Sit ups, planks, and ab machines won’t get rid of your belly bulge. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the abdominal exercises that do the trick. They can strengthen, tone and pull in a waist line underneath your fat, but the fat will remain. To flatten your stomach and lose the fat for good, you have to attack the belly fat from the inside out.
Sneaky Fat Layer:
The “inner tube” sitting around your midsection is not just an indicator of extra fat under the skin. Unlike other areas of the body, fat is not only stored underneath the skin, subcutaneously, but also in and around your organs, viscerally. This type of fat is dangerous and leads to many health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. For women, there is an increased risk of gall bladder issues and a higher risk for breast cancer. Getting rid of that sneaky and dangerous belly fat will take a good clean up of your diet and a well-rounded exercise program.
Start with Your Nutrition
Cleaning up your diet is more than just cutting calories. Choosing the most nutrient dense food sources — what your body needs, not just what you want — is key in losing those layers of fat. Look for ways to increase your lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and decrease sugars, alcohols and foods with chemicals and preservatives. Keeping a food log is an excellent way to educate yourself about what you are eating, and it can keep you accountable. There are several free online food logs available that break down nutrients in the foods you eat to give you a well-rounded picture of your diet.
Burn Calories with the Right Kinds of Cardio
Nutritious food choices and eating less calories than you need in a day will help to burn off extra fat, but exercise is also needed. Cardiovascular exercise will help zap the extra calories and lose weight. It’s been found that high-intensity cardio exercise can help you to lose the visceral fat internally more efficiently. Running sprint intervals for 20 minutes is an example of a high-intensity cardio exercise where you can burn 400 to 600 calories (including the “after burn”). Movements like the infamous burpees, mountain climbers and jump squats are also high intensity cardio movements. Utilizing a “talk test” will help you determine whether or not you are working at a high level. If you are exercising and unable to say more than a few words at a time, it’s likely that you are working out at that high intensity I’m speaking of that helps get rid of that belly fat internally.
High intensity cardio is not needed everyday to have fat loss benefits and is not the ONLY kind of cardio that will help shed unwanted pounds. Once or twice a week of high intensity workouts in addition to moderate cardio and an active lifestyle will burn extra calories to create the deficit needed to lose fat in your whole body including your midsection.
The Best Strength Exercises
Doing abdominal exercises and core strengthening is a very important and essential part of a well-rounded exercise program, although “spot treatment” or just exercising your trouble zone will not get rid of the belly fat. To aid in lowering your body’s fat percentage (including around your midsection), choose a strengthening program using multi-muscle exercises. In other words, do exercises that use many muscles at once to increase calorie burn to help decrease fat on your body. Examples of these exercises are a squat with an overhead press, a lunge with a bicep curl, or a hip bridge with a chest press. These exercises will burn the most calories because of engaging multiple muscles at one time. Another way to think about it is by doing exercises that work upper and lower body muscles together to maximize calorie expenditure. Incorporate kettle bells or medicine balls into these full body movements and add additional work for your midsection. Try a squat with a kettle bell swing. That will fire up legs, glutes, back, shoulders and your core all within that one movement!
Doing a full-body workout two times per week will be beneficial in slimming your midsection by blasting calories and creating a lean body to show for it. Partnering good nutrition in proper portions, high intensity cardio, moderate cardio and multi-muscle strength training will drop your body fat and when the bulge is gone, you’ll be able to see the lean muscles that lie underneath.
For more reading, you can check out these resources:
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Abdominal Visceral Fat and Body Composition.
American Council on Exercise: 6 Strategies for Losing the Spare Tire
Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
Science Daily: Exercise Important In Reducing Size Of Abdominal Fat Cells
Fitness: How to Lose Belly Fat for Good
WebMD: Calculating Your Waist Circumference