If the thought of doing endless hours of cardio to get lean and toned sounds like your worst nightmare, we’ve got some great news for you. You can get lean and toned without doing the cardio hard yards. It’s actually very simple to do. Here’s how.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate cardio. Cardio is great! But elevating your heart rate hour upon hour to get the physique you’re after is really only one way to get there; it’s far from the only way, and certainly not the best way to go about it – especially if you hate doing cardio in the first place.
There are plenty of people who do a lot of cardio and are still overweight. There are also plenty of lean and toned people who never do any cardio.
So what’s their secret?
And why is it all so confusing?
When most people say to me they want to ‘tone up’ as a goal, what they generally need to do is a combination of losing some body fat and increasing lean muscle mass by a small amount. It’s the combination of the two gives one’s body a whole new look; a look that builds confidence!
So how do you get there?
First off, I believe that you should do the exercise that you actually love doing, otherwise you’re going to give up, because it’s a chore. This is what happens to most people who half-heartedly join a gym, or the latest HIIT studio, or pound the pavements – they are going through the motions (quite literally) because they think they should, not because of the enjoyment it brings.
To see muscle definition, and give your body a firm appearance, your body fat levels are going to need to be fairly low. If your body fat level is too high, the added layer hides the outline of the muscular structure underneath.
For most people, if you’re putting on weight (whether slowly or rapidly), it’s because of one VERY simple reason: you’re consuming more energy in a day than you’re burning, and you’re creating an energy excess. The body’s only option for a surplus of energy after the liver and muscles are refuelled is to store it as body fat.
Losing body fat is a very basic formula. Consume less energy than you burn. There is no other way to achieve body fat loss, it’s an irrefutable scientific fact. Eating less energy than is used by your body, creates what is very simply known as an energy deficit.
How do I achieve this without counting calories?
The most straightforward way to create an energy deficit and begin to reduce body fat is by reducing the amount of food (energy) going into your mouth. You don’t need to get tricky here, simply eating less of what you’re already eating is the best place to start. There’s no need to go on a Vegan/Paleo/Pescatarian/Gluten Free/Ketogenic diet to achieve results. Forget about that. You don’t have to count calories and prepare meals every Sunday night for the week ahead. Sure, you can if you have the time, but the reality is that these activities could be the speed bumps to your success; one more reason not to stick to your goals.
I recommend to most people to just keep it incredibly simple by reducing the overall volume of solid (food) and liquid (drinks) energy that you consume by 20% as a starting point and see if that starts to make a difference. Begin with smaller portions of exactly the same food that you’re eating now. Simple.
Keep in mind that absolutely everything, except for water, contains energy. It’s not what you eat that enables you to lose body fat, it’s what you don’t eat.
Toning the muscles
Now for the other part of the equation; toning the underlying muscular structure. Studio Pilates does this incredibly effectively, by targeting each and every muscle, and training them using what’s called the lactic energy system.
You know when you have been doing a particular exercise you start to feel the muscles burning? Well, that’s the lactic energy system at work, and it’s incredibly powerful. It builds muscle endurance and lean muscle mass, and it does an incredible job of firing up your metabolism.
Its peak level of effectiveness is between 60 – 90 seconds of movement under load. This is why the duration of each Studio Pilates exercise is around 90 seconds, and why your Studio Pilates instructor is always encouraging you to keep pushing yourself to the end of the exercise. This is where the peak level of effectiveness is.
So, No Cardio Then?
A combination of eating less (to reduce fat stores) and doing regular Studio Pilates workouts (to define the muscles) is all you need to achieve the goal of a lean and toned body. And if you make both a priority, and give it a little time, the combination will completely transform your body.
You may have noticed there are no recommendations to do two hours of cardio a day. Cardio can accelerate fat loss by burning more energy, but it’s not essential as you can just eat less food. So if you absolutely hate it, the good news is, you don’t have to do it to get lean and toned! But keep in mind, cardio is good for heart health, circulation, the brain, endorphins and more … so if you can find a fun option, it’s definitely worth including into your lifestyle.
Author: Jade Winter
Jade Winter is an Olympian and Co-Founder of Studio Pilates International, a network of luxury Pilates studios originating in Australia. After representing his country multiple times in swimming, Jade turned his focus to personal training before finding his true calling as a Pilates instructor. Jade is the CEO of Studio Pilates’ global franchise division and he continues to spread the message of Pilates to the world and fulfills his mission to change the way the world works out.