Glance into any commercial gym and you'll probably notice patrons wall to wall performing crunches. Muffin top, gut, beer belly—whatever you call it, losing belly fat definitely tops the to-do lists of most gym-goers.
But too often, the means they employ to reach this goal are counterproductive. People typically use techniques for core exercises similar to those used by meatheads to increase their chest size—multiple repetitions, heavy resistance, and exercise variations. Such techniques are appropriate for programs aimed at increasing muscle size, and they are usually effective for bodybuilders. They just won't reduce that pudge around your middle. Bottom line: stop performing high volume abdominal exercises to lose belly fat.
I am not advising you to stop all core training. Strong, coordinated core muscles are critical for athletic success, and core training prevents low back pain, currently an American epidemic. (Check out STACK's Guide to the Core for a variety of workouts.) I am suggesting you stop exercising to excess with poor form. Instead, try these smart ways to lose belly fat and exercise properly.
No more sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup)
This is difficult, because consuming sugary treats is almost an American birthright. Food marketers' attempts to trick us into eating unhealthy foods doesn't help either. (Learn how to decode sugar content on nutrition labels.) But this is the most important step.
Also, avoid foods that come in wrappers and that make extravagant health claims. (Looking for an easy diet? Try Dieting is Easy, Execution is Hard.)
Simple carbohydrate consumption raises insulin, a fat storage hormone. So if you're serious about losing belly fat, reducing this type of carbohydrate consumption is essential. Many foods in the grocery store are loaded with sugar and carbs. Stick to fruits, vegetables and modest amount of whole grains. (Read about foods that will help you lose belly fat.)
Isometric core exercises, like Planks, promote stability for the low back without stimulating hypertrophy (muscle growth). Keep your goals in mind. If you're seeking only to lose belly fat, ditch the bodybuilder or resistance training program and perform workouts specifically designed to stimulate weight loss, like interval training or high intensity circuits.
Exercise is critical for good health. Performing short duration, high intensity exercises increases oxygen consumption throughout the day, which results in an elevated metabolism and higher caloric burn. Perform short bursts of sprints with minimal rest. Or hop on a bike or treadmill and do eight 20-second sprints with 20 seconds rest. Progress this until you can sprint all-out with 10 seconds rest. This will produce results and save time.
Resistance training increases lean body mass, which in turn increases metabolism. This helps decrease body fat over time because the additional lean muscle uses more energy (i.e., calories). Make sure you're doing full-body movements with proper form!
Don't worry, you don't need a lot of sleep, but sleeping eight hours a night will decrease stress and reduce the amount of ghrelin (hunger hormone) your body releases. Set up a proper sleep schedule, one that allows you at least six hours a night.
Remember belly fat is stubborn and hard to lose. You should not expect immediate results. Following these smart tips can help, but a healthy lifestyle is even more important. Be consistent and make improvements every day.