Is Cardio or Weight Training Better for Getting a Toned Body?

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question-icon-newI walk for 1 hour, 5 days a week (fast pace) and also do about 45 minutes of various exercises (sometimes Yoga) 5 days a week. I started cutting back on food and decreased my intake down to 1,495 calories per day and gave up sodas. I also wrote down everything I ate and drank in a diet journal to keep track of all my calories. My main concern is why I can’t seem to lose any more weight even though I exercise a lot and have decreased my calories. I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to look like a man. All of the women in my family have a medium build so any weight lifting really bulks us up.

I’m a mother of 2 children and I don’t have time to eat every 3 hours and most of the time I don’t eat breakfast or lunch since I really have no time plus it makes me feel sick. What would you suggest for someone in my situation? Oh, and can anything be done for cellulite? I’ve heard that it’s hereditary and won’t go away but then I’ve heard that with diet and exercise it can be reduced. My booty and the back of legs are starting to dimple and I need help!

answer-icon-newLet’s start off with a very important issue and that is the lack of breakfast. Eating first thing in the morning is critical to losing fat because it comes down to hormones. When you sleep overnight, you are fasting for an average of 6-8 hours. When you wake up, your cortisol levels are extremely high. Why is this important? Cortisol is a stress hormone and its catabolic which means its breaking down tissue (muscle, etc.) and the best way to reduce these high levels of cortisol is to eat something as soon as you wake up. Ideally, you will have a nutrient dense breakfast with lean protein, clean carbs and a little healthy fat. A great high protein breakfast to eat in the morning would be an egg white omelet with veggies stir fried in olive oil. If you don’t have the time to make a meal like this, then make a high protein shake which takes about 2-3 minutes to blend up. Add 1 scoop of protein powder (20-30 grams) with 1 cup of frozen fruit (bananas, blueberries, strawberries) and a little flaxseed oil. Eating breakfast is one of the best tips I can give you to stimulate additional weight loss if you have experienced a plateau.

women-lifting-weightsI would highly recommend starting a strength training regimen but focusing on more toning movements and using higher repetitions (15-20 reps per set). Building lean muscle is the most important thing you can do to start burning additional calories everyday and to really start toning up your problem areas. Although your genetics may lean toward a mesomorph body type (more muscle), if you stick with lighter weights, you should see a vast improvement. Don’t worry about packing on tons of muscle mass if you lift weights since it’s impossible for women to get huge due to the lack of high levels of testosterone which is the anabolic hormone that builds muscle. Women have a very small amount of testosterone in their bodies and it can’t compare to the high levels found in men so if you think that you will bulk up from weight lifting and look like a man, it’s just not going to happen.

I also have a concern about decreasing your calories too low. Your calorie goal should be a reduction of a maximum of 500 calories per day below your BMR (basal metabolic rate). If you cut your calories too low, you risk going into a starvation mode which is when your body holds onto every ounce of body fat since it feels famine coming on and needs to preserve body fat in order to provide energy to live. The best plan to reduce body fat and build lean muscle mass is to keep your calories on the high side (for your BMR) by eating very clean and nutrient dense foods and then combine this clean diet with muscle building workouts and calorie burning cardio exercises. Look at it this way, you want to put the highest octane fuel into your body and burn any extra calories with exercise. That way you are “burning hot” and you keeping your metabolism high.

In terms of cellulite, if you get your body fat levels down low enough you should be able to take care of the majority of it. How many times have you seen a truly lean and toned women with cellulite on their upper thighs and butt? Not often! This is because cellulite is the fat dimpled appearance of skin caused by fat deposits that are just below the surface of the skin. If you remove the fat, you remove the cellulite. However, if for some reason you lose the excess body fat and get really lean but still have an issue with small amounts of cellulite, then you may need to get advice from your local physician for treatments and solutions.

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