Losing that abdominal fat

Losing that abdominal fat

For many people, men and women, fat accumulates around the lower abdomen, giving the spare tyre appearance. It’s always the place that people want to lose fat from more than anywhere else, and it’s certainly the place I get questioned about most. The only proven ways to lose fat from this area are:

1. Diet


2. Exercise

Irrespective of if it’s general fat accumulation, or as specific as pregnancy related fat gain, you have to get diet and exercise right if you want to lose this body fat. So the key elements to getting each of these right is what’s required.

1. Diet

When you consider diet, its at this stage you need to consider hormones and specifically insulin. Insulin is a hormone, that if mis-managed, will make you store fat. The way we eat should be to optimse the steady state of insulin, so that it never spikes and promotes fat storage. The way we do this is by eating small and regular amounts of low GI carbohydrate, so carbs that provide a steady release of energy over a prolonged period of time.

You need to ensure you have an adequate fat intake as this will optimise important hormones that are responsible for maintaining and building healthy muscle. In building and maintaining healthy muscle, you are hanging onto the most metabolically active tissue in the body, that is its the stuff that will burn your fat.

Protein intake is really important to get right. Protein increases the metabolic rate more than carbs, it decreases hunger, and it helps you to hang on to muscle whilst you are dieting.

You need to keep yourself well hydrated as muscle requires water, so if you are not, your muscle will not burn calories lie you want it to.

Now you could talk forever about diet, but the most important thing to take from this is that you need to increase food regularity to help drive up your metabolism, control hormones, and promote the development of fat burning body tissues/muscle.

2. Exercise

In my eyes, any exercise will help you to lose body fat if you get your diet right. I always recommend working your entire body/all body parts evenly through the week, so to develop a balanced body and physique that will be a permanent fat losing machine. You have to be using free weights and resistance machines, you have to be doing a small amount of cardio, and specifically to losing tummy fat, you have to be doing HIIT. High intensity interval training has been shown in research to preferentially burn visceral/abdominal fat, so is a must for all “spare tyre” fat loss programs.

Note that post workout is the only time you need a nice big spike in insulin to push various compounds into muscles so they repair faster, so is time you can get away with high GI carbs such as a banana.

So without 1 & 2, you are fighting a losing battle to lose that spare tyre, but there are also other things that you have to consider.

3. Stress/sleep

If you are stressed, stress hormones take over and have many knock on effects in the body, and sometimes the one that we don’t want is break down muscle for energy. This is bad because it means we have less metabolically active tissues to burn off fat and excess calories. Also, sleep is the time we release growth hormone, and when we get a release of testosterone, both hormones that are necessary for both men and women. Sleep gives our bodies a chance to recover and repair, so is absolutely a key element.

So you will see that my fundamental list consists only of training, diet, stress/sleep and hydration, and when you get this right, losing body fat is easy, including from around the tummy.

The one last thing that you can do to improve all the above, is the use of supplements – but this is an extensive area in its own right.

Pregnancy Related

Now for some reason, women think that being pregnant is an excuse to get fat. I believe this is one of the craziest thought processes to enter such peoples minds. Its like saying I’ll use diesel for my diesel car, but then if I have extra people in the car I’ll use petrol. Ultimately, you will screw the engine up, and by resting on your laurels during pregnancy, and not focusing on true health, you put yours and your babies health on a knife edge.

I obviously don’t want to inflame people, but check out these 2 recent studies which quite clearly demonstrate that irresponsible weight gain during pregnancy, can have knock on effects with the children.

A. Fraser, K. Tilling, C. Macdonald-Wallis, R. Hughes, N. Sattar, S. M. Nelson, D. A. Lawlor. Associations of gestational weight gain with maternal body mass index, waist circumference, and blood pressure measured 16 y after pregnancy: the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011; DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.110.008326

Unni Mette Stamnes Koepp, Lene Frost Andersen, Knut Dahl-Joergensen, Hein Stigum, Oyvind Nass, Wenche Nystad. Maternal pre-pregnant body mass index, maternal weight change and offspring birthweight. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0412.2011.01321.x

Excess Skin

Did you realise that many bodybuilders and fitness models gain significant amounts of weight when they are not competing, yet they can still turn up “tight” for competitions. They don’t get loose skin? Well they don’t because when they lose body fat body fat, its a gradual process so that the skin has chance to adapt. THe best examples of loose skin come from people who have things like gastric bands. The sudden drop in calories means they lose tons of weight, but its almost unnatural, and the body doesn’t have chance to adapt to it.

So if you want to prevent loose skin, lose weight gradually as part of a fitness plan consisting of the right foods, the right training and the right supplements. Get adequate sleep, avoid alcohol and certainly don’t smoke.

Post pregnancy loose skin is slightly different. If you have put a lot of fat on during pregnancy, this is something that will be more of a problem compared to women that haven’t. Often, women who have maintained decent levels of fitness through pregnancy, have an overall better re-adaption to not being pregnant, and so the tightening up of abdominal skin tends to happen well. If it doesn’t, you just have to apply all of the above principles, and hopefully over the passage of time, the skin will begin to tighten up. There are supplements that you can try, but I don’t personally know how safe they are post pregnancy.

It goes without saying that things like paraben free oils or creams being rubbed into the skin is good to prevent stretch marks, other skin problems, so maybe this would have an affect against loose skin also?