Do you want to be toned? Do you want long lean muscles, not the big bulky kind? Well forget it because it doesn't work that way. The very word, 'toned', is representative of an industry that preys on misinformation, and keeps people in the dark about how to train properly. Being 'toned' is a word that is only used by people who do not understand how muscles work, and by people trying to sell you fitness via infomercial. For someone to play off this misinformation intentionally makes them a fraud and to do it by accident makes them incompetent. Here are just a few of the worst offenders. If you hate your money I strongly suggest you waste it here accordingly:
A lot of you already know that being 'toned' isn't a thing, but have a lot of friends/coworkers/spouses who still hide behind this phrase to avoid hard work. Hopefully this blog will give you some good talking points to talk get sense into them.
So if not 'toned' then what?
There are two major substances in the body that will dictate what it looks like; fat and muscle. Skeleton, organs, skin etc. are pretty much static and don't change as dramatically without surgery, so we won't talk about those here. Fat and muscle are substances contained in the body that can be manipulated both up and down, to increase or decrease based on a stimulus. You can add more fat, or subtract it. You can add more muscle or lose it. These substances never 'turn into each other' in the same way that a pencil does not turn into tape dispenser. Fat doesn't turn into muscle and muscle doesn't turn into fat. You can also add or subtract fat and muscle no matter your particular emotions on the subject. These are scientific concepts that don't require belief or anxiety, just inputs and outputs. In a science lab you mix yellow and green to get blue, every time. In the gym you add muscle and lose fat by using progressively overloaded compound exercises and eat a high protein with minimal crap diet. This always works, and doesn't need to be tried. It always works, and if it doesn't, you're not doing it right. The reason that 'toned' has become a descriptor is because fat often sits on top of muscle:
That means a muscle that is covered by fat looks smooth, can be squishy and even dimply in the case of cellulite. But it is important to remember this is not muscle you are touching; it is fat. People who want to get 'toned' want to lose body fat. What they are saying in essence is that they want to lose the fatty layer that is covering up their muscles, a worth and admirable goal.
Muscles adapt and respond to a stimulus exactly the way you think they will. No one in the history of the universe has woken up one day with more muscle on their body than they were expecting. Adding muscle is a grueling and difficult process, and it is excruciatingly slow. To be worried about adding too much muscle is like leaving your job early so you don't get paid too much and overflow your bank account with cash.
Muscles (which are your friends) must grow larger in order to be to be shapely. The shape muscles have is dependent on if they are large enough to demonstrate what they look like through the skin. People who look like stick figures do not have enough muscle at all, and therefore they are not shapely. The areas that are of sexual interest to other humans are (almost) always muscularly related. For example, the glutes are made of muscle. Women and men who have nice butts have glutes. Glutes are muscles. That means if you want a nice butt, you want to add muscle. If a butt is soft or jiggly (not in a good way) that means it is covered by fat, in which case you want to do things to lose this fatty layer to reveal the shapely glute muscles within.
Anyone who says they want to be 'toned' actually wants to Add Muscle and Lose Fat. The terms are important here, because your goal dictates what type of training you do to achieve that goal. To get 'toned' people will try pilates, zoomba, more cardio, the pineapple diet and all manner of craziness. If someone tells you to 'try it', 'it's fun' or that it will get you 'toned' that is a red flag that it doesn't work. There is what works, and then all of the stuff that doesn't work. People who make change and build muscle and get stronger don't try, they just do.
So let's change the language. If being 'toned' is your goal, change that to Add Muscle and Lose Fat. To add muscle you need to lift weights. You need to eat a high protein diet to give your body the building blocks to build that muscle. You need to eat vegetables with every meal to provide the micronutrients to keep your body healthy and growing (yes, muscle again) and also take up space in your stomach so there is no more for other things like chips and sweets. Lifting adds muscle, nutrition loses body fat.
So here's the game plan:
Step 1: Lift weights
Step 2: Eat protein and vegetables with every meal
Step 3: Stop saying 'toned'. You want to Add Muscle and Lose Fat
Let's stop the madness people! Anyone who tells you that being 'toned' is a thing either doesn't have any idea how the body works, or is about to sell you something you probably shouldn't buy.