Like The Hacker's Diet for muscles?
September 22, 2012 7:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm making good weight-loss progress with The Hacker's Diet. Now, I'd like to add in exercise to build and tone muscle. I'm active and decent shape already, but don't do any weights. Is there anything as down-to-earth and straightforward as The Hacker's Diet for this?

Why Hacker's Diet works for me:
- Straightforward (calories in < calories out)
- Easily tracked (using myfitnesspal for calories; physicsdiet for moving avg. weight)
- Undeniable that it's working (I'm highly motivated by the numbers going down)
- Sane (no weird eating; slow and steady)

In addition to the above, things I'd like in the fitness plan:
- Slow and steady is fine, but I must be able to see empirically that it's working, or I lose interest and motivation
- As mindless as possible (Maybe video(s) would be good?)
- Very few steps between deciding to work out and actually working out
- No changes to diet, at least for first several months
- Cheap (no major expenditures on equipment, though some is ok)
- At home
- Doing the same stuff over and over is fine with me

Things that motivate me:
- The way I look
- Increased performance in my sport (whitewater kayaking)
- Graphs

Thing that doesn't particularly motivate me even though it should:
- Long-term health (but I'm glad it's a byproduct)

I know The Hacker's Diet has a fitness part, but I don't think it's what I'm looking for. Feel free to correct me on this. Eventually I'll get into cardio, but not yet.
posted by SampleSize to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Since you are empirically minded, you know that you are not going to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. You cannot build muscle with "no changes" to your current fat loss diet. Right now, you are at a caloric deficit. You are only going to put on mass, fat or muscle, with a caloric surplus.

You have a lot of conditions. As for a simple program to newbies, Rippetoe's Starting Strength is the standard got-to. Several full-body workouts of basic compound movements per week. Unless you already have free weights, a bench, and a squat rack, I do not know how you would do it at home, though. You could probably find a cheap set of free weights on Craigslist.

If weights aren't an option because of your budget constraints, one can get very fit using bodyweight exercises such as pushups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, and the like. There are plenty of military workout plans online for such things.

There is no such thing is "toning" muscle. What most people think of as "toning" is just the reduction of body fat to make the muscle more visible.

Good luck.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:26 AM on September 22, 2012

Starting Strength is pretty much the go to weight lifting guide for geeks. The book is long winded but pretty complete. The website has pretty much all the details you'll need though.

You'll want to eat a lot more protein than you do now, at the very least.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:30 AM on September 22, 2012

I started the 100pushups thing and quickly saw improvement in upper body and core strength. No equipment needed and you can do them anywhere.
posted by rtha at 7:57 AM on September 22, 2012

posted by zadcat at 8:00 AM on September 22, 2012

100 Pushups, 20 Pull-ups, that sort of thing, are good for noticing progress. It's pretty difficult to gain muscle without changing your diet. Even adding protein shakes and bars to my diet didn't help me see substantial gains.

I like 7 Weeks to Getting Ripped and there's an IOS app that goes along with it, if you're IOS inclined. It basically follows the same principles as the 100 Pushups, 20 Pull-ups programs, so you should notice improvement (in strength, if not appearance).
posted by backwards guitar at 8:43 AM on September 22, 2012

reddit's r/Fitness FAQ

the Newbie Program Picker

Your 'cheap' and 'at home' preferences would point to bodyweight exercises. Convict Conditioning ( cheat sheet, youtube, book) is a well-regarded guide.

I don't know much about whitewater kayaking, but it seems like shoulder, core and hip strength would be the key components. ExRx has demonstrations of various exercises, weighted and un-weighted.

I must be able to see empirically that it's working,

I suggest keeping a workout log. That way you can refer back to prior workouts, and see how you're improved.

I disagree with the other posters - by eating a total caloric deficit (but large amounts of protein), I personally lost overall weight while steadily increasing strength gains. The visible muscle may have been simply revealed , but I didn't carry a lot of fat in those areas anyway.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:15 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hm. Ok - no I did not know that I couldn't lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. Also didn't know that I can't really gain muscle without changing diet. I guess this means I should get to my goal weight first, then start building muscle.

From answers so far and continued research online, it looks like my lengthy list of requirements is unrealistic...Here's an adjusted question: What the simplest, least overwhelming way to start gaining muscle? Can I ease into it without all the book learnin' at first?
posted by SampleSize at 9:17 AM on September 22, 2012

Gaining muscle is every bit as simple as losing weight. You need to know only a few things:

1. Eat MORE calories than you burn.

2. Eat MORE protein than your body's normal metabolism requires. (.8g protein per kg of body weight is typically used but is not completely scientifically proven)

3. Use your muscles more than you normally do. In other words, give your body a reason to believe it needs to build muscle. I realize I'm anthropomorphizing your metabolism, but whatever. Your body needs to think, "Shit. Lifting this is too hard. I need to increase the size of this muscle so this isn't such a pain in the ass anymore." In reality, this just means you are stimulating the release of hormones like Insulin-like Growth Factor which tell your muscles to grow.

Figure out what the most you can lift is. Then, exercise by lifting 70-80% of that weight in sets of 5-10. Keep doing that with a minute or two of rest in between until you literally cannot do it anymore. When your muscle is worked to complete exhaustion in this way, it is stimulated to grow.

However you want to go about that is fine. Lift weights, lift dogs, lift jugs of milk, lift bales of hay... does not matter. Just make sure every time you do a little warm up routine and stretch so you don't hurt yourself.
posted by swellingitchingbrain at 9:56 AM on September 22, 2012

Best answer: You absolutely can lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously!

It's just that you may not see the numbers on the scale go down quite as quickly, because even though you are losing fat, the muscle gain may equal or outweigh the loss. You might want to take some measurements with a tape measure, because muscle is denser than fat, so if, say, your waist is getting smaller even though the scale isn't changing, you'll know that you're still losing fat.

And once you start exercising, you'll be burning more calories (just being more muscular may raise your metabolic rate a bit), so you'll have to eat more to maintain the same deficit that's been working for you, but you really don't need to make dramatic changes unless you're talking about serious body building.

I love workout dvds for the lack of thought they require. I think my favorite starter strength dvd is Power90 Sculpt. It's part of a set, but you don't have to do the cardio dvd.

If you don't mind a female instructor, Kelly Coffey-Meyer's 30 Minutes to Fitness: Weights is also excellent.
posted by Kriesa at 10:00 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

This doesn't address the general gym-rat approach to gaining muscle, but .... you say you're a whitewater kayaker? Are you already attaining?
(I'm sorry if this is something that's obvious to you)

I spent one summer going out and paddling up Entrance rapid of the Lower Yough a few times a week. It's a long easy Class III rapid. It improved my kayaking immensely:
* I got in better shape, since I was actually getting an aerobic workout (I mostly run rivers and creek ... yeah, I can and do work those rivers and play all the way down, but attaining is way more sustained, and you can't just sit on your ass and float downstream)
* I had to get stronger to actually make headway upstream
* I had to learn to move faster so I could properly explode when required to make the move
* My boat control improved, as I needed to be able to position my longboat's bow exactly where I wanted it
* My water reading improved, as I had to use the features in order to move upstream
* My playboating even improved, as I was better able to get to features

It's fun, in a frustrating sort of way, and felt more like bouldering in a rock gym than kayaking. You can see definite improvement as moves that you struggled to make become easy, and you'll see the side effect in your kayaking.
posted by Metasyntactic at 10:16 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The main thing about trying to gain muscle is that your nutrition has to be good to see results, and for the most part, you need to be taking in a lot of calories (especially protein) evenly spaced throughout the day. The only real way to do this while still losing weight is to be very strict with your eating, which is not what you want to do. So, if you are happy with the weight you are losing now, than keep doing what you are doing. Once you hit a point where you would rather be gaining muscle than losing weight, than you should start some strength training.

Power 90 is a great DVD to use for strength training if you aren't already used to lifting weights. If you're already in relatively good shape than you should be able to jump into that and get good results.

Proper nutrition is going to be 90% of what determines your results with any program. The difference between pro and amateur athletes comes down to nutrition more than training. If your body doesn't get the nutrients it needs, as well as enough rest, than your muscles can't grow as well.
posted by markblasco at 10:23 PM on September 22, 2012

N-thing bodyweight exercises! I've enjoyed going through You Are Your Own Gym, and am considering some of the other books that others mentioned above.
I can't really offer empirical data on my losses/gains, because my threshold is "did I exercise 20 minutes today or not" (yes, I've got a ways to go) - but I can confirm that bodyweight exercises fit your bill for down-to-Earth-and-straightforward. Nothing gets you more down to Earth than 20 variations on a push-up.
posted by Pieprz at 12:59 AM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

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