This is a question I get time and again from friends and family. There is so much information out there that it’s easy to get lost and confused. Do you really want to get healthy? Do you really want to get fit? And do you really want to look bangin’ good, naked?
Then this is the last article you’ll ever have to read. I’ll do all the research for you and give you the best possible advice on how to get started. Alright, let’s hit it.
There are three very important factors to consider, if you’re looking to start this journey. They are exercise, nutrition and rest. These are the three factors you must keep in mind at all times.
Ready to make dem gainz?! Alright!!
Trust me, it is more fun than what it sounds like. Understand this, your first two years in bodybuilding is the time where you gain the most amount of muscle. So don’t dick around during this time and I’ll show you how to make the most of it.
You must focus on weight training for increase in your muscle mass. Now, you might say, “I only want to get rid of fat, I don’t want to gain much muscle..”
I mean no disrespect to the bodybuilder in this picture. It has been used as an example. Alright, so we were talking about how gaining muscle mass by lifting weights won’t make you look like the pro bodybuilders who compete on stage. It’s like saying you don’t want to drive because you’re scared you’ll become an F1 racer. Okay, bad example, but you get the point. They have decades of training under their belt and many of them use steroids and other performance enhancing drugs to reach the unnatural physical appearance they achieve.
You might wonder, “How is gaining muscle mass going to help me lose fat?”
Simply put, muscle mass is going to fire your metabolism. Now, what exactly is metabolism?
Even when you’re at rest, your body needs energy for all its “hidden” functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and growing and repairing cells.
The number of calories your body uses to carry out these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate — what you might call metabolism.
So, basically, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you’re burning at rest! And more the calories burnt, the better the weight and fat loss. That’s a sweet deal, if you ask me.
You might also say, “If I’m GAINING muscle mass, isn’t it going to make me look bulky? But I want to LOSE weight! How does this make sense?”
Now, gaining muscle mass isn’t like gaining fat. 5lb of muscle takes far less space compared to 5lb of fat. Here’s the comparison:
So, you can see, though you’re GAINING mass, you’re not necessarily getting bigger. Thus, gaining muscle mass IS NOT going to make you bulky and it WILL help you tone down and lose fat. This, coupled with increased metabolic rate, is clear that you must focus on gaining muscle if you want to lose fat.
You might think, “I only want to lose fat around my belly. Won’t it make sense to do crunches all the time?”
What you’re looking for, is called spot reduction. It means you’re trying to get rid of fat from a particular spot in your body. Sorry to disappoint you mate, but spot reduction is a myth. Understand this, you CANNOT control where you lose fat in your body. Your body gets rid of fat layer by layer. An easy way to look at it is, the last place you’ll lose fat, is the first place you gained it. For men, it’s the belly, chest and back. For women, it’s the hips, thighs and the butt. These are the places you’ll most likely lose fat in the very end. Alright, so to sum it up, spot reduction is impossible, and you’ll have to work your whole body to lose the fat.
Training for strength :
You must focus on strength in the first few crucial months of your training. Why? Because strength training is one of the most effective ways to burn fat and build muscle. Strength training also makes you healthier, makes you feel better, and let’s face it, we all want to be strong as ****, don’t we?
Now, let’s dive into what exactly you should be doing in the gym. Your training will have two components. They are weight training and cardio. No, you do not need to do endless hours of cardio to lose the fat and you DO NOT have to spend hours in the gym everyday.
You’ll only hit the gym 3 times a week, and each session in the gym will last about 45 minutes. That’s around 135 minutes or 2-2.5 hours a week. Everybody has that much time to spare in a week.
You will follow a simple routine called Stronglifts 5×5.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to post the routine because of copyright constraints, but you can find it here: www.stronglifts.com
The guy who created this routine is an absolute GENIUS. There are only three exercises you must learn to follow the routine. EVERYTHING you’ll ever need with regard to the routine can be found in the link. Detailed descriptions on how to perform each exercise are also provided. The best of all is that they have an app for the android and the IOS platforms for the users to track their workouts. It is simple and easy to use.
As you follow the routine, you’ll see that you will progressively get stronger week by week. You’ll feel better, and the best feeling is when you do something you weren’t capable of doing just a week ago. That feeling is priceless. Trust me, when you put in the effort, you will feel AMAZING.
Let’s look at to the cardio part of the program.
The type of cardio you’ll be doing is called HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. What is HIIT?
HIIT describes any workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity or even complete rest. For example, a good starter workout is running as fast as you can for 1 minute and then walking for 2 minutes. Repeat that 3-minute interval five times for a 15-minute, fat-blasting workout. It sounds too simple to be effective, but science doesn’t stretch the truth. This concept can be applied to any cardio exercise or equipment. You’ll have to get around 3 sessions of HIIT per week to see the best results. You DON’T have to do your cardio along with your weight training. Just get it done on alternate days. Get it done when you have the time, but do not neglect it.
You can see that you don’t necessarily have to be in the gym to get your cardio in. Why HIIT?
– It is EFFICIENT.
Research shows you can achieve more progress in a mere 15 minutes of interval training (done three times a week) than jogging on the treadmill for an hour!
– You’ll burn more fat.
Not only do you burn more calories during a HIIT workout, but the effect of all that intense exertion kicks your body’s repair cycle into hyperdrive. That means you burn more fat and calories in the 24 hours after a HIIT workout than you do after, say, a steady-pace run.
– No equipment necessary.
This is a big one. Running, biking, jump roping, and rowing all work great for HIIT, but you don’t need any equipment to get it done. High knees, fast feet, or anything plyometric like jumping lunges work just as well to push your heart rate up, fast. In fact, some equipment like dumbbells can make HIIT less effective because you want the focus to be on pushing your heart to its max, not your biceps.
– You’ll lose weight, not muscle.
While steady state cardio seems to encourage muscle loss, studies show that both weight training and HIIT workouts allow dieters to preserve their hard-earned muscles while ensuring most of the weight lost comes from fat stores. Win-win!
– You’ll increase your metabolism.
– You’ll have a healthier heart.
Most people aren’t used to pushing into the anaerobic zone (that lovely place where you can’t breathe and you feel like your heart is trying to jump out of your chest). But in this case, extreme training produces extreme results. One 2006 study found that after 8 weeks of doing HIIT workouts, subjects could bicycle twice as long as they could before the study, while maintaining the same pace.
Well, That’s it. That’s as simple as it can get. You know know how to work out and do your cardio in the most efficient manner to achieve the best results out of your effort. All it takes is 3 45 minute training sessions at the gym and 3 15 minute cardio sessions a week to complete your weekly training. Stick to this program and you’ll slowly see your fat melt away and your body take shape.
There are two more important and highly neglected topics we must cover before you’re ready to take charge of your transformation. Firstly, we’ll look at Nutrition. As the saying goes, you ARE what you eat.
Again, this is not as boring as it sounds. You DO NOT have to spend all your time chewing on lettuce and salads, you DO NOT have to count every calorie you consume and most importantly, and I can’t stress on this enough, you DO NOT have to stay hungry all the time and starve yourself. In fact, you’ll almost never feel hungry.
Your daily nutrients are divided into two types. MICROnutrients and MACROnutrients.
The MICROnutrients are the vitamins, minerals, trace elements, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that are essential for good health. They’re required in small amounts, hence, ‘micro’. You’ll get your dose of micronutrients with your daily servings of fruits, veggies, dairy, nuts, seeds and meat. I highly recommend adding an over the counter multivitamin pill to cover everything. That’s all you need.
Now, the MACROnutrients or ‘macros’, in short, are the structural and energy-giving caloric components of our foods most of us are familiar with. They are required in large quantities when compared to the micronutrients. Hence, ‘macro’. They are mainly divided into four types, i.e. Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fats and Fibre. What you need to watch out for, is your daily macros. You can really fire your progress if you consume the right combination of your macros.
Protein, in simple words, is the macro which is required to rebuild and maintain your muscle. You know that sore feeling you get the day after you work out? That is when your body is repairing your muscle and the main resource it uses to do this, is protein. This is the macro which you must dial up, in your nutrition plan, to ensure that your muscles receive adequate amounts of resources to recuperate. Proteins contain 4 calories per gram.
Carbohydrates, or carbs, are the most important sources of energy for your body. DO NOT eliminate carbs from your diet, trying to follow these ‘low-carb’ diets you see online and in the magazines these days. The point is, you must be a little cautious with your carb intake. Carbs can be your best friends or your worst enemies. Most of the time, it’s not the fats that make you fat, but the carbs that do. You’ve surely heard that your body fat is nothing but stored energy, right? Thus, the extra carbs that you consume, and the ones that you don’t spend as energy, get converted to fat for future use. And this, when done repeatedly, causes the fat to pile up. But you NEED adequate amounts of carbs to stay energised through the day. All carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram.
Fats, are the ones responsible to produce and build new cells. They are a source of energy and are critical in the transmission of nerve impulses and brain function and development. They are also involved in the synthesis of other essential molecules such as hormones. Fats contain 9 calories per gram.
Fibre has no caloric value, but is still classified as a macronutrient. The key difference between fibre and other carbohydrates is that they are not broken down by the human digestive system. There are two types of fibre: Soluble and Insoluble.These are often found together in the same source.
Soluble fibres can be dissolved in water (hence the name). These fibres are beneficial in that they can slow the speed of digestion due to their thickness. They are also helpful in maintaining artery health. Insoluble fibres are such things as cellulose which do not dissolve in water. Insoluble fibers do not affect the speed of digestion. They are beneficial to gut health.
Now, you have a fair idea of what your food is made of. But, what exactly should you be eating?
Firstly, let’s start with what you should not eat and what you should stay away from, to see the best results.
- Stay away from unhealthy dressings and dips.
- Steer clear of Saturated and Trans Fats found in processed food.
- Avoid fast food restaurants.
- Don’t fry your foods in butter or oil.
- Stay away from high sodium, high sugar sauces such as Soy Sauce and BBQ Sauce.
- Stay away from Hydrogenated Oils.
- Stay away from Lunch Meat, Fries, Chips, Ice Cream and Mayonnaise.
- Stay away from sugary cereals even when they’re branded as ‘Healthy’.
- You will be cutting out Soda (even the diet versions) and Alcohol altogether.
- Avoid energy drinks because they’re high in sugar and other high-sugar beverages like packaged fruit juices.
- You can drink Tea or Coffee as long as you stay away from sweeteners and high fat Creamers.
Here’s the good news, at the end of every week, you can reward yourself with a cheat day. ONE cheat day per week. But, stay true to yourself. Make sure you deserve the cheat day. Work hard through the week and keep your diet clean for the other 6 days. On your cheat day, you can eat and drink whatever you want.
Here’s what you should be eating. You will consume 5-7 small meals a day, instead of 3 big meals. You will consume a meal every 2 to 3 hours. You will be eating so frequently to increase the thermogenic effect in your body. Simply put, this will keep your body burning calories through the day. The meal frequency will also help with providing continuous fuel to your body and to keep unhealthy food cravings at bay. Yes, it works. You’ll notice your cravings for that double cheese burger or that sundae disappear if you keep your meal frequency in check.
How much food should each meal consist of? It’s simple. Use the Rule Of Thirds: Cover a third if your plate with lean protein, a third with complex carbohydrates, and a third with vegetables, fruit, or salad. That’s it!
Each meal should contain a palm size of protein. A fist size of carbohydrates, and the remainder of your plate should contain fruits and veggies. Your plate will ideally be cut into thirds. Since a female’s hands are traditionally smaller in size, this should help with understanding portion differences between the meals.
What are the foods that you should be eating?
Here are the sources of food for your daily macros:
Protein: Fish, chicken, turkey, red meat (occasionally, lean cuts only), dairy, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, lentils.
Carbs: Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, oats, beans, fruits and veggies.
Fats: Olive oil, flaxseed oil, fish, nuts, nut butters, fish oil.
Stock up on superfoods. What are superfoods?
Superfoods are nutrient powerhouses that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. Eating them may reduce the risk of chronic disease, and prolong life, and people who eat more of them are healthier than those who don’t. Here are the top superfoods:
- Tea (green or black)
Tip: Eggs and oatmeal is an excellent choice for breakfast.
You can always look online for more options and recipes. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/recipes.htm is a great place to start. Eating healthy does not have to be boring and you can get creative with different combinations and spices. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and try something new and see what works for you. Stay away from the unhealthy stuff.
Do not forget to drink plenty of water through the day to keep yourself hydrated and active. Drink at least 10 cups of Water a day, maybe more. I would recommend around a gallon of water a day.
Other points to remember:
- Avoid too many carbs after 6pm if you go to bed around 10. Focus on having fibrous carbs like your veggies post 6.
- Have a good meal immediately post workout to kickstart your recovery process.
- Sip water or a beverage through your workout to keep yourself hydrated.
- You build muscle by breaking them down during your workout and rebuilding them to be stronger than before. Thus, recovery is VERY important.
- Do not lift weights you cannot handle, to avoid injury.
Lastly, remember that rest is extremely important to reach your goals. You only grow OUTSIDE the gym.
You must focus on getting around 8 hours of sleep per day. Here are a few benefits of getting enough sleep:
- The repair of muscle and other tissue and the replacement of ageing and dead cells occurs when you sleep.
- Most of your growth hormone secretion occurs when you sleep.
- Adequate sleep ensures better energy for you to tackle the day and your workouts.
- Sleep also recharges you psychologically.
So, sleep well to stay active.
Working out should be looked at as a lifestyle, rather than a goal. It really isn’t hard to keep up. And remember, just because you ate one bad meal, doesn’t mean you should blow the rest of your diet. That’s like breaking your whole phone because you scratched it once (bad example, I know -.-). Don’t worry if you screw up once in a while or if you miss a workout. It’s alright. Don’t sweat it. Focus on getting back on track at the earliest.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is it. Don’t overthink things, you’re ready to take charge and change your lifestyle. You will feel much better as the weeks pass. Remember to plan your days and cook your meals in advance. Train hard and live well. Good luck! 🙂
As always, thank you for reading, be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below and share!