Hi, I am trying to lose a small amount of weight - I do loads of exercise, competitively as well as for health purposes, but I put on muscle too easily. Does anyone have any tips on how to reduce weight you put on in muscle? I have a genetic predisposition to muscular legs, as well as all the sport, so I'm going to end up looking like a prop forward from the waist (well, upper thighs!) down if I carry on like this! Especially as I am small on my top half. I heard somewhere that a combination of low fat foods and running long distances was the best way to lose fat as opposed to gain muscle - any other tips? I don't have a lot of fat, though my main problem area is my thighs and bum.
I will interpret from your question that you would like less bulk/size and more lean muscle tissue on your body…..the reason I want to just clarify this is because muscle is "all good" and a key to weight loss and long-term weight management so it will be the composition of muscle tissue you want to adjust as opposed to actually lose muscle.
We muscle tone as we get older, (if we allow it through not training effectively), and this adds to the phenomena we call "middle age spread", at which point people fight to try and keep muscle on their body to help manage their weight...so be positive about your muscle and see below for adjustments you can make to achieve a more slender look to your frame:
- Stretch more – sport makes muscles tight and tight muscles are shorter and therefore give the appearance of being bigger, (the calves of the lower leg are an excellent example of this). If your body is in muscle balance and our posture is good then we instantly look leaner as the body works in its ideal range of motion.
- Increase your CV – running, X-training, circuit training – basically longer duration (from 40 minutes to 2 hours) and moderate intensity exercise promotes the development (conversion) of ‘big’ muscle fibres to slimmer, more endurance-trained fibres that are less dense and look leaner on our body. So, what you have heard about running long distances would come under this category.
- Low fat foods (as you mentioned above) – would have an impact because it reduces body fat stores on the body. It won’t directly affect muscle tissues but rather because layers of body fat decrease, the circumferences will reduce and this will provide a decreased appearance of size in a given area.
- To reduce the size of the areas you have mentioned (bum and thighs) it is actually very beneficial to train them in an endurance-strength capacity (i.e. bodyweight exercises and high repetitions), this helps to target specific areas, support mobilisation of fat stores from these areas as well as tone and change our shape, (often an inactivated muscle has the appearance of being "big" and targeting it reduces the size as it firms up and pulls in.
The key to maximising body fat loss with muscle tone and NOT size (so not to feel like you’re bulking up) is to train high repetitions with minimal rest in an aerobic-style circuit. So take, for example, three exercises...a press up, a squat and a back row, find a weight that you can do about 20 repetitions with to reach fatigue. Important to mention at this point, the weight needs to be heavy enough to ensure you can't do more than 20 repetitions as women often make the mistake of sticking to weights that aren't demanding enough due to a fear of 'getting big' and subsequently find they struggle to achieve that slim, toned look.
Once you have the right weights do these exercises back-2-back with no/minimal rest in a circuit style. This adds an intense aerobic demand to your weight training and helps to burn off the body fat allowing the developing tone to be visible. A circuit (comprising of up to 6 exercises) 3-4 times, depending on your fitness and experience, is a very effective workout to give you what you want.
If you play a sport that requires a lot of power movements (competitive football, rugby, hockey, tennis or swimming for example), then you need to be aware that the thigh muscles are crucial components to powering the legs and will develop strength as a result. In conjunction, the thighs (inner thighs especially) are a classic area for body fat storage and this is often responsible for feelings of being disproportionate in the waist/upper thigh area when comparing with the upper body.
Rest assured that if you take on the aforementioned suggestions and keep your targeted calorie deficit you will see big changes in this area, it just can take the body a little bit of time as muscle changes and fat decreases.
Hope this helps
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