“I just want to lose the belly.”
How many times have we heard that one? If only life were so simple. Wake up, do some sit ups, get a 6-pack, go back to sleep. Except…… well………. It doesn’t work like that.
Here’s how fat works — whenever you eat or drink anything with calories, your body would immediately convert some of it into glycogen as an easily broken down storage molecule which provides ready-to-use energy and stays in the liver. It is broken down into “blood sugar” (sugar carried around in the blood) to be used as energy during metabolism. Any energy that is not immediately used in that manner is stored as fat. This fat (largely subcutaneous) is stored all over the body. The only exception is visceral fat (fat around the organs).
In the same manner that your body stores fat indiscriminately around the body, it also burns fat indiscriminately around the body. This means that when you lose fat, you lose it everywhere and not just in your belly. For those who like how their butts look but only want to lose the tummy, this may seem like bad news. However, there is a light. Let’s take a look at what doesn’t work and what works.
What doesn’t work: Crunches, sit ups, bicycles, V-ups — basically any ab-focused exercise is not going to help you reduce belly fat. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work your abs though. Working abs helps with 2 things. First of all, it helps to strengthen your core. A strong core helps you in everyday life as well as helping you to do your exercises, be it cardio, strength or endurance training, more efficiently. Secondly, there are 2 things you need to see abs. You need a low body fat percentage and you need well developed abs. Working the abs helps to develop them so that when you lose the fat, you can see them better, thus helping you to achieve the look.
What works: Changing your diet to one with a controlled caloric intake and getting into a well-planned exercise regimen can both help you to burn the fat. If you want to achieve a particular shape, you can take the bodybuilder’s approach — the areas you want more size, work them harder (to make those muscles bigger) until you can sculpt the look that you want. An interval training routine with heavy focus on legs and back will work wonders for cutting fat since those are the two largest muscle groups in the body and burn the most calories when worked.
Why does the above work? It works because the body doesn’t care where it gets energy from, as long as it gets it. If you squat a lot, you aren’t going to just magically trim the fat off your legs. Your body will get energy from all over the body. What you will do is increase the size of your leg muscles, giving the illusion that you are burning more fat there (thus my note about sculpting the body above), but your body is actually getting energy from fat all over.
Basically, the best thing you can do for yourself is to find a good trainer to at least start you off on your journey to that flat belly and, as an added bonus, you’ll get fitter and healthier too!