Many on the path to personal fitness will shop around for a personal trainer at an impressive-looking gym. Most will spend more time buying fitness wear than paying attention to a critical factor in their regimens overall success, their diet. For maximum impact and optimal results, every exercise routine or weight training program needs to be supported by a diet plan. Eating to support your workout goals is a critical factor in its efficacy. Here’s how to go about it.

The first caveat is to know your daily caloric intake allotment. This will be different for those seeking to increase muscle mass and those trying to shed extra pounds. Either way, the number that matters is the Calorie Maintenance Level. This number will be the jumping off point. Determine your range by multiplying your current weight first by 14, and then by 18. Your ideal daily caloric maintenance level falls between those two numbers.

For those with a higher metabolic rate, pick a number within the high end of the range. Losing weight? Go with a lower number. On to determining your goal. Weight loss candidates know they have to reduce their caloric intake, period. So if you recommended maintenance level is 2,000 calories a day, drop to 1,500 to ensure you’ll lose fat. For muscle builders, consuming more calories is the goal to create a surplus of calories from which your body will craft muscle. For men, add 250 calories a day to your maintenance level, and women, try 125 additional calories.

Combine Diet and Exercise for Success

Please note, these numbers are not cast in stone. Your scale will tell you if your calories need adjusting. Losing more than 2 lbs a week? That’s too much and you’ll lose fast, but regain the weight just as fast, so slow things down! For building muscle mass, men should see up to a 2-lb weight increase, and women, up to a pound. Next, and you knew we were getting around to it, what you eat is a important as how much you can eat.

Protein is key to attaining fitness. Healthy adults should eat 2 grams of protein per pound of weight per day. If you weigh 200-lbs, then 200 grams of quality protein from chicken, fish, turkey, lean red meat, eggs, milk, protein supplements, nuts and legumes will provide the best options for you. As for fat, reduce it, but make sure it accounts for 25% of your daily intake, even if your fitness goals are to lose weight. Your skin will thank you for it! Aim to ingest only healthy fats such as fish, musts, seeds, and olive oil. In every fitness diet, carbs may seem to get the short end of the stick. Whatever calories are left may be consumed as carbs. But not just any carbs! Avoid white processed carbohydrates. These will scuttle building lean muscle and losing stubborn fat. Instead, opt for fresh fruits and veggies, rice, potatoes of all kinds, and grains.

You might be wondering, how to put this all together? There are countless diets online that will tell you what to buy, along with weekly meal plans and recipes. As long as these diet plans follow the correct ratios for the amount of protein, fats, and carbs you’re allotted there should be no issues. Actually once it is up and running for a couple weeks, your diet will be easier to follow than your workout routine!

Work Your Diet Plan/Workout Into Your Schedule

On that note, your diet plan, like your fitness regimen must work into your schedule, not the other way around, or you’ll quickly abandon it. So, eat whenever you want. That’s right! You can also eat as often as you want to, eating whole meals, little snacks, or a combination of the two. However you want to play it. You can also eat whatever combination of foods best suits your needs. All carbs, all protein, a mix-up, whatever. Just do not eclipse your allotted caloric intake for the day. Also, forget about not eating after 8:00 PM. We all have different schedules and our bodies are attuned to work and digesting food around the clock, even while we are sleeping. That is a fact.

Many have asked if it is okay to take vitamin supplements as an adjunct to their fitness program. Absolutely! Not only is it a quick way to achieve nutritional balance and to replace nutrients lost during your workout, taking a supplement is a great way to take better care of yourself. In fact, there are vitamins especially formulated for improved energy, stamina, and cellular protection. These support skin health as well as ensure our teeth, hair, and vital organs will function optimally.

You’ll soon see that by augmenting your fitness regimen with a healthy diet, your surplus pounds will steadily vanish, replaced by a strong, lean, sculpted physique. Reps alone cannot accomplish this. Regaining and maintaining good health through fitness is one of the best things anyone can do for themselves. Another caveat is that occasional cheating is acceptable as long as it is offset by extended workout to burn calories. Also the expectation that results over the next few days will not be on target. Just start slow, forgive yourself the occasional hiccup, and shortly you’ll be hooked on a fitness regimen coupled with a sensible diet for life!