Maybe we can try and go for a sticky and get an organized thread going here so all the "halp exercise me I want a six pack" threads can go away. Would appreciate contributions so we can keep on editing the OP to have a good source of diet and exercise information. Contributions from the runners / yoga-ers/ swimmers / nutritionist / etc types would be great, as right now its pretty geared to weightlifting for beginners. Disclaimer: I am not Arnold Schwarzenegger, just a recovering skinny dude. 99% of this information is not my own; its gleaned from the far reaches of the internet. This is not the holy writ, but if you are interested in improving how you look and feel then it is a good place to start. Why exercise? The benefits of exercise and proper dieting are too great to summarize in one paragraph - so just go out and do it. Even if you're not an athletic type, just remember everyone had to start from somewhere. Exercise is a great way to build self-confidence, esteem and discipline, improve energy levels, as well as making you live longer and look hotter. How do I exercise? There's plenty of ways, and it depends on your goals. What's important is that you find something you like - every exercise program is only as effective as how well you stick to it. It goes without saying that if you hate it, you aren't going to stick with it. That being said, exercise and proper dieting is not always fun - you're going to sweat, you're going to hurt, but you're going to feel fucking good afterwards. Promise. Before you begin - Meta stuff There is no easy way to a hot body or a healthy lifestyle. Fitness professionals, everyone from Michael Phelps to Arnold Schwarzenegger, only got to where they are (or were, poor Ahnold) through years and years of strict diet and exercise. All those kids chugging their weight gainer shakes and doing 14 kinds of bicep curls while checking themselves out in the mirror will inevitably burn out and fail because they aren't living a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Eliminate the ideas of "going on a diet" or "going on a program" from your mind - you can't just decide when to be healthy and when not to if you want to succeed. Likewise, try not to jump on the bandwagon and institute massive lifestyle change overnight, for example being a sedentary fatass all of your life and then trying to hit the gym at 6am every day of the week. You will enjoy the most success by making gradual changes to your lifestyle and making healthy living a priority in your life. Again: there are no shortcuts. Ease into a healthy lifestyle by making better choices about what you eat and how you spend your time. Hopefully this thread will equip you with the tools to make those choices. Nutrition There's a reason nutrition is first on the list. Think of it like fueling your car. You wouldn't piss in your gas tank, would you? Eating properly, and doing so consistently is the most important part of living a healthy lifestyle, regardless of what exercise program you're on. Nothing is going to stall your progress faster than a shitty or inconsistent diet. Helpful stuff: BMR Calculator - very important!! Read below. Harris-Benedict Equation - also important! Read below. The Daily Plate - Calorie counting, diet tracking FitDay - Calorie counting, diet tracking Quick and dirty guide Weight loss: Put down the fork, fatty. Stop eating crap foods, start eating good foods, and for God's sake stop eating so much. Don't eat lots of carbs late at night, and learn portion control. Weight gain: Eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. e.g., A 180lb individual would try to eat at least 180g of protein a day. Then, eat everything you see. Stay away from crap food, though you don't have to worry too much. If you want bulk, just eat a lot, but don't go overboard on the pop/chips/donuts/simple sugars/processed foods. Idiot's guide Calculate your BMR. Once you have found your BMR, go to this website and multiply by the appropriate number. If you want to gain weight - Simple version: eat 500 calories above maintenance. If you want to lose weight - Simple version: eat 500 calories below maintenance. Begin eating at a 40/40/20 macronutrient split. What this means is that 40% of your calories will come from protein, 40% from carbs, and 20% from fat. Carbs and protein each have 4 calories per gram, while fat contains 9 calories per gram. You should aim to eat at this 40/40/20 ratio 90% of the time during the week. If you eatThat equals about 5 "cheat" meals - fast food, missing a meal, mom's spaghetti, whatever, per week. Example: I want to gain weight. I weigh 175 lb, am 22 years old, 5'11", male. That means my BMR is 1908. Since I exercise 5 days a week, which is a "moderate" level of activity according to the BMR calculator, I will multiply 1908x1.6. That equals 3052. I'll round up to 3100 calories, just to be sure. Since my calories needed are 3100 per day, I need to split that into 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fat. That means I'll eat (3100x.40) 1240 calories of protein, 1240 calories of carbs, and (3100x.20) 620 calories of fat. Now, since each gram of protein and carbohydrates has 4 calories, and 1240 / 4 = 310, I'll be eating 310g of protein and carbs per day. Each gram of fat has 9 calories, so 620 / 9 = 69g fat per day. Lets call it an even 70. Divide your protein and fat numbers by the number of meals you will eat in a day. I chose 5, as I eat 5 meals spaced evenly throughout the day. You will divide your carb numbers by one less than your number of meals, as we will be eating one carb-free meal right before we go to bed. This means I'll divide my carb number by 4. Generally speaking, carbs late at night = bad. So... Protein 310 / 5 = 62g Carbs 310 / 4 = 78g Fat 70 / 5 = 14g. So every meal I eat will have about 62g of protein, 78g of carbs, and 14g of fat. Don't worry about the exact numbers - eating 60g protein, 80g carbs, 15g fat is fine. That's like eating two cans of tuna, 2 cups of brown rice, and one tablespoon of olive oil. You will get these calories from GOOD sources. Protein: Beef - try to go lean, or you can buy medium and drain the fat. Steak is good. Chicken - self explanatory Fish - Tuna is awesome, and as long as you aren't eating albacore you can eat 1000000 cans a week and not get sick. Use whey protein powder to fill in the gaps and meet your protein requirements for the day. Do not rely on whey as your primary source. Carbs: Multigrain bread / bagels Fibrous fruit - bananas, apples, mixed berries, pineapple Oats - not instant oatmeal shit, the kind you have to cook yourself Whole wheat pasta Brown rice Non-fat yogurt Fat: Olive oil Flaxseed oil Egg yolks - fuck the haters, egg yolks are fine. Cholesterol level in food != levels in your blood. All the old studies saying yolks are bad have been disproven. Cheese Walnuts, almonds, etc. Natural peanut butter Try to eat vegetables as often as you can. All colours of vegetables. Peppers, spinach, broccoli, whatever. On days you do not work out, eat at maintenance (your BMR, remember?) by cutting out excess carbs. Immediately post workout (within half an hour) you will drink a protein shake. I like a couple scoops of whey in skim milk. Does this mean I have to live off of plain rice and tuna and nuts all day long? No. This is just a guide - the most effective way to eating properly is finding a healthy alternative to what you would normally eat. For example, if you normally eat McDonald's for lunch, you could instead eat a tuna melt made with whole-grain bread, good cheese, and tuna, and a salad full of veggies. Instead of eating white rice, go for brown, so on and so forth. How many meals should I eat in a day? There's lots of science going back and forth each way on this. Try and eat at least 3 meals in a day, no less. Don't just try and eat your caloric requirements in one meal, that's no good for your metabolism. You don't have to eat 6+ meals in a day - what's important is that you eat at regular intervals and reach your calorie requirements. My advice is to eat as many meals that will fit into your schedule. Again, every plan is only as effective as your ability to stick to it - so if you plan to eat 6 meals a day but you're stuck in an office all day long, that may not work out so well. If you only have time for a big breakfast, lunch, and dinner, that's fine. If you work from home or have more time on your hands, I find it easier to eat 5+ smaller meals throughout the day. Furthermore, eating smaller meals helps with portion control and keeps you feeling full, which is good if you're trying to lose weight. The most important thing is reaching your calorie requirements. What about condiments? Go for low-cal options (Presidents Choice Blue Menu, for example) or switch condiments. Stuff like hot sauce and mustard are low-calorie. Try and stay away from high-calorie stuff like ketchup and mayonnaise. Supplements: No. The only supplements you need are a multivitamin, a DHA/EPA supplement (fish oil) and creatine if you have hit a plateau. The supplement industry is 100% bullshit; I could go on and on about it but you are best off simply staying away from every single SUPER NITRO CELL TECH XXX TESTOSTERONE PUMP BOOST type product out there. Alcohol All things in moderation, right? Alcohol is another macronutrient that takes precedence over other macronutrients (specifically protein) when being digested in the body. Long story short, it will slow down your process. There's nothing wrong with a drink here or there - everyone has to live a little - but regular and excessive use is not going to do you any good. Weightlifting programs - feel free to suggest more here, especially some more advanced stuff! Beginner Starting Strength - highly recommended. Torrent the DVD's and the book if you can, or do the honest thing and buy them 5x5 - highly recommended. There are a million versions of the 5x5, I use the Stronglifts version. Bill Starr's is also great, though a little more advanced. Westside for Skinny Bastards - Are you a skinny bastard? Good mix of strength and hypertrophy, and wide exercise choice. Make sure you are familiar with the lifts first. Why Beginner programs? There's no bicep curls in there! In order to gain muscle and strength, you need to work on compound lifts. Compound lifts involve several different muscle groups simultaneously. Examples of compound lifts are the squat, deadlift, bench press, and the overhead press. These exercises will build up your base level of strength and guarantee you have a balanced physique, given you are doing them properly. More muscle groups involved = more muscle growth. Isolation exercises have their place, but generally speaking not for beginners as they do not provide enough overload or benefit for the body. Beginners will benefit far more from focusing on the Big Three (squat, deadlift, bench press) as they involve far more muscle than a simple curl. Isolation exercises, such as dumbbell bicep curls, are more effective at building size at high reps and once you have attained a base level of strength. Translation: you shouldn't be worried about doing 10 sets of arm work if you can't bench press 100 pounds. Be patient, size will come in time. Once you have been lifting for awhile and can reach these standards then you can train for size with all the isolation you want. Cardio - I'm not a runner, so please contribute! Couch to 5k - great running program designed to get you off the couch and started on running. Highly recommended. FAQ - suggest more FAQs for the FAQ! 1. Help! I'm a fat bastard! What do I do? - Calculate your calorie intake requirements - Do Starting Strength or 5x5 - Run on your off-lifting days 2. Help! I'm a skinny bastard! What do I do? - Calculate your calorie intake requirements - Do Starting Strength or 5x5 3. But my trainer said... - Most (90%+) of trainers are retarded. There is no nationally recognized standard for personal training, so most trainers you see at your gym were certified with an in-house program. Also, theoretical knowledge != practical knowledge. Most of the time, they take the guy working behind the desk, throw a certification at him, and have him train. 4. High reps build tone and low reps build size, right? -Wrong. High reps build size, and low reps build strength. Usage of the word "tone" should be limited to talking about bodyfat percentage, not how many reps you're doing per set. Anyone who advises on doing high reps for tone should be ignored. 5. Can't I just use my XXX Super Mutant Mass Gainer to get big? -Gainers are full of crap ingredients. Yes, they are excess calories, but 99% of the time people who use gainers have a garbage diet and will lose all that gained mass as soon as they stop taking it. Healthy lifestyle, remember? Helpful stuff - suggest more helpful stuff! exrx.net - Excellent resource, especially the exercise and muscle directory. It has pretty much every exercise imaginable listed there, along with instructions on form and what muscles are being involved. Strength Standards - see where you stand! TheSwole - some good articles on here.