I’m going to spend some time today sharing what I’ve learned while on my journey in fitness so that if anybody else out there is struggling to get started, maybe this can give you some direction. I’m going to do my best to cover what I feel are the basics, and also the most important tips that I have gathered along the way.
This has made the single biggest difference in my life for pushing me towards the physique that I have always wanted, and I avoided this step for far too long. Most people are not taking in enough protein on a daily basis, not enough calories or perhaps even far too many calories with way too much sodium, sugar, and fats. Tracking your diet will help you to correct your diet and to give your body the material that it needs to create an awesome physique.
To begin, you need to first find your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This will tell you approximately how many calories you burn on an average day with your current level of physical activity.
You can figure this out here at IIFYM. Write down your TDEE somewhere, because you are going to need to remember this later. Once you have your TDEE then bodybuilding becomes as simple as manipulating your calorie intake for calorie surpluses or calorie deficits. You can add up to 500 calories when you’re trying to gain muscle or you can subtract from your TDEE to try and lose some fat.
Now, tracking your calorie intake is not enough. You also need to track your macronutrients, which are your carbs, fats and proteins. A great app that I use to keep track of what I eat is Myfitnesspal. They have a huge database of most foods already in their system and it makes tracking really simple. You should also pick yourself up a kitchen scale at some point to make things easier.
You can manipulate your macros in various ways and I often do from time to time, but a good starting point for anybody is this…
First of all – it’s a safe bet to take in 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. So if you are a guy that weighs 160lbs, you should be taking in 160g of protein per day. This is especially important if you are looking to build muscle or to avoid losing muscle while in a deficit. The only exception to this rule would be if you were heavily overweight at say 300lbs, there’s no way in hell that you are going to need 300g of protein per day. Try to figure out what your lean body mass is and then use that estimate to gauge how much protein you will need per day.
Once your protein is set, then it’s on to fats. Fats should take up approximately 20-25% of your daily calories. Just remember that these should be mostly composed of healthy fats like nuts, olive oil, and avocados. Keep the artery-hardening saturated fats to a minimum.
Afterwards, the rest of your calories should come from carbohydrates. These should be mostly high-quality, complex carbohydrates that break down slowly in the body. Such as brown rice, oats, multigrain bread and pasta, sweet potato etc. You can have some junk in your diet just make sure you track it and that it’s not the bulk of your diet.
If you want some more information about healthy eating I’ve written an article in the past on Proper Nutrition in a Nutshell.
Workout Routines and Workout Tips
Each to their own when it comes to a workout routine, but it’s best to follow or create a routine that hits all of the muscle groups in the body evenly so that you don’t end up with imbalances in the future that can lead to joint problems and other health issues. Also be careful about who you take your advice from, too many guys spout nonsense or “Bro-talk” because of what they’ve heard through the rumor mill. Do a little research of your own and take all advice with a grain of salt unless it’s backed by science or a professional.
There are some great Youtube channels out there that give great advice on exercises and routines while explaining the science behind it in the process. I’ll provide 3 of my favorites at the bottom of this article
Focus on your form above all. Start off light until you have it right and then increase your weight gradually. Leave your ego out of the gym because it will really just hurt you in the long run. Keep track of all of your workouts and practice progressive overload. Have a plan and don’t just wing it in the gym.
Also, when you’re working out, be conscious of your muscle movements. Take the movement slowly and really try to feel the contraction in the muscle. Stabilizing yourself in the negative portion of an exercise really increases strength gains. Bodyweight exercises are also very helpful for building strength and stability.
You only really need to work out 3 days a week if you’re hitting it hard enough. This will give your body lots of time to recover and build up that muscle while at rest. You can always do cardio on your off days or something active outdoors.
Okay and finally, progressive overload. This is something that took me far too long to figure out but keeping track of your weights and practicing progressive overload is the absolute best way to ensure that you are consistently making strength gains. So tracking your weights and reps and sticking to a plan for 8-12 weeks at a time will allow you to really be aware of your strength progression.
With heavy lifts this is what I like to do; I’ll do 3 sets per lift and hit my heaviest set first, then drop the weight by 10% hit my 2nd and add 1-2 reps, then the same for the third. One week I’ll add 5 pounds to my max weight and then the next I’ll add 5 pounds to the subsequent sets.
Bench Press – 5/6/8 reps.
Wk 1 – 165/150/135. Wk 2 – 170/150/135. Wk3 – 170/155/140 and so on…
With lighter lifts, you can just progress on a rep increase instead while staying at one weight for all 3 sets. Say you are doing lateral raises for your shoulders, well you can start doing 3 sets of 8 reps with dumbells suited to your strength then keep adding 1 rep to a set per week until you’ve hit 3 sets of 12. Then you can add 2.5-5lbs or so and start over again at 8 reps.
Lateral Raise – 8/8/8 reps.
Wk 1 – 8/8/8 Wk 2 -9/8/8 Wk. 3 – 9/9/8 Wk 4 – 9/9/9 Wk 5. – 10/9/9 etc.
I hope some of this information was helpful and that these tools can help somebody else’s own journey into fitness. This is information that I would have loved to have had years ago. I have seriously started my own journey into bodybuilding about a year or two ago. I used to hit the gym before that on and off but never really had all the information. You can read about my start and progression here if you’re interested.
Lastly, try to enjoy the experience and the lifestyle. If you want it to be sustainable you need to make it work for you. Enjoy the foods you eat and learn to love beating yourself up in the gym and seeing those strength increases. It’s the only way you’re going to succeed.
Youtubers to Check Out
Jeff Caveliere – Hundreds of videos to search through, he’s a physiotherapist by trade so he knows the mechanics of the body well. He also trains professional athletes.
Sean Nalewanyj – Fitness Author and Personal Trainer
Mike Thurston – Personal trainer and professional bodybuilder.