By Liam Rosen | Full Article | 12750 words | Aug 7, 2007
6 minute read
PART I: OPENING Q&A AND GENERAL MYTH-BUSTING
The methods for improving fitness are actually very well understood, and, aside
from minor matters of detail, have changed very little in the last 30 years or
so. Most of the seeming contradictions in fitness advice are really just
hairsplitting arguments over matters of detail that need not concern the
beginner, or are due to hucksters peddling utter garbage. There is almost
universal consensus among knowledgeable people about what works and what
doesn’t. That’s what this guide is based on.
There are two basic considerations: diet and exercise. The same advice for each
applies to almost everyone. The exceptions are at the extremes, e.g. the very
obese needing to lose immense amounts of weight to stay alive, and the people
pursuing extreme levels of performance or muscular development. Both of those
are beyond the scope of this guide.
If you do ab exercises, do them holding a heavy plate and in the 5-10 repetition range.
PART II: MINDSET
You can’t look at diet or exercise as a short-term ordeal that ends at some
point when you aren’t out of shape anymore. They must be seen as long-term
lifestyle changes. That sounds kind of scary, but is actually not a big deal
when you think about it, and once you start seeing results you will be
motivated to continue.
You get in shape, and more importantly stay in shape, by accumulating
significant, but livable, improvements to your lifestyle over time, and
building on that.
You can lose about 1-2 lbs of fat or build around .5 lbs of muscle a week as a male
Be persistent and be patient
PART III: DIET
In the end, it really is calories in and calories out. Everything else is just
fiddling around the edges of this basic fact.
As a rule of thumb, if it was part of a traditional diet, if you could make it
by hand, it is good (eggs, butter, olive oil, oatmeal, fruit, …), if not, it’s
not (margarine, soda, pizza, gummi bears …).
Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are all known as macronutrients. All are
necessary, and none are evil per se. To summarize:
Carbohydrates (“carbs”). 4 calories per gram. Despite what you may have
heard, these are not evil. They are a necessary source of energy for your
body. The problem is that people over-consume certain sources of
carbohydrates, most notably simple sugars from soda and candy, and starches
from white bread. However, if you have to cut down on one macronutrient, cut
down on carbohydrates. People in Western cultures consume far too many
carbohydrates on average.
Proteins. 4 calories per gram. Protein is formed by a linked chain of amino
acids, which are necessary for your body to maintain and repair damage to
its muscles. Most people get enough protein, though an intense exercise
program may call for eating more for optimal results. Protein helps you lose
fat, build muscle, fills you up so you’re less hungry,
supports lean body mass (muscle) over flabby and unhealthy body mass
(fat), helps you recover better from all kinds of exercise, decreases
soreness, and helps to keep off weight loss (combating the yoyo effect).
Fats. 9 calories per gram. Fats are not evil, either. Eating dietary fat
does not mean that body fat will instantly appear on your gut or ass; your
body doesn’t work that way. Fats perform a variety of necessary functions.
The problem is that people over-consume saturated fats and trans fats, which
raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and
under-consume healthy fats like monounsaturated fats (found in high
concentrations in olive oil and canola oil) and Omega-3 fatty acids (found
in fish, flax seed oil and other sources). Fats also have more calories
ounce-for-ounce than carbohydrates and proteins, making very high fat foods
very calorie-dense, which is where the bad reputation often stems from.
In the end, it’s about persistence, patience, protein and calories. If your
diet of choice gets these 4 right, it will work. If not, it wont.
If there is one supplement that everyone should take, this is it. Don’t focus
on total mg of fish oil; instead, take enough fish oil to get a total of
approximately 720mg of EPA and 480mg of DHA a day.
Creatine improves numerous aspects of strength and power. The average increase
may be around 5%.
The idea that eating after a certain time will cause the body to store such
calories as fat is a myth.
Starving is a bad way to lose weight.
Your metabolism slows down. Your body will burn fewer calories to maintain
itself, and you will feel awful. This is bad for weight loss because as soon
as you quit starving yourself, you’ll gain weight fast because your
metabolism has bottomed out.
You will tend to lose muscle more than fat. Your body will naturally try to
conserve fat and cannibalize muscle if it thinks it is outright starving.
This is bad because your real goal is FAT loss, not weight loss. This is how
you have people who lose 100 pounds and reach their “ideal” weight, but
still look amazingly flabby. Also, losing muscle slows your metabolism down
even further, amplifying the giant horrible rebound effect once you quit
Your life will be a living hell. You’ll eventually feel horrible, the diet
will fail, and you’ll binge eat and regain everything you lost, plus
PART IV: EXERCISE
Lifting burns tons of calories, and lifting weights while dieting will cause
you to retain more muscle and lose more fat than just diet and/or cardio.
Because the name of the game when it comes to not looking awful is FAT LOSS,
not weight loss. Do you want to be that guy who loses lots of weight and still
looks flabby and useless? Of course not.
Cardio is good for everyone because it improves your overall endurance and
ability to exert yourself over an extended period. It promotes cardiovascular
health and contributes to increased bone density. Additionally, it pretty much
makes everything else function better: cardio helps stabilize hormone levels
(increasing testosterone and increasing insulin sensitivity), improves
endurance and recovery, helps the body fuel calories away from the fat cells
and into the muscle, helps with weight maintenance/preventing the “yo-yo
effect”, generally keeps you healthy, and finally burns calories.
Compound is much better than isolation (1 joint), especially for beginners, for several reasons.
They do a much better job of stimulating overall muscle growth and
development than isolation movements.
They allow you to work out more efficiently. You can hit every major muscle
group with a small number of exercises.
They more closely resemble ways you will exert your body in real life. They
are better at producing practical, useful strength.