It is so easy to zero in on our waist line and how much fat we are carrying around our midsection. As discouraging as it can be to constantly try to lose weight in this area, just remember that EVERYONE struggles to do that same. And if it makes you feel better, it is extremely rare to achieve and maintain a six-pack.
Our bodies weren’t made to have low-enough body fat percentages where we can see abs; humans need fat to protect vital organs and keep our body temperature warm during cooler months (why do you think we tend to pack on a little more weight during winter?).
But if you are in a position where you want to get to a healthier weight, and see a reduction in fat mass and an increase in lean muscle mass–especially around the midsection–keep reading.
First, let’s talk about nutrition.
A lot of people REALLY like to make this part complicated: you can only eat cabbage soup, completely cut out all fruit, eat like our ancestors did, and a whole slew of other things that circle around on social media and other fitness platforms. These suggestions are absolutely ridiculous, and I promise you don’t need to do anything crazy to get the results you want. I’m going to address some things you should keep in mind if you want to cut some inches around your waist.
You don’t need to go on an intermittent fast. Fanatics of fasting will swear this is the key to losing weight and blasting belly fat, but that is just not the case. When it comes to losing weight, there isn’t much evidence to support that intermittent fasting is an effective weight loss tool. Weight loss experienced from fasting is more so linked to a reduction in calories, not the fasting itself. Instead, I would recommend just focusing on eating 3 meals, and 2 snacks a day. These 3 meals should consist of a healthy protein, fat, and carb, to ensure you are not losing muscle. Mind Pump’s Quick Meals for Fitness & Health offers simple, nutrient-rich meals you can enjoy, guilt-free.
Do not neglect certain nutrients. Circling back to macros, do not demonize protein, fat, or carbs. We can argue that carbs aren’t necessary, but it is still considered an incredible source of energy that keeps our mind focused, and our bodies primed for intense activity. If you have no idea how much of each macronutrient you need to consume daily (or you’re not even sure what a macronutrient is), you can check out this article to help you get started!
Stop with the cheat meals. I know this sounds crazy if you’re trying to lose belly fat, but hear me out. The moment we start to categorize certain foods as “good” or “bad”, or that you can only eat your favorite foods one day a week, the likelihood you’ll start craving these foods, or go overboard when you do consume them, goes up. This happens so often; we eat “clean” during the week, then over the weekend, our nutrition takes a complete 180. Not only will this set you back on reducing belly fat, but it will continue you on a path of poor and unhealthy eating behaviors. This tends to also lead to yo-yo dieting, which severely disrupts your metabolism. Instead of cheat meals, or cheat days, eat the things you enjoy, but in moderation. You’ll be much less likely to overindulge!
When it comes to how fitness can help us reduce belly fat, you’ll be disappointed to know that as wonderful as fitness and strength training is, there really isn’t a magical solution to work it in your favor.
We can not control where we lose fat; we can lift weights that emphasis certain muscle groups, and therefore build muscle in certain areas of the body, but that’s about as much as we can do.
The best solution is pretty straightforward: do 3 to 4 full-body resistance training workouts a week, and aim for 10,000 steps a day. That’s it.
Some people try to do more by working out every day, or doing intense cardio to the point where they are about to pass out; this is not sustainable, and your body will just inch closer to sustaining an injury.
For long-term results, and a better body composition, you need to increase your lean muscle mass to improve your metabolism. When this occurs, you burn more body fat. To put on muscle, you want to be in an 8 to 15 rep-range (this depends on your current fitness level), and you should be doing at least 6, total exercises that will include movements for the back, chest, quads, hamstrings, core, and 1 or smaller muscles like the biceps or shoulders.
If you need a little more guidance on how to structure your workouts, I really like recommending MAPS Anabolic as a great starting point if you want to lift weights.