We've come a long way in terms of nutrition knowledge and exercise protocols for achieving a better physique and improved fitness. Plenty of peer-reviewed research in diet and exercise has led to practical strategies for your personal plan. I think it is safe to say we have a grasp on calorie surplus/deficit and the laws of thermodynamics, the good carb versus bad carb debate, the most efficient exercise modes for facilitating fat loss and growing shapely muscle mass, improving cardiovascular fitness, and the reality of your genetic make-up relative to achieving those goals.
 
The proven research is out there, so why are there so many who struggle to achieve their optimal physique and fitness? 
 

Why We Fail at Fitness

It’s not brain surgery, folks. It essentially comes down to two issues. First, we live in a world where there is a plethora of high-calorie and low-nutrient foods at your finger tips. They are everywhere: your local grocery store, super center, vending machine at work, and gasoline quick mart. Chips, soda, cylinder-shaped meat concoctions, candy, pastries, and other processed foods. You're consuming too many non-nutritious calories. Much of it is via mindless eating.
 
Second, we have developed the tendency to live an inactive lifestyle. You are most likely sit on your ass eyeballing a computer screen for six-plus hours each day. You then retreat to your palace and continue sitting on your ass while watching television or Facebooking. You fail to engage in any exercise program that would accomplish these two goals: 
 
  • Facilitate a high-intensity demand during the actual training session
  • Encourage high calorie usage post-exercise during recovery
 
That is how you improve your physique, aesthetically. If you eat like crap and train with minimal intensity, that is not going to positively alter your body. Bust your ass, eat better, and you'll probably see noticeable improvements over time. Remember, doing something hard is better than doing nothing.
 
happy bodybuilder
You don't get here by sitting on your ass 12 hours a day and eating like crap.
 

The Fundamental Truths of Body Composition

Human physiology has not changed since day one, when our ancestors first began to walk erect. Therefore, keep it simple and stimulate a large amount of muscle tissue via resistance training and engage in activities that elevate the heart rate to elicit a conditioning effect. Here’s some simple advice for modern-day man (and woman):
 
  • Want to lower the number on the scale? Calories in versus calories out. Consuming a caloric deficit coupled with expending more calories will result in weight loss on the scale. Want to specifically target stored adipose fat? Eat fewer calories and engage in demanding strength training. Losing fat is 80% food choices and 20% exercise choices. Understand modern day food manufacturing. Most of the convenient products are probably low in nutrients and high in sugar and/or bad carbs.
 
  • Want to build muscle and get stronger? Have a plan that progressively taxes your muscles via a combination of more repetitions and greater resistances. Excessive low-level aerobic exercise and eschewing strength training will make you lean, but you will look soft, weak, and have no healthy "shape." Muscle is sexier than fat. Strength train hard.
 
  • Want to increase cardiovascular fitness? Engage in any safe activity that elevates the heart rate and sustains it for an extended period. We are talking interval running, fartlek training, circuit strength training, and boot camp-type training that uses orthopedically-safe exercises.
 
Are you tall and thin? No matter what you do, that body type will be hard to change, but you can add muscle if you work hard. Are you short and thin? Again, bust your butt in the weight room, eat like a champion, and you can add functional muscle mass to your frame. Are you short and thick? It depends on the "thickness." If you're thick with muscle, you are a mesomorph and have a greater potential to display strength and a muscular body. If you're thick but fat, it's time to shore up the food intake and maintain productive strength training. 
 

Do What Works for Your Goals

I don't want to be a wet blanket, but here are more realities you need to understand:
 
If you desire to lose fat, build shapely muscle, and improve your cardiovascular endurance, solely engaging in Yoga, Pilates, PiYo, or any other minimal muscular-effort activity is inadvisable. These endeavors burn minimal calories and stimulate minimal muscle mass. Hence, they are poor choices for achieving maximal fat loss and muscle mass growth.
 
The most effective and time-efficient route to achieving a better physique is proper diet and high-effort strength training. That approach is the total package. No conventional "cardio" is required (i.e., 45 minutes slaving away on a treadmill or elliptical). 
 
An effective fat loss approach should entail better eating in the form of a caloric deficit and healthy food options, along with strength training to either build or preserve metabolically-expensive muscle tissue. Understand that muscle gives one shape—male or female—and possessing more muscle is much better than possessing more adipose fat.
 
If you're female, don't be afraid of lifting weights with extreme effort. You naturally have low levels of muscle-enhancing testosterone. On that fact, you will not develop non-feminine muscles. By training hard in the weight room, you will develop shapely female muscles that may require you to purchase a smaller-size wardrobe.
 
Male or female, to even maintain metabolically-expensive and shaping muscle tissue, one needs to go all-out in exercise sets to stimulate the greatest amount of muscle mass that can lend itself to that goal.
 

The Math of Improving Physique

Copy this and post it on your refrigerator or bathroom wall so you can see it daily:
 
  • Too much aerobic training + a caloric deficit + no resistance training = a thin, unshapely, and debilitated body.
  • A caloric deficit + sensible calorie-burning exercises + muscle-stimulating strength training = a better chance of achieving a lean and shapely figure, male or female.
  • Being completely inactive + over-consuming calories = fat accumulation and minimal muscle shape.
 
All micronutrient and calorie intake remaining equal:
  • Reduce calorie intake + strength training = lose fat and build muscle shape.
  • Increase calories + strength training = build mass, strength, and shape.
  • Reduce calories + aerobic work = lose fat and muscle = look lean but non-muscular.
 

What's Stopping You?

It's not nuclear physics, people. The formulas for obtaining a better body and improving fitness have not changed over the years. What prevents most people from achieving their goals?
 
  • The presence and availability of substandard foods. Consuming a surplus of low-nutrient calories is a huge step back.
  • A lack of discipline in both calorie consumption and work ethic. Shore up your eating habits and bust your butt when training.
  • Poor exercise choices. If it's easy, it's probably not the best option.
  • The persistent myth that low-level cardio must be a part of an effective fat loss program. 
  • Not including strength training in your program. It is essential whether your male or female. Get off the treadmill and get into the weight room.
 
You won't get the body you want without changing your lifestyle:
 
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