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It’s amazing how many great things come in threes: three-piece suits, the three little pigs, the number of states that lifted bans on same-sex marriage in the same number of days. It’s a special number. Even the strongest geometric shape is a triangle (bet you didn’t think you’d be reading that in a health column). When it comes to strength training, and healthy living, there’s a special group of three, too. Together, they create the truss bridge that gets you across the sea of obesity, heart disease, and self-loathing.
The App: MyFitnessPal. It’s simple, really. You put in what you eat, and it spits out how many calories you have left before you start storing fat. But, just like a relationship, you get out of it what you put in. If you only enter in your dinners Monday through Friday, you’re not likely to get a good result. But if you track your intake meticulously, you’ll easily reach your goals — at least logistically, as psychologically is a different matter. MyFitnessPal has a terrific, simple interface, barcode scanning, and a social network aspect to help with positive reinforcement and encouragement. It’s the most recommended calorie-tracking app out there, for all the reasons listed above.
The Program: Starting Strength. It’s the beginner’s guide to barbell training. I don’t care for the author, but that’s neither here nor there, his book is fantastic. As the title suggests, it’s for beginners — a term that is far more encapsulating than many think — and it breaks down the four most basic, and result-producing movements with a barbell. Chapters cover the form for squats, deadlifts, bench press, and barbell rows, with diagrams, example photos, and accompanying videos online. Ask someone what to do to start lifting, and they’ll surely recommend this book to you.
The Food: Whey Protein. Wait! That’s not a food! It’s a supplement! Yeah, it’s a supplement, made of the same stuff your milk is made of. Whey protein is the single, and only supplement I would recommend for anyone. It’s natural, simple to use, comes in a ton of different flavors, and can be easily purchased from Wal-Mart, GNC, and virtually anywhere in between. Most people, including myself, don’t get enough protein in our diets to satiate and maintain or build muscle. And for good reason. Meat is expensive and takes a while to cook. Whey protein supplementation is simply adding protein to the mix. Most brands provide 20 to 30 grams of protein per scoop, and only at 100 to 150 calories. Many of the flavors taste like desert, which is my favorite part. A bit of cookies-n-cream whey protein, one cup of almond milk, and if I’m feeling extra-frisky, a teaspoon of chocolate syrup — topped with whipped cream — and you have one hell of a healthy milk shake.
All of the above can be found, at reasonable prices, through some simple Google-Fu. They’re also some of the only products that I recommend unabashedly, without any information from the client. Everyone should be tracking calories, everyone should be using barbells, and everyone should be getting enough protein — simple as that. Think of them as the Strength Training Trinity.
Brandon Harrison writes about Health and Fitness for Metro Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @ttrbrandon.