So you’ve decided that you want to get in shape and start living healthier. Good decision! If you incorporate the things in this blogpost into your life you are guaranteed to live a healthier life, no doubt about it.
Table of Contents
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Basics
- 3 Eating right
- 4 Working out
- 5 Sleep enough
- 6 Supplements
- 7 Track your progress
- 8 The end
This is my ultimate guide to getting into shape and staying that way.
This post is a bit longer (~3700 words) but I’ve tried to keep it short and condense on the topics so that you don’t have to read a lot of extra fluff. The reason for keeping it short is that there are a lot of different concepts that you should start incorporating in your daily life to get healthy and stay that way.
Note that I’m no health expert, but these are the ideas and concepts that have been working extremely well for me and therefore I’m going to write them down for you to incorporate in your life.
I usually don’t try new concepts if they are not backed by science and I can’t find enough proof that something will work to improve my health.
I’ve also chosen not to include references to studies backing the concepts and claims because they are so widely proven that a quick google will give you all the info you will need.
If you’re not in shape and eating correctly you should definitely focus on implementing the things I’m explaining in this blogpost. This because:
- If you’re not in good shape you will have low levels of energy to reach your life goals.
- If you’re not eating correctly your brain and body are not getting the things they need and won’t function optimally.
- You’ll be amazed at how much clearer you think when eating correctly.
- A healthy body means a healthy mind, and that is what we want right?
So what does it mean to get into shape? For some people it could be gaining weight, adding muscle, while for others it might mean to loose fat and get slimmer.
No matter if you want to gain or loose weight there is a simple formula to follow: Energy in vs energy out
When you eat, that’s energy in, and when you exercise, that’s energy out.
If you want to loose weight you should cut down on the energy in and increase the energy out.
When you burn more energy than you consume your body will start to take from your reserves, by breaking down your fat and muscle for energy. (We exercise to prevent total muscle breakdown)
If you want to gain weight you should increase the energy in and also the energy out (still try to have a surplus of energy in). By training you will promote muscle growth and by having a surplus of energy your body will store it for later use in the form of fat.
Another thing to remember is that if you’re trying to loose fat you should still build muscle, as the more muscle you have, the more fat you will burn just by being awake (and sleeping).
Macro nutrients: Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates
There are 3 main building block of anything you put in your mouth and they are: Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates. If you check any product you buy in the store those will be listed. Meats generally contains more protein and fats, while paste and bread contain more Carbohydrates.
When you eat food you want to focus on either going with a diet rich in Protein and Fats or one rich in Protein and Carbohydrates.
If you combine Fats and Carbohydrates your body will definitely start to store the fat because you will have excess energy in your system and our bodies are very well equipped to store fats for later usage.
Eating right is a major part of living healthy and getting into shape. Think of it this way: A machine needs the correct mixture of fuel to function optimally.
No matter if you’re trying to loose or gain weight you should focus on putting food that is rich in nutrients in your body so that it can function like intended. If you eat correct and exercise you should not get sick or feel tired. (Exceptions exist but rarely and most often due to some disease)
Cut down on your sugar-intake
Cut out all the sodas and crappy sweet drinks you pour into your machine.
Juice is better than soda, but still not so good because it is loaded with carbohydrates in a pure form that will spike your blood-glucose levels.
Don’t eat candy and other sweet things. Fruits are okay although in moderation.
If fruits don’t taste sweet to you, you will have to dramatically cut down on your sugar intake as you’re most likely addicted to it and craving it more and more.
Research has actually shown that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Think about that: sugar is everywhere and not really regulated anywhere. A snickers bar is cheaper than an Apple..
No processed foods
Processed foods are not good for you, period. Fried foods or something that is made “easy to make”.
Anything that is made so that you can prepare it quickly like “quick rice” “quick oatmeals” etc you should not put into your body. Processed foods are often contain artificial ingredients to make them taste better and can actually be addictive.
Don’t eat cereal, it is packed with carbohydrates and will only make you feel full for a little while. Instead grab some yogurt with muesli for breakfast if you eat breakfast..
Absolutely no junk food
Nothing fried! All fast food is made with a lot of additives to make it taste better and make you “hooked” on a taste, craving more.
Junk food is just making you feel full for a little while and brings very little nutritional value.
If you absolutely have to eat some takeout go to subway and preferrably grab a salad. Always go for the salad/meat option and skip the fries; usually restaurants serve salad with your burger also if you ask for it.
Anything that grows in the ground is usually good for you.
Focus on eating a lot of vegetables as they are full of nutrients and fibers.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite greens:
- Kale is super full of nutrition and tastes quite good as well.
- Carrots are good and will make you look more tan as a bonus 😉
- Broccoli is superpacked with nutrients and tastes great cooked with just a pinch of salt on it.
- Celery is good on itself or with some dip. It is also a negative calorie food, which means that your body will burn more energy digesting it than it brings in.
The list goes on and a good rule of thumb is: The more colorful the vegetable the more packed with nutrition it will be.
You can’t really eat too much of vegetables, so when you prepare you dinner or go to eat somewhere put at least half your plate full with vegetables and salad.
Lean meats and fish
Lean meats: Chicken, Turkey, anything that flies really are rich in proteins and easy for your body to digest.
Grass-fed beef is also good, If you’re living in some region with a lot of wild animals and hunters, try to get a hold of elk/deer meat as those have lived on natural resources and not been raised for slaughter. If you know a hunter you can usually also get good prices compared to the supermarket 😉
Fish is also very good and it’s fully packed with Omega-3 which does wonders to your brain and body’s health.
Tuna is also good but unless you know how to incorporate it into your meals you will most likely grow tired of the taste quite quickly.
Salmon is also really good for you and easy to prepare in the oven or in a frying pan and the only thing required is salt and some lemon pepper.
Fruits and berries
Fruits are also good for you as they contain natural sugars and fibers, but don’t eat too much fruit as it is still sugar in one way or another.
Fruits and berries are rich in antioxidants which will prevent your body from degenerating and allow you to live healthier and longer.
Nuts and almonds are rich in protein and fat. They usually also contain a lot of other vitamins and minerals that your body wants.
Almonds, Pistachios and Cashews are the best, full of proteins and fats (Omega) and will help you feel full, also makes for a perfect quick snack.. But don’t eat too much of them as your body needs other things as well. A good measure is a handful almonds/nuts a day.
Try not to go for salted/roasted nuts as they are less rich in nutrients and you risk getting too much salt in your system. You are also risking to overeat them as they are salty and delicious.
Drink plenty of water! I repeat: Drink plenty of water.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to drink water so that your body can work efficiently.
Water helps your body clean out and detoxify your body of all the bad things you manage to put in yourself during the day.
Your body is basically roughly 50+% water. If you’re not getting enough water into your system you will get dehydrated and all kinds of bad things will happen to your body. Especially in warmer climates it is important since you’ll be sweating away a lot during the day.
When you’re hangover you are actually dehydrated due to your body saving water in your muscles to “dilute” the poison (alcohol) in your body. (This is also why you look more buff/swolen when you’re hungover)
How do you know if you’re drinking enough?
- Your goal should be to have to visit the bathroom at least 8 times a day.
- If your urine is not clear you are drinking too little water.
- If you urine smells it is a good indicator that you’re not drinking enough water.
Coffee and alcohol are not so good in this sense as they are diuretic, meaning that they will make your body get rid of water.
Track your water intake
If you can’t bring yourself to drink enough water install an app like Water your body(android) or Daily Water Free(iPhone) which will allow you to track your water intake and remind you when you haven’t had enough water in a while.
Water doesn’t taste good?
Again: get rid of your addiction to sugar. If you’re not addicted to sugar you’ll realize that water actually has a lot of taste and characteristics that you might have missed before.
One way to flavor water is to put some lemon slices or cucumber slices in it. This will make the water taste more “fresh” and as a consequence easier to drink.
If you want to get really lean while gaining or loosing weight you should try fasting at the same time at it will definitely help you loose fat and build lean muscle.
Read also: Should you do intermittent fasting?
You didn’t think it was as easy as just eating correct right?
No no! You will also have to put in some physical work 😉
Strength training or Cardio?
Cardio is really good for burning fat but doesn’t build any muscle, it actually breaks down your muscles a little bit. And having strong muscles and bones is preferred.
Having more muscle will make you burn more fat automatically. 3 pounds of muscle should burn roughly 120 calories per day, so if you want to loose fat focus on building muscle.
If you have to choose just one, go with strength training as it promotes muscle and bone density and that is what you want. Especially when you get older you will have use of strong muscles and bones.
It has been proven that people with more muscle mass are more likely to survive life-threatening diseases and operations.
Choosing a workout routine
When it comes to workout programs and routines there are so many to choose from and you can get quite scared just having to find and select the “right” one.
But don’t worry I’ve listed 3 ones that I’ve tried myself and had quite good success with.
This is an awesome program to quickstart your muscle-building. It is based around doing compound exercises focusing on large muscle groups so that you can quickly build muscle, which in turn will increase your testosterone, allowing you to easier increase in your gains. (And burn fat)
People have had massive success with gaining muscle and burning fat following this program.
I followed this one for about a year until I herniated 2 discs in my Lumbar region (due to bad form and heavy weights) and had to take a break from training. (Nowadays I take it easier with legs/lower back exercises and do some of them in machines to limit the errors I can do)
Jim stoppani’s shortcut to size
This is the program that I’m currently following; I like the setup of it and I’ve gotten good results from it.
Jim Stoppani is also a bad-ass because he is an actual medical doctor that has been interested in bodybuilding and therefore has the best of both worlds: science and training.
Following his program you’ll get other awesome tips such as: listening to “pumpy” music that gets you in an awesome state for your workout as it improves your performance.
German volume training
This one there are many variations and one example routine is here
This one I tried for some time because people have gotten amazing results with putting on muscle mass, but I quickly got discouraged as the routines were very repetitive and got boring quite fast.
Don’t rush into anything unless you are experienced in training as you will only risk over-exerting your body and injuring yourself.
When you start out do so with small weight and focus on doing the exercises with correct form, otherwise there is a risk that you will injure yourself when starting with the heavier weights.
After your first week of working out you will be sore as hell! Don’t get discouraged to continue going to the gym. One good way to ease your soreness is to actually do some lighter exercises and stretching.
Do the eccentric part slower
When you do your workout routines lifting weights, focus on doing the eccentric portion of the movement in a slow and controlled manner.
The eccentric part is the one where your muscle lengthens itself, for example if you do a bicep curl it is the part when you are lowering the weight.
By slowing down the eccentric part you will maximize the tearing of the muscle and it will promote more muscle growth.
So on the upwards motion you do it in an explosive manner, and on the downward motions you do it in a slow controlled manner.
I didn’t realize how slow one should be doing the movements until I tried doing some isolated legs exercises in machines from Technogym.
Those machines have a “Rate of Movement” display that shows an indicator of how fast or slow you should be going during the movement.
When I first started training like this I realized that my muscles would “shake” a bit as I was trying to control the motion, which in turn made the exercise “harder” and tear more muscle.
See an example of how slow here
This is so important and very often overlooked by people getting into shape!
Sleep is when your body will actually build (recover) the most of the muscle.
What actually happens when you workout is that your muscles break down and get small tears.
These tears will be recovered and repaired later when you’re relaxed and sleeping, so focus on getting enough sleep.
Another reason for sleeping enough is that if you don’t sleep enough you won’t have energy and motivation to go to the gym.
A lack of sleep often results in stress and extra stored fat as well.
The days that I’m working out I usually aim for getting 9 hours of sleep.
When you sleep you should also aim for periods of 90 minutes, meaning: 6, 7.5 or 9 hours.
This is because the human sleepcycle is usually 90 minutes. So by aiming for this goal you will wake up more rested which is a good plus!
Track your sleep
Install an app like “Sleep as android” (or similar) to track your sleep and sleep quality. You basically put your phone on bed and it will track how much you are moving etc (this relates to the quality of your sleep) and it will give you reports on how well you’re sleeping. It also has the awesome feature to know when you are sleeping lightly close to a certain time and sound the wakeup alarm at that time.
Sleep quality can also be improved by supplementing with ZMA (read further down)
Here comes the part where there is always varying opinions on what is working and what is not. And it is quite individual what will be working for one person and what might not work for someone else.. I’ve listed the supplements I take myself and that are more known to have good effects on your workout and health.
Being deficient in nutrients will bring all kinds of side-effects ranging from dry skin to tiredness (Or even death if you’re really malnourished).
Finding out what nutrients you’re body might be lacking is not the easiest task, but if you feel you have symptoms that are not normal you should try looking up on the internet what lack of nutrients might be causing the symptoms. A healthy person should not feel tired and get sick all the time.
Taking a multivitamin a day is a good way to prevent having a lack in nutrition in your body. Just be sure to buy a quality multivitamin and not some off-the-shelf brand where the label states things that are not existing in the pill itself.
I take a Berocca every day, the Orange flavor is quite awesome =)
So omega 3 is a really good fatty acid for your body and brain. There is vast amount of research on how omega affects your brain and body in positive ways.
Good natural sources of Omega fatty acids:
- Chia seeds
So start taking Fish oil or similar to supplement your body with extra Omega-3.
Zink and Magnesium and B6 vitamins in one good mixture.
Will promote muscle recovery, boosting muscle size and strength as well as helping with fat loss.
It is also improving sleep quality, mainly the quality of your deep sleep. So take some ZMA before you go to bed at night as that is the recommended timing.
Protein to be taken before and after your workouts. Protein is good for your muscle recovery and is an important building block when building muscle. If you’re fasting check out BCAA further down.
Casein protein is a variant that is slow-digesting and therefore optimal to be taken before going to bed or in the late afternoon so that it will be used in your recovery during sleep.
Creatine exists in your muscles and allows for your body to create energy rapidly, When you work out you will deplete you creatine levels in the muscles.
By taking creatine as a supplement you will be able to do more repetitions and as a result build more muscle.
Meats contain creatine as well but to reach the levels you need you’d need to eat several pounds of meat.
If you’re a vegan/vegetarian you will most likely need to supplement with creatine just because your body is not getting enough of it from natural sources,
BCAA (Fasted training)
BCAA stands for Branched Chained Amino Acids, and they are used in the process of protein synthesis.
If you’re doing fasted training and you want to prevent unnecessary muscle-breakdown you can supplement with BCAA which will reduce the muscle breakdown.
If you’re not training fasted you can just supplement with regular Whey protein as that one is broken down into BCAA’s but with the added benefit of calories which you will need when working out and recovering.
If you don’t live in a sunny region and go out in the sun regularly you are most likely also lacking in Vitamin D. Even if you live in a sunny region there is a risk because sunblock and dark skin tone will prevent the creation of vitamin D from the sun.
Vitamin D is very important for you immune system and also plays a role in strength performance. It also improves your mood and lessens the risk of you getting depressed. A lack of Vitamin D leads to reduced testosterone production in men.. There are many other benefits to having optimal levels of Vitamin D in your body.
Read also: 25 Excellent reasons to take Vitamin D
If you’re not drinking milk or eating a lot of dairy products, there is a risk that you’re not getting enough Calcium in your body.
Calcium increases the amount of fat you body gets rid of and also increases your testosterone levels (which is good when buidling muscle)
So supplement with around 500mg of Calcium as well if you don’t eat or drink a lot of dairy products. (For some people cutting out dairy has helped them burn away that last stubborn fat on their bodies)
Track your progress
You’ve probably noticed that I already mentioned that you should track your sleep and water intake.
Well for your workouts you should also track your progress and gains to be able to see the results and keep yourself motivated.
I use JEFit for my workout / body tracking as the app has been built just for those needs.
The app has a database of all the major exercises and you can even connect with your friends.
You can track your body measures: height, weight, fat %, circumferences etc
And you can set up your own routines or download any of the community-made routines. (Tbe workout routines “Shorcut to size” and “Stronglifts” exist already for example)
Now it’s all up to you to start implementing what you’ve learned. There’s a lot more information on the subject of getting into shape and building muscle that one can learn but this should work as a nice primer to get started.
If you have a question feel free to ask them below in the comments.