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Cardiovascular work burns calories without stressing your upper body.
Some gymgoers would do just about anything to get bigger. They load up on carbs, spend hundreds on supplements and exercise day in, day out. Others want to get slimmer and lose the bulk. If you fall into the second category, there are a couple of things you can do to lean out. Simple changes, such as cutting back on carbs and training with lighter weights, can make a world of difference.
Eat at a Calorie Deficit
It's extremely difficult to build muscle while in a calorie deficit. Those who manage to lose fat and put on mass while dieting usually take anabolic steroids, which carry dangerous side effects. The same goes for beginners. If you're just starting to work out after a long break, you may be able to build mass and shed fat simultaneously.
Under normal circumstances, low-calorie diets hamper muscle growth by reducing protein synthesis. If you cut back on calories and maintain a high-protein intake, you'll preserve lean mass. Heavy lifting will make it easier to build muscle - even while in a calorie deficit. However, it will be more difficult and will take longer than when you're in a caloric surplus.
Basically, it's necessary to reduce your calorie intake if you want to lose muscle mass. Just keep in mind that you'll lose muscle overall, not just from your upper body. Start by cutting 300 to 500 calories a day. Track your progress and adjust your calorie intake accordingly. It's advisable not to go below 1,200 calories a day.
Cut Down on Protein
Protein is the building block of muscle and other tissues. That's why most athletes and gymgoers eat high-protein foods at every meal and sip on protein shakes.
If your goal is to lose upper body mass, eat less meat, dairy, fish and eggs. Just make sure you don't go overboard. These foods are loaded with vitamins and minerals, in addition to protein. Removing them from your diet may lead to nutrient deficiencies.
Get at least 0.54 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This is the minimum daily recommended intake for sedentary individuals. If you have an active lifestyle, consume 0.64 grams to one gram of protein per day. Remember, protein does a lot more than build muscle. Every cell and tissue in your body needs this nutrient to function optimally.
Reduce Your Carb Intake
After ingestion, carbs are converted to glucose. Some are used for energy, while others are stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles. Each gram of glycogen holds approximately three grams of water. That's why you may look bulkier the next day after eating a high-carb meal, such as pasta or rice.
Carbs also play a key role in muscle growth and repair. For this reason, it's difficult to build mass while on a low-carb diet. To lose muscle, reduce your carb intake. Limit bread, potatoes, legumes, rice and sugary treats.
Lift Lighter Weights
As far as exercise goes, stick to light weights for upper body training. Heavy lifting promotes hypertrophy, or muscle growth. It also makes your arms look bulkier for a few hours after exercise. Lifting relatively light weights causes the so-called muscle pump too, but it leads to greater endurance rather than hypertrophy.
Both training methods stimulate muscle growth and increase overall strength. However, when you lift lighter weights, you put more stress on your central nervous system. In the long run, this makes it difficult to build muscle. Additionally, your body adapts to exercise and stops making gains. The primary benefit is that you'll maintain muscle tone and get rid of the flab.
Try Upper-Body Cardio Workouts
Nowadays, there are all sorts of cardio machines available. To lose muscle from your back or arms, choose those that target the upper body.
Interval training with battling ropes, arm ergometer training and rowing are all excellent options. You can also try full-body movements, such as burpees, mountain climbers, high knees and rope jumping. These cardio exercises burn fat overall and boost your metabolism.
Be aware that bulky arms are most often caused by excess body fat, not muscle. If you have lean muscle, it's impossible to look bulky. Muscle takes less space than fat, so the more lean mass you have, the slimmer you'll look. Consider losing fat first; if you still think you look too big, try the strategies listed above to lean out.