The Basics: Eat, Sleep, Lift


People think exercise and nutrition is a complicated subject. In reality, it's as complicated as you make it. Considering the majority members' line of work here, it's a subject that we need to understand at at least the basic level - sweat now to save blood later.

Nutrition is probably the most overcomplicated prong as far as fitness goes. You don't have to eat three leaves of lettuce and one carrot a day to lose weight. Here's the key points of nutrition:
•Your body has a certain level of calories that must be eaten to maintain weight. This is called your TDEE. Your TDEE can be calculated through MyFitnessPal (free app on the App Store), or through a number of calculators online.
•Lets say my TDEE is 3000. If I eat 3k calories a day, then I'll stay at 200lbs. If I eat 3.5k calories, I'll gain about a pound a week. If I eat 2.5k calories a day, I'll lose about a pound a week. Everyone's TDEE is different and your individual one needs to be calculated, but weight loss / gain really is that simple.
•Now we have macronutrients. Macronutrients (aka macros) are protein, carbs, and fats. Protein and fats are needed to survive. Carbs are not. Micronutrients are your vitamins, potassium, fiber, etc.
-Protein: Protein is the building block for muscle. For optimal growth, 1g protein per pound of body weight is good. Protein is received through lean meats and supplements.
-Carbs: Carbs provide us with energy. As said above, they aren't essential to survival. There's two categories of carbs: simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs are sugary, such as candy, cereals, soda, etc. Simple carbs digest quickly and will spike your insulin and blood sugar, giving you a quick energy boost. Complex carbs digest over a longer period of time. They'll provide you energy over a longer period of time. The blood sugar and insulin spike isn't as extreme, and it lingers. Oats, whole grains, pastas, etc. are all complex carbs. For the most part, I use complex carbs for energy. The only exception is taking in simple carbs after workouts which will spike your insulin levels, allowing proteins and amino acids to flood your muscle receptors.
Fats: Fats do not make you fat. Calories do. Fats are essential to survival and quality of life, as they power our endocrine system which in turn produces testosterone, the #1 building block for muscle. The general rule of thumb is .5g fat per pound of body weight. If you cut fats out of your diet, you will feel like shit and your testosterone levels will decline. So please, don't cut fats out. You can seriously fuck yourself up.

That's nutrition summed up into a nutshell. There's plenty I didn't cover, but those are the basics to weight gain & loss along with the macronutrients. Next up is exercise.

There's two components to exercise. Resistance (weights) and cardio (running, swimming, anything to elevate your heart rate). I recommend a balance between the two groups. Throwing iron around is my favorite, but cardio is also needed to maintain lung capacity. We'll start out with resistance. For all sakes and purposes, we'll talk about standard barbell, dumbbell, cables, etc.
•There's two groups of resistance exercises: compounds and isolations. Compounds utilize more than one muscle group. Bench press uses your pecs, delts, and triceps. These are where your main growth is obtained from. Bench press, squats, and deadlifts. You cannot go wrong with those three, barring an injury preventing you. Isolations isolate one muscle group, such as bicep curls. The particular group isolated will grow from these, but your main time should be spent on compound lifts. Your legs will grow much bigger by focusing on squats rather than leg extensions and hamstring curls.
Form prevails over weight. If you step into a gym for the first time of your life and try to squat 495lbs, you're going to injure yourself. I'm not kidding when I say to respect the iron. Start out with light weights to build proper form, then move up in weight (slowly) when you start to get stronger.
•A quick point on how nutrition relates to lifting: unless you're new to lifting or are using steroids, you cannot gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. You will see TONS of programs that promise you just that, but it's physiologically impossible. A caloric surplus (gaining weight) is needed to gain muscle. A caloric deficit (losing weight) is needed to lose fat. You have to choose a goal and stick with it.
•You can't step into a gym for a week and then get pissed off because you can't bench 315 by the end of the week. Consistency is key when it comes to this game. It will take months and years of hard work, consistency, and dedication. It's not gonna happen any other way. Stick with it and you WILL see results.
•I reccomend proven programs. Throwing some exercises together on your own won't do much for you in the long run. I don't mean to piss anyone off when I say this, but these guys know more about training than you do. They've been at it for years if not decades, and the routine is proven. StrongLifts 5x5 is a good beginner strength training program. Do not alter anything about the program unless the program allows you to do so, excluding injuries preventing you from doing an exercise and whatnot.
•As with anything else, results are not guaranteed. The only way you will see results is with consistency and dedication. Gotta put the work in to see the rewards.
•Cardio: There really isn't much to say about it. If you want to get better at running, you have to run more. Whether it be an elliptical, exercise bike, swimming, running, etc. I prefer to do high intensity interval training (acronymed as HIIT) for my cardio. This involves 30 seconds of maximum effort (sprints) followed by a minute of low effort (walking). It's up to you as to how you want to work cardio into your exercise routine. If you have any questions, then feel free to ask. It's just a little difficult for me to give some sort of blanket statement regarding cardio, as I'm not sure what everyone's goals are.

That wraps up the basics of exercise. As said before, the key points are form over weight, slow and controlled movements, and consistency. Next up is a very important and often very neglected aspect of the triangle: sleep.

•Rest is essential to a muscle building environment. During our sleep, our bodies release human growth hormone (hGH) which is responsible for building muscle and growing virtually every aspect of our bodies, whether it be bones, our heart, brain, etc. As we all know, sleep is essential to survive. However, it's often neglected by first responders and military (amongst many others as well) due to shift work and long hours, particularly those that have constant rotating shifts. Eight hours of sleep per day is optimal for hGH release. I'll admit it, I don't always get eight hours either. However, rest is a critical factor in muscle building and general well being that cannot be ignored. You have to do what you have to do to get enough sleep at the end of the day. •If you have issues sleeping / adjusting to a sleep schedule, I recommend picking up some melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies, and is also an over the counter supplement that can be picked up at any supplement store or pharmacy. Don't worry about developing a dependency on melatonin either, I was at a point where I was taking 10mg a night and discontinued use after I ran out, and I still slept fine after. Melatonin typically comes in 5mg and 10mg options. I've used both and never really noticed a difference between the two, so it's up to you as far as the dosage goes.

The novel above covers the general basics of nutrition, rest, and exercise. There's plenty more to learn. I encourage everyone to research on their own as well, as you can NEVER know enough about any of this. The guys that have been doing this for decades still research from time to time as well. If you have any questions about anything above or not mentioned, please feel free to ask. I may do a supplement write-up as well and cover the basics on those depending on the interest. I hope that this has been helpful to some. For further reading, T Nation and are great places to learn more about any of the three subject matters.