You may mistakenly believe that you need to do hundreds of sit-ups in order to get strong, ripped abs. While you might build strength in your abdominal muscles, you may never see defined abs unless you lose your belly fat.
Strong, toned core muscles do more than just make you look and feel good. They stabilise your spine and reduce your potential for back pain. Your core muscles act like an internal corset, holding in your gut and providing a sturdy base of support for your spine.
A strong core may also improve your ability to move easily and perform your activities of daily living with less discomfort. They help improve your balance and stability, which becomes especially important as you age.
It’s important to keep in mind that no single abdominal exercise will challenge all the different sets of abdominal muscles, so a variety of movements is necessary. Strong back muscles also help to hold your stomach in.
Your body uses different types of fat to perform different metabolic functions. But not all of these functions are healthy. The two basic types of fat are subcutaneous fat and visceral fat.
Subcutaneous fat is the layer of fat over the top of your muscles and directly under your skin. Subcutaneous fat is what you measure using skin calipers to estimate total body fat. This is what jiggles when you move and causes cellulite.
Deeper, visceral fat wraps around your organs and is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat. You may have visceral fat even though you have a body mass index (BMI) within normal limits. In other words, you don’t have to be overweight to have an excess of visceral fat.
Although both subcutaneous and visceral fat correlate with metabolic risk factors, visceral fat is more strongly linked.
Researchers call visceral fat a “unique, pathogenic fat depot,”increasing your risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
There is substantial variation in the amount of visceral fat you may carry at a specific BMI. For this reason, waist circumference measurements are included in the evaluation of overall fat adiposity and risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.
When most of your fat is located around your waist, and not your hips, this increases your potential risk for disease. A reduced potential risk for disease is associated with a waist circumference of 35 inches or less for women and 40 inches or less for men.
Nutrition and Exercise Are Needed to Lose Belly Fat
Although there are more than two strategies to lose belly fat, diet and exercise are the two pillars upon which all other strategies are built. Your body manufactures hormones, enzymes and fat, and builds muscle based on the foods you eat. You simply cannot exercise your way out of a poor diet.
Your diet is really the key to your success. All your exercise habits may be fruitless if you eat loads of processed foods, too many net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) and the wrong kinds of fats.
“Refined grains like white bread, crackers and chips, as well as refined sugars in sweetened drinks and desserts increase inflammation in our bodies. Belly fat is associated with inflammation, so eating too many processed foods will hinder your ability to lose belly fat.”
It’s important to realize that not all calories have the same effect. Calories from different foods are metabolically different, depending upon the source. Research by Dr. Robert Lustig shows that calories from processed fructose are of particular concern.
According to Lustig, fructose is “isocaloric but not isometabolic.” This means that identical calorie counts from fructose and glucose, fructose and protein, or fructose and fat, will cause entirely different metabolic effects.
One of the reasons for this is due to the fact that different nutrients provoke different hormonal responses, and those hormonal responses determine how much fat your body will accumulate and hold on to.
Research also shows that calories gleaned from bread, refined sugars and processed foods promote overeating, whereas calories from whole vegetables, protein and fiber decrease hunger.
Burning Fat Uncovers Your Abs Quicker
A high-sugar diet promotes both insulin and leptin resistance, the latter of which is a hormone produced by fat cells. This hormone is as important as insulin in determining your risk for type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Your body may become resistant to leptin, just as it can become resistant to insulin.
If you become leptin resistant, your body doesn’t recognise signals to burn fat or to stop eating. The result is sugar cravings and hunger, which can lead to overeating and increased fat accumulation.
As you cut down on net carbs, you need to replace them with healthy fats like grass-fed butter, olives and olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, raw nuts and pastured eggs.
Once your body is well-adapted to burning fat as its primary fuel, it becomes very efficient at burning calories derived from fat.
If you currently burn sugar as your primary fuel, then rapidly and significantly increasing your healthy fat intake may not be beneficial and could result in weight gain. Your body simply isn’t adapted to burning all that fat yet, and fat is very high in calories.
So go slow, and remember that one of the keys to making this metabolic switchover is to dramatically cut your sugar consumption. As long as you’re giving your body sugar, it will use that first. Intermittent fasting can speed up your body’s transition from burning sugar to burning fat as your primary fuel. You can also combine intermittent fasting with high-intensity interval training, (HIIT) which tends to be very effective for fat loss.