Burn Through My Belly

In a previous post I discussed how fat is sticky and muscle is reactive. How all things don’t change at the same rate and that it’s a lot of hard work if you want to get rid of your icing.

So, you’ve been sticking with it, you’ve been eating well, and you’ve been training lots. The icing is shrinking, all is going really well…

But I bet you still have a bit of belly fat.

Damn that belly fat.

Close… but it ain’t no 6-pack.

So, what’s a girl to do?

I highly recommend you check out Appetite for Health, a great blog by two Dieticians talk about the science of eating and working out. Very good stuff!

There were two fairly recent articles about abs, so if you want to get 6-pack abs, here’s a few hints from Julie and Katherine:

First of all, to lose weight (or more importantly, to lose body fat) you must have a handle on your diet:

Diet Matters. You cannot eat whatever, whenever just because you’re running a marathon or Ironman. Eat more on days when you have big training days and eat less on the days when you aren’t training. Try to manage your hunger with healthy carbohydrate choices like fresh fruits, whole grains, veggies and nonfat or low-fat dairy products. Athletes who are lean tend to better match their calorie intake to their output

Diet at night. According to Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, author of Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions, “Fuel by day and eat less at night.” This way you’ll have the energy they need to run and refuel and eating more during the day will curb your nighttime appetite. Going to bed with a mild hunger means you likely will be losing weight at night, when you are sleeping; this is preferable to losing weight when you are trying to train.

(From their article Exercise Weight Gain which is full of other great nutrition-training advice.)

But even better, is their article The Truth About Amazing Abs where they remind us that:

[…] exercis[ing] the abdominal musculature […] does virtually nothing to lower your percent body fat to the point where your abdominal muscles become visible. You could do crunches all day long and it won’t help you burn enough calories to help you lose the body fat that you probably need to in order to see all those results from your efforts.

Now, you probably already knew that crunches won’t burn your belly fat off. You’re clever like that, I know! But ab exercises will make those muscles look awesome, once you burn-through, if that is really your goal.

So, what do you have to do to see those rock-hard-abs?

You need to drop your body fat percentage to a point where the musculature is visible.

In women that’s about 12-16%. The average woman in America right now has about 30%, and the average fit and healthy female has about 18-20%. By the way, it’s dangerous to get below 12%, so don’t go overboard, okay?

In men, it’s a bit lower – 10-11% for visible abs – and can healthily lower their body fat to about 5% without too much adverse effect (except that it’s bloody hard work!)

And how do you lower your body fat percentage that far?

It takes a disciplined diet and vigorous exercise regime.

But if your goal is to see those amazing abs, you’ll have to diet to lose body fat and focus on exercise that help you burn lots of calories and keep your metabolism high. Running, swimming, cycling, CrossFit are all great for burning calories then strength train with squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, and other exercises that engage your major muscle groups. Also make sure that you exercise with some intensity to also rev up your metabolic rate.

Unfortunately there are no wonder drugs, miracle creams, magic pills, fat loss bullets, or any one super food that will melt away belly fat. If you are really serious about seeing your abs you are going to have to do some serious work eating right. It would probably pay to enlist the services of a dietician, particularly one who specialises in figure or athlete nutrition.

Plus you’re going to have to be on a mission every time you train. A good personal trainer wouldn’t go astray either.

Man, 6-pack abs could be kinda expensive and kinda hard to get!

Yeah, but see how awesome they look?

However, if you can accept that most people who aren’t elite athletes or figure models don’t ever see their ab muscles (remember, athletes and models train like that for a living, it’s their JOB to look like that) , maybe you can live with the fact that you are healthy, you are fit, and that there’s nothing wrong with being ‘normal’ or ‘average.’

Are you happy being ‘average’? Or is the ideal of 6-pack abs something you’re striving for in your life? Ever been sucked in by a promise of quick results? Does the reality of hard work change your perspective on achieving those kinds of results?

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