What good is all the hard work of exercising if you can’t view the results? As I began my own body transformation a few years ago I found that eating a better diet high in protein and fiber gave me the energy and power to lift weights more frequently, and within a few months I went from lifting two 25 pound dumbbells for my entire workout to lifting well over a hundred pounds for up to 24 reps in all muscle groups. I had obviously built muscle, but I still couldn’t see the results; at least not without twisting and flexing like a Cirque du Soleil performer. Although I knew I’d lost some pudge I was still a big bag of dough, lacking in muscle definition.
Ramp It Up
The key to showing off your hard edge muscles is to reduce your overall body fat percentage. With a few more diet restrictions and more intense cardio sessions, I was able to reach a higher level of muscle solidity. I count calories and carbs, and I subtract what I burn in cardio. The MyFitnessPal app is a big help. I also stopped doing high impact cardio (I was running a mile or two outdoors) and started using a treadmill a couple times a week. These changes helped me get to a point where my arms and legs started showing true muscle definition, and even a few veins started to appear on the surface. But I wasn’t quite there yet.
Change The Pace
Running was impacting my knees. Plus, I was only burning between 350-380 calories per 30 minutes 2-3 times per week, which just isn’t enough to drop significant weight on top of dieting. I moved from the treadmill to the elliptical, and saw immediate results. With less impact on my joints I was able to increase my cardio time from 30 minutes to 40, then to 50 and 60. Doing several 60 minute sessions at around 1000 calories burned each session, I started dropping weight fast. On top of a low carb, high protein/fiber diet, I probably dropped ten more pounds within a couple weeks and achieved my greatest weight loss so far. Normally this level of cardio would cause one to lose muscle as well, but I maintained what I’d gained by continuing lifting weights and drinking low calorie shake supplements with high protein value, up to 30g per scoop, consuming up to 120 extra grams of protein a day on top of whatever I was getting from eating poultry, fish and whole grains.
The result was a fast dwindling of my body fat from outside in; although I’d probably lost a little muscle during this process my arms and legs became shapely. My biceps, triceps, and even my forearms acquired edges, and the muscles showed through. This is muscle definition, and I was beginning to acquire it.
Hopefully my story sheds some light on how to accomplish better muscle definition overall. As I continue to pursue even greater muscle definition I have limited my alcohol intake to the weekends, if then. Alcohol kills your metabolism whereas you actually want to ramp yourself up to where you burn calories 24/7, even in your sleep. Drinking also causes you to store more fat from food. Drinking water, on the other hand, flushes the system out and also reduces hunger (or what I refer to as “fake hunger” or “food withdrawal”). I also avoid eating after 6pm and cycle my carbs, eating them only every third day, consuming only meat and vegetables for two days between.
I’ve gotten down to the point where I need to lose 5-7 more pounds to have fully visible abs. The long cardio sessions no longer help me drop weight like they did previously and so I’ve started doing 30 minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio sessions where after a warm-up I go like hell at high resistance for 30 seconds, then reduce resistance and pursue a brisk pace for two minutes. Hopefully I’ll have well-defined abs within another 2-3 weeks of this, as it already appears to be working; the love-handles I’ve had persistently since the seventh grade have vanished, you can’t pinch an inch there anymore.
From my story, you should be able to glean the following tips for increasing your muscle definition:
- Diet, lift weights, and do cardio all at the same time, but cardio is the most important.
- Do as much as you can do, then do something different. And harder.
- Count your calories. Cut out bad carbs and bad fats. Eat good fats and good carbs (I’ll explain the difference in an upcoming article).
- Eat clean and live healthy. Drink a gallon of water a day.
- Follow your program every day. Make fat your enemy and wage war against it. Every single day.