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Beginners guide to Fitness and Nutrition: Part I

Fatality

Fatality

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Since there seems to be more of an influx of new members coming into musclemecca bodybuilding forums, I've decided to start up a little beginners' guide to nutrition and fitness. I've made a previous one, but it's pretty old and I don't feel like bumping it. So here yeah go! Enjoy!

Introduction:

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).

Diet:

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.

Fats:

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 don't exclude it. Saturated fats raise the level of LDL, but do nothing to your HDL. They also raise the level of testosterone in men, which helps with muscle building and strength gains. I largely get my saturated fat 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 monounsaturated fat from olive oil and almonds.


Carbs:

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:

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.

Supplements:

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:

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.

Fish Oil:

Fish Oil is a fantastic supplement for many reasons. Its packed full of omega 3, in DHA and EPA form, so your body doesn't have to convert the fatty acid to use it, unlike flax oil. 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.

Multivitamins:

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)

Diet notes:

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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Achilles

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Nice solid info for a beginner :xyxthumbs:
 
Fatality

Fatality

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Thanks bud! But this stinks, I can't post a lot now and I don't know why. I wanted to post the second part about routine and lifting, but it wouldn't let me, it just keeps loading and states "posting quick reply!" This stinks, I'll try to get the second part up really soon.
 
Fatality

Fatality

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Routine:

There are two components to exercise for our purposes. Cardio, and resistance training. Now, there is a very popular myth floating around that cardio is the way to go for weight loss. This is exactly why your friends and co-workers have been doing Pilates and walking on the treadmill for hours a day for the past year, and they look exactly the same as they did at the last Christmas party, then they got selected to dress up as the jolly big man himself. The religious belief that cardio is king for weight loss is foolish. Resistance training (lifting) is far, far more effective for weight loss. (13) The reasoning behind this is that as you lift, you build muscle mass. An increase in muscle mass leads to and increase of lean body mass. More lean body mass means a higher resting metabolic rate, which means you burn more calories a day. Since you burn more calories resting, you lose weight faster. In addition, since you are constantly using all your muscle groups, your body is encouraged to retain that muscle, (and build upon it) and burn the only other source of fuel it has available to it; fat. No matter how much you run or bike or swim you will continue to have a hard time out-pacing someone with a significantly faster metabolism for calories burned. So, first and foremost, lets look at lifting.

Weight Training

The typically accepted beginner-intermediate lifting program is some version of Bill Starr's 5x5 routine. (14) The 5x5 has been created, evaluated and modified by people with far more knowledge than anyone you or I know, so don?t try and ?customize it? for your self. Its fine the way it is. Leave it alone. If you feel your arms or legs or abs need more work, that?s fine. Add in some curls or leg press or crunches. Just be careful of overtraining, and don?t touch the big stuff. It works the way it is.

The 5X5 requires 3 days of lifting. It gets its name from the fact that it focuses on 5 sets of lifting 5 reps per exercise. The days as I ran them when I started are shown below. I broke them up to explain a few things you might not know as I go.

Day 1
Squat ? 5 sets of 5
Bench ? 5 sets of 5
Bent Over Row ? 5 sets of 5
Weighted Inclined crunch - 2 sets of 10
Close grip Chinups - 3 sets of 5

Check links for form. Be VERY careful when squatting, (and deadlifting) form is key or you will ruin your back. If you don?t feel confident or the lift feels awkward, find someone who looks like they know what they are up to at your gym and ask.

Also, the bent over row is a tricky lift. Make sure you?re pulling the weight towards your stomach with your back parallel to the ground. This will help you use your back, and not your arms. Really focus on the contraction of the muscles around your shoulder blades to pull the weight up, and try and limit the amount of bicep in the lift.

Day 2
DB Military Press ? 5 sets of 5
Squat ? 3 sets of 5 (Warmup for deads)
Deadlift ? 5 sets of 5
Weighted Inclined crunch - 2 sets of 10

Day 3
Squat ? 3 sets of 5, 1 triple, back-off
Bench ? 3 sets of 5, 1 triple, back-off
Bent Over Row ? 3 sets of 5, 1 triple, back-off
Weighted Inclined crunch - 2 sets of 10
Chinups - 3 sets of 5

"Back off" means reduce the weight to what it was the set before, and do another 8 reps. So essentially, repeat your 3rd set again, and add 3 more reps.
 

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