You’ll probably never see any 30 minute infomercials on how to tone up your gastrocnemius muscles (calves to you and me) – no sir, abs is where it’s at! Whether you’re male or female and looking to lose overall body weight, a flat stomach, rock hard abs or a full on six pack is probably your ultimate goal.
For years fitness experts have been insisting that it’s necessary to endure various types of rigorous workouts that target the stomach area if we want to lose abdominal fat and get those abs to die for.
But, what if all those situps and crunches are never going to do anything to help? What if we’ve been doing it wrong all these years and there’s a better way?
Ab Exercises Don’t Work
Okay, so that’s not strictly true. There are countless fitness models and sports men and women with super-ripped abs that prove ab exercises do work…at developing your abs.
What ab exercises are not going to do, according to a recent study by Green Med Info, is get rid of belly fat. Two groups of individuals who were not normally very energetic were monitored. Half of the group were simply told to go about their normal daily routine, while the other half were made to perform a series of ab exercises, 5 days a week for 6 weeks.
After six weeks of exercises, concentrating on their abs, it was found that there was little if any change in the level of belly fat on any of the subjects. While there will have no doubt been some positive effect on the individuals’ abdominal muscles, without getting rid of their belly fat there would be no way for anyone to see this.
In fact, if you’re expecting to get rid of all your unwanted fat by simply doing a few exercises every day, you’d better be prepared for disappointment. It’s what you eat not what you do that’s actually the largest factor in determining whether you gain or lose body fat.
That’s not to say that exercise isn’t important, but if you are genuinely wanting to get rid of abdominal fat you need to look at the right combination of diet and exercise.
Look At What You’re Eating
Carry on eating a modern day diet of processed food that’s high in sugars, carbohydrates and saturated fats and it won’t matter how much exercise you do, you’re very unlikely to lose any body fat.
Take a look at what you’re eating and substitute the foods that are bad for you with healthier options. Reduce your intake of carbohydrates, or at least try to consume more of the good carbs, like the whole grains you get in whole wheat bread and pasta; and eat more fiber, which you’ll get from fresh fruit and vegetables like potatoes, bananas and berries.
Stay away from processed food and avoid take away meals. Cook more meals yourself. Also reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, particularly fructose. Fructose is used in soft drinks and processed foods. As well as encouraging fat to build up in your body, this and other sugars have been linked to an increased risk of diabetes.
Just making a few small changes to your diet can increase the positive affects of any exercise you’re doing and help improve your health, and your waistline.
The Best Fat-Burning Exercises
Improving your diet is a great way to start getting rid of that unwanted belly fat, but you can speed up the process with the right kind of exercise. Too many people put all their focus on getting rid of the fat around their stomach. The reality is that you need to look at exercises that are great for burning fat in general – from all over your body.
Of course it’s your belly fat you want to get rid of, but keep in mind that when we put on weight it goes to our stomachs, buttocks and hips first; when we start to lose weight, these tend to be the areas where it comes off first.
As your muscles are capable of burning 3-5 times more energy than fat tissue, high-intensity interval training, designed to improve muscle size and quality, is a great way to help your body turn fat into energy.
Interval training, short bursts of effort with breaks in between, has actually been shown to burn more fat than simply exercising for the same length of time in one session. This means that not only is interval training more effective, you can do it less often and still get the same results.
Following an interval training program specifically designed to help you burn fat for just 20 minutes 2-3 times a week can help you lose belly fat that ab exercises can’t touch.
If you’re happy to build up your muscles a little, as opposed to simply making them more toned and efficient, you might also want to add strength training to your exercise regime. Some people, particularly women, want to reduce their body fat but don’t necessarily want to ‘bulk up’, and it’s not necessary to go that far. However, adding a bit of extra muscle will help increase the amount of fat your muscles burn when you exercise.
Don’t Totally Write Off Ab Exercises!
I know, I’ve spent this whole article telling you that ab exercises aren’t the answer – but there are a couple of very good reasons why you might not want to eliminate them completely.
There are health benefits associated with good strong abdominal muscles; they improve your posture and stability, reduce back strain and help you to hold your gut in. Plus, when you’ve got rid of all that tummy fat you want to make sure there’s a nice toned stomach underneath.
So, if you’re already quite lean and simply want to tighten up your stomach muscles to get that toned, flat stomach, ab exercises are the way to go. However, if you want to lose abdominal fat, take a look at what you’re eating and follow a good fat-burning workout program. That’s what really works!