Many women have an idealized concept of the perfect body, which often includes being "toned." If you are considering a transformation and want to lose body fat while toning, there are ways to reach your goals.
There is no such thing as "toning." The concept of toning or developing "lean muscle," is just a less intimidating way of saying "build muscle." Muscle is inherently lean body mass, so there is no other type of muscle you can build. When many women think of toning, they generally are thinking about being leaner and having more muscle definition in certain areas. Building muscle is the only way you can achieve the physique you want. It is uncommon for a woman to achieve bodybuilder-type muscles, without years of dedication in her diet and exercise routine, which would include regularly lifting extremely-heavy weights. The average woman who wants to improve her body does not have the interest in spending many of her waking hours at the gym.
Make Peace With Food
Another concern that tends to be especially troublesome for women who want to build muscle is the concept of eating more food. Often this is driven by standards that only push thinness rather than the broader spectrum of fitness. The 1200 to 1500 calorie diet that is generally recommended for women, especially those who are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, will not be sufficient to build or maintain muscle. Depending on your workout schedule and the types of exercises you do, 1500 calories might be sufficient on non-training days, but 1800 to 2000 might be more realistic, especially in a "bulking" phase. This is the reason it is important to have a trainer who guides you in both exercise and eating. You might also find out your macronutrients need to be adjusted to achieve your goals. The average diet can be too high in carbohydrates and deficient in protein, which makes it hard to build and retain muscle.
Let Cardio Play Second Fiddle
Even if you want to try and build muscle as you lose body fat, which is often hard to do, cardio is less important for your goals. Working with a personal trainer will give you the tools you need to develop a workout routine that incorporates mainly weight-training, with a little cardio to help build endurance, improve cardiovascular health, and possibly burn fat. When you do cardio, you will likely perform your cardio on days when you are not weight-training, or at the end of a weight-training session. For your strength training sessions, it is usually easier to start with a three day per week plan and increase your workouts as you become stronger. Your personal trainer might suggest working out with one day of rest or active recovery between those days, such as coming to the gym Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Monday might be an upper-body workout. On Wednesday, you might have a lower-body workout. Friday would likely be a full-body workout, exercising your lower and upper-body equally.
Improving your body to achieve the body fat levels and muscle growth you want takes time, effort, and calories. Forget the stereotypical "toning" and embrace building muscle and strength.