Regardless of age, gender, or goal, just about every new client I start with would like to flatten out their stomach a bit and lose some body fat
It’s normal and nothing to be ashamed of to want a flatter stomach and less body fat. Our society and culture have essentially decided for us that washboard abs are indeed the pinnacle of elite fitness.
Go into any gym in the world and you’ll see someone doing an ab exercise. In fact, you’ll probably see lots of people doing ab exercises. You might even see large groups of people attending a 1-hour “ab class” where attendees do nothing but train their abs with hundreds of reps of various permutations of crunches, sit ups, leg raises, and planking exercises.
Makes sense right? If you want a flatter stomach, train your stomach!
Big problem…….for 99% of the people taking this approach they won’t see a bit of difference in the circumference of their waistline.
The problem is that for most people, their inability to see their abs is a fat problem, not a muscle problem. Training the abdominals with resistance exercises like sit ups and crunches trains the abdominal muscles – but does nothing about the fat that needs special treatment plans.
There is a common misunderstanding about the nature of fat and muscle. Deposits of fat, such as commonly accumulate over the belly, cannot be “spot trained” off with specific exercises. Fat is lost systematically…..you cannot pick and choose where on your body you want fat to be or not to be. This is largely determined by genetics and gender.
The only way to lose fat is by creating a caloric deficit (i.e. eat less calories than you burn each day) and by controlling your insulin levels through reduced carbohydrate intake.
Your body will then decide for you where the fat comes off and where it stays. If you have some “trouble spots” where body fat seems to want to stubbornly accumulate, you have to monitor your nutrition even more carefully.
The bottom line is this: if you want to lose fat off your belly, focus on your diet.
Once the fat layer has been dieted off, then adding in a few crunches, sit ups, and leg raises can help to define the muscle underneath.
But until your diet is fixed, all the sit ups in the world won’t even make a dent on the appearance of your abs.
And whatever you do, please don’t waste your money on any infomercial gadgets that promise to “melt fat off your waistline.” This is a billion dollar industry that literally delivers zero in return. There isn’t one “ab gadget” I’d ever recommend.
Your nutritional plan for a trimmer waistline need not be complex, especially if your current eating habits are very poor. When on diet, it is important to get enough nutrition to keep you healthy and strong.
A simple formula is this: eat 3 meals per day that consist of nothing but meat or eggs and vegetables. Eat 1-2 snacks per day that consist of fruit and/or nuts. Limit your fluid intake to water (sugar free flavored water is fine), unsweetened tea, black coffee, and no more than 1-2 diet sodas per day. Avoid calorie laden liquids like milk, juice, sports drinks, and regular soda.
A sample daily menu might look like this:
- Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs w/ diced Onions and Peppers
- Lunch: Grilled Chicken Breast with large Salad
- Snack: Apple and a handful of Almonds
- Dinner: Baked Salmon and Steamed Broccoli
Another important component of losing body fat is to increase your body’s lean muscle mass through resistance training, especially in the legs. More muscle mass is the most efficient way to elevate your body’s metabolism.
Learn how to properly perform exercises such as squats and deadlifts and you’ll add plenty of new muscle and strength to your lower body. It’s not an overnight process, but over time all that new muscle will start to burn calories for you, even when you aren’t exercising. Muscle is a thermogenic tissue, meaning it consumes extra calories just to sustain itself. Those are extra calories that otherwise would have been stored as body fat.