How to Tone Up Without Bulking Up

One of the main concerns that women have when they begin to weight train is the fear of getting too big and looking too manly. I certainly felt this way when I first started really working out heavy. Unless you’re lifting so heavy that all you can do is six reps and you’re eating a ton of protein throughout your day, then yes, you might build some serious muscle. But with a normal routine, good nutrition and a bit of supplementation, you’ll start looking and feeling way sexier than you do now, without bulking up. Are you ready to get some seriously toned and sexy muscle on that body? Lets get you started!


Adaptive Benefits of Strength Training

  • Improved Cardiovascular Efficiency
  • Increased Bone Density
  • Increased Lean Body Mass
  • Decreased Body Fat
  • Increased Metabolic Efficiency

To tone up we want to focus on resistance training, macro-nutrients (protein, carbs and fat), and cardio.

In able to tone up your muscles, you’ll need to keep your reps between 12-15. The heavier you lift and the lower your reps, the more muscle you will build. Example: to tone you’d want to use a heavy enough weight to only be able to lift it 12-15 times. That last rep should be so hard that you can’t do another one if you tried. If you are able to do more than 15 reps, increase your weight. If you’re only able to do six to ten, decrease the weight. You’ll want to rest for a full minute and repeat this exercise two more times (for three sets total). Choose up to six exercises per body part.

Diet plays an important part in toning up and the cleaner (closer to nature) you eat, the quicker you will get there. Whatever your fitness goal is – losing weight, toning or building, there are specific things you’ll need to follow. Since you are reading this, I know your goal is to tone. The “Do’s” of toning and diet look like this…

When lifting weights and toning up you will need to eat one gram of protein for every pound you weigh. If you’re 150 pounds you’ll need 150 grams of protein, split in to five meals, which is 30 grams of protein at each meal. That might seem like a lot, and you’re probably thinking “how am I supposed to get all that protein in?” It’s easier if you plan ahead, read nutrition labels and get familiar with the foods you eat. Make sure to get 60% of your caloric intake from protein (1,500 calorie diet requires 900 calories from lean meat). Lean meat like chicken, turkey, egg whites, salmon and protein shakes will be 90% of your protein supply. Every now and then you can throw in lean red meat and tuna to switch it up a little. Although tuna is good for you, it contains high levels of mercury which can be harmful for your health if consumed often.

Carbs are just as important when toning muscle. 30% of your caloric intake as carbs  is best when building and toning muscles (1,500 calorie diet requires 450 calories from carbs). You’ll want to eat most of your carbs early in the day, unless you’re someone who works out late. Getting in 20-30 grams of protein and 20-30 grams of carbs within 45 minutes after the gym is very important. You don’t want your workout to go to waste and unless you feed your starving muscles, they’re going to get devoured by your body. Complex carbs like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice and legumes (red beans, pinto beans, black beans, etc.) should be 90% of your carb supply. If you do eat carbs at night, keep them clean and limit them to no more than 15 grams. Leafy greens and vegetables like broccoli, asparagus and brussels sprouts are the best way to get the most bang for your buck – they are packed with micro-nutrients.

Healthy fat is the last macro-nutrient you’ll want to make sure you’re getting plenty of. Ten percent of your calories should come from fat (1,500 calorie a day diet = 150 calories). Avocado, salmon, olive oils, and tree nuts like almonds are loaded with healthy poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats.

In order to tighten up, not only do we need to workout with the right weights and have a clean diet, we need to get in the right amount of cardio in, too. It’s recommended that we should get 30-40 minutes of cardio five days a week for best results. You’ll want to be sure to raise your heart rate high enough to be in the fat burning zone. Cardio not only melts fat (to show off that lean muscle you’ve been building), it’s essential for a healthy heart, it increases your metabolism, it releases feel good hormones, and helps manage diabetes. It’s also a great way to relieve stress, increase your energy level, help you sleep deeper and can help relieve depression and anxiety. Find an activity that you enjoy or are interested in, then get out there and sweat!

Things to Avoid!

  • Lifting too heavy (keep your reps between 12-15 max).
  • Supplements that build muscle like testosterone or creatine.
  • Getting too much or too little protein. Protein is the building block of muscle. One gram per pound is all you will need. Too little protein and you leave your muscles starving. Too much protein and it can just be stored as fat.
  • Not drinking enough water. Water is going to flush out all the toxins that build up while weight training. Water will help relieve achy muscles while increasing your metabolism and decreasing your appetite. Not too mention it is a natural energy booster because it fights fatigue and dehydration.
  • Eating too many or the wrong carbs. Choose whole grains, oats, sweet potatoes and brown rice as your staples.
  • High fat foods, fried foods, empty calories, high sodium and sugar – at all costs!

If you follow the steps above in both exercise and eating habits, you’ll build muscle, slim up, and look great while avoiding the whole fear of “bulking up.” Leave me any questions or comments below. 🙂