The human brain is extraordinary. It’s also remarkably weird and prone to going badly wrong. We routinely make terrible choices, believe ridiculous things, and come up with diet/training plans that make no sense whatsoever.

Getting “toned” is one of such nonsensical plans. 

In the pursuit of a “toned” body, people crash diet, do excessive cardio or specific exercises to “tone up” their problem areas. In truth, “toning” has little to do with losing weight.

Before I explain why is that, you need to know the two most common ways people try to “tone up.” (And fuck it all up. Don’t do that). Then, I’ll show you the right way.

Here goes…

The WRONG Way To “Tone Up” Número Uno—Fast Weight Loss

Look, I get it—who wants to lose weight slowly? That’s dumb. And lame. The faster the better. However, that leads to crash dieting and falling face-first for the latest FAD diet that has the best before & after pictures.

Deep down in your heart, you know very well that trying to lose weight as fast as possible, the 800-calorie diet, a special fit tea, 21-day detox are fucking stupid. Even though you would never recommend any of that crap to your best mate, you keep doing it to yourself.

If you do this slowly, if you lose up to 1% of your total body weight per week (equates to 1-2 pounds/week for most people), you will be the one getting questions like “How did you do that?” and “Can you show me your training routine?” in a few years.

So before you start, always remember—if the methods are unsustainable, the results are unsustainable.

That said, multiply your goal weight in pounds by 12. That’s your calorie deficit to lose weight. If you want to weigh 160 pounds, you would eat 1,900 calories. 

If you want, you can even have a calorie range rather than a fixed number. Instead of trying to be “perfect” with hitting 1,900 calories each day, you could stay in a 1,850-1,950 calories range.

The WRONG Way To “Tone Up” Número Dos—Focusing On Calories Burned

So much of what people do are just fucking stupid. Focusing on calories burned is one example. 

For one, you know those estimated calories burned displayed on cardio equipment? Or on your Fitbit? They can be off by 27-93%.1

People get too caught up in burning calories so they start doing ungodly amounts of cardio or turn their workouts into I’ll crossfit the shit out of myself type of workouts. This is NOT how you “tone” up.

This is actually a one-way ticket to muscle loss city. This is how you become “fluffy.” Leave cardio for breaking through a weight loss plateau or for its cardiovascular health benefits (keep doing it if you enjoy it, of course). 

If you want to build a bodacious booty and an all-around fit-looking body, then you should put your energy and focus towards the following two:

1. Losing FAT. Not Just Weight

As I previously said, “toning” has nothing to do with losing weight. It has everything to do with losing FAT to reveal the muscle underneath (if you have some).

“Toned” body simply means having low body fat levels and at least some muscle mass (I wrote damn near an essay on building muscle here).

To lose fat and not just water weight, focus on:

  • Controlling your calories

For any fat-loss diet to work, it has to be based on the simple principle of what we know as a caloric deficit. You have to be eating fewer calories than you’re burning. You cannot get around the law of energy balance.

To make it easier and more sustainable, start tracking your food intake. Just like you track your finances, you should at least try tracking your food intake. 

It doesn’t mean you are going to do it meticulously for the rest of your life.

You could try and do it for 30 days just to understand how much you’re eating and if you want to continue, great. If you don’t want to, it’s fine too. But at least give it a try before jumping on some wacky FAD diet where you drink nothing but blended grass until you poop out all of your insides.

  • Eating a balanced diet

If your diet asks you to cut all your favorite foods, it won’t work.

If your diet asks you to drink your calories (meal replacements, shakes, etc.), it won’t work. 

If your diet asks you to cut an entire macronutrient (protein, carbs, fat) or food group (grains, bread, fruits, etc.), it won’t work. 

A healthy relationship with food is built on the foundation of sustainability and adherence. And that’s easier to achieve if you ensure most of your main meals are balanced in all three macronutrients. No food or food group should be off-limits (unless you have an allergy).

Ensure that on most days, most of the time, your nutrition consists primarily of whole, minimally processed foods and then, enjoy an occasional scoop of ice cream.

In other words, make 80 percent of your overall food choices to come from nutritious, minimally processed foods, while the remaining 20 percent can come from “naughty” foods.

This will keep you sane, keep deprivation at bay and allow you to enjoy the foods you love. In moderation.

1. Building Muscle

As Nick Tumminello, 2016 NSCA personal trainer of the year, noted in his book, 

Muscle creates the shape of your body, and therefore more muscle equals more muscle tone. You can’t build a perkier, rounder, or sexier anything without building muscle.

He’s got a point you know…

Resistance training is one of the best things you can do when losing fat. Rather than doing more cardio to get a slim waist, firm underarms, a perky little tushie, and obsessing over burning calories, chasing more muscle mass and strength should be your goal.

OOo-OOo! You know those tiny pink dumbbells that you saw in the gym? They aren’t the tools for the job. Progressively HEAVY weight lifting is what you should be after. How heavy? Well, I wrote about that too. Your welcome.

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The “toned” physique that most mortals crave requires having some muscle mass in the right places and lower body fat levels. That’s the super-secret “secret.” There are no “toning” exercises. No “toning” superfoods.

Logging more hours on the treadmill isn’t the answer either.

Keep your nutrition in check to drop some fat. Then, lift weights regularly to get stronger & add size, and you will look leaner, more athletic, more “TONED.”

P.S. BOOM! You made it to the “PS” section. So…

If you’re like most people, then you may feel a bit overwhelmed and have a laundry list of questions on training & nutrition. If so, check out my Online Coaching Program below.
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