Simple Science Fitness. Burn fat. Build muscle. Be healthy.

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99% of everything you need to know about fitness is here. The best part? It works. Tired of "magic pills" that don't work? Constantly confused by misinformation? All your common fitness and nutrition questions can be answered in this one-stop resource. Want to simplify things even further? Check out Simple Steps.

This site has over 400 citations to evidence-based research. While facts are backed up, let's not make it too complicated. Even though experts are continuing to make new discoveries in the fitness and nutritional sciences, we already know more than enough to make a huge difference today. Let's get started!

Is This Your Typical Lifestyle?

Typical Breakfast

Typical Lunch

Typical Dinner

Unhealthy Meal Totals

Unhealthy Activity

Unhealthy Result

This is a Healthy Lifestyle

Healthy Breakfast

Healthy Lunch

Healthy Dinner

Healthy Meal Totals

Healthy Activity

Healthy Result

Anaerobic and Aerobic: Anaerobic respiration means the "absence of oxygen" and aerobic respiration means "with oxygen." Anaerobic exercises require short bursts of energy while aerobic exercises can be performed over long periods of time.

Bulking: Bulking is increasing body weight with an emphasis on building muscle.

Cutting: Cutting is decreasing body fat and weight while preserving muscle mass.

Diet: Food and drink that a person consistently consumes.

Empty Calories: Calories that contain little to no nutrients. Sugar is a source of empty calories.

Fitness: A state of being with strength, mobility, and endurance, while being free of chronic disease.

Hyperpalatable: Food products that are engineered by food scientists to create insatiable overconsumption are considered hyperpalatable. Salt, sugar, fat, and wheat flour are combined to maximize pleasure in the brain's reward system, simulating the effects of addictive substances.

IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros): A rule of thumb to eat anything as long as it fits within your macronutrient ratio and calorie range. It works, although it does not necessarily reflect good health if the food sources are of low quality.

Inflammation: Where part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, or painful in response to an infection. Food-related inflammation is linked to modern diseases.

Macronutrients: Fat, carbohydrate, and protein are macronutrients. They are required by the body in large amounts to sustain life. Alcohol is also considered a macronutrient.

Metabolic Syndrome: A cluster of medical conditions, or modern diseases, including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, raised triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol.

Metabolism: The chemical processes by which cells produce the substances and energy needed to sustain life.

Micronutrients: Vitamins, minerals, or acids required by the body in small amounts for healthy growth and development.

Moderation: Avoidance of extremes or excesses.

Nutrients: Substances essential for growth and the maintenance of life.

Palatable: Pleasant to taste.

Processed Food (or "convenience foods"): Food commercially prepared for ease of consumption. Examples are ramen noodles, deli meat, cereals, potato chips, TV dinners, and fast food meals.

Satiety: The feeling of fullness, or satisfaction of an appetite.

Sedentary: A person who spends most of their time sitting instead of being active. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with early death.

Thermogenesis: The mechanism where the body uses energy as heat, instead of storing it as fat.

Body

The human body is a machine which winds its own springs. Julien Offroy de la Mettrie (1709–1751), L'Homme Machine

Health

Body Types

Underweight Body

Lower than average muscle mass and body fat. Slowly consuming more calories and incorporating exercise will help increase weight to healthier levels.

Average Body

Regular exercise and improving food quality are suggested. Options include building up muscle first then burning fat later, or burning fat first then building muscle later. To burn fat and build muscle at the same time, a slower body recomposition is another option.

Overweight Body

Moderate amounts of muscle with excessive body fat. Consuming fewer calories with healthier food choices and incorporating an exercise program will reduce weight to healthier levels.

Muscular Body

Moderate to abundant muscle mass at low body fat. Burning off excess fat is suggested at higher than 15% body fat (25% for women). At 10% body fat (20% for women) or lower, a slow bulk to build more muscle is an option. If you are at your desired physique, simply maintain your caloric intake and training intensity.

Lifestyle

Poor eating choices and a sedentary lifestyle are associated with higher body fat, physical ailments, mental illness, and higher mortality. Underweight individuals also have a high mortality rate. Good eating choices and fitness are associated with longevity, leanness, and mental wellness.

Maintaining a healthy diet is not meant to be temporary and should always be part of a lifestyle. Sticking to a healthy diet for life will give you long-term mental and physical benefits.

Obesity

Currently 2.1 billion people, almost 30% of the world population, is either overweight or obese. This alarming statistic is growing. Being overweight is not being healthy. Even though obesity is largely a modern phenomenon, Ancient Greek physicians have noted that excess fat caused more sudden death in people, and caused infrequent periods and infertility in women.

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. Marcus Aurelius (121–180 AD), Meditations

What Affects Our Health?

Some factors that affect our physical and mental states are:

Tip
Focus on prevention over treatment.

Life lasts a long time. The healthy part of it can be surprisingly short. Anonymous

Assessing Health

Beyond body composition and fitness level, your doctor can assess your blood pressure and blood test for triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Below are optimal markers of health and fitness for risk-free individuals:

Injuries, Soreness and Sickness

If you are sick, it is advisable to rest until you are well. If you are sore the day after a workout, this is normal, but if you feel a sharp pain, this is an injury. If injured, it is advisable to avoid any exercises that aggravate the injury and consult with a doctor.

Sleep and Rest

It is crucial get about 7–8 hours of sleep each night at consistent hours. Sleep helps with recovery, muscle growth, performance, well-being, and mental health. With less sleep, ghrelin, a "hunger hormone," increases, leading to overeating.

If weight training, each muscle group needs at least 48 hours to repair, recover, and grow, so muscles in the same group shouldn't be worked out on consecutive days.

If you are unable to get a full night's sleep, a short 5–15 minute nap can give a few hours of improved cognitive performance.

Stress

Chronic stress magnifies existing negative health issues, including obesity, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and is a significant factor in accelerated aging and premature death.

Not all stress is bad, however. Positive acute stress, such as an intense workout, stimulates muscle strengthening and growth. Exercise is, by far, the most effective natural method of reducing chronic stress, depression, and anxiety.

Activity Level

Active individuals will require greater consumption of calories since their body demands it, while more sedentary individuals will eat less to maintain equilibrium. That being said, overeating has more to do with food choices than activity level.

Body Image

While aesthetics is a motivating factor to become fit, the primary outlook should be for health. Good health is subconsciously attractive, and aesthetics follow as a consequence of being healthy. Making health a priority directly affects mental and physical well-being, helping to decrease body image issues.

Tip
Focusing on nutrition and exercise instead of weight and appearance would often lead to more desirable results.

Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. Marcus Aurelius (121–180 AD), Meditations

Body Composition

Fat + Lean Mass = Body Composition

Genetics

Our height, structure, predisposition to store fat, and muscularity are genetically determined when we reach puberty. These attributes determine our base shape and appearance, and cannot be changed without surgery or drugs. We can, however, increase or decrease body fat and muscle to sculpt a new shape. Keep in mind, we have a natural limit for muscular potential.

Obesity is primarily caused by behavioural and environmental factors rather than by genetics, considering there is only a small calorie variance in resting metabolism from person to person. Genetic predisposition to obesity is triggered by the environment, affecting our behaviour, but the basic energy in-out mechanism remains the same. In other words, a healthy lifestyle prevents obesity.

Body Weight

Your body weight does not consist of just muscle and fat, but also water, blood, organs, waste, tissue, and bones. Your scale tells you your weight, but it doesn’t tell you how much of it is lean muscle and how much of it is fat. If you gain or lose a few pounds over the course of the day, it is likely just fluctuations of water weight. Measuring week-by-week, first thing in the morning, is a more reliable way to track progress.

Did you know?
You can expect to naturally, healthily, and realistically burn up to 2 lbs of fat per week (the obese can burn more) or build no more than 0.5 lbs of muscle per week.

BMI

BMI (body mass index) takes only weight into account, while body fat percentage takes the ratio of lean (muscle) mass into account. For that reason, body fat percentage reflects a more accurate picture of overall fitness and health. For instance, a 5′10″ 180 lbs male with 10% body fat has better fitness than a 5′10″ 180 lbs male with 25% body fat, even though both are considered overweight on the BMI scale.

Body Fat

You can find out your approximate body fat percentage at home with calipers, or at a gym or medical center that offers DXA scans. You can also roughly guess your own body fat percentage by looking at your midsection in the mirror. If you have no visible abdominal muscles, you are likely over 20% body fat (or over 30% for women). If you can see partial outlines of your abs, you are likely 15–19% (25–29% for women). If you can see full abdominal muscles, you are likely at the most 10% (20% for women). Women have higher body fat percentages because of extra fatty tissue in their breasts, thighs, and buttocks.

Did you know?
You cannot spot reduce fat. When you burn fat, you burn fat all over your body. Men commonly have stubborn fat in their abdominal and lower back areas while women store more fat in their thighs, glutes, and breasts. How much fat being stored there is determined by genetics.

Desired Body Weight

The DBW calculator below can help you find your desired body weight based on known body fat percentage:

DBW Calculator

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%
Result
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Metabolism

There is little variability with resting metabolism from person to person, so using labels such as "fast or slow" metabolisms are misleading. Lean mass, the thermogenesis of foods, especially protein, have greater variability on metabolism. The more muscle mass one has, the higher the metabolism. Having three vs. six meals in a day has little effect on metabolism. Metabolism is increased through exercise, especially weight training, due to the energy expenditure during the workout and the energy required to repair the muscles.

Hormones

Insulin

Body fat is regulated through hormones and enzymes. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar and the storage and expenditure of energy. Insulin is raised after a meal, regardless of macronutrients, contributing to the intake of nutrients as well as being the only hormone responsible for fat storage.

When insulin is low, such as between meals and during sleep, more body fat is being broken down. Refined, simple carbohydrates raise insulin levels significantly, contributing to increased fat storage. Insulin levels can be reduced by any combination of fat, dairy, fiber, vinegar, or citrus fruits.

Along with gut peptides, which are hormones found in the stomach, pancreas, and small intestine, insulin is an important satiety hormone.

Irisin

Irisin is a hormone that is secreted during exercise, which converts white fat cells to brown fat cells. White fat cells stores body fat while brown fat cells burns body fat.

Testosterone

Testosterone is a natural steroid hormone that increases muscle mass by increasing protein synthesis. Testosterone, the primary sex hormone in men, is 7–8 times more abundant in men with greater production than in women, which explains why men are naturally more muscular and why it is more difficult for women to put on muscle mass. The primary sex hormone for women is estrogen. Testosterone can be increased through weight lifting, certain foods, and vitamin D.

Gut Microbiota

Microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts regulate energy balance and weight. The ecosystem can be modified through long-term diet which either contributes to good health, or to inflammation which leads to diseases such as obesity and type-2 diabetes. The composition of the gut microbiota has been shown to differ in lean and obese humans.

80/20 Rule for Body Composition

While not a hard rule for illustration purposes, the majority of your body composition (fat + lean mass) is the result of your diet. Diet enables you to change your weight. Exercise is a tool to manipulate further change by necessitating the growth of muscle or to accelerate fat loss.

While nutrition is the foundation, exercise goes hand-in-hand with nutrition. Exercise provides massive mental and physical health benefits.

80/20 Rule

Calories In-Out

Law of Thermodynamics

If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. However a big caveat: while a calorie is a calorie, the body is not a closed system.

Exercise increases caloric expenditure and metabolism, and what you consume affects metabolic and hormonal secretions which may cause you to store fat instead of expend fat, and vice versa. This is why exercise and the type of foods and beverages we consume are crucial.

Calories in-out is a simplification since the body metabolizes calories at different rates with hormonal responses from food consumption, fasting, and exercise. Nutritional compositions, gut microbiota, and hormones all affect how calories are partitioned.

To Maintain Weight

Law of Thermodynamics Maintainence

To Lose Weight

Law of Thermodynamics Weight Loss

To Gain Weight

Law of Thermodynamics Weight Gain

Basal Metabolic Rate

The calculator below will give your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and an approximate number of calories to consume daily for your goal weight.

BMR Calculator

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in
lbs
cm
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Results
calories
cal/day
cal/day
cal/day

Understanding the Numbers

BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate): If you do not move for 24 hours, the BMR is the number of calories you burn in a rested metabolic state.

BMR Calculator: The calculator uses the Mifflin-St Jeor equation, which is an accurate method of calculating your BMR.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE): The BMR with the activity level multiplier gives you the total calories you burn in a day.

Maintenance = TDEE: Consuming this number of calories will allow you to maintain your current weight.

Weight gain (TDEE + 500): Adding 500 calories per day to your TDEE will allow you to gain one pound of weight per week.

Weight loss (TDEE - 500): Subtracting 500 calories from your TDEE per day will allow you to lose one pound of weight per week.

Did you know?
It takes approximately 3500 calories to burn off 1 lb of fat, which is a deficit of 500 calories per day for one week under ideal nutritional and physical conditions.

Adjusting Your Numbers

Every time you gain or lose 5 lbs of body weight, use the BMR calculator again to re-adjust your caloric intake. Caloric requirements will change as your weight changes.

Diet Transitioning

When transitioning from a bulk to a cut or vice versa, adjusting calories slowly by 200 to 250 calories per week gives the body time to adapt psychologically and physiologically. Your weight will still change during this transitioning phase.

Cutting

To cut, consume less calories than you burn in a day, but never fewer than 1200 calories, otherwise malnutrition and counterproductive results follow. If you are struggling to lose weight, please read the nutrition section and cutting tips. Also consider intermittent fasting.

Bulking

To bulk, consume more calories than you burn in a day. If you are a "hardgainer," you are simply not eating enough.

Macronutrients

To calculate how much of your daily calories could be allocated to carbs, protein, and fat, try out the SSF macronutrient calculator.

Anatomy

Anterior

Front Anatomy

Posterior

Back Anatomy

Functions

Abs (rectus abdominis) and Obliques: Stabilizes the core.

Biceps (biceps brachii): Bending of the elbow.

Calves (gastrocnemius): Raising of the heels.

Pecs (pectoralis): Movement of the arms towards the midline of the body.

Spinal Erectors (erector spinae): Extension of the back. Core stability.

Forearms: Movement of the wrist and fingers.

Glutes (gluteus maximus): Bending or straightening of the hip joints.

Hamstrings: Bending of the knee.

Lats (latissimus dorsi): Extension and movement of the of the shoulders towards the midline of the body.

Delts (deltoid): Allows rotation of the arms.

Quads (quadriceps): Extending of the knee.

Traps (trapezius): Lifting and movement of the shoulder blades.

Triceps (triceps brachii): Extending of the elbow.

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Nutrition

One should eat to live, not live to eat. Cicero (107–44 BC), Rhetoricorum LV

Foods

SSF Food Pyramid

Simple Science Fitness Food Pyramid

Did you know?
Corn is a grain. Peas and peanuts are legumes.

The suggested SSF Food Pyramid is an epidemiological common sense approach to consuming whole foods while limiting refined foods. Plant and animal sources are supplemented with dairy, legumes, nuts & seeds, and whole grains. Spices, herbs, and seasonings add to palatability.

This food pyramid is the foundation of the SSF Diet.

Pills for everything is a very Western thing. Anonymous

Why Does This Food Pyramid Work?

By comparing the nutrient density per calorie of major food groups, we can plot them on a graph. Foods that are nutrient-dense contain micronutrients that are required by the body, and are thus health promoting. Lack of nutrients and inflammation are linked to health risks. Overconsumption of calories and poor health are correlated with obesity.

Energy-Health Graph

Tip
At its essence, food is nothing more than water, macronutrients, and micronutrients consisting of calories.

Micronutrients

Micronutrients include vitamins, minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium, and organic acids such as citric acid. Each micronutrient contributes to our body's functioning, repair, and growth. For instance, vitamin A helps with immunity and vision. Vitamin A is abundant in carrots and sweet potatoes. Vitamin A is also fat soluble, which means the body absorbs the micronutrient with fat.

Allergies and Intolerances

Common food allergies are peanuts, eggs, milk, fish, soy, shellfish, tree nuts, and wheat.

Food intolerances, which include symptoms of inflammation such as heartburn, cramps, and diarrhea, are common after consuming corn products, dairy, and wheat gluten.

Did you know?
65% of the population is lactose intolerant, with as much as 90% in East Asian ancestry. However, cheese and yogurt are easier to tolerate since it goes through a fermentation process that breaks down the lactose in milk.

Cholesterol and Sodium

Despite the controversy cholesterol and sodium (salt) receive, they are not problematic. Food products high in dietary cholesterol such as eggs actually improve blood cholesterol. This is because dietary cholesterol is not the same as blood cholesterol.

Sodium is a mineral that is required by the body and becomes harmful when the individual has existing high blood pressure (hypertension), which is a consequence of a poor lifestyle.

Did you know?
An 88-year-old man who consumed 25 eggs a day for many years was found to have normal cholesterol levels.

Essential Foods

Essential foods bar chart

Suggested: Consume double portions of vegetables for every meat portion in each meal. Consume least one type of fruit a day.

Legend

Food listed in italics are among the most nutrient-dense food sources.

  • c Low Calories
  • V Vitamins
  • M Minerals
  • P Protein
  • F Good Fats
  • Ω Omega-3 (EPA & DHA)
  • f Fiber
  • S Starches
  • T Improves Testosterone

This section lists some of the most accessible and nutrient-dense foods that are abundant in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, along with healthy low-calorie beverages. Also, calorie for calorie, it will keep you more satiated than other types of foods.

Tip
Use this section as a grocery shopping list.

Tip
If your goal is to lose weight, raspberries make great snacks since each raspberry contains only one calorie. They're also filled with fiber and nutrients.

Grass-fed beef contains a higher ratio of omega-3 fatty acids compared to corn- and soy-fed cattle. Beef products include steak, roasts, ribs, ground beef, sausages, and beef jerky. Pork products include bacon, sausages, ribs, and ham.

Try to limit processed meat such as sausages, salami, ham, and bacon, and ensure they are consumed with vegetables such as broccoli, which inhibits the carcinogenic effects of processed meat.

Vegetables

  1. KalecVMfT
  2. Collard GreenscVMf
  3. Bok ChoycVM
  4. ArugulacVM
  5. SpinachcVMfT
  6. ChardcVMfT
  7. BroccolicVfT
  8. Brussels SproutcVfT
  9. GarlicVMT
  10. MushroomcVMf
  11. AsparaguscVMf
  12. SquashcVMf
  13. CabbagecVf
  14. LettucecV
  15. TomatocVf
  16. CauliflowercVf
  17. RadishcVf
  18. Bell PeppercVf
  19. OnioncV
  20. LeekcV
  21. CarrotcV
  22. CucumbercV
  23. Sweet PotatoVMfS
  24. YamVMfS
  25. BeetcVf
  26. PotatoVMS

Tip
Take advantage of the low-calorie and high-nutrient benefits of vegetables.

Meat, Seafood, and Eggs

  1. SalmonVMPFΩT
  2. EggsVMPFΩT
  3. LiverVMPFΩT
  4. BeefVMPFΩT
  5. MackerelVMPFΩT
  6. TroutVMPFΩT
  7. SardinesVMPFΩT
  8. AnchoviesVMPFΩT
  9. BisonVMPFT
  10. OystersVMPT
  11. ClamsVMPT
  12. ChickenVMP
  13. VenisonVMP
  14. PorkVMPF
  15. TurkeyVMP
  16. LambVMPFT
  17. TunaVPΩT
  18. CrabMPT
  19. LobsterMPT
  20. ShrimpMPΩT

Tip
Limit processed meats and opt for fresh whole cuts, poultry, and seafood.

Oils and Fats

  1. Virgin Coconut OilF
  2. Extra Virgin Olive OilF
  3. Avocado OilF
  4. TallowF
  5. GheeF
  6. ButterFΩ
  7. Palm OilF
  8. Walnut OilF
  9. Flax OilF

Fruits

  1. AvocadoFf
  2. All berriescf
  3. CoconutF
  4. Cherry
  5. Applef
  6. Bananaf
  7. Orangef
  8. Pomegranate
  9. Lemon/Lime
  10. Guava
  11. Kiwi
  12. Pearf
  13. Mango
  14. Peach
  15. Cantaloupe
  16. Pineapple
  17. Plum
  18. Grapes
  19. Watermelon

Beverages

  1. Water
  2. Tea
  3. Black Coffee
  4. Coconut Water

Note
The beverages listed are virtually calorie-free.

Spices and Herbs

  • Allspice
  • Anise
  • Basil
  • Cloves
  • Cardamom
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander
  • Chili Powder
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Fennel
  • Garlic Powder
  • Ginger
  • Mustard Powder
  • Nutmeg
  • Onion Powder
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Pepper
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric

Did you know?
Spices and herbs are extremely effective antioxidants.

Seasonings

  • Lemon/Lime Juice
  • Salt (Kosher or Sea)
  • Vinegar

Note
The listed spices, herbs, and seasonings are very low in calories.

Foods in Moderation

Foods in moderation bar chart

Suggested: Pick from one group as a side for each meal. Try to use only one group source per day. i.e. A side of almonds for one meal and a side of cheese for another meal.

While not as nutrient-dense as the essentials above, these supplementary sides give your meals variety, flexibility, and satisfaction.

Nuts and Seeds

  1. AlmondsfPFT
  2. WalnutsF
  3. Macadamia NutsF
  4. FlaxseedsfF
  5. HazelnutsF
  6. PecansF
  7. Brazil NutsFT
  8. Pumpkin SeedsT
  9. Squash SeedsT
  10. Cocoa
    (Dark Chocolate)MT
  11. Sunflower Seeds
  12. Sesame Seedsf
  13. Cashewsf
  14. Pistachiosf

Note
Nuts and seeds should be unsalted and unsweetened.

Dairy

  1. Greek YogurtPF
  2. CheesePF
  3. Whole MilkPF
  4. Cream CheeseF
  5. CreamF

Beverages

  1. Coconut Milk
  2. Red Wine
  3. Beer
  4. Hard Liquor

Did you know?
Red wine contains properties that are health-promoting.

Legumes

  1. Green Beansf
  2. LentilsfS
  3. PeasfS
  4. ChickpeasfS
  5. Kidney BeansfS
  6. Alfalfaf
  7. Peanutsf
  8. Natural Peanut Butterf
  9. Soybean (Tofu)Pf

Did you know?
Legumes are among the highest sources of fiber.

Grains

  1. OatsS
  2. QuinoaS
  3. BarleyS
  4. Rye BreadS
  5. BuckwheatS
  6. Rice (Long-Grain)S
  7. Whole Wheat BreadS
  8. Corn on the CobS

Tip
Making your own bread ensures that there are no added sugars or preservatives.

Foods to Limit

Foods to limit bar chart

Suggested: Try to treat yourself a meal and beverage in this section once a week on your "cheat day" without going over your calorie limit.

Foods that are commercialized, pre-prepared, refined, processed, and manufactured are likely to be unhealthy, even when they try to make a health claim. Mixed beverages are easily consumed and are packed with dense calories which adds up very quickly. By looking at the ingredients list on processed food packages, you will often see some form of sugar, wheat, corn, or soy combined with polyunsaturated oils, along with several additives designed for preservation, texture, palatability, or colour. This section contains common inflammatory empty-calorie foods and beverages that are fattening, disease-promoting, and thus, should be restricted.

Note
Occasional indulgences are encouraged when it's not part of your regular diet or compromising your goals.

Tip
Having no junk food inside your home can be enjoyed more outside the home as a treat.

Instead of eating living things designed by nature, we started doing the designing. Mark Schatzker, The Dorito Effect

Sugars

  • Agave Nectar
  • Cane Juice
  • Dextrose
  • Glucose-Fructose
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Jam
  • Malt/Maltose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Sauces
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Syrups

Did you know?
There are about 4 grams of sugar in 1 teaspoon.

Artificial Sweeteners

  • Aspartame
  • Neotame
  • Rebiana (Truvia)
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • Stevia

Note
Despite having no calories, artificial sweeteners still alter gut microbiota linking it to type-2 diabetes. Sweet properties are also addictive, contributing to appetite cravings and promoting poor dietary habits.

Beverages

  • Coolers
  • Energy Drinks
  • Fruit Juice
  • Low-Fat Drinks
  • Milkshakes
  • Pop/Soda
  • Sweetened Alcohol
  • Sweetened Coffee

Did you know?
1 tbsp of butter has less calories than 1 can of Coca-Cola.

Oils and Fats

  • Canola (Rapeseed) Oil
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Margarine
  • Partially
    Hydrogenated Oil
  • Peanut Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Trans Fats
  • Vegetable Oil

Note
The above oils are very high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, where consumption in excess contribute to several diseases.

Junk Food

  • Bagels
  • Biscuits
  • Cake
  • Candy
  • Cereal
  • Chocolate Bars
  • Cookies
  • Corn-Based Products
  • Corn Chips
  • Crackers
  • Doughnuts
  • Ice Cream
  • French Fries
  • Frozen Yogurt
  • "Gluten-Free" Products
  • Hamburgers
  • Hot Dogs
  • "Low-Fat" Products
  • Muffins
  • Pancakes
  • Pasta
  • Pastries
  • Popcorn
  • Potato Chips
  • Pies
  • Pizza
  • Pretzels
  • Waffles
  • White Bread

Note
The above are a combination of sweet, salty or fried. 2/3 of the list are sugar and wheat flour products. All are very high in calories.

Macronutrients

Macronutrient Quality

All three macronutrients serve important functions, and each vary in quality. Carbohydrates can be simple or complex, full of or lacking in nutrients, and can be composed of dense or diluted calories. Protein quality depends on amino acid completeness. Fats can be saturated, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated, and may consist of essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6.

Carbohydrates

4 calories per gram.

The Good

Carbohydrate sources such as fruits and vegetables are very dense in vitamins and fiber. Carbs are also the body's preferred source of energy other than alcohol, especially for anaerobic and long-duration exercise.

Starchy complex carbohydrate sources such as potatoes and long-grain rice help replenish muscle glycogen stores. Muscle glycogen is used as fuel and depletes during strenuous exercise. Starchy foods also contain resistant starch, which resists digestion, functioning similarly to fiber. It is satiating and promotes healthy gut microbiota.

Did you know?
Fiber is a carbohydrate.

Fiber helps keep you feel fuller longer, reduce appetite, and thus helps you consume less food. It also improves gastrointestinal health and reduces disease and blood pressure.

The Bad

Refined carbohydrate sources such as sugar and wheat- and corn-based products induce appetite cravings and contributes to body fat gains, cardiovascular disease, higher LDL cholesterol, higher triglycerides, and lowering HDL (good) cholesterol. Overconsumption of refined carbohydrates in combination with fats are the driving forces for the obesity epidemic.

Wheat, Corn, and Rice

While the idea of reducing grains is unconventional in a Western diet, they are comparatively overrated since plant and animal products are nutritionally denser. In addition, corn and wheat products are common sources of food intolerances. Rice however, due to its absence of inflammatory properties, is considered a neutral starchy grain.

Did you know?
Wheat, corn, and rice are grains while a potato is a vegetable. Like grains however, potatoes are considered a starchy carbohydrate source.

While grains are fair in fiber content, more fiber per calorie can be obtained from vegetables and fruits such as leafy greens, avocados, bell peppers, carrots, pears, apples, oranges, and bananas. Legumes are very high in fiber. Nuts and seeds are also good sources of fiber.

Did you know?
7 slices of whole wheat bread contain the same amount of dietary fiber as 1 avocado or 2 pears.

Fats

9 calories per gram.

The Good

Most foods that are naturally high in fat, such as animal sources (fish, beef, pork), nuts, avocados, and coconuts, contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fatty acids required for body functioning and health. It is also a very good source of body fuel and contributes to weight loss. Crucial vitamins A, D, E, and K, are fat-soluble, which means fats are required for bioabsorption.

Did you know?
While vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, vitamins B and C are water-soluble.

Monounsaturated and saturated fats from animal sources, eggs, butter, avocados, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil are health-promoting.

While saturated fats have been controversial, they actually serve important body functions for bone, organ, brain, immune health, and weight loss. The French paradox is the phenomenon where high dietary cholesterol and saturated fat are correlated with low incidences of heart disease. Furthermore, diets high in fat have been shown to provide important benefits that protect against neurological losses that characterize Alzehimer's and Parkinson's. Not all saturated fats are the same, though. Although coconut oil is high in saturated fat, they are in the form of medium-chain triglycerides, mostly in the form of lauric acid, which raises good HDL cholesterol, which protects your heart.

While omega-3 fatty acids benefit health as an anti-inflammatory, not all omega-3s are the same. Walnuts and flaxseed are very high in ALA omega-3, but this is misleading. The body has to convert ALA. Only a small portion of ALA can be utilized to EPA and DHA, which are useful to the body. Seafood and fish oil are excellent sources of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.

Did you know?
Fat is not satiating. In the context of junk food, large amounts of fat can be consumed. In animal products, it is the protein that aids satiety.

The Bad

Although fats are important for weight loss, they are high in energy density, compounded by fried foods and pastries.

The body functions well with an omega-3 and omega-6 ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. Most of us consume 1:15 or higher, which contributes to inflammation and oxidative stress, leading to a host of critical diseases. Sources high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats are margarine, canola oil, and vegetable oil.

While saturated fats are beneficial on a low-carbohydrate diet, they are harmful when combined with refined carbohydrates, which comprise the staple of the standard North American diet.

Low-Fat Products

Try to opt for the high-fat dairy such as 3.75% or homogenized milk instead of the low-fat dairy such as 0% or skim milk. It is common in low-fat labeled products that sugar is used as a substitute for fat. Without dietary fat (e.g. saturated or monounsaturated fat), the body becomes exposed to malnutrition since fats are needed to absorb crucial nutrients.

Proteins

4 calories per gram.

The Good

Protein is the most satiating macronutrient and is crucial for weight management. Proteins are the building blocks for muscle and is essential to sustain life.

The Bad

Proteins are poor fuels for energy.

Alcohol

7 calories per gram, however due to the thermic effect of food, it is actually 5.7 calories per gram.

The Good

Answers vary on the subject of intoxication.

The polyphenols in red wine have been shown to have protective effects on the cardiovascular system along with anti-cancer, antiviral and antiallergic properties.

Beer contains different but several nutrients as of wine, along with more B vitamins.

The Bad

The body will use alcohol as the primary source of fuel, putting body fat burning on hold until all of the alcohol has been metabolized.

Many alcoholic beverages contain sugar and many overindulge. Alcohol also lowers testosterone levels and is linked to cancer.

Those who are genetically predisposed to alcoholism or addiction should not consume any type of alcohol.

Calculating Your Macronutrients

The SSF macronutrient calculator below gives a daily guideline of how many calories and grams to consume on workout and rest days. Your desired daily caloric consumption should be based on your maintenance, weight gain, or weight loss goals from the BMR calculator.

Macronutrient Calculator

calories
days
Results
calories/day
calories/day
  Workout Days Rest Days
  Calories Grams Calories Grams
Carbs
Protein
Fat

Macronutrient Suggestions

Macronutrient Ratio and Portion Sizes

Why These Suggestions?

The macronutrient calculator and suggestions are designed to maximize muscle retention or development while minimizing or decreasing fat accumulation through partitioning. The calculator also averages the workout and rest day calories, where its weekly total is still the same as your desired daily caloric consumption.

Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are adjusted according to workout or rest days. Workout days require more carbohydrates and calories to fuel workouts. In contrast, since we are more sedentary on rest days, we benefit from lower carbohydrate consumption. Higher protein consumption is used on workout days to improve protein synthesis and muscle recovery. Higher protein intake is also beneficial in cutting to preserve lean mass and promote satiety.

The macronutrient ratios do not fit all athletes, however, as endurance and high-performance athletes require more carbohydrates.

Controlling Hunger

Good Nutrition

The healthiest foods are the most nutritionally dense ones and also the most satiating, which blunts hunger. Vitamin A helps maintain vision and skin growth, iron is needed for the production of red blood cells, a complete amino acid profile helps build muscle, and essential fatty acids are required for brain functioning. High quality foods sustain and promote life, as well as regulate weight management.

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are. Jean Brillat-Savarin (1755–1826)

Nutrient Density

Plant and animal sources are the densest macronutrient and micronutrient sources. When combined, both sources will fulfill the daily nutritional requirements in fewer calories.

Vegetables and fruit are abundant with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Along with vitamins and minerals, meats cover protein and fat requirements. Essential fats and oils aid with the bioavailability of crucial vitamins and minerals, such as the commonly deficient iron.

A diet rich in meats, eggs, fish, vegetables, and fruits have been known to contribute to weight loss, prevent cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, acne, and tooth decay. Many physical and mental health ailments can be prevented or alleviated.

Energy Density

Vegetables and berries are extremely low in calories. Contrary to popular belief, meats, seafood and eggs can be relatively low in energy density as well.

Did you know?
1 Cinnabon is the caloric equivalent of:
19 slices of bacon
10 large eggs
63 extra large shrimp and
1 large 12 oz steak.

While added fats and oils are very high in energy density, small amounts for cooking or flavour goes a long way.

Satiety

Protein is the most satiating source, with fiber and water also contributing to satiety. Animal (protein) and plant (fiber and water) sources reduce appetite and hunger, promoting the feeling of fullness to prevent overeating.

Poor Nutrition

Hyperpalatable and easily-consumable products that are sweet, salty, or fried are generally nutrient-poor, high in calories, and easy to overconsume. Calories and satiety are important variables for weight management.

Modern diseases such as obesity and the metabolic syndrome, along with cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer, are linked to the Western diet, which largely consists of the overconsumption of refined carbohydrates and high omega-6 seed oils. Consuming nutrient-poor food sources contribute to overeating and addictive behaviours.

While overconsuming empty calories promote malnutrition and obesity, being underweight and unhealthy is the result of malnutrition by consuming fewer calories.

Nutrient Density

Sugar, made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose, is a source of empty calories, and is particularly prevalent in junk food. Sugar is a contributing factor to diabetes, the obesity epidemic, high blood pressure, and raised triglycerides. Sugar also contributes to cancer growth. Eliminating added sugar from your diet will significantly improve your health.

Many seemingly innocuous "low-fat" products compensate with added sugar. Examples include barbecue sauces, ketchup, fruit drinks, yogurt, peanut butter, dried fruit, tomato sauce, salad dressing, gravy, seasoning mix, and granola.

Omega-6 fatty acids found in polyunsaturated seed oils are commonly consumed through fried foods and processed food. The typical ratio can be as high as 1:25 omega-3 to omega-6 in the Western diet. The ratio should be closer to 1:1 or 1:2.

Energy Density

Wheat flour is typically mixed with sugar and fat, sources high in energy density, to create baked products, which contains a massive amount of calories that can be consumed in one sitting. For example, a dish of fettuccine alfredo pasta is 1200 calories and a 12" medium cheese pizza is 1920 calories.

Sugar, fat, and salt are commonly added to improve palatability, however its function is to promote excess calories and overconsumption. A plain Belgian waffle without the butter and syrup is still 410 calories. Half a cup of unpopped popcorn without butter comes out to 260 calories. Even worse, easily consumable high-calorie beverages such as juice, sweetened coffee, pop/soda, and beer can double a day's caloric total from meals.

Did you know?
A typical fast food milkshake could contain over 1500 calories, the equivalent of 19 large eggs.

Satiety

Refined carbohydrates are low in protein, water, and fiber, the primary components of satiety. Coupled with hyperpalatability, it becomes easy to overconsume.

A glass of orange juice is very different from an orange. Orange juice has added sugar for more total calories while fiber, the pulp from the orange, has been removed. The higher fiber in an orange helps with satiety and slows the absorption of sugars instead of causing a blood sugar spike.

Did you know?
It takes 7 cups of orange juice (805 calories) to reach the same fiber content of 1 orange (71 calories).

Consider that it is more satiating to eat 6 large eggs than it is to eat 2 glazed doughnuts, even though both have the same amount of calories. It has been postulated that the body craves nutrients and would overeat until nutritional requirements are fulfilled.

Hyperpalatability

Sugar is linked to addiction and thus is given prominence as a primary ingredient in hyperpalatable foods. The combination of salt, sugar, fat, and wheat flour creates many of the most common hyperpalatable foods that we commonly call "junk food."

Hyperpalatability Diagram

Satiety and Appetite

Protein is considered to be the key to weight management as its effects on satiety are profound. Fiber and water are also important contributors to satiety. At least two of the three sources are abundant in animal and plant sources. On the other end of the spectrum, refined carbohydrates are poor for satiety and contribute to increased appetite. Satiating foods help prevent overeating.

Caffeine, tea, and spices have also been shown to blunt appetite. Other than satiety, they produce thermogenesis and fat burning benefits.

Energy Density

The more energy dense food is, the more calories it packs. Sugar and fat are high energy density sources. For example, in a medium Dairy Queen Blizzard, the total calories are equivalent to 9 large eggs. Eating 9 eggs in one sitting, which is satiating, is more difficult to finish than a medium Blizzard as a dessert.

One medium Blizzard has the same calories as 18 eggs

Beverages can be easily consumed which means calories can add up quickly. Pop/soda, beer, juice, mixed coffee, and alcoholic drinks can pack in several hundred calories.

Addiction

Another contributing factor to overeating and obesity is addiction. Hyperpalatable foods are designed to be addictive or overconsumed, echoing Pringles' slogan of "Once you pop, you can't stop." The sweet, salty, or fried properties of hyperpalatable foods target the brain's reward center, drawing parallels to drugs.

Sugar is the primary variable that links to addiction, as it releases dopamine, resembling a drug of abuse, and can potentially even surpass the effects of cocaine.

To check if you have a possible food addiction, taking the Yale food addiction scale quiz could reveal insights into your own dietary behaviours.

Further reading
Food Addiction – A Serious Problem With a Simple Solution by Kris Gunnar.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a technique where you adjust your eating schedule between two states: the fed state (the period of time during which you eat) and the fasted state (the period of time when you do not eat). This optimizes fat-burning periods when you're cutting, and minimizes fat accumulation during a bulk due to the increase in resting metabolism and utilizing body fat for fuel.

Fasting is not the same as starving. Starvation does not occur until after about three days of no caloric intake or extended periods of caloric intake lower than 1200 calories. Meal frequency has an insignificant effect on metabolism because the total number and quality of calories consumed in a day matters more. It does not cause muscle loss or negative effects on cognitive abilities or mood, which are effects of starving.

Did you know?
While you are sleeping, you are actually fasting.

Intermittent fasting has been shown to have many positive long-term effects. During the fasted state, it increases growth hormone levels, improves the cardiovascular system by reducing blood pressure, and decreases the risk of metabolic diseases, inflammatory responses, and diabetes, while also improving insulin sensitivity, which benefits the heart and brain. Fasting has also been shown to slow the rate of aging, thereby extending human longevity and health. It may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. During the fed state, the body metabolizes the necessary energy and nutrients.

You may drink water or consume extremely low-calorie beverages such as herbal tea and black coffee during the fasted state, otherwise the fasted state breaks and you enter the fed state.

Research suggests that men and women should approach intermittent fasting slightly differently. A 16-hour fast followed by an 8-hour feast is recommended for men. For women, nutritionist Stefani Ruper suggests women should "listen to their body," while Martin Berkhan of Leangains suggests limiting the fasted state to fourteen hours for women.

Diets and Supplements

Disclaimer
Diets are nutritional guidelines to help facilitate meal planning for health or fitness goals. A diet is considered successful when it is part of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Individuals are free to choose what diet works best for them whether it is for ethical or preferential reasons, or for greater dietary control.

SSF Diet

The Simple Science Fitness Diet focuses on nutrient-dense food sources based on the site’s food pyramid, list of foods, recipes, and macronutrient suggestions. It is the least restrictive of the following popular diets and arguably works just as well, if not better, due to the flexibility, variety, balance, and ease of incorporating into a sustainable lifestyle.

Contains all the benefits of the Paleo Diet while being receptive to more varieties and options for foods. Adaptable and sustainable for a modern lifestyle without compromising health.

The inclusion of meat does not conform to the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

Keto Diet

Similar to the Atkins Diet, about 95% of the total calories of a ketogenic diet comes from fat and protein sources. The remaining calories come from non-fiber carbohydrates to a maximum of 50 g per day, with almost all of these coming from low-calorie non-starchy vegetables. Due to carb restriction, the body then regulates blood sugar and will prefer utilizing body fat and ketones for energy. While this can be done daily, it is recommended to go with either a targeted ketogenic diet, where excess carbs are consumed around training, or a cyclic ketogenic diet, where one "carbs up" over the weekend.

High fat diets are nutrient-dense and excellent for satiety, weight loss, and health, as well as for keeping lean, treating obesity, and for building muscle. Studies have also shown neuroprotective benefits such as slowing aging and treating epilepsy.

Most experience "brain fog" and lethargy in the first week or two of adjustment. While in ketosis, bad breath due to acetone is a side effect. With lower muscle glycogen levels, optimal performance and strength are compromised. The diet is not meant for high-performance or endurance athletes. The temptations of carbohydrates in most environments may make the diet challenging to sustain, and some may be susceptible to overconsumption of processed meats. Long-term studies are required before consensus can be reached.

Paleo Diet

The paleo/primal diet is focused on whole foods that mirrors the diet of our ancestors and of our species' biological adaptation. Typically lower in carbohydrates, the diet consists of vegetable, fruit, egg, fish, meat, and nut sources while processed foods, grains, legumes, and to some extent, dairy, are excluded.

Focuses on whole, complete, nutrient-dense foods for optimal health. Excellent for satiety, weight loss, and for building muscle. Historical and anthropological records show that pre-agrarian hunter-gatherers have had excellent health.

The absence or limitations of legumes, grains, and dairy may be too restrictive for some.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has long been the standard diet to promote good health. Fat intake is relatively high with extra virgin olive oil being the principal ingredient. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seafood, and red wine are the staples of the diet, while saturated fat sources such as red meat and eggs are limited.

A wide variety of nutrient-dense foods, monounsaturated fats and oleocanthal from olive oil, and the flavonoids of red wine promotes longevity and good health. The Mediterranean diet has been known to treat obesity.

The diet may not be optimal for fitness performance or muscle-building goals due to reduced meat, which decreases testosterone.

The good is mostly in the absence of the bad. Ennius (239–169 BC)

USDA MyPlate

Released in 2011, it is the current dietary guideline by the US Government. The simplistic plate diagram restricts all food to vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and "protein." Fats are visibly absent.

An easy-to-follow method of food portioning.

Eliminating fat sources and emphasizing no-fat/low-fat options while allowing half of the grain sources to be refined are outdated, counterproductive and potentially dangerous. Calcium and milk recommendations are excessive and harmful in the long term while offering no additional benefits, especially since the majority of the population is lactose intolerant. The "protein" section is ambiguous. The Harvard School of Public Health proposed modest improvements in response, but still falls short of the potential nutritional variety that the 1943–1956 USDA food chart had.

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

A humane, environmentally-conscious high-carbohydrate diet. Focus is on a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. Vegetarians avoid all meat and fish, but may consume either eggs or dairy, or both. Vegans do not consume any animal sources, including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.

Vegetarian and vegan diets are low-calorie, high-fiber, and nutrient-dense. They are excellent for weight management, lowering LDL cholesterol, and lowering blood pressure.

Cons

Without proper planning, the absence or limitations of animal sources may cause nutritional deficiencies in vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, zinc and essential omega-3 fatty acids. Since vitamin B12 is only naturally found in animal sources, supplementation is necessary. When common nutritional deficiencies exist, a vegetarian diet is correlated with poor health and risks for mental disorders such as depression. Temptations of meat may make the diet challenging to sustain, especially since humans are natural omnivores throughout all cultures in history.

Other Diets

Several other diets come in similar variants as the ones discussed. Many are also worth avoiding for health reasons, especially those that involve "detoxing," cleanses," or "juicing," as these misguided fad diets are ineffective at best or damaging at worst. For instance, one popular cleanse calls for nothing but lemon water, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and tea to be consumed daily for at least 10 days. There is no sense in consuming dangerously low levels of calories isolated to only a few micronutrients while being deficient in many others. After the cleanse is over, the body will pack on calories quickly as the body is recovering from starvation mode and malnutrition, which makes the "cleanse" ironically counterproductive in every way.

Many diets are temporary rather than being part of a permanent lifestyle change.

Do You Need Supplements?

Supplementation requirements depend on your fitness goals and your diet. High-performance athletes benefit greatly from supplements. The SSF Diet is designed to cover all nutritional requirements, while other diets such as veganism would require vitamin B12 supplementation.

Nutrients through whole foods may have a synergistic effect where the combination promotes better health than taking nutrients individually through supplementation.

Regardless, when supplements are taken strategically, they can offer benefits.

Tip
Adding supplements to a poor diet doesn't work.

Suggested Supplements

Whey Protein: While most can consume enough protein from food consumption alone, whey protein is a convenient and inexpensive source of high quality protein. Protein intake is ideally spread evenly throughout meals and is crucial before and after workouts. In addition, it was found that a combination of whey and casein protein promotes the greatest increases in fat-free mass.

Vitamin D3: Individuals who do not get enough sun or live in cold climates will greatly benefit from this essential micronutrient. Vitamin D helps the heart, improves performance and recovery, increases testosterone and lowers the risk of cancer and diabetes.

Did you know?
Vitamin D is actually a hormone.

Fish Oil: Found in fish, fish oil contains the omega-3 acids of EPA and DHA, which is an anti-inflammatory that offers several benefits to the heart, brain, liver, and helps reduce anxiety and depression. In addition, fish oil helps with both weight loss and muscle building.

For Bulking

Creatine: Naturally found in the body, creatine improves lifting performance and muscular mass while on a bulk. It does not provide benefits for weight loss. Taking 5 g (1 tsp) once a day at any time, except with caffeine, is all that is needed.

For Cutting

Caffeine: A couple of cups of black coffee helps improve performance while blunting appetite and providing a small thermogenesis benefit.

Where to Buy Supplements

Recommended quality supplements at good prices can be purchased from our affiliated links:

Meal Planning

Why Cook?

Cooking is mandatory for a healthy lifestyle. Low quality fast food and pre-cooked packages have replaced the time, effort, and skill required for cooking. Even though going to a restaurant requires time and effort, the trade-off for grocery shopping, preparation, and cooking is that your diet, wallet, and health will buy you additional years of enjoyable living.

Pound for pound, buying food in bulk from places such as Costco and Trader Joe's is significantly cheaper than fast food in the long run. Not only is cooking a useful and gratifying skill, you can also make leftovers to save time. Refer to the recipes list for various cooking ideas.

Food tastes so much better after exertion. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile

Your Kitchen

By creating your own meals, most of your fresh foods and leftovers will be stocked in the fridge and freezer, with less stored in the pantry. The kitchen items you would use the most are:

To save time, a rice cooker, slow cooker, and blender are useful kitchen appliances. A food scale is an excellent tool for measuring out portion sizes and calories.

On a Budget

Buying and cooking whole foods could be cheaper than McDonald's. Here are some tips:

  • Shop: No Frills, Costco, Trader Joe's, ethnic markets. Cost per gram is lower when food is purchased at higher volume.
  • Garden: Planting herbs, spices, vegetables, berries, and fruits can return amazing yields.
  • Spices: Refill reusable spice containers with spices from bulk (i.e. Bulk Barn).
  • Animals: Large, whole packages of cuts that are inexpensive in your region. Choices include organ meat, game meat, beef, pork, poultry, or fish. Cut into portions and freeze in bags or containers. Initially expensive, but covers over many meals.
  • Vegetables: Frozen vegetables, in-season vegetables.
  • Fruit: Frozen berries, in-season fruit.
  • Carbohydrates: Potatoes, long-grain rice.
  • Protein: Eggs, whey protein.
  • Fats: Eggs, extra virgin olive oil, butter, ghee, coconut oil.

Combining Foods

The Power of Spices

Most sauces and dressings are high in energy dense sugar and seed oils. To substitute, the palatability of meals can be improved with low-calorie antioxidant-rich spices and herbs, salt, lemon/lime juice, and vinegar. For instance, adding a little bit of paprika and salt to cooked broccoli significantly transforms how it tastes. When used in small amounts, good fats such as coconut oil, butter, and extra virgin olive oil also improve palatability.

Western dishes commonly consist of salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, and parsley.

For Eastern dishes, go with turmeric, curry, ginger, coriander, cardamom, cloves, anise, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

For a spicy dish, add cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, and red pepper flakes.

Improving Palatability and Health

Food combinations can make a difference for better or worse. A potato contains a long list of beneficial micronutrients, yet it is bland to eat by itself. It is high in carbohydrates and satiating. In contrast, butter is not satiating on its own, and it is energy dense. However, adding butter to a potato improves the palatability along with additional health benefits: butter contains various additional micronutrients, helps with the bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and the fat lowers the potato's high glycemic index. Adding a bit of sea salt and vinegar further improves both the palatability and health benefits.

Iron and Calcium Don't Mix

Try not to consume foods that are high in iron and calcium in the same meal. If you have red meat or spinach with a glass of milk, you will miss out on iron absorption. The calcium in milk inhibits the absorption of iron and zinc.

The Dose Makes the Poison

Sticking to one food group means consuming too much of one thing and not enough of another. Variety allows a wide range of essential micronutrients the body requires without approaching levels of toxicity.

When to Eat

When you eat or whether or not you have breakfast is not as important as what you eat and how much you eat in a day. The body is efficient with partitioning and storing energy and nutrients, so it is fine to eat three meals or six meals a day as long as you meet the day's total caloric requirement. However, nutrition timing is more important around a workout.

Bacon and egg frittata

Portion Sizes

Measuring portion sizes are not necessarily required in a diet high in animal and plant sources since they are satiating. However, if performance or weight goals are not being met, measuring portions with a food scale and tracking calories in proper macronutrient ratios are recommended.

The Egg Standard

The SSF Egg Standard is a method of portion control, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Eggs are one of the most nutritious food sources on the planet and makes a good benchmark. There are 80 calories in one large egg. If you had dinner with "room for dessert," find out how many calories are in the dessert you are considering. For example, a slice of cheesecake is about 260 calories. The Egg Standard determines the cheesecake is the caloric equivalent of just over three eggs. If the thought of eating three eggs is too filling, then you do not actually have room for cheesecake. Apply the Egg Standard to any kind of meal or drink to help regulate your food choices and to help determine what choices may be healthy or unhealthy.

Here is a table of some examples to refer to:

Food/Drink Calories Large Eggs
12 potato chips 160 2
1/2 cup ice cream 145 ~2
1 chocolate bar 320 4
1 large mixed coffee drink 360 4.5
1 pint of beer 200 2.5
1 croissant 230 ~3

Counting Calories

Unless you have specific physical and performance goals, counting calories are not required if protein intake is high enough. For the purposes of losing or gaining weight, tracking calories is recommended, especially for beginners. Many over- or underestimate the number of calories they consume daily. Counting calories is a valuable way to understand the energy density of various types of foods.

Recommended calorie trackers

Cheat Meals

Cheat meals and occasional indulgences are encouraged. It reduces the chances of long term failure and serves positive psychological benefits since it is a break from structure and satisfies cravings. On the other hand, undesirable mental and physical side-effects may follow the short-term pleasure.

As long as you are mindful of your caloric intake and of any potential addictive behaviours, have anything you want for a cheat meal.

Making Meals

SSF Make-A-Meal

Cooking can be a dauting task for most people, especially when making healthy meals. Fortunately, there is an easy way to create a wide variety of soup, stew, or stir-fry dishes using only four components:

  1. The Base
  2. The Meat
  3. The Stock
  4. The Bulk

All components are cooked on the stove using pots and pans, first separately, then combined together. The preparation and cooking time takes about as long as a sit-down restaurant round trip.

The Base

Select three or four of the following aromatic bases and chop into small, uniform pieces. Cook at low for 30 minutes (recommended) or at medium temperature for 10–15 minutes. Cook with an oil or fat, stirring occasionally. The vegetables are finished when they appear soft and "sweaty."

  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Bell Peppers
  • Chili Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Lemongrass

The Meat

While you are cooking your base, pick one (recommended) or two types of meat. Cut into pieces if required. Slather in salt, plus any appropriate herbs, spices, and seasonings. Cook separately with an oil or fat at medium heat until the meat is browned and properly cooked in the center.

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Fish
  • Pork
  • Shellfish
  • Venison

The Stock

Next, pick one liquid stock. Use more if you are making a soup.

  • Water
  • Chicken/Beef/Vegetable Broth
  • Milk
  • Wine
  • Beer

The Bulk

Lastly, mix the base, meat, and stock with one (recommended) or two of the following starches. Cook covered at simmering temperature for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • Chopped Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Rice (1 cup = 2 cups of liquid stock)
  • Quinoa (1 cup = 2 cups of liquid stock)
  • Pasta (cook separately in a pot)

Feel free to add in additional vegetables if you desire.

Example 1
Base: onion, carrots, celery.
Meat: chicken breast.
Stock: chicken broth.
Bulk: rice.
Result: chicken soup.

Example 2
Base: onion, bell peppers, celery.
Meat: pork sausage and shrimp.
Stock: water.
Bulk: rice.
Result: jambalaya.

Example 3
Base: onion, carrots, tomatoes, garlic.
Meat: lamb.
Stock: water.
Bulk: potatoes and beans.
Result: lamb stew.

Recipes

Dishes

  • 12 Days of Beef
    12 Days of Beef

    800 calories, 15 g carbs, 55 g fat, 65 g protein (per day)

    Ingredients

    • 12 packed ground beef patties
    • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 chopped whole carrot
    • 1/2 cups brussels sprouts or sliced zucchini
    • 1 cup spinach

    Directions

    1. Season all 12 ground beef patties with salt and pepper then bake at 350°F for 40 minutes.
    2. Refrigerate the patties you will consume within days. Store excess beef patties in containers then freeze. Thaw when ready to use.
    3. For each meal, add olive oil and spices to vegetables. Optionally add in a slice of cheese to the beef patty.
    4. Microwave for 4 minutes.
  • 12 Days of Chicken
    12 Days of Chicken

    810 calories, 15 g carbs, 45 g fat, 90 g protein (per day)

    Ingredients

    • 3 whole rotisserie chickens
    • 1 tbsp coconut oil
    • 1 chopped whole carrot
    • 1 cup broccoli
    • 1 cup spinach

    Directions

    1. Each whole chicken should cover four meals. Tear apart three whole chickens into three containers.
    2. Refrigerate one container and use within days. Freeze the other two containers and thaw when ready to use.
    3. For each meal, add coconut oil and spices to vegetables. Optionally add in rice.
    4. Microwave for 4 minutes.
  • Jambalaya
    Jambalaya

    2160 calories, 190 g carbs, 90 g fat, 135 g protein (4 meals)

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 3 smoked sausages, sliced, or pork
    • 2 tsp paprika
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1/4 tsp pepper
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 small diced onion
    • 2 diced tomatoes
    • 1 diced bell pepper
    • 1 cup diced celery stalks
    • 1 cup diced carrots
    • 1 cup rice
    • 2 cups water or broth
    • 1 lb shrimp

    Directions

    1. Melt butter in large pan. Cook on medium heat onion, celery, carrot, and bell pepper for 15 minutes.
    2. Add sausages and cook for 5 minutes.
    3. Add all spices and cook for 1 minute.
    4. Add tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes.
    5. Add the rice and water/broth and bring to a boil.
    6. Bring heat to low and cover. Cook for 30 minutes.
    7. Add shrimp and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Salmon with Indian Spices
    Salmon with Indian Spices

    500 calories, 5 g carbs, 30 g fat, 45 g protein (1 meal)

    Ingredients

    • 1 tbsp coconut oil
    • 1 salmon fillet
    • 1/4 tsp pepper
    • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
    • 1/8 tsp cumin
    • 1/8 tsp ginger
    • 1/8 tsp coriander
    • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1 tbsp lemon/lime juice

    Directions

    1. Spread all ingredients on the salmon. Bake with vegetables at 400°F for 20 minutes.
    2. Serve with rice or your choice of side.
  • Bacon Frittatas
    Bacon Frittatas

    1500 calories, 10 g carbs, 110 g fat, 115 g protein (3 meals)

    Ingredients

    • 12 slices of bacon
    • 8 eggs
    • 5 tbsp chopped spinach
    • 5 tbsp diced red pepper or tomatoes
    • 3 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp pepper

    Directions

    1. Bake bacon on baking sheet for 11 minutes at 350°F. Mix the rest of the ingredients on a pan and cook until the eggs are partially cooked.
    2. Form bacon into rings and add the partially cooked egg mixture. Bake for another 20 minutes.
  • Ground Beef Stuffed Bell Pepper
    Ground Beef Stuffed Bell Pepper

    1950 calories, 120 g carbs, 105 g fat, 130 g protein (4 meals)

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 bell peppers
    • 500 g ground beef
    • 1 cup cooked rice
    • 2 tsp paprika
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp pepper
    • 1 small can of tomato paste

    Directions

    1. Slice bell pepper in half, coat both halves in olive oil, and bake at 400°F for 30 minutes.
    2. Add olive oil on a pan at medium heat and cook ground beef with spices and tomato paste until browned.
    3. Mix the meat with rice and stuff into each bell pepper.

Slow Cooker

  • Beef Stew
    Beef Stew

    1980 calories, 175 g carbs, 72 g fat, 160 g protein (4 meals)

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 500 g beef stew cutlets
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/4 tsp onion powder
    • 1/4 tsp paprika
    • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 tsp oregano
    • 1/2 tsp thyme
    • 1/4 tsp basil
    • 4 c beef broth
    • 2 tbsp tomato paste
    • 4 potatoes
    • 2 cups diced carrots
    • 1 cup diced celery
    • 1 tbsp parsley

    Directions

    1. Sear the meat on medium-high, 2 minutes per side.
    2. Add all ingredients in the list except for vegetables and parsley into a slow cooker. Set to cook on high for 8 hours.
    3. After 1 hour, add in potatoes, carrots and celery for the remaining 7 hours. Add in parsley when complete.
  • Beef and Stewed Cabbage
    Beef and Stewed Cabbage

    3450 calories, 200 g carbs, 180 g fat, 270 g protein (6 meals)

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 1kg ground beef
    • 1 head shredded cabbage
    • 3 whole chopped carrots
    • 1 minced onion
    • 1 tbsp minced garlic
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • 2 tsp chili powder
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp curry powder
    • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
    • 1/2 tsp ginger
    • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 3 cans tomato paste

    Directions

    1. Add all ingredients into a slow cooker. Set to cook on high for 6 hours.
  • Tomato Chicken
    Tomato Chicken

    1875 calories, 65 g carbs, 80 g fat, 225 g protein (4 meals)

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 1kg chicken thighs or chicken breast
    • 1 cup chopped celery
    • 1 cup chopped carrots
    • 1 tbsp salt
    • 1 tbsp pepper
    • 2 tsp onion powder
    • 1 small can of tomato paste
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice
    • 2 tsp minced garlic
    • 1 diced avocado
    • 1/4 cup parsley or cilantro

    Directions

    1. Place vegetables at the bottom of the slow cooker. Layer with chicken then season with salt and pepper.
    2. Mix the sauce, spices, and juice then pour over the chicken.
    3. Cook at low for 8 hours or at high for 4 hours.
    4. Add parsley when complete.

Soups

  • Chunky Chicken Soup
    Chunky Chicken Soup

    1520 calories, 175 g carbs, 40 g fat, 120 g protein (4 meals)

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 2 chicken breasts
    • 1 shallot or onion
    • 1 cup diced carrots
    • 5 diced celery stalks
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 3 c water
    • 4 c chicken broth
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 cup rice
    • 2 tbsp parsley or cilantro

    Directions

    1. Boil water in a large pot then reduce to low. Add garlic powder, onion powder and onion. Poach chicken breasts for 15 minutes.
    2. Pour hot water into a cup for now and discard the shallot. Melt butter into pot and add salt, pepper, lemon juice and vegetables.
    3. Add hot water and chicken broth into pot. Bring to a boil and add rice. Reduce to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
    4. Dice and add the cooked chicken breasts and parsley/cilantro.
  • Meatball Tomato Soup
    Meatball Tomato Soup

    3335 calories, 40 g carbs, 230 g fat, 260 g protein (6 meals)

    Ingredients

    • Cooked meatballs (see Sides for recipe)
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 chopped shallot or small onion
    • 1 clove minced garlic
    • 6 chopped tomatoes
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/4 cup cream or whole milk
    • 1 tbsp thyme
    • 1 tbsp butter
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp pepper
    • 1 tbsp chives
    • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese

    Directions

    1. Heat olive oil at medium heat in a pot. Add shallot, garlic, tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
    2. Add water and thyme. Cook for 25 minutes.
    3. Dump into a food processor and puree. Strain.
    4. Add in cooked meatballs, cream/milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Garnish with chives and Parmesan cheese.

Sides

  • Scrambled Eggs
    Scrambled Eggs

    580 calories, 2 g carbs, 45 g fat, 42 g protein (2–3 sides)

    Ingredients

    • 6 eggs
    • 1 tbsp butter

    Directions

    1. Melt butter at high heat then crack eggs into pan.
    2. Mix and scrape repeatedly with a spatula until cooked, 2–3 minutes.
    3. Optionally add spices such as salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, minced garlic, or oregano.
  • Mashed Potatoes
    Mashed Potatoes

    920 calories, 115 g carbs, 40 g fat, 30 g protein (3–4 sides)

    Ingredients

    • 3 potatoes
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 1 tbsp sea salt
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 3 cloves minced garlic
    • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
    • 1 tbsp chives

    Directions

    1. Dice potatoes. Add potatoes and a pinch of salt to boiling water for 15 minutes.
    2. Heat the milk, butter, and Parmesan. Drain the potatoes. Mash everything.
  • Baked Greens
    Baked Greens

    540 calories, 12 g carbs, 55 g fat, 5 g protein (2–4 sides)

    Ingredients

    • 2 cups of broccoli or brussels sprouts
    • 4 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp pepper
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice or balsamic vinegar

    Directions

    1. Mix ingredients and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.
  • Italian Meatballs
    Italian Meatballs

    2885 calories, 5 g carbs, 200 g fat, 250 g protein (8–10 sides)

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 kg ground beef
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/8 tsp basil
    • 1/8 tsp oregano
    • 1/8 tsp rosemary
    • 1/8 tsp cilantro
    • 1/8 tsp thyme
    • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
    • 2 tsp parsley
    • 2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp pepper
    • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

    Directions

    1. Heat olive oil on a pan at medium. Mix the rest of the ingredients and form into balls.
    2. Turn meatballs over every few minutes until cooked all the way through.
  • Egg Pancakes
    Egg Pancakes

    380 calories, 30 g carbs, 25 g fat, 15 g protein (2 sides)

    Ingredients

    • 1 tbsp coconut oil
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 banana
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

    Directions

    1. Separate the yolk and whisk the egg whites.
    2. Mash the yolk with the banana and vanilla.
    3. Fold the whites into the mixture and fry in coconut oil.
  • Delicious Rice
    Delicious Rice

    910 calories, 150 g carbs, 30 g fat, 15 g protein (4–6 sides)

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp of coconut oil or butter
    • 1 cup basmati or Jasmine rice
    • 2 cups of water or coconut milk or broth

    Directions

    1. Put all ingredients together in a rice cooker.

Smoothies

  • Bulker's Shake
    Bulker's Shake

    1050 calories, 95 g carbs, 55 g fat, 65 g protein (1 shake)

    Ingredients

    • 2 scoops whey protein
    • 2 cups kale or spinach
    • 2 tbsp of almond butter
    • 2 tbsp of coconut oil
    • 2 tbsp lemon/lime juice
    • 1 frozen banana
    • 1 cup berries
    • 1/4 cup oats
    • 2 cups water

    Directions

    1. Mix all ingredients in a blender.
  • Cutter's Shake
    Cutter's Shake

    550 calories, 50 g carbs, 30 g fat, 30 g protein (1 shake)

    Ingredients

    • 1 scoop whey protein
    • 2 cups kale or spinach
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 tbsp of coconut oil or almond butter
    • 2 tbsp lemon/lime juice
    • 1 sliced frozen banana
    • 1/2 cups berries

    Directions

    1. Mix all ingredients in a blender.

Condiments and Seasonings

  • Taco Seasoning
    Taco Seasoning

    380 calories, 70 g carbs, 15 g fat, 15 g protein

    Ingredients

    • 8 tbsp chili powder
    • 4 tbsp onion powder
    • 2 tbsp cumin
    • 1 tbsp garlic powder
    • 1 tbsp paprika
    • 1 tbsp sea salt

    Directions

    1. Mix all ingredients. Store in airtight container.
  • Marinara Sauce
    Marinara Sauce

    390 calories, 30 g carbs, 30 g fat, 6 g protein

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 3 c Roma tomatoes, crushed
    • 1/4 cup minced onion or shallot
    • 2 tsp minced garlic
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp pepper
    • 1 tsp parsley
    • 1/4 tsp oregano
    • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
    • 2 tbsp basil

    Directions

    1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
    2. Sauté onions for 1 1/2 minutes then add garlic, salt, parsley, oregano and red pepper flakes for another 30 seconds.
    3. Add tomatoes, pepper and basil. Reduce to medium-low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.

Dessert

  • Strawberry Ice Cream
    Strawberry Ice Cream

    340 calories, 40 g carbs, 20 g fat, 3 g protein (1–2 desserts)

    Ingredients

    • 1 frozen sliced banana
    • 6-8 frozen strawberries
    • 2 tbsp coconut milk
    • 1 tbsp coconut oil
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

    Directions

    1. Mix all ingredients in a food processor or blender.
  • Hot Chocolate
    Hot Chocolate

    143 calories, 22 g carbs, 5 g fat, 5 g protein (1–2 drinks)

    Ingredients

    • 1.5 cups boiling water
    • 0.5 cup whole milk
    • 1 tbsp cocoa
    • 1 tbsp sugar

    Directions

    1. With cocoa and sugar in a mug, pour in hot water. Stir.
    2. Add in milk. Stir again.

Note
More recipes can be found in the e-book.

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Exercise

Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states. Carol Welch

Nutritional Guidelines

Nutrition Timing

  • Generally, what you eat matters more than when you eat.
  • It is optimal to consume sufficient carbohydrates and protein before and after a workout. Ideally, pre- and post-exercise meals should not be separated by more than 3–4 hours from each other. One scenario could be consuming a meal 2 hours before your workout, exercise for an hour, then consume another meal 1 hour later.
  • Consuming both protein and carbohydrates after a workout increases insulin levels, muscle glycogen, protein synthesis, and growth hormone. Protein synthesis is greater in a pre-workout meal/shake than it is post-workout.
  • For a pre- or post-workout shake, you may consume whey protein in water with a high glycemic-index carbohydrate source such as a banana, maltodextrin, or dextrose. The high GI source quickly raises insulin levels for optimal protein intake.
  • Your meal after your workout should also be your largest and highest in carbohydrates to replenish muscle glycogen levels.

Hydration

If your urine is relatively clear, you're fully hydrated. As a guideline, 3.7L/day (15 cups) for men, and 2.7L/day (11 cups) for women meets general requirements. Increased water intake would be necessary on hot days and during exercise. Do drink sufficient water in the morning, as well as before, during, and after exercise.

Carbohydrate Intake

Consuming more carbohydrates on workout days than on rest days is suggested to replenish muscle glycogen. When you alternate higher and lower carbohydrate intake on different days, it is called carb cycling or carb backloading.

Protein Intake

Muscle retention and growth requires a daily consumption of 0.59–0.82g/lbs (1.3–1.8g/kg) of protein per body weight per day. If cutting, increasing to 0.82–0.91g/lbs (1.8–2.0g/kg) per body weight is ideal.

If you are at a very low body fat and cutting, a higher protein intake of 1.04–1.41g/lbs (2.3–3.1g/kg) per fat free mass is recommended.

Example
At 200 lbs of body weight, 0.82 grams of protein per pound would come out to 164 grams of protein (200 * 0.82 = 164).

Bulking Tips

Combining starchy carb sources such as rice and potatoes with added fats like coconut oil and butter are easy ways to add extra calories. High-fat dairy including cheese, cream, and whole milk can be quickly consumed.

Cutting Tips

At a caloric deficit, it becomes more important to keep meals nutrient dense, which means a stricter diet. Fortunately, there are many ways of keeping satiated by increasing filling low-calorie sources such as vegetables, berries, water, tea, black coffee, and spices. Increasing the protein ratio will improve satiety. Intermittent fasting is also a useful tool for cutting.

Specialized Athletes

Powerlifters

The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends 22–36 calories/lbs/day (50–80 calories/kg/day). Their suggested daily macronutrient breakdowns are 0.68–0.91g/lbs (1.5–2.0g/kg) per body weight for protein, 2.3–3.6g/lbs (5–8g/kg) per body weight for carbohydrates, and 30% of total calories for fat.

Endurance Athletes

The average endurance athlete should consume 500–600 g of carbohydrates per day to replenish muscle glycogen levels.

Seeing Results

Progressive Overload Principle

Progressive overloading pushes the body to break plateaus. Lifting heavy weights causes microtears to the muscle fibers. Sufficient quality food, sleep, and recovery time are necessary to rebuild and create more muscle. The ability to lift heavier weights or do more repetitions becomes possible with increased muscle mass.

In order to progress in strength, hypertrophy, or endurance, you must increase your weights, reps, sets, volume, or intensity over time.

Example 1
You performed an exercise at 20 lbs for 8 reps one week then 20 lbs for 12 reps the next week. Since you reached a personal maximum of 12 reps, you are able to increase your weight to 22.5 or 25 lbs in the following week.

Example 2
You performed an exercise at 20 lbs for 12 reps one week then 25 lbs for 6 reps the next week. Since the weight had been increased, the target goal is 12 reps with 25 lbs in the following week(s).

Progressive Overload Principle

Diet

While anaerobic exercise stimulates the growth of muscle and accelerates calorie burning, a proper diet regimen is primarily the reason why muscles are able to grow and abs are able to appear.

Weekly Expectations

With a strict diet and training regimen without drugs or surgery, one can build up to 0.5 lbs of muscle per week or burn 2 lbs of fat per week. On a 500 calorie deficit per day with a good diet, you can burn 1 lb of fat in a week (7 days x 500 calories = 3500 calories = 1 lb of fat) plus an additional 1 lb of fat through exercise and metabolic processes. While this may be long or discouraging to some, the results can be substantial: In three months, one could build almost 6.5 lbs of lean muscle mass or burn 26 lbs of fat, respectively. With consistency and application of the progressive overload principle, results follow.

Tracking Progress

Tracking your fitness progress by writing down your exercise results, or using an app such as Strong will allow you to make measurable progress on a weekly basis.

Exercise Frequency

It is recommended to exercise at vigorous intensity at least three times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes, or exercise at moderate intensity at least five times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Did you know?
Three one-hour workouts in a week is only 1.8% of our time.

Warm-Up and Cool Down

To reduce the risk of injuries, warming up the body with several minutes of cardio such as jump rope or dynamic stretching (mimicking the exercise(s) you will perform) is necessary before performing heavy weights. After your workout, a cool down of light cardio and static stretching (extending and holding stretched muscles) is recommended.

Flexibility

Gaining muscle does not mean you lose flexibility. Performing static stretches allow you to maintain and increase flexibility. Static stretches are not recommended right before a workout since it pre-fatigues the muscles, which would hinder performance. Do stretch after a workout.

Form and Technique

Proper and controlled form is more important than how heavy you can lift. Never sacrifice form for heavier weights or you are at risk for injury. If good form becomes difficult, deload the weights until you are stronger. The concentric movement (going against gravity) should be explosive (but it will appear slower with a heavy enough weight), and the eccentric movement (going with gravity) should be slower. For power, aim for fast explosive movements, and for hypertrophy, aim for slower eccentric movements.

Note
If you have limited lifting experience, it is advisable to meet with a personal trainer to learn proper form and technique.

General guidelines for good form while performing a lift:

  1. Always keep your core (abs and back) tight and flexed.
  2. Always keep your butt out and not have your lower back arching inwards.
  3. Your knees and elbows should be slightly bent (not locked).
  4. If lifting a barbell above your waist, keep your forearms and wrist straight and perpendicular to the floor.
  5. Each lift should be performed with a full range of motion, but never hyperextended.
  6. Do not swing or rely on momentum to perform a lift.

Motivation

For some, exercising may feel like a chore. It is important to view exercise as an enjoyable experience and part of your goals for mental health, confidence, appearance, performance, and overall well-being. Once you are consistent for three months, it becomes part of your routine and lifestyle. If you miss a day, don't worry much about it, as long you're able to be as consistent as possible.

Results make a great motivator. Methods such as taking before-and-after photos, recording body measurements, tracking weight changes, and monitoring strength improvements allow you to see observable results.

A healthy environment and strong support systems are imperative for continued progress. Having a workout partner is not only motivational, but also keeps each other accountable with some friendly competition.

The struggle to get off my ass and work out is nothing compared to the struggle I have with myself if I don't do it. Joe Rogan

Strength Standards

The weight you're able to lift at relative to your body weight will determine whether you are a beginner, novice, intermediate, advanced, or elite lifter. The strength standards calculator below can calculate your one-repetition maximum (1RM), how many times your own body weight (BW) you can lift, and approximate strength levels for squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press:

Strength Standards Calculator

with
reps
Results

Maximum Muscular Potential

Beginner lifters will see the greatest muscular gains while experienced lifters will see the least over the span of a few years of consistent, progressive lifting. This is because of diminishing returns as the human body approaches their muscular genetic limit. This limit can be overridden with drugs, which is not advisable.

How does one control weight? By not overeating. How does one stay in shape? One plays sports. There are no magic pills here. Vladimir Putin

Goals

Why Exercise?

Exercise has numerous mental and physical benefits including:

  1. Improved sleep.
  2. Reduces tiredness which can increase mental alertness.
  3. Releases the fat-burning hormone irisin.
  4. Increased interest in sex due to higher testosterone.
  5. Improved sexual ability and mobility.
  6. Improved physical attractiveness.
  7. Increased energy, stamina, strength, and endurance.
  8. Helps lower stress, anxiety, and depression by increasing dopamine and serotonin levels.
  9. Increased tolerance to cortisol, a stress hormone.
  10. Strengthens the immune system.
  11. Weight reduction and management.
  12. Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular health.
  13. Slows down biological aging.

Exercise clearly improves well-being and the quality of life, the preservation of youth, reducing the risk of morbidity and mortality, and providing improvements in performance, balance, and mobility, which all contributes to confidence.

Beginners

With your physician's clearance, before progressing to weight training or moderate to vigorous cardio, start with core bodyweight exercises and light to moderate cardio until your body can adapt to the neurological and physiological changes. Beginner bodyweight exercises include bodyweight squats, push-ups, planks, bridges, and assisted chin-ups. Light to moderate cardio includes incline walking, stairs, and jogging.

It's Never Too Late

No matter your age, you start at your unique physical baseline and you can make tremendous improvements within weeks and months.

Did you know?
Ernestine Shepherd of Baltimore, Maryland, started training at age 71 and became a competitive bodybuilder at 75.

Further reading
For more examples of inspiring individuals on their fitness journeys and transformations, check out /r/progresspics.

Will Women Get Big and Bulky From Lifting?

Women are extremely unlikely to get big and bulky from lifting weights because they produce very little testosterone, which is an important hormone for muscle growth. Conversely, women are more likely to slim down because lifting weights is excellent for burning fat and giving the coveted "toned" appearance. Elite natural lifters such as Jennifer Nicole Lee, Jamie Eason, and Marzia Prince are thin, lean, and "toned."

The lean yet big and bulky women use steroids.

Further reading
1200 Calories by Sophieologie, and Women and the Myth of Bulking Up by PJ Glassey, CSCS.

We don’t have to wait for a magic potion. We already have a proven treatment that profoundly protects our health: exercise. Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff

Fitness Goals

There are many ways to improve your health and fitness. Choose a lifestyle or goal that you can enjoy and stick with at a comfortable level.

Here are some fitness-specific goals:

  • Health: Both anaerobic and aerobic training; circuit training.
  • Sports: Basketball, football, rugby, volleyball, etc.
  • Power: Olympic lifting, sprinting, and plyometrics.
  • Strength: Heavy weight training.
  • Aesthetics: Hypertrophy-specific training.
  • Endurance: Cardiorespiratory training, interval training.
  • Flexibility: Stretches, yoga, pilates.
  • Mind-Body and Balance: Yoga, Tai Chi.

The reason I exercise is for the quality of life I enjoy. Kenneth H. Cooper

Physical Goals

The number of sets and repetitions relative to weight resistance will give you different results and physiques.

Power Lifting Bodybuilding (Strength) Bodybuilding (Aesthetics) Cardiovascular
Strength Myofibrillar Hypertrophy Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy Endurance
1–5 reps 4–8 reps 8–15 reps 15+ reps
3–5 sets 3–4 sets 4–5 sets 2–4 sets
2–5' rest 1–3' rest 0.5–1.5' rest 0.5–1.5' rest
Note: The ' marker denotes time in minutes.

Your Desired Physique

Your body shape is largely influenced by how much muscle mass you have. For your desirable body shape, look no further than examples of elite athletes in their respective fields of powerlifting, weight lifting, and endurance to see how exercise affects lean mass:

Toning

"Toning" is simply the result from building muscle and reducing body fat.

Six Pack Abs

Six pack abs are visible within the 10% body fat range (20% for women) and more prominent at lower percentages. A stricter calorie deficit diet will allow you to go at a lower body fat. How much abdominal muscles protrude is partially determined by genetics and partially determined by muscularity.

Types of Training

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic

Anaerobic exercises include weight lifting (barbells, kettlebells, bodyweight resistance, etc.), sprinting, high intensity interval training and plyometrics, while aerobic exercises include running, biking, and swimming.

While aerobic exercises are excellent for endurance and oxygen consumption (VO2 max), it is not as efficient or effective as weight training and other anaerobic activities for burning fat or for building muscle. For instance, relative to the time and workload they put in, the physiques of Olympic athletes may be observed. Sprinters appear leaner and more built than marathon runners despite investing less time in exercising.

Regardless, cardiovascular exercise alongside anaerobic exercise on alternating days is recommended since the combination improves both muscular endurance and heart health.

Comparing anerobic and endurance Olympians

Anaerobic Training

Weight Training

While all kinds of physical activity provide health benefits, weight training is one of the most effective ways of increasing metabolism for fat loss while strengthening your muscles and bones to protect your joints, and decreasing the risk of disease and injury.

In addition to bodyweight exercises, weight training uses – but is not limited to – these types of equipment:

Olympic Weightlifting

Other than the Big Six Lifts, Olympic lifts such as the power clean and jerk, and the snatch are fantastic full body exercises, although it requires practice and proper technique to perform correctly.

Gymnastics and Bodyweight Training

As an alternative or supplement to weight training, bodyweight (calisthenic) exercises may be performed.

Tip
Many bodyweight exercises do not require a gym. Exercises can be performed with little to no equipment.

Bodyweight exercises without equipment include push-ups, handstand push-ups, pistol squats, and planks. With gymnastic rings, simple to advanced chin-ups, rows, push-ups, and dips can be performed. The difficulty level of each exercise can be modified by using leverage.

Further reading
/r/bodyweightfitness has tons of resources on bodyweight fitness.

Sprints, HIIT, and Plyometrics

Sprints, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and plyometrics are anaerobic activities similar to weight training, except it strongly relies on performance goals such as speed, agility, power, and coordination, as well as improving VO2 max and cardiovascular health.

Since they are high intensity workouts, it is not recommended to be performed on the same day as weight training due to the risk of overtraining. It is entirely optional to do on rest days if your body is adapted to the higher levels of training, such as being proficient with the Big Six Lifts. If you wish to incorporate sprinting with weight training, look into short intensity interval training such as Tabata (20 seconds of intense training followed by 10 seconds of rest, non-stop, for 4 minutes), or simply do a single 30-second sprint once a week.

Did you know?
You could have an intense workout in only 4 minutes by doing burpees with the Tabata Method.

Aerobic Training

Cardiorespiratory training is an excellent way to keep your heart healthy and to stay in shape, but sometimes poses challenges in preserving muscle mass since chronic activity increases cortisol levels, which burns muscle tissue. If you decide to combine cardio with weight training on consecutive days, make sure you get enough food and sleep, or you may risk overtraining.

Did you know?
Low intensity steady state cardio (LISS) such as inclined walking on the treadmill is a good way to burn excess calories while preserving muscle mass on a cut because lower intensity training targets a greater percentage of the body's fat stores for fuel.

While beginners should only do light to moderate cardio until they adapt to the neurological and physical demands, greater cardioprotective benefits of exercise are attained from moderate to vigorous cardio.

Individual

Common individual cardiorespiratory exercises include:

  • Dancing
  • Elliptical
  • Jump rope
  • Running
  • Steps
  • Stationary Bike
  • Treadmill
  • Walking
  • Wall Climbing

Group

Another popular type of fitness activities are group classes. Examples are:

  • Boot Camp
  • Dance
  • Martial Arts
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi
  • Spinning
  • Yoga
  • Zumba

Sports

Sports are one of the more fun and engaging activities that may also include anaerobic requirements. Here are some examples:

  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Boxing
  • Cricket
  • Cycling
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Rugby
  • Soccer
  • Swimming
  • Skateboarding
  • Skiing/Snowboarding
  • Surfing
  • Tennis
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Volleyball
  • Wrestling

Lifting Program

Attire

T-shirts, shorts, and athletic wear are suitable attire to wear for training. Many enjoy listening to songs with portable music players. For footwear while doing heavy weights, flat-bottomed shoes such as the Converse Chuck Taylor and Vibram Fivefingers are recommended. Some go barefoot while working out at home. The Vibram Fivefingers are also useful for running.

Gym Memberships

Gym memberships are useful to access equipment that you do not have at home. It can be motivating to work out with other people, and it is also low-cost in the short term.

Personal Trainers

If you are an absolute beginner, or unsure how to do proper form and technique for injury prevention, or would like to have guidance and motivation, working with a personal trainer is a worthwhile investment.

Home Gym

If you are comfortable working out alone, a home gym is a very convenient and good long-term financial investment. The recommendations below are all that are necessary to build an effective quality home gym where you can perform many exercises, including the Big Six Lifts.

Note
Proper form in performing weight training movements is required to avoid injury. If you have no prior experience, consultation with a personal trainer is advisable.

Compound Lifts

Since compound exercises work on more than one muscle group while strengthening the core (abs and back), they are outstanding full body exercises, used by beginners all the way to the elite. Excellent for both fat burning and muscle building, compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts work virtually the entire body with greater intensity than accessory or isolation exercises like the bicep curl.

The Big Six Movements

Humans are bipedal species that use six primary, functional movements, as follows:

  1. Vertical push (legs): Knee dominant movements such as squatting and jumping.
  2. Vertical pull: (legs): Hip dominant movements such as the lifting of objects from the ground.
  3. Vertical push (arms): Overhead lifting.
  4. Vertical pull (arms): The pulling up of the body, such as climbing.
  5. Horizontal push: Pushing outwards from the chest, perpendicular to the head.
  6. Horizontal pull: Pulling inwards to the chest, perpendicular to the head.

The Big Six Lifts

The Big Six Lifts incorporates the most important fundamental movements into compound exercises. Combined, these exercises work the entire body. They are:

  1. Squat
  2. Deadlift
  3. Bench press
  4. Overhead press
  5. Chin-up
  6. Row

Vertical Push: Legs

Barbell Squat

Squat

Type: Barbell weight training

Described as the king of all exercises, squats work primarily the legs and is often considered a full-body exercise. The barbell squat is probably the most intense yet rewarding of all exercises to perform. Front squats are a superior alternative or addition to the barbell (back) squat.

Learn: Video and Technique

Primary Muscles

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes

Secondary Muscles

  • Abs
  • Spinal erectors

Substitutions

Exercise Type
Leg press Machine weight training
Power clean Olympic weightlifting
Snatch Olympic weightlifting
Lunges Dumbbell weight training
Farmer's Walk Barbell weight training
Pistol squat Bodyweight training

Vertical Pull: Legs

Barbell Squat

Deadlift

Type: Barbell weight training

Often competing with squats for the king of all exercises, this powerful movement works the entire posterior chain. It is also taxing on the central nervous system, so short and heavy is usually enough.

Learn: Video 1, Video 2, Technique 1, and Technique 2

Primary Muscles

  • Spinal erectors
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Traps

Secondary Muscles

  • Quads
  • Abs
  • Forearms

Substitutions

Exercise Type
Power clean Olympic weightlifting
Snatch Olympic weightlifting
Farmer's Walk Barbell weight training

Vertical Push: Arms

Barbell Squat

Overhead Press

Type: Barbell weight training

Also known as the barbell military press, this excellent shoulder exercise also works on the arms.

Learn: Video and Technique

Primary Muscles

  • Deltoids

Secondary Muscles

  • Traps
  • Triceps
  • Abs

Substitutions

Exercise Type
Handstands Bodyweight training
Handstand push-ups Bodyweight training
Lateral raise Dumbbell weight training
Front raise Dumbbell weight training
Arnold press Dumbbell weight training

Vertical Pull: Arms

Barbell Squat

Chin-up

Type: Bodyweight training

A powerful exercise for the lats and underrated as a bicep builder. Beginners will often struggle with only one or two reps, but over time, even weighted or leveraged chin-ups would be possible. Chin-ups are palms facing toward the body while pull-ups are palms facing away. Arnold Schwarzenegger considers the chin-up to be the best bodyweight exercise.

Learn: Video 1, Video 2 and Technique

Primary Muscles

  • Lats
  • Biceps

Secondary Muscles

  • Traps
  • Pectorals
  • Triceps

Substitution

Exercise Type
Front tuck lever Bodyweight training
Cable pulldown Machine weight training

Horizontal Push

Barbell Squat

Bench Press

Type: Barbell weight training

Often included in the "big three," this chest exercise is also a good arm builder. Push-ups are an excellent alternative when using body leverage and with gymnastic rings.

Learn: Video and Technique

Primary Muscles

  • Pectorals

Secondary Muscles

  • Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Biceps

Substitutions

Exercise Type
Push-up Bodyweight training
Chest dip Bodyweight training
L-sit Bodyweight training

Horizontal Pull

Barbell Squat

Barbell Row

Type: Barbell weight training

An exercise that works the full back, including traps, lats, and rhomboids. If doing the barbell row, ensure that the movement starts and ends with the barbell on the ground.

Learn: Video and Technique

Primary Muscles

  • Full back

Substitutions

Exercise Type
Gymnastic ring row Bodyweight training
T-bar row Weight training
Seated cable row Machine weight training
Dumbbell row Dumbbell weight training

Accessory Exercises

Once your body has adapted to the fundamental Big Six Lifts with proper form, you may wish to move to an intermediate program that includes supplementary exercises. Accessory exercises mostly target individual muscle groups.

Note
Squats and deadlifts work the abs and glutes better than direct work. For instance, strong abs are needed to perform a 300 lbs squat or a 400 lbs deadlift.

Beginner Programs

  • SSF 3x Base Program
    Day Exercise Sets Reps Rest
    A Squat 3 5–8 3'
    Bench Press 3 5–8 3'
    Chin-Up 3 1–15 2'
    B Deadlift 1 5 3'
    Overhead Press 3 5–8 3'
    Barbell Row 3 5–8 2'
    Note: The ' marker denotes time in minutes.

    Frequency

    Perform a workout day (A or B) three times a week on nonconsecutive days. For example, every Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. Each week will alternate as workouts ABA and BAB.

    Duration

    Each workout is approximately 30–40 minutes long.

    Cycle

    Apply progressive overload for 6–8 weeks, then take one week off to allow the body and central nervous system to recover.

    Accessory Exercises

    You may add accessory exercises such as the stiff-legged deadlift, barbell curl, and calf raise.

    Expectations

    Following proper diet, rest, and sleep, while applying progressive overload, you will expect to see strength and muscle increases on a bulk, or preservation of muscle mass while shedding fat on a cut.

Other Beginner Programs

Note
The SSF 3x and 4x bodyweight programs can be found in the e-book.

Intermediate Programs

  • SSF 4x Intermediate Program
    Day Exercise Sets Reps Rest
    Mon Front Squat 3–4 5 3'
    Stiff-Legged Deadlift 3–4 6–8 3'
    Barbell Squat 2–3 10–12 3'
    Calf Raise 3–4 6–8 3'
    Tues Bench Press 3–4 6–8 3'
    Barbell Row 3–4 6–8 3'
    Lateral Raise 2–3 10–12 2'
    Chin-Up 2–3 10–12 2'
    Dip 1–2 12–15 2'
    Barbell Curl 1–2 12–15 1.5'
    Thurs Deadlift 1–2 5 3'
    Leg Press 3–4 6–8 3'
    Calf Raise 3–4 10–12 2'
    Hack Squat 2–3 10–12 2'
    Fri Overhead Press 3–4 6–8 3'
    Pull-Up 3–4 6–8 3'
    Dumbbell Fly 3–4 10–12 2'
    Barbell Row 3–4 10–12 2'
    Close-Grip Bench Press 1–2 12–15 1.5'
    Hammer Curl 1–2 12–15 1.5'
    Note: The ' marker denotes time in minutes.
    Frequency

    Days focusing on only the upper or lower body are grouped together on consecutive days and there are four workouts per week. This routine is set to have Wednesdays and weekends off, however you can change to a Sunday/Monday/Wednesday/Thursday or Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday/Saturday format.

    Duration

    Each workout is approximately 60 minutes long.

    Cycle

    Apply progressive overload for 6–8 weeks, then deload for 2 weeks at 80% and 90% of your heaviest weights. There are no rest weeks, unless needed.

  • SSF 5x Intermediate Program
    Day Exercise Sets Reps Rest
    Mon Front Squat 3 6 3'
    Lunge 3 8–12 3'
    Barbell Squat 2–3 10–12 3'
    Stiff-Legged Deadlift 3 6–8 3'
    Calf Raise 3 10–12 1'
    Wheel Rollout 3 Max 1'
    Tues Bench Press (Heavy) 3 6–8 3'
    Bench Press (Light) 3 10–12 2'
    Weighed Push-Up 3 8–12 2'
    Dumbbell Fly 3 10–12 2'
    Dumbbell Bench Press 3 10–12 2'
    Wed Deadlift 2 5 3'
    Weighed Pull-Up 3 6–12 2'
    Barbell Row 3 10–12 2'
    Cable Seated Row 3 6–8 2'
    Dumbbell Row 3 10–12 2'
    Fri Overhead Press 5 8–12 3'
    Face Pull 3 10–12 2'
    Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 10–12 2'
    Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 10–12 2'
    Dumbbell Front Raise 3 10–12 2'
    Dumbbell Shrugs 3 10–12 1'
    Sat Bodyweight/Weighed Chin-Up 3 6–12 1'
    Bodyweight/Weighed Dip 3 6–8 1'
    Barbell Bicep Curl 4 6–8 1'
    Barbell Tricep Extension 4 8–12 1'
    Hammer Curl 3 8–12 1'
    Close-Grip Bench Press 3 10–12 1'
    Dumbbell Bicep Curl 3 8–12 1'
    Tricep Pulldown 3 8–12 1'
    Note: The ' marker denotes time in minutes.
    Frequency

    Five workout days per week, with Thursdays and Sundays off. You could shift the days over to have Monday and Friday off, or Tuesday and Saturday off.

    Duration

    Each workout is approximately 50 minutes long.

    Cycle

    Apply progressive overload for 8–12 weeks, then take one week off.

Other Intermediate Programs

Advanced Programs

Experienced lifters who have trained for years may want to try:

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