Calisthenic movements like the pull-up improve your strength-to-weight ratio. That means that you can become better at calisthenics by either getting stronger or losing weight.
In the case of getting your first pull-up, we want to do both.
This is why Step #4 deals with your nutrition and Step #5 (tomorrow) is a workout plan to get stronger.
Step #4: Dial In Your Nutrition
Your body fat percentage is the total mass of fat divided by your total body mass. The beloved six-pack shows on women around 18% and 12% for men. But you don’t need a six-pack in order to complete a pull-up.
You do, however, need to trim some fat. Put a 20-lb. weight vest on most people that can perform a pull-up, and they no longer will be able to complete a pull-up. In other words, it helps to be lighter.
Below is an approximate scale of body fat percentages for both women and men. You want to find yourself in the “Average” or above description. If you are “Overweight” or “Obese”, don’t move on to step #5 until you reach “Average” body fat.
Description Women Men
Essential Fat 10-13% 2-5%
Athletes 14-20% 6-12%
Fitness 21-24% 13-16%
Average 25-30% 17-21%
Overweight 31-39% 22-29%
Obese 40% + 30% +
What Should I Eat?
Everyone is different, but we’re far more similar in our characteristics than we are different.
For this reason alone, nutrition advice should be basic for the general public. And here it is:
Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
Real Food: Eat anything that you can find around the perimeter of the grocery store. We want food that is perishable. If the food came from Mother Earth (or another mother; i.e. eggs, meat, fish, etc.), eat it. If it was made by a scientist and born in a factory, avoid it.
Not Too Much: Eat one serving of food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Avoid seconds. I’m not saying that you need to live this way for the rest of your life; but I am saying that you do temporally. Should you choose to keep track of your calories, keep it under 2,000 calories a day. If you don’t start to see results within a week, call me.
Mostly Plants: Every meal needs a vegetable — and eat that vegetable first. A simple habit that will go a long way. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner need vegetables. And eat the carrots, salad, cucumber, or tomato first.
Before you explore the Step #5, you first must control your diet. Gymnastics, just like everything else in fitness, begins with the quantity and quality of the food you put in your body.
Stick to this eight-word credo first made famous by Michael Pollan: Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.