We would like to thank everyone for participating in our 2017 M&S fitness survey.
As you know we conducted this research to get to know our readers a little bit better.
After closing the survey, we started analyzing the data and pulled some of the more interesting data points out to share with the M&S faithful.
Listed below are the results from the major questions we asked you. We’ve included several pie and bar graphs to make the data a bit easier to digest.
Feel free to browse through the results and compare them to your own workout experiences.
You may be shocked by how you and your friends stack up to the numbers.
Biggest challenges when working out
Let’s kick things off by discussing the biggest challenges you all face when it comes to working out. This question was an open ended question and we received thousands of replies. From there, we categorized them into the following:
As you can see, the number one challenge of those who took our survey was maintaining a diet that helped them reach their goals. We found this interesting. Further down in this results article, you will learn that nearly 71% of people who took our survey create their own diet plans.
So, if 71% of people are creating their own diets and another 43% are finding it difficult to maintain a proper diet, the fitness industry (ourselves included) must find a way to make it easier for you guys to adopt and maintain a diet so you can better reach your goals.
The next biggest challenge was finding time to workout. We all have busy schedules (which include social, familial, and work obligations). Finding time to exercise can be difficult. Luckily, we’ve got a step by step guide on how to build a workout program around a busy schedule which can be found here.
The final major limitation our entrants had was the challenges faced when building muscle mass and finding the perfect workouts to help them do so. This problem is more difficult to resolve than others, as a number of factors can affect one's ability to build muscle.
With that said, as we explore the results and draw some assumptions, I think we’ll be able to discover where things are going wrong in some of your muscle building attempts.
Activity & Health Level of Our Respondents
In this section we asked several questions about workout frequency, workout experience, and how healthy our participants consider themselves to be.
Needless to say, some of the data from this portion of the survey was very surprising.
How Many Days Per Week Do You Work out?
We were pretty surprised to find out how active our entry pool was. We thought the majority of entrants would workout three or four times during the week. Clearly we were wrong with the majority of you all working out 5 to 6 times a week. 35% of our participants claimed to work out 5 days a week and another 31% works out 6 days a week.
We think this has a lot to do with how the fitness industry perceives training. Most fitness outlets showcase training as the most important factor in building muscle mass (the biggest goal of our pool as you will see below).
While exercise is important to build muscle, so is recovery. This information doesn’t give insight to the forms of exercise our entries were participating in, but if you’re hitting 5, 6, or even 7 heavy weight lifting sessions a week, you’re not giving yourself an opportunity to recover and grow.
Maybe trainees are participating in 3-4 heavy weightlifting days, with 2-3 light active-recovery days, but we’d put our money on the former before the latter.
How Long Have You Been Working Out?
Along with workout frequency, we asked how long each participant had been working out. 34.4% of participants have been working out between 1-3 years. About 10% of the responses stated they were just starting out having worked out for less than one full year.
Another 23% of participants answered that they’ve been working out between 3-5 years. 17% of responses came from veteran lifters of 5-10 year. Finally, another 10% of you guys have been working hard in the gym for 10-20 years.
The big takeaway from this question was the fact that many of our trainees have a beginner-intermediate experience level. Yet, they train with a training frequency reserved for those who have a more advanced or athletic training experience level.
As always, it’s important to remember building muscle (and fitness in general) is a marathon, not a race. Biting off more than you can chew early on in your fitness journey can lead to injury. Or worse, it could lead you to burning yourself out and quitting all together so you never make it into that 20+ category.
How Healthy Do You Consider Yourself?
The vast majority of all participants classified themselves as healthy. Nearly 93% of participants answered within the 6-10 range on a scale of 10 when asked how healthy they considered themselves. Only about 2.6% would say they are unhealthy answering with either a 2, 3, or 4.
Another interesting fact is the heavy drop off in those who answer 9 or higher. You’d think someone who exercises as frequently as 5-7 times a week would be in extraordinary health.
All About Working Out
In the next series of questions, we asked you more specific questions pertaining to your workout habits.
The goal here was to get to know more about your goals and workout strategies.
What is your goal for working out?
The results from this question were exactly what we had expected them to be. The big 3 goals reigned supreme here.
Of those of you who answered, 84% of you said your goal for working out was to build muscle. Another 57% of you are trying to increase strength. 49% are hoping to lose fat.
The shocking takeaway from this question is that only 20% of entrants exercise for fun.
Enjoyment is the name of the long-term-success game. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, it’s not very likely you’ll be able to answer in the “20+ years” column if we ask “How Long Have You Been Working Out?” on a survey a couple of decades from now.
What Kind of Training do you do?
The kind of training programs performed by 81% of our entrants fall within the bodybuilding category.
This isn’t much of a surprise considering the body composition goals outlined above. If your goal is to build muscle, performing a hypertrophic bodybuilding split is definitely the way to go.
What was shocking was the low turnout for Crossfit and Combat Sports. Both seem to be on the rise within the media, but still not a lot of people are participating in them as their preferred form of exercise.
Where do you work out?
86% of participants working out in a gym comes as no surprise. However, we were quite impressed to find out that 33% of people workout at home and another 21% find a way to workout outside.
We also thought that only 7% of people working out at a workplace wellness center was quite low. A lot of workplaces (in corporate settings at least) are beginning to offer this perk to more and more of their workforce. If we had to guess, we’d say that this number will likely trend upwards in the upcoming years.
Usage of Supplements
The next couple of questions were in regards to our participant pool’s supplementation habits.
We wanted to get to know who was taking supplements and what supplements they were taking.
Do You Take Supplements?
Nearly 96% of our participants take supplements and as you’ll see below, nearly all of those who answered yes to this question take some sort of whey protein powder.
There’s quite a bit of a drop off between protein powder and the next most used supplements of amino acids and preworkouts.
What Kind of Supplements do you take?
As mentioned, the most popular supplement taken by our participants is whey protein. The next top choices are amino acids and preworkouts.
What is surprising is that only 64% of people utilize the benefits of creatine monohydrate supplements. Especially considering that 84% of people have the goal to build muscle mass.
The lack of people supplementing with creatine probably has a lot to do with the numerous myths that continue to surround one of the highest researched and science-backed muscle building supplements on the market.
Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that only 46% of people answered that they eat some sort of protein bars. In the past year or so, many of the top supplement companies have released protein bars to the market. Most of which are delicious, each is unique, and they are changing the supplement market. We think this number will trend upwards in the coming years.
Everything About Your Diets
The following questions in this section were asked to better understand the diet habits of our survey’s participants.
The goal was to better understand how they eat and how it might be affecting their goals.
Do You Follow A Diet?
While 96% of entrants take supplements, only 71% follow a diet. This finding is of critical importance, because with a goal as difficult as building lean muscle mass, you have to make sure you’re doing all the right things.
Supplements can help you with your goals, but their effects are amplified when used in accordance with a proper balanced diet.
What Kind of Diet Do You Follow?
Out of the 71% of the entries who follow a diet, nearly 64% of them classify themselves as following a clean eating diet type.
If you’re involved on social media, this statistic might surprise you. We know we found it shocking. In recent years, IIFYM has made a strong push in mainstream media as young ripped dudes and fit chicks have showcased their daily dose of brownies and donuts paired with their 6-pack abs across the web.
We thought for sure their diet type would take the cake in this diet breakdown. But as this information goes to show you, clean eating remains the king diet type in the fitness realm.
Who Created Your Diet?
70% of those following a diet created their diet themselves. This is important, because 43% of the same entry pool stated that diet was the number one reason holding them back from accomplishing their goals.
And as you will see in the remaining questions in this section, the macronutrients and calorie intake information gathered by our participants are far from likely to promote muscle growth.
The remainder of entries got their diet plan from a website (13%) or a personal trainer (9%),
How Many Calories Do You Consume Daily?
The average calories consumed per day by our participants was quite low considering the overwhelming majority have a goal to build muscle and the average weight of our entrants was ~185lbs.
All things considered, to build lean muscle mass you have to be in a slight caloric surplus. Sure, it’s possible for the 23.8% who answered that they eat 2500-3000 calories daily to be in that caloric surplus. However, it’s not very likely for the 47% who fell in the 1500-2500 calorie range to be in a surplus.
Let’s plug in the information to our BMR calculator, utilizing some averages from other data points within the survey. As mentioned, the average weight of entries was about 185lbs. The majority of our data was collected from those who live in the US and we had a participant pool of mostly males.
The average height for males in the US is about 5’10’’. The majority of those who entered fell in the 18-25 age range, so we’ll go with the high end (25 yrs old) for this demonstration. Finally, we know our activity level was between 5-7 days of working out.
After entering in all of this information, the BMR calculator tells us our maintenance calorie level is 3003 calories per day. That is, your body needs a minimum of 3003 calories daily to maintain your weight under your current living circumstance (25y/o, 5’10’’, 185lb, male, who exercises 5 days a week).
Add another 250-500 calories to create a caloric surplus which allows you to build lean muscle mass, and we now have a calorie range of 3250-3553 calories per day to build muscle.
Of course, if your goal is fat loss, you’d need to subtract -250-500 calories per day from your maintenance level. This would put your caloric range in the 2503-2753 calories per day to achieve fat loss.
How Many Grams of Protein Do You Eat Per Day?
33% of you indicated that you consume between 151-200 grams of protein per day, while another 23% of you stated you consume 101-150g of protein per day. About 19% of people consume between 201-250g of protein per day.
All in all, this data is aligned with what we would expect considering the goals of our participants and the fact that it satisfies the recommended 0.8-1.2g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day.
What was interesting is out of the 3 macronutrients, our participants knew how much protein they were eating each day the most out of any macronutrient. Only 2% of people didn’t know their daily protein intake.
Of course, the fact that we’ve been preached to about the recommended ranges of protein to eat for the past couple of decades helps.
How Many Grams of Fat Do You Eat Per Day?
Fat was the least known macronutrient of our participant pool with 13% of people not knowing their daily fat intake.
Also, for a trainee looking to add muscle mass, fat intake was rather low across the board. The recommended fat intake range for muscle building is about 0.4-0.45g per pound of bodyweight.
Let’s go back to our BMR example, a 185lb male would need to eat about 74g-83g of fat per day to accomplish their muscle building goal. Judging by these numbers, more than half of trainees are falling short of this fat intake goal.
We could also see an underreporting of fat intake occurring here as well. A lot of trainees (especially those who are beginner-intermediate level) simply don’t know their food sources are indeed fatty.
They may think protein sources are leaner than they actually are, or sugary carb sources don’t have as high of a fat content as they actually do. For example, they may think that pizza is a high carb meal, and while it can be, it can also be a high fat meal.
Whatever the case, this macronutrient isn’t counted as heavily or goes unnoticed by those who aren’t sticklers for counting calories and macros. By becoming more knowledgeable about your fat intake, you could see better gains in the long run.
How Many Grams of Carbs Do You Eat Per Day?
The answers on the amount of carbohydrates people consume in our survey was diverse. Based on the feedback the vast majority of entrants have a moderate-low carb intake.
This information is shocking due to the fact that carbs are necessary to fuel performance in the gym. Better performance leads to better muscle growth potential.
Given the BMR example we’ve outlined above, combined with the goal most people have is to build muscle, we thought carb intake would’ve been in the higher ranges provided.
If you need 0.8-1.2g of protein and 0.4-0.45g of fat per body weight, then the rest of your daily calories need to be filled by carbohydrates.
Circling back to the BMR example, let’s say you need 3253 calories to build muscle. Now we can calculate your muscle building macros:
- 185g of protein x 4 calories per gram of protein = 740 calories
- 83g of fat x 9 calories per gram of fat = 747 calories
- 3253 - 740 - 747 = 1,766 calories
- 1,766 calories / 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates = ~442g of carbs
So, if you are our lean muscle mass seeking, 25yr old, 5’10’’, 185lb, male who works out 5 times a week, you need about 442g of carbs per day to fuel your workouts. Yet, not enough people indicated they ate within that range for it to even draw a percentage in our pie chart breakdown.
So, what’s up with the low carb intake? We believe a lot of this has to do with the fact carbs have been perceived as the “bad guy” macro within the health and fitness realm for the past several decades.
For that reason, it’s typically the first nutrient cut from diet plans for those with the goal of fat loss. However, if your goal is to build muscle, why wouldn’t you have a higher intake of your body’s favorite source of energy?
We would like to thank you once again for the participation in our fitness survey and we hope that you find the data as valuable as we do.
If there is anything unclear or if you have a question, feel free to leave a comment. We’d gladly help you out!