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PART I: OPENING Q&A AND GENERAL MYTH-BUSTING - IntegratedEdit

PART II: MINDSET - IntegratedEdit

PART III: DIET - Nearly Integrated :)Edit

Keep in mind that I'm not saying you need to do any of this to be healthy or get into shape, though an Omega-3 supplement and Vitamin D3 is highly recommended unless you eat fish 24/7. Other supplements are worth looking into, but are not essential by any stretch of the imagination.


PART V: MEASURING PROGRESSEdit

The most important thing about measuring progress - any kind of progress - is to track it in writing. Whether it is weight you are lifting going up, or weight on your body going down, write it down! You can't meet goals if you have no idea what your real progress is. If you prefer to track online, check out Bodyspace, DailyBurn, or Physics Diet for you nerds out there.

Watching your weightEdit

Your body weight isn't everything - composition is more important - but it is certainly good to know. What follows are tips for tracking your weight.

A common pitfall in tracking weight is to weigh yourself at different times of the day. You body weight can easily swing 5 pounds based on how hydrated you are, when the last time you ate or had a bowel movement was, and so on. For most consistent results, weigh yourself first thing in the morning, preferably fully evacuated. Incidentally, this is also a lower weight than any other time of the day.

Don't weigh yourself every day, you'll see too much random variation to know if anything is going on, and the overall change you are looking for is only going to be a few pounds a week. So weigh yourself once a week.

Progress beyond poundageEdit

The thing about your weight is that it doesn't tell you what you're made of, just how much of you there is. The name of the game is losing fat, not muscle, so what happens if fat goes down and weight stays the same or goes up? You made up the difference in lean mass, of course. You shrink in areas that were full of fat, because muscle is more dense than fat. People on good programs often see larger changes in clothing sizes that their weight change would suggest. This is a good thing, because your real progress in terms of appearance is better than the scale is telling you.

The best way to track your overall progress appearance-wise is by measuring yourself with a tape measure in areas you want to get bigger or smaller, and by taking pictures of yourself at regular intervals. This way you can see how your body composition is changing for the better. Here is a short guide on how to take body measurements.

As I noted earlier, for lifting weights you should always track your progress in writing. Really, you can't effectively implement a good weight program - even a simple one - without doing this.

PART VI: MORE QUESTIONS & ANSWERSEdit

Q
I read about (insert diet or fitness program here) and it isn't mentioned in this guide. Is it any good?
A: Maybe. This guide only covers the basics, and fitness and nutrition are big subjects. Please keep in mind that there is a lot of huckster garbage associated with diet and exercise. You really need to be careful.

Signs someone is trying to rip you off:

  • Extravagant claims of massive improvement in a short period of time with little or no effort. If it sounds too good to be true, guess what? It is.
  • Claims of secret or suppressed knowledge that "the [diet/fitness/medical/exercise] establishment" doesn't want you to know about. Claims that all well-established forms of exercise like running and lifting weights are wrong.
  • Claims about spot reduction or converting fat to muscle, both of which are impossible. Losing fat and gaining muscle are possible, but you don't literally turn one into the other.
  • Use of meaningless language like "toning" or "sculpting" instead of talking about quantifiable changes to body composition, strength or endurance.
  • Magical language. Your personal spirituality is beyond the scope of this guide, but appeals to vaguely defined concepts like "energy fields" that are never actually explained and "internal cleansing" of various "toxins" that always remain nameless are usually strong indicators that someone is trying to con you.
  • Overuse of scientific-sounding language that is never actually defined. Real programs may have some jargon in them, but they will explain what the jargon means. At worst, you'll be able to easily find the meaning of their terminology, because they're using real concepts with a real scientific basis. Con artists just tend to throw lots of big words at you in the hope that you just give up and assume that they're smarter than you are, and you can never find out what they actually mean, because they just made it up to sell you something.
  • Even though the parameters of successful training routines are more or less well known [1][2][3][4] - I don't know if this exact routine is good. If it is for beginners - does it look pretty similar to the ones I’ve linked to above? If yes, it’s probably good. If it’s not for beginners - have you ever done a routine similar to the beginner routines I linked to? If yes, you should be able to decide if your routine X is good. If not, just do one of the things I linked to instead.
Q
I drastically changed my diet for the better, and nothing happened after a week. Or, I suddenly stopped losing weight for a week after weeks of weight loss. What happened?
A1: Maybe nothing. Sometimes weight loss has minor hiccups for no apparent reason. Maybe you had an extra glass of water the night before, or just retained some extra water for some random reason. If you are sticking a good diet, give it another week or two before you worry about changing things.
A2: All else being equal, to stay at 280 pounds takes more calories than it does to stay 180 pounds, even if the difference is all fat. So if you lost a lot of weight, this may be a contributing factor.
Q
I'm really sore from working out/I have DOMS. What do I do?
A: Soreness doesn't necessarily mean anything, but it can be unpleasant. For a little soreness, just suck it up.
If it is severe, you may want to take an extra day off, or do a reduced version of your regular workout until it improves. Ibuprofen is the over-the-counter painkiller of choice for muscular pain. I'm not going to tell you to ignore the instructions on the label, but prescriptions of 800 milligrams for minor pain are commonplace (the over-the-counter dose is 2 tablets of 200mg each). You can also remove soreness with a foam roller or any other types of deep tissue massage.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (aka DOMS) occurs from microscopic tears in your muscle fibers.
If you have horrible DOMS right now: Eat. Sleep. Eat. A lot. Next workout, go to the gym. Carefully do your warmups. If you can do them in good form, carefully add weight and keep doing your workout as long as proper form is maintained. If you can't, go home and try again ASAP. No crying, no excuses; but also, no being stupid and injuring yourself. Over time, you won't get DOMS anymore if you keep doing the exercise. If you stop doing them, you will get DOMS anew, so keep training, to fight away the DOMS at first, and to keep it away later. Most other stuff doesn't work [5]. If you want DOMS because you think it's important for muscle growth, It's not.

Note: Don't confuse soreness with pain; outright pain is often a sign of an actual injury. If you injure yourself, stop working out the injured area until it is 100% recovered and see here. If the pain doesn't go away or if you experience severe pain and/or loss of range of motion, see a doctor.

Q
I experience a sharp pain in my side when I'm doing cardio. What's going on?
A: Probably nothing more than a "side stitch", a fairly common complaint of runners, especially new runners just getting into shape. Curiously, there is no good scientific explanation for this pain, but it will go away on its own. As your fitness improves, you will generally stop experiencing them.
Q
I experience sharp pain in my shins from running. What's happening?
A: Probably "shin splints." This is just caused by straining or overworking the muscles to the side of the shins. Taking a break from running until the pain goes away is generally all that is necessary. Normally the muscles adapt over time and you quit getting shin splints. If not, the problem could be caused by flat feet (fallen arches), which can be treated with insoles that help overpronation. A physiotherapist can aid with this part.
Q
I've been lifting weights for a while, and have suddenly stopped making progress even though I'm trying hard. What happened?
A1: You may have simply over-trained and need a rest. Take a few days off, and then go back at it again.
A2: At some point you will need to eat more food to continue making rapid strength gains. Of course, if you don't want to get bigger anymore, at some point you will have to accept some limit on your strength gains.
Q
Is it safe for kids to train with weights?
A: Yes, it's safe [6][7]. No, it doesn't stunt height.
Q
Recovery/Sleep?
A: Recovery is about a bunch of factors. Your brain, your mind, your individual muscles and joints, the body as a whole all need recovery from training. Sleep enough, reduce stress, eat enough, choose a sensible routine. That's the main factors. Sleeping is a vital aspect of muscle building. You cannot fully recover without getting enough sleep, along with it filling a plethora of other detrimental needs for your health. Get 8-9 hours per night. Have a set bed time and wake up time - your body responds well to having a regular time to sleep. Your sleep cycle and amounts of REM sleep adjust to however you sleep. If you sleep and wake erratically, you cannot adjust. Also, avoid any more than 11 hours sleep as it provides a negative hormonal environment within the body. Read here for more info.
Q
HIIT/Tabata?
A: Unless you are training for a specific sport and your trainer tells you to, don’t do it [8], It’s a fad. The hype around HIIT for general fitness stems from a misunderstanding of some preliminary research. I know HIIT is more fun and less sucky than regular cardio; I personally like doing it a lot more than said cardio; but generally, standard cardio is just more effective AND efficient for burning fat [9] and maintaining muscle, as well as parameters of health and performance/endurance and fat burning capabilities [10], and will not interfere with your recovery as much [11].
Two topics are brought up again and again when it comes to HIIT: EPOC/afterburn, which is negligible with HIIT [12]; and Vo2max, which most anybody gets wrong [13][14]. I wish it were so simple, but 4 minutes of pushups and pauses is not going to do much to you. You have to put in a bit more effort [15].
Q
I want the quickest way to lose weight that is not completely idiotic!
A: The quickest legal way is something called PSMF by Lyle McDonald.
Q
"Clean" food? (Brown vs. White Rice, Sweet Potatos vs. Regular Potatoes, Organic vs. Conventional, “Clean” eating vs. Mixed diets...)
A: This is mostly down to taste preferences. The nutritional differences between the alternatives are neglible (really; check the labels). I know the internet says otherwise, but the cold hard numbers are what matters. You may eat the pricier option if it gives you a smug sense of superiority, I don’t really care, just don’t act as if it was necessary or optimal unless you can bring specific numbers to the table (say, item X has 120% more of nutrient Y than item Z).
Generally speaking, if you eat lots of the protein foods mentioned above, and lots of vegetables, and maybe supplement some vitamin D and fish oil, you got your nutrients covered. And if you don’t, you most likely don’t, and how crappy your rice tastes won’t change a thing
Q
Questions about specific nutrients
A: Fructose![16] Saturated Fats![17][18][19][20][21] Vegetable Fats!
Again: anything is bad in excess, and good in moderation. Usually, you will get an excess of certain things if you eat too much overprocessed, modern food; you will get appropriate, healthy amounts of stuff if you eat a traditionally prepared, moderated diet.
You will not get excess fructose from eating fruit, or excess saturated fat from eating fish and eggs. You will get excess fructose from drinking soda 24/7, and from eating pizza and burgers all day. It is less a question of things with chemical names, and more a question of apples and oranges (or rather, apples and candy).
Q
General ketogenic diets/Atkins?
A: First, refer to the general principles of dieting. If your keto diet fits in there, it's gonna work.
Some people however claim that ketosis is inherently better than a carb based or carb inclusive diet. The evidence however is farily conclusive: while many people consume too many carbs and need to cut back on them, and while some people simply feel better on a low carb or even ketogenic diet, feeling less hunger and less bloat, others do not, with many reporting adverse reactions to keto and low carb, and on average, ketogenic diets do not burn more fat or spare muscle better than non ketogenic diets [22][23]143]. Any claimed benefit of ketogenic diets that would work for everyone is mostly mediated by the higher protein content in comparison to regular diets; and obviously, you can also eat a low fat high carb high protein diet, and many people are doing just this and benefiting from it [24].
For the wrong idea that low carb is inherently better than moderate or high carb, refer to the paragraph on macronutrient ratios. Again: different things work for different people. You will have to experiment a bit.
Q
Any question focusing on Insulin! Glycaemic Index!
A: Forget about it. Insulin is vastly misunderstood [25] by the usual internet fitness writers. It is one of several key players, not the only culprit; it only mediates what your diet and exercise do anyways; there are alternative pathways that are just as important; if you try to shape your body by controlling insulin, the body will just use another pathway to bring you to where you should be.
Insulin, or various foods and their effects on insulin, are often blamed for obesity and, at times, every other bad thing. This is in part because on a mixed diet (carbs and fat), insulin is the hormone that mostly regulates bodyfat storage, and insulin resistance is a common and dangerous symptom of obesity. However, on a carb free diet, the body won’t simply waste nutrients either, and other pathways will be used to get fat if you eat enough; and insulin resistance is caused by eating excess fat alternatively to excess carbs, too. Most people that are fat today got fat by eating carbs and fat combined; but that only means that they ate a lot of fat and carbs, not that combining fat and carbs, or eating carbs at all, makes you fat. They would have gotten as fat on a carb free diet, and almost as fat on a fat free diet, assuming the calories stay the same.
Insulin also causes satiety, prevents muscle catabolism, increases free testosterone levels and, most of all, a healthy, exercising and well-eating individual will be able to control their blood sugar and insulin levels quite well enough anyways.
High-GI food has been wrongly implicated of being fattening;[26][27][28][29][30] and low-GI diets have been wrongly thought to be more filling.[31][32][33] This is flat out wrong and mainly stems from the fact that researchers used to use highly processed food to represent high-GI food, and less processed food to represent low-GI food. Even the GI - insulin connection is way more complex than carbophobics usually think.[34]

PART VII: THANKSEdit

Thanks to kponds & everybody else at the Something Awful Watch & Weight forum for their input. Also thanks to /fit for making the guide the official sticky. Thanks to clerisy and harsh for ??

Hungry for more? This guide is just a start. If you want to read a comprehensive guide to health and fitness, I recommend the book Brain Over Brawnby Clint Cornelius.

Change History:Edit

2006Edit

October 14 - First draft.

October 15 - Added notes for vegetarians, added starting cardio plan & warm-up information. Fixed assorted minor errors.

October 16 - Added additional Q&A information, minor changes to wording/layout.

October 17 - Added hints for avoiding fraudulent fitness programs. Removed profanity.

2007Edit

January 24 - Updated workout links, added more supplement information.

2009Edit

February 25 - Minor changes, new links to the Starting Strength Wiki and to Stumptuous.

2010Edit

March 6 - Removed information about more meals/day having a positive effect on weight loss in light of recent studies. Large grammar/spelling cleanups. Added a few more useful links, guides, and sources.

May 29 - Robert Kent graciously reformatted this guide to make it easier on the eyes. Thanks, Robert!

June 4 - Fixed formatting, changed saturated fat recommendations based on recent studies.

June 7 - Added more information on shin splints.

2011

January 27 - Complete edit of the guide for grammar, tone, and style. Long overdue!

2012

May 16 - Added section about stretching


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