One of the questions I get asked most frequently by dieters is a variation on the theme “whats the fastest way to lose belly fat”. It is totally understandable that people want to lose the flab they see when looking at their toes. This is a painful reality to face, especially during summer, aka bikini-season.
Belly fat is not just a visual nuisance. It also increases the chances of diabetes and heart disease. Scientifically known as visceral fat, it is found wrapped around internal organs such as the liver and intestines. Everyone has a bit of visceral fat, but when your belly starts protruding, you know it’s too much.
A common misconception is that belly-fat can be burned off simply through ab crunches and other core exercises. While these will tone the muscle layer, the fat underneath won’t necessarily disappear. As with general weight-loss, dietary changes are a more effective means to reduce belly fat than exercise on its own.
The recommendations, as usual, are to focus on lifestyle change, a slow and deliberate weight reduction that can be sustained for years. This includes:
• More home cooked meals
• Smaller portions
• More lean protein and less refined carbs
• More healthy fats from nuts and seeds
• No soft drinks or fruit juices
• Lots and lots of leafy greens
• Fruits, not smoothies
• Fiber rich foods such as whole grains and legumes
• Less alcohol
• More sleep
…BUT ABOVE ALL TRACKING “MACROS” OVER “CALORIES”
WHY SHOULD YOU TRACK YOUR MACROS?
We’ll go right out and say it…
…counting your macros is more effective than counting calories.
Sure, cutting 500-1000 calories out of your diet may help you lose weight.
But, if you load up on fats and carbs in those calories that you can still eat, your weight loss efforts will be very tedious and slow.
A calorie counter will tell you if you’ve eaten 400 calories, while a macro-counter will help to decipher whether those 400 calories were from a piece of pizza or from a bowl of fruit.
Counting macros is much more specific than calories.
In fact, counting macros is what all those magazine articles and internet ads that claim, “Eat all your favorite foods, while still losing fat every week!” come from.
SO, HOW MANY CARBOHYDRATES, PROTEIN AND FATS DO YOU NEED?
Well… it all depends on what your goals are.
- Do you want to build muscle? or;
- Do you want to lose fat?
It’s important to note that everybody requires a 100% unique set up when it comes to IIFYM Dieting, because everybody is coming from a different starting position, with completely different end results in mind.
But, here’s a starting guide:
If you are trying to lose weight, the recommended starting point is 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body mass throughout the day.
For example, if you weigh 200 pounds: you should eat 100 grams of protein per day.
200lbs x 0.5 grams = 100 grams of protein per pound of body mass.
If you are trying to gain muscle, consider eating 1.0 – 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body mass.
For example, if you weigh 200 pounds: you should eat 200-300 grams of protein throughout the day to build lean muscle.
200lbs x 1.0-1.5 grams of protein = 200-300 grams of protein per pound of body mass.
If you are trying to lose weight, the recommended starting point is around 0.5-0.75 grams of carbs per pound of body mass.
For example, if you weigh 200 pounds: you should be eating 100-150 grams of carbohydrates throughout the day to build lean muscle.
200lbs x 0.5-.75 grams of carbohydrates = 100-150 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body mass.
If you are trying to gain muscle, consider eating 1.0-2.0 grams of carbs per pound of body mass per day.
For example, if you weigh 200 pounds: you should be eating 200-300 grams of carbohydrates throughout the day to build lean muscle.
200lbs x 1.0-2.0 grams of carbohydrates = 200-300 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body mass.
If you are trying to lose weight, the recommended starting point is right around 0.4 grams of fat per pound of body mass.
Remember: fats are still required so you can’t just completely cut them out.
Your body needs them.
For example, if you weigh 200 pounds: you should be eating 80 grams of fat throughout the day to build lean muscle.
200lbs x .4 grams of fats = 80 grams of fat per pound of body mass.
If you are trying to build muscle, consider eating 0.5-0.75 grams of fat per pound of body mass.
These fats will help as stored energy, but also will help with better blood flow within workouts.
For example, if you weigh 200 pounds: you should be eating 100-150 grams of fat throughout the day to build lean muscle.
200lbs x 0.5 x 0.75 grams of fats = 100-150 grams of fat per pound of body mass.
MACRO COUNTING CONCLUSION
There you have it, the basics of counting your macros!
We are all human here, so we understand that you may not always perfectly reach your macro goals every single day.
This is okay.
Stay disciplined, but also realize that it’s okay to fall short or go a little over on your macros every now and then.
For best results, do your best to shoot for a range of +/- 5-10 macros of each daily goal for each macronutrient.
The process will become much easier over the span of a week, as you’ll see a specific food and think to yourself:
“Oh, I can totally eat that. It’s about 68 grams of carbs, 14 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fat.”
With all this newfound “food freedom”, comes the responsibility of not just going out and replacing any and all “clean” foods, with unhealthy replacements just because you can!
Flexible dieting is a skill that takes time to develop. In the same way you progress from basic to advanced exercises, the same holds true with nutrition. And before someone can be a flexible dieter, they usually have to go through a period of being strict.
At the end of the day, your long-term health should always be your first priority.