1) Lifting is King
Lifting weights is King when it comes to getting in shape. If you doubt this, walk into any local gym and check what the most fit people in the gym are doing. They aren't walking on a treadmill staring at a TV, they are in the weight room lifting away. Lifting increases your heart rate. Lifting builds muscle, muscle burns fat, muscle ups your metabolism.
“But I don't want to get huge” – Relax. Every huge monster you see in the gym is on anabolic steroids with no exception. Even on steroids getting huge requires almost constant eating, lifting 6 days per week, and the desire to get huge. Don't inject, don't eat 5,000 calories a day, don't want to get huge and it won't happen. Ever.
“But I just want to ‘tone' up” – Lifting is how you tone up. Cardio, like jogging and elliptical machines, do not tone you up. They may help you lose weight but you will just be skinny-fat if you don't lift. Muscle is what gives you the “toned” look.
2) Nutrition is queen
Nutrition is almost as important as lifting. You cannot get into shape eating Twinkies, sodas, and McDonalds all day. Every fitness magazine and every bodybuilder will tell you to eat high carb, high protein, and low fat. It works for them. What they will never tell you is that they are on anabolic steroids and therefore do not need to eat any fat.
Fat is essential for building testosterone, testosterone is essential for building muscle. When a bodybuilder or athlete injects synthetic testosterone daily they have no need to build it naturally. For a natural trainee high fat, high-medium protein, and low carb is the best route.
“But eating fat makes you fat!” – No, eating fat does not make you fat unless you are eating man-made, chemically altered fats likes trans-fats and vegetable oils. Stick to real foods that contain saturated animal fat. Fatty meat, butter, eggs, fish, whole milk (raw, I can't recommend pasteurized) etc.. are excellent foods for the natural trainer.
“What about all that cholesterol?”– You have been lied to by the media and what you believe to be science. Eating cholesterol does not increase your cholesterol. Cholesterol is essential to eat.
The best carbohydrate sources are starchy tubers like sweet potatoes, yams, and regular potatoes. White rice is an ok source. The benefits of fruits and vegetables have been greatly exaggerated. Much of modern fruit is sugar in a prettier package.
Most, if not all, the vitamins and minerals a human needs can be found in a rare steak. There is a reason your grandfather and great-grandfather had much more testosterone than today's men. They ate natural foods high in fat – beef, pork, milk, eggs. They weren't eating “health” foods like soy and wheat.
To lose weight – To lose weight you must eat less food. You will hear advice saying that you need to eat MORE to lose weight. Worse, some people actually believe this. Saying that eating 6 times per day will increase your metabolism or some other nonsense and help you lose weight. In a dream world this might work. 1 or 2 big meals per day is perfect for losing weight.
2 meals of steak and eggs will give you much steady energy and you will not have the need to snack or eat more often. 1 giant meal is harder to start doing, but the benefits are just as good. You can eat not quite perfect and still lose weight at a comfortable rate.
If you're excessively fat or obese it is because you cannot tolerate carbohydrates. You should severely limit or completely cut off carbohydrate intake. Only re-introduce them very slowly (if at all) after you have lost a good deal of weight.
To gain weight – To gain weight you must eat more food. Smaller, more frequent meals are ideal for gaining weight. Anywhere between 4-6 meals per day is perfect. It's very hard to gain weight eating fewer meals, this is the reason every bodybuilder eats 6 meals per day. You have to eat to grow. Start eating. When you feel like you can't eat anymore, eat some more.
3) Cardio is Prince
Some cardio is ok. Endless jogging or other cardio machine usage in a steady rhythm is downright counter-productive. If this sounds unbelievable, go to the gym again and watch all the people that flock to the cardio machines. 95% of them will be completely out of shape. Cardio is not the healthy route.
A much better route than traditional cardio is “conditioning”. Conditioning workouts will utilize periods of intense physical exertion with periods of rest. Things like sprints are an excellent way to get into phenomenal shape. As a general rule – to get into great shape train like an athlete would train. Don't train like the slobs on the treadmill train.