Welcome. /ana/ is the Health & Fitness board of 420chan. Here you can feel free to ask for advice on general health, cardiovascular health, diet, exercise, strength training and gaining muscle. The idea of this page is so you don't need to ask these basic questions however, so please read the sections relevant to your interests and then feel free to ask anything that you don't quite understand.
- BW = Bodyweight
- Set = A usually predetermined # of reps, usually with breaks in between
- Rep = Repetition, i.e. the # of times you curl in one set
- 1RM = One repetition max. The max weight you can lift once
- PR = Personal Record
- BB = barbell; a bar that you can add lifting plates to
- DB = dumbbell; the freeweight with a handle and two large weights on the sides
Frequently Asked Questions & General Myth Busting
The following Q&A was sourced from this site. It's a very good page and I suggest you read it anyway.
I don't want to become some huge bodybuilder freak, I just want to get in better shape and look better. Should I read this?
That's what this guide is for. It's a basic guide to diet & fitness for beginners who want to get in better shape. If you want to look better, improve your overall athletic ability, or just improve your health, read on. If you're a bodybuilder or athlete, you probably already know most of this.
I'm a female; does any of this apply to me?
All of it applies, actually. With very few exceptions, the principles of diet & exercise are the same for men and women. And don't worry about becoming a manly she-beast from lifting weights; most women can't gain muscle at anywhere near the rate of men, no matter how hard they lift. Remember, female bodybuilders are lifting weights constantly, eating twice as much as you and taking male hormones. Getting huge doesn't just happen to men, let alone women. A word of warning: many female fitness magazines tend to be really idiotic and gimmicky, fixating on things like "spot reduction" that were disproved 50 years ago, and trying to sell whatever their advertisers are pushing that month. If the magazine shows a skinny bimbo doing curls with 5 lb dumbbells, you should probably throw it in the trash. There are a few female-specific notes in this guide, but they are rare, because the differences are almost always insignificant for the purposes of promoting general fitness.
There is all this contradictory advice! I'm so confused!
The methods for improving fitness are actually very well understood, and, aside from minor matters of detail, have changed very little in the last 30 years or so. Most of the seeming contradictions in fitness advice are really just hairsplitting arguments over matters of detail that need not concern the beginner, or are due to hucksters peddling utter garbage. There is almost universal consensus among knowledgeable people about what works and what doesn't. That's what this guide is based on. There are two basic considerations: diet and exercise. The same advice for each applies to almost everyone. The exceptions are at the extremes, e.g. the very obese needing to lose immense amounts of weight to stay alive, and the people pursuing extreme levels of performance or muscular development. Both of those are beyond the scope of this guide.
Can't I just exercise a fat part of my body to make the fat go away? Can I just do a bunch of sit-ups to make my gut go away?
No. So-called "spot reduction" is a myth. You can't exercise one part of your body to make fat in that part of the body go away; it doesn't work that way. You can only reduce your overall body fat, not make it go away in a specific area.
I want to get abs, what workout should I do?
Having visible abs has very little to do with doing abdominal exercises, and a whole lot to do with how much body fat you have. If your abs are covered in a layer of fat, any ab exercises you do are made virtually redundant. To get abs, you need to get your body fat down with diet and exercise. And ab exercises won't make fat over your belly go away, either (see the spot reduction myth above). Although abdominal exercises rarely make a difference in how you look, though they can be beneficial for other reasons. If you do ab exercises, do them holding a heavy plate and in the 8-12 repetition range.
I have an injury/disability/chronic health problem. Should I follow this guide?
Anyone with a diagnosed medical condition should follow their doctor's advice on what activity level is safe for them. If that doesn't match what this guide says to do, don't follow this guide. The dietary advice here is pretty universal, but there may be specific medical conditions that call for different diets. Don't ignore qualified medical advice based on something you read here. With that being said, most General Practitioners are not experts on health and fitness. Consult a nutritionist or exercise/sport scientist for the best advice.
I say, the main components of diet are: more protein, more vegetables, the right amount of calories, eat more traditionally prepared and less overprocessed food. All of these are important. There is a TL;DR at the end of this, but first, let’s go at them in detail.
But first of all: the body needs basically two things from its diet, energy (which come from macronutrients, like carbs, fats and protein; the difference between the energy needs of the body and the energy content of the diet determine if you’re gonna lose fat or gain mass) and essential nutrients (the various vitamins, water, amino acids, minerals, certain lipids; the body needs these because it can’t synthesize them by itself). You want to eat the right amount of energy (measured in calories) while eating a generally nutritious diet. Most people eat too many calories and not enough essential nutrients, but you can also eat too few calories or too much of a certain micronutrient.
There is also various things that are neither essential nor caloric.
I won’t go into detail over how much of each of the many, many chemicals you actually want to eat. Instead, I am going to tell you what kind of food you should eat, and how much of it.
EVERYBODY: Eat more good stuff, less not so good stuff, eat less in general to lose, more in general to gain weight.
Eat more protein.
- It helps you lose fat. 
- It helps you build muscle.
- It fills you up so you’re less hungry, moreso than pretty much anything else you could eat.  
- It supports lean body mass (muscle) over flabby and unhealthy body mass (fat), making you lose more fat and less muscle on a diet. 
- It will make you recover better from all kinds of exercise, and decreases soreness.
- It helps keep off weight lost, combatting the yoyo diet effect.
- it is neither carbs (which can give some people blood sugar/insulin problems ) or fat (which can do just the same, interestingly enough ); and they use more energy to process than these two, so of all the choices, they are just the most diet friendly.
Your aunts crazy ramblings about such amounts of protein being unhealthy are just that, rumors.  And so is the idea that the body would somehow waste protein (pee out chicken breast or what?) if you eat more than 30g per meal. There is no empirical evidence for any of that stuff being true. You can easily eat more than 300, 400g of protein per day, and while it might even help, it is not needed. These 100, 200 or more grams of protein will seem like a lot, especially since I said they should be of high quality - that means pretty much that it should be something like muscle, egg, milk protein (animal sources - most plant sources of protein are pretty bad   ); so here’s some tips on how to hit that goal: for every meal, start with a protein base before you add other ingredients. A protein base can be anything that is mostly protein (usually, about 20g protein and less than 100 kcal per 100g - read labels), like:
- Fish (tuna canned in water, or salmon, are favorites, but most fish is pretty good. Fatty fish is perfect!)
- Poultry (frozen skinless boneless fat free chicken breast, turkey breast, some deli)
- Lean red meat (many a steak can be a good choice)
If you’re overweight/wanting to lose fat, try to make meals that have about 10g protein per 100 kcal, or better. If however you can afford more calories because you are trying to build muscle, consider:
- Fat free low sugar dairy (no-fat cheese, cottage cheese, cottage/quark cheese, protein powder - not some magical drug, it’s basically dry skim sugar free milk)
- Egg whites with 1 yolk for taste
- Fatty meats
- Plenty of whole eggs
- Tofu *Most dairy (especially cheese, plain yoghurt, milk)
If you get a few less than (lb*grams/2*kg*grams), that won’t kill you; but getting more than that number is only going to help.
Eat more vegetables.
The gov’t wants you to eat 5 pieces of them per day, and I’d say that’s a good start. This is why you want to eat more vegetables:
- Like protein, for its low calories, it fills you up so you’re less hungry. 
- It protects you against pretty much every disease you can think of. 
- They are rich in most every essential micronutrient you are not already getting from your protein food.
- It will prevent you from hating going to the toilet after we’ve just put you on this high protein diet.
Eat the right amount of calories.
- Eat MORE of everything else if you want to gain muscle.    
- Eat LESS of everything else if you want to lose fat.   
No, you can’t do both at the same time - at least not unless you’re a total beginner (for a short while), or on certain drugs, or willing to wait a decade to see significant changes. The body just does not do that. Various hormones (especially insulin) and pathways (especially mTor) position your body either in a systemically anabolic   or catabolic  mode. All you can do is try to make the best lean to fat mass ratio of the changes you’re inducing. How? As shown above - first of all, by eating a lot of protein. Secondly, by exercising. So, see about exercising in the next chapter.
Yeah, we’ve heard all your „I eat a lot and I’m still skinny!“ stories. In fact, I’ve told that story myself, before I actually sat down and learned what eating a lot REALLY meant. I recommend counting calories, at least for a while. If you want to gain weight, go for (16-18*[your bodyweight in pounds]) calories per day, every day, for many, many weeks, and months. You want to gain about 4lbs per month. More and you’re just getting extra fat, less and you’re not building muscle fast enough; so adjust calories accordingly, upwards to ensure growth, or downwards to prevent excessive fat gains. Yes, you’re gonna build some fat; that’s the way things are. Yes, you will probably have to eat way more than you are comfortable with. Deal with it.
Again, keep protein high to spare lean body mass, but you want to reduce your carbs and fats. Fat has a very specific role in the body: make up for the deficit between the energy you use for moving around and general metabolism (yes, sleeping and even browsing 4chan burn calories), and the energy you get from the food you eat if the latter is less than the former. So you want to eat less energy so the body has to access it’s energy storage: bodyfat. No, there is NO way save for surgery to target specific fat deposits; you have to burn fat all over. To lose fat, eat 10-12*current bodyweight in lbs kcal per day. Adjust this number while you lose weight. Yes, you will probably have to eat way less than you are comfortable with. Deal with it.
If you are not gaining/losing/maintaining weight on these calories, you are most likely counting wrong. Alternatively, you might be one of the very few rare exceptions. Either way, simply adjust the number.
Focus your meals on traditionally prepared food.
Like, you can eat a slice of pizza just fine, and a cup of soda won’t kill you; but if all you eat is pizza and soda and pringles and whathaveyou, you will look like somebody who eats nothing but pizza and soda and pringles, and you’ll die like such a person, too.  
- This again keeps you more full than highly processed stuff, for less calories
- This usually is the best method to make the nutrients in the food (minerals, vitamins and some other stuff) available to the body.  Both raw food,   and overprocessed food, are nutrient poor; raw eggs for example have half the bioavailable protein of cooked ones. - it’s actually cheaper in the long run.
- It avoids most of the controversial things argued about in health circles, like trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, refined starches, and just plain old fat, sugar or starch bombs.
So: eat skim yoghurt with fruit instead of ice cream. Eat grilled fish with baked potatos with the skin and lemon juice instead of fish sticks with french fries. Drink tea or water instead of soda or OJ.
There is a bunch of discussion about certain pieces of food being bad, and others good. As a rule of thumb, if it was part of a traditional diet, if you could make it by hand, it is good (eggs, butter, olive oil, oatmeal, fruit, …), if not, not (margarine, soda, pizza, gummi bears …).
Putting this together, a typical piece of food for a fat loss diet should look like this: a good protein base (a lean steak, or some fish, or a protein shake … see the list above), a lot of vegetables, a bit of fat (some olive oil or butter) and starches (grains, pasta …) or sugars (fruit). For example, a chicken breast + vegetables stir fry with a diet fruit yoghurt on the side. Between meals, snack on fruit or vegetables (carrot sticks, cucumber slices … I personally love bell pepper). If you want to eat for muscle mass gains, add a bunch of good fats and/or starches - pasta, oatmeal, eggs, olive oil are all common suggestions. Find something that’s tasty for you and enjoy it. There’s a recipe section further down with further examples, too.So, TL;DR Diet:
- 1g/bw in lbs of protein/day
- Lots of vegetables
- Focus on traditionally prepared food
- (16-18*bw in lbs) kcal/day for building muscle, or even more if you are not gaining weight
- (10-12*bw in lbs) kcal/day for losing fat, or even less if you are not losing weight
- find some way to actually stick to doing that
A lot of talk is made about carbs vs. fats. First of all, the topic is less important than most think, which is why it didn’t get its own heading here; secondly, it hugely depends on you. Get your protein and vegetables, and then see how many carbs and fats (and maybe even more protein) you want to add to get the rest of your calories from. Experiment a bit, see what works best. This is not even remotely as important as the other topics. Oftentimes, more active, and leaner people may want proportionally more carbs, and more sedentary, and fatter people proportionally less carbs.
Keto, Zone, That Weird Thing Your Mom Does, No Fat, No Protein, I know them all and I don’t care. Many of these are centered around carb vs fat balance, others are about a specific piece of food. As you should know, there is no evidence for either of these being even remotely as relevant as what I've written about for the last 1000 pages. If I thought they were worth a mention, I wouldn’t have bothered to type up all of this text. If you believe in these diets, go do them, remember that in the end, it’s about persistence, patience, protein and calories . If your diet of choice gets these 4 right, it will work. If not, not.
Meal frequency/Meal timing.
Similar with meal timing. Different people do great with 1 or 3 or with 6 meals a day, with big breakfast or with no breakfast, it all depends.    Experiment and see what works best for you.
Similar with meals before bed; if you eat a bigass serving of pasta, you might have problems falling asleep, but that's about it. The idea that eating after X pm was worse than eating before is a myth.
The changes happening in your body will depend mostly on calories and protein. Carbs/fats and meal timing are more about sticking to the diet you choose - find whatever feels best for you, gives you the most energy, fits into your day.
Around workout nutrition.
This topic gets a lot of attention, mostly from people trying to make a living out of selling post workout supplements. Guess what, they’re biased as fuck. Basically, have some protein and carbs 1-3 hours before, and some protein and carbs 0-1.5 hours after. You an follow this protocol if you need exact numbers. Regular food is just fine, if not superior to supplements. If you can’t stomach anything around workouts, get a whey shake and some sugar source (banana, or dextrose or whatever); I personally love turkey or teriyaki subs for the protein-carb combo.
Even while dieting to lose fat, you want to eat protein and carbs around workouts, ESPECIALLY protein, but also some, albeit possibly less, carbs; eating some before will allow you to train harder, and you want to eat some afterwards because working out induces both protein synthesis as well as breakdown, and to inhibit this, some carbs and a good serving of protein are sufficient.
- Cook in advance.
- Buy smart. Don’t buy chocolate chips if you want to lose weight, because you WILL probably eat them. Don’t forget to buy food for the weekend if you want to gain weight, watch your fridge.
- Find recipes that work for the above key components.
- Find recipes that are tasty. If you don’t like your food, you’re gonna eat something else, and that would hinder your progress. There’s people saying „if it tastes good, spit it out“. I think these people are a bit weird.
- Try to fit in eating out, family time etc. Don’t become a shut-in. Well, I guess chances are you already are one right? But let’s at least pretend.
- Watch how you personally react to certain foods, what gives you energy, what makes you hungry…
Most supplements are useless. Especially most that do not consist of a single ingredient are. What oftentimes does make sense is supplementing your diet with things that you lack. Notable things you might think about (I usually buy off the shelf, others swear by higher quality things):
- Fish oil.    If you don’t eat much oily fish (salmon, mackerel …), you are most likely deficient in omega-3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA; ignore ALA). Get some fish oil. This will make you smarter, less sick, helps with fat loss and you will recover better.
- Vitamin D.    We usually get this from sunlight. If you are not tanned, chances are you’re deficient in this. Most people are. Get your blood levels measured, or take your chances and just get some. Vitamin D is involved in pretty much everything. If you’re deficient in it, supplementing it helps your bones, prevents cancers and … everything. There is, again, some granny scare about vitamin D being poison, but it's actually quite hard to poison yourself on vitamin D.  
- Protein powder. If you don’t easily get enough from food, get some cheap whey or casein or milk protein (other proteins usually taste bad or are of low quality). These are quite convenient, and almost as nutrient rich as regular food. You don’t need them, despite for what supplement sellers tell you, whole food sources of protein are equivalent or better compared to whey or BCAAs/Amino Acids; but some convenient powder ain’t bad either.
- Magnesium, folate, fiber, vitamin C: most people are not getting as many of these as they should. Depending on how your diet is, consider supplementing these while you adjust your diet.
Conveniently, all of these are pretty cheap. Especially Vitamin D.
The exceptions to the "supplements suck" rule are few:
- Creatine will help a bit with strength. It's also fairly safe. 
- Ephedrine, and especially the ephedrine + caffeine combo, helps with losing fat.
- Beta-alanine hit the ground running when peer-reviewed studies demonstrated its effectiveness by increasing carnosine levels. Carnosine (beta-alanyl-L-histidine) is a di-peptide composed of the amino acids beta alanine and histidine. It buffers H+ (acid) and is needed for muscles to function properly during intense exercise. Specifically it must be present to maintain intracellular pH. Originally, supplemental carnosine was touted to increase carnosine levels. Later it was discovered carnosine was not being absorbed in its native state, rather it was beta alanine that was needed to increase carnosine levels.   
- Almost everything else that is not illegal sucks. Illegal drugs, like steroids for muscle gains and fat loss, and clenbuterol and DNP, are of unquestionable effectivity, allowing their consuments to gain mass and strength way quicker than the natural trainee, even without training themselves at all, but many feel scared by their illegality and the abuse potential - done wrong, these WILL hurt you.
OK. To determine what exercise is best for you, you need to determine what your long term goals are. This long term goal can be split up into various short term goals. Listed below are a few situations that people will most commonly be in, their long term goals and their short term goals.
- I'm overweight and want an athletic physique. OK, generally it is best to lose your excess fat first and then focus on building muscle. Weight loss can be achieved through dieting then you can focus on gaining weight when you're at an acceptable weight. While you're focusing on losing fat, you can start lifting to gain muscle. You should be able to gain a decent amount of muscle even when trying to lose weight.
- I'm skinny and want an athletic physique. As above, you will get best results lifting weights. If you have always been skinny then you can eat more than someone who used to be overweight to gain muscle, as fat cells have a 'memory' (as does muscle) and will be more likely to fill back up again with a calorie excess.
- I just want to lose a bit of weight. Refer to the diet section.
- I want to improve my cardiovascular health. Refer to the cardio section.
- I want to be able to perform better in my sport. Refer to the beginner weightlifting sections.
- I want to be more trap like :3. Extreme weight loss will be best for you. Low calorie and low protein dieting will reduce your muscle mass
As stated in the first section, no weight lifting will not make you huge unless your diet is set up for extreme weight gain. Getting big will take a very long time, a matter of years so if you just want to look better, like a dancer, MMA fighter or athlete weightlifting is for you!
Below are the benefits of weight lifting:
- Supports lean mass over flabby mass 
- Helps a lot with losing fat 
- Helps a lot with building muscle
- Keeps your metabolism running, even while you rest (it usually slows down when you diet, making dieting harder) - more than cardio by itself
- If done correctly, makes you stronger and healthier,  improves your posture and prevents injuries, especially falls and fractures by strengthening your bones,  making it important for the elderly, and for women - it helps prevent the yoyo effect
The three key components of weightlifting
- Aim for balance - work the legs, the front, the back, the core, the limbs; push and pull, flex and extend. I don’t think much of excessively focussing on certain bodyparts. A balanced body is a healthy and attractive body. If you only care about getting bigger arms, go read another guide.
- Train progressively   - you have to increase the loading parameters over time or nothing will happen. As a beginner, you want to add weight to your exercises every week at least. If you don’t add weight over time, your body is not going to change.
- Stay safe and injury free- educate yourself on proper form, watch videos, make videos of yourself and show them around. Bad lifting can hurt you, and won’t make you any better.
Generally, you want to take a balanced selection of mostly multi-joint (compound), full-body exercises, and do a few heavy, but secure sets per exercise per week, doing each exercise about twice a week, keeping good form, starting with a manageable weight and trying to consistently increase the weight in these main lifts. Later on, you would add some assistance exercises for specific purposes, but the money lies in becoming able to do these compound exercises for about 5-8 reps with ever increasing weight. Any routine and training scheme that allows you to do this is good, anything that doesn’t most likely bad.
A routine like this will allow you to lose fat and therefore look more defined/toned, or build muscle/gain bodymass, depending on your diet. A decent strength routine should contain the following:
- A vertical pull (Example: Chin-ups)
- A vertical push (Example: Overhead Press)
- A horizontal pull (Example: Barbell Row)
- A horizontal push (Example: Bench Press)
- A pull from the floor (Example: Deadlift)
- A deep knee bend (Example: Squat)
No matter your goals, you should start out with one of these:
- Starting Strength (Minimalist and a classic. This one has worked countless times already. Also check out the accompanying book, and the extensive wiki - this is an amazing document that will answer most of your lifting related questions)
- Stronglifts (a variation on the above theme)
- Lyle McDonalds generic beginner programs
- Arthur Jones' beginner program (a different approach, but good)
- Reg Parks beginners 5x5 (bit high in volume, well rounded)
- Stripped 5x5 (6 compound exercises with dumbbell alternatives for most exercises. Easy for beginners to learn to perform correctly.)
After you have stalled three times on squats, then it is time to move onto a more advanced routine. They are listed here: insert article here
|Boards on 420chan|