Very few people are blessed with “fast metabolisms.” The rest of us have to work hard to have a lean body and well defined muscles, but you don’t have to waste time or energy along the way. The best way to increase muscle definition involves 3 factors: cardiovascular regimen, strength training, and nutrition.
Muscle Definition Misconceptions
There is a lot of misinformation about how to increase or preserve muscle definition. For example, leading exercise innovator, Cathe Friedrich, explains in her blog that some believe the myth that cardiovascular exercise decreases muscle mass.
As Cathe points out, this is only true in extreme situations, such as long distance running. In general, your body relies on fat during low intensity exercise and carbohydrates during higher intensity workouts. Proteins provide for less than 5% of your overall energy supply under normal circumstances, according to Cathe.
One final misconception is that if you do a lot of strength training, you are guaranteed to have six-pack abs and super-cut biceps. This is not true. As Cathe says, “To build body definition requires a three-pronged approach – strength training, cardiovascular exercise and good nutrition. Skimp on any one of them, and you may not get the results you’re looking for. The key is balance.”
If you want muscle you have to build it. This only comes from strength, or resistance training. This type of exercise can range from basic exercises like squats, push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups to a full gym level weight training regimen. The key is that your body must move some against kind of weight or gravity to get a benefit. Health magazine has some great exercises you can do with just a pair of hand weights. Resistance training breaks down your muscle so that it can be built up to be stronger.
Even if you have super strong muscles, the definition won’t show if you have extra body fat. The only way to burn fat effectively is through cardio work. There are several methods you can try, but the latest trend is high intensity interval training or HIIT. This is popular not only because of time savings, but sports medicine also shows that HIIT may be more effective at burning body fat. In contrast, prolonged exercise might be counterproductive since you end up tired and sedentary for the rest of the day. Furthermore, very long exercise sessions might stimulate hunger causing you to eat away any gains made during exercise.
Ellipticals and treadmills are great tools for getting into top cardio shape. Home exercise machines not only provide convenience, but today’s machines are filled with high-tech add-ons and programming that help you reach your fitness goals more effectively.
Ellipticals, like the Sanibel i35, are especially effective because when you increase the machine’s incline you activate more muscles while maintaining a moderate speed. This maximizes fat burning efforts. Muscle activation is one of the best ways to take advantage of your body’s oxidative or fat burning system.
Nobody likes dieting, but to get lean muscle you have to have a few things in order or else it will take you forever to get into swimsuit condition. One thing is protein. This is the basic building block of muscle, so a healthy intake is required. Some of the best protein sources are:
- Egg whites
- Tree Nuts
Other foods, called superfoods, can also help with the muscle defining process since these foods can help you burn fat, exercise harder, and recover faster. Some examples of these foods are:
- Green tea
Obviously foods to avoid are those high in fat, especially saturated and trans fats. Refined sugars, flour, and processed foods can hinder your fat burning and muscle defining efforts as well. After working out, it is important to take care of your body with proper rest and nutrition. Drink plenty of water, and eat some easily digestible protein to rebuild your muscles. Greek yogurt is a great post-workout choice.
If you want a chiseled chest and rock hard thighs, then you have to include all three elements – cardio, strength, and nutrition – in your strategy. If you leave one out, you probably will end up frustrated. Follow our advice, and you are sure to achieve the lean muscle definition you desire.