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Getting Started
Setting Realistic Goals and
Keeping an Exercise Log & Food Diary
By Frank Melfa of bodybuildingbyfrank.com

Here's How To Get Started:

  • First, have a goal. Do you want to tone, shape, or build?
  • Understand the main muscle groups of the body and work them all using basic exercises.
  • Forget supplements and get to the gym and train hard!
  • Stop with the excuses: I don't have time. I'm too tired. There are no good gyms near me. Whah, Whah, Whah....
  • Get motivated Now.
Setting Realistic Goals:

The first thing I will say about a goal is to have one! The book, The One Minute Manager, states, "Goals begin behaviors." Changing your behavior starts with thinking about your goals, and writing them down. What results do you expect from your weight training program?

The second thing about goals is to be realistic! Trying to get into shape one week before vacation is not realistic. It takes time, planning, and hard work. Setting unrealistic goals can quickly result to disappointment. If you work hard, put in the time, and change your eating habits, you will succeed.

Once you have set your realistic goal, know how you are going to get there. The only way to do this is by planning. Get your planner out right now! If you don't have one get one and right this down:

  • Plan on joining a gym or purchasing gym equipment.
  • Inquire about a personal trainer.
  • Plan the days and times to get to the gym.
  • Plan your workouts. What are you going to do once you get to the gym?
  • Plan your meals.
Regardless of your fitness goals, keeping track of your workouts and food intake is a crucial step in reaching your fitness goals. Don't just think that you are going to wing it! Telling yourself you plan to go to the gym or telling yourself you will start eating right won't cut it. You got to write it down on paper! Keeping an exercise log and food diary will be a constant reminder of your goals. It will help you get to the gym and eat write. It will help you plan and modify your workouts and food intake to help you reach your goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, you need to know how many calories you consume and the allocation of those calories to help modify your food intake. Let's say by keeping a food diary you find that your current caloric intake is 2500 calories and 40% of those calories are from fat. You would have never known this if you didn't write it down. Now you know what you have. Now you need to change it. Now you can use a food diary to reduce the number of fat calories you consume.

Keeping A Food Diary

I found it most helpful planning my meals the night before. My refrigerator and shelves were always supplied with food because I planned my food shopping every Saturday. The night before, you can look in your refrigerator and cabinets to see what is available to prepare for the next day. If you eat some of your meals in a cafeteria, get a meal schedule to help you plan.

Plan your meals by documenting the times of your meals, the number of calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat you plan to consume in a food diary. Budget your calories by evenly allocating them throughout the day. For example, you have budgeted 2000 calories for the day and scheduled five meals with the last meal at 8:00 p.m. You should have a good idea that no meal should exceed 400 calories:

(400 calories * 5 meals = 2000 calories).

Allocating Your Calories

The general consensus among the government, (The U.S. Department of Agriculture) nutritionists, and bodybuilders is that carbohydrates should make up about 60% to 70% of your calories. That leaves only 30% to 40% to allocate for protein and fat. The allocation of protein and fat is controversial. To maintain my physique, I currently consume about 65% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 10% fat. The government recommends a breakdown of 60% carbohydrates, 10% protein, and 30% fat. As you can see, we are close with carbohydrates, but not with protein and fat. We'll discuss that issue in a later article (or you can find out now by ordering my book Bodybuilding A Realistic Approach)! For now let's teach you how to keep track of the allocation of calories

To figure out your percentage of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, as a percentage of your total caloric intake, is easy:

For carbohydrates and protein:

  • Count the number of grams of carbohydrates and protein you have consumed in one day.
  • Multiply each gram of carbohydrate or protein by four.
  • Divide the product by the total number of calories consumed.
  • Multiply by 100

For example:
I usually consume about, 2000 calories a day, 300 grams of carbohydrates, 125 grams of protein, and 20 grams of fat.

For carbohydrates: 325 grams X 4 calories = 1300 calories

1300 ?2000 = .65
.65 X 100 = 65%
For protein: 125 grams X 4 calories = 500 calories
500?2000 = .25
.25 X 100 = 25%
For Fat:
  • Multiply each gram of fat by 10.
  • Divide the product by the total number of calories consumed.
  • Multiply by 100
For example: 20 grams X 10 = 200 calories
200?2000 = .10
.10 X 100 = 10%
Now, if you find that you are consuming 4000 calories and consuming 150 grams of fat, you better start making some changes regardless of your fitness goals! Because consuming 4000 calories a day for most people is excessive unless you are an offensive lineman for the New York Giants. And consuming 150 grams of fat per day will make you fat regardless of your occupation!

Keeping an Exercise Log

Keeping track of the weights you use, sets and reps performed, days you work out, can be very difficult. That's why it's important to keep track of all this information using an exercise log. Ask any bodybuilder or fitness expert about the importance of logging progress in order to reach goals.

Planning your workouts entails developing a tentative training schedule for each week, knowing what body parts to train every workout, and the exercises to perform, before you get into the gym! I say tentative because you never know what may happen during the week to throw off your training schedule.

Weekly Training Schedule

Planning workouts ensures that all body parts are worked at least once a week and that the muscles to be trained are grouped logically for best results. For example I don't recommend training chest and shoulders in the same workout. Trying to train shoulders after a heavy chest workout can be very difficult. This can result in overtraining the shoulders because the shoulders get a lot of work from chest exercises. Training legs and back in the same workout can be very taxing on the lower back. The last thing in the world you want to do is injure yourself. The following charts show examples of a three-day weekly training schedule, to ensure efficient and safe workouts.

Monday Wednesday Friday
Chest & Biceps Back & Triceps Shoulders & Legs
Abs Abs Abs

You do not have to take a day rest between your workouts if you are not training the same bodyparts. For example:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Chest & Biceps Back & Triceps Shoulders & Legs
Abs Abs Abs

You can do it anyway you want, workout two days in a row, take a day rest and then continue the following day. It doesn't really matter, as long as you consistently get to the gym three days. The better you plan, and the more consistent you are with the days you plan to workout, the more likely you will get to the gym and reach your goal. If you can only devote two days to weight training, you could then train the entire body in two days. For example:
Monday Wednesday
Chest/Back/Biceps Shoulders/Triceps/Legs
Abs Abs

What you're actually doing in all these examples is training each bodypart only once a week. Each workout should not take more than 45 minutes to one hour. Abdominal exercises could be included in all three workouts, unless they are still sore from the previous workout. The abdominal muscles recover faster than any other muscles in the body. They tighten and contract every time you sneeze, laugh, talk, exercise, and during other activities we all take for granted. Three days per week for abdominals is more than sufficient. Besides, a washboard stomach is attained only through strict dieting (We'll get to abs in another article or you can check out my book Bodybuilding A Realistic Approach for the best abs exercises and routines).

For all the reasons mentioned, I have made available, the Exercise Log & Food Diary? with Calorie Counter to help you keep track of your workouts and food intake. I used it to prepare for my bodybuilding contests throughout the years. In addition to providing space to record your food intake and exercise it also includes a calorie counter in the back along with a notes page. Here you can record your goals, thoughts, or anything you feel like writing.

For the exercise log part, you can record the aerobic activity that you performed, the number of calories burned, distance, and the time you planned or worked or both. Maybe the next time you use the stairmaster, you can set a goal to work longer and burn more calories.

For the Weightlifting section, record the muscles you plan to work in the section labeled Muscles Worked. You can write down the exercises you plan to perform first and then record the weights, reps, sets as you go along. This way you know exactly what exercises to perform without wasting any time deciding what to do. Or you can keep a separate list of exercises you plan on doing in the Notes section and then write hem down as you go along. This adds some flexibility because if you planned to perform flat bench presses for chest and all the flat benches are being used, you can perform and record incline bench presses instead, or whatever alternate exercise you decide to perform. Always keep alternative exercises in mind or on paper. DO NOT WAIT FOR EQUIPMENT!!!! Do something else! I perform exercises that most others don't such as dips, pullups, and squats, rather the bench presses, pulldowns and leg extensions. I don't ever remember waiting to perform any of these exercises.

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