Did you know it takes approximately 250,000 crunches to burn one pound of fat? Do all the abdominal exercises you want, but if you truly want six-pack abs, take a look at what you eat and how you train cardio-wise. Diet and cardio are the biggest influencers of belly fat. (Pick up some Smart Tips on How to Lose Belly Fat.)
Shedding belly fat is important not just for your appearance but for your health. Excessive belly fat has been linked to illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
You don’t have to starve yourself, you just have to make a few changes to the way you eat and the foods you consume. (Are There Foods to Help You Lose Belly Fat?) Here are a few tips:
- Reduce your calories/portion sizes by about 20%
- Eat five to six smaller, more frequent “mini-meals” throughout the day
- Drink lots of water. Aim for at least a half-gallon a day to accelerate the fat burning process (See Talking Water: Facts and Tips on Staying Hydrated.)
- Reduce carbohydrate consumption by about 20%. Be smarter with the carbs you eat; aim for whole grains and high fiber choices. (Balancing Your Training Diet)
- Increase protein intake to at least half a gram per pound of body weight
- Don’t reduce dietary fats, but make sure they are the mono- and poly-unsaturated varieties, like those found in olive oil, nuts, and salmon
Ab exercises are great to strengthen your core, but alone they do little to burn off the layer of fat covering those muscles. Vigorous, high-intensity exercise is the key to burning belly fat. These types of workouts take your fat into the bloodstream where it can be used for energy. What qualifies as vigorous training? High-intensity interval training, or HIIT.
A cardiovascular exercise that alternates between intervals of high- and low-intensity activity, HIIT can be done regardless of the type of cardio you prefer—walking, running, treadmill, elliptical, stair-climber or circuit training—as long as you are using a 3:1 rest to work ratio. As your conditioning improves, you can reduce it. Try this 10-minute HIIT approach:
- Warm up
- Divide 10 minutes into five two-minute intervals
- Go as hard as you can, keeping as aggressive a pace as you can maintain, for 30 seconds
- Immediately reduce your pace to light/slow for 90 seconds, but don’t stop. (That’s your first two-minute interval.)
- Repeat this interval (30 seconds hard/90 seconds easy) four more times.
- Cool down
Additional Fat Loss Tips
- Get your sleep: People who get six to seven hours of sleep per night put on less belly fat over time than those who sleep five or fewer hours per night, or eight or more hours per night
- Reduce stress: Especially if it serves as a trigger for overeating. Regular exercise is a great stress reducer.