For many, a great-looking abdomen is the ultimate #fitnessgoal. And why not — it looks great and is a superb confidence booster as well. And while aesthetics is a valid reason to reduce belly fat, there’s a far more important factor we must consider: our health.
Higher abdominal fat poses several health risks
- High blood pressure: Studies show that even moderate weight gain, especially in the abdominal region, can increase blood pressure.
- High cholesterol: High cholesterol means that there is an imbalance of fats circulating in our bloodstream.
- Type-2 diabetes: Fat in the midsection usually tends to surround vital organs that regulate blood sugar levels. This fat may block the action of insulin, which is necessary to lower blood sugar levels, leading to type-2 diabetes in the long run.
- Breathing problems: High abdominal fat may lower one’s lung function by pushing on the diaphragm and chest wall.
- Heart disease: Several studies show that high body fat in general — and high abdominal fat in particular — can lead to cardiovascular diseases.
It’s safe to say that high belly fat has some serious health risks. So let’s try understanding the fat in our bodies better.
Different types of body fat
- Subcutaneous fat or fat that’s beneath the skin: It’s the kind that we can pinch and hold with our fingers. Its accumulation in the body often depends on genetics and lifestyle. And while small amounts of subcutaneous fat is usually harmless and protects us from diseases, a large amount indicates the presence of a second kind of fat — visceral fat.
- Visceral fat or fat that surrounds our organs: It’s not as visible as subcutaneous fat, but can pose a greater health risk. This type of fat can produce inflammatory agents that increase the risk of heart diseases, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and many more problems.
A good-to-know ‘Fat fact’:
When we “burn” fat, we don’t lose fat cells — they merely shrink in size while the number of cells remain the same. Individual fat cells comprise fat tissue. And as you lose weight, you simply burn the fat stored in each of these cells and make them smaller!
Now let’s look at how we can shrink those fat cells and reduce belly fat!
How to reduce belly fat the right way
The first thing we need to know is that we cannot spot-reduce fat — and this means that we can’t target fat loss in the stomach alone. To lose fat around our belly, we need to look at reducing the overall fat in our body. And reducing fat effectively involves a couple of things.
The Right Food
Getting your food right can shrink fat cells by up to 18%, especially subcutaneous fat! For starters, we can figure out our current calorie intake and cut it by a quarter. Make sure your daily intake of food has 30– 35% protein, 40–45% carbs, and 25–30% fat. Did I say fat? Yep! You can include foods with good fat like nuts, avocado, coconut, olive oil — they’re great for fat loss.
A great way to ensure consistency is to enjoy your workouts! Put in at least 30–45 minutes of exercise, five times a week. You can mix it up to include a variety of workouts. It can be anything — brisk walks, HIIT, Dance Fitness, or Strength and Conditioning — as long as you enjoy it!
Interval workouts (or HIIT) workouts alternate between high- and low-intensity workouts. The powerful bursts of energy use more fat as fuel and the rest periods in between to help flush out waste products from muscles.
“Does this mean crunches and sit-ups don’t do anything to belly fat?”
Doing endless crunches and sit-ups will work only on the muscles in the front and sides of your abdomen. They won’t have a direct impact on your belly fat. While ab workouts can strengthen and tone our abdominal muscles, the layer of fat that covers them can only be reduced when we work on reducing our overall body fat.
So don’t write off your ab and core exercises just yet!
Targeting all core muscles can help you get defined abs! So along with sit-ups and crunches, you can include exercises that target your lower back, hips, and upper thighs. Core exercises like the plank can train the muscles to stabilize the spine and pelvis, helping you avoid back pain and improve posture. Planks also burn more calories than crunches because they work more muscles.
A common cause for fat gain is increased stress-induced cortisol levels. This lack of sleep doesn’t allow proper recovery, leading to stress. So if it’s fat you want to lose, make sure you snooze for 6–8 hours!
Our body is designed to move and walking comes naturally to us! So try putting in your daily 15,000 steps at a steady pace along with your workouts.
Our final thoughts
The road to a flat belly may seem complex, but you’ve just taken your first step towards achieving this goal — i.e., understanding what goes behind great-looking abs! And if you’re looking for a fitness routine to further your (belly) fat-loss journey, check out our Belly Burn with Shwe program on the cult.fit app!