So you’ve got a couple of unwanted inches that have made a permanent home around your waistline. Whether that ring around the middle has been plaguing your belly for a couple months or most of your life, there’s good reason to lose it…and it’s got nothing to do with how you look out on the beach!
Why Fat is Important
Simply stated, men and women need to hang on to a little bit of body fat to help make sure our heart pumps, skin stays smooth and hair stays shiny. Regardless of how fit we are or how diligently we watch what we eat, women will always need to carry more essential body fat than men. The reason being is mostly for reproductive reasons. That said, if we were just left with essential body fat, we’d look mighty lean. It’s the unnecessary body fat, the stuff that gives that “Jello-like” feel around the belly, butt and thighs that we need to watch out for. Exactly where body fat distributes itself plays a huge role in our overall health.
Where We Tend to Gain It
While women may carry more body fat, some store it in the hips and thighs, other store it on top – through the back and chest, some distribute evenly and others get hit in the belly area only. If there was one body type that was healthier than others, it would be the pear. Even though the pear-shaped figure may not be the most desirable body for women who are concerned about a skirt that’s suddenly tighter throughout their lower body, it’s a lot healthier than an ever-expanding waistline. It’s fairly common for men to gain weight through the midsection. Rarely do you see men with disproportionately larger bottoms. It’s just not the way hormones work in men.
Why Too Much Belly Fat is Bad
Excessive visceral fat through the midsection has been associated with high blood pressure, high levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. According to a recent Harvard study, 427 healthy men between 17 and 90 found that in each decade of adult life, the body fat of sedentary men increased 17 percent and the waist circumference 2 percent; regular exercise, though, reduced fat accumulation to just 3 percent per decade and held the mid-body bulge to just 1 percent per decade.
The Dos and Don’ts of Belly Fat Burn
So what works and does not work when it comes to minimizing abdominal fat?
Does NOT Work: Crunches and curl-type ab exercises. Yes, these exercises do help strengthen the muscles that are lying under the layers of fat, but it won’t reduce the stuff that rests on top. Keep doing your core work. It’s essential for a strong back and abdominal region. It won’t necessarily burn off the fat that surrounds that area.
Does Work: Consistent regular interval exercises several times each week (anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes) has a positive impact on reducing not only abdominal body fat, but high blood pressure and cholesterol, too. Get your heart rate high for a few minutes, working in the “comfortably uncomfortable” (or higher) zone. Then let your heart rates drop by easing off. When you’re recovered, repeat the process. Don’t forget to maintain a balance of core work, too!
Does NOT Work: Store-bought fat burners. While the jury is still out about how effective over-the-counter fat-burning concoctions really are, they certainly can’t help you spot reduce and abs-only region. Use common sense here – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And of course, before reaching for a quick fix remedy from your drug store’s shelf, talk to your doctor.
Does Work: Decent supplements. If you have a problem with digestion, feel bloated or like something isn’t right in your belly, take a good probiotic containing lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium (one works with the small intestine and one works with the large intestine). Another key supplement is a good digestive enzyme at the beginning of a meal. Lastly, include a good soy-free protein supplement, including whey-based, casein-based or pea/rice/hemp-based (if you’re vegan). The protein supplement won’t necessarily help with bloating or indigestion, but it’s an easy go-to after a tough workout and beats a high-sugar energy bar or drink.
Does NOT Work: Fat-free diets. If you’re on a fat-free or minimal fat diet now, STOP! You will only gain body fat. Sounds counterintuitive, I know, but you can’t fool your body. Without some dietary fat you’ll send your body on a crazy blood sugar roller coaster ride, feel hungry shortly after you’ve eaten and generally throw your whole body off kilter.
Does Work: Healthy fats. Many of us simply eat too much, and responsibly cutting calories alone could make a big difference. Along with proper caloric intake, eating a balanced diet of protein, fat and carbs has a much greater impact on overall health. Eat LESS refined carbohydrates. Eat a DECENT amount of protein. Eat SOME healthy fat (omega 3s, coconut oil, butter for some, raw nuts, avocado, etc.) important component to staving off hunger and regulating blood sugar levels. The longer you feel satisfied, the less likely you are to go for the sweet stuff.
Does NOT Work: Six hours of sleep (or less). You’ll throw your body’s cortisol levels off, thereby throwing off a myriad of other hormones. Ultimately, burning the midnight oil will make you tired, cranky and thick through the middle. Sleep.
Does Work: Seven hours of sleep (or a little more). Your body has chance to rest, digest and repair. Most of us are not in a zen-like state throughout the day. We need the time at night to relax, which allows our hormones to reset. Think of your hormones as little messengers that tell your body where to store fat – and where to get rid of it.
Good luck on your quest to washboard abs!
My ebook, 20 High Energy Workouts is filled with interval-only workouts scalable to any fitness level. Why not download it and give a few workouts a try? If you want something more hands on, my 40-Day Shape Up will be open for business next week!
Want more tips like this? Hang out with me on Facebook. I’ll be posting some really great health and fitness tips over the next few weeks, and I don’t want you to miss out. See you there. Traci