You've started exercising to improve your weight and health, and now it's time to work on your diet. For men, making the change to eat healthier is a little harder than it is for women because of their perceptions about so-called "diet" food. But making a commitment to eat healthier, balanced meals now can help you get in shape and reach your fitness goals.
Calorie balance is an important aspect of any diet plan. The good news is, because you have more muscle than women you don't have to be as restrictive with your calorie intake to lose and maintain a healthy weight. Your individual calorie needs are based on your weight, height and activity level, and range from 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day. The more active you are, the more calories you can eat. For example, a 40-year-old man who takes a brisk 3-mile walk most days can maintain his weight eating 2,800 calories a day, compared to a 40-year-old man who doesn't work out at all, who should only eat 2,400 calories a day. An online calorie calculator can help you determine your specific calorie needs.
Grains provide your body with carbohydrates, which supply the energy necessary for working out. Depending on your daily calorie needs, you should eat six to 10 servings of grains a day. One serving is equal to one slice of bread, 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta or 1 cup of cold cereal. You should make at least half your grain servings whole grain. Whole grains are high in iron and B vitamins. B vitamins help release the energy you need to exercise, while iron is necessary for delivering oxygen to your hardworking muscles.
Fruits and Vegetables
Most men do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, according to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. You should aim for 2 to 2 1/2 cups of fruits and 2 1/2 to 4 cups of vegetables a day, and include a variety of colors such as green, yellow, orange and red to maximize vitamin and mineral intake. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, high in fiber and a good source of potassium. High-intensity exercise affects your body's supply of potassium, making it necessary for you to replace it with potassium-rich foods, such as oranges, bananas and potatoes.
You do need to get a little more protein in your diet when you're working out, but that doesn't mean you need to eat a 16-ounce steak at each meal. As long as you're following a healthy, balanced diet you should meet your protein needs for growing muscles. To get enough protein you need 5 1/2 to 7 ounces of meat and 3 cups of milk a day. Meats are a good source of iron, and dairy foods provide calcium. In addition to helping keep your bones strong, calcium is also necessary for proper muscle function.
- Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images