Achieving a toned and chiseled look is pretty much everyone's dream. Who doesn't want to have a perfect beach body all year round? Getting this look requires a low body fat percentage which is too often a misunderstood process. Hours spent doing sit ups, using topical creams and taking pills are all great examples of how not to get toned.
What is spot reducing?
We all have a problem spot that we would like to get rid of. Whether that problem spot is the stomach, arms or thighs, the process of toning is the same.
An untoned appearance is due to a high body fat percentage. Our body is very good at storing energy we don't need for later use. When we create a calorie surplus (eating more than we burn), the body stores the energy that isn't used as fat in various areas around the body.
Spot reducing is the act of burning fat from a specific area of the body such as the stomach or arms though the use of exercises that target certain areas. Using tricep extensions or sit ups in hopes of burning fat from your arms and abs is spot reducing.
Why isn't it possible?
Spot reducing doesn't work because there's no way to force your body to use fat from the area you need improvement in. If you want to burn fat off of your stomach, doing sit ups won't necessarily burn the fat in that location.
Properly Reduce Body Fat
The key to improving your problem areas is by burning fat all around. The way you do this is by combining a calorie restricted diet with exercise that burns a lot of energy.
The most important step in reducing body fat is finding out how many calories your body needs. You can use the calorie calculator for a good estimate. If you burn 2,500 calories per day, you need to eat less to force your body to start using its fat stores for energy. When you create a calorie deficit, your body fat percentage will go down giving you a more toned appearance. Remember that the calorie calculator is simply an estimate. Monitor your weight and adjust your calorie intake accordingly.
Though the number of calories you eat is the most important factor in reducing body fat, the types of food you eat can also help you reach your goals. Foods that are digested quickly will leave you feeling hungry soon after eating them. The result is that you will eat more, increasing your daily calorie intake. By eating foods that are digested slowly, you'll feel full for a longer period of time which will help you eat less throughout the day.
Good examples of slow digesting foods include 100% whole wheat bread/pasta, brown rice, vegetables, legumes, nuts and beans. Foods your should avoid include sodas, fruit juices, sweet tea and snacks that are high in sugar.
When trying to burn body fat, you should stick to exercises that burn large amounts of calories. The more calories you burn, the larger your calorie deficit which will force your body to burn more fat for energy. Exercises such as sit ups or tricep extension burn miniscule amounts of energy if they aren't part of a larger circuit training routine. Examples of good exercises for burning fat include running, swimming, jump roping, playing sports and high intensity strength training routines such as Crossfit. Bad examples include, but not limited to sit ups, tricep extensions and the butt blaster.
The Bottom Line
There are no shortcuts or easy ways to achieving a toned look. The only way to get a lean look is to combine a diet with exercise and stay dedicated over a long period of time.