If you are a new to the ‘fitness lifestyle’, have all the good intentions but don’t know where and how to start, you are not alone. Very often I come across new members in the gym that took the first step towards a healthier lifestyle yet feel a little lost in regards to both training and dieting (remember if you focus on one but ignore the other, you are making things harder for yourself).
This is perfectly understandable considering that there is so much information out there which makes things even more complicated in the eyes of a beginner. There are so many ‘experts’ out there claiming that their approach is the right one. As if this wasn’t making things hard enough, most of those claims tend to contradict each other. High carb vs high fat, vegan vs carnivore, 1 meal vs 5 meal are just a few of these examples.
First things first, if you just began your fitness journey no matter what protocol you chose to follow, you are still better off than you were before. Be proud, be happy! Even if you change nothing in your diet, you will still see some progress. But this won’t last a lifetime. Eventually as you progress you will slowly realise the importance of nutrition. You will notice that while some days you feel a lot more energetic in the gym, some other days you’ll feel simply drained. You will also see fluctuations in your weight, but you will struggle to pinpoint what is causing it. Do not worry! You do not need to know everything, and that is why we the fitness professionals are here. To help you and guide you.
As a complete beginner I strongly advise you to ignore all the nonsense that you are being bombarded by the fitness industry, and stick to the basics. So what are these basics? It is “calories in, calories out” and the balance between the two. If you want to gain mass you need to eat more calories than you burn; if you want to maintain your current weight then what you eat and what you burn should be in balance; and if you want to lose weight you will have to burn more than you consume.
Fundamentally it makes no difference if you eat your calories in the form of your favourite chocolate bar or in so called super foods such as avocados and quinoa. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying these choices are completely equal, that would be simply ignorant, but the message I am trying to get across here is that all that matters for weight loss is how much you eat and how much you burn through physical activity.
And this brings us to the next step. How can you keep track of your calorie intake? Again considering that you are a complete beginner, I would suggest you to keep things as simple as possible. Don’t even waste time on calorie tracking apps such as Myfitnesspal, that will be the second step and I will talk about that later in another post. For now the best thing you can do is to keep a food diary. And trust me even this is harder than it seems to be, as the science says that majority of us tend to cheat and lie even to ourselves about how much food we eat. So you have to be 100% honest and note down everything you eat for 10 days, whilst also keeping track of your activity (gym sessions, walks etc) and measuring your weight on a daily basis.
After this time period you will be able to look back and see what amount of food was actually your maintenance intake. Only after that you will have a better understanding of how much you’ll need to eat in order to lose or gain weight. Also if you later decide to work with a personal trainer or a dietician this will be a great log which you can share with them to help them guide you more accurately.