A Beginners A to Z of Fitness and Nutrition

4 min read

If you’re new to health and fitness, a quick search on Google could end up being enough to put you off completely. We've been there!

There are tons of technical terms and phrases; the fitness industry, more than most others, can present a sometimes overwhelming abundance of terminology. How do you know where to start? Which words do you need to know?

With this in mind, one of our experts, Dan from @danmacfitness, has put together a glossary of all the most important terms and phrases you might need to know. Treat it like your health and fitness bible!  

A to Z of nutrition phrases


Antioxidants are chemical substances that help protect against cell damage from free radicals. Well-known antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and flavonoids.

Body Mass Index (BMI):

Body Mass Index is a standardized ratio of weight to height, and is often used as a general indicator of health.


Is the ease at which a substance can be absorbed from the digestive tract and into the bloodstream. The higher the bioavailability, the greater the absorption.


A calorie is a unit of measurement for energy.

Calorie Deficit:

Any shortage in the number of calories consumed relative to the number of calories needed for maintenance of current body weight

Calorie Cycling:

Manipulation of calorie intake to have more on some days than others.

Dietary Fibre:

Dietary fibre comes from the thick cell walls of plants. It is an indigestible complex carbohydrate. Fibre is divided into two general categories: water-soluble and water-insoluble.

Essential Amino Acids:

Essential Amino Acids are amino acids that your body does not have the ability to synthesize.

Fad diets:

Fashionable diets that generally do not result in long-term weight loss.

Glycemic Index (GI):

The Glycemic Index is a dietary index that's used to rank carbohydrate-based foods.


The condensed form that any unused glucose takes when it is stored in the liver and around muscles. It is then readily available as required.


Nutritionists often group nutrients into two subclasses, called macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients refer to those nutrients that form the major part of your consumption and contribute energy to your diet. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fats, protein, and alcohol.


Refers to the chemical processes that occur in our body that turn what we eat into energy.

Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS):

Muscle protein synthesis is a naturally occurring process in which protein is produced to repair muscle damage caused by intense exercise.


All other nutrients are consumed in smaller amounts, and are labelled as micronutrients.


Protein is one of the basic components of food and makes all life possible. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.

Reverse Dieting:

Bringing caloric intake back up after a period of dieting Saturated


A saturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there are no double bonds between the carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature.


Sodium is a mineral, an essential nutrient. It helps to maintain blood volume, regulate the balance of water in the cells, and keep nerves functioning.

A to Z of fitness phrases


Involving repetitive use of the large muscles, temporarily increasing heart rate and respiration.

Baseline activity:

Activities of daily life, such as standing and walking slowly.

Body composition:

The proportion of lean mass (composed of muscle, bone, vital tissue and organs) and fat in the body.


Exercises that rely on utilising bodyweight, with no added equipment, to aid strength and cardio.

Compound movements:

Or compound lifts. These are movements which exercise multiple muscle groups.

Concentric contraction:

When a muscle bearing weight shortens and contracts during a movement

DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) :

When a muscle or group of muscles begins to feel sore or stiff the day after (or on the second day following) a workout.

Eccentric contraction:

When a muscle both lengthens and contracts at the same time when bearing weight.


The technique employed by a participant during an exercise or move.

Functional Training:

Used to describe exercises that help you perform activities in everyday life more easily (most exercises)


Colloquial term used to refer to the amount of muscle someone has built (or intends to build).

HIIT (High-intensity interval training) :

which involves exercising at maximum effort for very short periods. Each burst of activity is followed by a short rest period.

Interval training:

An exercise regimen in which intervals of vigorous activity alternate with less vigorous intervals of recovery.

Isometric exercise:

Contraction of muscle without shortening of the muscle, as when pushing against an immovable object.


The abbreviation for metabolic equivalent. A metabolic equivalent is a unit of energy expenditure, or metabolic cost, of physical activity. One MET is the rate of energy expenditure while sitting at rest.

Mind Muscle Connection:

The ability to focus attention on a specific muscle with an exercise

Muscular endurance:

The ability of muscles to sustain repeated contractions.


Reaching a point in a training programme where no improvement is made over an extended period of time, or progress halts.

Physical activity:

Any movement that increases energy expenditure above a baseline level.

Physical fitness:

The ability to perform daily routines without getting overly tired.


An increase in the intensity, frequency, and/or duration of activity over a period of time.


In strength-based activities, the number of times a weight is lifted.

Resistance training:

Exercise applying resistance to movement, such as using weights or stretch bands.


The ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert force