Diet, recovery, and exercise are all components of a successful fitness regiment. But of the three I think diet is the most often neglected. Dieting can be extremely complex and often is intimidating for the average college student. Dieting doesn’t have to be intimidating though. Sure it can take a long time to learn and tweak to your specifications, I still don’t have a full grasp on my diet, but if you start with the basics, it will become easier. First off, I’m willing to bet most of my readers have never tracked their diet for more than two consecutive weeks. I would also be willing to bet they have no idea where they sit in terms of daily grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, or what they should be aiming for. Though dieting can be really complicated in terms of meal timing, carbohydrates, protein, and fats, when it comes down to gaining or losing weight, it’s all about calories. I don’t care if your calories come from peanuts, cake, or salad, if the bottom line of Calories in + Calories burned = a positive value, you are gaining weight. It always amazes me at how many people fail to realize this. For me, I don’t track every meal every day anymore. Tracking calories is a great way to stay in check and every month or so I’ll track a week just to make sure I’m on track. But tracking calories is a headache, especially when you’re eating five to seven meals a day. If you have never logged your meals before, I suggest trying it for a week or two. There are plenty of great free online resources for doing so. I personally use “My Plate”. I could not gain a pound to save my life in high school but my thought was always that I was not working out hard enough. It never even crossed my mind that I wasn’t eating enough. The first time I tracked my diet I think I was averaging around 1000 calories under what I thought I was consuming. This was a shock to me, but after making an adjustment, I began to slowly see my weight rise. Everyone has individualized needs and dieting is a lot more complicated than just counting calories. But for those new to dieting, I recommend using an online calculator to calculating how many calories you need to consume just to maintain your weight and then adjust for you individual goals. Jack Burdick is majoring in Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota and along with his weightlifting workouts, he competes in marathons and ultra-marathons (50 mile races) and is looking to earn a Cross-Fit title or to be recognized with The World’s Fittest Man title which is reserved for an ultra endurance power athlete.