Ladies - here is what you have been waiting for: the ultimate guide to losing belly fat:
A flat stomach is one of the most coveted and enviable body shapes to have, and almost everybody feels that they could easily do with getting rid of a bit of flabby waistline. With so many quick fixes and miracle ab fixes out on the market, it is no wonder people have forgotten how getting and maintaining their sleek physique and washboard stomach actually works.
In fact, there are thousands of fat burners and ab supplements on the market, and let’s not even go onto the subject of crunch machines, ab belts, and gimmicks that promise to get you the rock hard abs you have always wanted, while you are sleeping.
The quick fix healthy supplement industry is worth billions of dollars, as all of us succumb to the marketing of the next best thing out there, guaranteed to get us the results we want, without us putting in any of the work. Fad diets, cucumber, and cabbage soup eating plans, and water fasting plans are guaranteed to get us to lose only much-needed water and muscle, and as soon as we resume our normal, healthy eating plans, we will put back on the weight and more, in the blink of an eye.
Speak to those individuals with those rock hard abs, flab-free belly, and svelte silhouette, and ask them how it is that they got what they have, and the answer will be a collective – determination, dedication, consistency, extremely hard work, and a calorie restricted diet. Not one of them plants themselves on the couch every night with a bag of chips and a beer- they are out working on keeping their shape honed and taut.
Not only is having a trim waistline enviable, it is preferable to keep health risks like diabetes at bay. Studies have shown that excess belly fat in women, anything over 35 inches, and 40 inches in men, in the waist are very serious danger signs, putting you at risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and strokes.
To help you combat the unwelcome health risks of excess belly fat, and to help you get the trim, svelte figure and flat belly you have always wanted, then read on.
1. Cut Back on Salt
Salt is one of the biggest causes of water retention and is certainly not your friend if you are trying to move away from an unhealthy diet to banish your belly fat for good. Science also shows a link between salt intake and weight gain. Sodium is one of the primary triggers for bloating, and research shows that we are eating something like thirty percent more salt that we need to in our diets, reaching for the salt shaker, when we are already eating a multitude of hidden salt in our meals. Experiment and explore with fresh and dried herbs, lemon juice, citrus dressings, and other spices to get the flavor you want instead. Boost flavor in your cooking naturally by adding tomato salsa, and chilies which will give your metabolism a kick as well.
2. The 3 Pm Snack
One of the biggest culprits in getting extra belly fat is the high fat, highly processed snacks we are munching by the handful in-between meals. The afternoon energy slump is a dangerous time for snacking. Between 3 pm and 4 pm every day, it is important to boost the energy levels so that you are not eating everything in sight by the time dinner rolls around. Choose low GI snacks that are low in sugar, high in fiber, and low in fat and salt: Organic fruit, raw veggie sticks, a yogurt with a handful of nuts or a tuna snack on crackers – anything with a lean protein combination. Stay away from the carbs, as they tend to use lots of water for digestion and to make you sleepy, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid.
3. Lose the Sugar
Clean up your diet and cut out as much sugar as possible. Even without trying, our daily meals are loaded with hidden sugars, so adding more will only make things worse. Fruit is very good for you but very high in natural sugar, which will make your blood sugar spike unnecessarily. Instead, pack in the veggies and cut down on the fruit and fruit juices in your daily diet, to keep your energy levels balanced throughout the day. To put it in perspective, one small banana provides enough energy to perform an hour of high-paced cardio, so if you are eating a banana as a snack between meals, and lead a sedentary lifestyle, you can imagine all the unused sugar you are pumping into your body that is being stored away, and the first place it gathers? Around your belly.
4. Beware the Bloat
If you are in a training regime, slogging away to get a glimpse of that toned and flat belly, you will want to adjust your diet accordingly, so that you are not sabotaging your hard work in the gym at home. Especially on the days that you do your ab exercises, you are going to want to avoid certain food items to get the most out of your belly workout. Stay away from starch, bread, noodles, pasta, rice, potatoes, and anything that contains wheat or flour. These products produce more gas as they are being digested in the large intestine and will cause bloating. Also, stay away from anything containing sorbitol – a naturally occurring fruit sugar found in pears, peaches, prunes, apples and many sugar-free products, all artificial sweeteners, and artificially sweetened products.
5. The Only Time That Size Matters
A healthy diet free from preservatives, hormones, and additives is only part of the battle, and what matters just as much, is your portion size. Cut down on the fruit salad, double up on the veggies and cut back on the carbs. Your portion size, if not controlled, can completely sabotage everything else that you are working towards. You will be undoing your hard work everywhere else by chowing down on double helpings of potato salad and steak. Just because you are exercising and including weight training in addition to your cardio, does not mean in any way that you can eat anything you like. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when embarking on an exercise routine. Check up on your portions, include whole grains and wait before dishing up those second helpings.
6. Fizzy Drinks
Diet cola drinks, fizzy drinks, and any carbonated beverage are packed with sugars, sweeteners, and preservatives as well as loads of infused air and carbon dioxide. All of these ingredients produce excess gas in the digestive system and cause bloating and puffiness. They inhibit the stomach in being able to empty its food contents easily, which slows down the digestive process considerably, leaving you feeling sluggish and bloated. Instead, choose pure fruit juices or even better- pure water.
7. Sleeping Easy
Getting a good night’s rest is integral to your health and a slim waistline as it is to your moods and stress levels, and sleep helps you lose weight overnight. Sleep deprivation is not one of the worst forms of torture for nothing – and it’s no joke. Adults need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep every night – uninterrupted. You can be almost guaranteed of a stress-filled day when you have not had the right amount of sleep the night before. Your energy levels will be low, which you will try to supplement by eating anything and double clutching the caffeine to stay awake. You will immediately crave high sugar products, which are most certainly high in fat and processed carbs, which will do absolutely nothing for your waistline, and you and your non-flat belly will end up being friends a bit longer.
8. Cortisol and Stress
Stress in the body is one of the biggest producers of the stress hormone – cortisol, which is famous for triggering weight gain, especially around the belly area. Stress is caused by anger, fear, and anxiety, so the more you bottle up your feelings and translate having your emotional buttons pushed into anger, the more your body produces huge amounts of cortisol. Before you can say ham sandwich, you have already packed on a few pounds. Equally, if you are trying to tone up, lose weight and flatten that belly flab, you are going to have an extra hard time shifting the fat around your waistline, if you can’t get your emotions in check. At the end of the day, they were not joking when they said that a flat belly is the result of a fully committed mind, body and soul, and the ability to manage your emotions.
9. Less Ends up Being More
Feeling frustrated from doing one hundred crunches a week without seeing much difference? You are not alone – when it comes to any muscle-specific move, it is much more important to have the perfect form, and not to focus at all on the range you are able to perform, the speed or the number of reps you can do in one sitting. It would be far more effective if you were able to do some five minutes of abs – properly – about three times a week. Once you have your form right, you can be sure that you are working the right muscles, and not using supporting muscles to protect your incorrect form which will quickly result in a back injury. Always aim for quality over quantity.
10. The Benefits of Pilates
For those who are not sure, Pilates comes across as one of those fad exercise classes that ladies do in between having their nails done and lunching with their friends. But for those in the know, it is paramount to being a religion. It is the brainchild of Joseph Pilates, who was born in the late 1800s and suffered from serious childhood health issues like asthma, rheumatic fever, and rickets. Pilates is a serious exercise routine formed by its creator’s own determination and hard work, built on the principle of correcting posture, breathing and the ills of a slothful modern life, by means of a series of exercises and training techniques, focusing primarily on the core muscles.
From being the poster child for anatomy studies at 14 to rehabilitating injured soldiers in the war, Joseph ended up with a better body at 82 than at 57. Focusing primarily on the core – the inner muscle groups of the belly - to support the rest of the body, and working core first, body second, Pilates today, is one of the best practices that will banish belly fat forever, and help reduce the risks of all of the aches and pains old age brings.
11. The DCBA Routine
Despite popular belief, crunches alone are not enough to give you the abs of a super lean and toned athletic model. In fact, multitudes of ab crunches should be last on your list. Following the routine of Diet first, Cardio second, Build lean muscle third and Abs last, you will achieve some of the most effective results. As a cardinal hard rock abs rule, you will need some fifteen minutes a day, three times a week for weight training, twenty minutes a day from three to five times a week doing high paced cardio, and one hour a day to plan and prepare healthy low GI meals, but only five minutes a day, three alternate days a week doing ab exercises. Follow this pattern consistently and you could find yourself losing one-two kilograms per week – much more than you would have just by doing hundreds of crunches.
12. Time off
Our bodies and our muscles get tired from constant training and workouts. The rest and recovery periods in-between strenuous workouts are almost as important as working out itself. Allowing time for your body to recover and your muscles to heal, they will also take the time to build, long after the workout is over. It is important to take a rest week after three weeks of high-level training and focus on flexibility, stretching, yoga, Pilates, and non-weight bearing or strenuous cardio. Leisurely walks, a massage and a chance to clean up your diet every once in a while are essential to getting the rock hard belly you have always wanted. This would be the ideal time to detox, cut out coffee and enjoy a few days of pampering yourself, bubble baths, lots of relaxation and going to bed early. At the end of that week, your body will be raring to go again, and you will embrace your routine as if it is brand new – making it only a matter of time until those abs gleam back at you in the mirror.
13. Get Your Heart Rate up
Cardio is one of your best friends when on a diet and lifestyle program designed to eliminate unsightly belly fat. Actually, if you go overboard on the abs and neglect everything else, you will definitely see results, but not the ones that you want. You will look like you are permanently slouching as your tight hip flexors push your abs forward when you stand, which is why cardio exercise is paramount to burning off that muffin top.
You need to get your heart rate up for at least seventy five minutes per week, which is no more than twenty minutes, five days a week. Drag the dog off the couch, dust off those trainers, and walk briskly to the park and back every day. Your dog needs the exercise for their temperament and their energy release as much as we do, and with our unhealthy lifestyles, spending our lives in stuffy air-conditioned or heated offices, we have no excuse not to get out into the fresh air every day for a few minutes. So what if it is raining; your dog will love it, and there is something special about wrapping up warmly and heading out for a walk in the cold and sleet – something evocative from our childhood but it’s there. Without the cardio, you are going to have to work three times as hard and as long, to see half the results.
14. Muscle Confusion
Our muscles get used to routine very quickly and after a while, if you haven’t abandoned your exercise routine from sheer routine, you will stop seeing any noticeable results from your workout. The best way to maximize your results is to confuse your muscles and don’t let them – or you- get into a rut.
Boredom is one of the biggest reasons why people throw their gym towel in and head for the couch with a beer. The challenge is over and they are not seeing the results they want. But if you work hard, you can achieve anything. Pick a selection of different weight, cardio, and core or balance routines, and jumble them up together for an intense fat-burning workout that will have you reaching for your gym gear with enthusiasm every day. Stimulate your muscles, but don’t do the same routine on any day of the week; slow down the reps one day, double them up the following, and interject with bursts of hardcore cardio for a minute or two, and that slim and sleek belly is only a matter of weeks away.
15. The Importance of Stretching
There are going to be days after your work out when you wish somebody would peel you off your mat from the floor and revive your will to live – trust me you are not alone. No matter how exhausted you are and how wobbly your muscles feel, it is terribly important to stretch and cool down after any workout. Not only will you get a chance to catch your breath, but you will release tense or tight muscles and in doing so, prevent injury and tearing as well as increasing your flexibility.
Focus on your breathing, and if you are working out with music, now is the time to double back a bit and switch from Pitbull and JLo and chill out with Adele or Enya. It will help your mind switch gears as well, otherwise, you hit those showers like a tornado, double clutching through the day like you are on fire, unable to switch off from your high until you collapse at your desk at 3 pm desperate for intravenous caffeine, and a few minutes of being horizontal. Chill out, stretch out for at least ten minutes and breathe, and you will be ready for the day.
16. Pulling a Punch
Combine the ultimate cardio and weight training regime that will work just about every muscle in your body, specifically focusing on your core – kickboxing. Just fifteen minutes of kickboxing or boxing three times a week, in addition to your regular cardio exercise routine, will pull punches in the abs area like no other routine. Your basic cardio routine needs to be half an hour of high-intensity activity, a minimum of three times a week, and up to five days a week. Add in a few boxing moves while you are at it, and the inches in your waist will melt away – as much as 2 inches in a month. Add strap-on weights to your arms and legs for an extra burn during your boxing routine, and you will be able to burn those excess calories so much faster.
17. Weight Training
Many people, particularly women, are reluctant to pick up any weights in the gym in case they ‘’bulk’’ up, and women are more motivated in losing weight and fitting into their skinny jeans, than building muscle. The women that do actually pick up weights, only use a range from one to three kilograms, and very rarely, anything higher. In reality, using weights will build only lean muscle, set your metabolism on fire, burn body fat, and carry on keeping the metabolism going for hours after a good workout session. In order to bulk up and get the physique of a bodybuilder, you are going to need a very specific training program and serious supplements to get that way. Use a heavier weight and lower your reps to between eight and twelve, or until you start to feel the burn. Or use a lighter weight and increase the reps up to twenty-five per set. Research clearly shows that women who did weight training for fifteen minutes twice a week ended up losing almost 20% more belly fat than those who just focused on cardio and ab crunches, and in addition lost up to five percent total body fat in the same time.