If you ask someone for advice on what to eat, how to exercise or any other fitness and nutrition goal and they answer with something that is described as the "best", "only", "always" or some other qualifier, be cautious. If you get the very frustrating answer of "it depends", you are either asking about quality diaper products OR you've met someone with enough experience to know that the answer for each person is slightly different when it comes to nutrition and exercise. Usually my answer is a question back to them:
What are you doing now for exercise?
Are you sleeping 8 hours a night?
How much water do you drink?
Do you have any injuries?
And so on. I've come to realize that too little information can be just as damaging as too much information. Now, you will get people who can follow three or four simple suggestions and make great advice but most often too little information is somehow interpreted differently based on that individuals experiences or desires and too much information is overwhelming.
Here's simple advice: Almonds are good, eat almonds. "Oh, I'm sorry was that 12 almonds or 2 cups?" because I've seen people eat both amounts when given that advice.
Here's detailed advice: Eat no more than two ounces of blanched and dry roasted organic almonds each day. "So, are almonds bad? How about almond butter?".
Too little detail leaves people floating in this gray area of confusion while detailed advice compartmentalizes food and exercise into such specific categories that things are good or bad, always or never and so on.
The reason I approached this topic was because someone emailed me looking for resources on exercise and nutrition. I thought of all the great exercise science and training systems books I've read and people I respect and follow in the industry. My first thought was that everyone has their own philosophy, especially experienced coaches and nutritionists. Much of that philosophy is a combination of all their past experience, both successes and failures as well as influence from mentors and other coaches.
While I can think of quite a few great resources for exercise and nutrition, I don't feel like there is much out there for breaking someone into the early phases of learning. I find most of the information that is most useful to me comes from specific sources, authors, coaches and presenters who address a few key areas they think are important and allow me to build my knowledge base and philosophy from all these varying inputs.
Below, I'll detail some of the books and resources I own and what I think of them. At the end I'll make some recommendations for those interested in beginning their nutrition and training knowledge without being overwhelmed.
Here's an example of books on my shelf:
Never Let Go: Just buy it. Dan John is the best and this book is not just about training but life, humor and reflection.
Supertraining: By Mel Siff. Not for the faint of heart, good for experienced coaches and those interested in exercise science and research.
Maximum Strength: My first exercise book purchased, Eric Cressey delivers solid introductions to strength training and mobility.
Practical Programming for Strength Training: Mark Rippetoe's more detailed book outlying simple to advanced approaches to programming for strength training under various circumstances
Starting Strength: Rippetoe's introduction to the squat, bench, deadlift, press and clean. I think this is a quality book and he delivers detailed instructions and observations on how to perform and program these. He definitely has a bias in his coaching style and programming so expect his views on that.
The 4-Hour Body: Tim Ferris' entertaining but largely useless book on "secrets" to gaining muscle, losing fat, sleeping better etc. It's fun to read but I would not recommend buying it, mostly fluff and hype in my opinion.
5/3/1: Jim Wendler makes strength training and programming super simple and effective. I like his no B.S style and focus on getting stronger, not dancing around to 30 different exercises.
The Mood Cure: Julia Ross covers how to use targeted supplements and nutrition to solve sleep and mood issues. Highly educational and effective advice.
How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy: Paul Chek's simplest advice in the form of a lifestyle book. He does go into eating for your type and has some pretty serious views on what you can and can't eat. I like his information on food quality and sourcing and he discusses poop which almost no one will, even though it's important. I still get a kick out of the drawings.
Digestive Wellness: By Elizabeth Lipski. I am always looking for ways to improve digestion. i find it a topic not many want to or are embarrassed to discuss but it is vitally important. Aside from being informative from a physiological standpoint, she does a great job of approaching solutions for various issues and illnesses.
The Strongest Shall Survive: Bill Starr came up with the "Big 3" style of lifting as well as the basic medium/light/heavy method. He was an early pioneer of mobility, supplementation, controlling carb intake, proper rest and recovery and so on. He has some off-kilter views but this is fun to read and is solid as far as basic training and nutrition goes. You may even find marijuana recommended as a relaxation technique in this book!
Nourishing Traditions: More of a cookbook than anything, Sally Fallon discusses foods for healing and wellness and follows up with recipes on each subject. A little hippy-dippy but I can see vegetarians and vegans enjoying this one.
The Paleo Solution: Robb Wolf wrote a book for sick people that then somehow was adopted as the only way to eat by Paleo and/or the Crossfit community. Lots of good info here on blood work, digestion, hormones etc but this is not the WAY to eat. Just guidelines and information on health and supplementation.
I also have video and online material and e-books from sources such as Charlie Weingroff, Eric Cressey, Greg Robins, Precision Nutrition and others.
Video and E-books:
Assess and Correct: Eric Cressey' video series on, as the name implies, assessing and correction movement dysfunction and mobility deficits.
The Renegade Diet: Jason Ferrugia's take on intermittent fasting. He covers some topics such as sleep, digestion and recovery but I rarely recommend intermittent fasting to anyone.
The Juggernaut Method: Chad Smith's ebook. I still prefer 5/3/1 over any other "training system" book and this holds true here. Some of the volume recommendations in this are above what most people would recover well from.
Carb Back-Loading: Oh man did I waste so much of my life trying to figure this thing out. Props to John kiefer for being super-smart but he complicated nutrition to the nth degree, backpedaled on much of his advice and has gone on and off the radar so many times I wonder if he's in witness protection.
Show and Go: I would definitely recommend this to a newer lifter. Eric Cressey improved upon his Maximum Strength book and included a more relevant and athletic approach to strength training, with simple and easy to understand guidelines.
The Specialization Success Guide: Greg Robins and Eric Cressey team up for a more advanced and specific approach to improving the squat, bench and deadlift. The explnations and "whys" are clearly explained and it can be a great introduction to % based training and managing intensity and volume.
Triphasic training: Cal Dietz explores the specific phases of muscle action and programs them into a system for developing maximum power and strength. Once you understand it, it seems so simple but at first it can be overwhelming. A very different, smart and technical approach to programming but not for beginners.
Easy Strength: An e-book co-authored by Pavel Tsatsouline and Dan John. A super simple approach to strength training through frequency and no b.s programming. So simple it just might work!
Training = Rehab: Charlie Weingroff's entertaining and super-informative and eye opening approach to using exercise progressions and regressions for different populations and how to connect performance and rehabilitation. Maybe not the best for an absolute beginner but extremely informative.
Precision Nutrition: John Berardi and his team put together a certification process which comes with a textbook, lessons plans, workbook and videos. Aside from the science of nutrition, the focus on coaching and approaches to goal setting, progress and sustainability is second to none.
What would I recommend?
I think there are WAY more quality resources for training than there are for nutrition. There are plenty of people who blog and write articles that I would steer people towards than specific books on nutrition.
-Reading the Precision Nutrition book as well as their articles and blogs. Most likely the simplest and most sustainable advice you will read.
-Show and Go. If you are relatively new and want to learn basic programming and incorporate mobility and athleticism into your training, this is a great resource.
-5/3/1. Use all the mobility stuff you learned from Eric Cressey and then apply Jim Wendler's strength advice on top of that. And oh, don't take that last set to absolute failure.
-Starting Strength. You can't go wrong with reading in detail the why and how of performing the most basic barbell movements.
-Never Let Go or Easy Strength: Dan John breaks strength training down into such simple and clear components. Remember," the goal is to keep the goal the goal".
Inspiration and Entertainment:
-Never Let Go. Dan John will make you want to leave your couch, squat and then grill meat. Undeniably funny, informative and inspiring.
-Supertraining.tv. Mark Bell is silly and sometimes crude but he puts out LOTS of free information, has great guests on his podcast, is always hilarious and actually has some insightful information if you wait for him to finish his 3rd grade joke.
-Barbell Shrugged: I can't stand the Crossfit guests because they never have anything to say except they hate the Helen or love tequila blah blah blah. Stick around for the quality guests like Kirk Parsley, Kelly Starret, Mark Bell, Andy Galpin and Joel Jamieson.
All of the above:
Elitefts.com. Geared (no pun intended) towards powerlifters initially, this site has grown so much and includes articles, videos, blogs etc on every and all topics above. Contributions from authors from so many backgrounds and styles and Dave Tate seems to run a really quality business with no decrease in information over the years. Definitely check it out and search around.
EricCressey.com. You'd be remiss not to check this out. Posts on rehabilitation, exercise selection and technique, nutrition and much more all put out for free. Eric doesn't sleep apparently.
Likely there are some I am forgetting now and will slap my forehead for doing so later. When that happens, I'll update this with the ones I forgot. Until then!