Do you want the good news or bad news … no wait, actually it’s not bad news, it’s simply the truth.
So let’s start there. Are you ready? Ok… the truth is, when it comes to fat loss, you can’t spot reduce by working that muscle group more frequently. There are no exercises that target fat loss in specific areas on your body. So doing more oblique crunches and leg-raises won’t remove belly fat faster (unfortunately).
What these exercises WILL do though, is strengthen and define your abdominal muscles so that when you get leaner you will have more definition. The same goes for any exercises for other muscle groups; squats, overhead presses, triceps extensions, etc. Doing these exercises is not going to burn more fat on those areas of your body.
What you’re doing when you resistance train is improving your muscular endurance and increasing the size and strength of that muscle group so your physique will look more defined over time (as long as you are following the right nutrition plan as well, of course). As well as working to promote fat loss and drop body fat percentage. This is the result people are usually after when they say they want to “tone up,” get leaner or even the blanket statement of lose weight.
And for the record, big changes are going to take time, so don’t fear that you will get “bulky” because you are lifting weights. If your goal is fat loss, resistance training will be an essential part of your program because the more muscle you have on your frame, the more energy you expend at rest. More muscle = more calories burned even when you aren’t doing anything!
So… is there anything that can be done about targeting fat loss on your stomach?
Yes, actually. Just because you can’t “exercise” belly fat away, doesn’t mean the idea of spot-reducing belly fat is entirely hopeless. It comes down to altering your nutrition and lifestyle habits and proper supplementation to help you overcome struggles you are facing like hormonal imbalances, poor gut health, or simply struggling to stick to your nutrition plan.
Here are 4 of the most beneficial things you can do to promote both overall fat-loss as well as reduce belly fat.
1) Consume high-quality protein with every meal
We know that if you aren’t eating right, then it doesn’t matter how much you exercise or how many supplements you take, you will never see optimal results, if any at all. So your first priority is to fix your nutrition.
One of my biggest pieces of nutrition advice is to eat high-quality protein with every meal. High-quality protein will have at least 10g of essential amino acids, and is typically found in animal protein, eggs, dairy, and whey protein.
Amino acids trigger protein synthesis so you will be building more lean muscle tissue. (Again, more muscle = more calories burned at rest). Plus, protein-based meals increase satiety and reduce the production of “hunger” hormones like Ghrelin so you won’t want to snack after a meal.
The problem is that eating a protein-based whole food meal every 3 hours is challenging for many working individuals, parents, students… so a good substitute would be a sustained assimilation protein shake like 1st Phorm Level-1 that digests slowly over the course of a few hours to hold you over until your next meal.
2) Increase Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin is the hormone that your body releases in response to the rise in blood glucose levels after you’ve eaten a meal. It regulates the metabolism of what you consume; proteins, fats, and especially glucose, by promoting the absorption of these molecules from the bloodstream into fat, liver and skeletal muscle cells. This is referred to as “nutrient partitioning.”
Someone who is insulin-resistant has a hard time partitioning the nutrients they consume, causing the body to store much of the glucose you consume as fat; often on your lower stomach and lower back. It is more of a challenge for them to burn fat off as a result.
Insulin-resistance is caused by a number of things: excess body fat, overeating simple-carbs/sugar, leading a sedentary lifestyle, and genetics play a role to an extent. Ways to improve insulin sensitivity:
- Avoid high-glycemic and processed carbs with meals, like bread or pasta; instead choose complex carbs like oats, potatoes, rice, quinoa, etc.
- Resistance Train – glucose is stored in muscles as glycogen, which is converted into energy during resistance training. The more you deplete these glycogen stores through exercise, the more your body needs carbs in order to replenish them, resulting in improved insulin sensitivity.
- Supplement wisely. Taking a supplement like 1st Phorm’s Glucose Disposal Agent, or G.D.A, which has ingredients that can help improve your insulin sensitivity as well as slowing the absorption of carbs from the intestines to the bloodstream, promoting healthy blood glucose levels.
3) Reduce Stress Levels and Balance Cortisol
Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone, released from the adrenal glands. Cortisol itself is not a bad thing, but chronically elevated cortisol as a result of emotional/physical stress or consuming excessive amounts of caffeine has a very negative impact on your health and causes your body to store more fat around your midsection.
The goal is to achieve an optimal cortisol curve, where cortisol production is highest in the morning and lowest at night. Try turning off all screens – TV, your phone, your iPad, at least 1 hour before bedtime to help you unwind. The blue light that the screen emits stimulates the release of “awake” hormones, including cortisol.
Supplementing wisely is key as well. You can take a nighttime supplement like Core-21 which contains ingredients that naturally lower cortisol levels, promote relaxation, and help you get a higher quality of sleep, resulting in more fat being released from your midsection.
4) Do More Interval Training
When you do interval training or HIIT – High-Intensity Interval Training, (which is shorter in duration significantly more intense than doing longer intervals) you perform quick bursts of max-effort activity followed by a short rest period. This promotes the production of Growth Hormone, which is a hormone that promotes muscular development and fat burning.
This style of training has also been found to have a positive impact on the number of calories your body burns even after you stop working out. Helping to increase the number of calories your body burns throughout the day. This is due to E.P.O.C. (excess post oxygen consumption) and revolves around the body working to restore itself back to a resting state after exercise by repairing muscle tissue, breaking down lactic acid, and restoration of hormones. These processes take hours and require fuel, and that fuel comes from fat.
Important Aspects of Fat Loss
Remember that these changes take time, and won’t happen overnight.
You can’t spot reduce or specifically target fat in your midsection by simply doing more sit-ups. Yes, you still want to train your core as that will help you define your midsection as you burn fat … but doing the four belly fat loss tips above will help you reach your goals more quickly.
The most important thing to remember is you must be consistent long-term. Implement these steps and you will see changes within a few weeks, but don’t let that allow you to get lazy! Keep your foot on the gas, and you will see BIG changes in a few months.
If you have any questions or need any help at all reaching your fat loss goals, please never hesitate to reach out!
We have a fully staffed team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialists that will help you for free! They are available Monday thru Friday 6 am to 10 pm CST at 1-800-409-9732… or anytime via email at [email protected]!
*This post was written by Will Grumke. He is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.