Many of the same questions are posted quite often here in the M&S forums, so I thought I would provide a breakdown of some of the more common questions that arise, as well as a brief synopsis on where one might look to find the answers he/she is looking for.

But before we tackle that, I'd like to direct your attention to the Search button. You can find this button in between the New Posts and Quick Links buttons toward the right side of the page. This button will allow you to type in a topic, then search all of the threads in the M&S forum for discussions on that topic. While it may seem a bit silly to point this out, this is a severely underutilized tool that will help you find answers to many questions without having to post a new thread and wait for responses.

On to the questions:

1) What should I do first: gain weight or lose weight?
First, let's familiarize ourselves with some terminology. Here at M&S, we refer to gaining muscle as bulking and losing fat as cutting. Notice we don't say "gain weight or lose weight." The idea is to change the makeup of your body in such a way that you maintain as much muscle as possible while losing whatever excess fat you have. Hence we try to gain muscle and lose fat. How do you know how much of this "excess fat" there is? A great place to start would be to check your body fat percentage. This is a far more accurate way of judging your current body composition than just hopping on the scale. Here at M&S, one of our moderators, Doug, will estimate your body fat percentage for you if you enter the required information on this thread.

As to what you should do first, cut or bulk, the consensus here seems to be, it's up to you. There is not really a concrete set of criteria used to tell you, "If a,b, and c are true, then you should definitely cut first." Use the information you obtained about your body fat percentage (as well as how you feel about your body when you look in the mirror) to decide what works best for you. Be sure to keep in mind that rarely, if ever, will you be able to gain significant amounts of muscle and lose significant amounts of fat at the same time. You’ll need to decide which one is best for you at this time and proceed accordingly. Know this: the above information is not meant to discourage anyone from asking the advice of others on the forum; just know that there is no real definite answer as to what you should do when it comes to cutting or bulking. The choice is yours.

2) What routine should I be doing?
By clicking on the Workouts tab at the top of the page, you can view the various workouts that have been added to the site. They are broken down by category under Full Body Workouts and Single Muscle Group Workouts. Many on this site will recommend that if you are completely new to weightlifting, you should try one of the Beginner Routines. These routines are specifically designed to prepare your body for strength training in such a way as to maximize results and minimize the chance of injury. Once you have decided on a routine, you may be confused as to what the various exercises are and how they should be performed. This is where the Exercises tab comes into play. Here you will find links to video files that will show you how to do almost any exercise listed in the database. Form is extremely important, especially in the early stages of weight training, so be sure to use these videos to your advantage.

3) What should I do about my diet?
As Doug himself says, “You can’t out-train a lousy diet!” This will be one of, if not the most important aspects of your weight training routine. So where should you start? First you’ll need to know how many calories you should be eating. You can find that number by using the site’s Daily Calorie Calculator. Just enter in the required information (remember to choose the correct unit of measure: lbs. or kg!!!) and the calculator will come up with a number. This number is the amount of calories you would need to eat to maintain your current body weight.

Now, there’s a good chance you didn’t come here to maintain anything. You want a change in the way you look, right? If so, some minor adjustments should be made to your caloric intake. Start with the number you got when you entered the information into the daily calorie calculator. If you have decided to bulk, add 500 calories to this number; that will tell you how many calories you should be eating per day. If you are cutting, subtract 500 from that number to obtain your calorie target. Some choose to start a bit smaller (say, 300 calories in either direction) and see how things go. As with most everything else, the choice is yours. Try it out and see what works for you.

Now that you know how much you should be eating, what about what you should be eating? The Articles tab holds the key. There, under Diet and Nutrition, you will find several helpful articles on How to Create a Bodybuilding Diet. Also have a read through Nutrition for Beginners Part One and Part Two for more helpful information.

4) What about cardio?
This, like many other decisions, will be based largely on whether you have chosen to cut or bulk. Most find that cardio should be performed much less frequently when bulking, as this could possibly interfere with you quest to add muscle. Often times it is a simple matter of trial and error. Try it out and make adjustments based on whether or not you are seeing the changes you would like. Cardio is performed much more often (anywhere from 3-6 times per week, depending on the activity) for those who are cutting.

As for when to perform cardio, the consensus seems to be that either first thing in the morning or immediately after weight training are the optimal times for burning away fat with cardiovascular activity. Many prefer low intensity cardio, which is performed at about 65% of your target heart rate. Others perform high intensity interval training, or HIIT. A search of the forums will provide you with many discussions (some heated) as to which of the two is better suited for those wanting to burn away fat.

5) How about supplements?
The Supplements tab at the top of the page provides information on various types of supplements, whether they be used for building muscle, burning fat, etc. Arguably the most frequently used, and most beneficial to the newcomer, is Whey Protein. Helping to promote muscle growth, whey is a great place for the beginner to start with strength training/fat loss supplementation. Many will start the day off with a whey protein shake, as well as drinking one after weight training. Bodybuilder Brad Borland has provided M&S with a fantastic article on What Supplements to Take and When. Here you will find tons of great information on which supplements are right for you and what the optimal time for consumption is.

Now that you know what supplements to take and when, where are you going to get them? Why, right here at M&S, of course! The Muscle and Strength Store provides all the supplements you’ll ever need “at prices up to 70% off what you would pay in stores.” And, as the store provides the money needed to keep the website up and running, any support you can offer would no doubt be greatly appreciated. Besides, you’ll be getting fantastic products at reasonable prices, so it really is the best of both worlds.

Hopefully this thread has helped to at least point you in the right direction when it comes to the decisions you’ll need to make to achieve the look you want. Just remember, search, read, and study the information on this fantastic site. It has already helped many members achieve their goals and with a lot of work, it can help you do the same. Best of luck….