A combination of strength and cardio training is an effective way to lose weight and tone muscle.
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You see the headlines on newsstands: tone your tummy, banish arm jiggle, shrink your thighs. These claims are misleading because you can't lose weight from a specific body part, also known as spot reducing. When you exercise, you lose fat throughout your body, and the areas you lose weight first depend on genetics, gender, age and calorie consumption.
Exercises that target a specific body part limit your weight loss and lean muscle-building potential. If you want to tone your stomach, for example, only doing crunches every day won't get you very far because you're only exercising the muscles under the fat. To lose weight and see results, you may incorporate aerobic exercise to burn fat that surrounds the core muscles, notes ExRx.net. Typically, the areas that become lean last are the areas you gain first. Women tend to hold more weight in their hips, thighs and butt while men tend to hold weight in their stomach, according to the American Council on Exercise.
Creating a Calorie Deficit
Weight loss is simple. To lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit, meaning you burn more calories than you consume. When you're in caloric deficit, you're body uses fat cells for energy and your weight decreases. There are about 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, so you need to reduce your calorie consumption by 500 to 1,000 calories per day to lose one to two pounds per week, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Remember to cut calories, not nutrition. Replace high-calorie, fattening foods with lower-calorie, fiber-rich foods that will keep you full. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, and legumes are excellent additions to your diet.
Cardiovascular exercises like cycling, running, stair climbing and walking are effective fat and calorie burners. When you exercise at a lower intensity, your body uses fat as the primary source of fuel. As you increase your intensity, it begins to rely more heavily on carbohydrates, but you burn more calories in a shorter period of time, which creates a greater calorie deficit. Incorporate higher-intensity cardio training into your routine by picking up the pace for short intervals of about 30 seconds, then return to a comfortable pace for recovery. These higher-intensity intervals boost your metabolism after your workout, which means you're burning calories even after your workout is finished.
The more lean muscle you have, the more efficiently your body burns calories. Therefore, strength training two to three times per week is an important weight-loss component that tones your whole body. You can use free weights, weight machines, resistance tubing and even your own body weight to strength train. MayoClinic.org recommends choosing a resistance that allows you to complete 12 repetitions. By the last repetition, your muscles should feel fatigued. If you're using your own body weight as resistance, you can do pushups, burpees, squats or crunches.