== Temporarily set to friends only while I decide if I should make it public! ==
OK! I need something to motivate me to keep writing journals, because that in turn leads to me working on my stories! As I thought about it earlier, I decided to go for this: a semi-regular (meaning, as regular as I can possibly be) piece where I discuss a few things that have come to my mind regarding health, fitness and exercise, as I've started attending the gym very frequently and no, not just to stand around wearing shorts and gawking at people.
I'll state flat out that this will be nothing more than a thing where I share what I believe to be advice, as well as talk about my progress (to a degree); but I'm not an expert, I don't have an awesome physique, and I don't have any qualifications. But, the thing is, a lot of my friends actually satisfy all three of those criteria, and I research and verify everything I can. So I won't be talking too much bullshit, I hope.
Any corrections or information would be appreciated, but I ask that anyone who does that will consider their own qualifications and knowledge before spouting an opinion. Forums for bodybuilding sometimes look like YouTube comment threads, with ignorant nonsense spewed rudely by the occasional jerk. I'm not here to talk myself up, so let's keep it civil. "Corrections" should be backed up by sources, and I'll be providing some sources myself.
This is an odd topic to put here, I know, but this is a furry website. There is a good chance that more than a few of my readers are interested in either losing weight or gaining muscle or otherwise improving themselves athletically... or aesthetically, for that matter. Oddly, one of the most common reasons I've encountered for people wanting to hit the gym is because they want some small part of the physique that appeals to them so much, and when you're getting "yourself", skinny, fat, whatever, drawn as a sexy, lean wolf-man-thing, throwing wads of cash at artists to render the fantasy you in as self-appealing way as possible, well...
Not saying that anyone is necessarily self conscious, but you can always be better.
As I just said, I know several people who will read this, virtually just after I post it, who are interested in the topic. One of them even credits me with getting him into the gym regularly, of which I am very proud. So, without further ado... I present...
The Fit Kit Chronicles! Part 1: Nutrition and Supplements
This is the... Actually, before I get into it: no, I won't be posting "progress pictures" here or anything like it. No. One, it's against the rules; two, I'm not an attention whore; three, I look awful anyway, shuddup. Now.
This is universally considered the most important thing when it comes to athletic performance, bodybuilding or fat-loss: what you stuff in your face, how much, and when. Unfortunately it's easily the most confusing and dense subject of discussion - there's a squillion opinions on what you need to be eating, and how much. Generally, if you're failing to achieve your goals, you need to either change your workout or change your diet, and for beginners it's mostly the latter. Like me; my diet is certainly not optimal.
The first thing I want to address though are supplements. You've seen them, haven't you? The big canisters of mystery powder that cost $40; the similarly expensive candy bars and drinks in health food stores; the little bottles of tablets and pills.
People say different things about them. Allow me to summarize.
Beginner/someone who doesn't know anything: "They don't do anything!" Experienced athlete: "Are you nuts? They're awesome! I know from experience for a fact that they work wonders! You gotta take this, this and this! But you need to know when to take it, and follow a proper diet!" Expert athlete: "Actually, that's right, but if you know what you're doing with that proper diet, they're not really necessary."
They're called supplements for a reason. They're not miracle shakes/pills. They're supposed to fill in the blanks, giving you a large supply of certain things your body needs that your diet may not be giving you enough of. Given what many of them do, you will likely need to be working out quite extensively, and using a given supplement extensively, in order to see benefits.
For instance, analyze what they're for. Why do bodybuilders - those who don't feel their diet contains enough of what they need - drink those odd powder-shakes? What are they, usually?
By far the most common is a protein drink/shake. They often contain other things as well, but their main purpose is just to give your body a butt-load of protein! This does almost nothing, though, if you're not coaxing your muscles into developing. Proteins are necessary for building, fueling and protecting muscle cells, so it's best used before and/or after a serious bout of activity. Otherwise, it's just spilled over fuel. So using it by itself, or if you don't work out extensively so as to take advantage of the buttload of protein you're ingesting, it does next to nothing and you'll conclude they "don't work."
They absolutely do work. They're not replacements for hours and hours of effort at the gym, or for a decent diet, or for a calorie-deficient diet. If you're trying to lose fat, there's no substitute for simply not eating the bull%$^$ that got you in trouble to begin with! They may, however, give you the elements you need (such as lots of proteins) if your diet can't be modified to up your protein intake without increasing the calories.
Most other athleticism related supplements are in the same boat. They won't do a damn thing unless you're, well, actually doing some athletic stuff. Usually, you need to be pretty serious and working very hard to begin with, then you can count on the supplements to give you about a 15% increase in your results. At best. I wouldn't expect any more.
Other common supplements include Creatine or even weird things, such as natural herbs that apparently have been proven to increase testosterone production.
I won't say what brands or products I use, because everyone has their favorite or an opinion on what works best. It usually doesn't matter too much; the market is saturated and full of buzzwords and nonsense. If a product contains tried and true ingredients, then it'll probably do just as well as any other product that also contains them. Also, it's not like they'll pay me for advertising them.
Overall, don't worry about supplements unless you're willing to really jump into whatever sport or workout routine you're thinking of doing. That said, the one thing I recommend for everyone is a "pre-workout" product. It's the one thing I find indispensable, because of my natural laziness.
These things contain things like creatine, which is tried-and-true ingredient, and other fancy sounding chemicals that promise to do this and that, but the thing that makes them so wonderful is the absolutely ludicrous amount of energy it provides. I recently bought a pre-workout product and it's literally the best thing I've bought in years, I'm super happy about it. It can give you the energy to do whatever you're doing, even if it's relatively strenuous, and most importantly: it's generally accepted that responsible use of these products means there's no deleterious effects. I've never "crashed" or felt sick. (Note: the product I use does not contain dangerous stimulants, such as Dimethylamine. It also tastes awesome.)
But more importantly, what's on the menu? What should you be eating? What shouldn't you be eating?
Well, good question. I'm not an expert on this, everyone has their own super-awesome-amazing diet, that they'll sell to you for $250, and I know for a fact my diet is hardly perfect.
That said, some athletes and bodybuilders have all this stuff down to a science. It's actually a very sophisticated art, and sometimes a simple dietary change can make worlds of difference. Diet is also very important because, frankly, it's the number one cause of overweightness and obesity. Period.
When it comes down to exercising and eating to lose fat, the formula is pretty damn simple. It's a lack of exercise and overindulgence with foods, 9 times out of 10. Being overweight says nothing else whatsoever about a person; they could be hard workers, intelligent, fun and so on. Being disrespectful to someone because of their weight honestly disgusts me. But it's a pretty good indicator of a "rich" diet and exercise levels that don't match.
You must build muscle if you wish to lose weight. Muscles cells are very metabolically active, burning fat merely by existing; and weight training isn't exactly lazy stuff by itself. Building muscle requires fuel, and you absolutely cannot starve yourself - this is a monstrously bad idea; it causes your body to cling to its fat, in survival mode, and instead promotes catabolism... where your body devours the muscle instead of stored fat in order to survive.
But make no mistake. Nutrition for gaining muscle mass/strength quickly is different from doing so to lose weight (if you opt to do so simultaneously); we come back to the formula from before. In short, you need to eat less and exercise more; you should be aiming for a calorie deficit, a comfortable deficit that allows your body to happily nom away at your fat cells instead of panicking and chewing the muscles you want to build, because they help with the aforesaid nomming.
This is best achieved by keeping carbohydrates low. These are high calorie/kilojoule foods such as pasta, bread and f#&!ing sugar. You're going to need to make a sacrifice here. You will have to eat less, specifically less of some of the tastiest food out there. However, a minimal amount of carbohydrate based foods still need to be eaten, and you should focus on eating protein & animal-fat based meals. Easy unless you're a vegan, but even still not impossible.
My own diet is fairly heavy on meat, therefore protein. I eat a lot of fish (no fox jokes, please...), chicken, turkey, beef and so on. I also get protein from other sources, such as supplements & breakfast drinks. Most of my carbs are rice, a little pasta, oats and bread, usually wholegrain. I make sure to take in the right amount of fat, and sugars are as minimal as comfortably possible. I never drink sugared soda or super sweet fruit juices & cordial, for example. Well, maybe one a month. Arguably, the biggest flaw in my diet is that I don't eat much fruit or vegetables, but I try my best. I personally don't find my diet suffers too much from the fact I dislike 'em; hardest thing about it is ordering fast food. My secret weapon is V8 juice!
In fact, I'm currently eating a small bowl of tuna, with a tiny bit of rice, and literally a few dashes of peri-peri sauce, soy sauce and olive oil. Not the healthiest thing ever, but I'm frickin' happy!
Purely focusing on cardio activities (running, swimming, cycling, etc.) or purely focusing on weight training is a bad idea. Together, they form a synergistic cycle. Make sure you're doing something that gets your heart rate up, makes you sweat, and all that jazz, because that's what makes your body use that stored energy.
So, up your activity levels to increase calories burned, then make sure your calorific intake undercuts that amount. So yes, eat less, eat smart, but make sure you still bloody eat. Yes, you're going to need to count calories, it really sucks ass, but it's not too bad. I automatically keep track of kilojoule intake now, it's just a reminder to not be greedy and to strategically allow yourself to eat junk food.
As for working out to build heavy mass... well, people who do that probably already know what to do and don't need any second hand advice from my stupid furry blog. But the difference is, someone who just wants power or muscle size actually needs to eat rather a lot, and because they need a lot of energy and don't care about losing fat, they can really gorge themselves on whatever provided it's a balanced, somewhat sensible diet. They want a calorie surplus, which they may or may not deal with later if they have to.
Most critical thing to remember is: you may need to affect drastic changes in your diet, exercise and lifestyle and keep at this new routine for months before you'll see any real effects. MONTHS. Getting impatient or expecting visible results within the first few months is foolish, disheartening and such a waste of good effort. You need to make big changes (probably), and stick with them for a long time. This applies to your diet too, you won't see a big difference straight away. The body is stubborn, but adaptable. You don't undo years of indolence or maltreatment in a few weeks, expecting to is just daft.
Again, this is all second hand, passed on to me from friends - mostly personal trainers or athletes. I do have some online sources, which I'll pass on here. As for what actual activities you're "supposed" to be doing, I'll save that for next journal! Again, no expert, just passing things along.
Hope I inspired or helped at least one person here.