Hey Angels and Alphas,
You know it, I know it, the world knows it – people *love* overcomplicating things.
Fitness is one of those things that’s both easy and hard. It’s easy in the sense that getting from A to B is not at all complicated. It’s hard in the sense that people can easily start overindulging in information and create misconceptions that will stop their progress in its tracks.
Today, I’m here to change that. We’re going to talk about the simplest ways you can narrow down your entire fitness journey and turn it into what it’s supposed to – a healthy lifestyle of constant progress toward a goal.
To do this, I’m going to give you everything you need to know and separate it into two categories – exercise and nutrition.
By the end of this article, you will have all the information you need to get started on your journey and begin making massive progress.
Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
STEP #1 – SET A GOAL
First and foremost, you need to choose a goal. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to gain muscle? Do you want to become better at a sport you already participate in? Or do you just want to get fit and be healthy?
You don’t have to limit yourself to one goal – for example, you might want to lose weight *and* gain muscle.
Whatever the case may be, this is the point at which you decide what you want. This is the first and most crucial step in your fitness journey, as it will determine how you’ll take the rest of your steps.
STEP #2 – CHOOSE A PLAN
Once you’ve decided what your goal is, it’s time to find an appropriate routine.
You can do your own research on this if you’d like, but the basic premise is all the same.
Whatever your goal is, you’re most likely going to need a mixture of strength training and cardiovascular training to make it happen.
Choosing a routine, in this case, has more to do with exercise variations and intensity than anything else.
In general, gaining power and building muscle will primarily emphasize resistance training over cardio. For increasing strength, your focus should be on low-rep resistance training programs. For gaining size, your focus should be on hypertrophy programs.
If your goal is to lose weight or lean out, you will still need a mixture of strength training and cardio, but the emphasis here will be on cardio. Not just any cardio, though, HIIT. Study after study, it remains the best type of training to lose weight, right next to full-body workout programs.
If your aim is to improve mobility or sport-specific movements, you should find a program that has *that* goal and only *that* goal in mind. These programs are often highly individual, but not a lot of people set these goals, and those who do probably already have a good idea of what they should be doing.
STEP #3 – GET THE BASICS RIGHT
Regardless of what your goal is, the only thing you should be focusing in the beginning is mastering the basics.
I have always advocated perfecting the basics as the best thing a beginner can do, and everything I see in fitness reinforces that.
For strength training, your fundamental movements – the bench press, squat, deadlift (or bent-over row if you dislike deadlifting) are ones that should be done the most. You’re not going to be going all-in on weight every workout, but you are going to perform them every workout so your muscles can get used to the actual movement. Some trainers go as far as not putting any weight on the trainee’s bar until they start doing basic movements with extreme precision.
For weight loss, mastering the basics means learning the process of calories in and calories out. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be perfecting your cardio, but when it comes to burning fat and leaning out, diet will always be more important. More on that later.
STEP #4 – OVERLOAD… PROGRESSIVELY
Once you’ve started working toward your goal and you’ve got all the basics down, you’ll have no problem getting results.
This beginning period, however, will only get you this far. If you want to progress toward your goal, the most fundamental concept you need to understand is progressive overload.
Progressive overload is the gradual and continuous increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training.
This is done by either increasing the volume or the intensity of your exercise.
For gaining muscle strength, this means adding more weight to the bar and/or more exercises of a given muscle group during the week.
For gaining muscle size, this relates to a higher number of high-intensity repetitions, or once again, more exercises of a given muscle group during the week.
For weight loss, this means gradually decreasing the overall number of calories you consume in a day. In this case, this is only done to a point. You don’t want to reach a point where you’re starving yourself, only a point where you can predictably lose weight.
STEP #5 – TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Once you’re making results and progressing on your path, the only thing you have left is to track your progress.
The best way to do this, as we’ve talked about before, is keeping an exercise/diet journal. Journaling will not only help you keep track of your progress, but will also help you achieve your goals faster.
Once you’ve successfully set a goal, made a plan, got the basics right, and made progress, you review your progress and start again at square one. Good job!
Simplifying Your Diet
STEP #1 – CALORIES IN VS CALORIES OUT
This is what both weight loss and weight gain boil down to.
Calories are energy, and if you want to lose weight, you should be using up more energy than you’re putting in your body. Therefore, leaving your body in a calorie deficit.
Naturally, if you want to gain weight, you should consume more calories and be at a surplus, so your body can transform this extra energy into muscle (or other, usually less desirable things.)
This happens alongside the first step in the “simplifying exercise.” When you’re choosing your goal, be it weight loss or muscle gain, you’re making a decision on whether you should be at a calorie surplus or a calorie deficit.
STEP #2 – FIND YOUR MACROS
This happens alongside step two in the “simplifying exercise.”
When you’re making your exercise plan, you should also create a diet plan that breaks down the number of macros you’ll need to make progress with that exercise regime.
Here’s the general rule of thumb:
If you’re losing weight, focus on high protein (40-50%), low carb, and low fat. (20-25%)
If you want to maintain your weight, focus on 40-45% calories from carbs, 30% of calories from protein, and the rest on fat.
If you want to gain muscle, focus on high protein (35-40%), high carb (40%), and low fat (20%). (Or switch carb and fat and keep the same distributions.)
A lot of these numbers *might* change based on your body composition, current activity level, and caloric needs, so if you can’t get a trainer to help, you can use a calorie calculator online. Naturally, though, you can’t expect precise accuracy there.
An important note here is that even though you have the numbers down, you should still be focusing on more nutrient-dense foods that contain micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
STEP #3 – CUT NASTY FOOD OUT OF YOUR DIET
Most of us already know that our diets can use a little cleaning.
There’s no need to completely overhaul your entire diet because you still have to keep it sustainable. For the sake of achieving your goal and matching the macros you’ve set for yourself, there are the foods you should be consuming less of:
Sugars, desserts, chips, fries, sweet seasonings, and pretty much everything that has to do with trans fats. Remember – trans fats are your *biggest* enemy!
STEP #4 – SUPPLEMENT (ONLY IF YOU NEED TO)
If you live a busy lifestyle and you can’t afford to spend a lot of time cooking and meal prepping, supplements are a no-brainer.
After all, it’s much better for you to drink a protein shake than grab nasty fast food that’s full of trans fats.
In general, supplements * shouldn’t* serve as an actual “supplement” to real food, but they can help you reach the numbers you’ve set for yourself and therefore give your body the nutrients it needs to move forward.
I didn’t really want to dedicate a separate point to “making a diet” because I don’t like that approach when it comes to beginners. It’s much healthier and much more sustainable for you if you just decide what macros you’re chasing and try to reach them with the least amount of nasty food possible.
Sometimes, though, supplements come to the rescue and help us reach those macros.
Putting it all together…
As you can see, reaching your fitness goal doesn’t have to be complicated.
It’s really simple – set a goal, make a plan, track your progress, and repeat.
Don’t get me wrong – if you want to study the ins and outs of every aspect of fitness, you’re welcome to do what. But more often than not, beginners get petrified by the amount of information that’s out there.
This article serves to prove that making the first step on your journey and reaching your goal is really a simple process everyone can follow – use this as a checklist whenever you’re wondering what you should do next.