—Julien Offroy de la Mettrie, L'Homme Machine
Thin/Underweight: You have little muscle mass and body fat. Consume more calories and incorporate weight training to build muscle mass while minimizing body fat accumulation.
Average/"Skinnyfat": You have little to a moderate amount of muscle with some body fat. You have a few options: build up muscle first then burn fat later, or burn fat first then build muscle later, or do a body recomposition.
Obese/Overweight: You have a moderate amount of muscle underneath a large layer of body fat. Burn fat by consuming fewer calories and incorporate an exercise program.
Muscular: You have moderate to abundant amount of muscle with little to moderate body fat. If you are at least 15% body fat (25% for women), attempt to burn excess fat. At 10% body fat (20% for women), do a slow bulk to build more muscle. If you are at your ideal physique, maintain your caloric intake and training regimen.
Your body weight does not consist of just muscle and fat, but also water, blood, organs, waste, tissue, and bones. Your scale tells you your weight, but it doesn’t tell you how much of it is lean muscle and how much of it is fat. If you gain or lose a few pounds over the course of the day, it is likely just fluctuations of water weight. It is best to measure progress week-by-week, first thing in the morning. Please be aware that you can expect to naturally and realistically burn up to 2 lbs of fat per week (the obese can burn more) or build 0.5 lbs of muscle per week.
You can find out your approximate body fat percentage at home with calipers, or at a gym or a medical centre that offers DXA scans. You can roughly guess your body fat percentage by looking at your midsection in the mirror. If you have no visible abdominal muscles, you are likely over 20% body fat (or over 30% for women). If you can see partial outlines of your abs, you are likely 15-19% (25-29% for women). If you can see full abdominal muscles, you are likely at the most 10% (20% for women). Women have higher body fat percentages because of extra adipose tissue in their breasts and glutes.
You cannot spot reduce. When you burn fat, you burn fat all over your body. Men commonly have stubborn fat in their abdominal and lower back areas while women store more fat in their thighs, glutes, and breasts. How much fat being stored there is determined by genetics.
Our height, structure, predisposition to store fat, and how muscular we are is genetically determined when we reach puberty. You can be short or you can be tall. Some women can be very thin yet also be very curvaceous. Some men are genetically predisposed to have large muscular legs. These factors determine our shape and appearance, and cannot be changed without surgery or drugs; however, we can control the increase and decrease of body fat and muscle to give us a new shape by understanding how diet and exercise can change our body's appearance.
While physical appearance play a large role in reasons and motivations to get fit, the primary approach should be for health. Good health is attractive, and aesthetics follow as a consequence of being healthy. With increased physical ability, confidence, and mental health, body image issues are then decreased.
With the exception of very rare cases, resting metabolism is virtually the same from person to person, so there is no such thing as a fast or slow metabolism, and having 3 vs. 6 meals in a day does not affect metabolism. However, metabolism is increased through exercise, especially weight training, because of the energy expenditure during the workout and the energy required to repair the muscles.
When transitioning from a bulk (increasing body weight) to a cut (decreasing body weight) or vice versa, it is important to adjust calories slowly by 200 to 250 calories per week. This gives the body time to adapt psychologically and physiologically. Your weight will change during this transition.
80% of your body composition (lean mass + fat) is the result of diet while 20% is from exercise. Diet enables you to change your weight, to build muscle mass or to burn fat, while exercise is a tool to manipulate further change, to demand the growth of muscle or to accelerate fat loss.
This does not mean exercise is minimized or excluded, however, and should always be paired with diet. Exercise provides numerous mental and physical health benefits and should always be part of your lifestyle.
If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. However a big caveat: while a calorie is a calorie, the nutrients you consume has a significant effect on metabolic and hormonal secretion which may cause you to store fat instead of expend fat, and vice versa. This is why the kind of food and beverages you consume is crucial.
Exercise is a variable that increases caloric expenditure, and increases metabolism. You will need to find out your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) to know how many calories to consume in order to gain or lose weight. To find out your TDEE, use the calculator below. It calculates your basal metabolic rate (BMR) using the Mifflin-St Jeor equation then applies the activity multiplier.
BMR Calculator: The calculator uses the Mifflin-St Jeor equation, which is a very accurate way of calculating your BMR.
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate): Assuming there is zero activity, the BMR is the number of calories you burn in a day in a rested metabolic state.
TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure): The BMR with the activity level multiplier gives you the total calories you burn in a day.
Maintenance: (TDEE): Consuming this number of calories will allow you to maintain your current weight.
Weight gain: (TDEE + 500): Adding 500 calories per day to your TDEE will allow you to gain one pound of weight per week.
Weight loss: (TDEE - 500): Subtracting 500 calories from your TDEE per day will allow you to lose one pound of weight per week.
Every time you gain or lose 5 lbs of body weight, use the BMR calculator again to re-adjust your caloric intake. Caloric requirements will change as your weight changes.
Eat more calories than you burn in a day. If you are a "hardgainer," you are simply not eating enough. Refer to Bulking Tips.
Eat less calories than you burn in a day, but never fewer than 1200 calories or you will experience malnutrition and counterproductive results. If you are struggling to lose weight, please read the Diet section.
To calculate how much of your daily calories could be allocated to carbs, protein, and fat, use the macronutrient calculator.
Abs and Obliques: Stabilizes the core.
Biceps: Bending of the elbow.
Calves: Raising of the heels.
Chest (Pectoralis major): Adduction of the arms.
Erector Spinae: Extension of the back.
Forearms: Movement of the wrist and fingers.
Glutes (Gluteus maximus): Bending or straightening the hip joints.
Hamstrings: Bending of the knee.
Lats (Latissimus dorsi): Adduction and extension of the shoulders.
Shoulders (Deltoids): Allows rotation of the arms.
Thighs (Quadriceps): Extending of the knee.
Traps (Trapezius): Lifting and movement of your shoulder blades.
Triceps: Extending of the elbow.
Please note that corn is a grain and peas are legumes, not vegetables. Also, peanuts are legumes, not nuts.
The suggested food pyramid is a common sense approach to consuming healthy whole foods instead of processed or refined foods. Plant and animal sources are supplemented with side sources such as dairy, nuts & seeds, whole grains, and legumes, along with spices, herbs, cocoa and honey for nutritional palatability.
Maintaining a healthy diet shouldn't be temporary and should be a lifestyle. You will see great results by eating more whole foods instead of pre-packaged or processed foods. As soon as you trade it for high-glycemic refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and man-made oils, your health and results will deteriorate. A lifestyle means sticking to a diet for life that will give you long-term positive mental and physical benefits.
Food intolerances, which include heartburn, cramps, and diarrhea, are commonly found in corn products, dairy, and wheat gluten. Despite coeliac disease affecting only a small percentage of the population, wheat sensitivity is common. Also, some individuals are allergic to peanuts, eggs, milk, fish, soy, shellfish, tree nuts, and wheat.
Despite the controversy cholesterol and sodium receives, they are not problematic. Food products high in cholesterol such as eggs actually improve blood cholesterol. This is because dietary cholesterol is not the same as blood cholesterol. Sodium is a mineral that is required by the body, and is harmful when the individual has existing high blood pressure, which is a consequence of a poor lifestyle.
The healthiest foods are primarily from plants and animals since they are nutritionally dense. These type of foods help your body to partition energy for steady nutrient intake instead of fat storage. They contain complete amino acids to build muscle and essential fatty acids for your brain. High quality foods are required to sustain and promote life.
Nutrition: Plant and animal sources are the most dense macronurient and micronutrient sources, and together will fulfill the daily nutritional requirements in the fewest calories. Vegetables and fruit are abundant with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, while meats and oils will cover your protein and essential fats requirements, bioavailability of crucial vitamins, and additional vitamins and minerals (such as commonly deficient iron).
A diet rich in meats, eggs, fish, vegetables, and fruits have been known to contribute to weight loss, prevent cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, acne, and tooth decay. Many body and mental health ailments can be prevented or alleviated.
Energy Density: Vegetables are very low in calories and contrary to popular belief, meats, seafood and eggs can be relatively low in energy density. For example, 1 Cinnabon is the caloric equivalent of 19 slices of bacon, or 10 large eggs, or 63 extra large shrimp, or 1 huge 12 oz steak. Even though animal fats and oil are very high in energy density, only small amounts should be used for cooking or flavour. For comparison, 1 tbsp of butter has less calories than 1 can of Coca-Cola.
Satiety: Since protein, fiber and water contribute to satiety, plant (fiber and water) and animal (protein) sources reduce appetite and hunger, and thus promote the feeling of fullness to prevent overeating.
While the idea of reducing grains is unconventional in a Western diet, it contributes to overconsumption. Grains such as wheat flour, corn, and rice contain little nutrients relative to calories, and contain incomplete proteins. Whole grains also contain antinutrients such as phytic acid and lectins (as are found in nuts and seeds) and thus should be consumed in moderation. In addition, while corn products can be inflammatory, wheat gluten has been shown to contribute to inflammation, obesity, and insulin resistance. Rice, however, given its neutrality is an acceptable starchy source and is encouraged for consumption.
While grains are fair in fiber content, more fiber per calorie can be obtained from vegetables and fruits such as leafy greens, avocados, bell peppers, carrots, pears, apples, oranges, and bananas. For example, seven slices of whole wheat bread contain the same amount of dietary fiber as one avocado or two pears. Nuts, seeds, and legumes are other sources of fiber.
The main problem is not fat; the main problem are sweets and flour-based products that encourage added sugar and fats.
The obesity epidemic and modern diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer, are largely due to the common Western diet—where hyperpalatable, cheap, fast, and easy comes packaged in sweet, salty, or fried. The consumption of nutrient-poor and incomplete protein food sources that contribute to malnourishment and overeating are refined carbohydrates such as sugars, wheat-, and corn-based products and fat sources such as high omega-6 seed oils.
Nutrition: Sugar, made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose, and refined carbohydrates are considered "empty calories." Refined carbohydrates, especially fructose, can contribute to cancer growth.
We currently don't consume enough omega-3 fatty acids and consume significantly more omega-6 from fried foods and polyunsaturated seed oils, where the typical ratio can be as high as 1:25 omega-3 to omega-6 when the ratio should be closer to 1:1 or 1:2.
Energy Density: Wheat flour is typically mixed with high energy density sugar and fat to create baked products, which contains a massive amount of calories that can be consumed in one sitting. For example, a dish of fettuccine alfredo pasta is 1200 calories, a 12" medium cheese pizza is 1920 calories, and a plain Belgian waffle without the butter and syrup is still 410 calories. Even worse, easily consumable high calorie beverages such as juice, mixed coffee, pop/soda, and beer can quickly add up to double your entire day's caloric total. A milkshake can go over 1500 calories.
Satiety: Nutrient-poor refined carbohydrates are extremely low in protein, water, and fiber, and coupled with hyperpalatability (sweet, salty, or fried), it is easy to overeat. Sugar can be addictive as it target the pleasure centres in the brain. A glass of orange juice is very different from an orange. Orange juice is missing the fiber and has extra sugar added for more total calories while the fiber in an orange slowly releases the natural sugars instead of a blood sugar spike. While being lower in calories, the fiber in an orange also helps with the feeling of fullness. Satiety can be compared where it is more satisfying to eat 6 large eggs than it is to eat 2 glazed doughnuts despite having the same amount of calories. It has also been hypothesized that the body craves nutrients and will overeat to reach nutritional requirements.
Many seemingly innocuous products actually have sugar added, especially products that make "low fat" claims, such as BBQ sauces, fruit drinks, yogurt, peanut butter, dried fruit, tomato sauce, salad dressing, and granola. Also, you don't necessarily have to be overweight to be considered unhealthy: you can be thin by consuming low-quality foods in fewer calories than you expend (malnourishment).
This section contains short lists of the most accessible and nutrient-dense foods (vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties) along with healthy beverages which is typically very low calorie. Also, calorie for calorie, it will keep you more satiated than other types of foods.
If possible, try to aim for organic foods, such as grass-fed beef since it contains a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids (as opposed to corn- and soy- fed cattle). and wild fish (as opposed to farmed). Beef products include steak, roasts, ribs, ground beef, sausages, and beef jerky. Pork products include bacon, sausages, ribs, and ham.
Food listed in italics are among the most nutrient-dense sources.
Foods marked with a symbol are excellent sources of:
While not as nutrient-dense as the essentials above, these supplementary foods give your meals variety, flexibilty, supplementation, and satisfaction.
Most foods that are processed or packaged are unhealthy. If you see it on television, it is likely unhealthy. If a package makes a claim it is healthy, it is probably not. One of the biggest offenders are mixed beverages, which are packed with dense calories that are easily consumed. Looking at the ingredients list on processed food packages, you will probably see some form of sugar, wheat, corn, or soy added along with several hard-to-pronounce additives. This section contains common antinutrient empty-calorie foods and beverages that are inflammatory, fattening, disease-promoting, and thus, should be avoided.
* While indulgences can't always be avoided outside of your home, it is still encouraged to have the occasional treat as long as it is not part of your regular diet.
No-calorie sweeteners such as Splenda (sucralose) or Stevia are considered neutral since they have not been proven to cause any detrimental health effects; however, sweeteners or drinking diet soda are still not recommended as they are associated with type-2 diabetes, have addictive properties that cause appetite cravings, and promote poor dietary habits.
Note: Most of the above are a combination of sweet, salty or fried. 2/3 of the list are wheat-based products. All are very high in calories.
All macronutrients serve important functions. Following the recommended food pyramid, carbohydrate intake is typically lower since vegetables are naturally low in calories while both protein and fat are moderate to high in calories. It's recommended to consume more carbohydrates on workout days to replenish muscle glycogen. When you alternate higher and lower carbohydrate intake on different days, it is called carb cycling or carb backloading. Keep protein intake high enough at about 1 gram for every 1 lbs (0.5 kg) of lean body mass. For example, if you are 200 lbs at 10% body fat, you would consume 180 grams of protein.
4 calories per gram.
The good: The body's preferred source of energy, especially anaerobically, other than alcohol. Carbohydrate sources such as fruits and vegetables are very dense in vitamins and fiber. Starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes and long-grain rice are useful to help replenish muscle glycogen stores. Muscle glycogen is used as fuel and are depleted during strenuous exercise.
The bad: Refined carbohydrate sources such as sugar, wheat- and corn-based products increase appetite cravings and contributes to body fat gains, cardiovascular disease, and higher LDL cholesterol while lowering HDL (good) cholesterol. Overconsumption of refined carbohydrates such as sugar and wheat flour products in combination with fats is the driving force for the obesity epidemic.
4 calories per gram.
The good: The most satiating macronutrient. Protein are the building blocks for muscle and is crucial to sustain life.
The bad: It is a poor fuel for energy.
9 calories per gram.
The good: Most high fat foods contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fatty acids that the body requires to function. It is also a very good source of body fuel and contributes to weight loss. Many crucial vitamins are fat soluble and are needed for bioabsorption, including vitamins A, D, E, and K.
The bad: The body needs an omega-3 and omega-6 ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. Most of us consume 1:15 or higher, which contributes to inflammation and oxidation in our bodies, leading to a host of critical diseases. Avoid products such as margarine, canola oil, and vegetable oil, and focus more on animal fats, eggs, fish, butter, avocados, coconut, and olive oil.
While fats are important for weight loss, they are are high in energy density, so be sure to only consume fats that are already part of the animal (beef, pork, chicken, fish) or with small amounts used for cooking. Frying or adding fat to a meal will signifcantly increase total calories and is detrimental when combined with simple and refined carbohydrate sources.
7 calories per gram, however due to the thermic effect of food, it is actually 5.7 calories per gram.
The good: Answers vary on the subject of intoxication.
The polyphenols in red wine has been shown to have protective effects on the cardiovascular system and with anti-cancer, antiviral and antiallergic properties.
The bad: The body will use alcohol as the primary source of fuel, putting body fat burning on hold until all the alcohol has been metabolized. Also, many alcoholic beverages include sugar. Finally, alcohol lowers testosterone levels.
The macronutrient calculator will give you a guideline of how many calories or grams to consume per day on your workout and rest days. Your desired daily caloric consumption should be based on your maintenance, weight gain, or weight loss goals from the BMR calculator.
Don't use sauces and some dressings as they are generally high in sugar and seed oils. Instead use fats such as coconut oil, butter, and olive oil and combine with spices and herbs of all kinds plus salt, lemon/lime juice, and vinegar to create amazing meals. For Western dishes, use salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, and parsley. For a spicy dish, add cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. For Eastern dishes, go with curry, ginger, coriander, cardamom, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg.
A potato contains a long list of beneficial micronutrients, yet it is bland to eat by itself. It is also very high in carbohydrates. By adding some butter, the combination increases the potato's palatability along with health benefits: butter contains various additional micronutrients, helps with the bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and the fat lowers the potato's high glycemic index. Adding a bit of sea salt and vinegar further increases both the palatability and health benefits.
Some foods should not be combined together in the same meal. If you have red meat or spinach with a glass of milk, you will miss out on iron absorption. Calcium inhibits the absorption of iron and zinc.
Don't stick to one group of food, or you'll be consuming too much of one thing and not enough of another. Follow the recommended food pyramid and macronutrient ratio, and you will be consuming a variety of food with the micronutrients your body requires.
Fast food and pre-cooked packages exist because creating your own meals take time. The trade-off for grocery shopping, preparation, and cooking time is that your diet, wallet, and health will buy you additional years of enjoyable living.
Pound for pound, buying food bulk from places such as Costco and Trader Joe's is significantly cheaper than fast food in the long run. In addition, not only is cooking a useful and gratifying skill, you can make enough leftovers to save time. Refer to the recipes list for various cooking ideas.
By creating your own meals, most of your foods will be stocked in the fridge and freezer, with less stored in the pantry. Invest in empty or pre-filled spice jars and refill from bulk to save money. The items you will use most are portable and microwavable containers, a good set of knives, cutting boards, measuring cups and spoons, a cast-iron pan, and pots. To save time, a rice cooker, blender, and a slow cooker are essential kitchen appliances.
Cheat meals and occasional indulgences are acceptable and encouraged. It reduces the chances of long term failure and serves positive psychological benefits as it is a break from structure. On the other hand, for some people, the side effects are short-term pleasure with negative bodily reactions.
Have anything you want for a cheat meal, but be aware of your caloric intake if you are trying to reduce weight.
Salmon with Indian Spices
Ground Beef Stuffed Bell Pepper
Chunky Chicken Soup
Meatball Tomato Soup
Bulviniai Blynai (Potato Pancakes)
Hasselbackspotatis (Baked Potatoes)
1050 calories, 95g carbs, 55g fat, 65g protein
550 calories, 50g carbs, 30g fat, 30g protein
Strawberry Ice Cream
Calories in-out is a simplification since the body metabolises calories at different rates with hormonal responses from food consumption, fasting, and exercise. Nutrients, fiber, fat, and hormones, such as insulin and leptin, affect the way calories are partitioned.
The more energy dense food is, the more calories it packs. Sugar is an excellent example of a high energy density source, where in a typical medium Dairy Queen Blizzard, the calories are equivalent to 9 large eggs. It's not as easy to eat 9 eggs in one sitting as it is to finish a medium Blizzard as a dessert.
Protein, fiber, and water are the most satiating sources. They are abundant in meats, vegetables and fruits. Conversely, refined carbohydrates such as sugar and grains are poor for satiety and contribute to increased appetite. This is largely because they are very high in energy density, where energy density is strongly correlated with satiety and overeating.
Leptin is a hormone that regulates fat storage, appetite, and metabolism. When leptin is low, it is a hunger signal to eat food, and it becomes high when you are full. What inhibits leptin receptors which causes overfeeding and weight gain are fructose, lectin (found in grains), excessive caloric deficits, and lack of sleep.
The body regulates fat through hormones and enzymes. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar and the storage and expenditure of energy. Insulin is raised after a meal, regardless of macronutrients, which contributes to the intake of nutrients for muscle growth as well as being the only hormone responsible for fat storage. Fat is being broken down when insulin is low, such as between meals and during sleep. Simple carbs and refined carbs raise insulin levels significantly, contributing to fat storage. Insulin can be reduced in combination with fat, dairy, fiber, vinegar, or citrus fruits. Along with leptin, insulin is an important satiety hormone.
Fats, especially saturated fats, have been unfairly demonized in the conventional Western diet for causing weight gain and cardiovascular disease, when research shows the opposite. Looking at the French paradox and Inuit paradox, saturated fats and high-fat diets are not only healthy, but contributes to significant amounts of weight loss. In addition, consumption of saturated fats do not need to be limited and actually serve important body functions for bone, organ, brain, and immune health. Opt for the high-fat dairy instead of the low-fat dairy. Finally, fat benefits the transport and bioavailability of nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E, and K.
Not all saturated fats are the same, however. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat but it mostly consists of medium-chain triglycerides with most in the form of lauric acid, which raises HDL (good cholesterol).
Not all omega-3 fatty acids are the same either. Walnuts and flaxseed are very high in ALA omega-3, but since the body has to convert ALA to EPA and DHA, only a small portion can be utilized. Seafood and fish oil are excellent sources of ALA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids.
Avoid anything that is labeled low fat. Low fat means higher carbs and/or added sugar, and without fat, the body is exposed to malnourishment as fats are needed to absorb important vitamins A, D, E, and K.
The Ketogenic Diet is extremely high-fat and low-carb where the body uses ketones as an energy source. The ketogenic diet, similar to the Atkins diet, is well known for weight loss and producing excellent LDL/HDL cholesterol levels.
Intermittent fasting means no food (fasting; not starving) over a certain amount of time to optimize fat burning periods or to minimize fat accumulation on a bulk. Fasting also increases growth hormone levels, improves the cardiovascular system, and decreases the risk of metabolic diseases and diabetes. While you are sleeping, you are actually fasting. You may drink water or consume zero-calorie beverages during the fasted state. A 16 hour fast followed by an 8 hour feast is recommended for men. Meal frequency does not affect metabolism because what matters is total calories consumed in a day.
Intermittent fasting is different for women, however. Stefani Ruper suggests women should listen to their body if they attempt intermittent fasting, while Martin Berkhan suggests limiting fasting to fourteen hours for women.
To assess macronutrient ratios and caloric intake, use this macronutrient calculator.
While intermittent fasting is encouraged, when you eat or whether or not you have breakfast is not as important as what you eat and how much you eat in a day. The body is efficient with partitioning and storing energy and nutrients, so it is fine to eat three meals or six meals a day as long as you meet the day's total caloric requirement.
Someone who is active will naturally require greater consumption of calories as their body demands it, while more sedentary individuals will opt to eat less. This correlates with the TDEE requirements. Overeating has little to do with activity level but more to do with food choices.
Most people who consume a diet high in vegetables, fruits, meat and seafood will feel full naturally, so measuring portion sizes is not necessary. However, if the goal is to lose or gain weight, counting calories is recommended and a beneficial way to understand how many calories a type of food contains.
For the purposes of losing or gaining weight, tracking calories is very helpful, especially for beginners. Many over- or underestimate the number of calories they consume daily. Below are some recommended calorie counting sites and apps:
The foods outlined in the food pyramid should be enough to cover all nutritional requirements, therefore supplements are not required; however, supplements can be beneficial since food alone may not be enough.
Vitamin D3 is mostly acquired through sunlight, multivitamins may help cover any nutritional deficiencies, whey protein is a cheap and convenient source of protein, and fish oil is important for those who don’t consume enough omega-3 EPA and DHA sources (fish).
In addition to the above supplements, two other useful supplements would be creatine for bulking and caffeine for cutting.
Whey Protein: While most can consume enough protein from foods alone, whey protein is a cheaper source of high quality proteins. Protein intake is usually spread throughout your meals and is crucial before your workout, where a protein shake could be consumed. In addition, it is also found that a combination of whey and casein protein promoted the greatest increases in fat-free mass.
Multivitamins: Multivitamins are useful to cover any lacking nutrients from foods, especially if you are consuming fewer calories or not strictly following the recommended food pyramid.
Vitamin D3: Individuals who do not get enough sun or live in cold climates will greatly benefit from this important hormone. Vitamin D helps the heart, improves performance and recovery, and lowers the risk of cancer and diabetes.
Fish Oil: Found in fish, fish oil contains the omega-3 acids of EPA and DHA, which is an anti-inflammatory that offers several benefits to the heart, brain, liver, and reducing moods such as anxiety and depression. In addition, fish oil helps with both weight loss and muscle building.
Creatine: Naturally found in the body, creatine improves lifting performance while on a bulk and is not recommended for weight loss. Taking 5g (1 tsp) once a day at any time (except with caffeine) is all that is needed.
Caffeine: A couple of cups of black coffee or green tea helps increase performance while temporarily blunting appetite along with a small thermogenesis benefit.
Recommended quality supplements at good prices can be purchased from:
A Beginner: With your physician's clearance, before progressing to weight training and moderate to vigorous cardio, start with core bodyweight exercises (bodyweight squats, push-ups, planks, bridges, assisted chin-ups) and light to moderate cardio until your body can adapt to the neurological, physical, and psychological changes.
A Runner: In addition to cardiorespiratory training, consider incorporating resistance training at least twice a week for strength and improved bone density.
A Lifter: In addition to resistance training, consider incorporating light to moderate cardiorespiratory training on off days for cardiorespiratory health.
An Athlete: Combined with resistance training, goals include improving speed, power, agility, coordination and balance. Exercises include sport-specific performance drills including sprints, high intensity interval training and plyometrics.
While diet is important, exercise has numerous physiological benefits, including keeping your heart healthy and strengthening your immune system. Exercise improves your psychological well-being by increasing mood-boosting dopamine and serotonin levels. Chronic exercise also increases our tolerance to cortisol, a stress hormone. These benefits retains youthful vigor, improves the quality of life, reduces the risk of morbidity and mortality, and also provides improvements in physical appearance, performance, balance, and mobility, which in turn helps with confidence.
There are many ways to improve your health and fitness. Choose a lifestyle or goal you can enjoy and stick with at a comfortable level.
Here are some fitness goals:
No, women will not get big and bulky from lifting weights because they have very little testosterone. Conversely, lifting weights will contribute to women appearing like supermodels. Elite natural lifters such as Jennifer Nicole Lee, Jamie Eason, and Marzia Prince are thin, lean, and "toned."
Still not convinced? Take a look a this great article by Sophieologie.
No matter your age, you start at your unique physical baseline and you can make tremendous improvements within weeks and months. For example, Ernestine Shepherd of Baltimore, Maryland, started training at age 71 and became a competitive bodybuilder at 75.
For more examples and inspiration of individuals on their fitness journey, check out Reddit's /r/progresspics.
Depending on your goals, the number of sets and repetitions relative to weight will give you different results and body shapes, but will always improve your mental and physical health. Women, due to genetics, will not be able to be as muscular as men, but will greatly benefit from a strength program.
|Power Lifting||Strength Bodybuilding||Aesthetics Bodybuilding||Cardiovascular|
|Strength||Myofibrillar Hypertrophy||Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy||Endurance|
|1–5 reps||4–8 reps||8–15 reps||15+ reps|
|3–5 sets||3–4 sets||4–5 sets||2–4 sets|
|2–5' rest||1–3' rest||0.5–1.5' rest||0.5–1.5' rest|
Your body shape is largely influenced by how much muscle mass you have. To attain your desirable body shape, here are some examples of athletes near or at their natural genetic limit:
"Toning" is simply the result of building muscle and reducing body fat.
To get six pack abs, your body fat would be within the 10% range or lower. Abdominal definition is largely due to diet and attainable without having to do a single crunch. How much your abdominal muscles protrude is partially determined by genetics and partially determined by overall lean mass.
High-fat dairy (whole milk, cheese, cream), oils such as coconut oil, and starchy carb sources such as rice and potatoes are easy ways to add extra calories to your primary sources of meats, fish, and vegetables.
Anaerobic respiration means the "abscence of oxygen" and aerobic respiration means "with oxygen." Anerobic exercises require short bursts of energy while aerobic exercises can be performed over a long period of time. Examples of anaerobic exercises include weight lifting (barbells, kettlebells, bodyweight resistance, etc.), sprinting, high intensity interval training and plyometrics. Examples of aerobic exercises include running, biking, swimming, and sports.
While aerobic exercises are excellent for endurance and oxygen consumption (VO2 max), it is not as efficient or effective as weight training and other anaerobic activities for burning fat or building muscle. Examples would be comparing the physiques of Olympic athletes relative to the time and workload they put in: weight lifters, gymnasts, and sprinters vs. runners, cyclists, and triathletes.
Nonetheless, cardiovascular exercise is strongly encouraged alongside anaerobic exercise as it improves muscular endurance and heart health.
Gym memberships are useful to access equipment that you do not have at home and it can be motivational to be working out with other people. It is also low-cost in the short term.
If you are an absolute beginner, or unsure how to do proper form and technique, or would like to have guidance or motivation, working with a personal trainer is a worthwhile investment.
T-shirts, shorts, and athletic wear are suitable attire to wear in the gym. Many like to listen to their own music on an iPod. For footwear while doing heavy weights, flat bottomed shoes such as the Converse Chuck Taylor and Vibram Fivefingers are recommended. If working out at home, going barefoot is acceptable. The Vibram Fivefingers are also useful for running.
If you are comfortable working out alone, a home gym is extremely convenient and a good long-term financial investment. The recommendations below are all that are necessary to build an effective, quality home gym where you can perform most exercises, including the Big Six.
While all kinds of physical activity provide health benefits, weight training is superior in increasing metabolism for fat loss while strengthening your muscles to protect your joints, improve posture, strengthen bones, and decrease the risk of disease and injury. Cardiovascular exercise is also strongly encouraged to supplement strength training to keep your heart healthy.
As an alternative or supplementary to weight training, body weight/calisthenic exercises can be used. Exercises range in difficulty while no equipment is necessary to do pushups, handstand pushups, pistol squats, and planks. With Olympic rings, simple to advanced chin-ups, pull-ups, pushups, and dips can be performed.
Sprints, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and plyometrics are anaerobic activities similar to weight training, except it strongly relies on performance goals such as speed, agility, power, and coordination, as well as improving VO2 max and cardiovascular health. They should not be performed until you are proficient with the Big Six. Since it is a high intensity workout, it is not recommended to be performed on the same day as weight training due to the risk of overtraining. It is entirely optional to do on rest days if your body is adapted to the higher level of training. If you wish to incorporate sprinting with weight training, look at short intensity interval trainings such as tabata, or simply do a single 30-second sprint once a week.
The big six of compound lifts are:
These fundamental compound exercises strengthen the core (abs and back) while working on more than one muscle group. These fat-burning and muscle-building exercises work virtually the entire body and are more intense than isolation exercises such as bicep curls. These exercises are strongly recommended for every person when they are physically able to progress to this level.
In addition to the Big Six, the clean and jerk (power clean) is a strongly recommended full body exercise, but requires practice and proper technique to perform correctly.
Described as the king of all exercises, squats work primarily the legs and is often considered a full-body exercise. Barbell squats is probably the most intense exercise to perform, but also the most rewarding. Front squats is an excellent alternative or addition.
Often compared to squats, this powerful exercise works the entire posterior chain. It also is taxing on the central nervous system, so short and heavy is enough.
This excellent shoulder exercise also works on the arms.
A powerful exercise for the lats, and vastly underrated as a bicep builder. Beginners will often struggle with only one or two reps, but over time, even weighed chin-ups would be possible. Chin-ups are palms facing toward the body while pull-ups are palms facing away.
Once your body is adapted to the fundamental Big Six lifts with proper form, you may wish to move into an intermediate program that includes supplementary exercises. Most accessory exercises target individual muscle groups.
Please note that squats and deadlifts work the abs and glutes better than direct work (you need to have strong abs to be able to lift a 400 lbs deadlift or 300 lbs squat, for instance).
Base Program 3x
Perform a workout day (A or B) three times a week on nonconsecutive days. For example, every Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. Each week will alternate as workouts ABA and BAB.
Each workout is approximately 30–40 minutes long.
Apply progressive overload for 6–8 weeks, then take one week off to allow the body and central nervous system to recover.
You may add accessory exercises such as the stiff-legged deadlift, barbell curl, and calf raise.
Following proper diet, rest, and sleep, while applying progressive overload, you will expect to see strength and muscle increases on a bulk, or preservation of muscle mass while shedding fat on a cut.
Intermediate Program 4x
|Close-Grip Bench Press||1–2||12–15||1.5'|
Upper and lower days are grouped together on consecutive days and there are four workouts per week. This routine is set to have Wednesdays and weekends off, however you can change to a Sunday/Monday/Wednesday/Thursday or Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday/Saturday format.
Each workout is approximately 60 minutes long.
Apply progressive overload for 6–8 weeks, then deload for 2 weeks at 80% and 90% of your heaviest weights.
Intermediate Program 5x
|Tues||Bench Press (Heavy)||3||6–8||3'|
|Bench Press (Light)||3||10–12||2'|
|Dumbbell Bench Press||3||10–12||2'|
|Cable Seated Row||3||6–8||2'|
|Dumbbell Shoulder Press||3||10–12||2'|
|Dumbbell Lateral Raise||3||10–12||2'|
|Dumbbell Front Raise||3||10–12||2'|
|Barbell Bicep Curl||4||6–8||1'|
|Barbell Tricep Extension||4||8–12||1'|
|Close-Grip Bench Press||3||10–12||1'|
|Dumbbell Bicep Curl||3||8–12||1'|
Five workout days per week, with Thursdays and Sundays off. You could shift the days over to have Monday and Friday off, or Tuesday and Saturday off.
Each workout is approximately 50 minutes long.
Apply progressive overload for 8–12 weeks, then take one week off.
Experienced lifters who have trained for years may try:
Cardio is an excellent way to keep your heart healthy and to stay in shape, but sometimes pose challenges in preserving muscle mass since prolonged activity increases cortisol levels, which burns muscle tissue. If you decide to combine cardio with weight training, make sure you get enough food and sleep, or you may risk overtraining.
Low intensity steady state cardio (LISS) is a good way to burn excess calories while preserving muscle mass on a cut since lower intensity training targets a greater percentage of the body's fat stores for fuel.
While beginners should only do light to moderate cardio, those who are able to progress would greatly benefit from moderate to vigorous cardio.
Common individual cardiorespiratory exercises include:
Another popular type of activity that utilizes individual work within a group setting are group classes. Examples are:
Sports are one of the more fun and engaging activities that may also include anaerobic elements. Examples include:
Progressive overload pushes the body to break plateaus instead of adapting to the same workout. When you lift heavy weights, you deplete and cause microtears to your muscle fibers. To repair, rebuild, and create more muscle, you should get sufficient food, recovery time and sleep. With increased muscle mass, you will be able to lift heavier or be able to do more repetitions. In order to progress in strength, hypertrophy, or endurance, you must increase your weights, reps, sets, volume, or intensity over time.
For instance, once you reach your personal maximum number of repetitions that you can perform in an exercise, you should increase the weight until a new maximum can be performed.
Example 1: You performed 20 lbs at 8 reps one week then 20 lbs for 12 reps the following week. Since you reached a personal maximum of 12 reps, you should increase your weight to 22.5 or 25 lbs the next week.
Example 2: You performed 20 lbs at 12 reps one week then 25 lbs for 6 reps the following week. Since you increased the weight, the next week(s) should be attempting to reach 12 reps at 25 lbs.
While exercise helps with building muscle and burning additional calories, diet is the reason why abs appear and muscles can grow. Remember to consume at least 1 gram of protein for every pound of lean body mass each day.
Do get at least 7–8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep helps with recovery, muscle growth, performance, well-being, and mental health. Each muscle group needs at least 48 hours to repair, recover, and re-grow, so do not perform exercises that work on the same muscles on consecutive days.
If you are sick, it is advisable to rest until you are well. If you are sore the day after a workout, this is normal, but if you feel a sharp pain, this is an injury. If injured, it is advisable to avoid any exercises that aggravates the injury and consult with a physician.
With a strict diet and training regimen without drugs or surgery, one can only build up to 0.5 lbs of muscle per week or burn 2 lbs of fat per week. Building muscle at this rate is consistent with the progressive overload principle. On a 500 calorie deficit per day with a perfect diet, you can burn 1 lbs of fat in a week (7 days x 500 calories = 3500 calories = 1 lbs of fat) plus an additional 1 lbs of fat through exercise and metabolic processes. While that may be long or discouraging to some, the results can be substantial: In three months, one could build almost 6.5 lbs of lean muscle mass or burn 26 lbs of fat, respectively. With consistency, results follow.
You should track your progress and goals by writing down your results, or use an app such as FitnessFast.
For some, working out may feel like a chore. It is important to approach it as part of your goals for mental health, confidence, appearance, performance, and overall well-being. Once you are consistent for three months, it becomes part of your routine. If you miss a day, don't worry too much about it, but do try and be as consistent as possible. A powerful motivator is results, and the best way to observe this is take before-and-after photos, body measurements, track weight changes and monitor strength improvements. Environment and support are critical for motivation. Having a workout partner is not only highly motivational, but also keeps each other accountable and even competitive.
What weight you're able to lift at your body weight will determine whether you are a beginner, novice, intermediate, or advanced lifter. You can compare your lifting numbers and set goals for these major exercises:
Gaining muscle does not mean you lose flexibility. To maintain and increase flexibility, perform static stretches. Static stretches are not recommended right before a workout as it pre-fatigues the muscles, thus hindering performance. Do stretch after a workout.
Proper and controlled form is more important than how heavy you can lift. Never sacrifice form for heavier weights or you are at risk for injury. If good form becomes difficult, deload the weights until you are stronger. The concentric movement (going against gravity) should be explosive (but it will appear slower with a heavy enough weight) and the eccentric movement (going with gravity) should be slower. For power, aim for fast explosive movements, and for hypertrophy, aim for slower eccentric movements.
If you have limited lifting experience, it is advisable to meet with a personal trainer to learn proper form and techinque.
General guidelines for good form while performing a lift: