The Lean and Mean Calisthenics Diet
One thing that attracts people to bodyweight training is its simplistic nature.
There’s no need for a gym membership, and you don’t need any special equipment. All you need is your body and your mind. Put those two things together and you can hammer out some of the most intense muscle and strength-building workouts based on calisthenics.
But developing a well-sculpted physique takes more than just working out. To really build the kind of body that shows off your muscles and all your hard work, you’ve got to eat right. The calisthenics diet isn’t complicated, but it still requires the same kind of hard work and mental toughness as doing bodyweight workouts.
Commit to the Calisthenics Workout Diet To Achieve the Calisthenics Body You Want
If you’re ready to follow the calisthenics diet and want to maximize your workout efforts, commit yourself to eating right and declare war on junk food. That’s a good place to start.
Once you’ve got your mind right about eating healthily, the rest is easy. It’s like bodyweight training in some ways; there are hundreds of ways to eat healthily, with lots of foods to choose from, just like the many bodyweight exercises you can make use of for your personal workout.
The calisthenics diet isn’t anything complicated.
There’s no complex system to follow, no pills or supplements to take, and no expensive pre-packaged food you need to buy. Here’s the strategy for success with this diet:
Principle #1 – The War on Junk Food – Eat As Natural as possible
You don’t get to be lean and mean by rolling through the drive-thru, ordering a hamburger, soft drink, and bucket of fries. And that ripped look isn’t made from chocolate bars, energy drinks, and pastries. If you’re serious about following the calisthenics diet, you’ve got to declare war on junk food.
An estimated 70 percent of all adults in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. About 26 million people have diabetes, and another 79 million are prediabetic, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Controversies may well always abound over whether artificial ingredients, food additives, and pesticides are healthy or unhealthy.
Some argue that it depends on the TYPE of chemical you’re considering, as well as the AMOUNT of said chemical you’re ingesting.
Me? I’ll let scientists continue their seemingly never-ending debates about which ingredients are OK to consume and which are not, but I’ll follow the safe route and avoid them all as much as possible in favor of eating REAL FOOD. The stuff that grows on the ground, on a tree, or comes from an animal. The stuff that only lists one ingredient on the package. The stuff we humans have been eating for tens of thousands of years.
How many times have food manufacturers promoted alternatives – mostly aimed at the weight loss market – that promise to be healthy substitutes for things like fat and sugar? As recently as 1996, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – the agency in charge of telling Americans which drugs and foods are safe to consume – allowed for the fat substitute Olestra to be used in place of oils in things like chips. Soon, people discovered it “negated the body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins” and gave side effects including “cramps, gas and loose bowels.” Despite this, the ingredient is still legal in the USA. In 2010, Time Magazine called it one of the world’s 50 worst inventions of all time, yet it’s still included in a variety of processed foods.
While this is perhaps one of the more extreme examples of an undesirable food additive, I’ll play it safe and stick with nature-made foods. Yes, you’ll hear about the occasional e.coli-infected spinach or beef recall, but even these are the result of contamination with man-made industrial pollutants and dirty water sources (e.g. sewage), not a problem with the food itself.
And that’s because too many people gobble up burgers, fries, soft drinks, and sugary snacks every day like it’s going to be their last meal. Obesity and diabetes are both diseases that can lead to serious health problems, including death. And no matter how hard you workout, you’ll never achieve your ideal body if you’re eating junk.
The takeaway point:
Read the labels on everything you plan to buy. Go for foods that contain as few ingredients as possible (I personally shoot for five or less). Keep the words of fitness legend and bodyweight calisthenics master, Jack LaLanne, in mind: “If Man makes it, don’t eat it.”
Principle #2 – Eat Produce, Organic when Possible
When was the last time you ever heard about someone overdosing on celery or dying of eating too many raspberries? These stories aren’t exactly making headline news! We evolved to eat fruits and veggies in abundance. These foods are absolutely loaded with all sorts of essential vitamins and minerals your body needs, not only to build quality muscle but also to regulate its every function. Small wonder every medical agency routinely talks about the anti-disease and general health-promoting benefits of nature’s wonder drugs.
So we know fruits and veggies are good, but let’s go one step further. Whenever possible, eat organic produce.
Quite simply, these are foods that have been grown (or raised) on farmlands and pastures free of synthetic chemical pesticides, food additives, or antibiotic agents for at least three years. You can read more about what being organic means here. Again, there is debate as to how healthy/unhealthy pesticides and other man-made chemicals are, but why not play it safe and avoid them altogether if you can?
Challenges to buying organic produce
1. I know that there are a few challenges to consuming only organic food, the first of which is cost. Typically, organic produce will run you about twice as much as its conventionally-grown cousins. The best way to cut down on cost is to buy it in bulk.
In the last two years or so, bulk retailers like Costco have increased their selection of organic produce tremendously. I can now buy a 1.5-pound bag of organic baby kale for just over what it would cost me to buy two bunches (1/4 pound each) of conventionally grown kale. I buy 90% of my organic produce at Costco, as they carry reasonably-priced organic beets, apples, bananas, carrots, celery, spinach, kale, and several other items.
2. The second challenge is availability. Maybe you don’t live near a store that has access to many varieties of organic produce. If this is you, buy what you can organically, and stick to conventional produce otherwise.
As the University of Illinois reports here, it’s still far better to eat (well-washed) produce containing pesticides than to forego them altogether. Try buying organic varieties of things that you have to eat the skin on (such as apples, peaches, lettuce leaves, etc.), and buy conventional varieties of things that you’ll throw away the skin/peel (melons, bananas). You can also check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of the top best/worst produce items in terms of pesticide residues.
In fact, I’d encourage you to check them out, either way, their website being an amazing resource for all information pertaining to the consumption of organic produce.
The takeaway point:
Eat organic produce when possible, especially when you have to eat the skin/peel of the item. If you can’t buy organic, eat conventional produce. Just be sure to wash and scrub it well.
Principle #3 – Get Your Protein IN!: Eat Meat, Organic, Wild, and Grass Fed
It makes sense that if humans should eat and do what they evolved to eat and do, the same should be said about the animals we eat!
Sadly (from a nutritional and ethical perspective), this is not often the case. For example, cattle in commercial feedlots are often bulked up on a diet of grain (which they don’t naturally eat – cows eat grass). They’re given growth hormones to further fatten them up. Finally, given their unhealthy diet and the crowded facilities they live in, they’re pumped full of antibiotics.
Sound appetizing? It will sound even less so when you look at this sometimes funny, often very scary video of inhumane, filthy feedlot conditions.
Unsurprisingly, animals not exposed to this sort of treatment seem to be nutritionally more beneficial for the humans who eat them. As explained in this CNN article, grass-fed beef may contain more beneficial fats and vitamins than grain-fed beef.
Fish, too, aren’t immune to the effects of man-made pollutants and practices. You may have heard how our oceans contain toxins and waste, perhaps most famously mercury, which find their way into the fish we eat. Nevertheless, it seems as if eating wild-caught fish (fish caught directly from the ocean) instead of farmed fish (fish raised in sometimes crowded and unhealthy “fish farms” similar to feedlots) may be healthier. Wild-caught fish tend to be higher in Omega 3 fatty acids and proteins, both of which are key ingredients to building muscle mass.
Your muscles need protein to repair the damage done during a tough bodyweight workout. Pull-ups, squats, lunges, push-ups and other exercises can challenge your muscles. And that’s what you want from a workout. But you need to feed your muscles after a workout with the essential amino acids found in protein.
The International Society for Sports Nutrition suggests that athletes consume about 0.64 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. That means a 150-pound person should get between 96 and 150 grams of protein per day. And it’s doable on the calisthenics diet. Foods high in protein include eggs, dairy and soy products, nuts, fish, lean meats, and poultry like chicken and turkey.
So instead of de-beaked chicken, artificially fat cows, and commercially-raised fish, stick to eating animals that have been living the way nature intended: feeding on grass (cows), roaming (chickens), or swimming free (fish). As with organic produce, eating these kinds of meat will be more expensive.
So, once again, stick to buying in bulk when possible (Costco has a great selection of organic/natural meats). Or substitute some animal-based proteins for plant-based ones, such as beans, almond butter, hemp, and chia seeds.
You don’t need to ingest huge amounts of protein to build muscle and be healthy….even if lots of fitness magazines and supplement companies try to scare you into believing so for the sake of making a profit.
The takeaway point:
Eat animals that have lived the way nature intended. To cut down on costs, buy high-quality animal meat in bulk and eat more plant-based protein.
Principle #4 – Grains and Dairy?
Recently, things like gluten sensitivity and lactose intolerance have received a lot of media attention. Some people promote whole grains (including the gluten protein they contain) and milk (with its lactose sugar) as nutritional powerhouses, while others claim they are bad for your health and promote inflammation. The naysayers’ arguments make some sense based on evolutionary logic. After all, we weren’t consuming cows’ milk or grains until the Agricultural Revolution some 10,000 – 12,000 years ago, so maybe our bodies never evolved to handle these types of food well.
To the question of whether gluten and dairy are friends or foes, I have no definitive answer. I personally eat both bread and milk regularly and have zero problems with them, but I know several others who must steer clear of such foods or else suffer bloating, pain, and lack of energy.
According to this Harvard research, you need to eat more whole-food to be able to get the ripped and toned body you want.
Here’s the beauty of the calisthenics diet. You can eat a ton of food, as long as it’s healthy. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains are healthy. They contain essential vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants your body needs to repair cell damage and build muscle after a tough workout. Whole foods are also low in calories, fat, and cholesterol, compared to the kind of food you’ll find at a typical fast food joint.
Creating a diet based on whole foods will help you lose body fat. That’s what you need to show off your toned muscles and all your hard work.
Follow Coach Paul Wade’s advice from the legendary “Convict Conditioning”, repeatedly echoed throughout both of his books: Be your Own Coach. Although he advises this as it relates to designing your own workout programs, I extend his advice into the world of diet.
Try cutting gluten-rich grains (products containing wheat, barley, and rye) and dairy out of your diet for 30 days, to see if you feel better than before. The bottom line is you can still get all your carbs, proteins, fats, and vitamins from non-gluten, non-dairy sources – such as meat, veggies, potatoes, and rice – so cutting out grains and dairy from your diet will not have a detrimental effect on your training or your health.
BONUS TIP: Keep a Food Diary
Science Daily clearly shows that having a food diary can really help you achieve those goals.
Get a notebook and record everything you eat. You can do this even without committing to the calisthenics diet. It’s a great way to see what you’re eating, count your calories, and see what you’re doing right and what you need to change.
Calisthenics Diet Food Diary
If you’re record-keeping-challenged, try logging your food intake online, or use a smartphone app to keep track of everything you’re munching on. And be honest.
Record everything you eat, EVERYTHING. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning snacks, afternoon snacks, and even late-night munchies.
Documenting at least a complete week of your eating habits will help you get a clear picture of what you’re tossing down your pie-hole. For many people, it’s an act of self-discovery that can reveal why you’re not getting the gains you want or expect from your workouts. If you’re eating too much junk and too many empty calories, you’ll never get the body you want. And this may be all you need to do to match your eating habits with the guidelines for the calisthenics diet.
In a recent study of 1,700 overweight people, researchers found that dieters who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight as dieters who didn’t. Keeping a food diary can help you keep your calories in check and eat less fat. It’s the kind of visual aid some people need to get their diet straight.
Stick to the Plan
You can get lean and mean on the calisthenics diet. And it’s really not that hard. You’ve got to make up your mind to follow a clean eating plan, and the results will follow.
There will likely always be some controversy surrounding what ingredients, types of meats, and synthetic chemicals pose a danger to human health. It can drive someone absolutely crazy to worry about every point health article X raises, let alone how health article Y (released only one week later) contradicts the claims made by X! That’s why I try to keep things simple and eat mainly foods produced as nature designed them.
Eat fresh, eat natural, eat whole, and you’re bound to see impressive results in your fitness and all-around health.
READY TO TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL?
If you’re looking for a complete resource that will guide you through each step on the journey. I have something very special for you.
Renegade Diet is one of the best diets and used by a lot of calisthenics athletes to bring incredible results in a short period of time.
Check it out – it works magic:
Diet is absolutely critical in your fitness success. Do you have questions about the diet or how to fit it into your workout schedule? Post a comment, send us an email or reach out through our Facebook Group and we’ll get back to you shortly.
It's TIME to get your DIET RIGHT!
DISCOVER 10 BIGGEST NUTRITION LIES!
The most common question I get from those who are inactive but debating whether or not to start working out is “Why do I need to exercise? “To get stronger” I typically reply. “But why does being strong matter?” Which is an honest question. The average persons day revolves around sitting in a car, sitting at a desk, or sitting on the couch; none of which requires strength to execute properly. However, the car, the desk, and the couch are only recently-added conveniences in terms of evolutionary biology.
[tweet_box design=”default”]The human body is not meant to be weak, it’s not designed to live in comfortable surroundings.[/tweet_box] Sitting is killing us and industrialized food production is making us fat, while freezing cold showers alleviate depression, and intermittent fasting reduces the chance of diabetes and heart disease. So, the honest answer is that physical strength doesn’t play a much of a role in the modern world. It does, however, play a huge role in our physical and mental wellbeing. Our ancestors were strong, not for recreational reasons, but because the environment they evolved in required them to be.
What physical benefits come from being strong?
1. Increased Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels.
By becoming strong, [tweet_box design=”default”]your body releases growth hormone which helps your muscles adapt to resistance training.[/tweet_box] Growth Hormone is important because it prevents fat storage and regulates your blood glucose levels, decreasing your chance of diabetes. High levels of HGH also leads to increased bone density, whihc prevents injuries.
2. Lower levels of inflammation.
Hitting your head, scraping your knee, ear infections, and stress, cause your body to react in the form of inflammation. Acute inflammation (short and fast) occurs when you experience one of the above instances, and your body responds by increasing blood flow and immune cell delivery to the affected area. This usually appears in the form of swelling and redness. Chronic inflammation occurs when the body doesn’t turn off the inflammatory response and, as a result, further damages the affected area. Most common forms of chronic inflammation are heart disease, depression, and metabolic disease. Being strong reduces the amount of inflammation needed by the body to correct such maladies and prevents the likelihood of inflammation becoming chronic.
3. Your body becomes more economical.
Strength is based on the ability to fire motor neurons faster and more efficiently. Whether you’re a cyclist, dancer, boxer, or yoga instructor, being strong makes your body execute movement more effectively.
What mental benefits come from being strong?
4. Increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
BDNF, similar to HGH, is a protein that encourages growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses in the brain. In particular, it can leads to a dramatic improvements in memory and delay cognitive decline.
5. Increased confidence and emotional stability.
Self-confidence is determined by the values an individual hold him or herself accountable to. Having strong personal relationships, being physically attractive, being able to defend and provide for your family, are all things that people base their self-worth; and all of them can be improved through physical strength. Being strong requires that you workout, having a successful workout regiment almost always involves creating a social circle of like-minded workout companions. [tweet_box design=”default”]Strength also improves your physical appearance, and the ability to take care of yourself[/tweet_box], (and those around you).
A lot of this is related to the anti-inflammatory effects of being strong mentioned earlier.
We have done an excellent job of making the world around us comfortable.
The underlying goal of all technical innovations it to make life easier with less work. Unfortunately, living in a comfortable environment goes against every aspect of our biology. Physical strength derived from resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, and other acute stressors may not seem very practical in today’s world, but it’s 100% necessary to live a long and healthy life.
Do you agree? Let us know in comments!
calisthenics training program
If someone tells you there is a secret to calisthenics, run as far as you can. There are none. There are none in fitness too. 80% of results will always come down to actually doing the work.
I know, unsexy, but it’s true.
It took me years to stop searching for a secret source and focus on what was most important – training.
The game is on – It’s just you, your body and your mind.
What is different about calisthenics though is the approach you need to take. Coming from weight background, 30 minutes workouts and sweating it out I really had to adjust my training philosophy to understand what it takes to achieve body mastery with calisthenics, the strenght, teh skills, the control, the balance.
The switch was in philosophy. I stopped looking at workouts as something that I need to get out of the way, that is something I am just doing for 30 minutes a day or something I am doing to only look good.
Calisthenics thought me a lot about movement, life, persistence and patience.We wrote more on this approach in our Movement Athlete Manifesto which you can read here.
For now though, as you are getting started I want you to focus on 3 things and 3 things only. Apply them at the start of your journey and you will not only get stronger faster, become a better human but you will be more content with life.
The 3 principles below are applicable to any other fitness routine but are even more important in calisthenics.
Keep that in mind and you will succeed.
Rule # 1. Be Patient and Consistent
It sounds like a no brainer, but you will hear me talking about it a lot. Why?
Because, its a number one killer for those taking up calisthenics.
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t see results within a few weeks I am freaking out, I troubleshoot things, I change my diet and I go nuts. My attention span is very short and I have no patience whatsoever. It is so strange that we as humans want everything good to happen very quickly despite knowing the fact that to achieve something worthwhile you need to give it your all for a significant amount of time. Nothing good happens overnight. Patience and consistency are critical factors for success. No great strength and physiques were built in 4 weeks.
What I want you to understand though, is that this is even more true in calisthenics. The reason why strengths gains are so significant and stay with you for life,is because building them take time and you do that by slowly conditioning your body into it. Your nervous system needs time to adjust. So right here and right now I want you to set yourself on a journey of a lifetime.
Keep an eye on the prize and set short-term goals to keep you going. But focus on the process, on being present, on keeping the training every single day, on developing your body awareness, on training your skill. Yes, you can gain some decent amount of muscle in a short period of time with the right tools and regime, but do not expect to see results overnight. Remember, it’s not a routine, it’s a lifestyle. Go slow but be consistent. Your nervous system will be slowly getting used to different movements and getting stronger.
Rule # 2. No cheating. Focus on the full range of motion
This one is a killer.
I see so many people doing half push ups and saying that push-ups are not sufficient to build your chest muscles.
Whaaaat? Most of the people doing calisthenics simply are doing it wrong.
Now, I know it sounds basic but it can literally make a difference between you succeeding and failing. Performing all your repetitions in a controlled way with a full range of motion, taking it all the way down and all the way up is critical to your success. First you train for quality, when you get your form perfect, you can move on.
Another benefit of it is really exploring the movement and becoming hyper aware of your body, your muscles, little tensions here and there. When you focus on that, breathe in and out it brings a different quality not only to the exercise itself but to your whole workout. Try going super slow, try squeezing everything is there and feel your body, try to be as present as you can.
Its hard especially when you are just getting started with calisthenics so keep that in mind.
Rule #3 Push yourself with progressive resistance
This is the most important rule of all especially when you are just getting started. And although its so obvious in weight training when you just add weight, it must be rigorously applied to calisthenics.
There is a simple rule in getting better.
You constantly need to go further, you need to push yourself, you need to go beyond whatever you have right now. And this is a mindset thing.
Like in personal development to grow you need to keep on getting out of your comfort zone, same with fitness. I don’t want any of you not progressing. I don’t care what level you are, how good or how bad you are.
Every single day I want you to do a little bit more.
If you are not growing you’re dying, and in calisthenics like in any other fitness regime you must challenge yourself every single time. If you are not doing more reps, more sets, harder exercises or having shorter rest periods you won’t get stronger and your body composition will not change to the better! Period.
Progressive calisthenics gives you tools and structure to progress so use it wisely. Keep these in mind, eat right, and you will see results
Later on I will teach you how to troubleshoot progressions, how to deconstruct the movements and how to overcome plateau. But for now, all you need to do is get in the right mindset and set yourself up for success.!
Are you ready to take your fitness to the next level?
PS. What are other rules you think are critical in succeeding with bodyweight strength training?
[tweet_box design=”box_03″]Women, listen up! Calisthenics and bodyweight training is very much marketed as a workout to promote the gain of your ultimate physical strength. [/tweet_box]While strength is commonly associated with male dominance, women are more likely to be interested in staying slim, toned and agile without bulking up. If you are looking for a fitness regime that works on improving your entire body, then this is the workout for you – with calisthenics, any wobbly bits will vanish with persistence. Here, Bodyweight Training Arena wants to discuss the many EXTRA benefits for bodyweight training asides from strength gain, to get across the message that calisthenics training is for EVERYONE.
1. Full Body Workout
[tweet_box design=”box_03″]Calisthenics is super effective in achieving that full body workout which is guaranteed to target a full variety of muscle groups within a single exercise. [/tweet_box]The benefits of targeting multiple muscle groups at one not only make better use of your time, but will give you an even and balanced appearance. Try our callisthenics workout here
2. Calisthenics is Free
Since calisthenics requires no gym equipment, no machines, and no accessories AND can be performed in the comfort of your own home, means that calisthenics is one of the most cost effective exercises out there. Even more, since you don’t have to leave the house, you don’t have to bother with travelling costs if you’d usually take the bus or car. [tweet_box design=”box_03″]Calisthenics is 100% free so why waste your money paying for expensive gym memberships when you could be making better use of that cash.[/tweet_box]
3. Suitable for any fitness level
This is one of the best things about Calisthenics; there is a very extensive amount of training exercises for all levels. Calisthenics is always promoted through the use of examples of men so physically fit and already at the top of their gain that it makes little sense that using the same methods of working out could work for you too. Calisthenics is all about progressing, and just because you aren’t doing one handed push up’s, doesn’t mean that training at your own level won’t have its benefits for you. The more you train and are really determined to improve, the sooner you’ll find yourself progressing through the stages. So start at a level you feel comfortable at and get going!
Take a look at Bodyweight Areas simple and easy to follow progressions chart.
4. Fast Fat Burning
Calisthenics can help speed up the body’s metabolism, help tone the entire body and strength the muscles and tendons. So by keeping active with calisthenics you’ll be looking your best in no time. Calisthenics is also responsible for targeting and toning the core muscle groups. Did you know that your core muscles are made up of at least 29 muscles? It is very important to target your core muscles because neglect can result in the emergence of many aches and pains.
Forget wasting time getting to the gym, forget organising your gym kit, just forget about all the hassle you’ve ever spent going to the gym to start your workout. Since you don’t have to leave the house, you have more time on your hands.
Calisthenics is great for any working people out there leading busy lives, constantly on the go and traveling away from home. With calisthenics you can use your office space, your hotel room, play parks; simply anywhere you have some open space to move around safely.
Are you running out of excuses to stop you exercising yet? Here’s more!
6. Increased Flexibility
Keeping your body subtle and flexibly not only is a desirable attribute but important for keeping yourself safe during exercise and preventing any unwanted or nasty injuries. Stretching is guaranteed to get you feeling better and more agile and is particularly important for office workers or anyone who finds themselves crouching in front of a computer for long periods of time. Stretching to increase your flexibility will put a spring back in your step in no time.
7. Recovery from injury
If you have been injured either in a physical activity or your daily life, calisthenics is excellent for recovering from an injury. Starting calisthenics after an injury will allow you to take a step back and re-evaluate that specific area. Commonly, some sports injuries result in weakened tendons and muscles; swift and long-lasting recovery comes from strengthening that area. Calisthenics will allow you to take your strength training back to basic altering the tension and pressure put upon that area.
8. Benefits will see you through into elderly age
As discussed, calisthenics has numerous advantages that will benefit you not only now but that will also support you in the future. It is very important to keep flexible, agile, have strong supported joints and retain good posture. Keeping yourself fit and healthy now will also allow you to stay happy, active and independent when you are in your elderly years free of aches and pains.
9. Better Posture
Strengthening your core muscle ensures they are supporting your body to their maximum capacity, helping you stand taller with better posture. Better posture in itself has so many fantastic benefits; from giving the appearance of a slighter, more graceful version of yourself, to preventing or curing back pain. So let’s get targeting your core!
10. Better Wellbeing
We are frequently told of the benefits of exercising and keeping happy so they’re must be something in it. Bodyweight training Arena has provided you with 10 convincing reason why Bodyweight training / callisthenics is for everyone or all levels of fitness – male or female.
To get started, follow this progressions and good luck with your new bodyweight adventure.
In a meantime check out recommended calisthenic training programs or have a look at recommended beginners program Getting Started WIth Calisthenics