Let's face it. Muscles on a man are attractive. A toned physique radiates health and strength, and it not only makes you look better, but feel better as well. Muscle toning has two components: building muscle and burning fat. Eating a clean diet, getting in some weekly cardio and doing resistance-training activities can help men achieve their toned body goals.
In addition to diet and cardio, toning exercises for men include pushups, pullups and squats.
Reduce Your Calorie Intake
Getting the toned look requires burning fat. Between your skin and muscle is a layer of subcutaneous fat. The more total body fat you have, the thicker this layer of fat is. To see the toned muscles underneath, you have to shrink the fat layer.
Your diet plays the biggest role in fat gain and loss. When you eat more calories than you need, your body stores the excess as fat in your fat cells. The longer you have a surplus of calories, the more fat you have stored.
In order to get rid of that fat, you have to reduce your calorie intake — and burn calories through exercise — to create a calorie deficit. When your body is in a caloric deficit, it's forced to tap into those fat stores for energy, gradually reducing body fat to reveal a more toned physique.
How Many Calories You Need
Your calorie needs depend on physiological factors such as your metabolism — which is determined partly by genetics — as well as your age, gender and activity level. Calorie needs are highly individual, but you can get a rough idea to use as a starting guide.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average moderately active male needs 2,400 to 2,800 calories each day. However, the average male often eats much more than that. Try tracking your calorie intake for a few days to see where you stand. Then you'll know just how many calories you need to cut from your diet and how many calories you need to burn through physical activity to start revealing toned muscles.
Clean Up Your Diet
Just by cutting out certain foods and including others, you can lower your calorie intake and more easily create that calorie deficit. Foods to ditch include:
- Sweetened beverages
- Cakes, cookies, candies
- Ice cream
- Processed meats
- Chips and other snack foods
- Fried food
- Fast food
These foods are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Instead, focus your diet on lean, low-calorie foods such as:
- Fresh vegetables
- Low-sugar fruits such as raspberries and blueberries
- Chicken, fish and eggs
- Whole grain breads and pasta
- Brown rice, quinoa and millet
- Low fat dairy
These foods will give you the nutrients and energy you need to increase your activity level and burn calories.
Be sure to focus on protein and fiber. Protein is key to building muscle and achieving a toned male body. But it's also very satiating. So is dietary fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods fill you up and slow digestion so you can eat less but still feel satisfied.
In a 2018 study in the journal Nutrition, researchers found that when overweight adults increased their protein and fiber consumption, they lost weight even without paying close attention to their daily calorie and food intake. Make sure to include protein and fiber-rich foods in every meal.
Increase Your Activity Level
Physical activity burns calories. Even standing burns more calories than sitting. A research review published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in 2018 found that standing burned nearly 10 more calories per hour than sitting. The researchers also found that men burned double the amount of calories as women when they replaced sitting with standing.
But standing six hours a day would only lead to about 5 pounds of weight loss per year, assuming your diet was unchanged. That's not going to get you the toned male body you want. So you need to include other forms of activity.
Walking, jogging, biking, rowing, playing sports with the guys and even dancing with your wife or girlfriend can help you burn a few hundred calories or more each time you do it. If you burn 300 calories in 30 minutes of jogging, biking and rowing five days a week, that's a calorie savings of 1,500 per week.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. However, if you increase that to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 150 minutes of vigorous cardio each week, you'll reap even greater benefits and faster fat loss.
Not only will regular cardio exercise help you get toned, but it will also reduce your risk of heart disease, which is the No. 1 cause of death for men in the United States, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Building Toned Muscles
While doing regular cardio is good, adding strength training is even better. Building lean muscle tissue will make your muscles pop once you burn the fat that's covering them. Having more muscle mass also increases your resting metabolism, so you burn more calories all day, even when you're just sitting around watching the game with your buddies.
The best toning exercises for men are compound exercises like pushups, pullups, rows, squats and dead lifts. These exercises recruit a lot of muscles at one time, increasing the amount of energy your body uses and the calories you burn while doing them.
Arguably, circuit training is one of the best toning workouts for men. In this type of workout, you do one set of each exercise with no rest in between sets. At the end of the round, you rest for one or two minutes; then repeat the round one to four more times. This type of workout keeps your heart rate up from beginning to end to torch calories and fat.
You can do a certain number of reps (eight to 15) for each exercise, or you can set a timer and perform each exercise for 30 to 60 seconds, doing as many reps as you can in that time. Add some cardio, such as sprinting, high knees or jumping rope, in between the strengthening exercises to really up the burn potential.
Aim for two or three total-body strength-training workouts each week. Be consistent with your workouts and diet and you'll begin to see a more toned physique in about a month.
- Harvard Health Publishing: Does Metabolism Matter in Weight Loss?
- Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020: Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level
- UMass Med Now: Pilot Study Shows Simple Dietary Changes Can Lead to Modest Weight Loss
- Mayo Clinic: Standing Several Hours a Day Could Help You Lose Weight, Mayo Clinic Research Finds
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- Harvard Health Publishing: Heart Attack and Stroke: Men vs. Women
- University of New Mexico: Controversies in Metabolism
- Bodybuilding.com: Strength Training for Fat Loss: Building a Bigger Engine!