape is not easy. Training your body to be its best takes work and dedication, but before we get into the rough stuff, let's take a look at how your body burns fat and builds muscle.
Now we've all heard of people counting calories or watching their coloric intake, but what does it really mean? In terms of food, a calorie is a unit of energy that the body uses to carry basic functions such as moving or breathing. All food contains calories, and the way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume in any given day. Now, that is not to say that you should work yourself to the bone trying to burn those pesky calories. In fact, your body burns calories doing everything; eating, sleeping, breathing, even reading this article! Burning calories just means your body is using the energy stored in calories to work your brain, muscles, and even burn fat. So the trick is not to consume less calories or strain your body with an exorbitant amount of exercise, but to balance your health and fitness lifestyle so that you burn just enough to start seeing some weight loss.
Losing weight is all about increasing metabolism. Metabolism is basically a way of saying how much energy (energy) your body uses to carry out its biological functions. Now don't get me wrong, a slow metabolism isn't going to make you gain weight, as your metabolism tends to adapt to your specific lifestyle. For example, if you suddenly stop eating, your metabolism will slow down to conserve calories until it completey runs out of fuel. This means that your metabolism will stay balanced with your caloric intake, keeping your body at the same weight until your body exhausts all of its energy. Increasing your metabolism however, through a healthy diet and exercise, can help burn more unwanted calories without having to starve yourself.
A good diet is essential for shedding pounds and building muscle. A diet doesn't have to mean eating less or restricting yourself from the food you love. All a healthy diet really entails is increasing your intake of healthy foods such as;
Fruits and Vegetables: these contain a lot of vitamins and minerals that boost your metabolism and usually contain less calories while still providing your body with essential sugars, electrolytes, and other nutrients.
Grains: try not to restrict your grain intake either. Bread and pasta may contain a lot of calories, but the carbohydrates within these types of foods are essential for energy production. Whole grain breads are best, since grains gone through a milling process such as white bread have had the bran and germ removed, taking the nutritional value with them. Those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease can find many gluten free options available as well.
Dairy: dairy or appropriate substitutes for vegans and those with lactose intolerance provide vitamins, protein, essential fats and oils, and overall help the body with many necessary fat burning functions.
Protein: very important. If you want to build lean muscle that boosts your metabolism, protein is a must. Protein from meat, beans, nuts, and soy products help repair your muscles after exercise and provide long term energy benefits.
Water: also extremely important. Water helps break down a little energy molecule in the body called ATP, which is kind of like money your body uses to buy fuel. Breaking down, or hydrolizing, this molecule releases energy your body needs to keep functioning. Water also provides the body with oxygen to keep cells healthy. Be sure to drink lots of water throughout the day, especially during exercise, but not too much that you feel sick or bloated.
There's no way around it. Exercise is a must for toned muscles. Although diet alone can help you lose weight, if you want fit, healthy muscles, you have to work them. Now let's see how exactly muscles get stronger;
Have you ever heard the phrase "no pain, no gain?" Well believe it or not, it's actually true! Muscles are made of these little fibers all pressed together. If you work the muscles hard enough, these fibers will tear, which causes the aches and pains associated with exercise. Muscles get stronger when cells use proteins and the amino acids they're made out of to repair the muscle fibers. The cells make sure to reinforce the fibers to make them stronger than before, in order to try to prevent future injury, strenghening your muscles in the process. This is very similar to how you tend not to break bones that you've broken before. Now if you want to get toned, but not bulky, it's important to know the difference between aerobic exercises, and anaerobic exercises, as well as introducing high intensity interval training (HIIT);
Aerobic: These are exercises performed as lower intensities for longer periods of time, such as jogging a few miles, jump roping, or doing 50 repititions of lifting five pound weights. Exercises like these are good for tightening your muscles without developing a lot of bulk.
Anaerobic: These are short spurts of high entensity workouts, such as 30 second sprints, squats, or heavy weight training with a low number of repetitions. Exercises like these help push your muscles to grow, rather than just keeping them tight and toned.
HIIT: This is a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercises, where you perform a short burst of high intensity training, and then follow it when a longer burst of low intensity cooldown, then repeating. An example would be sprinting for 30 seconds, then jogging or walking for one minute, with as many repetitions as you like.
One thing I absolutely must keep clear, do not overwork yourself. Feeling a bit of an ache after a workout it a good thing, it means you've worked your muscles enough to strengthen them. However, pushing yourself too hard can put too much strain on your muscles, damaging them immensely. Find that sweet spot in your exercises where you can feel the burn, but it isn't too painful. Work within your current ability level - as you get stronger, you'll be able to do more and more.