Summer is in full effect (ignore those pesky back-to-school ads) and so is beach and pool season. Almost every client and fitness orientation given at Innovative Health & Fitness is met with the same words, “I want to lose fat or inches around my stomach and waist.” In fact I’m sure there aren’t many people out there who wouldn’t mind a little bit less around that area. The stomach is the first area that the body turns to for most people to store excess fat when extra calories are taken in, so in part this means that total weight/fat will need to be trimmed in order to achieve less belly fat. Instead of doing an endless amount of sit-ups or hours of mindless cardio here are some tips to help trim down that stubborn belly fat.
Focus on your diet and clean eating
You can exercise as long as you want but if you then go home and fill your body with too many empty calories then all that hard work you put in during your workout will be void. The first thing you should focus on is how much refined sugar you are consuming. A general amount of allowed grams of refined sugar for a day is in the mid 20’s for women and low 30’s for men (that’s not very much and many people exceed this on a daily basis). When your body takes in too much sugar it turns it directly into fat. Secondly, focus on cutting back on the refined carbs – white breads and pastas especially. While I am not a big fan of crash diets or diets that completely cut something out, as most people can’t maintain these for long periods of time, cutting down on your carbs can help. In place of carbs focus on eating more lean proteins (turkey, chicken, fish, eggs) and of course fruits and veggies, which will help you to feel more full. Lastly, I always suggest that people take a look at a calorie counter, such as My Fitness Pal, in order to get their exact caloric needs for the day and make sure they aren’t going over that amount. These can also help you to learn more about the foods you are putting in their body. These apps will guide you through your weight loss based directly off your needs. You don’t have to stick to the counter for the rest of your life either, just long enough to learn about your body and what it takes to get to your goal, as well as what types of foods you are putting in it.
Add strength training to your exercise regimen
Many people tend to fear weights as they are worried about putting on weight or getting to big and bulky from lifting weights. However, adding just a little bit of muscle will increase your metabolism through everything you do throughout the rest of your day and you will burn more calories in the process. See Josh Z.’s post from February “Lift Weight to Lose Weight” in order to read more about this in more detail. This is also where ab and core exercises come in. While you can’t sit-up your way to a flat stomach, doing core exercises can help to tone and strengthen your stomach and make your core stronger. The key is to focus on a well-rounded set of exercises that target your entire core (upper and lower abs, oblique’s and low back), and also to continually mix up the exercises so that your body does not get used to you doing the same ones.
Aerobic exercise has many cardiovascular benefits as well as it can help you to decrease the amount of overall fat in your body and thus reduce your belly fat. The key, just like with strength training, is to mix up the modalities in order to keep your body confused. Try different types of cardio such as running, swimming, row machines, and hills. Using intervals such as switching between a few minutes hard and then a few minutes easy then back to hard again has also been to shown to be very helpful to get your body working more and increasing your heart rate.
While I’m sure most people wouldn’t mind getting a little bit more sleep and with your hectic schedule this may seem impossible, not getting enough sleep can cause your body to put on fat. Sleeping allows your body to recover and charge up for the next day, however when your body is tired your brain tells your body to consume more food in order to compensate for that lack of energy. It is recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night depending on the person, but if this seems impossible even 15 minutes can help.