Women often say that whenever they gain weight, it goes straight to their thighs. You can blame it on a sedentary lifestyle or stress that makes you less active and prone to gain weight. Or on a poor diet that includes processed foods, high sugar intake, or a simple carb diet without protein, fibres and good fats. But there is a physiological reason for it as well.
“When people gain weight by putting on extra fat, the two most common places where that extra fat ends up is around the midsection and in the legs. Testosterone and estrogen are two of the biggest drivers of fat storage—they’re the reason that men and women have different body shapes. Biologically, female bodies stash fat in the thigh and the butt, whereas male bodies tend to pack pounds onto the stomach,” says fitness expert Shivani Patel.
Nutritionist and fitness expert Payal Kothari explains that 75% of the muscles are situated in the lower half of our body. “The largest muscle —gluteus maximus —is what our butt is made of. So, not working on your legs is not working 75% of your muscles. And most women have a tendency to get heavier on the bottom areas like the hips, thighs and calves,” she says.
The good news is that toned legs are not tough to attain, with the right diet and exercise routine. Ensure your diet is rich in complex carbohydrates, lean and clean proteins, fibres, and good fats to get strong and toned lags.
Start the day with a high-protein breakfast to jumpstart metabolism. Include leafy vegetables into your diet as well. “To ensure lean muscle maintenance, include protein in every meal. Stick to whole, unprocessed food to decrease the likelihood of overeating. Limit alcohol and be aware of how much sugar is there in the foods you eat. Both sugar and alcohol can add substantial calories to a diet without nutritional benefits,” suggests Patel.
You also need to do certain exercises to lose excess thigh fat. Before the workout, make sure to take five minutes to warm up by incorporating dynamic movements such as jogging, high knees, butt kicks, karaoke, walking lunges and high kicks. “The best time to do these exercises is in the morning, on an empty stomach, to start burning your stored fats. If you are an evening workout person, make sure you have your last meal at least an hour and a half before,” says Kothari.
Keep in mind, a leg workout should never be done on more than five consecutive days, as your body needs time to rebuild muscle tissue which has been stressed by exercise. “Muscles that don’t have sufficient time to rest and rebuild may even reach a point of digression. It’s best to target different parts of the leg on each successive workout day. This alternating routine gives you a balanced training experience. Without enough rest time, your leg workout will end up doing more harm than good,” says Patel.
Here’s an expert-recommended exercise regime for you:
Assisted wall squats (squat by pushing your hips against the wall), dumbbell squats (slowly lowering your torso while holding dumbbells by bending the knees as you maintain a straight posture) or bar squats (performing squats with the bar positioned in the back) are the most effective to lose the unwanted fat on the lower body, says Kothari.
This is a great exercise to tone your legs as it requires the use of muscles from your hips and thighs to your ankle. “This is a workout that uses all the muscles of your legs,” says Patel.
These are a key exercise in strengthening the patellar ligament and quadricep attachment for the knees. “This exercise focuses on strengthening the quad alone and, therefore, strengthens key attachments for the knee joint at the same time. A machine-assisted training, it is a good option for exercise beginners,” says Patel. It is also a good finishing exercise that can be performed after compound exercises like squats or dead lifts.
These are better than static lunges and help to tone the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves, says Kothari. These exercises can improve lower-body strength, balance and stability.
A cycling workout uses fat as fuel to decrease your body weight and reduce the thickness of your thighs, says Patel.
It can build your endurance, speed and efficiency and help to burn fat. “Each walk must have a target set. Alternately, increase the walking distance and intensity each time you walk,” says Kothari, adding, “Since most of the calories get deposited in the lower section of the body, movement around the office or home at intervals can help tone and keep legs active.”
Doing asanas is a good way to gain sturdy and toned legs. The warrior (Virabhadrasana) and balancing poses can help you gain the best results, says Kothari.
Workouts on the trampoline can burn up to 700 calories and are a fun way to tone bulky legs. “However, trampolines can be dangerous if you have weak knees or hip joints. Make sure you start with smaller jumps,” says Kothari.
Run-walk-run interval training: Running at your maximum heart rate for one minute, then brisk walking for five minutes, and doing this for 30 minutes is a great way to tone those quads, glutes, and calves. “If you have a beach close by, a quick run on it can really tone your legs, as the weight of your body makes the sand sink and increases the fat burn on the legs,” says Kothari.