In a world obsessed with body image, it’s little surprise we often feel hung up on our belly fat. After all, a ‘six pack’ is practically synonymous with the mainstream media’s idea of health. However, here at Oatein, we’re all about attainable fitness goals. For health reasons, losing belly fat is a good idea – excess stomach fat is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes.
For some of us, attaining a six-pack or just shedding belly fat can be harder than any other goal. And for some, it may not even be that beneficial (look at professional strongmen, they’re not shy about having a bit of tummy.)
However, learning about why it’s so hard to lose belly fat and what you can do about it is always a good thing – knowledge is power. Whether you’re currently feeling burned out on your fitness goals because you’re not seeing a change in your stomach or you’re just curious as to why you can’t get your abs to show, let’s talk you through the best exercises to lose belly fat and the science behind the bump.
Remember: weight loss is a simple formula of calories in vs calories burned. If you consume fewer calories than your body burns in a day, you’ll lose weight. If you’re already aware of this and working out but just can’t seem to shake the belly fat, read on.
Why is it so hard to lose belly fat?
If you’re a woman, you’re already at a slight disadvantage in the losing belly fat game. Not only are you carrying agreater percentage of body fat, on average, than men, but you’re also likely to have less testosterone to help fuel anabolic processes in your body. As women age and their oestrogen levels drop, the body focuses on storing fat cells in the belly instead of hips or thighs.
The fat cells in your tummy are more resistant to lipolysis (the process by which fat is broken down in your body) – so fat there is factually just harder to shift than say, your legs or arms.
We’ve discussed metabolic rate in other articles, but it’s essentially the rate at which your body burns calories. A lower metabolic rate means you burn fewer calories, so you’ll have to either consume less or increase your exercise. Ageing, low muscle mass and other factors can lower your metabolic rate – so try to establish yours and ensure you’re eating fewer calories than you burn.
Regardless of gender, there are also lifestyle factors at play. Excess sugars contribute to body fat, so try and reduce them wherever possible. Stress and overtraining both increase cortisol levels – a hormone that has been linked to storing fat. Higher cortisol levels also disrupt sleep, which in turn affects your mood and keeps cortisol high, creating a vicious circle.
Lifting all of the weights in the world won’t make you lose belly fat. Cardiovascular exercise is a must for forcing the body to burn fat, but you’ll also need to vary the intensity to see results. Conversely, you won’t see results if all you do are crunches and ab exercises – belly fat sits above any abdominal muscles so you need to lose the fat to see the results.
That means slow jogging might not cut it – but what will?
Best exercises to lose belly fat
Remember: more muscle mass means you burn more calories, so it’s actually easier to lose weight if you do lift some weights. However, the real results come from combining intense cardio with key core exercises such as:
The king of the school gymnasium days, a burpee is an exercise that can reduce even the fittest athlete to a sweaty mess. They involve dropping into a press-up position, hopping up onto your feet and jumping into the air before dropping back into press-up. Do more than 20 in a row and you’ll immediately gain our respect.
If you’ve got a kettlebell to hand, swings are a great way to engage your core but also stimulate the general cardiovascular system. Stand in a squat position with your back straight, gripping the handle of the kettlebell – then swing it up to your chin and lower it back.
Plyometric movements that involve multiple muscle groups increase the overall recruitment of your body’s energy reserves so burn more fat. Tuck jumps are a good example of this and as simple as they sound – just stand on the spot, jump up, raise your knees high and then repeat when you land. Do them with a ‘bounce’ and no break to see how quickly they can leave you sweating.
A popular exercise in the gym and for good reason, mountain climbers are easy to get started with but can be as hard as you make them. From the press-up position, raise your knee to your chest and then when you return it, raise your other one. You want to feel like you’re ‘running’ but in the press-up position.
HIIT interval training
We’ve discussed this before, but HIIT intervals are some of the best ways to supercharge your metabolism and give it a fat-burning boost. Take a look at this article to see an Oatein HIIT workout we designed to give you all the exercise you need in a short amount of time.
Well, there you have it. Combine the knowledge you’ve gained with the exercises above and plenty of high-intensity cardio and you should start to see results. Don’t do millions of sit-ups and crunches if you’re not doing heavy cardio as you’ll only grow disheartened. If you need a healthy pick-me-up during this process, try our protein bars as a great protein-rich snack to fuel your workouts.