Training is only half the battle in building your ultimate physique. No matter how hard you work, you'll struggle to get anywhere without a good diet. The key to making a diet work for you is to keep it simple so you can follow it without stressing. An easy yet effective diet combined with strength and cardio training can improve your performance and give you the body of your dreams.
Calories are the most important factor in any diet. Eat in a calorie deficit and you'll lose weight; eat a surplus of calories and you'll gain weight. You need a calorie take low enough that you can burn fat, yet not so low that you lose muscle mass or compromise your performance in your training sessions. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that active women eat 2,200 to 2,400 calories per day. Start with these numbers and adjust accordingly, depending on your progress and energy levels.
Protein is an essential yet often overlooked aspect of dieting. Protein aids in the repair and growth of new muscle tissue and helps support metabolic function and hormone production. Most women don't eat nearly enough protein, claims strength and nutrition coach Jen Comas Keck of Red Point Fitness. You should consume around 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body-weight each day, advises sports nutritionist Dr. John Berardi.
Carbs and Fat
Carbs and fat are both important parts of your diet, too. Many weight loss diets advise cutting one or both of these nutrient groups out completely, but these diets aren't sustainable in the long term and can compromise your strength and cardio performance. Carbohydrates' main job is to provide energy and aid recovery, so consume the majority of your carbs before and after your workout. Fats are important for hormone function, so include a small amount of fat in each meal, too.
Consume the majority of your calories from healthy, nutrient-dense unprocessed foods. Get your protein from lean meat, fish and low-fat dairy products, your carbs from whole grains, fruit, root vegetables and beans and your fat from oily fish, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. Include plenty of green and brightly colored vegetables, too. If you're not losing fat, reduce your food intake slightly, and if you're losing weight but your performance is suffering, increase your intake a little. Always check with your doctor before starting a new diet.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.