Im back!!!!! I hope everyone had a great X-mas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa.... It is New Years Eve! As I discussed last week , I am very pumped for ’09 and am ready to get it going.
I went home for a week to see my family and friends and brought back one topic that I figured I would discuss. As bad as this is, my dad showed me a Prevention magazine that promised a flat belly in 14-days. For some reason he won’t listen to me about fitness, nutrition or anything in that genre, but he’ll soak in the Prevention info. Not to discredit the magazine by any means, but I know my dad. I know his lifestyle and am a product of him so have an idea of his genetics and what works for us. So I would guess that I have a little better idea of what would work for him, compared to a women's magazine. Anyway lets get into the topic that bothered me.
This article claimed a flat belly in 14-days with 4 or 5 exercises. These were all abs/oblique/”core” exercises that were to be done on a stability ball. It had a knee tuck, a pike and some other ones that I can’t recall off the top of my head. I like the exercises, I think they are good to do. However, it kills me that magazines consistently promise a flat belly simply by doing a few ab exercises. I have two major issues with this:
With all the books, magazines and “fitness experts” talking about a flat belly or losing weight with exercise, we usually miss a major topic. This is a topic that without addressing it you are very likely to struggle, if not completely fail in your weight loss adventures. What is this magical topic I am speaking of? Nutrition, not diet, but nutrition. Without proper nutrition you are bound to be left spinning you wheels in the mud. Working super hard but going nowhere. If anyone tells you that a hard workout a few times a week is all you need, they are complete morons. Exercises is very, very important, but if you don’t have your nutrition in line your screwed! I don’t want to get into huge detail here but I will say a few things. Unless you are confident that you can adapt a health nutritional lifestyle, DO NOT GET ON A DIET!
Why do I say this? I have seen countless people get on an extremely strict diet, they lose 10, 15, 20 pounds. They are happy, they met their goal, they rave about the diet they were on. A few months later you see them and they have gained the weight back, not only back but they put on even more than before. This happens for multiple reasons but the main one is that they have starved for a month or so and crush food when they get off the diet. Like I said earlier, if you are confident you can adapt a healthy nutritional lifestyle post-diet, than go for it. I understand that sometimes you need to lose fast or want to drop a few percent in body fat. I have done it and will likely do it again, but I know that when I am done I will go back to my normal diet which will keep my maintaining my weight, or in my case the body comp I was looking to obtain.
So if we want to lose weight, what is the smartest thing to do? Cut your biggest meal of the day in half. If your biggest meal is breakfast (I would be shocked) than don’t cut that one in half. I am guessing the vast majority has a big dinner. So cut that in half and depending on how big it is you will be cutting out a few hundred calories a day. It is all about living at your weight loss goals rather than visiting them. By gradually losing weight with a diet that is sustainable you will be much better off. Sure it may take a while longer to lose that initial weight but the most important thing is to get it to stay off.
Another issue I have is the myth that if you work a certain muscle group, the fat in that area will fall off. People ask me all the time to work their abs more because they want to lose belly fat. To a certain (very, very small) point, there is some truth to this. But there is no way that if you sit and do 1,000 crunches a day your stomach is going to flatten up. The thing you have to do is get the fat cells off that layer of muscle you have built. Your midsection can only get so hard and unlike many other muscles, it is extremely hard to get actual size on your abs.
So what is our cure? Doing multi-joint, total-body exercises that will burn overall calories and help shrink those fat cells. Before any muscle becomes defined, you have to shrink those fat cells down and get rid of some fascia. Look at powerlifters, they are extremely strong people that have very hard muscle. You may never know this in some of them because they eat like crazy. They are constantly stuffing their faces with pizza, pasta and burgers in attempt to gain weight. They usually have big bellies but can lift a car and walk with it. This proves that just because your muscles are strong they aren’t necessarily defined and bulging out.
Multi-joint is the key here, this means that multiple joints are moving and being utilized while performing an exercise. A bicep curl is not a multi-joint exercise, a squat is. Which leads me to my next tip. The best way to get your belly fat to come off, just might be in your legs. Your legs hold the largest muscle groups in your body. The larger the muscle group you work, the more calories you burn. The more calories you burn, the better chance you have to lose weight. Losing weight equals body fat disappearing and that stomach tightening up.
I know people look for the quick and easy all the time, this is why magazines produce this stuff. The truth is that it usually isn’t easy. Staying in good shape is hard, especially the older you get. In the end, I told my dad the only way he is going to get a flat belly is to quit putting down a few beers every night and chasing them up with chips and peanuts ;)