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How To Lose Belly Fat Effectively And Healthily

How To Lose Belly Fat Effectively And Healthily

Belly fat occurs when excessive abdominal fat around the stomach and abdomen has built up to the extent that it is likely to have a negative impact on health. For many, the belly fat is just the tip of the iceberg, it’s the deeper fat stores that form in and around your internal organs than can cause some serious health problems if it isn’t reduced.

Losing belly fat is important, not only for appearance and vanity but also for your health with research showing the significance of belly fat and its role in the risk of acute myocardial infarctions, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as other inflammatory conditions.

Causes of Belly Fat

Women are more likely to gain excess belly fat, especially deep inside the belly as they go through perimenopause and into menopause when their menstrual cycle ends. That’s because as oestrogen levels drop, body fat is redistributed from the hips, thighs, and buttocks to the abdomen.

For men, the natural reduction in testosterone as they age means excess calories are often stored as visceral fat and thus the accumulation of belly fat occurs.

Stress and the cortisol connection contribute to belly fat as well. Research findings support the hypothesis that cortisol secretion might represent a connection between stress and abdominal fat distribution.

Abnormal Fats vs Normal Fats: Not All Fats Are Equal

The first type of body fat is the structural fat which fills the gaps between various organs. Structural fat also performs important functions such as bedding the kidneys in soft elastic tissue, protecting the coronary arteries and keeping the skin smooth and taut.

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The second type of fat is the essential fat reserves. This is the normal reserve of fuel used when the body is faced with immediate dietary insufficiencies such as regular low-calorie diets. Such normal reserves are localized all over the body.

Both structural and essential fat are normal, and even if the body stocks them to capacity this can never be called obesity.

The third type of fat, belly fat, is entirely abnormal and is non-essential.

It is the accumulation of this fat which creates the dreaded belly fat. This abnormal fat is also a potential reserve of fuel, but unlike the normal reserves, it is not available to the body in a nutritional emergency or during most diet programs. This third type of fat is the causative factor in health problems associated with belly fat.

It is difficult to remove and adds to further fat stores in the body due to its ability to slow down the metabolic rate.

Interventions that Reduce Belly Fat

Diet

The number one rule in reducing belly fat: DO NOT start by decreasing your fat intake. Not all fats are bad fats. In fact, eating certain fats can help you reduce belly fat.

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Good fats that you need to add to your eating regime include avocados, olives and other sources of Omega-3. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that eating three 5-ounce servings of salmon per week for four weeks as part of a low-calorie diet resulted in approximately 2.2 pounds more weight loss than following a diet that didn’t include fish.

Dan Mendilow shares some fantastic points on what you need to do to turn your body into a belly-fat burning machine by replacing a few unhealthy foods with healthy foods. Dan goes on to explain the importance of eating certain fats and why you should not be shunning them in your quest to lose your belly fat:

  • Studies have shown that drinking diet drinks greatly contributes to belly fat. By drinking sugar-sweetened beverages excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose present, can lead to increased accumulation of fat in the belly.
  • Apple cider vinegar is a great way to kick-start your metabolism and get belly fat moving. “One theory is that the acetic acid in the vinegar produces proteins that burn up fat,” explains Pamela Peeke, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of Fight Fat After 40.
  • With stress and the cortisol connection, your body starts to produce more insulin as you age, since your muscle and fat cells aren’t responding to it properly. With the increase in insulin comes fat storage, especially around your belly. A diet high in protein may protect you against insulin resistance, thus decreasing belly fat.

Exercise

Skip the crunches. Abdominal crunches and sit-ups should build strong muscles, but you might not see them under belly fat. In fact, crunches might actually make your stomach look bigger as you build up thicker abdominal muscles. Instead, if you strengthen your back muscles, your posture will improve and pull in your belly.

Alternative core exercises:

Side stretches

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    Stand up straight, with your feet hip-width apart. Put your right hand on your right hip, and lift your left arm straight up, with the palm facing right. Keeping your legs centered, lean to the right and “reach” over with your left arm, stretching your left side. Repeat 3-5 times on each side.

    Squats

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      Stand with your feet about 8 inches (20 cm) apart. Extend your arms in front of you and do four sets of 15-20 squats.

      Planks

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        Get in the push-up position, but rest on your elbows and forearms. Pull your stomach muscles in tight, keeping your back, neck, and bottom in a straight line. Hold this position for 30 seconds or as long as possible. Rest and repeat 3-5 times.

        Check Your Progress and Remain Persistent

        Calculate your waist-to-hip ratio on a regular basis. Your waist-to-hip ratio (the circumference of your waist divided by the circumference of your hips) can be a good indicator of whether you need to lose belly fat in the first place and how successful your interventions are.

        • Wrap a soft tape measure around the thinnest part of your waist at the level of your navel. Note the measurement.
        • Wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your hips, where you can feel a bony protrusion about 1/3 of the way from the top of the hipbone. Note the measurement.
        • Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.
        • Know what’s healthy. Women should have a ratio of 0.8 or below; men should be at 0.9 or lower.

        Lastly, team up with a friend as you chart your progress. Make sure to team up with someone who is just as motivated as you are. Join a walking club in your area with people around your age and ability. Get your family on board. Do whatever it takes to get yourself motivated and on track with the new you.

        Featured photo credit: Piotr Marcinski via shutterstock.com

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        Last Updated on November 11, 2018

        How to Gain Muscle Fast (The Healthy And Natural Way)

        How to Gain Muscle Fast (The Healthy And Natural Way)

        There’s a common misconception that building muscle occurs entirely in the gym from exercise and lifting weights. In this article, we are going to debunk this notion that weight lifting and gym exercise yields 100%, or even 90% for that matter, of muscle building results.

        So how to gain muscle fast in a healthy way?

        Yes working-out is a critical aspect of developing muscle, however it should not be the focal point. Building muscle occurs primarily outside of the gym by way of diet/eating habits, and sleep regimen.

        How Is Muscle Developed?

        Muscle is developed from damaging the tissue during exercise, and facilitating the most optimal circumstances for repair and growth of those same tissues. This means you will not only need to exercise, but you should focus on carbohydrates around your exercises, and adequate rest and recovery between workouts.

        If your focus is building muscle and not losing weight, focusing on a high-carb diet with carb loading around the workout days will yield great results. Yes, you absolutely can lose fat and build muscle following a low-carb diet, but you’ll make faster progress if you follow a high-carb diet instead. Now don’t take that as a green-light to stuff your face with pasta, bread, and all sorts of other carb-heavy foods.

        Let’s examine Glycogen – a multibranched polysaccharide of glucose that serves as a form of energy storage in humans. Muscle glycogen is a form of carbohydrate that’s stored in your muscles and liver. Glycogen is the primary source of fuel during exercise, and low glycogen levels decreases your ability to gain strength and muscle. The best way to maintain high levels of muscle glycogen is to eat a high-carb diet, with around 1 to 3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight.

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        The time of ingestion of a carbohydrate supplement on muscle glycogen storage post exercise was examined in a study with twelve male cyclists that exercised continuously for 70 min on a cycle ergometer at 68% VO2max, interrupted by six 2-min intervals at 88% VO2max, on two separate occasions. The results suggest that delaying the ingestion of a carbohydrate supplement post-exercise will result in a reduced rate of muscle glycogen storage.

        How to Gain Muscle Fast?

        If you want to gain muscle as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible, then you want high muscle glycogen levels. Here’s a few effective approaches to building muscle:

        Muscle Growth and Glycogen Levels

        The primary driver of gaining muscle and its growth is progressive tension overload, which involves exposing your muscles to increasingly greater levels of tension over time. The most effective way to achieve this is to get as strong as possible on heavy compound lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift, over head press, bent over barbell rows..etc).

        When you keep glycogen levels high, you’re going to gain strength faster, which means gaining muscle faster, too. Having higher levels of muscle glycogen will more than likely help you build muscle faster.

        Maintaining high muscle glycogen levels also improves post-workout genetic signaling relating to muscle growth and repair.

        Muscle Recovery and Glycogen Levels

        Not only do higher muscle glycogen levels yield quicker strength gains, it will also improve recovery between workouts.

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        On the contrary, low muscle glycogen levels are associated with overtraining, and even increasingly popular low-carb diets, which deplete muscle glycogen. Low glycogen levels also increase cortisol and reduce testosterone levels in athletes, which is a key component needed for building muscle.

        Those on a low-carb diets also have reduced insulin levels. Insulin, in addition to helping store nutrients, also has powerful anti-catabolic properties. Basically insulin decreases the rate at which muscle proteins are broken down, which in turn creates a more anabolic environment conducive to muscle growth and development.

        Intermittent Fasting (“IF”) and Testosterone

        Fasting is not just a beneficial way to manage your weight, caloric intake, and start shredding as I have indicated in previous articles. Some research shows that fasting can be a source of strength enhancement and increases in testosterone stimulation.

        As humans age metabolism slows and testosterone production decreases, this simply means that the body will no longer be able to work as efficiently as it did in earlier years. This is one of the primary reasons why you should take more care to your diet.

        Research has shown that intermittent fasting can enhance the ability to secrete growth hormone in the body.[1] This is one of the primary reasons why IF is one of the preferred dietary habits of bodybuilders and strength athletes such as myself, whom will utilize an approach that emphasizes fasting phases (2 of 7 days of the week for example).

        Research has also shown that IF can increase the bodies ability to signal luteinizing hormone.[2] In non-obese men, an intermittent fasting testosterone study showed that IF increased LH (luteinizing hormone – a testosterone precursor hormone) up to 67% and overall testosterone 180%.

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        Luteinizing hormone is one that works in both men and women to enhance our ability to be sexually active and productive. In women, luteinizing hormone can trigger ovulation, and in men, works to stimulate testosterone.

        Intermittent fasting also increases levels of a hormone called adiponectin. This increase in adiponectin during the fast helps improve insulin sensitivity. Adiponectin is so effective, in fact, that it’s been shown to reverse insulin resistance in mice.

        Gaining Muscle and Macro Nutrients – Protein!

        Something that absolutely cannot go overlooked is the protein consumption. Personally, I believe protein should be primarily consumed in food, however if looking to gain muscle, it can often be quite difficult to hit daily macro nutrient requirements.

        If one is to build muscle consistently a general rule of thumb is to aim for 1-1.5grams of protein per pound of body weight on a daily basis. So as a 200lb man I would be needing to consume 200grams – 250grams of protein per day. I would aim for the higher consumption on days when very active and training.

        As I’m sure you’re aware, it can often be quite difficult to consume that much protein, especially in food! It’s in these cases where supplementing protein isn’t a bad idea and I have discussed in great detail the different types of protein in previous articles.

        Generally speaking, I lean towards Whey Protein Isolate, or non-dairy options such as Hemp Protein, or Pea Protein. As of late I have been waking up every morning and consuming one scoop of Hydrolyzed Collagen Protein Bovines from grass-fed beef. Collagen peptides are highly bioavailable and act as building blocks; renewing bodily tissues such as skin, bones and joints.[3]

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        Collagen peptides may act as a messenger to the cells and trigger the synthesis and reorganization of new collagen fibers, thereby supporting tissue structure. Consuming protein such as Collagen in the morning is beneficial as the stomachs acids are needed to optimally break-down and absorb protein.

        Though this has been a topic of great debate, I also firmly believe adequate carbohydrates are required to build muscle, especially if you are exercising/training often. With all the low-carb movements floating around the internet, there’s lots of misinformation. Muscle-building requires energy which is typically through an increased intake of carbohydrates.

        Yes to gain mass, you have to ensure you’re consuming enough protein to rebuild muscle tissue damaged from training; but also consider carbohydrates because gaining size requires filling your muscles with glycogen as we discussed earlier in this article.

        Conclusion

        If you’re serious about gaining muscle fast the healthy way, it requires commitment and consistency. You will need to exercise and I highly suggest you download MyFitnessPal to track progress, set goals, and maintain diet.

        It’s also motivational because you can find like-minded people in the fitness community, or encourage your friends to download the app as well and follow each other. I personally did this when I was losing weight and gaining muscle, and it was a blast to see my own progress and that of people I care about.

        As always I’m not just here to write about the steps you need to take, I’m also here to help! You can message me anytime or email me with any questions you may have. I’m more than happy to assist with your muscle building and weight loss goals!

        Featured photo credit: Arthur Edelman via how to gain muscle fast

        Reference

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