The Lose Your Belly Fat: How to Get a Honed, Toned Stomach
Lots of people want to lose weight and get into better shape but when you press them on what this means, you’ll often find that their main concern is with their stomach. What they want is a flat, toned stomach with a six-pack that will help them to look better both in and out of their clothes.
The only problem is, too many of those same people have little idea of how to go about achieving that goal and they end up barking up the wrong trees as a result. Read on and in this report, we’ll take an in-depth look at everything you need to know to get a honed, toned stomach.
Weight Loss Through Diet
The first thing to recognize is that getting a ripped mid-section involves losing weight. To have highly defined looking abs, it is usually agreed that you need to drop your body fat to below ten percent. It is certainly true that getting your body fat that low will be sure to make your abs visible but actually, you don’t need to go that far.
Abs become visible when the amount of ‘padding’ (fat) on top of them is low enough that they can be seen pressing through the skin above. Get your body fat percentage under 10% and even the most undefined set of abs becomes visible.
However, if you want to get visible abs without going to this extreme, then the other option is to make your abs visible by making them stronger. Stronger abs protrude further and so can be seen through 12 or even 15% body fat. We’ll look at how to get stronger abs in a little bit but for now, know that 12-15% is a much better target and far more achievable than aiming for 10%.
How to Diet Effectively
So how exactly do you go about losing that weight though? There are several answers and the best one is going to depend on your lifestyle and your preferred eating habits. More importantly: it will depend on your biology and your hormonal balance.
A lot of health experts and online ‘gurus’ will recommend that the best way to lose weight is to stick to a diet that is low in calories and then to combine this with extra activity. Extra activity will make you burn fat faster and if you aren’t consuming extra calories then this will create a deficit resulting in you quickly becoming slimmer.
To manage this then, all you need to do is to track the total number of calories you are consuming and then measure the total number of calories you burn off (your ‘Active Metabolic Rate’). As long as the latter is higher than the former, then you should maintain a ‘calorie deficit’ and your body will have no choice but to burn away the unwanted fat stores to keep you moving around.
You can measure your AMR using several calculations but actually, a better option is to use a fitness tracker. This will take into account not only your height, weight, and gender but also the number of daily steps you take, your heart rate at any given time, and a range of other metrics (such as exercise).
You can then track your calories consumed by using an app like MyFitnessPal. This will allow you to simply scan foods through your phone by using the barcode and to that way tally up the number of calories you are eating. Again, as long as the total burned is higher than the total eaten, your body should have no choice by to turn to your stored fat to burn for fuel.
Maintain this deficit every single day and you’ll be able to encourage gradual and regular fat loss.
How to Make This Manageable
One problem with this strategy? It is not at all convenient or practical.
I always say that unless you can stick to a diet plan or training program indefinitely, then it is pointless. Why lose lots of weight for a month or two only to give up and go back to normal and bounce back?
It’s also true that no fitness tracker is completely accurate (the way they measure the heart rate isn’t perfect, to begin with, and that’s just one issue) and that it’s impossible to be completely aware of your caloric intake. Do you think that any two apples have the precise same number of calories?
What about the fact that weight loss is also reliant on hormones? As we’ll see in a minute…
In other words, this is a whole lot of effort for something that isn’t guaranteed to work perfectly anyway!
And with that in mind, you would do much better to find an easier and quicker alternative to counting every single calorie. That alternative? Guestimating.
The best strategy I can recommend is to spend a little time with a fitness tracker and in that way measure your expenditure over several normal days.
At the same time, measure your caloric intake and see what you regularly eat and where the most calories are coming from.
After a week or two weeks, you can stop. Take a look at this information through and then see where the problems are. What are the biggest contributors to calories in your diet? What are the worst culprits? You might surprise yourself to learn that there are just a few very big contributors that add a large number of calories to your diet. If you cut these out, then you can quickly get your calories down somewhat.
Now try to reduce the number of calories that ‘sneak in’ without any real benefit. These are the calories that you can do away with and not notice are missing. One of my favorite examples is soda drinks: many of us drink Coca-Cola regularly as well as others like 7Up and these will add a huge number of calories to the diet over time while not providing us with any sustenance.
Other common culprits include:
- Sugar in tea
- Butter on bread
- Creamy tea
With all this done, you should have a new average intake that is a little more satisfactory and closer to your daily burn. But we’re going to go further by redesigning breakfast and lunch. Take a look at your current breakfast and lunch and look at what the worst culprits are again in terms of calories. What is it about your breakfast that makes it fattening? Likewise for your lunch?
And of course, if you still don’t want to eat the same thing every day, you can always come up with a few replacements for breakfast and lunch with the same number of calories and the same ease of preparation later on!
The Problem With Purely Counting Calories
Counting calories will go a long way to helping you lose your belly but it will only go so far. The big problem with this form of dieting is that it ignores individual differences and the role of our hormones in particular.
There are some people out there who will very jealously protect the notion of restricting calories to lose weight being the be-all and end-all. This is however a short-sighted and ultimately damaging view.
To stop doing that, you can instead start looking at some of the things you can do to fix your metabolism and your hormone balance and you can start playing to the strengths of your body.
For example, if you want to increase testosterone and thus burn fat while building muscle, then a good option is to train with weights. This is particularly effective for women and it will help you to burn fatter even when you are sleeping.
Likewise, it is also important to ensure that you are getting plenty of vitamins and minerals. Many of the supplements that athletes take for weight loss and performance are nothing more than nutrients that come from our food: things like vitamin B complex, vitamin C, coenzyme Q10, PQQ, resveratrol, creatine, etc.
Another tip is to make sure that other aspects of your lifestyle are in order. That means ensuring that you are sleeping properly and that you have a healthy sleep cycle. It means exposing yourself to natural light (vitamin D is often likened to a ‘master key’ for our hormones).
Take into account the natural rhythm and cycle of the hormones. When we wake up, our blood sugar will be incredibly low and this will result in our bodies performing as though they were ‘fasted’. At this point, you will burn more fat because your body will have no other source and you will be producing more adrenaline. If you exercise during this time (called ‘fasted cardio’) then you will be forced to burn more fat than you otherwise would. Likewise, if you can extend this period, then you’ll be able to burn more fat for longer.
There is much more to take into account as well. For instance, when you are tired and lethargic after a long day at work, you will be more likely to want to eat. Likewise, exercising straight after intensive cardio exercise will cause your body to send more energy to your muscles to restore glycogen – rather than storing it as fat.
Find what works for you and consider changing the timing of your meals to accelerate your weight loss.
Training for Abs
On top of all this, you also need to think about exercise and how your training will factor into your ability to develop great abs.
Remember, we aim to make our abs thick enough that they can protrude through 12-15% body fat. This is the same thing that happens when you contract your stomach to ‘tense’ your abs and the six-pack becomes visible as a result.
An ideal form of exercise that can do both these things? Concurrent training. Concurrent training means cardio exercise with resistance layered on top. For example, then, you might use the stationary bike but with the resistance on a high setting so that you have to push to get the wheels to turn. Alternatively, you might use a punching bag or perhaps battle ropes to burn fat while keeping the muscles toned and honed.
On top of this, you should also look at resistance exercises that directly target the abs. These include the likes of sit-ups, leg raises, crunches, etc.
Note though that you aim to challenge the rectus abdominis – the sheet of muscle down the stomach that has the six-pack separations we want to achieve. The purpose of this muscle is to prevent you from folding backward and to help you when you want to fold forward. Note that you only train the abs when you fold at the stomach though. If you do sit-ups and you are folding at the hips, then you are training the wrong body part!
Finally, the obliques are the muscles that run down either side of the ab and that are used for twisting the body and generating torque. To develop these, try adding a twist to your sit-ups and crunches, or using movements that challenge you to move your legs circularly.
Using all three types of training is what will ultimately give you the most defined and well-rounded looking mid-section. Of course, you can’t just focus on the abs though and you should also add in a little extra resistance training for the rest of the body. Try to use compound movements which will trigger the biggest hormonal changes throughout the body and will help you to use your body in a more functional way to utilize the muscles in conjunction with one another.
On top of all this, it’s also important to try to become generally more active. That means your aim is not just to get more workouts in your week, but to be constantly walking, running, cycling, and even just going up and down the stairs.
Take a look at your lifestyle and see where you can fit a few more walks in. This might mean that you get off your bus a stop early and walk the rest of the way into work, or it might mean you make a habit of going for walks with your family at the weekend. Even work like gardening can help, as can starting a hobby that’s activities such as dancing.
So, there you go: that’s how you go about getting into lean shape and flattening those abs. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that from the lifestyle that surrounds your training to the way that you present yourself and makes the most of your new abs. For all that and much more, be sure to check out the full book: The Lose Your Belly Diet!