Whether your ultimate goal is to have the same kind of muscle mass as a pro bodybuilder, or just look as if you work out, I’d put money on it that there is one thing everybody wants, ultimately: a toned, hard, defined body.
Muscle toning, in and of itself, is in fact a myth. For some reason, the idea that a person can simply ‘tone’ their muscles came into being. I’ve heard people say in order to get the hard, defined look, they need to ‘tone their muscles’, or ‘tone fat’ and they really have no real idea about the physiology of what they are trying to achieve.
Basically, you can do one, and only one of several things at any one time with your body: gain muscle, gain fat, lose muscle, lose fat. That’s it. It’s impossible to turn muscle into fat, or for fat to turn into muscle.
In order to achieve the hard look, somewhat confusingly known as ‘toned’, you need to lose fat. That’s it. You need very low body fat, until the muscles you do have, show through in all their glory. ‘Toning’ has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than losing fat and exposing muscle tissue; that’s it.
Obviously, the better your muscle mass, the better you’ll look when you lose the layer of covering fat. To get the toned look, you’ll need to try to preserve as much muscle mass as possible, whilst losing fat. This can be tricky, because it comes down to calories.
In order to build muscle tone, you’ll need to continue lifting weights, up your protein intake to 1.5 – 2g of protein per lb of bodyweight, and cut the overall amount of calories you are eating down – also avoiding sugary foods and simple carbs.
If you are eating a sufficiently low amount of calories, you’ll notice the fat starts to disappear. The scales should read lower and lower, but the most important measurement to watch is the callipers; the amount of fat which can be pinched will become less and less.
To hasten this process, you should try to do some cardio exercise such as jogging or cycling for 30 minutes, maybe 3 times a week. This helps to raise the metabolism and will help you to keep your body fat low, for that toned look.