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Starting out with diet and weight training

Looking back through my rants and ravings of recent times, I’ve come to realise that most of the content on Reveal The Steel is geared towards those that have been in the fitness and training game for some time. That and those that prefer their fitness advice delivered on a dark coloured background with a sprinkling of ‘piss-take’ spread throughout.

Anyhow, recently a close friend of mine informed me that they had just started ‘weight training’ for the first time since I had known them — That, coupled with the reasons above, made me feel it was time to write something more in-tune with the ‘training newbie’.

The question came up of ‘What should I be doing?’ and ‘What should I eat after training’.

For anyone starting out, those two questions might seem simple to answer, when in fact they both single-handedly open up an enormous can of worms.

Whilst there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this, it also made me realise that I needed to post something which offered some inspiration and a fair amount of myth-busting to prevent someone starting out heading down a less than desirable path.

Advice for those new to the training game…

This is me circa 2002. If you ‘squint’ you can make out the definition.

Before we begin, I recently went back through my archive of photos before stumbling on the one below. Holy crap how things changed in 10+ years!
Never forget, we all had to start somewhere… Yes–some of us even start with hair.

#1 Attack slowly

It’s easy to get excited when you’re first starting out. You’ve probably been influenced by some friends, fitness models or someone else who recently ‘wowed’ you with their body at the beach. Yes, we all aspire to have Scarlett Johansson or  Taylor Lautner’s body. And we all want a quick-fix sollution that’ll get us there quicker than Oprah on a cup-cake.

But baby steps will benefit you for a multitude of reasons:

– Less chance you’ll injure yourself (which will in turn seriously hinder your progress — duh)

– It’ll give you a chance to ‘learn’ how to train correctly. Feel each repetition. Understand how your body reacts under load.

– Decrease the chance of an initial ‘burn-out’. How often do you see someone just starting out who’s been going every day for 2 weeks then suddenly stops because they just can’t handle the punishment anymore. I’d recommend that you hit the gym a maximum of 3 days and concentrate on full-body workouts until you know what you’re doing. No body-splits or special movements. Just concentrate on doing a few things well, rather than a whole bunch of seemingly ‘tricky sh*t’ until you know what you’re doing.

#2 Prepare to improve quickly, then plateau

When starting out, the body is quick to get stronger and build muscle due to what is termed ‘Newbie Gains’. These are gains that happen just once, and then probably never again (unless you get some *ahem* assistance). You may find in the first few months of training, you’re smashing personal bests every second week. Loading the bar with a couple of extra planks here and there — you’re seemingly unstoppable. Suddenly, out of nowhere, your gains hit a wall and you can’t progress any further. This WILL happen — as it does to us all. This is only when you should possibly think about changing up your routine.

You may find in the first few months of training, you’re smashing personal bests every second week. Loading the bar with a couple of extra planks here and there — you’re seemingly unstoppable.

#3 Get your diet in order

This is an area that is often overlooked when someone first gets into training. They’ll keep their diet the same as it’s always been, incorporate some weights or cardio and quickly discover that their progress is bordering on pathetically sh*t-house. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again — what goes into your pie-hole is probably 80 percent of the ‘physique’ equation. Nail this part, and you’ll be doing yourself a gigantic service.

#4 Be consistent

Two days of training this week followed by one day of training the week after. Mix that in with a few big nights on the beer and a pizza here and there. Sound familiar? Can you see why suddenly you’re efforts are potentially all for nought? You need to be consistently training each week and more importantly, adhering to a healthy eating regimen. Save your ‘cheat-meals’ for the weekends if you can. It’ll make it much easier to adhere to if you know you have something to look forward to come weeks end.

You cannot spot reduce one area of your body (unless you’re interested in liposuction. You aren’t are you?)

#5 Realise that spot-reduction is a myth

This myth seems to rear it’s ugly head every now-and-then.
“I’m unhappy with my belly. It’s flabby. Are there any exercises I should be doing to lose the flab?” is a common question that is asked all too frequently. Unfortunately, there isn’t. You cannot spot reduce one area of your body (unless you’re interested in liposuction. You aren’t are you?) The best advice I can offer you, is to re-read numbers 3 and 4 again.

#5 Forget supplements (for now)

If you’re anything like I was when I first started out, you’ll reach for the closest ‘Jugs’ magazine or latest edition of Men’s Health (ok, maybe not Jugs). These bad boys are loaded with supplement advertisements. It’s easy to get caught up in the quick-fix solutions that these articles promote. My advice is this: once you’ve nailed your diet and are training consistently, THEN and ONLY then should you be thinking about buying a protein supplement and possibly some kind of creatine.

#7 Ignore the naysayers

There’ll be plenty of haters that’ll rag on your recent enthusiasm to better one’s health. They’re probably just trying to drag you down to ‘their level’. Ignore these people — they are just jealous that you’ve decided to do something about your health and physique. Realise that it’s a lifestyle change and be quick to shut them down when they refer to it as a ‘health kick’ or temporary training cycle. This is a long term plan. Tell them that.

#8 Be realistic

I’ve written a lot about this in my impending book which is out July 3rd (shameless plug), but I’ll summarise it here for you now.
Fitness models, body builders and athletes are all GREAT sources of inspiration. They are, however, at the top of their game and have been training for a number of years. That sh*t doesn’t happen over night my friend. Years of dedication, eating properly and large doses of sacrifice are all reasons they look the way they do. Aim high, but be realistic. The results will all come  in due course.

#9 Get inspired

Read inspirational ‘transformation stories’ and associate yourself with blogs and websites that offer articles that promote healthy lifestyles, proper nutrition and hardcore training. Mind you, I’m not talking about ones that promote articles such as ’30 ways to eat your carrots!’ or anything lame like that — I’m talking mind-blowing sh*t. Stories of 70 year-old blokes doing weighted chins with 150lb weight belts and other feats of strength. This is the stuff that’ll inspire you to hit the gym. Oh, and maybe watch this video of Greg Plit. I guarantee you’ll wanna train almost immediately after watching.

#10 Be single-minded in your approach

Focus on one thing at a time. Yes you can lose fat whilst gaining muscle — of course you can. I call this a secondary benefit of a single-minded goal. Similarly, you could aim to gain muscle and maybe you’ll lose some fat. Aim to get strong, and maybe you’ll gain some muscle. It’s too easy to get caught up in the latest training technique that will give you the ‘best of both worlds’. Stay focussed on the job at hand and reap those secondary benefits whilst trying not to over-complicate the situation by trying to take on too many objectives at once.

That’s a wrap

To all my beginner friends out there, I hope this has been a worthy read.
There’s a tonne of advice on what you ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be doing, so I’ll leave you with this:
Keep it simple, eat properly, train hard and don’t give-up.

Clint Nielsen

Author Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

More posts by Clint Nielsen

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Voltrons right leg says:

    Nice article, Clint. I recently started weight training for the first time. After years of ‘doing this and that’ to maintain an average weight/fitness level, I’ve decided to take it up a step and be a little more dedicated to my health. Having said that, I can relate to Point 4 in your consistency has been hindered by long hours at work and an interstate holiday. But, its only early, i’ll find a routine that works and that I can stick to. Hopefully see some results soon! Looking forward to the book.

  • As usual great advice mate. Without a doubt training consistently and eating well are the 2 biggest problems people face when they are starting out. Instead most beginners jump from program to program looking for the ULTIMATE TRAINING ROUTINE. Also, since you bought it up, after watching the Avengers this week, I too aspire to have Scarlett Johansson’s body, but that’s a whole other story!

  • @Voltron That’s exactly the mindset you need to have. Realistic goals and being aware that inconsistency leads to nowhere.

    @Niko Jumping from program to program is only good if they jump from program to MY program :)

  • Dave says:

    Great advice Clint. Consistency is key, plugging away at your goals little by little and keeping motivated is the way to get results. And nothing keeps you motivated more than progression. Progression with weights used, progression with cleaning up a diet, and a few compliments from others doesn’t hurt either ;)

  • Matt says:

    Im literally about to start training mate so this article helps a lot so thanks! :) …any chance of newbie type info in your book coming out?

    • Cheers Matt!
      In regards to the book — I’ve made sure to define training (and it’s methodology), nutrition etc in a way that’s easy to read, follow and implement.
      From a beginners perspective, some of the more advanced bits can either be removed, or ‘dialled back’.
      Most importantly, the ideals in the book that I try to instil will lay the foundations of how to approach training for a life time of results (from starting out, right up until maintaining what you’ve achieved).
      This is the goal :)

  • This is such a great read for beginners trying to get in incredible shape. I remember back in highschool I was a relative beginner to fitness and it was so overwhelming with all of the misleading information. Being single minded and finding inspiration are truly so important when first starting out, and this is a MUST read for anyone who is a beginner. Great tips and keep up the good work!

  • Samantha says:

    One of the most well-written and motivating articles I’ve read for newbies.  The info in this article is so easy to follow and does not seem as if it would be overwhelming at all.  Love it…and hope you don’t mind, but I’d love to share it.  :)

  • Samantha says:

     One of the most well-written and motivating articles I’ve read for newbies.  The info in this article is so easy to follow and does not seem as if it would be overwhelming at all.  Love it…and hope you don’t mind, but I’d love to share it.  :)

  • Another great article! Keep up the awesome work mate!

    I wish I had seen your blog in my first days of training. That would have been a lot of help. But still though , mistakes are necessary , and the experience is a consequence of your acts.

    But to everybody that is starting now, this is a great blog to read, surely clears some of your doubts.

    Very supporting not only for people that are in this path for a while, but also for those who are beginning.

    Once again, keep up the good work!

  • Nathan Harrison says:

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    daily. I have found this many times that people having lots of fat and extra
    weight are not comfortable in anything throughout the day and I came to know
    that sleep is also one of those thing. There are lots of things to be taken and
    things to be followed to lose weight and fat effectively. I came across a post sharing
    some good tips to lose fat and to maintain the fitness and I am sharing it
    here. It can be very effective if followed properly.

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