Muscle definition happens in the gym, right? Pumping iron and showing off bulging muscles? Well, weight training is essential, of course. But it’s only part of the process. What you don’t see is what people do when they leave the gym. Diet, for example, is even more important in attaining the muscle tone you’re after. And it’s just one of the factors to consider. Here are 5 surprising muscle-defining tips to take your body to the next level.
Lose the fat.
Many people have a lot more muscle than they think—it might just be hidden under a nice cushy layer of fat. In fact, heavier people typically have more muscle mass, especially if they’re relatively active. The weight makes them stronger simply because every movement is a form of resistance training. With more muscle mass comes more calories burned, even at rest. So a person who carries more weight is typically burning more calories and working harder, even at a slower pace, than a lighter fit person. The key to uncovering all that muscle is fat loss. As the fat melts away, you’ll start to see what’s been hiding.
Work harder in the kitchen.
Diet is the key component to achieving muscle definition. Think of it this way. Working out without watching what you eat is like washing your car and driving it through the mud; it could take 30 seconds to ruin what you spent an hour cleaning up. In the same way, you can erase an hour of hard work in the gym with just a few bites of the wrong foods. To shed the fat that’s covering your fit physique, you will need to be in a caloric deficit. So track your calories with apps like LoseIt!, which will help you set a caloric budget. Once you begin to shed the extra baggage, you’ll start to see all that muscle you’ve been working so hard to sculpt.
Bodybuilders tend to avoid cardio because they’re scared of losing muscle. But the more body fat you lose, the more muscular you’ll look. And one way to help you lean out is by increasing your cardio. You can also boost fat burn by changing up your weight training. Try more circuit training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT training).
Decrease your carbs.
Most people eat way too many carbohydrates and not enough healthy fats and proteins. You can preserve muscle during weight loss by boosting your protein intake and decreasing unhealthy carbs like processed foods, cereals, bread, chips, cookies, and sugary foods. Also, limit carbs to only when you need them, so your body will be less likely to store them. They’re great fuel for activity, but you don’t need them to sleep. A great time to have healthy carbohydrates (like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, or whole grain pasta) is in the morning or before a workout.
Stick with it longer.
Many people are doing all the right things—for a short amount of time. The key to getting lean is sticking to your diet and exercise routine until you get the results you want. Most of my clients will do it right for a period of time, but then stop short of their goal. I don’t stop until I’ve reached my goal. That’s really the only difference. Same diet, same workout, different stopping place.