Being fit and healthy doesn't have to be complicated. Confused by all the misinformation? All your common fitness and nutrition questions are answered in this one-stop resource. Want to simplify things even further? Check out the SSF Fundamentals.

We have over 300 citations to evidence-based research. While experts are continuing to make daily discoveries in the fitness and nutritional sciences, we know enough to make a difference today.

Fitness is the key to improved mental and physical well-being. Beyond burning fat and building muscle, it's about your happiness, ability, and longevity. All aspects of human life benefit from fitness. Let's get started!

Body

The human body is a machine which winds its own springs.

—Julien Offroy de la Mettrie, L'Homme Machine

 

Health

 

Underweight Body

Lower than average muscle mass and body fat. Slowly consuming more calories and incorporating exercise will help increase weight to healthier levels.

Average Body

Regular exercise and improving food quality are suggested. Options include building up muscle first before burning fat later, or burning fat first then building muscle later. A slower body recomposition is another option.

Overweight Body

Moderate amounts of muscle with excessive body fat. Consuming fewer calories with healthier food choices and incorporating an exercise program will reduce weight to healthier levels.

Muscular Body

Moderate to abundant muscle mass with little to moderate body fat. Burning off excess fat is suggested at higher than 15% body fat (25% for women). At 10% body fat (20% for women) or lower, a slow bulk to build more muscle is an option. If you are at your desired physique, simply maintain your caloric intake and training intensity.

What Affects Our Health?

Some factors that affect our physical and mental states are:

Tip
Focus on prevention over treatment.

Lifestyle

Poor eating choices and a sedentary lifestyle are associated with higher body fat, physical ailments, mental illness, and higher mortality. Underweight individuals also have a high mortality rate. Good eating choices and fitness are associated with longevity, leanness, and mental wellness.

Injuries, Soreness and Sickness

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 doctor.

Assessing Health

Beyond body composition and fitness level, your doctor can assess your blood pressure and bloodwork for triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Below are ideal markers of health and fitness for risk-free individuals:

  • Body fat: While no ideal standard currently exists, epidemiological fitness levels show suggested ranges of 7–19% for men and 15–27% for women. The lower end is ideal for young adults and the higher end are for older individuals.
  • Exercise: Vigorous intensity at three times or more a week for a minimum of 20 minutes, or at moderate intensity at least five times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  • Blood pressure: Between 90/60 and 120/80 mm Hg.
  • LDL cholesterol: If there is no heart disease risk, 100–129 mg/dL (2.6–3.3 mmol/L).
  • HDL cholesterol: 60 mg/dL and higher (1.6 mmol/L).
  • Total cholesterol: Ideally 200 mg/dL (5.2 mmol/L).
  • Triglycerides: Under 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L).

Sleep and Rest

It is crucial get about 7–8 hours of sleep each night at consistent hours. Sleep helps with recovery, muscle growth, performance, well-being, and mental health. With less sleep, ghrelin, a "hunger hormone," would increase, leading to overeating. Also, each muscle group needs at least 48 hours to repair, recover, and regrow, so muscles in the same group shouldn't be worked out on consecutive days.

Stress

Chronic stress magnifies existing negative health issues, including obesity, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and is a significant factor in accelerated aging and premature death.

Exercise is, by far, the most effective natural method of reducing stress, depression, and anxiety.

Activity Level

Active individuals will require greater consumption of calories since their body demands it, while more sedentary individuals will opt to eat less to maintain equilibrium. Overeating has more to do with food choices than activity level.

Body Image

While aesthetics is a motivating factor to get fit, the primary outlook should be for health. Good health is subconsiously attractive and aesthetics follow as a consequence of being healthy. Making health a priority directly affects mental and physical well-being, helping decrease body image issues.

Tip
Focusing on nutrition and exercise instead of weight and appearance would often lead to more desirable results.

Body Composition

Genetics

Our height, structure, predisposition to store fat, and muscularity are genetically determined when we reach puberty. These attributes determine our base shape and appearance, and cannot be changed without surgery or drugs. We can, however, increase or decrease body fat and muscle to sculpt a new shape. Keep in mind, we have a natural limit for muscular potential.

Obesity is primarily caused by behavioural and environmental factors rather than by genetics, considering there is only a small calorie variance in resting metabolism from person to person.

Weight

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. Measuring week-by-week, first thing in the morning, is a more reliable way to track progress.

Did you know?
You can expect to naturally, healthily, and realistically burn up to 2 lbs of fat per week (the obese can burn more) or build no more than 0.5 lbs of muscle per week.

Body Fat

You can find out your approximate body fat percentage at home with calipers, or at a gym or medical centre that offers DXA scans. You can also 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, thighs, and glutes.

Did you know?
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.

BMI (body mass index) takes only weight into account, while body fat percentage takes the ratio of muscle mass into account. For that reason, body fat percentage reflects a more accurate picture of overall fitness and health. The DBW calculator below can help you find your desired body weight based on known body fat percentage:

Desired Body Weight

  1. %
  2. lbs kg
  3. %

  1. lbs / kg

Metabolism

There is little variability with resting metabolism from person to person, so using labels such as "fast or slow" metabolisms are misleading. Lean mass, the thermogenesis of foods, especially protein, have greater variability on metabolism. The more muscle mass one has, the higher the metabolism. Having three vs. six meals in a day has little effect on metabolism. Metabolism is increased through exercise, especially weight training, due to the energy expenditure during the workout and the energy required to repair the muscles.

Definition
Metabolism: The chemical processes by which cells produce the substances and energy needed to sustain life.

80/20 Rule for Body Composition

While not a hard rule for illustration purposes, the majority of your body composition (lean mass + fat) is the result from diet. Diet enables you to change your weight. Exercise is a tool to manipulate further change by necessitating the growth of muscle or to accelerate fat loss.

Exercise goes hand-in-hand with nutrition. Exercise provides massive mental and physical health benefits.

80/20 Rule

Calories In-Out

Law of Thermodynamics

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 body is not a closed system. What you consume affects metabolic and hormonal secretions which may cause you to store fat instead of expend fat, and vice versa. This is why the type of food and beverages we consume is crucial.

Exercise is a variable that increases caloric expenditure and metabolism.

Diet Transitioning

When transitioning from a bulk to a cut or vice versa, adjusting calories slowly by 200 to 250 calories per week gives the body time to adapt psychologically and physiologically. Your weight will still change during this transitioning phase.

Definitons
Bulking and Cutting: Bulking is increasing body weight with an emphasis on building muscle. Cutting is decreasing body fat and weight while preserving muscle mass.

To Gain Weight

Law of Thermodynamics Weight Gain

To Maintain Weight

Law of Thermodynamics Maintainence

To Lose Weight

Law of Thermodynamics Weight Loss

BMR Calculator

The calculator below will give you an approximate number of calories to consume daily for your current and goal weight.

BMR Calculator

  1. years
  2. Convert feet and inches to total inches (i.e. 5'5" is 65 in.)

  3. —or—

  1. cal/day
  2. cal/day
  3. cal/day

Understanding the Numbers

BMR Calculator: The calculator uses the Mifflin-St Jeor equation, which is an accurate method 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.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE): 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.

Did you know?
It takes approximately 3500 calories to burn 1 lbs of fat, which is a deficit of 500 calories per day for a week.

Adjust Your Numbers

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.

Bulking

To bulk, consume more calories than you burn in a day. If you are a "hardgainer," you are simply not eating enough.

Cutting

To cut, consume less calories than you burn in a day, but never fewer than 1200 calories, otherwise malnutrition and counterproductive results follow. If you are struggling to lose weight, please read the nutrition section and cutting tips. Also consider intermittent fasting.

Macronutrients

To calculate how much of your daily calories could be allocated to carbs, protein, and fat, try the SSF macronutrient calculator.

Anatomy

Anterior

Front Anatomy

Posterior

Back Anatomy

Functions

  • Abs and Obliques: Stabilizes the core.
  • Biceps: Bending of the elbow.
  • Calves: Raising of the heels.
  • Pecs: Adduction of the arms.
  • Spinal Erectors: Extension of the back. Core stability.
  • Forearms: Movement of the wrist and fingers.
  • Glutes: Bending or straightening of the hip joints.
  • Hamstrings: Bending of the knee.
  • Lats: Adduction and extension of the shoulders.
  • Delts: Allows rotation of the arms.
  • Quads: Extending of the knee.
  • Traps: Lifting and movement of the shoulder blades.
  • Triceps: Extending of the elbow.

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Nutrition

One should eat to live, not live to eat.

—Cicero, Rhetoricorum LV

 

Quality Foods

The Food Pyramid That Works

Simple Science Fitness Food Pyramid

Did you know?
Corn is a grain. Peas and peanuts are legumes.

The suggested food pyramid is an epidemiological common sense approach to consuming whole foods while limiting refined foods. Plant and animal sources are supplemented with dairy, legumes, nuts & seeds, and whole grains. Spices, herbs, and seasonings add to palatability.

Definition
Palatable: Pleasant to taste.

This food pyramid is the foundation of the SSF Diet.

Why Does This Work?

Energy-Health Graph

By comparing the nutrient density per calorie of major food groups, we can plot them on a graph. Foods that are nutrient-dense contain micronutrients that are required by the body, and are thus health promoting. Lack of nutrients and inflammation are linked to health risks. Overconsumption of calories and poor health are correlated with obesity.

Definition
Nutrients: Substances essential for growth and the maintenance of life.

It's A Lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy diet isn't meant to be temporary and should always be part of a lifestyle. Sticking to a healthy diet for life will give you long-term mental and physical benefits.

Allergic Reactions and Food Intolerances

Common food allergies are peanuts, eggs, milk, fish, soy, shellfish, tree nuts, and wheat.

Food intolerances, which include symptoms of inflammation such as heartburn, cramps, and diarrhea, are common after consuming corn products, dairy, and wheat gluten.

Did you know?
65% of the population is lactose intolerant, with as much as 90% in East Asian ancestry. However, cheese and yogurt is easier to tolerate since it goes through a fermation process that breaks down the lactose in milk.

Cholesterol and Sodium

Despite the controversy cholesterol and sodium receive, they are not problematic. Food products high in dietary 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 becomes harmful when the individual has existing high blood pressure, which is a consequence of a poor lifestyle.

Did you know?
An 88-year-old-man who consumed 25 eggs a day for many years was found to have normal cholesterol levels.

Short List of Foods

Essential Foods

Essential foods bar chart

Suggested: Consume plenty of vegetables with meat and fat sources in every meal. Consume least one type of fruit source a day.

This section lists some of the most accessible and nutrient-dense foods that are abundant in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, along with healthy low-calorie beverages. Also, calorie for calorie, it will keep you more satiated than other types of foods.

Tip
If your goal is to lose weight, raspberries make great snacks since each raspberry contains only one calorie. They're also filled with fiber and nutrients.

Grass-fed beef contains a higher ratio of omega-3 fatty acids compared to corn- and soy-fed cattle. Beef products include steak, roasts, ribs, ground beef, sausages, and beef jerky. Pork products include bacon, sausages, ribs, and ham.

Legend

Food listed in italics are among the most nutrient-dense food sources.

  • c Low Calories
  • V Vitamins
  • M Minerals
  • P Protein
  • F Good Fats
  • Ω Omega-3 (EPA & DHA)
  • f Fiber
  • S Starches

Vegetables

  1. KalecVMf
  2. Collard GreenscVMf
  3. Bok ChoycVM
  4. ArugulacVM
  5. SpinachcVMf
  6. ChardcVMf
  7. BroccolicVf
  8. Brussels SproutcVf
  9. GarlicVM
  10. MushroomcVMf
  11. AsparaguscVMf
  12. SquashcVMf
  13. CabbagecVf
  14. LettucecV
  15. TomatocVf
  16. CauliflowercVf
  17. RadishcVf
  18. Bell PeppercVf
  19. OnioncV
  20. CarrotcV
  21. CucumbercV
  22. Sweet PotatoVMf
  23. YamVMfS
  24. BeetcVf
  25. PotatoVMS

Tip
Take advantage of the low-calorie and high-nutrient benefits of vegetables.

Meat, Seafood, and Eggs

  1. SalmonVMPFΩ
  2. EggsVMPFΩ
  3. LiverVMPFΩ
  4. BeefVMPFΩ
  5. MackerelVMPFΩ
  6. TroutVMPFΩ
  7. SardinesVMPFΩ
  8. AnchoviesVMPFΩ
  9. BisonVMPF
  10. OystersVMP
  11. ClamsVMP
  12. ChickenVMP
  13. VenisonVMP
  14. PorkVMPF
  15. TurkeyVMP
  16. LambVMPF
  17. TunaVPΩ
  18. CrabMP
  19. LobsterMP
  20. ShrimpMPΩ

Oils and Fats

  1. Virgin Coconut OilF
  2. Extra Virgin Olive OilF
  3. Avocado OilF
  4. TallowF
  5. GheeF
  6. ButterFΩ
  7. Palm OilF
  8. Walnut OilF
  9. Flax OilF

Fruits

  1. AvocadoFf
  2. All berriescf
  3. CoconutF
  4. Cherry
  5. Applef
  6. Bananaf
  7. Orangef
  8. Pomegranate
  9. Lemon/Lime
  10. Guava
  11. Kiwi
  12. Pearf
  13. Mango
  14. Peach
  15. Cantaloupe
  16. Pineapple
  17. Plum
  18. Grapes
  19. Watermelon

Beverages

  1. Water
  2. Tea
  3. Black Coffee
  4. Coconut Water

Note
The beverages listed are virtually calorie-free.

Spices and Herbs

  • Allspice
  • Basil
  • Cloves
  • Cardamom
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander
  • Chili Powder
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Garlic Powder
  • Ginger
  • Mustard Powder
  • Nutmeg
  • Onion Powder
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Pepper
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

Seasonings

  • Lemon/Lime Juice
  • Salt (Kosher or Sea)
  • Vinegar

Note
The listed spices, herbs, and seasonings are very low in calories.

Foods In Moderation

Foods in moderation bar chart

Suggested: Pick one group as a side for each meal. Try to use only one group source per day.

Definition
Moderation: Avoidance of extremes or excesses.

While not as nutrient-dense as the essentials above, these supplementary sides give your meals variety, flexibility, and satisfaction.

Nuts and Seeds

  1. AlmondsfPF
  2. WalnutsF
  3. Macadamia NutsF
  4. FlaxseedsfF
  5. HazelnutsF
  6. PecansF
  7. Sunflower Seeds
  8. Sesame Seedsf
  9. Cashewsf
  10. Pistachiosf
  11. Cocoa
    (Dark Chocolate)M

Note
Nuts and seeds should be unsalted and unsweetened.

Dairy

  1. Greek YogurtPF
  2. CheesePF
  3. Whole MilkPF
  4. Cream CheeseF
  5. CreamF

Beverages

  1. Coconut Milk
  2. Red Wine
  3. Hard Liquor

Did you know?
Red wine contains properties that are health-promoting.

Legumes

  1. Green Beansf
  2. LentilsfS
  3. PeasfS
  4. ChickpeasfS
  5. Kidney BeansfS
  6. Alfalfaf
  7. Peanutsf
  8. Natural Peanut Butterf
  9. Soybean (Tofu)Pf

Did you know?
Legumes are among the highest souces of fiber.

Grains

  1. OatsS
  2. QuinoaS
  3. BarleyS
  4. Rye BreadS
  5. BuckwheatS
  6. Rice (Long-Grain)S
  7. Whole Wheat BreadS
  8. Corn on the CobS

Sugars

  1. Honey

Tip
The darker the honey, the better its antibacterial and antioxidant properties. However, a sugar is a sugar.

Foods to Limit

Foods to limit bar chart

Suggested: Try to treat yourself a meal and beverage in this section once a week on your "cheat day."

Definition
Processed Food: Or "convenience foods" are commercially prepared for ease of consumption. Examples are ramen noodles, cereals, potato chips, TV dinners, and fast food meals.

Foods that are commercialized, pre-prepared, refined, processed, and manufacturered are likely to be unhealthy, even when they try to make a health claim. Mixed beverages are easily consumed and are packed with dense calories which adds up very quickly. By looking at the ingredients list on processed food packages, you will often see some form of sugar, wheat, corn, or soy combined with polyunsaturated oils, along with several additives designed for preservation, texture, palatability, or colour. This section contains common inflammatory empty-calorie foods and beverages that are fattening, disease-promoting, and thus, should be restricted.

Note
Occasional indulgences are encouraged when it's not part of your regular diet or compromising your goals.

Tip
Having no foods in this section inside your home can be more savoured outside the home.

Sugars

  • Agave Nectar
  • Cane Juice
  • Dextrose
  • Glucose-Fructose
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
  • Jam
  • Malt/Maltose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Sauces
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Syrups

Artificial Sweeteners

  • Aspartame
  • Neotame
  • Rebiana (Truvia)
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • Stevia

Note
Despite having no calories, artificial sweeteners still alter gut microbiota linking it to type-2 diabetes. Sweet properties are also addictive, contributing to appetite cravings and promoting poor dietary habits.

Beverages

  • Beer
  • Coolers
  • Energy Drinks
  • Fruit Juice
  • Low-Fat Drinks
  • Milkshakes
  • Mixed Alcohol
  • Mixed Coffee Drinks
  • Pop/Soda

Did you know?
1 tbsp of butter has less calories than 1 can of Coca-Cola.

Oils and Fats

  • Canola (Rapeseed) Oil
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Margarine
  • Partially
    Hydrogenated Oil
  • Peanut Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Trans Fats
  • Vegetable Oil

Note
The above oils are very high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, where consumption in excess contribute to several diseases.

Products

  • Bagels
  • Biscuits
  • Cake
  • Candy
  • Cereal
  • Chocolate Bars
  • Cookies
  • Corn-Based Products
  • Corn Chips
  • Crackers
  • Doughnuts
  • Ice Cream
  • French Fries
  • Frozen Yogurt
  • "Gluten-Free" Products
  • Hamburgers
  • Hot Dogs
  • "Low-Fat" Products
  • Muffins
  • Pasta
  • Pastries
  • Popcorn
  • Potato Chips
  • Pies
  • Pizza
  • Pretzels
  • Waffles
  • White Bread

Note
The above are a combination of sweet, salty or fried. 2/3 of the list are sugar and wheat flour products. All are very high in calories.

Macronutrients

Macronutrient Quality

All macronutrients serve important functions, and each macronutrient vary in micronutrient quality. Carbohydrates can be simple or complex, full of or devoid of nutrients, and high or low in calories. Protein quality depends on amino acid completeness. There are saturated, polyunsatured, and monounsaturated fat types, as well as essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6.

Carbohydrates

4 calories per gram.

The Good

Carbohydrate sources such as fruits and vegetables are very dense in vitamins and fiber. Carbs are also the body's preferred source of energy other than alcohol, especially for anaerobic and long-duration exercise.

Starchy complex carbohydrate sources such as potatoes and long-grain rice help replenish muscle glycogen stores. Muscle glycogen is used as fuel and depletes during strenuous exercise. Starchy foods also contain resistant starch, which resists digestion, functioning similarily to fiber. It is satiating and promotes health in the gut microbiota.

Did you know?
Fiber is a carbohydrate.

The Bad

Refined carbohydrate sources such as sugar and wheat- and corn-based products induce appetite cravings and contributes to body fat gains, cardiovascular disease, higher LDL cholesterol, higher triglycerides, and lowering HDL (good) cholesterol. Overconsumption of refined carbohydrates in combination with fats are the driving forces for the obesity epidemic.

Fats

9 calories per gram.

The Good

Most foods that are naturally high in fat, such as animal sources, nuts, avocados, and coconuts, contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fatty acids required for body functioning and health. It is also a very good source of body fuel and contributes to weight loss. Crucial vitamins A, D, E, and K, are fat-soluble which means fats are required for bioabsorption.

Monounsaturated and saturated fats from animal sources, eggs, butter, avocados, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil are health-promoting.

Did you know?
Fat is not satiating. In the context of junk food, large amounts of fat can be consumed. In animal products, it is the protein that aids satiety.

The Bad

Although fats are important for weight loss, they are high in energy density, compounded by fried foods.

The body functions well with 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 oxidative stress, leading to a host of critical diseases. Sources high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats are margarine, canola oil, and vegetable oil.

Saturated fat is detrimental to health when combined with refined carbohydrate sources.

Proteins

4 calories per gram.

The Good

Protein is the most satiating macronutrient and is crucial for weight management. Proteins are the building blocks for muscle and is essential to sustain life.

The Bad

Proteins are poor fuels for energy.

Alcohol

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 along 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.

Many alcoholic beverages contain sugar.

Did you know?
Alcohol lowers testosterone levels.

Macronutrient Calculator

The SSF macronutrient calculator below gives a daily guideline of how many calories and grams to consume on 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.

Macronutrient Calculator

  1. Desired daily caloric consumption:

  2. Workout days per week:
  1. calories
  2. calories
  Workout Days Rest Days
  Calories Grams Calories Grams
Carbs
Protein
Fat

Macronutrient Suggestions

Macronutrient Ratio and Portion Sizes

Why These Macronutrients?

The macronurient calculator is designed to maximize muscle retention or development while minimizing or decreasing fat accumulation through partitioning. The calculator also averages the workout and rest day calories, where its weekly total is still the same as your desired daily caloric consumption.

Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are adjusted according to workout or rest days. Workout days require more carbohydrates and calories to fuel workouts. In contrast, we are more sedentary on rest days and benefit from lower carbohydate consumption. Higher protein consumption is used on workout days to improve protein synthesis and muscle recovery and for cutting to preserve lean mass and promote satiety.

This calculator does not fit all athletes, however, as endurance and high-performance athletes require more carbohydrates.

Definition
If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM): An rule of thumb to eat anything as long as it fits within your macronutrient ratio and calorie range. It works, although it does not necessarily reflect good health if the food sources are of low quality.

Good Nutrition

Overview

The healthiest foods are the most nutritionally dense ones. Vitamin A helps maintain vision and skin growth, iron is needed for the production of red blood cells, a complete amino acid profile helps build muscle, and essential fatty acids are required for brain functioning. High quality foods sustain and promote life, as well as regulate weight management.

Nutrition

Plant and animal sources are the densest macronutrient and micronutrient sources. When combined, both sources will fulfill the daily nutritional requirements in fewer calories.

Vegetables and fruit are abundant with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Along with vitamins and minerals, meats cover protein and fat requirements. Essential fats and oils aid with the bioavailability of crucial vitamins and minerals, such as the 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 physical and mental health ailments can be prevented or alleviated.

Energy Density

Vegetables and berries are extremely low in calories. Contrary to popular belief, meats, seafood and eggs can be relatively low in energy density as well.

While added fats and oils are very high in energy density, small amounts for cooking or flavour goes a long way.

Satiety

Protein is the most satiating source, with fiber and water contributing to satiety. Animal (protein) and plant (fiber and water) sources reduce appetite and hunger, promoting the feeling of fullness to prevent overeating.

Note on Wheat, Corn, and Rice

While the idea of reducing grains is unconventional in a Western diet, they are comparatively overrated since plant and animal products are nutritionally denser. In addition, corn and wheat products are common sources of food intolerances. Rice, due to its absence of inflammatory properties, is considered a neutral starchy grain.

Did you know?
Wheat, corn, and rice are grains while a potato is a vegetable. Like grains though, potatoes are considered a starchy carbohydrate source.

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. Legumes are very high in fiber. Nuts and seeds are also good sources of fiber.

Did you know?
7 slices of whole wheat bread contain the same amount of dietary fiber as 1 avocado or 2 pears.

Poor Nutrition

Overview

Definition
Hyperpalatable: Food products that are engineered by food scientists to create insatiable overconsumption are considered hyperpalatable. Salt, sugar, fat, and wheat flour are combined to maximize pleasure in the brain's reward system, simulating properties of addictive substances.

Hyperpalatable and easily-consumable products that are sweet, salty, or fried are generally nutrient-poor, high in calories, and easy to overconsume. Calories and satiety are important variables for weight management.

Definition
Metabolic syndrome: A cluster of medical conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, raised triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol.

Modern diseases such as obesity and the metabolic syndrome, along with cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer, are linked to the Western diet, which largely consists of the overconsumption of refined carbohydrates and high omega-6 seed oils. Consuming nutrient-poor food sources contribute to overeating and addictive behaviours.

While overconsuming empty calories promote malnutrition and obesity, being underweight and unhealthy is the result of malnutrition in fewer calories.

Nutrition

Sugar, made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose, and junk food are considered "empty calories." Sugar is a contributing factor to diabetes, the obesity epidemic, high blood pressure, and raised triglycerides. Sugar also contributes to cancer growth.

Definition
Empty Calories: Calories that contain little to no nutrients. Sugar is a source of empty calories.

Many seemingly innocuous "low-fat" products compensate with added sugar. Examples include barbecue sauces, fruit drinks, yogurt, peanut butter, dried fruit, tomato sauce, salad dressing, gravy, seasoning mix, and granola.

Omega-6 fatty acids found in polyunsaturated seed oils are commonly consumed through fried foods and processed food. The typical ratio can be as high as 1:25 omega-3 to omega-6 in the Western diet. The ratio should be closer to 1:1 or 1:2.

Energy Density

Wheat flour is typically mixed with sugar and fat, sources high in energy density, 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 and a 12" medium cheese pizza is 1920 calories.

Sugar, fat, and salt are commonly added to improve palatability, however its function is to promote excess calories and overconsumption. A plain Belgian waffle without the butter and syrup is still 410 calories. Half a cup of unpopped popcorn without butter comes out to 260 calories. Even worse, easily consumable high-calorie beverages such as juice, mixed coffee, pop/soda, and beer can double a day's caloric total from meals.

Did you know?
A milkshake could go over 1500 calories, the equivalent of 19 large eggs.

Satiety

Refined carbohydrates are low in protein, water, and fiber, the primary components of satiety. Coupled with hyperpalatability, it becomes easy to overconsume.

A glass of orange juice is very different from an orange. Orange juice has added sugar for more total calories while lacking in fiber. The higher fiber in an orange helps with satiety and slows the absorption of sugars instead of causing a blood sugar spike.

Did you know?
It takes 7 cups of orange juice (805 calories) to reach the same fiber content of 1 orange (71 calories).

Consider that it is more satiating to eat 6 large eggs than it is to eat 2 glazed doughnuts even though both have the same amount of calories. It has been hypothesized that the body craves nutrients and would overeat until nutritional requirements are fulfilled.

Hyperpalatability

Sugar is linked to addiction and thus is given prominence as a primary ingredient in hyperpalatable foods. The combination of salt, sugar, fat, and wheat flour creates many of the most common hyperpalatable foods that we commonly call "junk food."

Hyperpalatability Diagram

Effects of Diets

Beyond Calories In-Out

Calories in-out is a simplification since the body metabolises calories at different rates with hormonal responses from food consumption, fasting, and exercise. Nutritional compositions, gut microbiota, and hormones affect how calories are partitioned.

Definition
Satiety: The feeling of fullness, or satisfaction of an appetite.

Satiety and Appetite

Protein is considered to be the key to weight management as its effects on satiety are profound. Fiber and water are also important contributors to satiety. At least two of the three sources are abundant in animal and plant sources. On the other spectrum, refined carbohydrates are poor for satiety and contribute to increased appetite. Satiating foods help prevent overeating.

Caffeine, tea, and spices have also been shown to blunt appetite. Other than satiety, they produce thermogenesis and fat burning benefits.

Energy Density

The more energy dense food is, the more calories it packs. Sugar and fat are high energy density sources. For example, in a medium Dairy Queen Blizzard, the total calories are equivalent to 9 large eggs. Eating 9 eggs in one sitting, which is satiating, is more difficult to finish than a medium Blizzard as a dessert.

One medium Blizzard has the same calories as 18 eggs

Beverages can be easily consumed which means calories can add up quickly. Pop/soda, beer, juice, mixed coffee, and alcoholic drinks can pack in several hundred calories.

Gut Microbiota

Microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts regulate energy balance and weight. The ecosystem can be modified through long-term diet which either contributes to good health, or to inflammation which leads to diseases such as obesity and type-2 diabetes. The composition of the gut microbiota has been shown to differ in lean and obese humans.

Insulin

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, contributing to the intake of nutrients as well as being the only hormone responsible for fat storage.

When insulin is low, such as between meals and during sleep, more body fat is being broken down. Refined, simple carbohydrates raise insulin levels significantly, contributing to increased fat storage. Insulin levels can be reduced in combination with fat, dairy, fiber, vinegar, or citrus fruits.

Along with gut peptides, insulin is an important satiety hormone.

Fats Are Important

Fats, especially saturated fats, have been controversial in the conventional Western diet for causing weight gain and cardiovascular disease. Research shows that is not necessarily the case. The controversy exists because while saturated fats are beneficial on a low-carbohydrate diet, they are conversely harmful when combined with refined carbohydrates, which is the staple of the Standard American Diet.

Saturated fats actually serve important body functions for bone, organ, brain, immune health, and weight loss. The French paradox highlights some benefits of saturated fat. Further, high fat diets have been shown to provide important neuroprotective benefits for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Not all saturated fats are the same, though. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat but mostly consists of medium-chain triglycerides, mostly in the form of lauric acid, which raises good HDL cholesterol.

Not all omega-3 fatty acids are the same either. Walnuts and flaxseed are very high in ALA omega-3, but this is misleading. The body has to convert ALA. Only a small portion of ALA can be utilized to EPA and DHA, which are useful to the body. Seafood and fish oil are excellent sources of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.

Did you know?
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, which means fat is required to absorb these important vitamins. Vitamins B and C are water-soluble.

Low-Fat Products

Try to opt for the high-fat dairy instead of the low-fat dairy. It is common in low-fat labeled products that fat is substituted for added sugar. Without dietary fat, the body becomes exposed to malnutrition since fats are needed to absorb crucial nutrients.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting means no food over a certain amount of time to optimize fat burning periods or to minimize fat accumulation on a bulk. Fasting is not the same as starving.

Did you know?
While you are sleeping, you are actually fasting.

Fasting increases growth hormone levels, improves the cardiovascular system, and decreases the risk of metabolic diseases, inflammatory responses, and diabetes. Intermittent fasting also reduces blood pressure and increases insulin sensitivity, providing benefits to the heart and brain. Additionally, fasting slows the rate of aging, extending human longevity and health, and may reduce the risk of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

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 has an insignificant effect on metabolism because total calories consumed in a day matters more. Fasting does not cause negative effects on cognitive abilities or mood and even in a fasted state, the body is adept at preserving muscle.

Intermittent fasting is different for women, however. Nutritionist Stefani Ruper suggests women should listen to their body if they attempt intermittent fasting, while Martin Berkhan of Leangains suggests limiting fasting to fourteen hours for women.

Addiction

Another contributing factor to overeating and obesity is addiction. Hyperpalatable foods are designed to be addictive or overconsumed, echoing Pringles' slogan of "Once you pop, you can't stop." The sweet, salty, or fried properties of hyperpalatable foods target the brain's reward centre, drawing parallels to drugs.

Sugar is the primary variable that links to addiction, as it releases dopamine, resembling a drug of abuse, and can potentially even surpass the effects of cocaine.

Further reading
Food Addiction – A Serious Problem With a Simple Solution by Kris Gunnar.

Diets

Disclaimer
Diets are nutritional guidelines to help facilitate meal planning for health or fitness goals. A diet is considered successful when it is part of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Individuals are free to choose what diet works best for them whether it is for ethical or preferential reasons, or for greater dietary control.

SSF Diet

The Simple Science Fitness food pyramid, list of foods, and macronurient suggestions focuses on nutrient-dense sources. It is the least restrictive of the following popular diets and arguably works just as well, if not better, due to the flexibility, variety, balance, and ease of incorporating into a sustainable lifestyle.

Keto Diet

Similar to the Atkins Diet, about 95% of the total calories of a ketogenic diet comes from fat and protein sources only. Non-fiber carbohydrates are restricted to a maximum of 50g per day with most of these coming from vegetables. Due to carb restriction, the body then regulates blood sugar and will prefer utilizing body fat and ketones for energy. While this can be done daily, it is recommended to go with either a targeted ketogenic diet, where excess carbs are consumed around training, or a cyclic ketogenic diet, where one "carbs up" over the weekend.

Pros

Pros

High fat diets are nutrient-dense and excellent for satiety, weight loss, and health, as well as for keeping lean, treating obesity, and for building muscle. Studies have also shown neuroprotective benefits such as slowing aging and treating epilepsy.

Cons

Cons

Most experience "brain fog" and lethargy in the first week or two of adjustment. While in ketosis, bad breath due to acetone is a side effect. With lower muscle glycogen levels, optimal performance and strength are compromised. The diet is not meant for high-performance or endurance athletes. The temptations of carbohydrates in most environments may make the diet challenging to sustain.

More Information

More Information

/r/keto FAQ

/r/ketogains FAQ

Paleo Diet

The paleo/primal diet is focused on whole foods that mirrors the diet of our ancestors and of our species' biological adaptation. Typically lower in carbohydrates, the diet consists of vegetable, fruit, nut, egg, fish, and meat sources while processed foods, grains, legumes, and to some extent, dairy, are excluded.

Pros

Pros

Focuses on whole, complete, nutrient-dense foods for optimal health. Excellent for satiety, weight loss, and for building muscle.

Cons

Cons

The absence or limitations of legumes, grains, and dairy may be too restrictive to some.

More Information

More Information

/r/paleo FAQ

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has long been the standard diet to promote good health. Fat intake is relatively high with extra virgin olive oil being the principal ingredient. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seafood, and red wine are the staples of the diet, while saturated fat sources such as red meat and eggs are limited.

Pros

Pros

A wide variety of nutrient-dense foods, monounsaturated fats from olive oil, and the flavonoids of red wine promotes longevity and good health.

Cons

Cons

Saturated fat from rich nutrient-dense sources as eggs, butter, and beef may be unnecessarily limited. Although health-promoting, the diet may not be ideal for optimal fitness performance or goals.

More Information

More Information

Oldways Mediterranian Diet and Pyramid

USDA MyPlate

Released in 2011, it is the current dietary guideline by the US Government. The simplistic plate diagram restricts all food to vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and lean meats. Fats are visibly absent.

Pros

Pros

An easy-to-follow method of food portioning.

Cons

Cons

Eliminating fat sources and emphasizing no-fat/low-fat options while allowing half of the grain sources to be refined are outdated, counterproductive and potentially dangerous. Calcium and milk recommendations are excessive and harmful in the long term while offering no additional benefits, especially since the majority of the population is lactose intolerant. The "protein" section is ambiguous. The Harvard School of Public Health proposed small improvements in response, but still falls short of the nutritional variety of the 1943–1956 USDA food chart.

More Information

More Information

ChooseMyPlate.gov

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

A humane, environmentally-conscious high-carbohydrate diet. Focus is on a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes, and grains. Vegetarians avoid all meat and fish, but may consume either eggs or dairy, or both. Vegans do not consume any animal sources, including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.

Pros

Pros

When refined carbohydrate consumption is kept to a minimum, vegetarian and vegan diets are low-calorie, high-fiber, and nutrient-dense, which is excellent for weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure management.

Cons

Cons

Without proper planning, the absence or limitations of animal sources may cause nutritional deficiencies in vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, zinc and essential omega-3 fatty acids. Since vitamin B12 is only naturally found in animal sources, supplementation is necessary. When common nutritional deficiencies exist, a vegetarian diet is correlated with poor health and risks for mental disorders such as depression. Temptations of meat may make the diet challenging to sustain, especially since humans are natural omnivores throughout all cultures in history.

More Information

More Information

/r/vegan FAQ

Vegetarian Nutrition Wiki

Oldways Vegetarian/Vegan Diet and Pyramid

Other Diets

Several other diets come in similar variants as the ones discussed. Many are also worth avoiding for health reasons, especially those that involve "detoxing," cleanses," or "juicing," as these misguided fad diets are ineffective at best or damaging at worst. Many diets are temporary rather than being part of a permanent lifestyle change.

Meal Planning

Cooking

Cooking is mandatory for a healthy lifestyle. Low quality fast food and pre-cooked packages have replaced the time, effort, and skill required for cooking. Even though going to a restaurant requires time and effort, the trade-off for grocery shopping, preparation, and cooking is that your diet, wallet, and health will buy you additional years of enjoyable living.

Pound for pound, buying food in bulk from places such as Costco and Trader Joe's is significantly cheaper than fast food in the long run. Not only is cooking a useful and gratifying skill, you can also make leftovers to save time. Refer to our recipes list for various cooking ideas.

Bacon and egg frittatas

Your Kitchen

By creating your own meals, most of your fresh foods and leftovers will be stocked in the fridge and freezer, with less stored in the pantry. The kitchen items you would use the most are:

To save time, a rice cooker, slow cooker, and blender are useful kitchen appliances. A food scale is an excellent tool for measuring out portion sizes and calories.

Combining Foods

The Power of Spices

Most sauces and dressings are high in energy dense sugar and seed oils. To substitute, the palatability of meals can be improved with low-calorie spices and herbs, salt, lemon/lime juice, and vinegar. For instance, adding a little bit of paprika and salt to cooked broccoli significantly transforms how it tastes. When used in small amounts, good fats such as coconut oil, butter, and extra virgin olive oil also improve palatability.

Western dishes commonly consists of 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.

Improving Palatability and Health

Food combinations can make a difference for better or worse. A potato contains a long list of beneficial micronutrients, yet it is bland to eat by itself. It is high in carbohydrates and satiating. In contrast, butter is not satiating on its own, and it is energy dense. However, adding butter to a potato improves the palatability along with additional 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 improves both the palatability and health benefits.

Iron and Calcium Don't Mix Well

Try not to combine certain foods together in the same meal. If you have red meat or spinach with a glass of milk, you will miss out on iron absorption. The calcium in milk inhibits the absorption of iron and zinc.

The Dose Makes the Poison

Sticking to one food group means consuming too much of one thing and not enough of another. Variety allows a wide range of essential micronutrients the body requires without approaching levels of toxicity.

On A Budget

Buying and cooking whole foods can be cheaper than McDonald's. Here are some tips:

  • Shop: No Frills, Costco, Trader Joe's, ethnic markets. Cost per gram is lower when food is purchased at higher volume.
  • Garden: Planting vegetables, berries, and fruits can return amazing yields.
  • Spices: Refill reusable spice containers with spices from bulk (i.e. Bulk Barn).
  • Animals: Large, whole packages of cuts that are inexpensive in your region. Choices include organ meat, game meat, beef, pork, poultry, or fish. Cut into portions and freeze in bags or containers. Initially expensive, but covers over many meals.
  • Vegetables: Frozen vegetables, in-season vegetables.
  • Fruit: Frozen berries, in-season fruit.
  • Carbohydrates: Potatoes, long-grain rice.
  • Protein: Eggs, whey protein.
  • Fats: Eggs, extra virgin olive oil, butter, coconut oil.

Counting Calories

Unless you have specific physical and performance goals, counting calories are not required if protein intake is high enough. For the purposes of losing or gaining weight, tracking calories is recommended, especially for beginners. Many over- or underestimate the number of calories they consume daily. Counting calories is a valuable way to understand the energy density of various types of foods.

Recommended calorie trackers

When to Eat

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. However, nutrition timing is more important around a workout.

Portion Sizes

Measuring portion sizes are not necessarily required in a diet high in animal and plant sources since they are satiating. However, if performance or weight goals are not being met, measuring portions with a food scale and tracking calories in proper macronutrient ratios are recommended.

Cheat Meals

Cheat meals and occasional indulgences are encouraged. It reduces the chances of long term failure and serves positive psychological benefits since it's a break from structure and satisfies cravings. On the other hand, undesirable mental and physical side-effects may follow the short-term pleasure.

As long as you are mindful of your caloric intake and of any potential addictive behaviours, have anything you want for a cheat meal.

Recipes

Dishes

12 Days of Beef

12 Days of Beef

800 calories, 15g carbs, 55g fat, 65g protein

Ingredients

  • 12 packed ground beef patties
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chopped whole carrot
  • 1/2c brussels sprouts or sliced zucchini
  • 1c spinach

Directions

  1. Season all 12 ground beef patties with salt and pepper then bake at 350°F for 40 minutes.
  2. Refrigerate the patties you will consume within days. Store excess beef patties in containers then freeze. Thaw when ready to use.
  3. For each meal, add olive oil and spices to vegetables. Optionally add in a slice of cheese to the beef patty.
  4. Microwave for 4 minutes.
12 Days of Chicken

12 Days of Chicken

810 calories, 15g carbs, 45g fat, 90g protein

Ingredients

  • 3 whole rotisserie chickens
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 chopped whole carrot
  • 1c broccoli
  • 1c spinach

Directions

  1. Each whole chicken should cover four meals. Tear apart whole chickens into three containers.
  2. Refrigerate one container and use within days. Freeze the other two containers and thaw when ready to use.
  3. For each meal, add coconut oil and spices to vegetables. Optionally add in rice.
  4. Microwave for 4 minutes.
Jambalaya

Jambalaya

2160 calories, 190g carbs, 90g fat, 135g protein

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 smoked sausages, sliced, or pork
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 diced tomatoes
  • 1 diced bell pepper
  • 1c diced celery stalks
  • 0.5c diced carrots
  • 1c rice
  • 2c water or broth
  • 1 lbs shrimp

Directions

  1. Melt butter in large pan. Add sausages and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add all spices and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the rice and water/broth and bring to a boil.
  6. Bring heat to low and cover. Cook for 30 minutes.
  7. Add shrimp and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

1400 calories, 40g carbs, 80g fat, 135g protein

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 chopped chicken breasts
  • 6 cups chopped broccoli
  • 1 shallot or small onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes

Directions

  1. Marinate chicken with shallot, half garlic, half ginger, half salt, and vinegar for 15 minutes.
  2. Melt 1 tbsp butter in large pan at high heat. Mix brocolli, garlic, ginger, salt, water and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes then transfer to a plate.
  3. Melt 1 tbsp butter at high heat. Add marinated chicken and chili flakes and cook for 3 minutes or until browned.
  4. Return the broccoli back to the pan and mix with chicken. Cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Serve with rice (optional).
Salmon with Indian Spices

Salmon with Indian Spices

500 calories, 5g carbs, 30g fat, 45g protein

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 salmon fillet
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp coriander
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon/lime juice

Directions

  1. Spread all ingredients on the salmon. Bake with vegetables at 400°F for 20 minutes.
  2. Serve with rice or your choice of side.
Bacon Frittatas

Bacon Frittatas

1500 calories, 10g carbs, 110g fat, 115g protein

Ingredients

  • 12 slices of bacon
  • 8 eggs
  • 5 tbsp chopped spinach
  • 5 tbsp diced red pepper or tomatoes
  • 3 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Directions

  1. Bake bacon on baking sheet for 11 minutes at 350°F. Mix the rest of the ingredients on a pan and cook until the eggs are partially cooked.
  2. Ring the bacon and add the partially cooked egg mixture. Bake for another 20 minutes.
Ground Beef Stuffed Bell Pepper

Ground Beef Stuffed Bell Pepper

1950 calories, 120g carbs, 105g fat, 130g protein

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 500g ground beef
  • 1c cooked rice
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 small can of tomato paste

Directions

  1. Slice bell pepper in half, coat both halves in olive oil, and bake at 400°F for 30 minutes.
  2. Add olive oil on a pan at medium heat and cook ground beef with spices and tomato paste until browned.
  3. Mix the meat with rice and stuff into each bell pepper.
Egg Omelette

Egg Omelette

350 calories, 2g carbs, 26g fat, 28g protein

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp butter

Directions

  1. Whisk eggs, water, salt, and pepper.
  2. Melt butter on a large pan over medium-high heat. Pour in egg mixture.
  3. When the bottom is cooked and the top appears moist, fill half of omelette with vegetables or other fillings then fold over with unfilled side.
  4. Cook for one minute.

Slow Cooker

Beef Stew

Beef Stew

1980 calories, 175g carbs, 72g fat, 160g protein

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 500g beef stew cutlets
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 4c beef broth
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 potatoes
  • 2c diced carrots
  • 1c diced celery
  • 1 tbsp parsley

Directions

  1. Sear the meat on medium-high, 2 minutes per side.
  2. Add all ingredients in the list except for vegetables and parsley into a slow cooker. Set to cook on high for 8 hours.
  3. After 1 hour, add in potatoes, carrots and celery for the remaining 7 hours. Add in parsley when complete.
Beef and Stewed Cabbage

Beef and Stewed Cabbage

3450 calories, 200g carbs, 180g fat, 270g protein

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1kg ground beef
  • 1 head shredded cabbage
  • 3 whole chopped carrots
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 cans tomato paste

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients into a slow cooker. Set to cook on high for 6 hours.
Tomato Chicken

Tomato Chicken

1875 calories, 65g carbs, 80g fat, 225g protein

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1kg chicken thighs or chicken breast
  • 1c chopped celery
  • 1c chopped carrots
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1/4c lemon juice
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 diced avocado
  • 1/4c parsley or cilantro

Directions

  1. Place vegetables at the bottom of the slow cooker. Layer with chicken then season with salt and pepper.
  2. Mix the sauce, spices, and juice then pour over the chicken.
  3. Cook at low for 8 hours or at high for 4 hours.
  4. Add parsley when complete.

Soups

Chunky Chicken Soup

Chunky Chicken Soup

1520 calories, 175g carbs, 40g fat, 120g protein

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 shallot or onion
  • 1c diced carrots
  • 5 diced celery stalks
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3c water
  • 4c chicken broth
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1c rice
  • 2 tbsp parsley or cilantro

Directions

  1. Boil water in a large pot then reduce to low. Add garlic powder, onion powder and onion. Poach chicken breasts for 15 minutes.
  2. Pour hot water into a cup for now and discard the shallot. Melt butter into pot and add salt, pepper, lemon juice and vegetables.
  3. Add hot water and chicken broth into pot. Bring to a boil and add rice. Reduce to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Dice and add the cooked chicken breasts and parsley/cilantro.
Meatball Tomato Soup

Meatball Tomato Soup

3335 calories, 40g carbs, 230g fat, 260g protein

Ingredients

  • Cooked meatballs (see sides for recipe)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chopped shallot or small onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 6 chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4c water
  • 1/4c cream or whole milk
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp chives
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil at medium heat in a pot. Add shallot, garlic, tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add water and thyme. Cook for 25 minutes.
  3. Dump into a food processor and puree. Strain.
  4. Add in cooked meatballs, cream/milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Garnish with chives and Parmesan cheese.

Sides

Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled Eggs

580 calories, 2g carbs, 45g fat, 42g protein

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tbsp butter

Directions

  1. Melt butter at high heat then crack eggs into pan.
  2. Mix and scrape repeatedly with a spatula until cooked, 2–3 minutes.
  3. Optionally add spices such as salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, minced garlic, or oregano.
Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes

920 calories, 115g carbs, 40g fat, 30g protein

Ingredients

  • 3 potatoes
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1c whole milk
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4c Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp chives

Directions

  1. Dice potatoes. Add potatoes and a pinch of salt to boiling water for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat the milk, butter, and Parmesan. Drain the potatoes. Mash everything.
Bulviniai Blynai (Potato Pancakes)

Bulviniai Blynai (Potato Pancakes)

1060 calories, 145g carbs, 40g fat, 35g protein

Ingredients

  • 4 potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 shallot or 1/2 onion
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp almond flour
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1–2 tbsp of milk (to thicken, if necessary)

Directions

  1. Grate potatoes and shallot.
  2. Mix potatoes, shallot, eggs, salt, pepper, and flour until batter-like consistency. Add lemon juice last.
  3. Fry in olive oil, ghee, tallow, or lard.
Baked Greens

Baked Greens

Ingredients

  • 2c of broccoli or brussels sprouts
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Mix ingredients and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.
Italian Meatballs

Italian Meatballs

2885 calories, 5g carbs, 200g fat, 250g protein

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 kg ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp basil
  • 1/8 tsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp rosemary
  • 1/8 tsp cilantro
  • 1/8 tsp thyme
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4c Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil on a pan at medium. Mix the rest of the ingredients and form into balls.
  2. Turn meatballs over every few minutes until cooked all the way through.
Hasselbackspotatis (Baked Potatoes)

Hasselbackspotatis (Baked Potatoes)

650 calories, 70g carbs, 35g fat, 15g protein

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil or melted butter
  • 2 potatoes (red or sweet)
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika or cayenne pepper or your choice
  • 1 slice of aged cheese
  • Vinegar (optional)

Directions

  1. Slice the potatoes vertically almost all the way through. Coat with olive oil or butter.
  2. Bake on a baking sheet at 400°F for 40 minutes. Add the slice of cheese in the last 5 minutes.
  3. Drizzle with vinegar (optional).
Egg Pancakes

Egg Pancakes

380 calories, 30g carbs, 25g fat, 15g protein

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Separate the yolk and whisk the egg whites.
  2. Mash the yolk with the banana and vanilla.
  3. Fold the whites into the mixture and fry in coconut oil.
Delicious Rice

Delicious Rice

910 calories, 150g carbs, 30g fat, 15g protein

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp of coconut oil or butter
  • 1c basmati or Jasmine rice
  • 2c of water or coconut milk or broth

Directions

  1. Put all ingredients together in a rice cooker.

Smoothies

Bulker's Shake

Bulker's Shake

1050 calories, 95g carbs, 55g fat, 65g protein

Ingredients

  • 2 scoops whey protein
  • 2c kale or spinach
  • 2 tbsp of almond butter
  • 2 tbsp of coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon/lime juice
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1c berries
  • 1/4c oats
  • 2c water

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a blender.
Cutter's Shake

Cutter's Shake

550 calories, 50g carbs, 30g fat, 30g protein

Ingredients

  • 1 scoop whey protein
  • 2c kale or spinach
  • 2c water
  • 1 tbsp of coconut oil or almond butter
  • 2 tbsp lemon/lime juice
  • 1 sliced frozen banana
  • 1/2c berries

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a blender.

Condiments/Seasonings

Ketchup

Ketchup

150 calories, 35g carbs, 1g fat, 7g protein

Ingredients

  • 6oz tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1/3c water
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp allspice

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate in airtight container.
Taco Seasoning

Taco Seasoning

380 calories, 70g carbs, 15g fat, 15g protein

Ingredients

  • 8 tbsp chili powder
  • 4 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp sea salt

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients. Store in airtight container.
Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce

390 calories, 30g carbs, 30g fat, 6g protein

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3c Roma tomatoes, crushed
  • 1/4c minced onion or shallot
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp basil

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Sauté onions for 1 1/2 minutes then add garlic, salt, parsley, oregano and red pepper flakes for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add tomatoes, pepper and basil. Reduce to medium-low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.

Dessert

Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry Ice Cream

340 calories, 40g carbs, 20g fat, 3g protein

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen sliced banana
  • 6-8 frozen strawberries
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a food processor or blender.
Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate

143 calories, 22g carbs, 5g fat, 5g protein

Ingredients

  • 1.5c boiling water
  • 0.5c whole milk
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Directions

  1. With cocoa and sugar in a mug, pour in hot water. Stir.
  2. Add in milk. Stir again.

↑ Back to top

Supplements

Do You Need Supplements?

Supplementation requirements depend on your fitness goals and your diet. High-performance athletes benefit greatly from supplements. The SSF Diet is designed to cover all nutritional requirements, while other diets such as veganism would require vitamin B12 supplementation. The following are a few important supplements.

Tip
Adding supplements to a poor diet doesn't work.

Suggested Supplements

Whey Protein: While most can consume enough protein from food consumption alone, whey protein is a convenient and inexpensive source of high quality protein. Protein intake should be spread throughout your meals and is crucial before and after your workout. In addition, it was found that a combination of whey and casein protein promotes the greatest increases in fat-free mass.

Vitamin D3: Individuals who do not get enough sun or live in cold climates will greatly benefit from this essential micronutrient. Vitamin D helps the heart, improves performance and recovery, and lowers the risk of cancer and diabetes.

Did you know?
Vitamin D is actually a hormone.

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 helps reduce anxiety and depression. In addition, fish oil helps with both weight loss and muscle building.

For Bulking

Creatine: Naturally found in the body, creatine improves lifting performance and muscular mass while on a bulk. It does not provide benefits for weight loss. Taking 5g (1 tsp) once a day at any time, except with caffeine, is all that is needed.

For Cutting

Caffeine: A couple of cups of black coffee or green tea helps improve performance while blunting appetite while providing a small thermogenesis benefit.

Where to Buy Supplements

Recommended quality supplements at good prices can be purchased from our affiliated links:

Advertisement

Exercise

Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states.

—Carol Welch

 

Goals

Why Exercise?

Exercise has numerous mental and physical benefits including:

  1. Improved sleep.
  2. Reduces tiredness which can increase mental alertness.
  3. Increased interest in sex.
  4. Increased energy, stamina, and endurance.
  5. Helps lower stress, anxiety, and depression by increasing dopamine and serotonin levels.
  6. Increased tolerance to cortisol, a stress hormone.
  7. Strengthens the immune system.
  8. Weight reduction and management.
  9. Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular health.

Additional benefits of exercise are improving well-being and the quality of life, retaining youthful vigor, reducing the risk of morbidity and mortality, and providing improvements in physical appearance, performance, balance, and mobility, which contributes to confidence.

Definition
Sedentary: A person who spends most of their time sitting instead of being active. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with early death.

Beginners

With your physician's clearance, before progressing to weight training or moderate to vigorous cardio, start with core bodyweight exercises and light to moderate cardio until your body can adapt to the neurological and physiological changes. Beginner bodyweight exercises include bodyweight squats, push-ups, planks, bridges, and assisted chin-ups. Light to moderate cardio includes incline walking, stairs, and jogging.

Fitness Goals

There are many ways to improve your health and fitness. Choose a lifestyle or goal that you can enjoy and stick with at a comfortable level.

Here are some fitness-specific goals:

  • Health: Both anaerobic and aerobic training; circuit training.
  • Sports: Basketball, football, rugby, volleyball, etc.
  • Power: Olympic lifting, sprinting, and plyometrics.
  • Strength: Heavy weight training.
  • Aesthetics: Hypertrophy training.
  • Endurance: Cardiorespiratory training, interval training.
  • Flexibility: Stretches, yoga, pilates.
  • Mind-Body and Balance: Yoga, Tai Chi.

Exercise Frequency

It is recommended to exercise at vigorous intensity at least three times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes, or exercise at moderate intensity at least five times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Did you know?
Four one-hour workouts in a week takes up only 2.4% of your time.

Will Women Get Big and Bulky From Lifting?

Women are extremely unlikely to get big and bulky from lifting weights because they produce very little testosterone, which is an important hormone for muscle growth. Conversely, women are more likely to slim down since lifting weights is excellent for burning fat. Elite natural lifters such as Jennifer Nicole Lee, Jamie Eason, and Marzia Prince are thin, lean, and "toned."

The lean yet big and bulky women use steroids.

Further reading
1200 Calories by Sophieologie, and Women and the Myth of Bulking Up by PJ Glassey, CSCS.

It's Never Too Late

No matter your age, you start at your unique physical baseline and you can make tremendous improvements within weeks and months.

Did you know?
Ernestine Shepherd of Baltimore, Maryland, started training at age 71 and became a competitive bodybuilder at 75.

Further reading
For more examples of inspiring individuals on their fitness journeys and transformations, check out /r/progresspics.

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic

Definition
Anaerobic and Aerobic: Anaerobic respiration means the "absence of oxygen" and aerobic respiration means "with oxygen." Anaerobic exercises require short bursts of energy while aerobic exercises can be performed over long periods of time.

Anaerobic exercises include weight lifting (barbells, kettlebells, bodyweight resistance, etc.), sprinting, high intensity interval training and plyometrics, while 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. Relative to the time and workload they put in, the physiques of Olympic athletes can be observed:

Comparing anerobic and endurance Olympians

Regardless, cardiovascular exercise alongside anaerobic exercise is recommended since the combination improves both muscular endurance and heart health.

Physical Goals

The number of sets and repetitions relative to weight resistance will give you different results and physiques.

Power Lifting Bodybuilding (Strength) Bodybuilding (Aesthetics) 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
Note: The ' marker denotes time in minutes.

Your Desired Physique

Your body shape is largely influenced by how much muscle mass you have. For your desirable body shape, look no further than examples of elite athletes in their respective fields of powerlifting, weight lifting, and endurance to see how exercise affects lean mass:

Strength

Strength

Hypertrophy

Hypertrophy

Endurance

Endurance

Toning

"Toning" is simply the result from building muscle and reducing body fat.

Six Pack Abs

Six pack abs are visible within the 10% body fat range (20% for women) and more prominent at lower percentages. A stricter calorie deficit diet will allow you to go at a lower body fat. How much abdominal muscles protrude is partially determined by genetics and partially determined by muscularity.

Attire

T-shirts, shorts, and athletic wear are suitable attire to wear for training. Many enjoy listening to songs with portable music players. For footwear while doing heavy weights, flat-bottomed shoes such as the Converse Chuck Taylor and Vibram Fivefingers are recommended. Some go barefoot while working out at home. The Vibram Fivefingers are also useful for running.

Gym Memberships

Gym memberships are useful to access equipment that you do not have at home. It can be motivating to work out with other people, and it is also low-cost in the short term.

Personal Trainers

If you are an absolute beginner, or unsure how to do proper form and technique for injury prevention, or would like to have guidance and motivation, working with a personal trainer is a worthwhile investment.

Home Gym

If you are comfortable working out alone, a home gym is a very convenient and good long-term financial investment. The recommendations below are all that are necessary to build an effective quality home gym where you can perform many exercises, including the Big Six.

Anaerobic Training

Weight Training

While all kinds of physical activity provide health benefits, weight training is superior in increasing metabolism for fat loss while strengthening your muscles and bones to protect your joints, and decreasing the risk of disease and injury.

Weight training includes but are not limited to these types of equipment:

  • Barbells
  • Cable machines
  • Dumbbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Leverage machines
  • Resistance bands

Gymnastics and Bodyweight Exercises

As an alternative or supplement to weight training, body weight/calisthenic exercises may be performed.

Tip
Many bodyweight exercises do not require a gym. Exercises can be performed with little to no equipment.

Bodyweight exercises without equipment include push-ups, handstand push-ups, pistol squats, and planks. With Olympic rings, simple to advanced chin-ups, pull-ups, push-ups, and dips can be performed. The difficulty level of each exercise can be modified by using leverage.

Further reading
/r/bodyweightfitness has tons of resources on bodyweight fitness.

Sprints, HIIT, and Plyometrics

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.

Since they are high intensity workouts, 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 levels of training, such as being proficient with the Big Six. If you wish to incorporate sprinting with weight training, look into short intensity interval training such as Tabata, or simply do a single 30-second sprint once a week.

Did you know?
You could have an intense workout in only 4 minutes by doing burpees with the Tabata Method.

Weight Training

Note
Proper form in performing weight training movements are required to avoid injury. If you have no prior experience, consulting with a personal trainer is advisable.

Compound Lifts

Compound exercises are widely considered to be unparalleled full body exercises, used by beginners all the way to the elite. Each exercise works on more than one muscle group while strengthening the core (abs and back). Excellent for both fat burning and muscle building, compound exercises work virtually the entire body with greater intensity than isolation exercises like bicep curls.

Olympic Lifts

Other than the Big Six, Olympic lifts such as the clean and jerk (power clean) and the snatch are fantastic full body exercises, although it requires practice and proper technique to perform correctly.

The Big Six

The Big Six are of some of the most important fundamental compound exercises that work the entire body. They are:

  1. Squats
  2. Deadlifts
  3. Bench press
  4. Overhead/military press
  5. Chin-ups/pull-ups
  6. Barbell rows

Barbell Squat

Barbell Squat

Described as the king of all exercises, squats work primarily the legs and is often considered a full-body exercise. The barbell squat is probably the most intense yet rewarding exercise to perform. Front squats is a superior alternative or addition to the back squat.

  • Video and Technique
  • Primary Muscles: Quads, hamstrings, glutes.
  • Secondary Muscles: Abs, spinal erectors.
  • Substitution: Leg press, clean and jerk/power clean, lunges.

Barbell Deadlift

Barbell Deadlift

Often competing with squats for the king of all exercises, this powerful movement works the entire posterior chain. It is also taxing on the central nervous system, so short and heavy is usually enough.

  • Video 1, Video 2, Technique 1, and Technique 2
  • Primary Muscles: Spinal erectors, hamstrings, glutes, traps.
  • Secondary Muscles: Quads, abs, forearms.
  • Substitution: Clean and jerk/power clean.

Barbell Bench Press

Barbell Bench Press

Often included in the "big three," this chest exercise is also a good arm builder.

  • Video and Technique
  • Primary Muscle: Pectorals.
  • Secondary Muscles: Deltoids, triceps, biceps.
  • Substitution: Push-up.

Barbell Military/Overhead Press

Barbell Overhead Press

This excellent shoulder exercise also works on the arms.

  • Video and Technique
  • Primary Muscle: Deltoids.
  • Secondary Muscles: Traps, triceps, abs.
  • Substitution: Handstand push-up, dumbbell lateral raise and dumbbell front raise, Arnold press.

Chin-Up/Pull-Up

Chin-Up

A powerful exercise for the lats and 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. Arnold Schwarzenegger considers chin-ups to be the best bodyweight exercise.

  • Video 1, Video 2 and Technique
  • Primary Muscles: Lats, biceps.
  • Secondary Muscles: Traps, pectorals, triceps.
  • Substitution: Cable pulldown.

Barbell Row

Barbell Row

An exercise that works the full back, including traps, lats, and rhomboids. Ensure that the movement starts and ends with the barbell on the ground.

  • Video and Technique
  • Muscles Worked: Full back.
  • Substitution: T-bar row, seated cable row, dumbbell row.

Accessory Exercises

Once your body is adapted to the fundamental Big Six lifts with proper form, you may wish to move to an intermediate program that includes supplementary exercises. Accessory exercises mostly target individual muscle groups.

Note
Squats and deadlifts work the abs and glutes better than direct work. For instance, strong abs are needed to perform a 300 lbs squat or a 400 lbs deadlift.

Beginner Programs

SSF 3x Base Program

SSF 3x Base Program

Day Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Squat 3 5–8 3'
Bench Press 3 5–8 3'
Chin-Up 3 1–15 2'
B Deadlift 1 5 3'
Overhead Press 3 5–8 3'
Barbell Row 3 5–8 2'
Note: The ' marker denotes time in minutes.

Frequency

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.

Duration

Each workout is approximately 30–40 minutes long.

Cycle

Apply progressive overload for 6–8 weeks, then take one week off to allow the body and central nervous system to recover.

Accessory Exercises

You may add accessory exercises such as the stiff-legged deadlift, barbell curl, and calf raise.

Expectations

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.

Other Beginner Programs

Intermediate Programs

SSF 4x Intermediate Program

SSF 4x Intermediate Program

Day Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Mon Front Squat 3–4 5 3'
Stiff-Legged Deadlift 3–4 6–8 3'
Barbell Squat 2–3 10–12 3'
Calf Raise 3–4 6–8 3'
Tues Bench Press 3–4 6–8 3'
Barbell Row 3–4 6–8 3'
Lateral Raise 2–3 10–12 2'
Chin-Up 2–3 10–12 2'
Dip 1–2 12–15 2'
Barbell Curl 1–2 12–15 1.5'
Thurs Deadlift 1–2 5 3'
Leg Press 3–4 6–8 3'
Calf Raise 3–4 10–12 2'
Hack Squat 2–3 10–12 2'
Fri Overhead Press 3–4 6–8 3'
Pull-Up 3–4 6–8 3'
Dumbbell Fly 3–4 10–12 2'
Barbell Row 3–4 10–12 2'
Close-Grip Bench Press 1–2 12–15 1.5'
Hammer Curl 1–2 12–15 1.5'
Note: The ' marker denotes time in minutes.

Frequency

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.

Duration

Each workout is approximately 60 minutes long.

Cycle

Apply progressive overload for 6–8 weeks, then deload for 2 weeks at 80% and 90% of your heaviest weights.

SSF 5x Intermediate Program

SSF 5x Intermediate Program

Day Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Mon Front Squat 3 6 3'
Lunge 3 8–12 3'
Barbell Squat 2–3 10–12 3'
Stiff-Legged Deadlift 3 6–8 3'
Calf Raise 3 10–12 1'
Wheel Rollout 3 Max 1'
Tues Bench Press (Heavy) 3 6–8 3'
Bench Press (Light) 3 10–12 2'
Weighed Push-Up 3 8–12 2'
Dumbbell Fly 3 10–12 2'
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 10–12 2'
Wed Deadlift 2 5 3'
Weighed Pull-Up 3 6–12 2'
Barbell Row 3 10–12 2'
Cable Seated Row 3 6–8 2'
Dumbbell Row 3 10–12 2'
Fri Overhead Press 5 8–12 3'
Face Pull 3 10–12 2'
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 10–12 2'
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 10–12 2'
Dumbbell Front Raise 3 10–12 2'
Dumbbell Shrugs 3 10–12 1'
Sat Bodyweight/Weighed Chin-Up 3 6–12 1'
Bodyweight/Weighed Dip 3 6–8 1'
Barbell Bicep Curl 4 6–8 1'
Barbell Tricep Extension 4 8–12 1'
Hammer Curl 3 8–12 1'
Close-Grip Bench Press 3 10–12 1'
Dumbbell Bicep Curl 3 8–12 1'
Tricep Pulldown 3 8–12 1'
Note: The ' marker denotes time in minutes.

Frequency

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.

Duration

Each workout is approximately 50 minutes long.

Cycle

Apply progressive overload for 8–12 weeks, then take one week off.

Other Intermediate Programs

Advanced Programs

Experienced lifters who have trained for years may want to try:

Aerobic Training

Cardiorespiratory Training

Cardio is an excellent way to keep your heart healthy and to stay in shape, but sometimes pose challenges in preserving muscle mass since chronic 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.

Did you know?
Low intensity steady state cardio (LISS) is a good way to burn excess calories while preserving muscle mass on a cut because lower intensity training targets a greater percentage of the body's fat stores for fuel.

While beginners should only do light to moderate cardio until they adapt to the neurological and physical demands, greater benefits of exercise are attained from moderate to vigorous cardio.

Individual

Common individual cardiorespiratory exercises include:

  • Dancing
  • Elliptical
  • Jump rope
  • Running
  • Steps
  • Stationary Bike
  • Treadmill
  • Walking
  • Wall Climbing

Group

Another popular type of fitness activities are group classes. Examples are:

  • Boot Camp
  • Dance
  • Martial Arts
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi
  • Spinning
  • Yoga
  • Zumba

Sports

Sports are one of the more fun and engaging activities that may also include anaerobic elements. Here are some examples:

  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Boxing
  • Cricket
  • Cycling
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Rugby
  • Soccer
  • Swimming
  • Skateboarding
  • Skiing/Snowboarding
  • Surfing
  • Tennis
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Volleyball
  • Wrestling

Nutritional Guidelines

Nutrition Timing

  • Generally, what you eat matters more than when you eat.
  • It is optimal to consume sufficient carbohydrates and protein before and after a workout. Ideally, pre- and post-exercise meals should not be separated by more than 3–4 hours from each other. One scenario could be consuming a meal 2 hours before your workout, exercise for an hour, then consume another meal 1 hour later.
  • Consuming both protein and carbohydrates after a workout increases insulin levels, muscle glycogen, protein synthesis, and growth hormone. Protein synthesis is greater in a pre-workout meal/shake than it is post-workout.
  • For a pre- or post-workout shake, you may consume whey protein in water with a high glycemic-index carbohydrate source such as a banana, maltodextrin, or dextrose. The high GI source quickly raises insulin levels for optimal protein intake.
  • Your meal after your workout should also be your largest and highest in carbohydrates to replenish muscle glycogen levels.

Hydration

If your urine is relatively clear, you're fully hydrated. As a guideline, 3.7L/day (15 cups) for men, and 2.7L/day (11 cups) for women meets general requirements. Increased water intake would be necessary on hot days and during exercise. Do drink sufficient water in the morning, as well as before, during, and after exercise.

Carbohydrate Intake

Consuming more carbohydrates on workout days than on rest days is suggested to replenish muscle glycogen. When you alternate higher and lower carbohydrate intake on different days, it is called carb cycling or carb backloading.

Protein Intake

Muscle retention and growth requires a daily consumption of 0.59–0.82g/lbs (1.3–1.8g/kg) of protein per body weight per day. If cutting, increasing to 0.82–0.91g/lbs (1.8–2.0g/kg) per body weight is ideal.

If you are at a very low body fat and cutting, a higher protein intake of 1.04–1.41g/lbs (2.3–3.1g/kg) per fat free mass is recommended.

Example
At 200 lbs of body weight, 0.82 grams of protein per pound would come out to 164 grams of protein (200 * 0.82 = 164).

Bulking Tips

Combining starchy carb sources such as rice and potatoes with added fats like coconut oil and butter are easy ways to add extra calories. High-fat dairy including cheese, cream, and whole milk can be quickly consumed.

Cutting Tips

At a caloric deficit, it becomes more important to keep meals nutrient dense, which means a stricter diet. Fortunately, there are many ways of keeping satiated by increasing filling low-calorie sources such as vegetables, berries, water, tea, black coffee, and spices. Increasing the protein ratio will improve satiety. Intermittent fasting is also a useful tool for cutting.

Specialized Athletes

Powerlifters

The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends 22–36 calories/lbs/day (50–80 calories/kg/day). Their suggested daily macronutrient breakdowns are 0.68–0.91g/lbs (1.5–2.0g/kg) per body weight for protein, 2.3–3.6g/lbs (5–8g/kg) per body weight for carbohydrates, and 30% of total calories for fat.

Endurance Athletes

The average endurance athlete should consume 500–600g of carbohydrates per day to replenish muscle glycogen levels.

Seeing Results

Progressive Overload Principle

Progressive overloading pushes the body to break plateaus. Lifting heavy weights causes microtears to the muscle fibers. Sufficient quality food, sleep, and recovery time are necessary to rebuild and create more muscle. The ability to lift heavier weights or do more repetitions becomes possible with increased muscle mass.

In order to progress in strength, hypertrophy, or endurance, you must increase your weights, reps, sets, volume, or intensity over time.

Example 1
You performed an exercise at 20 lbs for 8 reps one week then 20 lbs for 12 reps the next week. Since you reached a personal maximum of 12 reps, you are able to increase your weight to 22.5 or 25 lbs in the following week.

Example 2
You performed an exercise at 20 lbs for 12 reps one week then 25 lbs for 6 reps the next week. Since the weight had been increased, the target goal is 12 reps with 25 lbs in the following week(s).

Progressive Overload Principle

Diet

While anaerobic exercise stimulates the growth of muscle and accelerates calorie burning, a proper diet regimen is primarily the reason why muscles are able to grow and abs are able to appear.

Weekly Expectations

With a strict diet and training regimen without drugs or surgery, one can build up to 0.5 lbs of muscle per week or burn 2 lbs of fat per week. On a 500 calorie deficit per day with a good 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 this 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 and application of the progressive overload principle, results follow.

Tracking Progress

Tracking your fitness progress by writing down your exercise results, or using apps such as FitnessFast or Strong will allow you to make measurable progress on a weekly basis.

Motivation

For some, exercising may feel like a chore. It is important to view exercise as an enjoyable experience and 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 and lifestyle. If you miss a day, don't worry much about it, as long you're able to be as consistent as possible.

Results make a great motivator. Methods such as taking before-and-after photos, recording body measurements, tracking weight changes, and monitoring strength improvements allow you to see observable results.

A healthy environment and strong support systems are imperative for continued progress. Having a workout partner is not only motivational, but also keeps each other accountable with some friendly competition.

Strength Standards

The weight you're able to lift at relative to your body weight will determine whether you are a beginner, novice, intermediate, advanced, or elite lifter. The strength standards calculator below can calculate your one-repetition maximum (1RM), how many times your own body weight (BW) you can lift, and approximate strength level for squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press:

Strength Standards Calculator

  1. Your body weight:



  2. You Can lift with reps

Maximum Muscular Potential

Beginner lifters will see the greatest muscular gains while experienced lifters will see the least over the span of a few years of consistent, progressive lifting. This is because of diminishing returns as the human body approaches their muscular genetic limit. This limit can be overridden with drugs, which is not advisable.

Warm-Up and Cool Down

To reduce the risk of injuries, warming up the body with several minutes of cardio such as jump rope or dynamic stretching is necessary before performing heavy weights. After your workout, a cool down of light cardio and static stretching is recommended.

Flexibility

Gaining muscle does not mean you lose flexibility. Performing static stretches allow you to maintain and increase flexibility. Static stretches are not recommended right before a workout since it pre-fatigues the muscles, which would hinder performance. Do stretch after a workout.

Form and Technique

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.

Note
If you have limited lifting experience, it is advisable to meet with a personal trainer to learn proper form and technique.

General guidelines for good form while performing a lift:

  1. Always keep your core (abs and back) tight and flexed.
  2. Always keep your butt out and not have your lower back arching inwards.
  3. Your knees and elbows should be slightly bent (not locked).
  4. If lifting a barbell above your waist, keep your forearms and wrist straight and perpendicular to the floor.
  5. Each lift should be performed with a full range of motion, but never hyperextended.
  6. Do not swing or rely on momentum to perform a lift.

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