How to Sculpt a Flat Belly Part 3: Meal Frequency and Macronutrients

Welcome to lesson 3.  Yesterday I showed you how to calculate calories.  Today I want to talk about meal frequency and macronutrients. 

What are macronutrients?  They’re the chemicals that you get calories from.  In other words, carbohydrates, fat, and protein.  And alcohol, but you know I’m going to tell you not to drink, right?  But let’s address meal frequency first.

Thankfully, the research doesn’t really back the idea that you should eat six meals a day, nor the idea that you’d be best off eating just once or twice a day.  The optimal meal frequency is actually three or four meals a day- so in this respect, most of us are already doing just fine.

So, back to macros.  Here’s how many of them you need.  Note that to calculate macro requirements, you’ll need to know how many calories you plan to eat every day. 

Protein.  You should be eating at least .8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day.  So if you weigh 150 pounds, you should eat at least 120 grams of protein per day.  If you’re over fifty, you should instead eat at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. 

Your protein intake should be spread fairly evenly throughout the day, but you should have a little more with your first and last meal of the day, since there’s a big overnight fasting period between them.

Protein has 4 calories per gram.

Fat. You need fat to maintain good hormonal health- plus it makes your meals more satiating, and your body needs it for some structural purposes.  Don’t listen to pop health magazines; fat isn’t the enemy.

For optimal health and hormone production, you need to eat at least .4 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight per day, and ideally more.  This assumes you’re at a fairly normal weight, however- if you’re obese, you’ll be alright with 50 grams per day. 

In the above example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you’d want to eat at least 60 grams of fat per day.  It isn’t very important when in the day you eat fat, but you need at least five grams with every meal to maximize satiety. 

Fat has 9 calories per gram. 

Carbs.  Your body doesn’t necesarily need carbohydrates at all, but most people will feel their best if they consume low to moderate amounts of carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, and the amount you can consume depends on how many daily calories you have left over after accounting for protein and fat.  Unlike fat and protein, carbohydrate requirements are expressed as a maximum, not a minimum. 

Suppose you weigh 150 pounds, and you’re aiming to eat 1500 calories a day.  That means you’re eating at least 120 grams, or 480 calories, of protein, and 60 grams, or 540 calories, of fat.  That leaves 380 calories, so you could eat a maximum of 95 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Yes, that means you get to eat more carbs as you get leaner and more physically active.  You have to earn your carbs. 

You should time a majority of your carbohydrates in the evening, because eating carbs causes your brain to produce serotonin and melatonin, making you sleepy. 

Alcohol breaks down into sugar in your body, but it’s more energy-dense than carbohydrates.  It has 7 calories per gram.  And it’s bad for you.  Don’t drink alcohol, but if you do, make sure you’re counting the calories properly.

So, to recap

Calculate minimum fat and protein requirements based on your bodyweight.  Calculate how many calories of fat and protein you’re eating, and then calculate a maximum carbohydrate intake based on how many calories you have left over. 

Eat three or four meals a day.  Eat most of your carbohydrates at night, eat protein with every meal, and eat your fat whenever you want, as long as you have a little bit with each meal. 

That’s it for today’s lesson.  Tomorrow I’ll tell you how to train your abs. 

-John