The desire to lose the excess weight on the belly, the hips and the sides is what pushes millions of people to diet.
First, it’s important to understand exactly how your body stores and uses fat. This knowledge will help you to lose belly fat with much less effort. It will also teach you to maintain your weight in the future.
From a scientific point of you, simply doing cardio and weight training is not enough to lose belly fat in the direct meaning of this phrase. You must understand that exercise in not a mechanism for losing fat, but rather a way to stimulate your metabolism.
Exercise stimulates metabolism through various body mechanisms. Fo example, Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), sometimes known as ‘Afterburner’ is used by the body to balance hormones, replenish fuel stores, repair damaged tissue, anabolism and many others.
EPOC goes hand-in-hand with increased energy demands. This means that in response to exercise, your body will start to break down fat stores and release Free Fatty Acids (FFA) into the bloodstream. FFA’s are involved in various body processes such as energy production and transportation.
The science of fat
There are 3 main types of body fat – peritoneal and retroperitoneal (internal), as well as subcutaneous fat, with other sub-groups.
Possibly the most undesirable place on the body where fat accumulates is the stomach (abdomen). Subcutaneous fat lies directly under the skin and is responsible for the bodies flabby appearance. Despite common misconceptions, this type of fat poses no threat to your health. Peritoneal and Retroperitoneal fat are types of internal fat found in the abdominal cavity. This type of fat influences hormone activity (such as cortisol and leptin) which are directly involved in the regulation and the management of your weight. Additionally, internal fat can squeeze your internal organs and disrupt your posture.
This type of internal fat is responsible for creating the round belly shape. Because it accumulate inside the abdominal cavity and literally pushes your stomach forward. The accumulation of this fat begins around the intestine, then the pancreas and the liver. This applies unnecessary pressure on the organs.
Low levels of physical activity are responsible for the accumulation for this type of fat. This happens due to a lack of blood vessels (capillaries) being formed. This makes it difficult for your body to to even attempt to use the fat stores in energy metabolism. Aerobic training of medium intensity has shown to increase blood flow in body fat, resulting in the body beginning to use peritoneal fat as a source of energy.
This type of fat is found between the skin and the muscles. It hides away the definition and forms as a result of a sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits. It’s what we call belly fat.
World famous American physiologist Lyle McDonald claims that the body can lose no more than 1-1.5 lbs (400-700 g) of subcutaneous fat per week. This amount is roughly equivalent to 500-700 calories per day. Since subcutaneous fat will not ‘go away’ faster, there is no need to starve yourself or push your body to the extreme just to lose weight. The fat will easily be burned off by combining a low to moderate intensity exercise regime and a diet with a calorie deficit. Your effort should put you around 500-700 calories below your calorie maintenance in order to lose belly fat.
Tips to lose belly fat easily
1. Determine your fat loss goals
If you are attempting to reduce the circumference of your waist and the appearance of an overhanging belly, moderate intensity cardio training will be enough. If you are trying to improve the definition of your muscles, such as your abs, you should aim to do high intensity training. For example, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has shown to be effective at losing fat due to it’s muscle glycogen depleting ability.
2. Forget about fat spot reduction exercises
Exercises do not have the ability to lose fat directly in one single spot. No amount of sit-ups will completely lose the fat tissue on your abdomen – only strengthen the muscles. Remember to do both, moderate cardio and high intensity glycogen depleting exercises.
3. Switch up your dieting approach
You should pay attention to your calorie intake. Be aware of ‘fat free’ products as usually the fat in these products is replaced by simple carbohydrates like sugars. You may wish to try a Mediterranean-style diet due to it’s many benefits. These range from improved skin and shiny hair to a healthy cardiovascular system. The diet is rich in Omega-3, which has been found to increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and decrease muscle degradation.
4. Be patient and consistent
You shouldn’t be expecting to lose a big amount of fat in a short amount of time. Remember that your body is only able to burn fat at a rate of 400-700 grams per week. This equals to around 500-700 calories per day, which is the calorie deficit you should aim to be in. You can remain in this deficit until you have reached your weight loss and fat burning goals.
Differences based on sex
When it comes to burning fat, it is also important to consider the gender differences. Because male and female sex hormones determine the deposition of fat, meaning that men and women add fat in different places.
For example, testosterone is the male sex hormone and it prevents the accumulation of fat on the hips and the chest. Instead, most of the fat for men is stored on the abdomen. Oestrogen is the female sex hormone and it works in the opposite way, promoting fat accumulation on the chest, hips and buttocks.
This article first appeared on GYMNASIUMPOST.com on 14th June, 2020.