By James Staring, Fit to Last
If you’re looking for a flatter tummy, or you want to shift some weight from your middle, then here are some tips that will help you torch your unwanted belly fat:
1. Keep carbohydrates unprocessed and only eat them post-exercise
Avoid carbohydrates that are refined i.e. white bread and pasta as these enter your blood stream much faster. They are also absorbed very quickly, and cause an insulin spike followed by a dip in energy (imagine eating a white baguette at 12:00pm for lunch…by 2:30pm you can barely keep your eyes open, and this is why).
Unprocessed carbohydrates (i.e. whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits) increase feelings of satiety (feeling full) and release sugar into the blood stream at a much slower rate. This stabilises blood sugar level, so you don’t get peaks and troughs, and your body composition will likewise remain stable.
According to Dr. John Berardi from Precision Nutrition, your body is more capable of processing carbohydrates directly after exercise. When you finish exercising your body is in the best position possible to process carbohydrates, as you are looking to replace glycogen stores (stored energy at the cellular level) that have been used during exercise.
How will this help you: when you consume excess carbohydrate (and, by extension, if your carbohydrate consumption isn’t paired with activity) these carbohydrates are stored for future use, often as body fat.
2. Keep exercises full body
The more muscle groups you use, the more calories you will burn both during and after exercising. By doing complex movements (i.e. chin-ups) as opposed to isolation movements (i.e. bicep curls) you are using more of your body at once, therefore requiring more energy.
You will burn more calories after exercise due to EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption), and here’s how it works. At rest, your body needs oxygen to fuel all metabolic activity. When you start exercising your body goes from rest to a state of increased metabolic activity, thereby requiring more oxygen. Your body’s delay in responding to this increased oxygen requirement causes ‘oxygen debt’ (you will recognise this because your breathing becomes laboured, and your body temperature increases), or a temporary oxygen shortage in your body’s tissues.
When you finish an exercise session your body ‘pays back’ this oxygen debt through EPOC. Your body needs to consume more oxygen to replenish energy and nutrients, causing more calories to be burned.
How this will help you: EPOC has the additional benefit of increasing your daily energy expenditure as well as your metabolism, turning your body into a calorie-burning furnace, which will assist in losing those inches around the middle.
3. Efficiency leads to frequency
One of the primary excuses for not exercising is lack of time. But if you want to lose belly fat, you must exercise, full stop.
According to a study from Canada’s McMaster University, high intensity interval training (short blasts of exercise followed by short recovery periods) enables you to achieve the same exercise benefits in less time than slogging countless hours on the treadmill. Therefore, you can actually accomplish more by exercising less.
How this will benefit you: High intensity interval training will create a positive knock on effect in terms of EPOC, leading to higher energy demands for recovery and more calories burned for longer.
4. Write down what you eat (including how you feel two hours afterward)
Busy lifestyles often mean that eating has become a required reflex, not a considered decision. To get a better sense of what you are consuming and how it is affecting you, try the following experiment for 30 days…
- Try on an outfit that currently doesn’t fit – take a selfie wearing this outfit.
- Start writing down everything you eat (all meals and all snacks) in a dedicated notepad. Include the time when you are eating. Be diligent and keep this up for 30 days, no exceptions.
- When you finish each meal, set your phone alarm for two hours later, then ask yourself
- What is my energy level like?
- How full do I feel?
- Record the results based on the following criteria:
I have a high energy level/I feel satisfied and not hungry
I have a moderate energy level/I feel just a bit peckish
I have no energy/I could easily gnaw off my own arm I’m so hungry
Review on a weekly basis, and keep in mind the first point about carbohydrate type and timing.
- In 30 days, take the selfie again (ensure that you have incorporated the previous points during the 30-day period leading up to selfie number 2!).
How this will help you: watching your energy level patterns is an effective way to monitor your blood sugar levels. Keep these levels consistent with carbohydrate timing, add in high intensity exercise, and the belly fat you want to be rid of will be a distant memory sooner than you think.