Another new year is upon us and we all want to get in shape and look great. One of the trouble spots people have is the belly. For men that would be the beer belly and for women it is the muffin top. Many ask this question: Will doing lots of sit ups reduce the extra fat around the belly? Rather than fall for misinformation and quick fix promises, here is some solid advice to help people become successful with losing weight.
- know you can’t spot reduce
- cardio exercise
- exercise consistently
- reduce stress in your life
- increase protein in your diet
- eat lots of sugary foods or foods containing high fructose corn syrup
- use any sort of electric muscle stimulation
- use body wraps
- eat diet foods
- give lifestyle changes time to work
First and foremost, please understand that you can not spot reduce. Sit ups will not remove fat from the belly. Fat is lost evenly over the whole body. If spot reduction worked, people who chew gum would have thin faces. Your muscles can be toned and made stronger with weight training, but ab crunches will not eliminate the fat lying over the muscles. Many people believe exercises that target abs help to get rid of belly fat. However, experts agree that there is no way to lose fat from that area of the body by doing only ab exercises. Ab exercises will make the muscles under your fat stronger, but they will not get rid of the body fat. You will then have nice muscles that are hidden under layers of fat. All those infomercials that promise a six pack with only five minutes of using a weight device are hype designed to have you lose weight in your wallet. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Women tend to carry extra weight around the lower part of their abdomen and their thighs. Men tend to carry extra weight around their bellies. The only way to reduce the extra fat in these areas is to engage in cardiovascular exercise, also referred to as aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise forces your body to use lots of oxygen as fuel, and oxygen helps us to burn fat all over our body. The more oxygen you use during exercise, the more fat you will burn, and the more calories you expend. Leg exercises and sit-ups will help tone and firm muscles in those areas, but will not burn the fat that covers them.
Cardio exercise forces you to use fat as the primary fuel. And cardio exercise helps to develop the heart and respiratory system to use oxygen as a fuel. It is best to incorporate a mix of high, moderate, and low intensity workouts into your routine. High intensity workouts push the limits of cardiorespiratory development. Moderate and lower intensity workouts help develop a broad fat burning base. All three types of exercise work to enhance the benefits of each. When the cardiorespiratory threshold is broadened, the aerobic base is increased and you can work out for longer periods of time at increased heart rates without going anaerobic. This promotes increased fat burning in your body. Too high of a heart rate is anaerobic exercise and won’t burn as much fat. Anaerobic exercise is fueled by sugar not fat. A few good cardio exercises include, running, jogging, cycling, stair-stepping, elliptical, and cross country skiing.
Be consistent with both your aerobic activity and weight training. Once a week is not enough. It is important to incorporate both cardio and weight training each week to achieve any kind of real goal. Do regular cardiovascular exercise with the majority of it in the endurance zone and incorporate weight lifting and yoga or another mind/body routine on the other days. The more muscle that is developed through exercise, the more fat will burn at rest. Muscle is a tissue that uses calories, and fat is a tissue that stores calories.
It has been shown that stress can lead to excess belly fat. Cortisol is a hormone that is released in large amounts during times of stress, producing the fight or flight response. This is a holdover from when humans needed to run from danger or engage in physical altercations to remove themselves from danger. If they survived, the physical activity used the added fuel released by this hormone. This is not done in today’s corporate or business world, nor is it done in our social or family situations. Instead, we sit and stew. Since it is a survival hormone, cortisol stimulates glucose production that triggers a hunger response in the brain, while signaling cells to store as much fat as possible. So as we stew over our stress, we are stimulated to eat more and store more. Weight gain due to excessive cortisol levels accumulates in and around the belly. In order to eliminate fat around the belly, cortisol levels need to be reduced and that comes from making changes in lifestyle involving diet, exercise, and having positive surroundings.
Protein digests slower in your body and helps maintain a satisfied feeling for a longer period of time.
When the body is satisfied for longer periods of time, there is less need to eat unnecessary calories. Before a workout, a great meal is a balanced mix of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and a small amount of good fat. For example, a meal of a hard-boiled egg, whole grain toast with nut butter, and a serving of berries with water or unsweetened tea will fuel your body with needed nutrition that will last throughout the workout.
Diets high in sugar make insulin levels spike, which inhibits fat usage and promotes fat storage, especially around the middle. Refined processed carbohydrates are a major cause of insulin resistance and fat accumulation around the stomach. Our bodies are not designed to cope with refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates include soda pop, which contains high fructose corn syrup or HFCS. HFCS actually triggers our brains to think we are still hungry and we then we continue to consume more. The more insulin that circulates in our body, the more resistant we are to insulin’s ability to process excess sugar.
When excess sugar can’t be delivered to the cells, it is pushed into the adipose tissue (fat storage). When that is used up, new storage areas are made and that is typically around the midsection. The type of fat generated by a diet of refined foods is visceral fat, which feels hard to the touch and is very hard to lose. As visceral fat in the belly increases, the excess starts to accumulate around the organs in the chest cavity creating a health risk.
They just don't work. It is not a workout because you just lie there and twitch. These are called Electric Muscle Stimulation devices or EMS. EMS belts and pads are used as a rehabilitation and preventive tool for partially or totally immobilized patients in hospitals to stimulate their muscles. Promoters of EMS for weight reduction lure unsuspecting consumers with the promise you can get something for nothing. Just sit and read while the belt works the muscles. EMS devices cause a calorie burn that is marginal at best if at all. Calories are burned in a significant amount only when most of the body is involved in physical exercise using several muscles, the heart and the respiratory system and engaging them all at once. The FDA rejects the claim that the use of these devices causes weight reduction. Once again, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
The reduction in inches is only temporary. The idea behind the body wrap is the body will become hot and sweaty and the sweat will be intense enough to reduce inches around the belly, thighs, and other parts that are wrapped. A cheap way to do this is to smear preparation H on the belly and wrap the midsection with saran wrap. This will cause an intense heat feeling sensation as the body sweats profusely to cool the area. As the body loses water, the tissue shrinks. However, once a person starts to replace the lost liquid, the body swells to its original size.
Diet foods put out by the food industry may be low in calories but they are also low in nutrition. Learn to read labels. Many diet foods may be only a few calories but those calories are made of refined sugars, high amounts of sodium, and trans fats. Since they need a shelf life, industry diet foods are full of the same chemicals and additives that help to cause weight gain in the first place.
It took time to gain unwanted weight, it will take time and consistent effort to see changes. Your belly fat can be reduced or eliminated with any diet or exercise fad, but that is a short term solution to a long term problem. Making healthy lifestyle changes that become permanent is the only way to maintain a healthy body both inside and out. You can reduce body fat and build muscle with a change in dietary habits and regular exercise.
Refined processed carbohydrates are a major cause of weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, body fat accumulation around the abdomen, type 2 diabetes, and other diet related diseases. Replace those foods with whole unprocessed foods and keep a balance between the macronutrients. Just because foods may be whole and unprocessed doesn’t mean they have less calories. Overindulging in healthy foods will still pack on the pounds. In general, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, eat only 10 calories or less per pound of body weight if you want to lose weight. The more activity you do, along with fewer calories eaten will guarantee weight loss and muscle development. However, remember that to get rid of belly fat, it takes cardio exercise and improvement in your eating habits.
Quick fixes, fads, and short term changes will not eliminate belly fat in the long term. Only a change in your lifestyle that includes consistent cardio exercise, weight training and a balanced diet of whole, unprocessed food will reduce and eliminate belly fat.