Pardon the expression but… FAT CHANCE!! Like most pursuits worthwhile in life, fitness takes time. But like most pursuits worthwhile in life, the proper approach hastens results. You may find the following tips of value as you persevere toward your ideal summer shape.

Craig EhleiderAll muscle eats fat, but firm muscle has a voracious appetite. Beside accentuating your body’s natural contours, protecting your joints, hardening your bones, and enhancing all physical performance, toned muscle accelerates your consumption of fat 24 hours a day. In fact, 94% to 97% of all the fat a person devours in life is consumed by skeletal muscle (the remaining energy is expended by internal muscles, digestion, organ function, etc.). The number of calories an individual consumes at rest is that individual’s Basal Metabolic Rate (B.M.R.). Four components determine your B.M.R.: age, gender, genes and muscle tonus. As you have guessed, the only variable under your control is muscle tonus. Fortunately, it’s the one with the greatest effect.

Muscle hardens best in response to anaerobic isolation resistance training, ie., weights and toning machines. Maximum results are a function of full range movement performed slowly and deliberately with an instantaneous pause at the point of full contracture. Using higher repetitions (10-20), one should in time increase intensity by resting less between sets so that the muscle is in a weakened state when it is called upon to work again. All increases in intensity, be they higher weight, more repetition, more sets, or diminished rest time should be gradual, giving the body time to adapt to the imposed demand.

To gain the proper perspective on the whole concept of toning, I must debunk a fallacy, one that is particularly insidious, because it stands up to reason. There is no such thing as spot reduction! It seems there should be; exercise your legs and your legs reduce, exchange any body part for “legs,” and the formula should work. Life and science deceive. After all, if Copernicus hadn’t figured otherwise, our simple observations and logic would clearly suggest that the sun revolves around the earth. Fat reduction too is counter-intuitive. Fat should be viewed as an energy bank. It accumulates and vanishes as it was genetically determined to do regardless of how you put it on or how you take it off. All muscle eats up fat based on that same genetic predisposition. Understanding this makes clear the need to tone as many muscle fibers as possible, not just the problem areas.

Finally, to achieve maximum muscle tonus and the resulting increase in B.M.R. one must strengthen and tone new muscle fiber regularly. With hundreds of millions of muscle fibers, no two movements innervate the same combination of muscle fibers (cells). All muscle cells have mitochondria, the site in the cell where energy is produced. Mitochondria, like strength, endurance, and tonus, increase with exercise. The increased mitochondria produces energy 24 hours a day, ie., increased B.M.R. YEA! But like strength, endurance and tonus, mitochondria only increases up to a human potential; then it plateaus. It is at this point (4-6 weeks) that our time and effort is best served if we change the angle of our movements to innervate new muscle fiber. We will still be working all the same major muscle groups but new machines will hit different angles and new muscle cells. For example, if you work diligently for a few weeks on your quadriceps with leg extensions, then you change to a leg press, your quadriceps get sore. Your soreness represents new fiber in the quadriceps not used when performing the extensions.

Cardiovascular exercise, though contributing less to your appearance, is important for heart, lung, and circulatory health. Furthermore, empirical studies point to its salutary effects on the immune system. Working 20 to 30 minutes three times per week will burn calories and, to a lesser degree, help raise the B.M.R.

The other side of the coin is caloric consumption. Anyone can lose large amounts of weight fast by eliminating carbohydrates. What you are losing is water. Carbohydrates retain huge amounts of water; water looks, acts, and feels just like fat. This diet alone will end in failure because you will likely not sustain it. Ill health and premature aging is your reward if you do endure with this unhealthy approach. But a modification of the draconian no carbohydrate diet makes good sense.

Virtually everyone eats too many carbohydrates. So all of us would be well advised to reduce carbohydrates, but only the bad carbohydrates…processed sugar, white flower, the fun stuff. Forget all the junk carbohydrates…they engender cravings for more bad, useless, water-retaining, health-destroying carbohydrates. Five fist-sized portions of some combination of vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes should comprise our daily diet. Depending on one’s current B.M.R. and current percentage of body fat, most of those fist-sized servings might have to be fibrous vegetables, ie., 1 ½ cups of celery, broccoli, cauliflower, or the like. As the B.M.R. increases and the body fat decreases, more of the nuts, fruits, and legumes can be included in the five servings. Eat more low fat protein: fish, chicken, turkey, and protein drinks (devoid of fats and carbohydrates). Then keep your saturated fat close to 0% and your total fat fairly low… 25% to 30% of total calories. Remember: Fat 9 cal/gr.: carbohydrates 4cal/gr. Protein 4 cal/gr.

Eat often – every 3 to 4 hours. But never eat a big meal. Skipping meals allows your blood sugar to drop too low. Blood sugar, not body fat, is the barometer the body’s starvation mechanisms consult. Low blood sugar triggers hormonal secretions that slow the metabolism (the last thing a dieter wants). Finally, drink lots of water (ie., 2 quarts per day) in addition to any other liquids you consume.

With all these principles assiduously applied, six weeks is probably still optimistic, but visible results are the offspring of consistency and patience. Persist for twelve weeks and the palpable improvements in our appearance, self image, energy, and health will be all the motivation you need to make this healthy life style yours forever!