I was ready to start writing an entirely different article when I decided to change gears. I was in the gym today when a gentleman I know approached me and said, “Tanya what exercises should I do to lose my gut?”. It was his question that prompted me to write up this article.
It’s actually a very common question that I get. And I’m sorry to say it folks, but you can do sit-ups ‘til the cows come home – you will not lose your gut! Unfortunately, as much as we wish, we simply cannot spot reduce.
The answer to “How do I lose my gut?” isn’t as straight forward as you might think as there could be a number of factors at play including diet, exercise, hormonal imbalance, sleep, and genetics.
This one almost goes without saying but what you eat is going to play an important factor in your weight. Many people have the false impression that if they work out they can eat whatever they want. The reality is unless you are working at a very high intensity in the gym, you probably aren’t burning as many calories as you think. I see many people doing a fast walk on the treadmill for an hour and think they can go home and have a burger and a slice of pie and then wonder why they haven’t shed a pound.
Also, choose your foods carefully because not all calories are created equally. If you want to lose that gut, avoid processed foods full of hidden sugars, trans fats, additives and preservatives that cause hormonal imbalances that can sabotage your gut-reducing efforts. Focus on fresh, wholesome foods that are high in fibre to help you feel fuller longer. Furthermore do not make the mistake of selecting low fat foods thinking that they will help reduce belly fat. Consuming the right fats in the right proportions can assist you in shedding belly fat as I had detailed in this article.
In addition to maintaining a healthy diet, exercise also plays an important role in losing that gut. As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, you cannot spot reduce so do not fall under the false assumption that you can do a 100 sit ups a day and lose your gut. The key here is to amp up the intensity, so look at High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) where you push hard for short periods of time. Focus your exercise routine towards more intense cardio, but don’t neglect resistance training either since increasing your muscle mass increases your body’s metabolism.
3. Hormonal imbalance
Excess belly fat is a key indicator of a hormonal imbalance. Hormones play a vital role in your weight loss efforts because they determine where you store your fat and control your appetite and cravings. So getting your hormones in balance can help you in your efforts to lose that gut. If you are carrying excess belly fat it may be an indication of high insulin or high cortisol levels.
Insulin is a hormone that moves sugar into the bloodstream and carries it into cells to be used as fuel or stored as fat. Excess consumption of sugar or processed nutrient-poor carbohydrates are a primary cause of high insulin levels (see section on “Diet” above – it’s all related). Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is typically released when under stress. So what does this hormone have to do with belly fat? Repeated elevated levels of cortisol increases fat storage round the middle. To make matters worse, when cortisol is released it floods the body with glucose to increase energy and block insulin receptor cells keeping glucose levels elevated. Therefore if you have chronically high cortisol levels, your body is always in an insulin resistant state causing your pancreas to increase insulin levels. It’s a vicious cycle!
Did this surprise you? Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, especially around the middle. That’s because lack of sleep raises the level of the hormone ghrelin which affects your appetite leading to an increase in appetite and cravings – usually for sugary carbohydrates. Compounding this problem is the fact that insufficient sleep also lowers leptin levels – the hormone responsible for signalling to your brain that you are full. You may be wondering how lack of sleep relates to increased fat around the mid-section. Well, chronic sleep loss leads to higher levels of cortisol which leads to decreased glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. And as you now know, cortisol increases belly fat storage. So if you want to lose that gut, get some sleep! At least 7-8 hours a night.
5. Genetics and Age
Genetics are responsible for your body type and shape. They determine whether you can build muscle easily and where your body stores fat. Age plays a role in your metabolism and hormones. As you get older, if you aren’t maintaining your muscle mass your metabolism slows down meaning if you consume the same amount of calories as you used to you are going to gain weight. In addition, as we get older our hormones shift in a way which impacts where additional weight may be stored. Women for example lose estrogen levels in menopause which causes body fat to be redistributed from the hips and thighs to the stomach.
While all the factors I listed above are controllable, genetics & age unfortunately are not. However you don’t have to be a victim of these two factors. You can still have that Mirror Friendly body by controlling the factors I mentioned above (e.g. proper nutrition, exercise, sufficient sleep, etc.). If your genetics and age dictate that excess fat is stored around the middle, you may find it a bit harder to lose that gut, but it’s not impossible! So don’t give up. Following the suggestions above will help increase your success rate in losing your gut.
To fitness with love,