The ultimate and definitive diet and fitness dictionary

For both beginner and advanced fitness people, this is a collection of all kinds of terms and abbreviation you may encounter in fitness/bodybuilding/nutrition related discussions. The list is being updated regularly and will probably never be complete.

Use “find” (CTRL+F) function to search for the term you want to look up. 

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Disclaimer: The definitions and explanations below are presented from a fitness and bodybuilding point of view, not from a scientific or medical point of view.

In no particular order:

Q: How many calories are in 1 gram of protein?

A: There are 4 calories in 1 gram of protein.

Q: How many calories are in 1 gram of carbohydrate?

A: There are 4 calories in 1 gram of carbohydrate.

Q: How many calories are in 1 gram of fat?

A: There are 9 calories in 1 gram of fat.

Q: How many calories are in 1 gram of alcohol?

A: There are 7 calories in 1 gram of alcohol.

Q: What is kcal and what does it stand for?

A: Kcal is the measurement unit for the energy in foods and drinks (yes, drinks have calories). Also referred to as the energy burned by our bodies or the energy we get from a diet plan or meal.

Q: What does energy balance mean?

A: Energy balance refers to the balance between the energy (kcal) consumed by our body and the energy we take in from foods, beverages and supplements.

Q: What are macronutrients?

A: Macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates and fats found in foods. Macronutrient distribution (often referred to as percentages – e.g. 25% protein, 50% carbs, 25% fats) within a diet are very important for body composition, and each macronutrient has its own role.

Q: What are negative calories?

A: Negative calories refers to foods that have a kcal value which is less that the energy needed by the body to digest, process and flush out that specific food. In reality there is no such thing as negative calorie foods, but there are some fruits and vegetables that are very low in calories.

Q: What are micronutrients?

A: Micronutrients are minerals and vitamins found in foods or supplements. Usually micronutrients are contained in foods in very small amounts, yet are very important for health. Micronutrients cannot be produced by the body.

Q: What is nutrient timing?

A: Nutrient timing refers to planning and scheduling meals and macronutrients intake relative to the workout (pre-workout / post-workout) so that the timing of the food intake maximizes ones goals (e.g. muscle growth, fat loss).

Q: What is intermittent fasting?

A: Intermittent fasting is a way of planning when to eat and when not to eat. Intermittent fasting (IF) is not a diet. With IF you have a eating window and a fasting window, with the eating window being shorter that the fasting window. A common type of IF is 16 hours fast and 8 hours eating, but there are a ton of variations, including fasting for 24 hours. IF has benefits on fat loss.

Q: What does TDEE mean?

A: TDEE stands for total daily energy expenditure and refers to the total energy burned by the body in one day. TDEE includes BMR, TEF and daily activity level (workouts are included here).

Q: What does caloric restriction (CR) mean?

A: Caloric restriction refers to restricting the calorie intake so that the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is higher than the total caloric intake, which results in a caloric deficit. In a caloric restriction the body will lose weight.

Q: What does caloric maintenance mean?

A: Caloric maintenance is the level of caloric intake that does not cause the body to lose or to gain weight. At caloric maintenance, the caloric intake is equal with the burned calories (TDEE).

Q: What does caloric surplus mean?

A: In a caloric surplus the caloric intake is higher than the burned calories (TDEE). In a caloric surplus you will gain weight.

Q: What does caloric deficit mean?

A: In a caloric deficit the caloric intake is lower than the burned calories (TDEE). In a caloric deficit you will lose weight.

Q: What is BMR?

A: BMR stands for Basal Metabolic Rate. BMR is expressed in kcal and refers to the (minimum) amount of energy required by the body in normal temperature conditions, in a resting state (no physical activity, no food digestion).

Q: What is TEF?

A: TEF stands for thermic effects of food and refers to the energy required by the body to digest, process and flush out foods. TEF is expressed in kcal and varies based on macronutrient content of the foods. Usually, TEF represents around 5-10% of the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

Q: What are skeletal muscles?

A: Skeletal muscles are the only muscles in human body that we can control voluntary through our nervous system. Skeletal muscles are the muscles you train in the gym (e.g. biceps, triceps, deltoids, pectorals, etc.). The other two types of muscles in the body are the cardiovascular muscle and the smooth muscles (found in the respiratory tract, blood vessels, urinary bladder, etc.).

Q: What is muscle hypertrophy?

A: Muscle hypertrophy is the scientific term for muscle growth.

Q: What are muscle fibers?

A: Fibers are the cells that make up the muscle. Muscular fibers have the form of a long cylindrical strand. Muscular fibers are of two types: slow twitching and fast twitching.

Q: What are slow twitching fibers?

A: Slow twitching fibers are the fibers in the skeletal muscles that are responsible with endurance. Slow twitching fibers do not have great potential for growth, therefore are not specifically targeted during weight training.

Q: What are fast twitching fibers?

A: Fast twitching fibers are the fibers in the skeletal muscles that are responsible with strength. These fibers fatigue fast but have great potential for growth. There fibers are the one targeted more during weight training.

Q: What is sarcoplasmic hypertrophy?

A: Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy refers to the growth of the plasma like fluid found in between the actual muscle fibers. There is no known evidence that you can design your training for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

Q: What is myofibrillar hypertrophy?

A: Myofibrillar hypertrophy refers to the growth of the actual muscle fibers. You can’t specifically target myofibrillar or sarcoplasmic hypertrophy trough different types of training. Both types of hypertrophy happen simultaneously.

Q: What does cutting mean?

A: Cutting is a common term in bodybuilding, used to name a period of time in which you follow a special diet and training planning which puts you in a caloric deficit. The purpose of cutting is to lose fat and get more muscle definition.

Q: What does bulking mean?

A: Opposed to cutting, bulking is a common term in bodybuilding, used to name a period of time in which you follow a special diet and training planning which puts you in a caloric surplus. The purpose of bulking is to build more muscle.

Q: What does lean bulking mean?

A: The same as normal bulking, but with a minimal caloric surplus, with the purpose of minimizing fat gain during the bulking phase.

Q: What is relative strength?

A: Relative strength is the strength in relation to the bodyweight. Example: if your body weight is 200 pounds and squat 300 pounds (absolute strength), your relative strength is 1.5 x BW (bodyweight).

Q: What is lean body mass?

A: Lean body mass refers to anything inside our bodies, except fat. Lean body mass is also referred to as fat free body mass. Lean body mass includes muscles, bones and water inside the body.

Q: What is body fat (BF) percentage?

A: Body fat percentage, often referred to as BF is the total weight of body fat (in kg or pounds) divided to the total body weight (in kg or pounds), and multiplied with 100. E.g. if you weigh 200 pounds and you have 20 pounds of body fat, it means you have a 10% body fat. A male with a BF below 10-12% is considered lean.  A female with a body fat below 15-18% is considered lean.

Q: What is body composition?

A: Body composition refers to the distribution of lean body mass (fat free body mass) and fat mass. This includes muscle mass, bones, water weight and fat. Body composition has great impact on looks, health and athletic performance.

Q: What is body re-composition?

A: Body re-composition refers to changing the composition of the body. Usually this translates to lowering body fat percentage and/or increase muscles mass.

Q: What is BMI?

A: BMI stand for Body Mass Index and is a basic indicator of telling if someone is overweight, underweight of within normal weight thresholds. BMI is calculated as Weight in Kilograms / (Height in Meters x Height in Meters). BMI is not an effective indicator for people who have lots of muscle mass.

Q: What is a rep?

A: Reps or repetitions are the terms to describe the number of times you perform an exercise. For example: I did 8 reps on the incline bench press. Reps are performed with no resting between them.

Q: What is set?

A: A set is the term used to describe to number of cycle of reps you performed on an exercises. Sets are performed with resting periods between them (except drop sets and super sets).

Q: What is form?

A: Term that refers to the way in which an exercise or movement is executed – correctly (good form) or incorrectly (bad form).

Q: What is a drop set?

A: A drop set is a set you perform after another set of the same exercise, with no resting period between the two, but with a lighter weight. You are dropping the weight between the two sets, which will allow you to do another set. The purpose of drop sets is to fatigue the muscles and increase the pump.

Q: What is a super set?

A: Similar to a drop set, a superset is a set performed right after another set, with no resting period between the two, but the two sets are in two different exercise/muscle groups. Usually super sets are used to train opposite muscle groups such as biceps – triceps or quad – hamstrings. The purpose of super sets is to save time in the gym.

Q: What is a triple set?

A: Same as a super set, but with 3 sets in a row on different exercises, with no resting period in between.

Q: What is training to failure?

A: Training to failure is the term used to define the

Q: What are compound exercises?

A: Compound exercises or compound movements are exercises that use multiple joints and target two or more muscle groups. Compound exercises are: squats, bench press, deadlifts.

Q: What are isolation exercises?

A: Isolation exercises or isolation movements are exercises that use single joints and mainly target a single muscle group. Isolation exercises are: bicep curls, triceps push downs, cable crossovers.

Q: What is protein synthesis?

A: Refers to the process in which the body creates new proteins, and therefore to new muscle cells.

Q: What is protein breakdown?

A: Refers to the process in which the body is removing proteins that are damaged, abnormal or no longer needed.

Q: What is protein turnover?

A: Protein turnover is the balance between protein synthesis and protein breakdown.

Q: What is anabolic state?

A: Anabolic sate happens when the protein turnover is positive (the protein synthesis is higher than the protein breakdown) and the body is building new muscle tissue.

Q: What is catabolic state?

A: Opposed to the anabolic state, catabolic state happens when the protein turnover is negative (the protein synthesis is lower than the protein breakdown) and the body is burning muscle tissue.

Q: What is resistance training?

A: Resistance training is the scientific term used for weight training also referred to as anaerobic exercising.

Q: What is cardio training?

A: Cardio or cardiovascular training is a type of exercising that keeps your heart rate at an elevated level throughout the training (except HIIT). Examples of cardio training are: running, incline walking, stair master, high intensity interval training.

Q: What is aerobic exercising?

A: Aerobic exercises are long and moderate or low in intensity. All types of cardio exercises except HIIT are aerobic exercises.

Q: What is anaerobic exercising?

A: Anaerobic exercises are short and intensive. Examples of anaerobic exercises are weight lifting and sprinting to name a few.

Q: What is training volume?

A: Training volume refers to the amount of sets and reps performed in a certain period of time (usually per week) per muscle group. The total weight is also taken into account. For example doing 5 sets of 10 reps on 3 different exercises means a volume of 150 reps. Training volume can also refer to the total weight lifted. For example, doing 3 sets of 10 reps with 100 kg means a volume of 3000 kg.

Q: What is training intensity?

A: Training intensity refers to the weights you are lifting, relative to your 1 rep max (1PRM). For example if your bench press 1RPM is 100 kg and you are working with 90 kg, it means the intensity is 90%. Heavy weights will mean high intensity. High volume does not mean high intensity.

Q: What is reverse dieting?

A: Reverse dieting means slowly bringing your calories up to maintenance level after a caloric restriction period, with the purpose of increasing the metabolism back to “normal” rate. Reverse dieting can also be used as a method to overcome a weight loss plateau.

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