Flat abs have greater significance than merely gratifying our pride in our appearance. In fact, the size and shape of our belly gives away more information than we would like about our lifestyle. If the circumference around our navel EXCEEDS 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men then that spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E!!!
It is a potential sign of insulin resistance and excess bad cholesterol. You are at risk for type 2 diabetes, heart trouble and even cancer. It is best to start making daily improvements while you still can. Rushing for the nearest treadmill is usually everyone’s go-to solution to get a flat stomach. Sometimes that is just not enough. Despite daily exercise and calorie restriction, if a flat stomach still eludes you and you find yourself frustrated by lack of results; the following could be some of the reasons responsible for it.
1. Not enough muscle:
With age and a sedentary lifestyle we lose muscle mass. Muscles are high maintenance, they demand a lot of calories to prevail and keep all your internal organs working efficiently to service them. Keeping your muscles alive and kicking through weight training will control your bad cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity and rev up your metabolism to awaken the original fat burning mechanism of your body.
If you are extremely overweight, incorporating a basic weight training program 3-5 times a week will ensure your body gets stronger as you lose pounds. Your endurance will improve and you will be able to work harder to burn more calories in less time. Muscles lead to stronger bones, stronger immunity and improve physical co-ordination. They mobilize your body to do explosive movements that involve jumping around, while staying injury free by protecting your joints.
If you primarily resort to compound movements using free weights and body weight exercises along with a clean diet, it is possible to lose belly fat without doing even a single crunch or any abs isolation exercises at all!!
2. Cardio Overkill:
Weight loss is all about creating a calorie deficit. Hence, some amount of daily cardio makes sense because it burns calories. Most people resort to jogging or power walking to get started.
Walking is particularly a good start for people with limited function or those who are extremely overweight. But no matter at what age or weight you are, if all you do is cardio and don’t even think about trying out anything that builds strength like Yoga, Pilates, weight training or body weight resistance exercises; you are actually conditioning your body to store MORE fat!!
That is right. Following the same exercise routine every single day gets your body used to it so that it starts conserving fuel as stubborn fat to prevent burning as many calories as it used to when you got started. Long steady state cardio has its benefits. But it should not be done every day. Too much cardio actually promotes aging by creating oxidative stress and joint inflammation inside the body.
The best way around it is to create muscle confusion by changing exercise routines as frequently as possible. Switch it up every alternate day with Yoga, weights or circuit training. For instance, doing as many circuits of pushups, squats, leg raises and jumping jacks, as possible, within 20 minutes will challenge your body in more ways than 60 minutes of power walking would.
3. Poor sleep quality:
Whatever exercise you do and whatever health foods you eat during the day, their benefits are delivered only when you sleep. Our body naturally produces a hormone called melatonin as soon as it starts getting dark to ensure stable sleep cycles. It is in the presence of this hormone that your body burns fat, repairs muscle and reinforces your immune system. If you have erratic sleeping hours, sleep late at night or have a night job; the body is unable to execute the recovery process to the fullest. This in turn leads to more belly fat.
4. Too much stress, not enough recovery:
Whenever we are overworked or burdened by hyper-activity, our adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol to keep us going at full throttle. It is just one of the many ways human body has adapted itself to perform when we think our survival is in question.
But, for those who are constantly plagued by anxiety which for instance could concern bills, children, work etc and refuse to wind up even before an hour of going to bed; the body keeps releasing cortisol in the blood stream throughout the day. This builds up to chronic stress that hampers the natural fat burning mechanism of the body. Too much stress directly leads to belly fat build up. To counter the problem, at the end of the day, the body should deliberately be reverted to a relaxed state of mind by calm inducing activities like listening to soothing music, a relatively quiet walk in a garden, reading a book in silence or meditation.
5. Diet Issues:
A clean diet is crucial to support your body in the recovery process if you want all your hard work put in exercise to bear fruit.
While the ‘ideal’ diet for each person is usually work in progress and requires some trials, some principles hold solid ground for everyone.
Restrict calories from aerated drinks, refined sugar, processed carbohydrates and saturated fat.
The longer and more complex the list of ingredients of the food you eat, more calorie-dense the meal is likely to be. For instance, eating an apple is ‘cleaner’ than having a glass of apple juice since a carton of juice is likely to have added sugars and preservatives minus the fullness of fiber.
Stock up on green leafy greens and other vegetables, whole grains and fruits to prevent deficiency in vital minerals and vitamins that can potentially stress your body into storing fat around your mid-section.