That’s what this guide is for. It’s a basic guide to diet & fitness for beginners who want to get in better shape. If you want to look better, improve your overall athletic ability, or just improve your health, read on. If you’re a bodybuilder or athlete, you probably already know most of this.
All of it applies, actually. With very few exceptions, the principles of diet & exercise are the same for men and women. And don’t worry about becoming a manly she-beast from lifting weights; most women can’t gain muscle at anywhere near the rate of men, no matter how hard they lift. Remember, female bodybuilders are lifting weights constantly, eating twice as much as you and taking male hormones. Getting huge doesn’t just happen to men, let alone women.
A word of warning: many female fitness magazines tend to be really idiotic and gimmicky, fixating on things like “spot reduction” that were disproved 50 years ago, and trying to sell whatever their advertisers are pushing that month. If the magazine shows a skinny chick doing curls with 5 lb dumbbells, you should probably throw it in the trash.
There are a few female-specific notes in this guide, but they are rare, because the differences are almost always insignificant for the purposes of promoting general fitness.
The methods for improving fitness are actually very well understood, and, aside from minor matters of detail, have changed very little in the last 30 years or so. Most of the seeming contradictions in fitness advice are really just hairsplitting arguments over matters of detail that need not concern the beginner, or are due to hucksters peddling utter garbage. There is almost universal consensus among knowledgeable people about what works and what doesn’t. That’s what this guide is based on.
There are two basic considerations: diet and exercise. The same advice for each applies to almost everyone. The exceptions are at the extremes, e.g. the very obese needing to lose immense amounts of weight to stay alive, and the people pursuing extreme levels of performance or muscular development. Both of those are beyond the scope of this guide.
No. So-called “spot reduction” is a myth. You can’t exercise one part of your body to make fat in that part of the body go away; it doesn’t work that way. You can only reduce your overall body fat, not make it go away in a specific area.
Having visible abs has very little to do with doing abdominal exercises, and a whole lot to do with how much body fat you have. If your abs are covered in a layer of fat, any ab exercises you do are made virtually redundant. To get abs, you need to get your body fat down with diet and exercise. And ab exercises won’t make fat over your belly go away, either (see the spot reduction myth above).
I have an injury/disability/chronic health problem. Should I follow this guide?
Anyone with a diagnosed medical condition should follow their doctor’s advice on what activity level is safe for them. If that doesn’t match what this guide says to do, don’t follow this guide. The dietary advice here is pretty universal, but there may be specific medical conditions that call for different diets. Don’t ignore qualified medical advice based on something you read here. With that being said, most General Practitioners are not experts on health and fitness. Consult a nutritionist or exercise/sport scientist for the best advice.