Dieting and Training In Quarantine

Dr. Mel Davis, PhD


Whether you want to continue pursuing physique and performance goals under these new, challenging conditions or want to take a step back to focus on other priorities while still supporting your health and longevity, we're here for you. In this article, RP's Dr. Mel Davis has compiled some useful tips on how to go about the latter with limited training and diet options. We plan to offer similar topical write-ups in our Expert Advice portal every couple of weeks, so please check back for more anytime. 

READ MORE health maintenance tips during this time from RP’s Chief Physician Dr. Spencer Nadolsky.

First, there is no shame in putting diet and training goals on the back burner right now. If the current situation has shifted your priorities or absorbed your mental resources, that's completely understandable. While maintaining health-promoting habits as much as possible is always advised, this is no time to stress yourself out with rigor. Instead, keep healthy basics there if you can. A diet that prominently features whole foods, fresh fruits and veggies, lean protein sources, and healthy fats is always our friend, and so is our muscle mass, both of which we should attempt to maintain as feasible. An added motivation to do so is that a healthy diet plus exercise help combat stress, something most of us could use now more than ever. Another piece of encouraging news is that maintaining muscle doesn't take much training when you're simply trying to maintain (vs lose) weight: as few as 2-3 resistance training workouts per week should suffice. 

Before we go on to provide specific "how-to" tips for dieting and training during lock down, we just want to reiterate that deprioritizing careful diet and committed training in these circumstances shouldn't be accompanied by any guilt -- just getting by for a month or so is unlikely to have any long-term health consequences. That said, if you have resources - and feel like you've got nothing but time at home - we're here to assure you that, gym closures and semi-empty (and potentially contaminated) grocery stores notwithstanding, health and basic fitness maintenance is both a realistic and worthwhile goal during this time.


While locked down, the ideal solution is a service like Instacart or Amazon Fresh to get your groceries delivered to your  doorstep. If there is no such service, or no open delivery windows available in your area, a trip to the store may be necessary. Aside from a word to the wise that this is time for squeezing fruit to test ripeness, here are our tips on some alternatives to your usual sold-out favorites for each macronutrient. 

For Sticking With an RP Eating Style


Eggs and/or egg whites are currently sold out at many stores, but a good replacement you might find hiding in the baking section or online is dried egg white. It reconstitutes with some water and whips up and behaves just like regular egg whites. 

Raw chicken breasts and other fresh lean meat might be sold out, but check out the precooked refrigerated isle and frozen sections for items like precooked, salad-prepped chicken strips or frozen seafood.

If you are vegan, vegetarian, or even an omnivore, tofu is a great source of high quality protein. While fresh tofu seems to be harder to come by right now, freeze dried tofu is still available on amazon and can be soaked to reconstitute. Another option is to get a hold of soy beans and make your own tofu at home. A little more time consuming, but, refreshingly, most recipes have 2-3 ingredients, and just a few steps.

Fruits and Vegetables

If the produce section is looking bleak, frozen fruits and vegetables are a great option. The sooner they were frozen after picking, the more micronutrients they will have –– sometimes more than fresh produce that sits on trucks and in stores for longer periods. You might need to rethink how you consume these and get creative. Thawing frozen spinach does not make for great salads for example, but you could mix it into your reconstituted egg white omelet to get your greens! Likewise thawed fruits can be a little soggy, but they make a wonderful smoothie or can be cooked into a protein pancake. Canned produce is another option. Though usually less micronutrient dense, they will do in a pinch, especially if you get in a daily multivitamin.

Other Carbs

Bulk sweet potatoes, yams, and potatoes, all of which remain largely available, can be prepped in a variety of ways and are a great healthy carb replacement for currently harder-to-find breads. 

Bulk dry rice, beans, lentils and so on are also a great choice.

Love bread and have extra time on your hands? Fresh baked bread is a pain to make, but man, is it delicious. All-purpose flour and yeast can be found online, and could make for a fun, and much needed Home Ec project with the kids!

Healthy Fats

Probably the easiest to get a hold of right now, oils and nut butters are widely available both in stores and online. Fancier fat options like avocado toast may be tougher to scrounge, but avocados aren't generally being hoarded due to their short shelf lives. Bulk nuts and seeds are also still pretty available. 

The financial impact of business closures and paused jobs mean having to be more frugal for many of us, but that doesn't mean making unhealthy food choices, if we stick to the following recommendations.

For Frugal Food Choices In Economic Uncertainty 

  • Canned fruits and veggies (especially veggies) are usually pretty budget friendly when fresh produce is not available and frozen options are outside your budget
  • Forget buying organic. After decades of research the only difference between organic and regular food is price. This is an easy place to save
  • Get dried beans, rice, lentils etc in bulk
  • Grab a multivitamin for when you are less able to eat fresh whole foods
  • Look for bulk bags of frozen protein options (strangely overlooked compared to fresh meat in store buy outs)
  • Order (or dust off) an old George Foreman grill and use it to cook more fat out of cheaper meat cuts
  • Try contacting local restaurants who may have ordered produce and such and have more than they need / be willing to sell
  • If you buy perishables, bulk prep and freeze meals. 
  • Don’t stress over perfection. Just try to eat as healthy as you can.

RP Tools For You

Get 3 FREE months of our online learning environment, featuring thousands of hours of videos, hundreds of blogs, forums, and a weekly webinar Dr. Mike and Dr. James devote to answering YOUR diet and training questions

RP Gym-Free
We've discounted our at-home training program by 60% (now $39.60 down from $99.99!), and expanded it to support male, female, beginner and advanced lifters, so just about anyone can keep - or start - benefiting from weight training during this time

Trifecta Meal Delivery
We have also partnered with Trifecta to offer 40% OFF bulk food delivery for those wanting to keep lean protein, veggies, healthy fats and carbs in rotation without risking trips to stores or restaurants (use discount code "40off" when you place your order!)



Now is not the time for perfection, but whether you want to try to keep eeking out gains or just want to maintain a modicum of health and fitness while putting your sport or physique goals on hold, resistance training of some sort is critical. 

Training from home to maintain muscle mass, healthy metabolism, and basic fitness

When you are not losing weight, aka eating maintenance calories, a surprisingly small amount of training is needed to spare muscle mass. If you happen to have a home gym with barbells and other heavy weights, you can get away with training 2-3x a week with relatively few sets and reps. If you are looking at water jugs and household items or basic  dumbbells as your weight training equipment options, you might need to up the frequency a bit. Perhaps to 3-4x per week with higher reps and more sets. In any case just a few hours per week can keep your muscle mass, help you maintain a healthy metabolism, and decrease stress. Not to mention that holding onto your basic fitness now will also make returning to fitness much easier when we we're out of the woods.

The basics for at-home training with limited weights and a goal of health and weight maintenance and muscle loss prevention are outlined below. Hit each of the following muscle groups 2-5x per week (more for smaller muscles, less for larger muscle groups). These ranges may be taken down even lower if you are in your first few years of lifting weights, making you more sensitive to any training stimulus.

  • Quads (2-4x)
  • Hamstrings (2-3x)
  • Glutes (1-4x) (less here because ham and quad workouts hit glutes too!)
  • Chest (2-4x)
  • Back (2-4x)
  • Shoulders (2-4x)
  • Triceps (2-5x)
  • Biceps (2-5x)
  • Abs (2-5x)

Basic exercise options with dumbbells 
(Follow the links below to see author Dr. Mel Davis demo select exercises with water jugs, grocery bags filled with something for weight, backpacks, cooperative pets (or children!) and her partner!):

  • Quads: Squats, Paused Squats, Close Stance Squats, Sumo squats, Lunges
  • Hamstrings: Stiff legged deadlifts (single or double leg) 
  • Glutes: Glute Bridges (try these one leg at a time for more stimulus!), Step Ups
  • Chest: Push ups (close grip, wide grip, medium grip), Dumbbell or water jug presses, Lying down flyes 
  • Back: Dumbbell or water jug rows, Pull ups on door jams if you are strong enough, Pullovers
  • Shoulders: Dumbbell or water jug upright rows, Lateral raises, Overhead presses
  • Triceps: Dumbbell or water jug overhead extensions, Kickbacks,  JM presses
  • Biceps: Dumbbell or water hammer curls, Twist curls, Regular curls, Concentration curls
  • Abs: Crunches, V-Ups, Reaching Sit-Ups with weight, Lying leg raises, Modified candlesticks

When the weight we're training with is lighter, it's wise to make the stimulus harder by doing more reps, more sets, and taking shorter rest periods. The upside of that last item is that short rests mean quicker workouts, hence less time needed to keep fit (not to mention saved travel time to/from the gym). Another way to make your at-home workouts more time efficient is to do supersets. A superset involves doing all of the reps for one exercise, followed by an immediate (no rest!) transition into the reps for another exercise. To do this without inducing counter-productive fatigue, make sure the two exercises you choose don’t involve too many overlapping muscle groups! Squats and curls or even rows and presses are two such examples -- for the latter, though both target upper body muscle groups, while rows mainly involve your back, the presses mainly involve your chest, making them non-overlapping. 

Basic exercise structure

  • Do reps to failure or close to failure
  • Try to use weights (dumbbells or homemade) that result in failure or near failure between 5 – 30 reps
  • Utilize supersets (back to back exercises that target different muscles)
  • Use very short rest periods between sets and feel the burn

Below is an example 3-day program to maintain muscle mass at home with limited equipment while eating for weight maintenance. If you are new to training (in your first couple years of weight training) you can reduce the frequency from what is listed below and still be just fine. If you are looking to cut or gain muscle training from home, you will likely need more volume, and should check out our article for stringent at-home training recommendations. 

For training during weight maintenance, we will use the following frequencies which err on the conservative side (more training than might be needed). However, even this conservative approach represents a fairly feasible time commitmnent, at 3 days / week and each workout taking no more than an hour: 

Quads 4x, Hams 3x, Glutes 2x, Chest 4x, Back 3x, Shoulders 3x, triceps 3x, biceps 4x, abs 4x.

Day 1: 

Do 5-30 of the first exercise to failure or near failure, and then immediately do 5-30 of the next exercise to failure or near failure:

  1. Sumo deadlifts 🡪 Curls
  2. Stiff legged deadlifts 🡪 Upright rows
  3. Squats 🡪 Pushups 
  4. Lying dumbbell presses 🡪 Reaching sit-ups with or without weight
  5. One arm rows 🡪 Triceps extension

Day 2: 

Do 5-30 of the first exercise to failure or near failure, and then immediately do 5-30 of the next exercise to failure or near failure:

  1. Narrow Grip Pushups 🡪 Crunches
  2. Glute Bridges 🡪 One arm rows
  3. Sumo squats 🡪 Alternating curls
  4. Bent over rows 🡪 Lying down flyes 
  5. Lateral raises 🡪 JM press

Day 3: 

Do 5-30 of the first exercise to failure or near failure, and then immediately do 5-30 of the next exercise to failure or near failure:

  1. Close stance squats 🡪 Upright rows
  2. Glute Bridges 🡪 Triceps extension
  3. Sumo squats 🡪 Bent over curls
  4. Single leg stiff legged deadlifts 🡪 V-ups
  5. Crunches with top holds 🡪 Hammer curls

Thanks for tuning in, and please be well!

Back to blog