Fitness goals- how to eat, exercise and behave

Hey everyone, are you all alright? Well, I do hope so, if not I will try to raise your mood with this little article 🙂

I am sure that you are here because you have a goal regarding your body, lifestyle or just health. No matter which one of these options are right in your case, with this article I will try to teach you some basics about how to act according to your fitness goal. In the text I will be talking about 3 main fitness goals- 1. building muscle mass while gaining weight, 2. losing weight and losing fat and 3. maintaining weight and getting stronger. For each goal, I will tell you something about nutrition and exercise you should implement to reach any of the goals above. Trust me, they are very simple to reach and you don’t need to be a fitness guru to accomplish them. I know you might think that I am just saying that to make you feel better, but when you read about each of them, you will see that it’s not like that. So let’s get started.

Goal number 1- Building muscle mass while gaining weight

This goal might be the hardest. Why? Well, because it is the most complex one. So for this goal, there are 3 main components to reach it:

1. A workout focused on progressive overload.
2. A caloric surplus
3. Enough consistency to allow it all to work.

Ok, so first of all, you need to be in a caloric surplus, which means that you need to eat more than your maintenance calories. For some people that might be hard, because they don’t know how to eat more food and at the same time, not have that feeling of being stuffed. Yeah, I know… If this is your goal, believe me, it takes time to get your body used to a bigger amount of food. So as I have said, you need to eat more food. By that, I don’t mean for you to go to McDonald’s after your workout and buy 2 big McManus. By that I mean eat more of the nutrient-dense foods like brown rice, quinoa, avocado, oatmeal, nuts… That way you will be giving your body foods that are rich in nutrients and are also perfect for building muscle mass. To eat more than your body needs on a daily bases, you need to calculate your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). I will post a link here so you can easily calculate your daily energy. When you have done that, the next thing you need to do is add 20% of your maintenance calories to the number you’ve got. So if your maintenance calories are 2000, then you need to calculate 20% of that number (which is 400 calories) and add it to your number. So that means that you should eat 2400 calories per day to gain weight. Now that you have calculated your calories for building muscle, next thing you need to do is divide that number into carbs, proteins, and fats. What you need to consider is that the number you’ve got is not 100% accurate. It is just a guideline for you to see where to start. So follow how your body changes from 2-3 weeks, and if you don’t see your weight going up, then that is a sign that you need to make some changes to your daily calories or you should do less intense exercises. Regarding macronutrients, people usually recommend ratio 50/30/20 but you can spread your calories into a ratio that feels the best to you. One thing you must have in mind is that you can’t go above 1,5-2g of protein per body weight! This is really important because you can bring your body to a point where your kidneys stop functioning properly. So if you are a woman that weighs 60 kg, then you should eat max. 120g of protein per day. Ok, so there is another thing I want you to know. When you are building muscle, you NEED to gain weight, otherwise, you won’t be able to build any muscle mass. During that progress, you will also gain FAT. YES, FAT! I know that that sounds wrong, but it is the part of the progress. I had a very hard time with that, but then I realized that I have to accept that and when I did it everything started to happen so fast. I’ve started seeing my body change and my muscles grow. Believe me, it is the best feeling you will get 😉 So don’t feel afraid of gaining that little amount of fat. It will go away as time passes, but it is necessary for your body to grow. However, eating more can definitely mean spending more money, so here is a post where you can read about how to reach your goals on a budget 😉

The exercise you should do for your muscles to grow is compound muscle-building exercises. Those are the exercises that allow you to use the greatest amount of weight. You’re not going to grow with a workout comprised of machine exercises and isolation movements. You have to overload your body with big, “manly” exercises.
The best compound weight training exercises for building muscle are:

  • Bench Press
  • Rows
  • Overhead Press
  • Pull Ups/Chin Ups
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts

All research has shown that beginners should train each muscle group 3 times per week, and anyone past the beginner’s stage (intermediates/advanced) should train each muscle group about twice per week. As far as intensity goes, you’ll typically want to do between 5-12 reps per set when your goal is to build muscle. With volume, the goal is to do just enough total sets, reps and exercises for each muscle group to provide the proper muscle building signal, but NOT too much that it cuts into recovery and prevents this process from taking place.

Ok. so that is it for this goal, let’s jump to the next one 🙂

Goal number 2- Losing weight and losing fat

This goal is easier to reach than the one above. The reason I say that it is because it focuses on the main thing and that is nutrition. Did you know that nutrition makes 80% per cent of each fitness goal? Yeah, that’s right. So for this goal you need to do the opposite of the first one.

Here you need to eat fewer calories than your body needs on a daily bases. So if your maintenance calories are 2000, then you should subtract 20% of that number. Here is the link on how to calculate your daily calories –TDEE. Ok, so now that you have calculated your number subtract 20% of the number you’ve got (so if your maintenance is 2000, subtract 400 calories form that number). When you have done that, the next step is to spread that last number into carbs, fats, and protein. To lose weight, I would recommend a ratio of 40/40/20. that means that 40% of your daily calories will come from carbs, 40% from protein and 20% from fat. Here is an example: If your maintenance calories are 2000, and when you subtract 20% of that number you will get a number of 1600 calories. So that means that 1600 cal. is the number you should start with to reach your goal of losing weight. Okay, so to divide that number into macros you need to calculate 40% of that number (which is 640 calories). That means that 640 calories in your diet should come from carbs. Also, another 640 calories should come from protein and the rest (which is 20% aka. 320 calories ) should come from fat. When you add those numbers you will get the number at the beginning which you have calculated- which is 1600 cal.
Huh.. 🙂 Okay, now that you have spread your number into macros, the next step is to follow your progress with that number of calories per day. Follow your progress through 1-2 weeks and see if the number is going down. That way you will be able to track what works the best for your body. If your weight isn’t going down, then you need to do some changes or do a review on those 2 weeks and see if you have been following all the steps and set numbers. Also, for this goal, it is important to try to reduce your snacking. By that I mean for you to try to stop eating junk food, treats, fast food, juices, crisps… Just by cutting that out you will be doing your body a huge favour. I am not saying that you can’t eat chocolate, popcorn, crisps or drink cola at all. What I am saying is that you should try and reduce it. Ok so except reducing sweets and those yummy treats we all love, try to start meal prepping. YES! Making and bringing your own food where ever you go is going to help you accomplish this goal. Try to get creative and search for healthy recipes and treats that you can make yourself. I know it might be hard, but trust me at the end it will be worth it. On more thing that is important is for you to drink enough WATER. Hydrating your body will help you get your metabolism on the run and will help you lose weight. Another thing I want to make sure you all UNDERSTAND is that for this goal you don’t need to STOP eating! NO! That is not a solution! Why? Because when you stop eating food and start eating only 2 times a day your body starts storing FAT! Yes, that is correct, and I am sure that you don’t want that. So what you need to do is try to make healthy meals and eat 4 times a day, not 2. Another thing that is important is meal timing. So if you have followed all of the steps above and yes, you have been eating 1600 calories a day (I am just using the example to show you), but you have been eating a huge amount of pasta at dinner, of course, you won’t be able to lose weight. So yes it all comes down to the number of calories you take in, but if you put half of the calories you have calculated into your dinner, then you won’t reach any goal. Try to eat carbs around your workouts. So if you have 4 meals a day, then spread your carbs around your workout. If you workout in the morning: have breakfast- go to the gym and then have lunch that is a mix of carbs, proteins, and fats. Later that day at dinner try to take carbs out and eat veggies and protein or consume just a small amount of carbs in your dinner. If you guys wish I can make a post about meals you can make for this goal- just give me a comment.

To achieve this goal, I would recommend you to start with weight training. I am sure you are now thinking: “Man she is crazy! I should be doing cardio and not lift weights” Well you can do both, but what you need to know is that it has been proved that 1 hour of weight training spends more calories than 1 hour of cardio. OH YEAH! That is because your body needs to use more energy to help you lift weights. Although this is what it was proved, I would recommend you to do both. Just by starting to do any exercise at all you will do your body a favour. You can start by taking a 1-hour walk every second day, and then you can slowly start to go to the gym to group training. Yes, training in groups can really motivate people to keep pushing towards their goal. Also don’t be afraid to go to the gym, because remember that all the people that are there have the same reason as you do- To change their life and body. My recommendation would be for you to go 2-3 times a week to the gym or to just do some exercise. You can divide those 3 times into 2 times cardio and 1-time weight training. Believe me, after 2-3 weeks, you should see the change in your body. Ok, another thing you must NOT do is go to the gym every day and do cardio for 2-3 hours. Believe me, you won’t get anywhere with that. I know you might be frustrated because you really want to lose that weight, but doing so much cardio after a bit of time will bring you to a point in which you will say: “FUCK IT, THIS IS NOT ME, I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE!” And that will be the end of everything. Have you ever thought why personal trainers don’t tell you to work out every day for 2 hours, instead they tell you to workout 2-3 times a week for 1 hour? Because going to the gym every day is suicide. No one does it, not even bodybuilders. They workout max 6 times a week, because each body NEEDS to rest. Why? Because that is the time when your muscles grow. If you workout every day you will just lose your motivation because it will be too much for you. The thing you didn’t know is that your body doesn’t know the difference in working out for an hour or for 3-4 hours. The only thing it doesn’t know is that it needs to collect energy to help you go through that workout. So the part that does know the difference between the time you workout for, is your brain. Yeah, I know it sounds stupid, but the brain controls almost everything. So PLEASE, don’t do that to yourself. Try to work out and feel good in doing it and don’t see that as a punishment. I don’t want any of you to quit in what you are doing. So to escape that moment set a plan. Take your notebook and write your workouts. Make a challenge for yourself and search for the exercises you can do in that 1 hour in the gym. Believe me, if you make a 1-hour killer workout you can spend the same amount of energy as you workout for 2 hours. The only thing you need is knowledge. See what exercises make your body spend most energy and do them. I promise you will DEFINITELY see a result.

Goal number 3- maintaining weight and getting stronger

This is goal might be considered the easiest. Here you don’t have so many components you should be careful about. The only thing you might need to do is change your diet a bit and do exercises that will make you build muscle and get stronger. This is the stage to which you come after you accomplish one of the goals above.

As the name of these goals says, your goal here is to maintain weight, which means that you should continue eating the way you have been until now. The only thing you can do is change the more nutritious foods with the junk food, or just be persistent with having breakfast every morning, maybe you can reduce the amount of sugar you use, etc. Okay, so for this goal I would recommend you to prep your meals, be creative with cooking and to just follow your progress. If you are on a diet that doesn’t make you feel so satisfied anymore, change it up. Try paleo, vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, keto diet… As I said, be creative and believe me the more you search and play around your meals, your body will do more changes. If you are feeling bloated, try getting rid of dairy products or beans and see how your bowls react.

For this goal, you don’t have any specific exercise types that you should implement. If you like group training then I would recommend you to continue doing them if you like more cardio than doing weights, do it, but then don’t forget to do some other complex exercises that will help your muscle grow (squats, deadlifts, lunges, chin ups..) During this goal, try to find what works the best for you. This is the part which is the most complicated according to exercise, because in the 2 first ones you have massive changes and challenges to do, but here you just need to maintain your body weight and continue with your workouts. What might happen here is that you stop seeing that fast progress you have been seeing until now, but don’t get discouraged. Until now, if you have been training 3 times a week and for a while you have not been seeing any progress, try to go 2 times a week to the gym but do more complex exercises or make a really hard workout in which you will challenge yourself until your whole body won’t be able to work anymore. Be creative and don’t quit. I know that once you accomplish something and stop seeing the progress as fast as you have been, it starts to become boring to workout. Believe me, it doesn’t! It all depends on how you look at things. Don’t quit with all you have been doing because you worked hard to come here. Also, remember that you don’t always have to have huge goals to do something. Sometimes just doing something as a routine gives you benefits that you don’t see for a longer period of time 🙂

Here we are, guys! This is all I have to say about the 3 main goals regarding fitness. I do hope I have helped you with some of the things I wrote. Now, everything is in your hands. Make sure to learn about what you want, not only in fitness but in life too. Don’t believe in what people say, not even me. I can give you advice, but at the end, we are all different, right? So take my advice as some kind of guidelines, but don’t stop here. Expand your knowledge and start trusting yourself. If you have any question, now, tomorrow or ever, please ask me. Leave a comment and I will reply to each of them the best I can. Good luck everyone!

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    • Hello! Thank you so much for this comment 🙂 That means a lot! I do plan on posting more informative posts in the future, so stay tuned for that.

  • Hi Lara! Awesome post, such a great kickstarter to a healthier lifestyle! I have started weight-training and going to the gym about a month ago but I have not seen too much progress, I think I’m caught up in nutrition. I don’t think I eat enough carbs and I don’t reach the suggested macro goas so I would love for you to make a meal plan post! I would find that extremely helpful! Thank you and keep up the great work!

    • Hello, my dear!
      That is so amazing to hear. I am so happy that you have decided to make this step in your life towards fitness 🙂
      I get where you are coming from. I have been in the same situation a year ago when I just started with my journey. What is your current goal? If you can define it a little bit more I would be more than happy to make a post about different meal plan examples for muscle gain, fat loss, toning up…

      With love, Lara