You’ve probably heard that “abs are made in the kitchen”, right? Well, it IS right!
Yep, I’m sorry – for those of us who work out hard and eat like slobs, we simply wont get the result we want without tweaking our diets. Sigh.
The good news is, Im not telling you to eat a stick of celery a day for the rest of your life, or even to limit your calories drastically. Its all about WHAT you put into your body.
I constantly say to clients – “you wouldn’t put petrol in a diesel engine, because youd you’d ruin your car. You’ve just got to treat your body with the same respect”. In short, you can eat 1200 calories a day, and think you’re doing great…but if those calories are made up of saturated fat, salt, sugar, and processed crap you wont get the results you want.
First, lets look at exactly what ‘belly fat’ is.
You have three types of fat in your body. Triglycerides circulate in your blood stream. Subcutaneous fat sit right below the skin’s surface. Visceral fat lives in your abdominal cavity, surrounding your internal organs.
Now, your belly fat is likely made up of both subcutaneous and visceral fat. If you can pinch the fat between your fingers, it’s subcutaneous. Visceral fat lies out of reach behind the abdominal wall. Whilst most women I know, and certainly my female clients, would lean towards being more bothered about the soft subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is much more dangerous, having links to cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and type 2 diabetes among other chronic diseases.
The good news about visceral fat is that it responds more readily to diet and exercise than subcutaneous fat, thus it is easier to shift!
Okay, now we’ve gotten that covered, lets look at how to get rid of it!
First things first – you CANNOT spot reduce fat. Even visceral fat, which only lives in your tummy, cannot be spot reduced with even the most vigorous abs workout. Doing 100 sit ups a day will give you abs, for sure, but they’ll be safely nestled between an outer layer of subcutaneous fat and an inner layer of dangerous visceral fat. Simply put, you wont be able to see them. That is not to say that abs workouts should be abandoned – keep working on them in conjunction with your fat burning exercise.
To reveal those hard-earned abs, you need aerobic and strength-training exercise. Doing at least 40 minutes of moderate-to-high intensity training a week will help shift your body fat. If you struggle to remain interested during a workout, try circuit training. It helps to use full body movements to maximise the amount of muscles being activates, thereby increasing calorie burn.
You can try:
- Mountain Climbers
- Squat-to-Plank jumps
- Ball Slams
- Russian Twists
- High Knee Runs
- Squat Jumps
- Jumping Jacks
Eating right is essential, but there a lot of ground to cover.
If you want to be in a calorie deficit, it’s important to know how many calories you need to maintain your weight, taking into account your daily activity levels. This is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). To work out our TDEE, we first need to know our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the amount of calories your body burns whilst resting – this is the absolute minimum amount of calories needed to maintain your bodily functions and keep you alive. Think Sleeping Beauty.
To work out your BMR, use the following formula:
655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
So, lets look at Beth – she’s 13 stone, five foot three and 30 years old, it would look like this:
655 + 791.7 lbs + 63 – 141 = 1368.7
round this up to 1368
NOW to calculate TDEE, we use the following formula:
- If you rarely exercise, multiply your BMR by 1.2
- If you exercise on 1 to 3 days per week, multiply your BMR by 1.375
- If you exercise on 3 to 5 days per week, multiply your BMR by 1.55
- If you exercise 6 to 7 days per week, multiply your BMR by 1.725
- If you exercise every day and have a physical job or if you often exercise twice a day, multiply your BMR by 1.9
Beth exercises 1-3 days weekly, so:
1368 x 1.375 = 1881 kcal
Now we know that in order for Beth to just stay alive, she needs 1368 kcal daily. In order for Beth to maintain her weight she needs 1881 kcal. Therefore in order to lose fat, Beth needs less than 1881 kcal but more than 1368 kcal. So, Beth might choose to aim for 1,400 kcal a day, which would put her in stead to lose approximately 1 lb per week.
Avoid Diet Soft Drinks
Drinking soft drinks – even the diet kind – wont help you with your weight loss goals. When you drink a soft drink with artificial sweeteners, it’s like throwing up a flag to your brain to expect something sugary. Your body is slightly less intelligent than you think – it doesn’t know the difference between cane sugar and stevia. In response to this expected sugar surge, your brain will tell your pancreas to produce insulin – which is how the body regulates sugars. Insulin tells your body to either metabolise the sugar as energy, or use it for fat stores. So, when no sugar arrives, your body’s metabolic process is confused, disrupted and will likely store other foods away as fat to satisfy the insulin’s demands.
Instead, increase your water intake!
Eat More Soluble Fibre
Things like avocados, blackberries, brussels sprouts and legumes. Soluble fibre promotes weight loss by helping to regulate and reduce ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is our ‘hunger hormone’; it stimulates your appetite and promotes fat storage as you intake more food. Soluble fibre fights this hormone, helping you to feel fuller for longer.
Increase your protein intake
It takes more energy to burn protein than any other macronutrient! Protein takes 20-30% of total calories to digest, carbs take around 5-10% and fats come in lowly last at 0-3%.
Meaning that for every 10g of protein you eat, once it’s digested, you are left with 7-8 kcal remaining.
Not only that, but protein is one of the most important nutrients in your body, as its used to build and repair tissues, create enzymes, hormones and build muscle, bones and skin.
If you want to lose weight, aim for around 1.5 to 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight.
So for Beth:
82.5 x 1.5g = 123.75g of protein daily.
Some protein-rich foods are: nuts, eggs, lean meat, low-fat yoghurt, cheese, milk and seeds.
Track Your Intake
Using an app like MyFitnessPal, or even just good old pen-and-paper to track your food intake is invaluable. Firstly, it keeps you on track. But it also keeps you accountable! Working out your macronutrients (how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats you need) and making sure you stay within these parameters will have you shedding fat in no time.
Studies have shown that women who get less than 8 hours of sleep a night tend to have more belly fat than those who get less! We have already spoken about ghrelin, but your body produces another hormone called leptin. Think of leptin as the anti-ghrelin. Whilst ghrelin promotes feelings of hunger, leptin inhibits hunger, and therefore promotes your body’s use of fat stores. While the body is awake, your ghrelin levels rise, and your leptin levels fall, so when you’re sleep deprived you tend to feel hungrier and this leads to overeating. Allowing your body a full 8 hour snooze regulates your hormones and promotes leptin production.