In The Secret to Bulking Up, we covered how to put on muscle mass. In this article, Hasan and I will discuss how to get lean after bulking up or simply, how to get toned.
What does it mean to get “toned?”
When people say that they want to “tone up,” this can be interpreted as wanting to become leaner. Basically, losing fat takes priority and getting a little extra muscle definition is an added bonus.
To briefly summarize what was covered, it takes an excess calorie intake or energy input to increase muscle mass. Therefore, the opposite is also true. You need to create a caloric deficit; less caloric intake and more energy output (through physical activity) is required to lose excess fat.
As an example, if you’ve been eating 3000 calories per day, try cutting down to 2500. Deducting by 500 calories per day will allow you to lose 1 lb of body fat per week through diet alone. However, you do NOT want to be jumping from 3000 to 500 calories per day; this will result in muscle loss and is simply dangerous.
During the leaning phase, it is important to know that the goal is to maintain muscle mass. While at a calorie deficit, it is more difficult put on additional size. If your nutrient intake is reduced to a low level while you continue to exercise at maximum intensity, it will be difficult to stimulate enough protein synthesis to build more muscle. Again, our focus is to lose fat, but maintain muscle. At this point in time, you should already be satisfied with the amount of muscle you have gained.
How do you lose fat but avoid losing muscle?
Here’s a sample blueprint that you can follow to lose fat and maintain muscle:
- Perform 20-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise such as HIIT or running on most days of the week, depending on how much fat you’re aiming to lose. In fact, running will also help you lose weight on your thighs. Cardiovascular exercise must be made an essential part of your lifestyle. This will continue to stimulate your metabolism throughout the day, thus allowing you to eat adequately while staying lean. The extra metabolism will assist your body in utilizing most of the food that is consumed.
- Maintain the level of weight training you are currently doing. At this point, you should not try to lift more. Increasing the amount of weight you’re lifting while at a calorie deficit can lead to an overtrained state.
- Follow a well balanced, reduced calorie diet. A well balanced diet will follow this ratio of nutrients as closely as possible: 60% carbohydrates, 20-25% protein, and 15% fat. Reduce your overall caloric intake but keep these nutrient ratios the same.
Get your protein from high quality sources such as whey powder or lean meats. Aim for at least 1 g of protein per kg of body weight per day; this ensures that your body has adequate macronutrients to sustain your muscle mass. As an example, an individual weighing 70 kg would need to ingest approximately 70 g of protein per day.
As a golden rule, you only need 1-2 good sets of weight training per week within the 6-8 rep range (until failure) for each muscle group to maintain your muscle mass during the leaning phase.
Focus on a combination of compound movements (deadlifts, squats, bench press) and isolation exercises in order to hit each muscle group.