How to Upgrade Your Life: A Primer On Diet And Fitness


  1. Introduction
    1. Lifestyle
    2. Diet
    3. Exercise
  2. Exercise
    1. Activity level
    2. Stretching and warm-up
    3. Resistance training
    4. Rainy day alternatives
    5. Mobility routines
  3. Diet
    1. Calories and macro-nutrients
    2. Troubleshooting your diet
    3. Groceries guide
  4. General advice


This is a guide to help you make sustainable changes to your lifestyle and cultivate good habits. A healthy lifestyle consist of 3 components: lifestyle, diet and exercise.


Why is lifestyle important?

Lifestyle factors such as occupation, time spent sedentary and choice of commute affects the non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) component of you total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). NEAT accounts for 6-10% of TDEE in individuals with a mainly sedentary lifestyle (e.g. Office workers) and for 50% or more in highly active subjects(e.g. Construction workers).[1]

Try to gradually increase your daily step count into the moderately active range. This can be done by taking the stairs once or twice a day, getting off a stop earlier or parking further away from the entrance. The idea is to build in more physical activity into your daily routine by doing what you can when you can, instead of building your routine around exercise. Refer to the “Activity Level” section for more information.


Why is diet important?

Unless you’re an elite athlete, you can’t out exercise a bad diet. Normal human beings do not have the time to spend the entire day exercising. It’s much easier to create a calorie deficit by modifying our diet.

The “Diet” section cover how many calories you should be consuming and suggestions on how to improve your diet.


Why is exercise important?

Exercise, especially resistance training, helps preserve lean muscle mass and promote fat loss when restricting calories. It also helps improve insulin sensitivity, increase bone density, and have been associated with improved mental health and sleep quality. [3]

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise for overall cardiovascular health. Note that this is accumulative. You will still experience benefits even if you divide it into short 10-15 minutes sessions interspersed through the day.

In addition to that, aim for at least 1 session of strength training and 1 session of mobility and stretching per week.  This is to help you improve your muscular strength and keep supple. Suggestions for these can be found in the “Resistance Exercise” and “Mobility and Pre-covery Routines” sections.


Are you active or sedentary?

You can roughly gauge your activity level (eg. sedentary, light active etc) by the number of steps you take outside the gym.

From this study: How many steps are enough?

  • <5000 – sedentary
  • 5000-7499 – lightly active  
  • 7500-9999 – moderately active  
  • 9999 – active

Try downloading a free app like moves to track your activity/steps. You might also want to consider tracking calories for the first few weeks just to get a rough idea of your calorie intake and eyeball it from there. Myfitnesspal is awesome for this. You can just use the app and scan barcodes to get nutritional info.

Stretching & Warm-up

Men, body building, weight lifting Fortepan 26953

Resistance Training

Get on a lifting program like Greyskull or give the program picker a shot.

If you are just looking for a simple no frills program that you can easily do at your neighbourhood park’s fitness corner, the beginner’s template over at /r/bodyweightfitness is an excellent place to start. You might also want to check out the beginner dumbbell program.

Pressed for time and but still want to get your fitness on? Give Chad Waterbury’s PLP challenge a look, which IMO is also a great way to cultivate the habit of exercise.

Rainy day alternatives

Raining or you just don’t feel like leaving the house? You can always skip rope, climb stairs or do bodyweight circuits (eg. burpees, push ups etc). Be creative!

Example: Climb 1 flight of stairs, do 1 set of burpees per landing  

Couple of free resources:

Soldiers Give 'aid' to Local Students, School DVIDS296585

Mobility and pre-covery routines

US Navy 120213-N-ZT599-068 Chieko Koymama, a yoga instructor with morale, welfare and recreation conducts a yoga class in the hangar bay aboard the



These are min. recommendations, you can exceed them as long as you remain within your calorie allowance

  • Use 14-15kcal/lb of bodyweight to calculate maintenance.
  • For weight loss – 10-12kcal/lb
  • For weight gain – 15-18kcal/lb
  • 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight
  • 0.35g of fat per lb of bodyweight (~25% of total caloric intake)
  • Fill the rest of your calories with any amounts of fat/protein/carbs. I generally top up on carbs based on my recovery, eg. feeling sluggish, tired, worn out.


  • Recent research has shown that higher protein intake leads to greater satiety. Plus if you are exercising (eg. running, weight lifting), the extra protein will help with recovery and strength building.
  • Maintain calories for 2 weeks and adjust accordingly.
  • Calculator – The values given by the calculator slightly underestimates the target calories, to give you more allowance to play with as you adjust to your new diet

Food-plate-toast-restaurant (24031208550)

Further reading:


Weight loss

  • If weight is moving downwards, maintain calorie intake.

Grocery shopping guide

A couple of suggestions  

  • Download a movement tracker app on your smartphone. Aim to hit 6-10k steps a day.
  • Be honest about your food intake. If it enters your mouth, count it towards your daily caloric goals.
  • Try to eat, not drink your calories. I.e. Cut down on fruit juice and canned drinks.
  • When transitioning to a new diet, reduce the variety of food initially. This makes adherence easier.
  • Exercising to lose weight is the wrong way to go about it.
  • Set goals (eg. lift 20kg overhead, run 2.4km in under ten minutes) and work towards them.
  • Make smart food choices


[1] von Loeffelholz C, Birkenfeld A. The Role of Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis in Human Obesity. [Updated 2018 Apr 9]. In: De Groot LJ, Chrousos G, Dungan K, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA):, Inc.; 2000-. Available from:

[2] Thomas M Longland, Sara Y Oikawa, Cameron J Mitchell, Michaela C Devries, and Stuart M Phillips. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2016 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.115.119339

[3] Phillips S. Resistance exercise: good for more than just Grandma and Grandpa’s muscles. Appl Physiol, Nutr Metabolism. 2007;32(6):1198–1205



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