As summer approaches, many men and women are coming up with their game plan on how to get a lean stomach. It’s a common misconception that doing an obscene number of crunches will result in abs. Is it even possible to spot reduce body fat? It takes commitment and dedication to high intensity training and clean eating to earn a flat midsection.
More important than the aesthetics of a lean stomach, are multiple health benefits. Having extra visceral fat (abdominal adipose
tissue) is also linked to an increased risk for health problems such as heart disease, depression, cancer, and diabetes. This is because visceral fat is stored much deeper than subcutaneous fat; it wraps around major organs and interferes with the way the body operates. Visceral fat also makes it harder to lose weight. Our metabolism is largely dictated by the amount of stored fat in our bodies and this messes with our hunger levels and appetite cues, making it easy to overeat. You can see how this could quickly spiral out of control.
Let’s talk about fat storage. Some people store most of their fat in their hips and thighs. Some people mostly store it in their lower abdomen. It’s completely genetic where you store fat and unfortunately it’s beyond your control. This is just another reason why it’s never okay to compare yourself to others. We all have unique genetic make-ups that make having defined abs more or less attainable and sustainable.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen”. This statement isn’t necessarily true. Abdominal muscles are strengthened in the gym through resistance training. We all have abs, it’s just a matter if we can see them or not—this is where the kitchen comes into play. Your diet reflects your body composition aka your body fat percentage. In order for your abdominal muscles to be visible, you have to have a relatively low body fat percentage. Each person is different; there isn’t a magical percentage that will get you the results you’re looking for. It’s completely dependent on you, your body, and your genetics.
With all that being said, unfortunately you cannot spot reduce stomach fat. This means there are no specific exercises that can be done to target visceral fat independently. Don’t let this discourage you because there are general rules of thumb that will set you up for sustainable fat loss over time.
Clean Up Your Diet
Make sure you are eating a healthy ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Stop with the simple, refined carbohydrates. Replace this processed junk with complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, oats, and brown rice.
Control your portion sizes. I don’t like to label foods as good or bad because most things are fine when consumed in moderation, but it’s so easy to eat more than the recommended serving especially when it’s junk food.
Eat your greens. Every single meal should have at least one serving of vegetables. Vegetables are full of vital nutrients, but they also provide a lot of volume to a meal at the expense of few calories.
Track your food consumption. This sounds tedious and definitely isn’t a good option for everyone, but tracking food intake puts things in perspective. You will likely find you were unaware of how unhealthy some foods are and you can then make healthier substitutions.
Hit the Gym
Do high intensity interval training. HIIT is the most effective way to burn fat not only because of the high energy expenditure during exercise, but also due to EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. This means that after high intensity training, you will continue to burn calories at a much higher rate as compared to low intensity training.
Build muscle. More muscle mass equates to burning more calories just by living. The more muscle you have the more metabolically active your body becomes.
Get enough sleep each night.
Reduce your stress levels. Do more of what you love and what you relaxes you because an increased level of cortisol, the stress hormone, often leads to weight gain.
Of course having a strong core is essential, so do train abs, but also know that doing a thousand sit-ups a day will not result in a 6-pack. What will gear you towards your goals is dedication to cleaning up your diet and high intensity training.
In conclusion, your body will lose fat from wherever it’s genetically predisposed to lose fat from. However, by increasing your metabolism and building muscle, you will set yourself up for sustainable fat loss that will help you target stubborn areas over time.