Eat and exercise your way to a healthy body
Every girl longs for the lean and toned look. Wendy Yeo of FitnessWerkz gives some handy pointers.
How to get the "toned" look?
Every girl longs for the lean and toned look. To achieve that, there are a few principles to follow but before we even get to them, I would say let's start with making a commitment to yourself to stay disciplined. Keep your mind focused on the end result and never let that out of sight and never give up!
Achieving the lean and toned look means getting to the right proportion of lean muscle mass and body fat. For the average woman, an ideal body fat range will be between 18%-22%; if you are between 20 to 35, then aim for 20% or lower and if you are 35 and above, between 20-22%.
In short, you will need to lower your body fat percentage and increase your muscle mass, and by the latter, I do not mean bulking up - it's highly unlikely that most women will.
How to lower your body fat and increase your muscle mass?
- Eat "good" carbs. Carbohydrates are your main source of energy and if you want a sculpted look, you HAVE to exercise which means you need energy. Get your energy from fruits, vegetables, legumes, brown rice, oats, wholemeal or wholegrain products, and starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet peas, whole corn), and cut out the "bad" or refined carbs like sodas, sweets, anything made from processed flour (white bread, cakes, muffins, doughnuts etc) and white rice. Keep desserts to a minimal - eat fruits instead. Remember it is not just the amount you eat but what you eat is even more important.
- Limit your oil intake. Stick to the good fats such as monounsaturated fats (olive oil, many types of nuts, avocadoes, soybeans and soybean oil) and polyunsaturated fats e.g. omega-3 and omega-6 (fish, green leafy vegetables, soybeans, flaxseed and seaweed). Stay away from the bad fats such as saturated animal fats found in fatty meats and plant fats such as coconut oil, and trans fats.
- Drink lots of water, at least 2 litres a day. Water helps to flush out toxins and iced water, in particular, helps as your body needs to raise its metabolism to warm the water to your body temperature.
- Change your eating habits - instead of eating 3 main meals a day, try to eat 5 or 6 smaller meals a day. Eating frequently but in smaller amounts will help to raise your metabolism. Also avoid eating after 8pm and make sure you never skip breakfast.
- Cardio training - cardiovascular exercises are good for burning calories/fat and a must.
- Resistance training - burning fats and losing weight alone will not get you a toned look. In fact if you overdo your cardio training, you can become a "skinny fat" whereby you are not only burning fat, you are also burning away your muscles.
Resistance training makes your muscle long and lean and with the right calorie intake, will increase your muscle mass. Your metabolic rate will also increase which means your body can burn off more calories faster and this helps to keep weight and body fat off.
Circuit training is the answer for most women
Can Women Bulk Up from Strength Training?
One of the biggest exercise myths that women fall for is that they will bulk up if they start to 'work on their muscles' and the mention of strength or resistance immediately conjures up images of muscular bodybuilders. In reality, it is very difficult for women to bulk up.
There are two main reasons for this. First of all, women generally do not produce significant levels of testosterone. Testosterone is important for the growth of muscle mass and strength and is about 20 to 30 times more in men than in women. Women are therefore not genetically engineered to become muscular and bulky.
Secondly, even men will tell you that it requires more than testosterone to get that six-packs! The right diet and exercise regime are actually very important. Bodybuilders actually adhere to a very strict diet - high energy, high protein, low fat diet. You would have to eat at least 5 to 6 times a day and train almost everyday to actually bulk up. So, to sum it up, it actually requires a lot of hard work and discipline for anyone seeking to achieve a bodybuilder's body. Therefore, all the womenfolk out there really should not have anything to worry about if they are contemplating strength training.
Diet versus Exercise - Which is more important?
A person will put on weight when her calorie intake is greater than her calorie expenditure so put it simply, if she does not manage to burn off whatever she eats, the excess goes to fat storage for future use. So if you decided to only work on your diet (combination of eating less and eating right), you will be able to shed some weight and lower your body fat. However, with no exercise, you will probably become a 'skinny fat' i.e. 'slim' but flabby. In the long run, someone who relies on diet alone is vulnerable to putting on weight again the moment she deviates from her diet plan.
On the other hand, if you choose to only exercise and believe that the exercises will burn off "anything and everything you eat" and hence think that you are given the licence to eat whatever you desire, and indulge in a high-fat diet, then your body fat percentage will certainly increase and there is no way you can get a lean and sculpted look with a high body fat percentage.
Typical diet for a woman looking to lose fat and gain muscle mass
Any diet must always be balanced, even if you are trying to lose fat. A lot of people think that if they need to lose weight, going on a low-carbs or no-carbs diet will do the trick. While such a diet will produce some results at the initial stage, it will ultimately be unsustainable as the body is deprived of its chief energy source. I would recommend a balanced diet that is lower on calories and comprising 45% carbohydrates, 45% protein and 10% good fats. Now, it is important that one must avoid the refined carbohydrates like white rice, white bread and anything that uses processed flour so roti pratas, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, are out. Instead get your energy from complex carbohydrates like brown rice, oats, whole grains or wholemeal bread or pasta, vegetables like broccoli, beans and sweet potatoes. Protein is absolutely essential so eat lots of fish, lean meat, eggs, soy-based foods, legumes and nuts.
As mentioned earlier, if you are overweight and need to lose weight, then you will also need to lower your calorie intake to between 1000 to 1200 calories at most. However, if you are not overweight and have a healthy BMI but simply need to reduce your body fat percentage, then you can stick to a calorie range of 1200 to 1500 calories, depending on your metabolic rate and the amount of exercise you are committed to.
1 glass of plain water
Note that in between meals, you should remember to drink water. You should aim to drink about 8 glasses of water a day.
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