Every so often, I will post a reply in this thread that I think, will benefit the new people that are coming in. There tends to be a lot of frequently asked questions but I want to solve that through this thread. I hope you guys enjoy it and learn from it for learning is the only way to take weightlifting to the next level.
I know fitness can be an intimidating and confusing subject to start learning about, and often people just getting in to it are scared off by the massive amounts of information presented to them. I?ve done my best to give beginners somewhere to start from here, and included several good resources to find more information at the bottom of the article. This is by no means an exhaustive or complete handbook, and should be treated as a starting point for beginners to familiarize themselves with the field. I have done my best to cite anything I feel requires it, but if you would like more information on any specific claim or point, please let me know and I will gladly give you several sources. The information laid out here has helped me immensely, and an intelligent approach to the subject will do the same for almost anyone.
There are many components to ?Fitness? as a whole. Each and every one is important, and ignoring one will end in tears, so let?s get right to the meat of it (pun intended).
Your diet should be the first thing on your mind. Without a solid diet all the exercise in the world will likely do you no good. As the saying goes, ?abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.? So, first things first; the basics.
Most fats are good, in moderation. As a general rule, fats should make up about 20% of your daily calorie intake. Getting too little fat in your diet can result in everything from impeded brain function(1) to reduced endurance during exercise. (2) There are 4 types of fats you will be dealing with.
Trans fat: Also known as the ?never-eat-me? fat. Trans fats are something you should, ideally, never have in your diet. This is the only thing I will ever say this about. When you eat trans fats, you not only raise the level of Low Density Lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) in your body, but you lower the level of High Density Lipoproteins (good cholesterol). (3) Again, not something you want to be eating.
Saturated fat: Good to moderate, but dont exclude it. Saturated fats raise the level of LDL, but do nothing to your HDLs. (3) They also raise the level of testosterone in men, (4) which helps with muscle building and strength gains. I largely get my saturated fats from high calorie protein bars and peanut butter.
Polyunsaturated fat: A good fat. This includes omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Keep these reasonably high in your diet. (3) Most of mine comes from fish, nuts, and oils.
Monounsaturated fat: Good fat. (3) Tons of it in olive oil. Try and make this and polyunsaturated fats your main source of fat. I largely get my intake of mono unsaturated fat from olive oil and almonds.
Carbohydrates are your main source of energy in a diet. They contribute very little to muscle building, (except by extension of more energy means more lifting) but without them you will begin to feel sluggish, tired, and drained. (5) Carbs should make up about 40% of your daily calories to ensure you have spring in your step and air in your lungs. For the most part, you want to avoid simple carbs, (sugars) and the carbohydrates found in many white breads, and eat complex ones. My number one source of complex carbs is oatmeal, but you can also get them from things like some whole grain breads and some veggies. Fruits and vegetables are also primarily in this category, and are something you need to eat, of course. However, most fruits are just made up of sugar, so keep that in mind. An apple is about 29 grams of carbs, mostly from sugar, so its something to moderate. Leafy greens like spinach and lettuce are much better sources of nutrients than most fruit.
Protein is the staple of anyone trying to gain muscle and reduce fat. It allows your body to re-build damaged tissue, and in turn add more muscle to your body. (6) To ensure good recovery ability while still maintaining a healthy balance, aim for the remaining 40% of your calorie intake to be good protein. Plus its in meat, which is just awesome. Protein also unfortunately often comes with a lot of bad fats, such as saturated fat in ground beef and lots of fast food. Key sources of protein for me are whey, chicken, eggs, fish, turkey, peanut butter (careful, high in fat), and skim milk.
While not everyone may feel it necessary to supplement their diet, it is likely a good idea for anyone who is active and aiming to alter body composition to at least give some though to the subject. Supplements run the gamut from your basic whey protein powder to expensive and complicated blends of multiple ingredients, designed for everything from increased energy to better heart health. For beginners, it may be a good idea to select some of the simpler options to facilitate your diet and training. Just remember, it?s a supplement to your diet, not a replacement. Diet first, supplement second. Lets take a look at the basics.
Whey is a bi-product of dairy production, and the single fastest absorbed protein you can get your hands on. Clocking in at a Biological Value, (absorption rate) of around 104, (7) whey is one of the best supplements you can invest in as a beginner. You can select whatever brand you feel is best, but keep in mind that not all whey is created equal. Some may have more carbs or fat, some may simply cost more. Be sure to balance the amount and purity of protein you are getting, and what you pay for it.
Fishoil is a fantastic supplement for many reasons. Its packed full of omega 3, in DHA and EPA form, so your body dosnt have to convert the fatty acid to use it, unlike flaxoil. Its list of benefits is long and well documented. It can help with everything from proper brain function, to long term heart health, to superior recovery times after exertion. (8) There is really no reason not to take it, as its benefits are both helpful now and later in life. A word of warning, avoid liver oil and only buy flesh oil. Liver oil is loaded with vitamin A, which is a fat stored vitamin. Fat stored vitamins do not dilute in water, and can, in extreme cases, build to toxic levels. Its not something you would likely have to worry about, but there is no reason to ingest the unnecessary vitamin A. You probably already get enough unless you were raised as an Inuit or eat zero fruits or vegetables for some other reason. Also, if fish-burps are a problem for you simply get some enteric coated tablets. They break down later in digestion so you don?t taste the fishy flavor if you are prone to burping after pill taking.
A great idea no matter who you are. Most of us don?t get enough of at least some vitamin in our diet, and a multivitamin in the morning is a great start to fixing that. I personally like to take a fairly mild multivitamin twice a day, and get the rest of my vitamins from the food I eat. Just remember, multivitamins aren?t the cure-all you might think. You still need to eat vegetables! (9)
As I said, your diet is the most important part of losing, (and gaining) weight. Moderation and balance is key. Ideally, assuming you are an active individual and are eating to support that, you want to get about 0.8 grams of protein in your diet for every pound of bodyweight. Most people overshoot their bad fats and simple carbs, and don?t get enough good stuff. As stated before, a good rule to follow is 40/40/20. That?s 40% of your daily calories from protein, 40% from carbs, and 20% from fat. (10)
Also, do NOT starve yourself, it wont work. Crash dieting is a stupid practice with multiple downsides and no advantages. Figure out your daily maintenance for calories, and cut off ~15% of that if you feel you want to lose weight. If you starve yourself, your body will begin storing everything it can as bodyfat. This occurs for several reasons. First, because fat is easy for your body to digest later if you stop eating again. Second, because fat, unlike muscle, doesn?t burn calories. If you are starving, the last thing your body wants to do is burn extra calories by keeping muscle around, so it will literally break down your existing muscle and replace it with more fat to reduce your metabolism and increase your chance of not starving to death. (11) In addition, your lowered metabolism will cause you to put on much MORE weight when you do finally eat. Try and keep your metabolism high and the stream of nutrients to your body constant by eating 5 or so smaller meals per day, (12) instead of 3 big ones. I cant stress this enough, if you don?t change what you fuel your body with, you can expect it to keep running the way it has for years. To change your body you have to change what you feed it.
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