One popular question among people who want to be fit is: “How to lose the fat around my midsection? I want to get rid of my belly fat.” Can you relate?
This makes sense!
After all, everybody wants a flat stomach, and we get sold every day on products that promise results with minimal effort:
- “Use the ab-coaster 2000 and get a flat stomach in minutes a day!”
- “One weird trick scientists hate to banish belly fat forever”
- “Eat this super food to target belly fat and get toned!”
- “7 minute abs. Who the hell has time for 8-minute abs?”
I have no product to sell you. Instead, I’m going to give you the ACTUAL truth about about 6-pack abs, targeting belly fat, and how to get a flat stomach.
I promise: by the end of this article you’ll know everything you need to know about a flat stomach, and a strategy to make it happen. The rest is up to you…
You already have abs. You just can’t see them!
The “get abs” and “target belly fat” industry is booming.
Whatever the product, workout, or service is, they are trying to sell you quick fixes for a flat stomach that will not get you a flat stomach quickly. That is, unless you also make another BIG change, which is what other people focused on getting the above results (without any ab product, routine, or service), but I’ll get to that shortly!
Here are the things you need to know moving forward:
Everybody has abdominal muscles. Yep, even you! They might be tiny, or weak, but everybody has 6-pack abs. They are just hidden under a layer of fat. Depending on how big you are, your strong abs could be buried under a lot of fat. No judgment, just reality.
Fat does NOT turn into muscle – they are two different things. Like oil and water, fat sits on top of muscle. You could have ridiculously strong abs ready to pop out, but if they are buried under a lot of fat, no amount of exercise will give you a flat stomach or make those abs pop, because it doesn’t address the fat on top of your muscles.
A flat stomach only appears when you have a low enough bodyfat percentage. The reason there are 1,000,000,000 ab workouts on YouTube is because people know there’s BIG money in the ab-industry for people desperate to get a flat stomach! And ab exercises are much easier to market as exciting than “eat better, get strong, move more, for a long long time.”
So, if you are somebody who tortures yourself for 30 minutes a day in the various ab machines or you’re doing 1000 crunches every day, it’s not doing what you think it’s doing. I’m giving you permission to stop cold turkey.
You CANNOT target or spot-reduce belly fat!
I REPEAT: YOU CANNOT SPOT REDUCE FAT ON YOUR BODY!
Next, you’re going to ask me (I promise I’m psychic): “Okay, if targeting areas of my body with certain exercise doesn’t make me lose fat in that area, then how DO I lose belly fat?”
Depending on your age, weight, sex, and genetic makeup, your body will lose fat in a certain order, from certain parts of your body, that you can’t control.
Historically, men tend to carry more fat in their stomachs and butt as they get fatter, and women tend to carry more fat in their thighs, hips, and stomach as they gain fat.
The opposite holds true during weight loss. As you lose weight, your body will lose fat in certain areas in a certain order based on your genetics and how your particular body type chooses to shed body fat.
Yes. That means we need to put a great plan in place to lose ALL fat, knowing that as long as we lose enough of it, we’ll ALSO lose belly fat along the way.
A Deep Dive Into Your Nutrition.
Following the strategies here will get you a flat stomach (if you actually do the work), but it won’t happen overnight, and it won’t be effortless. You’ll need to change your nutritional relationship with food and focus on a few key things:
1) Consume fewer calories than you are currently consuming. In order to do that, you need to know how much you currently eat, you need a plan to eat less, and then you need to track how consistent you are with that plan.
KNOW HOW MUCH YOU’RE EATING: Use an app like MyFitnessPal or DailyPlate to diligently track your calorie intake (I bet you’ll be surprised that you’re eating more than you realized), and then adjust your numbers down from there.
We’re looking to cut back on calorie-high, nutrient-poor food first. Candy. Carbs. Sugar. Then move to counting calories, and then maybe onto more advanced/involved tactics like tracking your macronutrients and weighing and measuring food.
If you’re looking for big wins here, ditch the liquid carbs. Soda, gatorade, fruit juice, and alcohol are calorie dense, nutrient poor, and loaded with sugar/empty calories. We’ve had people in our community lose 50+ lbs (20+ kg) simply by cutting out liquid calories from their diet.
2) Consume more vegetables. We’re talking the leafy greens and similar vegetables in this case. No, pizza is not a vegetable. Recommended daily intake is 2 ½ – 3 cups of vegetables a day. Depending on your current intake, this might sound absurd.
I know some people who average zero a day.
You may be one of those people currently eating zero vegetables – something you don’t need to track to know! OK, now let’s add some veggies into the day.
3) Eat better carbs at better times. Now we’re starting to get a bit more complex. When you are eating carbs, aim for starchy carbs – sweet potatoes, rices, squashes and such. Look for carbs that aren’t processed or liquid. The ingredient list should just be that item (e.g., “sweet potato”, not “cultured wheat starch solids, vinegar, soy lecithin”).
When we do have carbs, the body best handles them after a workout. The energy depleted and the hormonal changes that occur after a tough workout is the best environment to introduce carbs.
A note on low carb diets: With low carb diets, a lot of junk carbs (sweets, breads, alcohol) are also restricted in the process. This is good, and often leads to weight loss. Carbohydrates also hold water in the body, so we’ll also see water loss (and subsequent weight loss). All of this is exciting and people think “I’m never touching a carb again!”
However, your brain uses glucose and your muscles use glycogen as fuel sources. We get this glucose and glycogen from carbohydrates, so some carbohydrates are good.
We are NOT going to be talking about extremely-low carb diets – like a Ketogenic diet – here (which produce ketone bodies, which the brain then uses for fuel), as these are more extreme diets and one should seek advice from a doctor or nutritionist first. That’ll be a more advanced topic for another day.
4) Protein, protein, and more protein! The one constant in your nutritional strategy should be protein. Animal sources at every meal. This helps conserve the muscle you have as calories are reduced and you start to lose weight.
Just like vegetables, this can be as simple or as complex as you want it. Maybe you’re just making sure there’s a protein source at each meal (if it was lacking before). Maybe you’re figuring out rough portion sizes. Maybe you’re taking it to the max and actually weighing your food. The point is, you should be including it throughout the day and week.
A note on vegan/vegetarian diets: This is another topic that entire books and articles are written about, so we won’t dive into them here. Of course, it is absolutely possible to build muscle or lose fat on a vegan/vegetarian diet. Certainly you can get to a flat stomach, you just need to be diligent with your calorie tracking and macros, like we recommend you do above.
Just like you can be an unhealthy paleo person, you can also be an unhealthy vegetarian!
5) Healthy Fats! If you are cutting back calories from junky carbs, restricting your carb intake to after your workouts, and you’re loading up on vegetables, then you might struggle to eat enough calories every day.
This is good, but too few calories can also be detrimental to progress.
Enter the fats. You’ve already got protein and veggies in the meal; healthy fats will round out a good meal. Avocados, olive oil, mixed nuts and the like are great sources. But, but, but! Understand that these healthy fats are calorically dense, so snacking on them all day tends to blow your calorie count way up (see #1).
Exercise: The other side of a mis-weighted coin
Now, because you’re both smart and curious (and good looking, and modest), you’re putting it all together: “If I can’t target belly fat, and food is 80-90% of the puzzle, what’s the other 10-20% of the equation?”
Weight loss pills and horse tranquilizers!
Let’s lay down some ground rules here:
RULE #1: Don’t do another crunch for the rest of eternity. The fat on your belly doesn’t give a flying f&*$ how many crunches you do.
Remember: no amount of exercise will give you a flat stomach! You have to eat in a way that allows your body to burn more calories on a daily basis than it consumes, and your body fat percentage will start to decrease.
Why you don’t need to do another crunch ever again: Are you sitting down right now? Do a crunch right there. With a crunch we’re training those muscles to be strong in that rounded back position – reinforcing the terrible slouching posture and problems we see from prolonged sitting. Don’t worry, we’ll give you some alternatives below.
Starting today, you are no longer allowed to touch a single ab machine at the gym.
Yes, I hear you when you say “I can feel the burn in my abs when I do ab routines! That means it’s working!” These routines might very well be making your abs stronger.
What I’m telling you is that because targeting your abs will not give you a flat stomach, any time spent in the gym on your abs is time NOT being spent focused on more efficient exercises that will actually give you faster results.
Think of it like an “ab opportunity cost”: When you do an ab exercise, your body will burn some calories like any physical activity. However, if doing 15 minutes of crunches burns 100 calories, and doing 15 minutes of certain OTHER exercises burns 500 calories…you’d be a fool to do the crunches, right?
You’re a busy person (I know it, everybody is), and you only have so much time you can dedicate to fitness. Which means if you ONLY have 30 minutes to work out, you should be focusing those 30 minutes on BIG
WIN exercises, not isolating your abs. It’s bad math.
Pick the highest leverage movement and get the hell outta there!
Rule 2: Do big, strong, compound movements: I’m proud of my physique, because I work hard to look like I do. However, my flat stomach isn’t because I focus on it for training. My training is focused on getting stronger, and the abs are a side effect.
When people ask me, “What are the best ab exercises?” my answer confuses them:
Squats. Deadlifts. Lunges. Push-ups. Pull-ups. Dips. Rows. Going for long walks. And eating better.
The compound movements I mention above recruit nearly every muscle in your body, including your abs/core. Because they recruit and require so many muscles, your body will burn a TON more calories and have to rebuild more muscle after you train than if you spent your time doing only ab exercises.
Sure, if you have unlimited time and you are desperate to do ab exercises, you can do those AFTER you do your strength training workout, AFTER you’ve got your nutritional strategy locked in. But only at the end. And I’ll share with you some good core-strengthening exercises in the next section.
However, I would keep my focus on big, compound movements – regardless of your age or sex – and do those first and foremost, and get really strong with them. Then, and only then, if I had extra time, I was a masochist, and I also had my nutritional strategy together, I would do ab focused exercises.
Now, having said all of that and you still want to do ab exercises, be my guest.
Read the full article here to find out more: https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/can-you-actually-banish-belly-fat/
Here’s also another resource you can look into:
Here’s a related video to inspire you further into flattening your tummy:
Are you now really ready to lose your belly fat?