Calories, Calories, Calories
The average woman needs about 1200 kcal a day, and the average man needs anywhere from 200 to 400 more, and when exercising, the amount increases.
Don’t overcompensate for your exercising though, otherwise you may end up packing on the pounds.
Food Guide Pyramid
I’m sure you’ve encountered it before, but there’s a reason we talk about the food guide pyramid: it works. It reminds you to keep your diet balanced, in both variety and portioning. As a reminder, here’s what you should be shooting for:
6-11 servings of whole-grain bread, cereal, rice, or pasta
3-5 servings of vegetables
2-4 servings of fruit
2-3 servings of dairy
2-3 servings of meat, beans, eggs, or nuts
Use fats, oils, and sweets sparingly
Don’t feel like you have ignore ALL cravings. For instance, if your body is craving steak, you may be low on iron. What you want to avoid is binging, and that’s another reason to indulge in cravings—at least occasionally. Have a slice or half-a-slice of cake after dinner, but don’t swallow the whole cake in an evening.
Don’t think of it as giving into cravings, either. If you think of your health and nutrition as a black-or-white, all-or-nothing proposition, you’re much more likely to abandon your progress. Recognizing that you will occasionally “slip up” is a good thing. Let yourself have a couple cookies, knowing that having sweets a couple times a week is perfectly fine and will keep you sane while you’re working toward your long-term goals.
A Couple Myths Debunked
Working out on an empty stomach won’t necessarily lead you to burn more fat; in fact, if you do it consistently, it will lead to you burning muscle mass, and then you’re losing your best resource for burning excess fat (since muscle demands more of your body’s energy stores than does fat). So, before you work out, make sure you’ve had something to eat. I wouldn’t eat a large meal before working out, but a handful of trail mix and a banana can provide you the energy you need for a moderate workout.
Seriously, I can’t overstress the importance of proper hydration. Your body is 60% water, and it needs water to perform near-all of its functions.
You’ve surely heard that we should all be drinking 8 glasses of water a day, but the average woman needs about 9 cups of water, and the average man needs around 13. The truth is that the truth is a little more complex than that. If you’ve been exercising moderately, you’ll need 2-3 more glasses. In extremely hot—or extremely cold—weather, you’ll need more. If you’re pregnant or are nursing, you’ll again need more. And if you’re sick, you’re going to need to keep your fluid intake up.