I normally don’t write blog posts like this but I’m checking out at the grocery store last night and I see three separate magazine covers about “shrinking your waist, “foods that fight fat” and “walk off belly fat.” I get that this is the stuff that sells to mainstream America but I figured I’d set the record straight on what it really takes to get rid of belly fat. It is also by far the most asked question I get as a fitness professional.
Here’s the down and dirty, unfiltered truth about belly fat…
First and foremost, people store fat in different areas. If you have fat on your belly, that just happens to be where YOU store it. But some people complain of turkey waddle on the back of the arms and others of cottage cheese on the back of the legs. One is not any better or worse…but it IS highly individual and everyone is predisposed to storing it in one area over another.
This being said, here are some REAL strategies you could use to reduce belly fat:
1. There are no foods that fight fat if you continually eat foods that store fat
Yep, that pretty much sums it up. No amount of healthy, fat-burning foods can combat cheeseburgers, fries and dessert. It just won’t happen.
Here’s what you do – eat MORE…particularly early in the day. Probably 90% of the people I talk to eat their worst foods at night…appetizers, desserts and wine. Most of the time this is the direct result of being under-caloried early in the day. MORE calories for breakfast, mid-morning and lunch will lead to less cravings and healthier choices at night.
2. Stop doing crunches and trying to spot reduce
I see people doing crunches all the time…because most people want to have really good abs. But here’s a fact – unless you’re below 15% bodyfat (if you’re a woman) or below 10% (if you’re a man) you will never see your abs. All most people will end up with is really strong abs underneath a layer of fat. Sorry, but it’s the truth.
Here’s what you do – stop doing crunches and do more compound movements…particularly with your legs. Leg muscles are the largest muscles in the body, and thus, they burn the most calories when you work them. This means squats, lunges, step ups, deadlifts, etc. Let the sissy knee extension and hamstring curl machines collect dust 🙂
3. Sleep more and ease up on the coffee
I could launch into a whole dissertation on the role of cortisol and body fat storage. In fact, this is the reason many of the executives I’ve worked with struggle to lose body fat. Too stressed out, not enough sleep, waaaay too much coffee.
Here’s what you do – sleep more (8 hours a night is ideal…but just get as close as you can to this number) and manage your fight-or-flight responses throughout the day. Fight-or-flight is what happens when we get stressed and it spikes our cortisol levels…thus causing us to retain more body fat. The more you can stay on an even keel throughout the day, the more you’ll set up a hormonal environment that’s fat burning instead of fat storing.
4. Sprint (or at least do something that’s really intense)
TCM and Chicago Marathons were last weekend – all you need to do is look at the body composition of some of the marathoners to realize that long, slow cardio is not the optimal way to cut body fat. Sprinters, on the other hand, are leaner and much lower in body fat.
Here’s what you do – please DO NOT go out and start running wind sprints if you haven’t done this in years. Work your way up to it and start out conservatively. And if you’re not a runner, work into some high-intensity intervals (<60 secs in duration) on whatever you choose for cardio. Once you get to a point where you can do short, high-intensity efforts consistently, you’ll notice a BIG difference in your body composition and metabolism.
(Note – if you are an endurance athlete, I’m NOT telling you to quit the long, slow stuff. But I AM telling you to add shorter, faster work to your training. Not only will it change your body – it will probably take your training to another level as well.)
5. Lift. And Lift Heavy.
A lot of times people will think they gain body fat because they get older…but this is often a short-sided view. Yes, you do lose muscle mass as you age BUT this can easily be combated with appropriate strength training. Age doesn’t have nearly as big an effect as a decrease in movement and a sedentary lifestyle.
Here’s what you do – if you aren’t lifting weights now, start. It’s the single best thing you can do for your metabolism. If you are lifting already, lift heavier. Assuming your form is good, most people don’t lift weights that are heavy enough. Stop with the sets of 15-20 reps and start grunting it out a little bit with sets of 8-12. Ladies, you can grunt it out too 🙂
6. Graze. Don’t binge. And definitely don’t starve.
3 meals/day is out. 5-6 meals/day is in. Most people don’t realize that your body has to BURN calories to digest food…so eating small amounts, frequently, creates a metabolism that’s always burning. On the flip side, not eating SLOWS your metabolism…which is one of the primary reasons that people doing yo-yo diets almost always gain all the weight back…and then some. Their metabolism has slowed from lack of nutrition.
Here’s what you do – most active people will require 1800-2400 calories per day based on RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), lifestyle and calories burned through exercise. Shoot for 3 meals of 500 calories and 2-3 snacks of 200-300 calories. Do this for 1 month and I guarantee you’ll see a change in your body.
So, that’s the real deal on belly fat – feel free to pass it along to anyone who is glued to the grocery store mags. These are also the exact types of things I’ve been working with clients on in NO LIMITS coaching, with phenomenal results.
If you’re looking to make a change and would like to get started, you can check it out HERE >>>>>>>>>>
All the best,