With summer fast approaching, many of us will most likely want to shed a few pounds from the annoying midsection that can be very challenging to slim down sometimes. And even when you feel like you’re doing all the right things, the overall weight and belly fat just does not want to disappear!
Although some people have naturally “leaner” and slimmer waists and do not carry much fat around the belly area, for others the sole vision of having abs showing seems like an impossible quest! Nevertheless, there are numerous aspects of training and nutrition that you can consider and revise to have a better understanding of how to lose belly fat and what to target more – is it going to be nutrition, training, or both?
Regardless of your overall goal of how you want your abs and midsection to look, I will talk about some generally applicable things that you can do to set yourself on the right track towards that long desired thin, and what will feel like fat-free abdominal area!
Calorie Deficit Diet
Let’s get one aspect out of the way. We burn a different amount of calories during a variety of activities or exercises.
Based on Mayo Clinic’s estimates: per 1 hour of exercise, a 160-lb individual burns approximately 365 calories during a resistance weight training session or 861 calories by running at approximately 8 mph.
Numerous other exercises are listed and even though some of these numbers may not be correct for everybody, it gives us an idea of how various exercises impact our energy use. Now, if you’re exercising on regular basis and are fairly active during the week, chances are that you will probably do some type of exercise 2-4 times a week for about an hour.
You need to consider how many calories there are in the foods you consume. Some of these may be foods like pizza, candy, highly processed snacks and sugary foods etc. Based on the United States Department of Agriculture’s nutritional database, a regular cheese pizza slice (about 107 g) contains 285 calories, about 12 g of protein, 35 g of carbs and 10 g of fat. Clearly, one slice is rarely the finish line for our gym enthusiasts appetite and a casual “cheat meal” can easily turn into over 1,000 calories in one sitting. Considering that you eat a whole 14” cheese pizza, total calories would amount to about 2270 with nearly 300 g of carbs and 82 g of fat.
The purpose of this article is not to bash pizza for its high-calorie properties (I enjoy a good New York style pizza myself occasionally), rather, I am trying to paint a bigger picture here. Considering the information regarding the calories burned while exercising, it would take a 160-lb person over two and a half hours of continuous running at 8 mph to burn the entire pizza. We need to focus on nutrition and on choosing the right foods. The saying, “abs are made in the kitchen”, has a lot of truth to it.
How To Lose Belly Fat Effectively
☐ Avoid Empty Calories
One of the most beneficial habits to get into to start (and continue) losing body fat is to try to prevent binge eating and cutting highly processed foods from your diet. If you’re in the habit of grabbing a quick lunch at your nearest fast food joint several times a week, you need to account for a tremendous amount of “empty” calories that do more harm than good to your body.
A better “belly fat losing” type of strategy would be to cook your meals in advance and take them with you – meal prep – along with preparing some healthy snacks to keep you full and minimize your hunger throughout the day.
Spend some time looking at your current nutrition plan and log all the foods and drinks you consume to come up with a fair estimate of how much you’re actually eating in a day, you may be surprised! You can either utilize one of the many calorie tracking apps on the market or go fully old-school with a pen and a pencil and some “food log” inputs.
☐ Keep Calories Under Control
Spend some time researching your caloric needs for maintenance, weight loss, and weight gain and try to come up with a target caloric range to keep you in a slight caloric deficit each day. Additionally, try to increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, dietary fiber and some lean proteins to keep your hard-earned gains in place while burning off the stubborn belly fat!
Dietary fiber helps keep your hunger under control and a vast number of foods that are high in fiber also provide a volume of food for minimal calories (such as leafy vegetables, broccoli, and other fresh produce, or beans & legumes). By incorporating more nutrient dense foods in your diet, you will not only fill your diet with micronutrients and fiber, but it will also help you avoid eating those highly processed foods that are very high in calories!
Note: Foods such as oils, sweeteners, and artificial flavorings can mean a huge caloric increase of your diet. Generally, 1 tbsp. of olive oil will contain over 100 calories so try to limit these condiments in cooking.
☐ Combine Nutrition & Training
If you stay on track with your nutrition and stay within a caloric deficit, incorporating training such as cardiovascular exercises and weight training will boost the fat loss process and can help you achieve your goals faster. I personally focus on performing cardio either fasted in the morning or right after my strength training sessions about 2-3 times a week for 20-30 minutes.
A light jog in the morning, some HIIT training after your workout, or some jump rope can help you achieve amazing results when a solid nutrition plan is also in place. Additionally, you can focus on abdominal and core exercises to strengthen the middle section and keep your abs on track with the other muscle groups.
I like to work out abs 1-2 times a week. A good place to start would be to perform 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps of an exercises targeting abs and work your way up from there as you progress.
Take Home Message
Losing weight and body fat is not impossible! Even though you can access endless piles of articles, books and videos on losing fat, magical pills and an abundance of resources sounding “too good to be true”, losing fat comes down to a few simple points:
✓ Eat whole and nutritious foods
✓ Maintain a caloric deficit
✓ Make sure you meal prep
✓ Limit condiments e.g. oil, dressings, sauces
✓ Have a training program and stick to it!
Don’t ever let yourself get discouraged, get into some healthy habits, spend some time reading about healthy recipes and training styles on The Zone and you’re on your way to continuous fat loss and a more defined abdominal section!