What’s up with “toning?” To me, toning means simply getting lean enough that the underlying muscle is visible; in effect building lean muscle while burning fat. A muscle is toned by nature, however the amount of fat on top varies, as does the amount of subcutaneous water being retained, hence the puffy and/or “bulky” look. What we really want is visible muscle definition with little fat, resulting in smaller overall arms, legs and torso. Maximizing and preserving valuable muscle is key since the amount of lean muscle a woman holds is the #1 most important predictor of resting metabolic rate.
So ladies, don’t be afraid of muscle! Simply take the right steps to maximize fat loss simultaneously and bulking becomes impossible. In order to build lean muscle while also burning fat, it is important to train optimally and eat for fat loss. Besides, like I tell my clients: the difference between bulking and toning is your diet. Here are my top muscle building tips for women. Good luck, and let me know how it goes! ox Jill
#1: Weight train 3x/week minimum. Consistency is key here. Results are yours for the taking with consistent effort, even if you have a poor workout or are too tired to give it your all on certain days, getting in the gym 3x/week to generate even a little bit of weight-training stimulus will pay off over time.
#2: Train with heavy weights. Ladies, get over your “responsive arms” and “thunder thighs”–lifting enough to coax the muscles into responsiveness and generate soreness is not only a good indication of the degree of muscle break-down a workout generates but also a necessity to build lean mass and achieve fat loss while at rest. Let your muscles do the fat burning for you.
#3: Train to failure. While you are grabbing that heavy weight, go ahead and make sure it is one that you can lift 10 times, but not 11. Getting to the point of breathlessness, burning in the muscles and inducing failure with heavy weight all guarantee the hormonal cascade necessary for muscle building and fat-burning: increased lactic acid, growth hormone, testosterone, cortisol, adrenaline–an optimal formula to get the body responsive. Since this is a very intense technique, rotate periods in your training where you don’t train to failure, like adding a light “resting” period when you train with lighter weights for 1-2 weeks and then go back to training to failure in your workouts for 6-8 weeks.
#4: Eat protein pre-workout. Here’s where the fat-burning side of the equation comes in…eating 20-30 grams of whey protein 20-30 minutes before a workout, along with ~5g of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) encourages the body to pull from fat stores to power the workout and preserves muscle being used for energy. Limit the carbs pre-workout since insulin’s presence in the blood effectively shuts down lipolysis (burning stored fat).
#5: Eat protein (and a little carb) post-weight training workout. In order to capitalize on your tough weight workout, give your body the amino acids (protein) it needs to repair muscle. You will also need some carb in order to release insulin (the muscle-building pathway depends on it), however, too much carb will also store fat. Find your unique Carb Tipping Point to know how many grams you should be getting. I recommend starting with 20-30g protein and 20-30 grams carbohydrates (depending on your size) post-weights–good choices include bananas, honey, grape juice and white potatoes.
#6: Eat protein (and a little healthy fat) post-cardio workout. After a cardio-only workout, the muscles don’t require the same insulin stimulus as after a weight workout. In fact, post-cardio is one of the best opportunities to burn fat. Eating a bunch of carbs after a cardio-only workout may blunt the fat-burning effect of the workout so stick with veggies, lean proteins and even fats. Here is my favorite post-cardio shake:
In a blender or Vitamix, blend:
20-30 grams egg white protein powder
8 oz unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp natural peanut butter
5 grams L-glutamine
Liquid Stevia to desired sweetness (I use Chocolate flavor)
1 cup ice
#7: Eat all your starchy carbs for the day in your post-workout meal, and the very next 2 small meals. For example, if you weight-train at 6am, you eat carbs with a post-workout meal at 7am, 10am and 1pm. If you train at 7pm, you eat starchy carbs at 8pm, 6am and 9am the next day, etc. Your metabolism is elevated for at least the first few hours after the workout is over (maybe longer) and so the best time to capitalize on muscle building and utilize an elevated metabolism to avoid fat storage is in the hours following your workout. Starchy carbs include foods like potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, squash, zucchini, pumpkin, whole grains, quinoa, etc. Consume your designated bites of starch according to your ME Burner Type at each of the meals. At all other meals (2-3), eat just lean protein and fibrous veggies (greens, etc). More about Best Carb Choices.
#8: Sleep a minimum 8 hours each night. One of the hardest things for most of us to do, but without a doubt a key part of the muscle-building process. Adequate rest and sleep are imperative in the quest for results. Sleep is one of the key times in terms of growth hormone release, and is also one of the best times for fat burning. However, sleeping only a few hours and/or eating a very high carb meal right before bed means that most of your sleep is spent digesting food and not even getting into the fat burning process yet. Pair adequate rest with optimal nutrition for best results!
To follow my exact muscle building programs for women, check out my 4-Week DIY Training programs: 4 Weeks to Lean Legs, 4 Weeks to Toned Upper Body & 4 Weeks to Tight Core!