As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.
I want to follow up on my article below "The Real Skinny on Losing Fat", and add some more relevant information about weight loss. Many articles have been written lately (including the most recent Pilates Style magazine) about how exercise isn't very effective for those who mainly need to lose weight. The research on this subject is not very convincing as the exercise used for the studies was limited to relatively short bouts of aerobics. Nevertheless, common sense is all you need to agree that exercise compares poorly to diet when it comes to adding or losing weight. For example, to burn 3,500 calories, which is equivalent to 1 pound of fat, a 120lb person would need to run at 8mph (7.5min/mile) pace for 4.78 hours. To consume 3,500 calories, all you have to do is drink a Grande Skim Chai Tea and eat a blueberry scone every morning for five days in a row. No comparison! Cutting back on high-calorie food is a lot easier to do than running for hours. If you only walk, you'd have to walk at 3mph for nearly 20 hours to burn 3,500K! So, let me be clear - exercise doesn't trump diet when it comes to weight loss. That being said, if done properly, the best way to lose weight is a combination of both diet and exercise, and this method is proven to be the only effective and healthy way to keep weight off for good. My article on fat burning includes sensible diet guidelines, but the main point is that to really burn fat to look leaner, you have to charge your metabolism through specific exercise, as detailed below.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.
The Most Often Asked Question in Fitness
What is the best way to get a flat stomach?
Boy, if I had a quarter for every time I've been asked that question. The real answer to the above question is a four part solution:
1) Although you don't have to be super lean to achieve a flat belly, it certainly helps. So, the best way to lose fat around the stomach area, and the rest of your body, is by doing regular aerobic exercise. Contrary to what alot of trainers and infomercials for ab machines tell you, there is no such thing as a spot reducing exercise. So, to burn fat in one area, you got to burn fat in the whole body. And the best way to do that is with aerobic exercise. This is a fact that has to be accepted. Now, to get yourself leaner you will need to do cardiovascular exercise at least 4-5 times a week, with at least one of those workouts being for over 45 minutes at moderate intensity (65-70% of maximum THR) (heart rate calculator) to initiate greater fat burning as a percentage of total calories burned. See, studies have shown that up to that duration, the body's metabolism will still use carbohydrates in the bloodstream for the majority of the energy needed. After 45 minutes, the metabolism starts to shift to fat molecules for energy for the majority of energy needed. It is never 100% from fat, more like changing from 75/25% carbs to fat, to 30/70%. The difference is significant. The more often you do longer periods of aerobic exercise, the quicker the body will adapt to fat as it's preferred energy source for exercise. Highly trained marathoners can start to burn fat as their primary source of energy within 5 minutes of running.
2) The next part in planning your aerobic workouts is to make one of the other workouts include "intervals", which are several higher intensity periods of at least 1 minute in duration, at or near 85-90% Maximum THR* (see above). To do this, first warm up at moderate speed for 5 minutes. Then, increase the speed, incline, or resistance to a level where you can maintain it for 1 minute. After the interval, give yourself 2 minutes at slower speed to recover. Repeat three times. After a few weeks, try adding another interval. Then, after another few weeks, try increasing the duration of the interval 15-30 seconds. It doesn't matter what form of aerobic exercise you do although for fastest results, I recommend running if you are able to since it tends to burn the most calories per minute next to Cross-Country skiing.
3) Do Pilates exercises under the supervision of an experienced instructor. There is actually a technique of letting the abdominal sink in without force that will teach you to reflexively (unconsciously) draw the stomach in for natural support. All other forms of abdominal exercises are not taught this way and, while they may make your stomach area stronger and harder, they can actually make the area protrude out. You can check out the Yogilates video programs and New York Style Pilates programs for instructions on this technique.
4) You don't need to diet, but you do need to eat and drink moderately and sensibly. Two things that you need to watch out for are carbonated beverages, even diet ones, as they tend to bloat the stomach and put outward pressure in the intestines. The other is salt an salty foods. Salt makes the cells in your body retain water, increasing their size. Avoid packaged snack foods, especially chips, pretzels, crackers, and watch out for any canned or jarred sauces such as pasta sauces.
So there you have it. These four steps are the only sure way to get a flat stomach area.
Lastly, if you would like a more complete and personalized fitness and lifestyle program, feel free to contact me directly.
MFA, Certified Pilates Instructor and ACE Certified Medical Exercise Specialist, Dancer/Choreographer, Triathlete, Veteran Yoga Practitioner. Also educated in economics and environmental science