The Science of Fitness

How do I achieve the Fitness results I want?

On top of that, I don't have much time …

How many meals and training should I have?

How many sets and repetitions?

Will I fail?

Do I really have to eat chicken breast and broccoli every day from morning to night?

I don't know if I'll be able to do it all …

If you are lost in the midst of so many doubts, this article is perfect for you.

I would like to share with you that my background is scientific and focused on physics, chemistry and mathematics.

My higher education course was composed of many mathematics and I have always been extremely attached to these subjects. The fitness journey I have taken is an example of this.

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With regard to diets it could state the Principle of the Law of Thermodynamics (PYRAMID OF METABOLISM), or Newton's second law that corroborates the principle of strength, which many athletes apply when performing exercises with explosive movements (F = m x a).

Throughout this article I will use bases like the Law of Power (or Power Law) and the Pareto principle.

Society and lack of time

In today's society, extremely busy people benefit from efficiency. This means investing as little as possible to obtain the greatest possible benefit (applicable to everything in life). While this is one of my mottos, it is important to remember that it does not apply to everyone.

For most people who do not intend to follow any competitive sport, we have achieved great results without extremism in the applied effort.

Anyone who has an adequate diet, mostly composed of the least processed food possible, does anaerobic physical exercise (weight training) and some less heavy activities (such as playing football with friends, some yoga classes, etc.), will be able to achieve acceptable results in terms of body composition and be quite strong (at least above the general population).

In most people, this effort when applied correctly is enough for a long life of success and satisfaction.

But there are still those who want to go beyond "enough". For these athletes it is necessary to understand that our effort has to change.

You will surely have heard of the Pareto Principle, which refers to the 80/20 rule.

How does this principle apply in Fitness?

Basically, this principle shows us that it will be possible to achieve 80% of the results with 20% of the effort, which for many people with moderate goals is sufficient.

If, by chance, we are talking about someone who wants to be the best, or at least intends to give their best in maximum splendor, the other 80% of effort is crucial and has its weight.
Someone who trains to be as strong as possible will probably mean spending more time in the gym, working on recovery, working on mobility, preparing meals and being available to sleep for a minimum of hours to be able to recover.

If, on the other hand, it is someone who wants to compete in bodybuilding or in the Men's Physique modality, we are talking about a training that bridges all the flaws in body harmony, in which there will be much more time dedicated to cardio, in preparing meals, in a way reaching very low body fat levels, with more restrictions on food level (restriction on off-plan meals), etc.

Basically, the main question we have to ask is: the other 80% of effort how much do each of us mean?


Analyzing the 80/20 rule

Let us consider the following principles:

  • Power Law
  • The Parable of Stress

The basic idea implicit in the power law is that most results come from a small amount of what we apply and that applying more effort will mean more results, but not in the same proportion, nor with such notorious effects.

Also known as the Declining Income Law, the marginal product of a factor of production will decrease as the quantity of that factor increases.

In this sense, it can be said that when additional units of work are used, total production increases, however, after a certain point, marginal production tends to decrease, due to the use of less productive (efficient) factors. to meet growing demand.

Math and Fitness9

This type of law applies mainly to non-stressing factors for those who train, regularly associated with the post-training recovery category.

Thus, each increase in these variables initially represents a large increase in results.

However, each subsequent increment will represent a smaller production of results, to the point that any increment does not bring any benefit.

Let us analyze the practical application in 4 important points:

  1. Frequency of our meals
  2. Anabolic window
  3. Sleep / rest
  4. Training frequency

Frequency of our meals

As a follower of Intermittent fasting (Intermittent Fasting), for a long time I did not exceed 3 daily meals. Usually my days consisted of 2-3 meals, depending on my schedule and availability to close my macros.

Thanks to science, it was possible to demonstrate to the general population that the myth of “eating every 2 hours will trigger your metabolism” is not true, nor is it properly proven.

Many, unfortunately, fell into the opposite extreme, believing in the idea that “the frequency of meals does not matter”.

There were many people who asked me: “can I eat just one meal a day?”.

Undoubtedly, the most important factor for the success of the diet is the total daily caloric intake, and I defend that at all costs, however, there is also some importance in the times and quantity of meals that are made.

Obviously, it is more feasible to eat 1 meal a day, than one meal a week, even if the weekly caloric value is the same.

In the same way that eating 3 meals a day will be a little better than eating just 1 meal a day, especially as we are able to better space our intake throughout the day.

However, it must be borne in mind that after a certain moment, more quantity does not mean more results.

Is there any evidence that six meals are better than three? Do not.

Is there proof that nine meals are better than six? Neither.

Here comes common sense and adjustment to each person.


Training frequency

It is increasingly heard that increases in strength mean increases in muscle mass. As a result, it is increasingly common to offer “full body” training, three times a week, as a general formula for success.

I am an apologist for this training for beginners, not only because the more they practice basic exercises, the better they perform, but also because it allows an evolution in the progression of loads.

However, it is important to understand that strength alone may not be the only solution, as the greatest responsible for muscle growth is volume (with a great impact of mechanical tension).

The power law also applies in the following example: "Performing an exercise / muscle a week is better than training it only once a month".

If we continue to increase the frequency of training there is a time when the increase in frequency only means a minimal increase (or none) in strength gains (and especially in muscle mass).

Most people benefit from training each muscle twice a week instead of once.

Nevertheless, the difference between training the same muscle twice a week and three times is minimal, and so on, until the phase of being counterproductive and which will be discussed later in the article.

training frequency

Anabolic window

In some articles the approaches to the immediate anabolic window after training have already been demystified, often saying that this “window” is only 30-60 minutes.

However, we cannot rule out that although the anabolic window is wider than 60 min, it actually exists after training.

I do not know anyone who does not consume any type of food after training (unless after training they decide to fast until death!).

In this sense, we must not reject the idea that there is a benefit in consuming some protein of high biological value, in order to ensure that we have enough substrate for our body, after a session of intense exercise. The same applies to some quality carbohydrates.

In this case the same principle applies, as long as there is a good division of macronutrients and adequate calories, it will be possible to guarantee an anabolic environment suitable for our body, the small details can positively influence a diet but they are still details in the global point of view .

anabolic window

Sleep / Rest

It is possible and quite easy to survive on just a few hours of sleep a day. The first hours of sleep are the most important for resting.

In this sense, the simple fact of resting a few hours will always be more productive than if you don't rest at all. However, the benefits increase if the athlete is guaranteed a night's sleep between 7 to 8 hours daily, on average, compared to an athlete who rests only 5-6 hours.

After a certain limit, there are no data that prove the existence of more benefits for those who sleep more than 8 hours, or that hibernating 24 hours will make someone a “Genetic Freak”.

In short

  1. Eating more times a day does not mean much more results. In my opinion, 90% of people optimally survive a lifetime with 3-4 meals a day.
  2. Going to the gym more often does not mean more results. In my opinion, 90% of people get the results they seek with as little as going to the gym 3-4 times a week.
  3. Drinking a shake after training doesn't make anyone grow up abruptly. In the same way that if you don't drink it, it doesn't make muscles fall apart. However, we cannot rule out the importance of a post-workout meal (and for some pre-workout people) suitable for muscle recovery and reconstruction.
  4. Hibernating does not bring miracles, or mid-afternoon naps. Try to have a restful night's sleep of about 7-8 hours daily (if possible try to have the same time each day).

to sleep

The Parable of Stress

Small amounts of stress will not cause huge adaptive responses, but too much stress to the point that it does not allow for recovery will also decrease the ability to adapt and recover.

Thus, there is a maximum limit for each person, which the body can recover and adapt to the stimulus we give it.

From a certain amount of stress (the extra) the results are the same as someone who falls short of the stress they could take. In this sense, it can be said that more is not always better and that we must make changes and increments as small as possible, in order to analyze the reaction and adaptation of our body.

Three examples that fall into the parable of stress are: Training volume, Training intensity and Cardio.


Training volume

Based on a study by James Kreiger on the number of effective sets and respective results, it was illustrated that 2-3 sets for a given exercise are greater than just 1 set, and that possibly 4-6 sets would be even better than 2-3 sets .

However, the impact of results between 1 series and 2-3 series is much greater compared to the difference between 2-3 series vs. 4-6 series.

Right now, we may be thinking about the law of power, but that is not the case. In the law of power we have reached a stage where more increments simply do not bring benefits, in the case of the parable of stress, when we pass our maximum limit, in addition to not having any benefit, we still run the risk of losing those that had been won (overtraining) .

For those who do not believe in overtraining, or for those who “scream in the wind” who trains in an insane way (#nopainnogain?), The mediation of our effort must be done intelligently.

Obviously, I don't suggest going to the gym for a walk, but gradually increasing the volume of the training will be a good way to guarantee progression and get a sense of when it was "too much".

We intend that the training volume is sufficient to progress.


Training Intensity

The intensity falls in the same field as the training volume. Several studies have shown that loads above 55-60% of your maximum repetition in a given exercise are necessary to cause a hypertrophic stimulus.

From here, between 55-85% of the maximum repetition, it will allow the greatest possible balance between strength gains and hypertrophy, in addition to allowing to accumulate sufficient training volume, without feeling that they were “run over by a truck”.

When we go above 85% of our maximum repetition (RM), mainly training until very close to muscle failure, the benefits begin to decrease.

When training with too high an intensity, it will be impossible to train with sufficient training volume.

Training with loads larger than your 5RM tend to be just a way to learn to use higher loads and to correctly represent that strength, as is the case with a strength competition (Powerlifting or Weighlifting), or as is the case with some training blocks in which the intention is to lower the total training volume, trying to maintain sufficient stimulation to preserve muscle mass.

In order not to fall into excess, any scheme that falls within these limits will allow for the best of both worlds.

Cardio (the painful one)

I personally don't like cardio and don't do it as regularly as I probably should. However, it has its importance. There are immense studies in which it can even benefit bodybuilding training.

But here we fall into the same doubt, how much is enough and how much is too much?

Cardio, in a moderate form, will allow several benefits, namely in terms of performance improvement in the weight room.

However, if it is performed too much, it may decrease the recovery capacity between workouts, which, consequently, will result in a reduction in the ability to use an intensity and volume of training adequate to have a hypertrophic response.


Final notes

For those who like to see life in a practical and mathematical way like me, this article can help.

It is important to realize that more is not always better and that it is crucial to build things in time and in time, thus allowing us to maintain progress in the longest possible time.

In view of the above, I do not intend for people to give only 20% of themselves, to guarantee the 80% of results, but they have to realize that the next 20% of effort invested may only represent 2% of results, but that adding the small increments over time will make a difference to those who did not apply that effort.

Instead of being disappointed with progress, look at it as progress. Greater or lesser progress will always be progress. Learn to value your results!

As I like to get the message across, this journey is a journey with a destination. It is important that we make stops along the journey to enjoy the small victories, rather than being stopping for the moment.

Bibliography: Based on information taken from author Greg Nuckols – “Muscle Math” and “Efficiency and excellence are contradictory goals”.

Kreiger Jamies:

Article written by Team Sik Nutrition

About the author

Team Sik Nutrition, is a recent group of people in love with the world of Fitness. The Team's focus is to guide, educate and motivate those interested in achieving their health and fitness goals. All this sharing is based on scientific facts and experience of the Team members.

The CEO of Team Sik Nutrition, is João Gonçalves. Amateur powerlifter, passionate about Fitness and writing articles.

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