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What Women Get Wrong About “Getting Toned”

blog muscle science for women Apr 09, 2021

“I don’t want to be muscular, I just want to be toned.”

We hear this in our nightmares, both waking and sleeping. Seriously, if we had a dollar for every time a woman said this to us, we could retire to a beach somewhere.

This is our usual reaction when we hear it:

Here’s the deal:

We know what you mean, and what you want. But we're not sure YOU know what you mean, or what you want...

Because looking toned means having muscle, and to do that, you have to work very hard and eat properly. You don't get toned by restricting your diet and doing chronic cardio. That’s how you get burnt out, tired, frustrated, and potentially, become the dreaded “skinny fat.” 

Most women who want to look lean and toned but are afraid of lifting weights or getting “too big” are most at risk for this skinny-fat look. They work very hard, spending hours on the treadmill or elliptical or whatever to burn more calories, eating low fat, always feeling hungry...the list goes on.

Perhaps they're fitting into smaller clothes and losing inches, but they still aren’t happy with the result in the mirror. Where are all those lean, sexy curves? Where’s that hint of quad or tricep muscle - why can’t I see it now that I’ve lost the fat?


Muscle, underneath your skin and the healthy layer of fat that everyone has, is what gives you that universally appealing “fit, toned” look. In fact, the more muscle you have, the better your shape is going to look even with a bit higher body fat because it’s those smooth, curving muscles that give your body shape.

It’s not the absence of size, it’s the addition of muscle that gives you that "toned" look you're after.

You don't have to become a powerlifter and deadlift 3x your bodyweight to become toned.

You don’t have to look like a bodybuilder, with a super low body fat percentage and bulging veins to become toned.

You don’t have to eat six meals a day to become toned.

But you DO have to get over the completely false and outdated belief that lifting weights makes women bulky, large, and overly muscular. The facts do not support this!

Getting toned (AKA building muscle) involves creating new tissue, not simply melting away fat. In order to do that, you have to fuel your body properly; you have to eat enough (especially protein), you have to stress your body into adapting by growing stronger, and you have to recover properly.

You can’t undereat, stress your body with chronic cardio, and never pick up a weight and expect muscle to magically appear!

This isn’t meant to be judgemental, this is really about understanding on a deeper level what your goals actually are so you know how to achieve them in an efficient and healthy way.

Women have been marketed to in a way that encourages constant dieting, with no clear end goal, and often unrealistic expectations that ensure we keep buying magazines, fat loss supplements, and stock programs - it promises an unlimited audience to keep making money, while we stay confused and unhappy.

It’s also hard to promote what’s really needed for sustainable, enduring habit change: no one thinks “get more sleep, eat protein, and recover more” is very sexy, but it’s also what works. 

That’s why we created the Muscle Science for Women course; with more than 25 years of experience in health, fitness, nutrition, and coaching between us, we wanted to create a comprehensive and interactive program that not only shows you how to fuel and workout properly to build muscle, but also explains the WHY behind these principles and methods.

We cover the science, the physiology, and the psychology of muscle growth so you are truly informed and able to walk away from the program empowered with the knowledge to get after your goals on your own. Check out the Muscle Science For Women program: A 12-week program on the theory & application of strength & muscle-building.

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