Daily physical exercise and caloric intake go hand in hand. Eating healthy foods help energize your workout and the number of calories one needs for optimal health depends upon weight, activity levels, and duration.
By eating a healthy balanced meal a few hours before exercise and another healthy meal a few hours after exercise, most people can meet their workout nutrition needs without additional supplements. For a healthy diet, regardless of your workout routine, focus on quality carbohydrates, lean protein, heart-healthy fats, and fluids.
While one size does not fit all, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published jointly by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and The Department of Health and Human Services, suggests the following estimated caloric needs for weight maintenance:
Aged 19 to 30:1800 to 2400 calories
Aged 31 to 50:1800 to 2200 calories
Over 50: 1600 to 2200 calories
Aged 19 to 30: 2400 to 3000 calories
Aged 31 to 50: 2200 to 3000 calories
Over 50: 2000 to 2800 calories
Body Mass Index
Your body mass index (BMI)* is also an indicator for measuring obesity. To find your BMI, multiple your weight in pounds by 703, divide by your height in inches, and divide by your height in inches again.
- For women the recommended BMI is 20 – 21%. The average American woman has approximately 22 – 25% body fat. A woman with more than 30% body fat is considered obese.
- For men the recommended BMI is 13 – 17%. The average American man has approximately 17 – 19% body fat. A man with 25% body fat or higher is considered obese.
* The BMI isn’t as accurate when used for athletes or those who are very active, because it doesn’t differentiate between how much of a person’s weight is fat and how much is muscle. For those individuals, a better test may be the Body Fat Ratio.
Body Fat Ratio
Body fat ratio is another method for determining a level of body fat. It is commonly done using skin-fold measurements and bioelectrical impedance analysis, available at gyms and physician offices. Many calculators are also available online that provide a ratio based on height, weight, and various body measurements. Some experts say that this measurement is more accurate for individuals than the BMI, since it takes into account lean muscle mass.
- If you’re of average weight and general fitness, focus on eliminating nutrient deficiencies, correct portions, and adding healthy, organic, and plant-based foods to your diet.
- Even if you don’t need to increase your caloric intake, your muscles rely on carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, cereal, fruits and vegetables for quick energy.
- You need protein for your muscles and blood cells, which deliver nutrients and oxygen to your muscles.
- Drink half your body weight in ounces every day to enable your body to perform at its best.
For weight maintenance, the University of Washington recommends the following formula:
- If you are sedentary or very obese, 10 calories per pound of desirable body weight
- If your activity level is low or you are over age 55, 13 calories per pound of desirable body weight
- If you regularly engage in moderate activity, 15 calories per pound of desirable body weight
- If you regularly do strenuous activity, 18 calories per pound of desirable body weight