"How many calories should I eat?" is probably one of the most common questions  get...and the most difficult to answer. The answer, "it's really hard to say."Your metabolic rate, activity level and gender are a few variables that play into the equation. It's just as important to look at what you're eating as it is to look at how much you're eating.

Often times, our own bodies do a pretty good job telling us how much to eat. We just don't like to listen. Here are a few common problems people face when it comes to eating the right amount, and right type of calories.

The problem: If you're starving two hours or less after you finished a meal, you likely ate too much carbohydrate, not enough calories - or both.

  1. The fix: The next morning, start the day off with a breakfast that contains protein (eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese), carbohydrate (blueberries, whole grain toast, oatmeal) and a little fat (eggs, low fat yogurt, a little butter). If you feel energized and good three hours later, you're on track. If you're still hungry, increase the protein and fat a little bit.
  2. The problem: Weight gain after committing to a new workout program. You're hitting the gym more than ever and now you're actually gaining weight. You're probably eating too much, overcompensating for exercise. This problem happens a lot more often than people realize.The fix: Don't increase your caloric intake because you're working out, unless you're training for an endurance event and your workout long (90 minutes+). You don't need energy drinks, an extra serving of rice, a bigger bowl of oatmeal, or the big slice of lasagna. Add calories, particularly lean proteins, if you notice you're losing weight you'd rather hang on to.
  3. The problem: You're ready to catch some Zs around 3:30pm. The problem is, your office desk doesn't come equipped with pillows.The fix: Chances are, you ate too much carbohydrate. If you're having a hard time keeping your eyes open in the middle of the afternoon and it's not an isolated incident, you should opt for a salad instead of a sandwich or pasta bowl at lunch. Carbs convert to sugar quickly in our blood. If we eat too much refined carbohydrates (breads, pasta, rice, sugary yogurts, fruit smoothies, sugary coffee drinks), you could crash an hour or two later. Carbs aren't bad, but we just don't need restaurant-size portions each and every day.
  4. The problem: You eat healthy all day long, but still can't lose those last few pounds.The fix: Two things could be happening here. 1) The less you weigh, the less you need to eat - generally speaking. Our body require more energy (calories) to sustain 180 pounds than it does to sustain 140 pounds. I'm not suggesting you stop eating breakfast, but be mindful of serving sizes. The difference on your plate should not seem significant, but a little less in our bodies goes a long way. 2) Healthy foods have calories, too. Trail mix, whole grain bread, fruits and cheeses are all healthy. Our bodies love them - in moderation. Take it easy on the good stuff, too!

Are you ready to shape up? How about a 40-Day Shape Up? The 40-Day Shape Up is a program that combines eating right for your body type with bodyweight exercises scaled to beginner, intermediate and advanced fitness levels. Look and feel great this summer! Cost per program: $79. The next session starts soon! Register here.