11 October 2011

Reducing belly and belly fat

This post is not directly performance related, more of general interest. I do get this and similar questions quite often, though.

Q: exercise, health and nutrition practices to reduce your belly and belly fat?

A: unfortunately there is no way to tell the body to breakdown fat from a particular body area (e.g. belly). This might be contrary to the publications in some popular magazines.

The areas where the body stores and breaks down fat and to what degree are regulated mostly by a person's genetic makeup. It differs between individuals.

At the start of exercise, the body releases hormones to activate body fat breakdown. The fat is converted into fatty acids which are transported through the bloodstream and used as fuel in muscles. The breakdown occurs wherever it occurs, regardless of the exercises you are doing.

To lose or gain fat is a questions of caloric balance. Basically, to lose fat you need to burn more calories than you eat (negative caloric balance).

For otherwise healthy individuals this means in practice:
  • Reducing your consumption of fats, sugars (and alcohol) to a healthy minimum (what you need for your activity level, healthily creating a negative caloric balance).
  • Staying away from processed or overly refined foods, consuming a well balanced diet of nutrient rich foods with lots of fruits and vegetables instead.
  • Be NEAT. Take every opportunity to move (at work, at home, during a commute, ... ). Examples:  use stairs wherever possible, avoid elevators or escalators; choose a toilet farther away or down one flight of stairs; in public transport, stand instead of sitting; stand up when on the phone; ... Standing burns more calories than sitting and in addition conditions your core muscles.
  • Increase your lean body mass (shift the ratio of body fat to muscle mass more towards the latter). The more muscle mass you have the more calories you burn with every move. This does not mean you need to bulk-up like Arnold Schwarzenegger (you wouldn't want to eat his diet).
  • Finally, exercise. Science says, a combination of resistance exercises (strength training) and cardiovascular exercises (endurance) is best for loosing weight. Women don't worry, under normal circumstances, due to a lack of testosterone (male hormone) , you will not bulk-up from normal strength training. Yet you will benefit by increasing your strength, mostly on neuromuscular factors.
Basically, successfully losing weight and sustaining the weight-loss comes down to subtle, but effective changes in lifestyle and diet, and willingness to move just a bit more and burn a few additional calories in doing so.

Besides a leaner appearance, there is another big bonus in this: a healthier and more active life and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and even many cancers. 

    1 comment:

    1. Mhm! I always thought sit-ups would get rid of my belly. Oh, well.