Lose Fat and Gain Muscle (At the Same Time)

Lose Fat and Gain Muscle (At the Same Time)


Is Vader on the right track to lose fat and gain muscle? Let's find out!

There’s an argument in the fitness world that you can either choose to lose fat OR gain muscle.

That they just can’t be done simultaneously.

To this, I say, “Hogwash!”

We have tons of success stories from our online coaching clients who have been able to do both simultaneously:




And that’s what we’ll cover in today’s guide!

We’ll do so by discussing:

Before we jump in…

You’re reading this guide at the perfect time because Nerd Fitness is currently hosting a special event, LET’S START TOGETHER: A 5-DAY WALKING CHALLENGE FOR HOBBITSNERDS!

A graph explaining the Nerd Fitness Walking Challenge

You’ll read more about it below, but one of the secrets to losing fat is moving in a way you enjoy. Like walking!

If interested, learn more about the challenge right here!

What’s Body Recomposition?

As Coach Matt mentions in the video above, gaining muscle and losing fat simultaneously is called “body recomposition.”

So yes, the process is indeed possible, as long as you follow the right plan.

…but you don’t have to take my word for it.

Just ask our friend Aksel here (who achieved an impressive body recomp with the help of a NF Coach):

A side-by-side of Aksel's before and after

Read more about his incredible story!

However, as I mentioned in the intro, you’ll often hear that losing fat while gaining muscle is impossible. The argument goes that you should just focus on one or the other, because doing both at once is destined to fail.

Let’s explore this claim.

Losing Fat and Gaining Muscle at the Same Time (The Controversy)

This picture shows two LEGO miners, who don't have much to do with fast weight loss, but look cool.

To understand why losing fat while gaining muscle can be problematic, we need to explore both processes.

Let’s consider the following points:

Given this, losing fat (caloric deficit) at the same time one is gaining muscle (caloric surplus) seems impossible.

However, if we go a few steps deeper into the science, it IS possible!

A foe from the Prince Bride not believing you can lose fat while gaining muscle.

To appreciate the nuance here, let’s get into some specifics on losing fat and gaining muscle separately, and then we’ll combine them.

HOW DO YOU LOSE FAT?

a picture of Homer Simpson with Donut

There is a simple answer and a slightly less simple answer when it comes to losing body fat.

The simple answer: “consume fewer calories than you expend or burn.”[1]

Eight words, and one or two of those could probably be thrown out.

When your body needs more calories than the amount you are eating, you are in a “caloric deficit.” Your body doesn’t have the calories it needs as fuel, so it’ll start breaking down parts of itself for its energy requirements.

(If you’re curious, you can calculate your daily caloric needs here).

The hope is that your body will mostly pull from fat stores, though depending on how you are training it will also break down muscle too.[2]

Said again: when you are eating a caloric deficit, your body will pull from both its fat stores AND existing muscle for energy.

Yes, if you're not careful you can lose fat AND muscle while losing weight.

Troubling indeed.

From a physique and health standpoint, obviously we’d prefer that your body doesn’t break down muscle when in a caloric deficit, and instead really focuses on using fat stores instead.[3]

I make this point for a reason: your goal in fitness shouldn’t only be “weight loss,” despite the common vernacular used.

Who cares what the scale says, right?

A scale can be misleading when you're trying to lose fat and gain muscle.

The goal instead is to reduce body fat while also keeping the muscle you have (or even building more muscle).

That leads to a better physique and a healthier body.

This is why there is a big market for devices that supposedly assess your body fat percentage.

By reducing your total fat on your body, OR increasing muscle mass, you’ll end up with a lower body fat percentage (it’s just a simple ratio of fat to everything else).

And lower body fat percentages are where “toned arms” and “6-pack abs” hang out.

Arnold lost body fat and gained muscle to achieve his physique. And maybe some super glue.

We’ll discuss tips on keeping and growing your muscle while in a calorie deficit later in this guide. For now, remember you need fewer calories “in” compared to calories “out” for weight loss to occur, from either fat stores or muscle.

You may be asking, “Steve, what’s easier to do? Burn more calories or consume less?”

Good question.

Numbers will help tell the story: though this is a gross oversimplification – let’s use the ‘widely accepted’ starting point of “3,500 calories equals roughly one pound of fat.”[4]

If you want to lose one pound – or half a kilogram – of body fat in a week (a worthy, sustainable goal for some), you need to create a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day. 

Your options to create this caloric deficit include:

  • Consuming 500 fewer calories
  • Burning 500 more calories
  • A combination of the two

Which is easier?

Here are both halves of that equation. 500 calories equals:

  • The number of calories found in a Big Gulp of Mountain Dew.
  • An estimate of the calories required to run five miles.

Yes, you will have to run for a long time to burn 500 calories.

Yep.

When it comes to maintaining a caloric deficit, it really comes down to diet.

It’s significantly more effective and time-efficient to consume 500 fewer calories than it is to burn 500 additional calories.

As Time magazine controversially pointed out – with tons of cited studies – “exercise alone won’t make you thin.” It’s too easy to add more calories in, and requires too much work to effectively influence “calories out.”

We dig into this in our guide to The CICO Diet

This brings us to our slightly less simple answer on getting in shape:

To lose body fat, you need to watch what you eat, and do so in a sustainable way.

Here at Nerd Fitness, we are firm believers that 80-90% of the fat-loss equation comes down to diet (check out Rule # 4).

Here’s another idea we focus on: EAT MOSTLY UNPROCESSED FOOD.[5]

These image shows some real food, critical if you're trying to lose body fat.

Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts are all great examples.

These foods are very nutrient-dense and often low in calories compared to their processed counterparts. Which means you get filled up without overeating.

Win-win-win.

Have you ever seen the difference between 200 calories of broccoli and 200 calories of a bagel? WiseGEEK does a great job of displaying this, so we’ll borrow a couple of their photos.

200 calories of broccoli:

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

200 calories of a bagel:

This picture shows you 200 calories worth of a bagel, which is about 2/3 of one.

That’s why REAL food is the answer to creating a sustainable caloric deficit.

Most people can eat an entire bagel, no problem. Plates of broccoli, with all of the fiber, are much tougher to overeat.

We lay it all out in our Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating. It’ll provide tips on how to gradually create habits that get you to a “REAL food” way of eating, including proper portion sizes, tips on batch cooking, and a cameo from Winnie the Pooh.

Pooh knows that to lose fat and gain muscle, he really needs to cool it with all the honey.

With all of this, we advise you to take it slow, so new habits of healthy eating become permanent.

Something you can do for the rest of your life.

It’s a strategy we work closely with our coaching clients on: small nutritional adjustments they feel comfortable making. It’s how some of them have been able to lose 50-100 pounds!




Let me explain again: what you eat will be 80%-90% of the equation for losing body fat.

The other 10-20%? Exercise.

Of course it’s exercise.

That’s a pretty good segue into…

HOW DO YOU GAIN MUSCLE?

Toy Hulk and the wilds trunks of huge plants

If you want to build muscle, you’ll have to lift heavy things and ensure that your body has enough calories and protein to adapt by building more muscle.

In our Beginner’s Guide to Building Muscle and Strength, I summarize it as follows:

  • Lift heavy things
  • Eat a diet based on your goals
  • Rest so your body can recover

Let’s chat about each one quickly.

#1) Lift heavy things

I will always be on Team Strength Training. If you’re looking to build muscle, you’re gonna need to lift heavy things.

This Muppet knows strength training will help him gain muscle and lose fat.

When you lift an object (or your own bodyweight) enough times, your muscles reach the point of failure. This causes your muscles to tear and breakdown.

When your muscle rebuilds itself following the workout, it’ll be bigger and stronger than before. Then you do it again.

And again.

And again.

As long as you are eating enough to rebuild your muscle, you’ll get stronger!

Not sure where to start on a Strength Training practice? No problem! You can download our free guide Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know when you join the Rebellion (our free community) below:

#2) Eat a diet based on your goals

Because your muscle needs to be rebuilt after exercise, the calories are gonna need to come from somewhere. I’ll talk a lot about proper diet in the next section (with a Harry Potter analogy), so I won’t spend too much time on it here.

Just know that eating the right quantity of foods will be a big part of gaining muscle.  

#3) Rest

Your body rebuilds itself while you sleep, so make sure you get plenty of rest each night. I’m talking 7-8+ hours. This will help ensure your body has the time it needs to grow stronger.

If you’re strength training and only getting 6 hours of sleep a night or less, you’re really doing yourself a disservice. Go to bed!

Donald knows he has to get plenty of rest to grow muscle. If only that sink would stop dripping.

That’s the short gist of how to build strength: challenge your muscles, eat well, and get some rest.

Let’s narrow in on our second point, “Eat a diet based on your goals.” It’ll become very important when balancing both losing body fat and gaining muscle.

To do that properly, grab your owl, and let’s chat about Hogwarts.

How to Lose Fat WHILE Gaining Muscle (The Science)

Close-up shot of microscope with metal lens at laboratory.

To answer the question of losing body fat and gaining muscle at the same time, I’d like to introduce an analogy from the world of Harry Potter.

Recall the “Sorting Hat:” The Sorting Hat’s job was to determine which of the four houses kids will call their home.

The sorting hat will help us tell the story on calories and losing fat.

It’s almost like a traffic director: “Harry, you will go to Gryffindor! Draco, you will go to Slytherin!”

Your body operates on a VERY similar operation: every day it receives new calories (when you eat), and it needs to decide what to do with them!

For example:

You eat a chicken parm sub with fries and a 20-ounce soda. Your body then has to know where to route all those calories.

To keep things simple, it has three choices. It’ll sort those calories into one of three houses:[6]

A. Burn for Fuel.

B. Rebuild Muscle.

C. Store as Fat.

Right now, when you eat food, your body sorts most of those calories into “Burn for Fuel.”

There’s a number of calories your body needs each day just existing: to keep your liver functioning, your heart pumping, your brain operating, to regulate your body temperature, and so on – it burns a good chunk of calories just keeping the lights on.

A beating heart requires calories, which factors into your calorie needs.

This is your “Basal Metabolic Rate” which you can calculate for yourself in our TDEE calculator.

There’s also “B. Rebuild as Muscle” and “C. Store as Fat,” which I devoted entire sections to above.

This is where the problems arise: When you overeat calories and your body doesn’t need anymore to fuel itself, it takes those extra calories and stores them as fat.

However, our goal is the OPPOSITE of this.

We want to keep the muscle we have (or grow it) while getting rid of the fat!

So let’s imagine a scenario where we pull all this together by strength training heavy AND reducing our caloric intake:

  1. You strength train regularly, and your muscles break down and need to be rebuilt.
  2. You don’t consume enough calories to both rebuild muscle and fuel itself. There’s not enough to go into the “Burn for Fuel” and “Rebuild Muscle” houses.

Does your body just shut down?

NOPE!

Yep, if you have fat on you your body will pull from it to take care of its needs.
Your body has been preparing for this, by storing any excess calories over the years in the “Store as Fat” house.

This means your body can pull from “Store as Fat” to make sure all the work still gets done, including your daily functions as a human and rebuilding the muscle you tore apart.

Said another way:

If you have fat stores (and we all do), you do not need to be in a “caloric surplus” to rebuild muscle. The calories stored in your fat cells act as this required energy.

There is also evidence that muscle can even be grown while in a caloric deficit.[7]

Meaning bigger muscles with a lower belt size.[8]

This dog just found out it's possible to both lose fat AND gain muscle.

However, if you want to skip all the experimentation and trial and error, you can have a Nerd Fitness Coach do all the heavy lifting for you (not really, you’ll still need to work out).




TIPS TO LOSE BODY FAT WHILE GAINING MUSCLE

Superhero Couple. Male and female superheroes. Cloudy sky.

Let’s bring this all together and create some actionable steps to losing body fat and building muscle at the same time.

#1) Sustain a caloric deficit while eating enough protein

You need your body to burn more calories than you consume, and also provide your body with enough protein to rebuild its muscle.

You can only lose fat if you’re in a calorie deficit.

You need to reduce your calories and be in a deficit if your goal is to lose fat.

Remember the Sorting Hat analogy:

If you’re eating too much, your excess calories are being sent to the “Store as Fat” house.

We want to pull from this house instead. So eat less than you burn consistently. 

To help here, I have 3 resources for you:

  1. Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating. If you want tips and tricks to create habits based on REAL food, that guide will help get you there.
  2. Determining the Perfect Diet for You.” I talk about the benefits of creating a Mental Model on nutrition like Intermittent Fasting, Paleo or Keto (or Paleolithic Ketogenic) to help navigate all the food choices you need to make.
  3. Count calories: This means learning your total daily energy expenditure, and tracking your other calories through an app (and/or weighing your food).

You don’t have to follow some predetermined blueprint like “low-carb.” You can create your own diet (which is what I do). Learn all about it right here.

#2) Strength train

If you could sell a pill that could be prescribed to every single person on Earth to make them healthier, it would look something like a strength training routine in a bottle.

A one arm push-up can help you lose fat and build muscle, but maybe start with regular push-ups first.

It is one of the best things you can do for your body.[9]   

And really, if you want to build muscle, you’re gonna need to lift something! Either weights or your own bodyweight.

You need to challenge your muscles in order for them to get stronger. Now, as we discuss in our article on the correct number of reps and sets, there are multiple ways to do so.

To build muscle:

Lift lighter weights for lots of reps.

Lift really heavy with fewer reps.

The important thing: pick a strategy and get started.

Vada is ready to strength train! And torment her Dad's GF.

Here are 3 paths forward:

  1. Start with a beginner bodyweight workout.
  2. Follow one of our 5 Beginner Strength Training Routines.
  3. Go through our 6 Level Gym Workouts.

To recap: if you train heavy and eat a caloric deficit, your body will pull from its fat stores to both fuel itself and potentially also build muscle. This is a double whammy of AWESOME.

#3) Prioritize protein

Outside of being in a caloric deficit and lifting weights (or yourself), eating enough protein is one of the key components of both losing body fat and building muscle.

Protein is the number one nutrient for creating new tissue.[10]

Sponge Bob knows how to build muscle and strength.

So when you cut out calories to create a caloric deficit, don’t cut them from protein sources.

Studies have shown that participants can gain muscle, even while in a caloric deficit, as long as they eat enough protein.[11]

It’s important enough that I’ll say it again:

If you don’t want your body cannibalizing its muscles while you are in a caloric deficit, you need to eat plenty of protein.[12]

How much protein?

As we point out in our Guide to Protein, roughly 1 gram for every pound of your weight, with an upper limit of 250 grams.[13] Or two grams for every kilogram if you are on the metric system. This means:

  • If you weigh 300 pounds (136 kg), eat 250g of protein.
  • If you weigh 250 pounds (113 kg), eat 250g of protein.
  • If you weigh 200 pounds (91 kg), eat 200g of protein.
  • If you weigh 180 pounds (82 kg), eat 180g of protein.

The gist: don’t skip out on protein. It should be on your plate for every meal (we’ll show you exactly how much in the next section).

If these generalized recommendations stress you out, and you want to know exactly what to do, we can help!

I’ll remind you of Nerd Fitness Coaching, where we help clients lose body fat, gain muscle, and level up their lives. We provide tailored and specific recommendations based on your body and lifestyle, plus accountability and mindset changes to help ensure your new habits stick.

Nerd Fitness Coaching Banner

WHAT SHOULD I EAT TO LOSE FAT AND GAIN MUSCLE?

Toy Dinosaur holding a fork next to a slice of birthday cake on a blue background.

Remember, your eating strategy needs to include two points to lose fat while gaining muscle:

  1. Sustain a caloric deficit.
  2. Prioritize protein so you can build muscle even while in a deficit.

You may be thinking, “That’s all well and good Steve, but what’s that actually look like?” 

It looks like this!

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing great!

Taken from our Guide to Start Eating Healthy, which I really want you to read.

The plate is composed of the following: 

  • 1-2 servings of protein (¼ of plate)
  • 2 servings of vegetables (½ of plate)
  • 1 serving potatoes, rice, or pasta. (1/4th of plate)
  • 1 serving of fat (size of your thumb)
  • 1 zero calorie or low calorie beverage (water, diet soda, tea)

By sticking to our Healthy Plate strategy above, you’ll focus on “REAL food,” which will help you maintain a caloric deficit over time.

Let’s hone in on protein for a moment, because it’s the critical piece for “building muscle.”

Protein can come from any number of sources, including:

  • Meat (steak, bison, pork).
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck).
  • Eggs![14]
  • Fish and shellfish (salmon, tuna, shrimp).
  • Legumes (black beans, chickpeas).

Not a meat-eater? Read our massive plant-based guide!

A serving of protein is about the size and thickness of your palm.

A serving of protein should be about the size of your palm, like so.

*The 4 oz serving is for an uncooked piece of meat. Cooking reduces about 25% of the weight, bringing it down to about 3 oz.

If you’re curious, here’s how much protein is in a serving of food:

  • 4 oz (113 g) serving of chicken has around 30 g of protein.
  • 4 oz (113 g) serving of salmon has 23 g of protein
  • 4 oz (113 g) of steak has 28 g of protein. 

While all of the Healthy Plate above is important, I want you to pay extra attention to your protein intake since we are trying to build muscle. 

If you’re having trouble making your protein intake goals, check out our Guide on Protein Supplements for some tips and tricks to up your intake, including some awesome smoothie recipes.

This is the exact strategy I followed to lose 22 pounds and get to single-digit bodyfat percentage WHILE building muscle:

  • Lift super heavy.
  • Eat LOTS of protein.
  • Reduce carb and fat intake.

If you are NOT losing weight, it means you are still eating too many calories. Keep your protein intake high, and reduce your fat and carbohydrate intake. 

I cover this in greater detail in our “why can’t I lose weight?” guide.

Eventually, you’ll reach a status where there just isn’t enough fat on you to help with “Rebuild Muscle.” At this stage, you can no longer stay with a caloric deficit. You’ll need to flip to a slight “caloric surplus” to build more muscle.

Which means you’ll have to eat more.

Like this turtle, you may reach a point where you have to eat more to gain muscle.

It’s debatable when this will actually occur, and we are all different. Reaching 8% body fat for men and 16% body fat for women is a good place to start.

I talk about this extensively in our guide “How to Build Muscle.”

It covers ways to increase your calories for muscle gain, from eating plentiful amounts of Paleo foods to drinking enough milk to make Santa Clause jealous.

Santa is drinking milk to put on some muscle. The cookies are just because he likes them.

Go check it out if you’ve been having trouble putting on muscle.

I want to stress that if you are lifting heavy, and not gaining muscle, diet is likely the culprit.

It was my problem for years, and I’ve seen it amongst countless readers of Nerd Fitness who have trouble gaining muscle.

If you want an expert who will tell you exactly when to eat more or less, check out our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program




HOW TO TELL IF IT’S ALL WORKING (Continuing to Lose Fat While Gaining Muscle)

Now you're ready to start losing fat and gaining muscle!

If you’re trying to improve something, it’s important to track it. This also holds true of body composition.

Most people do this by jumping on the scale. This can be “okay,” but it’s only going to tell part of the story.

If you’re building muscle while losing fat, the scale might not go down. You might even weigh more!

Despite weighing more, you could potentially have a better physique.

Don't just look at the scale. You might have lost bodyfat and gained muscle, but the scale won't show it!

That’s why in addition to jumping on the scale, I would also encourage you to take progress photos.

Take front and side photos in your mirror, wearing underwear or a bathing suit. Each week, take new photos, and record the number on the scale under the same scenario. Two forms of tracking here allow us to get the full picture.

The scale sometimes lies!

If you eat for a caloric deficit, strength train, and prioritize protein, see what happens.

You may find yourself losing some fat and gaining muscle.

If not, track each category:

Data can help tell the story.

Data and numbers will help you know if you're losing fat and gaining muscle. Numbers, not the robot.

…I was thinking of detailed notes.

But an android would be helpful too.

Oftentimes if you’re not seeing desired results, notes and record-keeping can help point us in the direction to make adjustments.

Test your assumptions if things don’t appear to be on track. Here’s our Guide on Tracking Fitness Progress for you to learn more.

The tips outlined above will get you started losing fat while building muscle, but if you’re looking to go a bit further…

#1) If you want step-by-step guidance on how to lose weight, eat better, and get stronger, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program:




#2) If you want an exact blueprint for getting in shape, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Enlist in the Rebellion! We have a free email newsletter that we send out twice per week, full of tips and tricks to help you get healthy, get strong, and have fun doing so. 

I’ll also send you tons of free guides that you can use to start leveling up your life too:

Alright, I think that about does it for this guide.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any tips and tricks when it comes to shedding body fat and building muscle?

Share it with us!

-Steve,

PS: Make sure you read the rest of the articles in our “How to Lose Weight 101” Series!

###

All photo sources are right here: Venting Off, Ekaterina Minaeva © 123RF.com, czgur © 123RF.com, morethanl8ve © 123RF.com, Константин Колосов © 123RF.com, Maxim Maksutov © 123RF.com, Julianna Funk © 123RF.com, jump



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How to Start Eating Healthy (Without Giving Up Food You Love)

How to Start Eating Healthy (Without Giving Up Food You Love)


Is this breakfast part of a healthy diet?

So you want to start eating healthy, eh?

Amazing!

We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people like you transform into actual superheroes, and we focus on proper nutrition to do so.

These are the exact strategies we teach our Online Coaching clients, and we’ve used these tips to help them lose weight and get in great shape without being miserable.



Plus, we use fun LEGO photos and gifs to keep you entertained.

In this Ultimate Guide, we’ll cover everything you need to start eating healthy today:

Let’s jump in!

The Truth About Healthy Eating

What foods make up a healthy diet?

It’s really easy to tell people the following advice: 

“To lose weight, just eat more REAL food.”

“Just eat less fast food and junk food.”

“Try to eat more organic vegetables watered by unicorn tears, farm-to-table meals served by centaurs, and kale omletes made with eggs from chickens that you raised since birth.”  

Okay so maybe people don’t say the last one. 

But it’s not far from what healthy people say to people who can’t seem to get healthy.

In my opinion, these positions are completely out of touch with reality and it makes me plum dog mad.

No one likes being told "just eat better."

For starters, fast food is crazy delicious and dirt cheap, and often the only way that many busy parents can feed themselves and their kids.[1]

Next, applying morality and guilt to food consumption (“I’m being ‘so bad’ by eating this cookie”) creates an emotional rollercoaster – my least favorite kind of roller coaster.

I mean come on, we don’t need to be told that freshly grown fruits and veggies are better for us than junk food.

We don’t need to be told that organic grilled chicken and kale salad is healthier than a Double Whopper with Cheese.

Snape knows he should eat veggies to be healthy. But HOW DO YOU DO IT!

We all know this! 

So rather than “trying harder” to eat healthier we’re going to use things like “science” and “human psychology” and “excessive quotation marks.” 

Cool?

Here’s what you need to know: If you’re just trying to be healthier and maybe lose some weight, there’s no need to start funneling kale smoothies, mainlining chicken and broccoli, and abandoning your loyalty to the Burger King.

You can lose weight and be healthy while still eating these foods occasionally. 

Heck, people have lost weight by eating Twinkies[2] and drinking soda and eating at McDonald’s 3 times per day.[3]

I share this info not to promote those foods, but rather to make a big point:

If you are terrified of giving up all “junk food”…

You do not need to give up fast food if it brings you joy.

You do not need to feel shame for eating ice cream. 

You do not need to use terms like “cheat meal” or “guilty pleasure” when talking about a chocolate chip cookie.

Food isn’t good or evil, my dear friend! 

It’s just food! 

Let’s bring it all together:

If we have certain health goals, we can give ourselves the best chance of success by getting strategic about what foods we say “YES” to, and what foods we say “SOMETIMES” to. 

These YES foods give us more energy and have fewer calories on average than “junk food,” which means we’re likely to eat fewer total calories without realizing it.

And thus, we end up with the Triforce of Awesome:

  • A longer lifespan.[4a]
  • A smaller waistline.[4b]
  • A happier, healthier existence.[5]

Healthy eating can help you be awesome in multiple ways.

So what are these magical foods we’re talking about?

I thought you’d never ask.

What is Healthy Eating?

IS this egg part of a healthy diet? Let's find out!

Removing all the morality and science of food, let’s talk about a realistic definition of “healthy food”:

“Foods I can eat frequently that give me enough fuel to get through the day AND don’t make me miserable.”

Most doctors, websites, and books have generally the same list of “healthy foods”:

  • Protein like poultry, meat, low-fat dairy, and legumes. 
  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Healthy carbohydrates like rice and quinoa.
  • Healthy fats like almonds and olive oil.
  • Occasional full-fat cheese and dairy.

(A more complete list of healthy foods is below). 

Why is it that these are the foods that happen to end up on every list on every website when it comes to “healthy eating?” 

Why do all sites advise more of less the same foods for a healthy diet?

Simple.

They are full of vitamins and minerals while also being lower in calories than ultra-processed foods that are easily overconsumed.[6]

They also fill us up, making us feel satiated, and keep us under our calorie allotment for the day.[7]

Now you’re starting to get it:

If we can prioritize these foods on our plate even occasionally, we’ll feel full more often while eating fewer calories… 

Which leads to sustainable weight loss and maintenance

This man is stoked he gets to lose weight sustainably through healthy eating...and punching his enemies.

Let me drive this point about into your brain (not literally). 

Each of the following foods contains 200 calories in the quantities shown (courtesy of wiseGEEK):

2/3 of a bagel is 200 calories.

This handful of pasta is 200 calories.This handful of turkey is 200 calories.This plate full of apples is 200 calories.

And here’s a huge plate of broccoli, also 200 calories:

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

In this context, the realization that we might overeat certain foods compared to others starts to become more clear:

  • If we accidentally overeat broccoli, we might eat an extra 20 calories. And who accidentally overeats broccoli?
  • If we accidentally overeat spaghetti, we might eat an extra 500-1000 calories. 
  • If we accidentally eat a family-sized bag of Sour Patch Kids, we might eat an extra 2000 calories (and have no tastebuds left on your tongue)[8].

Which brings me to the next point:[9] 

We humans are terrible at estimating how many calories we eat.

Like, really really bad at it. I bet the proportions of the above foods surprised you. 

We consistently eat much more than we realize, by as much as 47%+.[10]

To make matters worse, we also OVERestimate how many calories we burn through exercise. 

One study showed that Fitness trackers like AppleWatch or Fitbit do not estimate energy burned through exercise accurately, some by as much as 90%![11]

Our Fitbit trackers might not be super accurate when reporting calories burned. Take this into account when referencing your calorie needs.

That’s why we made this fun infographic:

This infographic shows calorie discrepancies from fitness trackers compared to actual calories burned.

So when we “can’t lose weight,” it’s not because we have a broken metabolism. 

It’s not because we have bad genetics[12].

Or that we’re not eating for our blood type.

It’s because we consistently eat too much food without realizing it.

Deadpool tries to match his calorie goals...when not saving the world and whatnot.

Because we always have a ready supply of new energy from recently eaten food, more than we need, our body NEVER has to dip into our stored fat to burn for fuel. 

And when we think we’ve out-exercised our bad diet, we really haven’t.

So it’s time to stop “trying harder” and instead “try differently”:

In order for us to get healthy, we need to find ways to include more foods that fill us up AND taste good.

Luckily, I have that list riiiiight here!

How to Start Eating Healthy (Healthy Food List)

A plate that that contains a portion of protein, healthy carb, veggies/fruit, and unsweetened drink.

There are three big macronutrients that we’re going to focus on as we build our plate like the image above:

  • Protein: building blocks for our muscles.
  • Carbohydrates: our bodies will burn as fuel. 
  • Fats: can be burned as fuel, and also helps with nutrition absorption!

#1) PROTEIN: Priority Numero Uno. 

Protein is amazing. 

Your body uses protein to rebuild your muscles and keep you strong, especially if you are exercising or strength training regularly. 

Protein is both good for you AND highly satiating.[13] 

Protein can come from any number of sources, including:

  • Meat (beef, bison, pork).
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck).
  • Eggs![14]
  • Fish and shellfish (salmon, tuna, shrimp).
  • Legumes (black beans, chickpeas).

Not a meat-eater? Read our massive plant-based guide!

A serving of protein is about the size and thickness of your palm.

A serving of protein should be about the size of your palm, like so.

*The 4 oz serving is for an uncooked piece of meat. Cooking reduces about 25% of the weight, bringing it down to about 3 oz.

When building a plate, aim for the following amount of protein:

  • Dudes: 1-2 servings (6-8 oz or about 170-228 g): two palms
  • Dudettes: 1 serving (3-4 oz or about 85-114 g): 1 palm.

If you’re curious, here’s how much protein is in a serving of food:

  • 4 oz (113 g) serving of chicken has around 30 g of protein.
  • 4 oz (113 g) serving of salmon has 23 g of protein
  • 4 oz (113 g) of steak has 28 g of protein. 

As we cover in our “how much protein should I eat per day?” you can target anywhere from 80% to 100% of your bodyweight in pounds per gram of protein, with an upper limit of 250g[15]:

  • If you weigh 150 pounds (68 kg), target 120-150g of protein.
  • If you weigh 200 pounds (90 kg), target 160-200g of protein.
  • If you weigh 250 pounds (113 kg), target 200-250g of protein.
  • If you weigh more than 250 pounds (113 kg), target 250g of protein.

#2: VEGETABLES: The difference-maker when it comes to healthy eating and weight management.

Vegetables are the key to healthy eating.

They are nutrient-dense: full of all the good nutrients that your body can use to function at optimal performance. 

Next, they are voluminous but calorie-light, which means you can eat lots of them, you’ll feel full, but you’re unlikely to over-consume calories.

A serving of veggies is about the size of your fist.

A serving of veggies should be the size of your first (or greater).

Remember this is what just 200 calories of broccoli looks like (holy crap). This is at least 5 full servings:

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

Here’s a quick, non-complete list of veggies that can fill your plate:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Spaghetti squash[16]
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Asparagus

Target 2 servings of vegetables on your plate – it should take up ½ the plate! 

“But Steve, I don’t like vegetables…yet!” 

That’s cool, I didn’t eat vegetables until I was 22. Now, they’re a main staple of every meal I eat. 

If this is you, read our guide on “how to make vegetables taste good.”

To recap portion sizes of protein and vegetables:

A reminder of the protein and veggie serving sizes.

#3) HEALTHY CARBOHYDRATES: Fuel and fiber! 

These are the foods that can be an important part of a diet, provided you eat them in the right quantities for your goals. 

These foods are also great to consume right after a strenuous strength training workout to help your muscles and liver refill their glycogen stores (their energy tanks[17], essentially). 

Examples of healthy carbohydrates:

  • Rice
  • Legumes, lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Whole grain bread (or pasta)

This is a list of REAL food, minimally processed, that also have plenty of fiber[18]

If you’re wondering how fruit factors into this equation, that’s the next section.

Back to healthy carbs: when consumed in appropriate amounts, these are great foods that can help you feel full and give you energy and all that jazz. 

Just make sure you know what an actual portion of these foods are! 

A LOT of people accidentally overeats carbohydrate-heavy foods, even healthy ones, and then wonders why they aren’t losing weight.

To help you get better at eyeballing serving sizes:

Showing you a serving of carbs

1 serving of a starchy carbohydrate is 1 cupped hand (uncooked), or your two hands forming a cup (cooked). 

Here are some images to help you learn proper portion sizes (thanks to SafeFood):

This pic will give you an idea of how carbs should fit on your plate, so you can start eating healthy!

#4) HEALTHY FATS: No longer the enemy!

Fat had a bad rep in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but now things are swinging wayyyyy back in the other direction.

In some circles, dietary fat is considered a superfood – the healthiest thing on the planet that also does your taxes for you.

Let’s get to the truth:

Fat is neither a superfood nor evil. 

Fat can be part of a healthy diet, and is not evil, to the frustration of Dr. Evil.

It’s just a macronutrient that you can eat that can help you reach your goals in the right quantity, or keep you from your goals if it’s overconsumed.

When your doctor tells you to eat more healthy fats, she’s referring to polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats[19].

Healthy fat can be found in foods like:

  • Avocado 
  • Almonds 
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Almond butter 
  • Peanut butter

Now, science has recently come around on saturated fat too[20] – once completely vilified, but now cautiously considered okay for moderate consumption. 

Saturated fats can come from things like:

  • Whole milk
  • Full fat dairy
  • Coconut oil
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Lard
  • Fatty cuts of meat

Fat can be good for you provided you’re eating the right quantity for your goals. 

However, like carbs, fats can be overconsumed accidentally too. 

To help you gauge: a serving size of fat is roughly the size of your thumb!

A serving of fat should be about your thumb!

THIS is a single serving of almonds (162 calories):

Knowing the correct amount of almonds to eat can help you with your calorie goals.

THIS is a serving of olive oil (119 calories, taken from Runtastic):

Your thumb is about one serving of olive oil

As you can see, if you’re not careful – you can accidentally eat an extra 500 calories of “healthy fats” by absentmindedly eating too many “heart-healthy” fats. 

Many folks in our Coaching Program had us analyze why they weren’t losing weight, even though they “only ate grilled chicken and veggies.” 

When we dug into it, they had been preparing all of their food in an extra 500-600 calories worth of olive oil they weren’t accounting for. 

Homer just realized he eats too much olive oil.

To recap carbs and fats: feel free to include a starchy carb on your plate in the form of rice, potatoes, pasta, or legumes. Healthy fats can spice up a meal, provided you’re using an appropriate portion size

A reminder of the serving sizes of carbs and fat.

I realize that was a CRAZY amount of info, so let’s put it all on the same Healthy Plate:

A plate that that contains a portion of protein, healthy carb, veggies/fruit, and unsweetened drink.

  • 1-2 servings of protein (¼ of plate)
  • 2 servings of vegetables (½ of plate)
  • 1 serving potatoes, rice, or pasta. (1/4th of plate)
  • 1 serving of fat (size of your thumb)
  • 1 zero-calorie or low-calorie beverage (water, diet soda, tea)

I know that not all of your meals are going to be perfectly segmented like a bento box. For example: 

  • A fatty cut of meat like chicken thighs means your fat and protein are commingling. Cool.
  • Lentils and legumes mean your protein and your carbs are attached at the hip. Swell.
  • A burrito bowl with chicken, rice, guacamole, and cheese means all of your macros are cohabitating. Neato!
  • Salmon cooked in olive oil and coated in almond flakes means your fat and protein have fused. Stupendous!

This plate and serving size stuff above is just to help you get started thinking about healthy food differently and in proper portion sizes:

  • Trying to lose weight? Reduce your portions of carbs and fats.
  • Trying to gain weight? Increase your portions of carbs and fats! 

Remember, all calories count

I can already predict your next series of questions:

  • “What about beverages?” Simple. Liquid calories count too. So stick to low or zero-calorie drinks like water, tea, coffee, and diet soda. 
  • “How about condiments?” Grilled chicken slathered in 1000 calories of buffalo sauce means you’re still eating a calorie bomb!
  • “But what about things like Paleo or Keto? I thought low carb = healthy?” I address that in the “which diet is right for me?” section. Keep reading.

What’s the Deal with Fruit? Is Fruit Healthy?

Yes, fruit can be healthy, as this LEGO has figured out by cutting into it.

As we lay out in our “Is Fruit Healthy?” Guide, fruit is absolutely healthy and can help you reach your goals – in the right quantities. 

Fruits are full of nutrients, packed with fiber, and can make for a great snack or part of a protein-focused breakfast!

Watermelon can be part of a healthy diet. Just maybe don't eat the kind that dances.

Personally, I blend up frozen mixed berries in my post-workout smoothie.

Just remember that fruit, like every other food, obeys the laws of thermodynamics.

So, simply be aware of the calories (and carb and fiber content if you’re following a lower-carb diet).

Here’s a list of the calorie, carbohydrate, and fiber content of some common fruit:

  • Apple: 95 cal, 25g carbs, 4.4g fiber. 
  • Banana: 105 cal, 27g carbs, 3.1g fiber. 
  • Orange: 45 cal, 11g carbs, 2.3g fiber. 
  • Pear: 100 cal, 28g carbs, 3g fiber. 
  • Peach: 59 cal, 14g carbs, 2.3g fiber. 
  • Strawberries (1 cup): 47 cal, 11g carbs, 3g fiber. 
  • Pineapple (1 cup): 82 cal, 22g carbs, 2.3g fiber. 
  • Grapes (1 cup): 62 cal, 16g carbs, 0.8g fiber. 
  • Raspberries (1 cup): 65 cal, 15g carbs, 8 fiber. 

Fruit is a better, healthier alternative to nutrient-empty food from a vending machine.

Fruit is healthier than what you'll find in a vending machine, plus you'll lower your chance of getting stuck in one.

Where fruit can get you in trouble is if you start to move in the direction of “fruit-like”:

#1) Fruit juices (cranberry juice, orange juice, grape juice): these are high calorie, sugar-filled beverages. 

For example, here are the calories in one 8 oz (or 1 cup)[21] serving of: 

  • Apple Juice: 114 calories[22]
  • Orange Juice: 119 calories[23]
  • Grape Juice: 14 calories[24]

#2) Dried fruit: notoriously easy to overeat because they are so small. Since the water has been taken out, all that’s left is the sugar and fiber. 

Here’s 1 serving of raisins, which is 108 calories and 21 g of sugar:

Since the water is taken out, raisins have a lot of sugar and calories.

If you are saying “oh man, I eat 5x that many raisins when I eat them…” then multiply those calorie and sugar numbers by 5!

3) Fruit Smoothies: Just because it’s a fruit smoothie doesn’t mean it won’t make you fat! Have you seen the calorie count and sugar content of smoothies and ‘green drinks’? Yikes.

  • Green Machine Naked Juice (15.2 oz or 450 ml bottle): 270 calories, 53 g of sugar.
  • Smoothie King Banana Boat (20 oz or 591 ml smoothie): 450 calories, 70 g of sugar.

A man realizing how much sugar is in his drink.

**If you prepare your smoothie at home with a blender, it can actually be healthy since the fiber is intact. Here’s my personal recipe.**

To recap: fruit is healthy, provided you stick to fresh or frozen and not fruit-like food, dried fruit, or canned fruit packed in syrup. 

If you enjoy a small glass of orange juice occasionally, or you pack a serving of raisins in your lunch and it makes life worth living, by all means! 

Just don’t chug OJ by the gallon, drink a 64 oz “real fruit smoothie,” and eat raisins by the handful and then wonder why you’re not losing weight.

Are Cheese and Dairy healthy?

Is cheese and dairy part of a healthy diet? This LEGO is clearly skeptical.

We get questions about these two types of food frequently. 

Let me start by saying I’m assuming you’re not doing Paleo (which says “NO dairy and NO cheese”), or plant-based (which says NO to all animal products).

I’ll also assume you’re not doing Keto, which almost requires you to load up on dairy and cheese to eat enough fat every day! 

Let’s pretend you’re just curious if cheese and/or dairy can be consumed on a “healthy diet:”:

YES, you can still eat cheese and be healthy.

YES, you can still eat dairy and be healthy.

And there was much rejoicing:

Yes, both dairy and cheese can be part of a healthy diet. Rejoice!

Like the healthy carbs and fats listed above, it all comes down to your calories consumed in a day, and if these foods fit into your daily calorie goals:

  1. Want to put cheese on top of your salad of chicken and vegetables? Great! 
  2. Want to eat greek yogurt, a scoop of protein powder, and frozen berries for your breakfast? Amazing! 
  3. Want to eat a bowl of cereal with skim milk (or whole milk) in the morning with your kid before school? No problem.

This is true for higher-fat cheeses or full-fat dairy too – the food just needs to fit into your goals! 

Luckily, all dairy comes labeled, and most cheese will come with a nutrition label on it too. 

Just ensure that you’re choosing appropriate portion sizes. For reference, here are four different servings of cheddar cheese (about 113 calories a serving):

A serving of cheddar cheese is about 113 calories.

And here’s a serving of greek yogurt (120 calories in 142 grams):[25]

a serving of Greek Yogurt

And although nobody in the history of the world has ever eaten just one serving…here is a serving of ice cream:

A serving of ice cream is about the size of a tennis ball, cleverly shown here.

(A scoop of ice cream the size of a tennis ball is about 127 calories, cleverly shown above.)

So, dairy and cheese are both perfectly acceptable healthy food options! Just make sure they fit into your goals. 

If you are NOT losing weight, and you consume a lot of dairy and/or cheese, consider measuring your intake and see if it’s in line with your expectations! 

What’s the Best Diet for Me? Keto vs Paleo vs Plant-based.

Yoda knows a lot about healthy eating (and fixing R2)

“Low fat diets? Low carb diets? No carb diets? I don’t know which one is the BEST diet!” 

“Help me, Steve Kamb, you’re my only hope.”

Okay, you’re probably not saying that, but it’s an excuse to pay homage to Star Wars so I can use the great photo above.

You probably do have questions though about what’s healthier, a low fat diet or a low carb diet.

Low carb diets are all the rage right now, but are they healthy and will they help you lose weight

Will a low carb diet help you lose weight? Maybe!

Maybe.

It may depend on how your body regulates glucose (blood sugar):[26]

Some who don’t regulate glucose well may do better on a lower-carb diet.

Others who do regulate glucose well might do better on a lower-fat diet. 

Studies show that people who follow EITHER a low fat OR a low carb diet will still lose weight, as long as they are in caloric restriction and can adhere to the diet for at least a year.[27]

So, it comes down to: “which diet are you more likely to stick with for a year or longer?”

I personally lost 22 pounds over 6 months on a lower-fat diet (and eating plenty of carbs), but everybody is different.

This means you’ll need to experiment and see which is better for your lifestyle, and your day-to-day well-being.

Experiment with different kinds of diet until you find one that works for you!

But I bet you have questions about the big popular diets too. 

I’ve written a huge guide that covers all popular weight-loss diets together, but we’ve also written individual ultimate guides that cover:

Let’s look at each of these diets and explain why they will help you lose weight, at least temporarily:

Truth #1:  Every diet works in the short term.

Truth #2: Nearly every diet fails in the long term.

Let’s address these two truths individually: 

Why does every diet work in the short term

Why DO diets work in the short term? This ape wants to know so he can eat healthy.

All the diets above have a clever way of restricting calories without you needing to count calories, which leads to weight loss: 

  • Paleo Diet: eliminate everything but veggies, meat, fruit, and nuts. 
  • Intermittent Fasting: skip an entire meal!
  • Keto Diet: remove an entire macronutrient from your diet (carbs).
  • Military Diet: Only eat specific foods in certain quantities.
  • Plant-based Diet: Only eat foods from plants.
  • Carnivore Diet: Only eat meat! Eliminate everything else. 

Of course, there are plenty of benefits from following certain diets for certain groups of people. For example, Larry went Keto and it helped him reduce inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis. 

However, 99% of the reason why these diets result in short-term weight loss is that they get us to eat fewer calories! 

The problems arise when we get to Truth 2: 

“Nearly every diet fails in the long term.”

Put another way: 

Temporary changes create temporary results. 

If somebody “goes Keto” for 60 days, they’ll most likely lose weight, and might even feel better! This is cool. 

BUT! 

(There’s always a but…)

If they spend those 60 days in misery, dreaming of carbs, counting down the meals until they can “go back to eating like normal,” they will put all of the weight back.

The weight loss you obtain through diet will only stick as long as you stay on that diet.

In order for restrictive diets to create permanent results for somebody, they need to be adopted PERMANENTLY! 

For most of us mere mortals, we can’t stick with a restrictive diet for 30 days, let alone a year or a decade. 

For these reasons, I strongly advise you to change how you think about dieting.

You need to determine how likely you are to stick with a restrictive diet permanently:

  1. How averse are you to change?
  2. How likely are you to stick with your changes?
  3. Have you tried a restrictive diet in the past and failed?
  4. Do you have a healthy relationship with food?
  5. Do you have an “all or nothing?” mindset?

Like playing a video game, you need to determine what level of difficulty you are willing to attempt. 

Playing on “Ultra Hard Difficulty” (like Keto) gives you less room for error, but it can also produce impressive results quickly – if you don’t rage quit.

And 99% of people rage quit restrictive diets like Keto.

So what’s the best diet for you? 

I’ll give you the same answer that I give people when they ask me, “What’s the best workout plan?”: 

The best diet is the one that helps you reach your goals, that you ENJOY, and that you’ll actually stick with permanently!

Personally, I don’t follow any sort of restrictive diet

I’m a big fan of small changes that eventually produce big results, like my boy Optimus Prime:

Optimus Prime wants you to eat healthy.

This is why I’ve SLOWWWWLY adjusted my diet over the past decade, so that no change was too drastic and I could stick with it permanently.

It’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle change. Permanently.

And that’s what I would recommend for you: 

Small, non-scary, permanent changes over a long time period! 

You need to start thinking in terms of “days and years,” not “weeks and months:”

How to Grocery Shop, Cook and Meal Prep!

Marge knows how to buy food to eat healthy, Yoda is just here for moral support.

Okay! Now that you’ve determined your healthy eating strategy, it’s time to take action. 

There are three big steps you’ll want to master if this is your path: 

Step #1: Grocery Shopping!

You can read our full guide on “How to grocery shop”, and we even have a video that keeps things fun too:

Here’s how to grocery shop like a pro:

  • Stick mostly to the outer rim. This means you’re mostly buying meat, fruit, and veggies[28].
  • Read the nutrition label! Just because it says it’s healthy on the front doesn’t mean it is. Read the nutrition label and learn portion sizes. This can help keep you below your daily calorie goal
  • Don’t shop hungry! It may seem silly, but you end up buying way more junk food accidentally if you shop while hangry (a mix of hungry-angry, never a great emotion).
  • Make a list. Before you go grocery shopping, write down everything you should get. You can even put “non-healthy” food items on the list. But then you can only buy what’s on your list! This means no candy in the check-out aisle, or buying Oreos just because they’re on sale! Plan ahead. Stick to the script, sister.

Step #2: Learn to cook!

Once you get cooking you'll feel like the Swedish Chef.

In the next section, we share recipes for basic healthy meals that you can cook at home. 

Here’s why cooking at home is amazing: 

  1. You know all of the ingredients. When you eat at restaurants or pick up fast food, there are often hidden calories in the cooking oils and sauces that are sabotaging your healthy efforts. Because of this, it’s really hard to have an idea of how many calories you’re consuming. When you prepare food at home, you know what you’re getting.
  2. You can recreate healthier versions of your favorite foods. Making homemade tacos or pizza with homemade dough can be a great date-night experience, makes your stomach happy, AND can help you reach your goals!
  3. You save money. If your budget is tight, grocery shopping and cooking your own meals is a great way to balance your budget and free up some cash! Our most successful coaching clients work with their coaches on building the habit of cooking at home.

Now, if you’re somebody who only ever uses your kitchen to heat up microwave meals, that’s no problem. 

You can get by eating healthy with just a microwave!

Here are the guides you should check out: 

Step #3 (BONUS): Meal Prep and Batch Cooking!  

This step isn’t necessary, but if your goal is to make healthy eating a habit for you and your family, batch cooking can be the difference maker! 

By “batch cooking,” I simply mean setting aside time to prepare larger quantities of food at the start of the week, so that throughout the week you already have meals to eat!  

Personally, batch cooking changed my life.

Batch cooking can change your life, as this sheep knows!

And every single success story we’ve featured on Nerd Fitness (like this one) involved some sort of batch cooking (planning your meals for the week ahead). 

Follow these rules, and you will crush it in the Healthy Eating Department[29]!

19 Healthy Eating Meals You Can Cook Today

This LEGO is making a tasty meal of fish and veggies, so he can eat healthy.

“Okay Steve, you have me convinced I should be eating more healthy foods. But I am a nerd and I need specific instructions to follow!”

I got you. 

As a kid raised on LEGO and K’nex, I am the exact same way! 

Clearly we love LEGOs here at Nerd Fitness

Here are options to get the ball rolling on healthy breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners. Use these as inspiration or starting points for your meal planning! 

3 BREAKFASTS (Unless you do Intermittent fasting!)

Breakfast 1: Prosciutto-Wrapped Mini Frittata Muffins (4 muffins)

A Frittata like so can make a great healthy breakfast.

    • Calories: 440
    • Protein: 32g
    • Fat: 24g
    • Carbs: 16g

Breakfast 2: Kale Breakfast Salad (1/4 of recipe)

Who says you can't have salad for breakfast?

    • Calories: 331
    • Protein: 15g
    • Fat: 12g
    • Carbs: 14g

Breakfast 3: Breakfast Meal Prep Bowls (1 bowl)

If you do a little prep work, you can have a tasty breakfast for every day of the week!

    • Calories: 204
    • Protein: 10g
    • Fat: 10g
    • Carbs: 19g

3 LUNCHES

Lunch 1: Spicy Tuna Cakes (4 cakes)

Fish is a great addition to healthy eating, so grub down on meals like this!

    • Calories: 368
    • Protein: 20g
    • Fat: 20g
    • Carbs: 28g

Lunch 2: Chicken Zucchini Enchilada (1 enchilada )

Who says you need tortillas for enchilada?

    • Calories: 154
    • Protein: 16.7g
    • Fat: 7.2g
    • Carbs: 6.1g

Lunch 3: Lettuce Wrap Sandwich (1 sandwich)

If you lose the bread, a sandwich makes a great low calorie meal.

    • Calories: 279
    • Protein: 26g
    • Fat: 19g
    • Carbs: 10g

3 SNACKS (Unless you’re on “Team No Snack”)

Snack 1: Green Protein Snack Pack (2)

Edamame can give you a protein packed snack!

    • Calories: 234
    • Protein: 22g
    • Fat: 16g
    • Carbs: 32g

Snack 2: Avocado Egg Salad (1/4 recipe)

If you made a big batch of this salad, it'll make a great snack for healthy eating!

    • Calories: 330
    • Protein: 18g
    • Fat: 25g
    • Carbs: 8g

Snack 3: Baked Chicken Wings (1/5 of batch)

Chicken wings can be a great low carb or paleo friendly snack for healthy eating!

    • Calories: 440
    • Protein: 34g
    • Fat: 33g
    • Carbs: 1g

3 DINNERS

Dinner 1: Big-o Bacon Burgers (2 burgers)

If you use mushrooms instead of a bun, you can have an easy paleo burger!

    • Calories: 450
    • Protein: 34g
    • Fat: 40g
    • Carbs: 2g

Dinner 2: Vegan Portobello Pizzas (1 pizza)

Low carb and vegan pizza? Woot!

    • Calories: 165
    • Protein: 7.7g
    • Fat: 10g
    • Carbs: 14.5g

Dinner 3: Ground Beef Veggie Skillet (1/4 of dish)

If you mix your beer with veggies, you have a low-carb and paleo friendly meal. Healthy eating for the win!

    • Calories: 261
    • Protein: 29.5g
    • Fat: 1.8g
    • Carbs: 8.5g

All of these meals are nutrient-dense and low in calories, so they’ll give you the best chance at weight management without feeling miserable

Does all that seem like too much?

Watch this video from Nerd Fitness Prime where Coach Justin shows you how to make 7 “No-Cook” meals:

Meals covered in this video:

  • Egg and Avocado Rice Cakes
  • Cheese and Turkey Roll-ups
  • Chicken Pomegranate Salad
  • Shrimp Pineapple Salad
  • Smoked Salmon Wraps
  • Greek Yogurt (with Protein Powder)
  • Two-Ingredient Desserts

Want some more ideas? Check out 26 Easy Meals You Can Cook

Just remember, quantity counts:

  • If your goal is weight loss: Keep an eye on the fat and carbs portion of your plate!  
  • If your goal is weight gain, then you can ratchet up your total calories consumed by increasing your fat and carbohydrate portion of your plate! 

Not sure how to make these meals work or how to adjust them for your goals? 

This is exactly what we do with our Online Coaching Program!




How to Simplify Nutrition (3 Steps)

In the video above, Coach Staci walks you through her step-by-step plan for simplifying nutrition.

Yeah, I’ve thrown a lot at you today.

But as Staci mentions above, you can start off small, with some simple steps. Once you get these down, we can work on adding some more simple habits.

To start eating healthy:

  • Have a glass of water with every meal.
  • Have a vegetable with every meal.
  • Have a source of lean protein with every meal.

That’s it!

When someone joins our coaching program, these are often the steps we have them take. 

Yeah, sometimes they’ll bulk, thinking this is not enough…

A gif saying "is that it?"

…but consistency is where people start to see real progress.

Don’t overlook the power of simple and consistent habits.

Will You Commit to Healthy Eating?

When not fighting crime, Batman eats healthy.

As we start to wrap up this guide, I have one BIG final question for you:

“Why the hell are you reading this?” 

Sorry to be so blunt, but your answer matters! 

If you are trying to eat better because somebody told you to, or because you think you should, you’re setting yourself up to fail. 

You might be excited and motivated to eat healthy today, and that’s great! 

The start of a new activity, even a diet, can be very exciting as these apes know!

But next week, Oscar in Accounting will put cake in front of you at work, and ask you to “live a little” and eat some cake “just this once.”  

And then you’ll discover apps are half-priced at Chatchki’s during happy hour, and you figure “well I already had cake, might as well split some shrimp poppers and extreme fajitas with Meredith.”

This is how it always happens: Motivation abandons us when we need it most. 

And then one “ehh” choice becomes three bad choices which becomes “crap, I failed at my diet! I’m a loser. Okay I’ll just try harder next month…”

If you are committed to this goal of eating healthier, you need a DAMN good reason to start eating healthier in the first place!

Here are some examples you can build off of:

  • “I want to look better naked and start dating again.”
  • “I want to do epic stuff like running my first 5K.”
  • “I don’t want to die early like my dad did.”
  • “I want to find out what I’m capable of.”
  • “I want to feel pride, not shame, when I look in the mirror.”

There are many tough days ahead, many happy hours, and sabotaging coworkers. 

Having a great reason WHY can be the light in the darkness that helps you navigate the maze of temptation.

Frodo isn't afraid of the dark...or eating unhealthy.

In our Nerd Fitness Coaching program, we call this “The Big Why,” and having a reason can be the difference between success and failure:

It’s our Big Why that stops us from living emotionally and chasing instant gratification from a donut or six slices of pizza when we’re sad or stressed.

It’s our Big Why that allows us to say “Yes, I can have a slice of pizza, because I planned for it in my ‘calorie budget’ today. I’m not gonna feel bad about it either, because my breakfast tomorrow is gonna be great.”

It’s our Big Why that allows us to get back on track after a vacation or after just one day of poor eating, instead of letting things slide for a week or a month.  

Have your Big Why, and remind yourself of it constantly! 

Write it down, put it on a post-it note on your bathroom mirror, staple it to your forehead. 

But have a REASON you’re committing to change.

It will be crucial when life starts to get busy next week and you want to give up. So let’s talk about next week (and beyond!)

Healthy Eating: Next Steps!

You now know what it takes to eat healthy!

This guide has provided you with all of the tools you need to start making healthier choices, but if you are looking to go a bit further…

#1) Our 1-on-1 Online Coaching program: a coaching program for busy people to help them make better food choices, stay accountable, and get healthier, permanently.

You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the image below for more details:

#2) If you want an exact blueprint for leveling up your nutrition, check out Nerd Fitness Journey! Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

If you follow our Nutrition missions, you’ll learn to eat healthier while earning XP! Sah-weeeet.

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Join The Rebellion! We have a free email newsletter that we send out twice per week, full of tips and tricks to help you get healthy, get strong, and have fun doing so. 

I’ll also send you tons of free guides that you can use to start leveling up your life too:

Healthy eating will change your life. 

But it needs to fit INTO your life too. 

Small changes, not dramatic shifts!

You don’t have to give up the foods you love, you just need to PLAN for them. 

Learn how to make a plate like we lay out in this guide.

Prioritize protein, and always put a fruit or vegetable on your plate before filling the rest of it up!

This will get you 90% of the way towards a great healthy eating strategy.

And when in doubt, whenever you’re not sure if you should eat a particular food, ask yourself “What would Batman do?”

Ask yourself "What would Batman eat?"

Seriously, this has been studied with children, and it helped them make healthier food choices by giving the decision-making over to somebody they looked up to [22]. It’s called “self-distancing,” and there’s no reason it can’t work for you too. 

Oh, and when you eat a bad meal – who cares?! “Never two in a row,” right? Make the next meal healthy. 

YOUR MISSION, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT: 

Start eating healthy today with literally one change:

  • Try a new vegetable.
  • Cut one soda out of your day. 
  • Prioritize protein in your next meal. 
  • Swap out one high-calorie drink for a zero-calorie drink.

I don’t care what the change is, just as long as you make one!

Okay enough about me, let’s talk about you: 

What’s the ONE change you’re going to make today?

For the Rebellion!

-Steve

PS: Make sure you read the rest of the articles in our “How to Lose Weight 101” Series! 

###

All photo sources can be found right here: Leia eating breakfast, stuffed veggies, stormtroopers and egg, fruit ninja, Caution: Cheese Hazard, Fish soup, Yoda and R2, Happy Monday, almond serving size, olive oil, raisins, serving of cheddar, yogurt, Shopping, dinner on the beach.



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How Many Calories Does Walking Burn? (Calorie Calculator)

How Many Calories Does Walking Burn? (Calorie Calculator)


There’s two things every nerd should know:

  1. How many calories do I burn walking a mile?
  2. How far is it to Mordor?

Today, we’re answering both of them (and much more). 

Walking is a great form of exercise and something we often recommend to folks starting our coaching program. Some have had great success walking, including Megan, who has a daily practice to maintain her weight loss journey.

Megan before and after

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Without further ado, let’s step right in.

How Many Calories Does Walking Burn? (Calorie Calculator)

In true Nerd Fitness fashion, we scienced the crap out of this, and even created a handy calculator for you – simply put your stats in the calculator here:

A few things to remember about the above equation:

There’s a difference between gross calories (total calories) expended and net calories (additional calories) expended! Your body burns most of its calories every day JUST by existing.

  • Gross calories: calories burned while walking PLUS the calories burned just existing
  • Net calories: ADDITIONAL calories you burned thanks to exercise.

(Calculate your calories “in” and “out” with this calculator.)

Also, our calculation is an ESTIMATE. You’re a unique snowflake, and no box or formula can capture your awesomeness/uniqueness. This equation below is JUST a starting point!

Also, if you don’t feel like playing with our calculator (boo), here’s how many calories you burn walking:

On average, a mile burns about 100 calories when walking.

Another point: ANY exercise pales in comparison to a much more important part of the weight loss equation: nutrition.

It’s what Megan credits most of her weight loss journey to.

Megan before and after

If you’ve come this far, and you want to learn more about why walking is so amazing, continue reading.

And you’re damn right, I’ll show you exactly how to walk to Mordor too.

What Are The Benefits of Walking?

Walking along roads or hiking can burn a lot of calories

We are designed to walk. It’s in our DNA, and it’s a huge part of our emergence as the dominant species on this planet (along with opposable thumbs, big brains, and Nintendo).

Let’s get the basic stuff out of the way:

Every day, it’s recommended by the CDC that we walk around five miles, or 10,000 steps.[1]

Hence the reason why your Fitbit – which I’ll get to shortly – has that 10k step goal as its default number.

Unfortunately, we Americans tend to average HALF that: 2.5 miles or 5,000 steps.

And I’d imagine that people who work outdoors or have more physically active jobs drag that average wayyyy up.

Which leaves us desk jockeys, who don’t walk nearly enough.

Animated gif of man coming home from work and sitting at computer

We use our feet to get us from the front door, to our car, to our desk, to our car, to our front door, to our couch… where we put them up while watching four hours of TV before going to bed.

Not walking enough can be a big factor in the creep-up of weight gain over the years.

You might have questions like:

  • Can I walk more to lose weight?
  • Is walking REALLY good for me?
  • Do I need to do more intense exercise?

Long story short:

You should walk more and it can help you lose weight and be healthier.

Short story long…

Here’s why walking is important:

#1) Walking burns calories without exhausting you. If you walk the recommended mileage each day (5 miles instead of just 2.5), it can lead to a tremendous amount of weight loss over time. You’ll burn an extra 100 calories walking just ONE more mile each day than normal: When that’s multiplied out, it’s an extra 700 calories burned per week, which results in approximately a pound of fat lost every five weeks, or 10 pounds in a year.  You can scale up your distances to get your desired results!

#2) Walking doesn’t add to training stress. If you are strength training regularly, adding in more weight training or running can lead to burnout, breakdowns, and injuries. If you are trying to look like a super-hero, extra cardio sessions (or long-distance cardio sessions) might kill your gains. But you can just walk. You can walk great distances, provided you’ve built up your body’s physical ability, and not get tired or sore – walking (especially outside while soaking in some sunlight) can make you feel better, not worse.

#3) Walking is low impact. Unlike running, which can wreak havoc on people’s joints if they run improperly or are severely overweight, walking doesn’t have those impact issues. If you go for a walk and your feet or joints hurt, you’re doing it wrong – read the next section!

#4) Walking can burn fat. Because walking is low impact and low intensity, your body doesn’t need to pull much glycogen and glucose stores to fuel itself, which happens when you strength train or push yourself into “aerobic training” with higher intensity cardio. Proponents of intermittent fasting suggest walking in a fasted state in the morning before eating anything in order to help burn extra fat. It’s a little controversial, so this will have to be something you attempt and measure for yourself.

#5) Walking relieves stress. Seriously! Put on your favorite playlist, and go for a pleasant walk around your neighborhood or through the woods as the sun is going down. It’s a recipe to forget the worries of your day.

Bonus points if you can get someone to follow you with a boombox:

Man skipping followed by woman holding a boombox

#6) Walking improves mental health (especially in older hobbits). Walking can improve mental health, increase brain size, improve memory, and is correlated with improved, longer lifespans.[2]

How Walking Can Change Your Life

crossing three stepping stones in a river

If you are severely overweight and can’t run or strength train, walk on.

If you are building muscle and bulking up, walk on.

If you are trying to lose weight, walk on.

If you struggle with following a routine, or have failed in the past with weight loss, walk on

Why? I’m a HUGE fan of small habit change and tiny victories – walking is the PERFECT habit builder. If you’re brand new and starting out, go for a walk TODAY and begin your journey to Mordor.

This afternoon, go for a five-minute walk. Tomorrow morning before work, before breakfast, as SOON as you wake up, put on your shoes, and go outside for a five-minute walk. No snoozing, no lying in bed, no checking email or Twitter. Put on your headphones, pick your favorite song, go outside, and start walking.

Here’s why:

  • Walking for just five minutes a day is the start of a new habit.  Every morning for a few weeks, you’ll have to force yourself to walk. Initially, it will take effort and willpower to walk instead of snoozing. However, with each passing day of success, you’ll need to use less effort and willpower to get out the door. After all, it’s only five minutes, right? Once it’s something you do automatically without thinking, you can add on to it by increasing your walk time.
  • Walking briskly outdoors in the fresh morning air can be a great caffeine-free wake up call! If you make walking the FIRST thing you do in the morning, especially if you’re doing it before anybody else is awake, there will be zero distractions and no reason to say “sorry, I didn’t have time.” Of course, we like caffeine too (in moderation).
  • Walking will give you a chance to gather your thoughts and clear your head before the day begins. We’re constantly distracted at home: TV, iPads, smartphones, etc. Walking is so primal – no gadgets, just walking. Many people cite walking as the impetus for their creative or intelligent breakthroughs.   
  • Walking and successfully building a habit will give you a habit blueprint to follow for anything else you’d like to accomplish: “Hey, I was able to make walking a habit, what else can I tackle in the same way?” Slow and steady wins. One foot in front of the other, my friend.

How to Walk Properly

Footprints in the sand

“Uhhh, Steve, I know how to walk. I do it every day!”

Welp, if you’re starting from only walking from your car to the office, we need to make sure you’re walking the right way for when you push that mileage up.

Let’s start with your feet, provided you’re not gonna glue hair to your feet and go barefoot to become a hobbit.

I recommend walking in shoes that have a wide toe box and minimal drop (height at the heel vs height at the toes), as we discuss in our monster post on healthy feet and footwear:

You might not be used to walking with minimal cushioning under your heels, so walk slowly and land softly. Walking on softer surfaces to start isn’t a bad idea either.

We were designed before the invention of big clunky shoes… thus, we should be able to walk without big clunky shoes.[3] If you are interested in going barefoot as a runner, get started by walking short distances first. Your feet will toughen up (though they probably won’t grow hair quite like Frodo and Sam), your joints and muscles around your feet and ankles will strengthen, and your knees will deal with less stress.

When going for a lazy stroll, focus on landing softly, which is much easier when you don’t have thick-soled shoes to cushion your stride: land softly with your heel barely touching before rolling onto the middle (ball) of your foot, and then push off. You might need to take shorter strides than you’re used to if you were a big heel striker with a long stride.

If you’re aiming to walk quickly and up the intensity, shorten your stride and aim to land in the middle of your foot while pumping your arms. This is more easily done when walking uphill (which is also a great way to burn extra calories).

Is Walking Enough for Weight Loss?

Don before and after

Can walking help you lose weight?

You’re darn right it can!

The above photos are from Don, one of our coaching clients. Don credits his daily walking practice with helping him lose 85 pounds!

He’s not our only example of walking for weight loss:

Megan before and after

Megan, who I mentioned earlier, is another client who walks daily to maintain her weight loss.

Case closed?

Of course not!

Both Don and Megan also made adjustments to their nutrition to reach their amazing results.

One of the Rules of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is that we know “you can’t outrun your fork.” No amount of exercise can counter a bad diet, as your nutrition will be responsible for 90% (not an exaggeration) of your success or failure.

Here’s an example:

  • Let’s say you go for a 5-mile walk, which takes you 90+ minutes.
  • If you then consume a 20 oz Gatorade and a small bag of Fritos (a typical snack for many here in America), you will have already undone all of the calories burned while walking.

Depending on your nutrition and love/hatred for exercise, this is either great news or bad news!

The BAD news: you can’t eat very badly in mass quantities and then expect to lose weight with a bit of exercise every week, even if it’s strenuous.

The GOOD news: Even if you dislike exercise, you can avoid exercise and still lose weight! Instead, put ALL of your focus instead on fixing your nutrition, and then go for a walk every once in awhile.

I’d also consider reading the following:

Oh, and if you want to see if a Nerd Fitness Coach can build you a program to lose weight while doing movements you enjoy (like walking), click on the button below:




The Best Practices for Walking (Tips and Tricks)

Autumn walk way

Here’s how to improve your walking technique:

#1) Focus on posture! Head up! Shoulders back! Walk with a confident stroll – practice this one in the morning if you’re not used to walking like this. It’s also a great way to appear instantly more confident; we nerds and hobbits need all the confidence we can get! Look around at your surroundings with your head up, arms swinging in rhythm.

You can also do some well-placed neck swings and jacket removals:

Zoolander walking and removing jacket

#2) Walk uphill to burn more fat. If you are walking on a treadmill, set it to an incline to increase the intensity and thus increase the amount of fat burned. Just don’t be that person who sets the incline way up, then holds onto both sides and leans their body back to be perpendicular with the incline. Keep good posture, lean forward into the incline, shorten your stride, and pump your legs.

#3) Hiking is a great way to practice walking, enjoy the scenery, and play Lord of the Rings in the woods with plastic swords and capes. Not that you should do that (you totally should). Here’s a beginner’s guide to hiking!

#4) When walking downhill, especially while barefoot (or wearing minimalist shoes), keep that stride short and be careful on how you are walking. Make sure your knee is bent when you land and absorb the impact rather than jamming the impact through your heel, knee, leg, hips, and lower back.

#5) Consider going for fasted walks in the morning. When you wake up first thing in the morning, your body has burned through most of the carb-fueled energy stores during the night. Which means when you go for a walk first thing in the morning, your body is more likely to have to pull from the only fuel source available to it: fat! This is the entire philosophy behind things like Intermittent Fasting or really low-carb diets like the Ketogenic diet.

#6) Get yourself a sturdy walking stick, if only so you can use it to battle imaginary ogres, goblins, cavetrolls, etc. It can also make you feel far more adventurous than if you’re just walking, and help you get up hills and land softly when going back down.

#7) Try Temptation Bundling. Load up an audiobook or your favorite podcast, and tell yourself that you can ONLY listen to the book or podcast while walking.

Is a Fitbit Helpful for Walking? (Which Fitness Tracker Is Best for Me?)

what you need to know about Fitbits and Pedometers to track calories burned walking

If you’re somebody who has been interested – or is getting interested – in walking, you’re probably familiar with step-tracking devices:

Personally, I’m a huge fan of fitness wearables, but not for the reasons you’d think.

For starters, you’re wearing a constant reminder that you are prioritizing movement, which can only be positive. You can even trigger it to remind you to get up and move every hour.

Our Fitbit trackers can help us with analyzing trends and getting in more steps.

It can also allow you to see how many steps you normally take, and thus allow you to prioritize moving MORE.

Although Fitbit has a history of being sued for the inaccurate heart-monitor portion of its devices, I’m less concerned about heart rates and 100% accuracy of step distance, and instead think in terms of personal improvement.

Just like with tracking your bodyfat percentage or your weight, “that which gets measured gets improved,” and that carries over to your total steps. The fact that you’re tracking it means you’re going to be more aware of it, which means you’re going to be more likely to be able to improve it.

And that’s why, in a weird way, I’m not very concerned about the total accuracy of these devices. Even if your scale is off by 5 pounds, or your body fat caliper is inaccurate by 1%, as long as you use the same device and measure in the same way under the same conditions, you can track trends and paint the picture of your health and whether or not it’s improving!

And that’s what these fitness trackers should be used for: a reminder and a trend tracker!

What you SHOULDN’T do: take your fitness tracker as gospel, and use that to calculate down to the calorie and macro how much food exactly you can consume.

What you SHOULD do: track your trend over time, and see if you can improve your average. Use the technology to aid your fitness quest. Use the community portion of the band to compare your stats against friends and get some positive friendly peer pressure to get you off your ass.

Okay, if nerdy fitness technology isn’t nerdy enough for you, let’s go full-nerd.

How to Actually Walk to Mordor

Frodo and Sam are walking buddies and actually walked to Mordor

Did you know it’s 1779 miles between Hobbiton to Mount Doom? [4]. We can actually determine how far Sam and Frodo walked, and then set out on the journey ourselves! It’s one thing to go for a stroll around your neighborhood. It’s another to know that, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”

Sam and Frodo walking out of the Shire

So let’s take a look at how far we need to walk first:

  • 458 miles: Go from Hobbiton to Rivendell.
  • 462 miles: Set out with the Fellowship from Rivendell, through Moria, to Lothlorien.
  • 389 miles: From Lothlorien, down the Anduin, to Rauros Falls.
  • 470 miles: Follow Frodo and Sam on the quest from Rauros to Mt. Doom.
  • 535 miles: From Minas Tirith to Isengard
  • 693 miles: From Isengard to Rivendell.
  • 397 miles: From Rivendell to Bag End.
  • 467 miles: (bonus!) Follow Frodo to the Grey Havens and return home with Sam.

Following this path, you need to walk a total of 1779 miles to get from Hobbiton to Mt. Doom. Then it’s time to destroy the ring and get carried to Minas Tirith by the Great Eagles.

Thorin carried by the eagles

Then you’ll walk 1625 miles back to Bag End (and an additional 467 miles if you’re interested in doing a round trip to the Grey Havens).

Obviously, you don’t need to move at the same speed as the hobbits (18 miles on the first day is no joke! Damn, those hobbits covered some ground!), but it’s still fun to track your walks and your total miles to see where you’d be on your journey.

However, like Frodo and Sam, it starts with the first step.

I’ve created a Google Doc that you can copy for yourself to track your distances to follow Frodo and Sam on your journey to destroy the One Ring.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Open the document, and then click on “file,” “save a copy,” and then you can edit your own copy of the document.  
  • Track your distances with a pedometer, Fitbit, your iPhone or Android phone.
  • Input your distances and work towards completing each section of the journey over months. As you input your distances, it will automatically let you know when you reach each destination so you can get you started on the next one. 5 miles a day on average will have you destroying the Ring within one year.

Oh, and if you’re curious, according to my rough gorilla math, Frodo burned at least an additional 61,0000+ calories (100,000+ gross calories) by walking “there and back again” – you’re welcome[5].

Cast of The Hobbit giving thumbs up

What’s that?

You want some help getting out the door?

You got it – but only cause you asked nicely.

Here are three ways to level up alongside Nerd Fitness. 

#1) Our Online Coaching Program: a coaching program for busy people to help them make better food choices, stay accountable, and get healthier, permanently.

You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the image below for more details:




#2) If you want an exact roadmap on how to get in shape, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

We even have fun missions that will help you walk more, all while you earn XP! Righteous. 

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our Rebel Starter Kit, which includes all of our “work out at home” guides, the Nerd Fitness Diet Cheat Sheet, and much more!

Alright, your turn:

What questions do you have about walking? 

How have you incorporated it into your daily routine?

And have you walked to Mordor?

Let me know in the comments!

-Steve 

Photo source: fourbrickstall Hiking in Candelario, Lego Frodo, logoboom © 123RF.com, gynane © 123RF.com, arushigakaito © 123RF.com, snehit © 123RF.com, Thad Zajdowicz Keep walking! HMM!, Frodo and Sam



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15 Circuit Training Workouts (Home & Gym)

15 Circuit Training Workouts (Home & Gym)


circuit training is awesome, even dinosaurs love it

This circuit training guide is gonna give you EVERYTHING you need to do your first kickass circuit training workout today.

I mean come on, it has dinosaurs in it.

These workouts are similar to the custom programs we build for our Online Coaching Clients who work out at home, on the road, and in outer space.

Okay, FINE we don’t have any clients in space (yet). But we do have clients in Antarctica, and multiple aerospace engineers. Close enough?



If you’re hoping circuit training will maximize your results in a minimum amount of time, one of the 15 circuits below will do the trick:

Let’s jump right in.

What is Circuit Training?

As Coach Lauren mentions above, the “circuit” in circuit training comes from the fact that you do a sequence of exercises back to back to back, and then you repeat the sequence.

And then again.

You cycle through the planned sequence of exercises, or circuit, multiple times.

That’s circuit training.

Generally, you hit each major muscle group during one full circuit. You may do a lower body for one exercise. Then the upper body the next.

You’ll find all sorts of different circuit training sequences. Here are some things most will have in common:

  • Several different exercises. A normal circuit will have five to ten different movements per circuit. You’ll often hear these referred to as “stations.” Overhead press station, squat station, etc.
  • Little to no rest in between. The goal of circuit training is to keep your heart rate up. Ideally, if you’re physically able, you go from one exercise to another without stopping. Maybe you rest after the whole circuit. Maybe.
  • Rinse and repeat. Generally, you’ll run through your circuit a few times. Three rounds are common.

Make sense?

The Tick is stoked you are putting on weight, muscle or fat, it means our strategy is working.

The point here is to work different parts of your body with different exercises, and then while those parts are recovering, you’re working on your other movements! This helps build cardiovascular health, while also improving muscular endurance and strength.

Plus you’ll burn calories!

As we lay out in our article, Cardio vs Interval Training vs. Weight Training, research supports that doing strength training circuits is great for weight loss and overall health.

More importantly, for somebody with limited time, doing a strength training circuit is more effective at building strength and burning fat than an equivalent amount of cardio.

In other words, if you are trying to lose weight, you should be doing circuit training.

Our Beginner Bodyweight Circuit would be a great place to begin, and you can download a worksheet to help you get started right here:

Why Should I do circuit training?

This runner definitely has a strong core!

Generally, you’ll hear exercise divided into strength training or aerobic exercise (cardio).

What’s the difference, you wonder?

  • Strength training. Strength training is also referred to as anaerobic exercise, which would be a short burst of energy for movement. Think of a push-up or pull-up. These exercises help build and tone muscle.
  • Aerobic Exercise. “Aerobic” means “needs oxygen.” Your heart rate increases to get oxygen where your body needs it, thus the word “cardio.” Running, biking, or jumping jacks would be examples of aerobic exercise.

The thing about a circuit is, you actually do both categories. Presses and lunges fall into strength training. Jumping jacks are cardio.

And since you aren’t stopping much in between stations, you’ll need more oxygen, and voila. Even more cardio.

With circuit training, you build muscle and burn fat WHILE building stamina.

As Michael Scott would say, “that’s a win, win, win.”

circuit training is a win win win

There’s some debate on what kind of exercise is better for weight loss: aerobic or anaerobic.

My thoughts?

If you’re limited on time and only can pick one, I would pick strength training: when you strength train, you break your muscles down, and your body needs to work extra hard over the next 24-48 hours to rebuild those muscles (with increased calories burned).

We work with our 1-on-1 Coaching Clients to create programs that combine both strength and cardio in a fun way – it really comes down to a program that you actually WANT to do.



Before and after your circuit training: Warm up and stretch

Some stretching a rubber band

No matter which circuit you pick, I want you to start with one important thing:

Warm-up!

I cover why you should always warm up in an article found right here. It doesn’t have to be much though, give it about five minutes to get your muscles active and your heart rate up.

This will help you do exercises properly and help prevent injury. You can run in place, do air punches and kicks, or some jumping jacks.

Here is NF Senior Coach Staci (you might know her incredible story) showing you many beginner options you can use to warm up as well:

Did I just tell you to prepare for circuit training, with a circuit?!

If you’re curious, here’s my personal (advanced) warm-up:

THE NERD FITNESS ADVANCED WARM-UP:

  • Jump rope: 2-3 minutes 
  • Jumping jacks: 25 reps
  • Bodyweight squats: 20 reps
  • Lunges: 5 reps each leg.
  • Hip extensions: 10 reps each side
  • Hip rotations: 5 each leg
  • Forward leg swings: 10 each leg
  • Side leg swings: 10 each leg
  • Push-ups: 10-20 reps
  • Spider-man steps: 10 reps

Our goal isn’t to tire you out. Instead, we want to warm you up.

That’s step one.

Completing your chosen circuit training routine would be step two.

Below, you’ll find 15 workouts you can follow along with! And if you like our style of workouts, you might like our new app, Nerd Fitness Journey!

Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Right now, you can try it for free for a full week (no credit card required). Jump in below:

Beginner Bodyweight Workout Circuit

This workout circuit, as we lay out in our Beginner Bodyweight Workout article, is as follows:

  • Bodyweight squats: 20 reps
  • Push-ups: 10 reps
  • Walking lunges – 10 each leg
  • Dumbbell rows (using a gallon milk jug or another weight): 10 each arm.
  • Plank: 15 seconds
  • Jumping jacks: 30 reps

Run through this circuit three times. If you don’t have milk in the house for the rows, find something of roughly the same weight with a good handle.

We also turned this workout into a fun infographic with superheroes, because that’s how we roll:

An infographic of the Beginner Bodyweight Workout

If you want to download this Beginner Bodyweight Workout as a worksheet, you can do so when you sign up in the box below:



Advanced Bodyweight Exercises Circuit

If the beginner circuit above is too easy for you, move on to our Advanced Bodyweight Workout Circuit. The workout looks like this:

  • One-legged squats – 10 each side [warning super-difficult, only attempt if you’re in good enough shape]
  • Bodyweight squats: 20 reps
  • Walking lunges: 20 reps (10 each leg)
  • Jump step-ups: 20 reps (10 each leg)
  • Pull-ups: 10 reps [or inverted bodyweight rows]
  • Dips (between bar stools): 10 reps
  • Chin-ups: 10 reps [or inverted bodyweight rows with underhand grip]
  • Push-ups: 10 reps
  • Plank: 30 seconds

I warn you, the above circuit will hurt… in a good way. You should be proud if you can get through this three times.



Playground Workout Circuit

Do you have a nearby playground? Why not work out there! If you have kids, you can do it together. Or let them ignore you.

I’ll give you a Level One workout, and a Level Two. Check out the main playground article for some Level Three exercises.

Level One:

  • Alternating step-ups: 20 reps (10 each leg)
  • Elevated push-ups: 10 reps
  • Swing rows: 10 reps
  • Assisted lunges: 8 reps each leg
  • Bent leg reverse crunches: 10 reps

Level Two:

  • Bench jumps: 10 reps
  • Lower incline push-ups: 10 reps
  • Body rows: 10 reps
  • Lunges: 8 reps each leg
  • Straight leg reverse crunches: 10 reps

After you’ve gone through a complete set three times, go down the slide!



Kettlebell Workout Circuit

Have a kettlebell lying around? Use it for a circuit!

Here’s our kettlebell workout full write-up, but you can also just watch the video and see the workout here:

  • Halos: 8 reps (each side)
  • Goblet squats: 10 reps
  • Overhead presses: 8 reps (each side)
  • Kettlebell swings: 15 reps
  • Bent Over Rows: 8 reps (each side)
  • Front rack reverse lunge: 6 reps (per side)

Once you’ve done the above three times, go ahead and put your kettlebell away for your final step: stretches.

If you want a kettlebell worksheet for this workout, grab one by signing up in the box below:

We also have a fun new adventure in our app that will allow you to train with your kettlebell right alongside Hack Morris (this will make sense more sense when start).

Jump in right now for your free trial:

Beginner Gym Circuit Training

use free weights and to do circuit training

If you have access to a gym, you have a lot of circuit options.

If it’s your first time stepping foot in a fitness facility, check out our Beginner’s Guide to the Gym. The gym can be a scary place, but we’ll give you a strategy to get comfy.

(Gym closed do to COVID? Here’s how to build a gym in your home.) 

We’ll also walk you through each movement for both Days A and B below. I would recommend picking one of our 5 Beginner Gym Workouts, going through the leveled progressions, and working your way up to the circuits below:

DAY A GYM WORKOUT:

Day B GYM WORKOUT:

  • Barbell Romanian deadlifts/regular deadlifts: 10 reps
  • Push-ups: 10 reps
  • Dumbbell rows: 10 reps per arm

Alternate your circuits on different days. Rest in between. “Day A” could be Monday. Rest Tuesday. Wednesday could be “Day B.”

We LOVE helping people get started in the gym, as we’re huge fans of barbell training and helping beginners build confidence with weight training! If that sounds like you…



And you can download our full Strength 101 guide too, which has this routine along with other circuits to help you start building strength today:

The Hotel Workout Circuit: For Travelers that Train

Is there anyway to work out in this hotel room?

Sometimes, you just plain find yourself stuck in a hotel room. Maybe you can find the hotel gym, but I bet it’s terrible! It probably has 2 machines, a broken treadmill, and no free weights. 

Ugh.

Instead, how about a workout circuit you can do in the room itself! Utilize the furniture to its full potential.

Level 1

Level 2

Set the alarm clock to 15 minutes from now and see how many circuits you can do!

Check out our full post on hotel circuits if you want Level 3!

We have a LOT of business travelers in our 1-on-1 coaching program, which is why we create workouts for both their home gym and while traveling!

If you need worldwide accountability, workouts for home and the road, and want expert guidance…



Nerdy Circuit Training Exercises

Lego minifigures standing in rows. In first row - Batman, The Jo

If those workouts above don’t tickle your fancy, we have these other nerdy circuits you can do too!

The Batman Workout Circuit

Day 1

  • Rolling squat tuck-up jumps: 5 reps
  • Side to side push-ups: 5 reps
  • Modified headstand push-ups: 5 reps
  • Jump pull-up with tuck / Pull-up with Tuck-up: 5 reps
  • Handstands against wall: 8 seconds

Day 2

  • ‘180 Degree’ jump turns: 5 reps
  • Tuck front lever hold: 8 seconds
  • Tuck back lever hold: 8 seconds
  • Low frog hold: 8 seconds



The Lord of the Rings Workout Circuit

try this lord of the rings circuit training workout

Superset 1: The Fellowship of the Ring

Superset 2: The Two Towers

  • Riders of ROWhan: 3 bodyweight rows
  • Gimli “Shall I get you a box?” jumps7 box jumps – REALLY explode
  • Helm’s Deep-Squats: 9 bodyweight squats – get your ass to the ground
  • Tower of Orthanc Holds: 1 minute (Kick up against a wall and hold a handstand for as long as you can until 1 minute is complete, in as few as sets as possible. Check out our Guide to Handstands.)

Superset 3: The Return of the King

If you can get through a superset three times, consider yourself an honorary Ranger. Nothing found in Mordor can faze you.



The 300 Workout Circuit

do the 300 circuit training workout to get strong like King Leonidas

The below circuit is no joke. Then again, neither were the Spartans.

  • Pull-ups: 25 reps
  • Deadlifts with 135lbs: 50 reps
  • Push-ups: 50 reps
  • ‘24-inch’ Box jumps: 50 reps
  • Floor wipers: 50 reps
  • Single-arm clean-and-press with 36 lbs. kettlebell: 25 each side
  • Pull-ups: 25 reps

The above sequence is designed to be completed once. If you can go through it twice, you’re ready to defend Greece.



The Wolverine Workout Circuit

  • Barbell Deadlift / Dumbbell RDL / Banded Good Morning / Regular Good Morning: 10 reps
  • Medicine Ball Slam / Quick Downwards Bodyweight Squat: 10 reps
  • Push-up to Renegade row (push-up, row left, push-up, row right, repeat): 5 Rows per side
  • Transverse Lunge and Chop: 5 reps each side

How many times do you do this circuit? AMRAP, or, As Many Rounds As Possible. I suggest setting a 12-minute timer and getting to work. Be careful though, because only Wolverine can heal automatically.

wolverine does workout circuits too

You’ll need actual rest.

Boom!

There are your nerdy circuits. Feel free to rock the soundtrack of the referenced movies during your workout. If you own a cape, now’s the time.



Complete List of Circuit Training Exercises

A picture of a LEGO Spider-man, who is interested in weight loss.

You can do any of the workouts in this article and get a great workout, but if you want to build your own workout, you can totally do that too!

Here is a list of exercises you can use to create your workout.

Simply pick a few, and do one after the other in as many circuits as you want!

Pick your exercises from this list to build your own circuit training workout, or suggest your own for us to add in the comments below!

CARDIO EXERCISES:

  1. Jump rope
  2. Jumping Jacks
  3. Walking Jacks
  4. Burpees
  5. Mountain climbers
  6. Stairs
  7. Sprints
  8. High knees
  9. Running in place
  10. Rowing machine
  11. Long-distance jumps
  12. Box jumps

UPPER BODY PUSH EXERCISES:

  1. Push-ups (any variation)
  2. Handstands.

UPPER BODY PULL EXERCISES

  1. Dumbbell rows
  2. Bodyweight rows
  3. Negative pull-ups or chin-ups
  4. Pull-ups or Chin-ups

LOWER BODY EXERCISES

  1. Bodyweight squats
  2. Lunges
  3. Kettlebell swings
  4. Farmer carries (carry dumbbells and walk around)

Coach Staci showing Farmer's Walk

CORE EXERCISES:

  1. Planks
  2. Side planks
  3. Reverse crunches

Pick 3-5 exercises, and arrange them as we discuss in our “how to build your own workout routine.” We also have The 42 Best Bodyweight Exercises for movements that you can choose from.

Do 3 circuits with 10 reps of each exercise, one after the other!

Have fun and keep things interesting. And if you don’t want to build your own workout, that’s cool too! We have 15 free workouts in this article, and we can also do all the heavy lifting for you.

(Well, not literally DO the heavy lifting, but you know what I mean.)

We create custom workout solutions for busy people just like you in our 1-on-1 Coaching Program. Let us create a workout and help you make better food choices.

It’s like having a Yoda in your pocket (again, not literally).



How to Stretch After Circuit Training

Once you finish your workout, the final step (three) would be stretching and cool down. No matter what circuit you go through, stretch after a workout. It can help a lot with muscle recovery.

Scope this video for an awesome stretching sequence to follow:

You could also do some yoga poses. For stretching, find what feels good and take your time. Let your heart rate come down while you stretch.

You could even do some foam rolling too if you’re a glutton for punishment!

For more ideas on how to make the most of your stretches, check out The Ultimate Guide for Improving Flexibility in 30 Days. It has Spider-Man in it, so you know we aren’t messing around.



Getting Started With Circuit Training

want to be a superhero like these legos? do circuit training!

There are all sorts of different ways to do circuit training. We just showed you fifteen.

YOUR MISSION: Complete one of the above circuit training workouts! If you don’t know which one to pick, start with the Beginner Bodyweight Circuit. It’ll get you used to the idea of hustling from one exercise to the next.

And you can do it in your living room!

If you’re looking for more hands-on instruction and customized guidance, check out our 1-on-1 Coaching program. You’ll work with our certified NF instructors who get to know you better than you know yourself, and then build a workout program that is specific to your exact goals.

Simply put, we tell you exactly what to do every day, and how to eat. And then, we check in with you regularly to make sure you’re doing it!



If you got this far in the article, I really want you to try one of these workouts. Right NOW. I always mention the most important step in a fitness journey is starting it. Today, start circuit training.

Once completed, I’d love for you to share your story with the community in the comments:

  • How’d it go?
  • Did you get through three full circuits?
  • Which routine did you pick?

Find a circuit you’re comfortable with, and do it.

Then do it next week. And the following. And track your progress

If you add circuit training to your fitness routine, you’ll be on a solid path for leveling up your life.

-Steve

PS: I couldn’t quite figure out how to use this gif, but it was too good not to include.

I bet short circuit likes circuit training

If someone creates the “Short Circuit Workout Circuit” you’ll be my best friend forever.

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All Photo credits can be found right here[1].



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Workout Routine for a 12-Hour or Night Shift

Workout Routine for a 12-Hour or Night Shift


How does this owl stay in shape while working nights?

If you work a 12-hour or night shift, this guide is going to be a game-changer.

Working weird hours provides a challenge for those looking to get in shape, so I’ll provide a step-by-plan to help you reach your fitness goals.

Because I’m nice like that. And I like you.

This is 100% doable.

After all, Batman is super ripped and he works nights too.

Today we’ll cover:

Weird hours be damned, I’m gonna help you build up momentum.

These are the exact strategies we work with our night-shift clients in our 1-on-1 Coaching Program! Although each situation is unique, we have certain principles that are universal and can help you start living healthier even when your work life is crazy.

Want to see if we are a good fit for each other? Click on the button below to schedule a free call. We’d love to talk to you, no matter what!



How to Lose Weight Working a 12-Hour or Night Shift?

Two LEGOs with torch

Now, whether you work weird hours or normal hours, diet is still responsible for 80-90% of your success or failure when it comes to getting in shape.

80-90 PERCENT.

This is both a blessing and a curse. It means you don’t need to freak out if you miss a workout after a long night shift, but it also means you gotta take care of yourself while you are working.

Simply put, if you’re not losing weight, it’s because you’re eating too many calories. So if you’re trying to lose weight while working a night shift or working 12-hour shifts, you need to find ways to eat fewer calories without driving yourself crazy.

I’m a fan of any diet that gets you to accomplish this goal, but you know yourself better than others. So any “diet” may help you, as long as you have access to food for that particular way of eating. 

This isn’t a problem, as we have a plan for that!

This just means you need to become the master of meal preparation.

“But Steve I don’t have time to prepare food!” you say.

Yeah, I heard you.

What you’re REALLY saying is, “But Steve, preparing food ahead of time isn’t a priority for me.”

If you are working overnight shifts, you’re gonna need to bring in your own food. Want to know how easy it is?

Here are 3 easy steps to feed yourself on a graveyard shift:

  1. Purchase a bunch of chicken breast on Sunday Night (or whatever night you actually have off). Cook them on a tray in the oven, ALL of them. Put them in separate containers or bags in your fridge.
  2. Purchase a bunch of $1 steam fresh bags of frozen veggies. Stick them in the fridge at your workplace.
  3. Need more calories/carbs in your diet? Buy some sweet potatoes. Microwave one and put it on your plate.

This is my personal strategy for meal prep.

You can watch me make this recipe of Super Simple Chicken for Lazy People right here:

In about 3 minutes and minimal effort, you know have a well-balanced meal.

“But that’s boring!” Sheesh, I have to do EVERYTHING, huh? Welp, get creative, sucka!

  1. Chop up the chicken and put it in a big salad with whatever you prefer (and keep it in your fridge).
  2. Make stir fry, put some in containers in your fridge, and then heat it up on your break.
  3. Google “chicken paleo marinade” and mix up how you prepare chicken. Or steak. Or pork. Or salmon.

YES, this does require effort. YES, this does require preparation. YES, it does work. YES, you will find your rhythm with it.

Again, it comes down to two things: priorities and excuses:

Do you REALLY not have time? Or are you using “I don’t have time” as an excuse to feel sorry for yourself?

Is your job REALLY stopping you from getting in shape? Or is it a convenient excuse to use when you go to Taco Bell or the vending machine?

Remember: nobody believes your excuses except for you. It may seem harsh, but overcoming the “this won’t work for me” mindset will be the first battle we need to win.

You can do this. Just don’t let “perfect’ be the enemy of the “good.”

How to not gain weight while working 12-hour and night shifts: Avoid these things!

The sugar in RedBull may not be doing you any favors for staying in shape.

Let’s talk about things to eat and avoid while on shift work: the good, the bad, the ugly.

Whether you’re at a desk or up stocking shelves or making your rounds, you probably deal with one of four points:

  1. Exhaustion: Let’s be honest, when you work a night shift or early shift, you never get as much sleep as if you were sleeping during the night with normal hours.
  2. Lack of “time.” If you’re working long days/nights and trying to raise a family/have a social life, food preparation probably doesn’t figure into your schedule. You need convenience, even if you have to pay a bit more for it.
  3. Hunger: If you forgot to pack your “meal” or “meals,” your only option is to eat what you can find, which is unlikely to be nutritious at that time of day.
  4. Boredom: If you are making rounds or stuck at a desk during the middle of the night, there may be more periods of downtime than if you were working during the day.

A bored security guard

So you’re tired, hungry, bored, and struggle with time management.

Where do you turn? Caffeine!

Now, I have no problem with Caffeine. I wake up every morning and drink a few cups of green tea while sitting at my desk to write. We’ve even covered caffeine extensively on this site already. The short version? Don’t get caught in bad liquid calorie trap:

  • Empty liquid calories are the devil. If you are drinking soda, energy drinks, or lattes for the caffeine, understand that you are also probably consuming hundreds of calories and 50+ grams of sugar. And these extra calories are contributing to your waistline. So read the labels or do the research before you drink six Monster drinks, a case of coke, or a Coffee Coolata. 
  • If you’re going to get caffeine, get it from a healthy source: Black coffee, green tea, and a no-calorie or low-calorie energy drink (Monster Zero Carb, for example). Try to wean yourself off the gallons of caffeine and work your way over to black coffee/green tea as time goes on (they have some helpful nutrients). Hopefully, once you start exercising, you’ll have more energy and need less caffeine to survive your shifts.

Avoid the drinks that don’t give you any nutritional value and are full of sugar and calories. See if you can get your caffeine from better sources. Speaking of better sources of calories…

What Liquid Calories Will Help Your 12 Hour or Night Shift

A smoothie can be a quick meal for your night shift.

Low on time? Need a meal? Make yourself a smoothie!  

Depending on what you put into it or where it comes from, a smoothie can be an incredibly healthy option for meals during the night or as you’re running out the door to your shift.

A few tips on making smoothies: Buy yourself a cheap blender (or, a ridiculously nice one). Have one at home, or in the break room at work.

Give this recipe a shot for a smoothie that will get you through your shift:

  1. Frozen fruit (I usually go with the strawberries or berry medley from Trader Joe’s).  
  2. A cup of unsweetened almond milk, unsweetened coconut milk, or cold water.
  3. A scoop of protein (I use Optimum Nutrition Vanilla, but I hear the Chocolate is delicious).
  4. A few ice cubes if you want to ‘thicken it up’ a bit
  5. (Optional) Organic frozen spinach. Doesn’t change the taste, but gets you a serving of veggies.

I drink a smoothie similar to the one above for a meal almost on a daily basis (though I add in extra carbs and calories because I’m attempting to pack on extra weight). It looks like so:

The Powerbomb Protein Shake Recipe

Can’t bring a blender to work? Stick a scoop of protein in a shaker bottle, and BAM – there’s 25 g of protein prepared in 60 seconds. Add a bag of mixed veggies from the microwave and you’ve got yourself a really weird meal that is pretty damn easy to prepare and pretty damn good for you.

A word of caution: Smoothies from Smoothie King don’t count, as they have more sugar than two cans of Coke and HUNDREDS of calories. Naked Juices are also full of sugar, as we point out here:

The Green Machine is more or less just a bottle of sugar.

They might look healthy, but they’re not. LOOK AT THE LABEL AND PAY ATTENTION TO THE CALORIE SUGAR CONTENT!  

Foods to Avoid on a 12-Hour or Night Shift

Choose your food carefully on your 12 hour or night shift.

Now, along with empty liquid calories, let’s talk about empty food calories.

When you are at your desk, are you eating snacks while answering the phone or while on your rounds through the hospital?  

Personally, I’m a big fan of No Snacking, as I find I tend to eat more calories than I need during the day, simply because I’m not paying attention (check out the research in that snacking article for more).

Bring some healthy snacks with you if you’re going to be snacking. My personal favorite would be apple slices with almond butter, but don’t forget almond butter can be very high in calories and easily over-consumed too

If you struggle with overeating, look at your snacking at your night job. Are you eating because you are bored? Are you eating because you’re not paying attention? Are you eating because you’ve trained your body to expect food every 5 seconds?

If it’s any of these things, try the “No eating AND _________” strategy:

  • No eating and surfing the internet.
  • No eating and watching TV shows.
  • No eating AND _____.

If you’re going to eat, that’s the only thing you’re going to do. This can help you not accidentally, absentmindedly over calories.

It’s something we bring up in our Guide for Portion Control

Workout Routines for a 12-Hour or Night Shift

Joe got in shape by prioritizing diet and exercise.

Let’s move on to the other 10-20% of the equation: exercise!

It’s no surprise around these parts that I’m a HUGE proponent of strength training. Guys like Joe (above) travel two weeks a month and yet still manage to have tremendous transformation because they are smart with their time.

From an efficiency standpoint, no other type of exercise gives you as much bang for your buck (aka: the most results with the least amount of time spent exercising).

You can get an incredible workout that exhausts all of your muscles and burns a crazy number of calories (not just during the workout, but in the hours afterward as your body tries to rebuild all of the muscle). Just reference any Nerd Fitness success story, all built with strength training and healthy eating.

So, if your time is limited, and your focus is staying healthy/losing weight, you need to be strength training and walking.

When’s the best time to work out? When you will actually do it! If you find yourself too exhausted after your 12-hour shift (and I don’t blame you), then get your workout done before you go to work, even if you only have twenty minutes! Heck, even if you only have 10 minutes!

As far as the workout itself...

You don’t need to be going to a gym (though if you do, big lifts like squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, and pull-ups are going to get you the best results – ask Staci), you can work out at home before your shift starts with a simple workout like the Beginner Bodyweight Circuit.  

I know you don’t need a gym to grow strong because we see it daily here in the Rebellion. We work with coaching clients and design custom programs that take into account each person’s work environment, home environment, and equipment they have available. It works.

We also have the Nerd Fitness Journey which gives you more bodyweight routines and gym routines if you’re looking for specific instruction and exercise demonstrations.

You can try it out right here: 

If you are somebody that works a few days on (for long shifts) and a few days off, try this: a really intense strength building routine on your first day off from work and again on your last day. Two strength training days combined with walks and proper eating (on your work days) is more than enough to get you quality results.

Spreading out the Workout Throughout Your Long Shift

Want to stay in shape? Do pull-ups wherever you can.

Don’t be afraid of simply exercising here and there, when you can.

Check out the Angry Birds Workout and split up your workout throughout your shift:

  • Do squats in the supply closet. Weirdo? YUP. Who cares?
  • Push-ups and planks in your cubicle.
  • Pull-ups on the bus stop overhang waiting to go to work? I’ve been there.
  • Dumbbell rows with your desk and briefcase/backpack.
  • Walking up the stairs on your break. Why not?

It all adds up, and every little bit is better than nothing. The strength training benefits are key, but there’s one other key benefit to exercising throughout the day.

Coach Matt provides more tips on how to sneak in your training throughout the day right here: 

And trust me, as a father of five who works from home, Matt knows how to sneak in his training.

Staying Active During Your 12-Hour or Night Shift

To stay in shape working weird hours, workout whenever you can.

Along with strength training, just staying active will help.  

I actually have a timer (FocusBooster) on my laptop that goes off every 15 minutes to remind me to get up, walk around, stretch, do some push-ups, etc. Your phone can do the same thing! Technology, amazing.

Stand up at your desk if you can – mix up standing and sitting.

Go for a walk around the office. If you are a nurse or doctor you are probably already doing a considerable amount of walking to make your rounds, so keep it up.

The reason for staying active is so important is three-fold:

  1. Every little bit counts. That push-up, those squats, that extra mile walked…they all add up!
  2. Your brain keeps thinking “I am active.” Because it has to work more when you move! Remember, diet is 80% of your success or failure. When you exercise and constantly stay active, you are consistently reminding yourself that you are making healthier decisions, and these should carry over to your eating decisions too. Exercising and eating poorly is kind of like paddling a row-boat with one oar – you’re just spinning in circles. Work both together and dominate!
  3. Exercising can make you smarter and more alert at work. Detailed incredibly well in the book Spark, studies have shown that exercising can increase brain activity and performance. Healthier on the outside, smarter on the inside = NERD FITNESS WIN.

Here are 40 ways to help you stay active during the day (without actually working out).

Prioritizing FITNESS 24/7

Move anyway you can during your night shift.

Remember, it comes down to one thing: taking an active role in your health.

1) Don’t use the job as an excuse, and instead remind yourself that you are in control. You don’t need anybody’s permission to get healthy.

2) It adds up. Every little change. Every meal you switch up. Every minute of exercise.

3) Plan out your day. Spending 5 minutes identifying what you’ll eat and when you’ll work out makes you WAY more likely to actually follow through with it.

Leave a comment and share your story and struggles with the Rebellion. I’d love to hear from you:

Do you work a night shift or have funny hours?

Have you had success and want to share your tips and tricks?

Have a REALLY funky job and need more help (Deathstar operator, daytime student/nighttime superhero)? Post below and I’ll see what I can do.

Let’s get weird with it.

-Steve

PS: Still reading? Want more help?

I’ll again remind you of our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program.

Here’s how it works: we get to learn your goals, lifestyle, challenges, and situation: Kids? An old injury? Graveyard shift?

No problem!

We’ll then pair you with a coach from Team Nerd Fitness that fits your personality and situation. Click below to find out if we are a good fit for each other.

Nerd Fitness Coaching Banner

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Photo source: cross-eyed owl, Torch lighting experiment, red bull, smoothies, chips, catdog



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