If you are like most of us despite our best efforts with diet and exercise it seems impossible to get rid of that stubborn fat around our midsection. While seeking that tone and slender belly is the goal of many it seems to be the slowest responding region especially when we get older. So here are some basic principles and strategies to help you lose belly fat.
Measuring Belly Fat
The first step in attacking any problem is measuring it objectively so we can set goals and track our progress. One simple way although not the most accurate way to measure belly fat is to use measuring tape. When using measuring tape wrap the tape around your belly at the level of your belly button. For women your waist should be less than 35 inches for the men they should be under 40 inches. Another great way to measure progress is with a body fat test. Most local gyms with have a device or two that range in accuracy to give you a fairly accurate idea of our body fat. For men an ideal body fat percentage is between 10 and 16%. For an ideal body fat percentage is 18 to 24%. These numbers will vary a little by age with younger age groups ideal percentages being slightly smaller. Either way measure your numbers and write them down so you can remember them. Make goals and work towards those goals. Study’s have indicated people who make goals and measure results are more likely to fallow through with their programs.
What Causes Belly Fat
There are three basic factors that lead to belly fat. They are Diet, lifestyle and genetics. Genetics do have a roll and it explains how some people seem to be able to eat whatever they want and do hardly exercise and yet have very tone midsections. While others will be predisposed to having a more difficult time of trimming that belly fat. Genetics however is just a part of the equation. Despite what any persons genetic code may be improvements can be made by attacking the other two sides of the equation diet and genetics. The food we take in and lifestyle choices such as exercise, sleep, stress levels and others have a larger overall impact on our belly fat than genetics alone.
Abdominal exercise does not trim your belly fat.
This idea is called spot reduction. The idea is that by concentrating on one part of your body that you will loose fat specifically in that area. While you will certainly strengthen your abdominal and core region by doing exercises for your belly you are not trimming fat off your belly any more than you are other parts of your body. By strengthening your abdominal’s you may actually cause the appearance of more belly bulge because as the muscles grow underneath that fat it will make that region look larger.
Exercising and staying active is best.
Experts have recommended that we perform moderate activity at least 3 times a week raising your heart rate and burning fat. Personally I think 5 times for week is a better recommendation without having negative side effects. Our bodies evolved to be challenged aerobically on a daily basis. Aerobic exercise such as running, jogging, fast walking, swimming, playing in various athletics such as basketball or soccer helps reduce belly fat. Other benefits include lowering of blood sugar levels and overall body inflammation.
Even more effective than moderate aerobic exercise is high intensity interval training. High intensity interval training involves short bursts of fast paces exercise with short periods of rest. Studies have proven that high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is far better than just moderate aerobic exercise for losing belly fat, as well as dropping weight. HIIT entails short bursts of fast-paced exercise with periods of short rest. “High-intensity exercise seems to be more effective at reducing insulin, triglycerides, and cortisol, and it burns more calories in less time, too,” says Shawn Talbot, PhD, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Weight training is also a great way to aide in reducing belly fat. By building some muscle our metabolism will speed up. Muscle cells burn calories much faster than fat cells in generally so by building our muscles through weight training we will naturally burn more calories throughout the day even when you are not working out!
As is key in any exercise program it is important to remember to switch things up. Our body is quick to plateau if we just do the same exersizing and even the same style of exercising. Weight train, train aerobically, use high intensity interval training, and try different programs like Pilates and Yoga to keep your body always guessing and continuous
In my opinion and from my personal experience I believe diet especially for the midsection is the most important factor. It has been said before that abs are made in the kitchen and it could not be more true while exercise is imperative making tough changes with our diet seems to make the biggest difference in trimming belly fat.
Sugar is an enemy to trimming any belly fat. Added sugars have harmful effects on our health and ability to loose weight. Research has shown that excess sugar intake increase fat accumulation around the belly region. Worse off is that sugar is actually addictive. The more sugar we eat the more we crave it and when we stop eating it we begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. The first place to remove sugar from our diet is those sugary drinks. Soda’s are a big no-no and most fruit juices have a ton of refined sugars in them as well. Sports drinks and our specially made coffee drinks also tend to be packed with sugars. You may think that changing your regular soda’s for diet soda’s will help you cut belly fat. Several studies have shown that diet soda’s are completely ineffective. Diet soda’s can trigger a reaction to our body to actually make us eat more calories.
Now that we have discussed what not to eat what should we be eating more of? Lean protein is the best option to help reduce belly fat and will actually help reduce cravings by helping us feel more full. Studies have indicated that a diet with 25-30% of your calories coming from lean protein is most effective in losing weight and of coarse seeing a leaner belly.
Alcohol is an enemy to a tone belly.
There is a reason why it is called a beer belly. Alcohol not only has a significant amount of calories that produce very little nutrition but many alcoholic drinks are loaded with sugar. Cutting your alcohol content can go a long way in changing the look of your midsection.
All fat isn’t bad.
Several years ago there was a huge effort to demonize fat the main reason people gained weight. The theory was simple enough fat makes you fat. Grocery stores with loaded with items claiming to have reduced fat or cut fat our of their recipes. To keep the food tasting good many of these products added sugar. As we have discussed sugar was not helping anyone loose weight. Truth is not all fat is created equal and many fatty foods are actually very good for us. Nuts are loaded with fat as are items like avocado’s are extremely good for us as well.
Carbs may not be as good for us as we once thought.
In the same time when fats were being demonized carbs were considered a healthy options as well. Carbs just like fats are not all created equal but the simple less complex carbs are not a good option for people trying to cut belly fat. White breads, pastas, most cereals fall into this less complex category and the problem is what happens when they get digested. When simple carbs are digested they turn quickly to glucose. Glucose is sugar and our body treats carbs very similar to how it treats sugar and if you have been reading along you know that is not good for belly fat. To summarize switch out sugary and carb loaded foods with lean protein and healthy fats and you will have gone along way to loosing that stubborn belly
Other important factors to consider.
Getting good sleep is highly important. Low levels of sleep, considered under 6 hours, raises our cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone our body releases and it actually causes us to store fat. This is not a chemical anyone trying to loose weight wants floating around your body. High levels of stress also causes our bodies to release cortisol so you will do well to try and bring your stress levels down. Good news is a great stress reliever is exercise so you can take out two birds with one stone.