One of the most pernicious myths ever to be perpetuated by TV infomercials is the notion that weight-loss can be achieved via "spot toning." That is, if you've got excess fat around your waistline, you can exercise the muscles around your waist (i.e. do sit-ups) to get rid of it. This just isn't how it works. (Likewise, women with excess fat around their hips are not targeting hip fat-loss by doing hip flexors, leg raisers, or some other hip exercise that requires an elastic band that costs $19.95).
The truth is, your body responds to exercise by turning stored fuel into energy required to sustain the activity. In the case of a man doing sit-ups, his body is as likely to break down and utilize fat stored in his hips or legs, as it is to use fat stored around his belly. (Though the exercise WILL tone the existing muscle fibers around his waist, which is a separate issue.) In fact, our bodies typically burn fat in a preferential manner, using fat from some areas (arms, face, chest, legs) more readily than it will use fat stored in other areas (for men, typically, the belly; for women, the hips and thighs).
Okay? We're clear now? For fat-loss, put the ab roller away. And that weird "electro shock" ab thing, too.
So what is the answer? How do you get rid of the belly fat? Here are two much more effective ways:
1: Go The Distance!
Increasing your heart rate by doing cardio and/or aerobic exercise is one key way to reducing both the deep belly fat (omental fat) and the flabby outer layer (subcutaneous fat). In a recent study done by the Division of Cardiology at the Duke University Medical Center, overweight individuals who cycled, jogged or did the elliptical machine for an optimal level of about 3 hours a week in a 6-month trial period showed a significant decrease in waist size and belly fat. The results were consistent as long as the individual's pace was moderately intense.
Goal: Up-tempo cardio / aerobic exercise 3 hours a week.
- Get a pedometer: take at least 10,000 steps a day.
- Walking briskly for just two hours per week is a great start!
- Build your cardio stamina: 80% of your maximum heart rate (calculated by 220 minus your age) for 20 minutes three times a week. For example, the target for a fifty year old would be 0.8 times (220 minus 50), which equals 136 beats per minute. This can also be measured through the intensity of your cardio workout. An individual should always exercise at about a seven or eight (70 †" 80%) of his or her maximum level.
2: Go Green!
And red, and purple, and orange and all of the colorful fruits and vegetable sources of a potent
. Numerous studies have shown flavonoids to be powerful compounds that have shown promise in helping to prevent cancer, heart disease and various other physical ailments when consumed. In addition, in a 14-year study, flavonoids actually showed a capacity for preventing and reducing belly fat. In the study conducted by the Nutrition and Toxicology Research Institute of Maastricht University, it was shown that certain types of flavonoids called catechins helped to curb belly fat by improving the body's metabolic profile. So where specifically can you get flavoniods from? The individuals in the study primarily consumed most of their flavonoids from various fruits and vegetables such as pears, apples, onions, peppers and green tea. Research has shown that green tea combined with moderate exercise may target belly fat and trim your waist size better than just doing exercise alone.
In one particular study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it showed that obese men and women who exercise for a period of about 3 months lost an increased amount of belly fat if they also drank green tea on a daily basis. The
seemed to boost overall
and triglyceride control in the study group as well. The recommended amount of green tea needed to have this effect? 625 milligrams of catechins combined with a modest amount of caffeine every day (roughly 7 cups daily). Scientists think that catechins (a type of flavonoid) in green tea may actually reduce
by acting on enzymes that influence the body's calorie- and fat-burning mechanisms. And subsequently, catechins and caffeine together may boost the body's metabolism.
Slentz, C. A., Aiken, L. B., Houmard, J. A., Bales, C. W., Johnson, J. L., Tanner, C. J., Duscha, B. D., Kraus, W. E., Journal of Applied Physiology 2005 Oct;99(4):1613-1618.
Hughes, L. A. et al., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2008 Nov;88(5):1341-1352.
Maki, K. C. et al., Journal of Nutrition 2009 Feb;139(2):264-270.
Roizen, M. F., Oz, M.C., You On A Diet: The Owner's Manual For Waist Management New York Free Press Publishing, 2006.