by Jorge Cruise, fitness expert, weight-loss coach and New York Times bestselling author
When people want to tighten their midsection, they typically hit the floor to do endless crunches. What they don’t know is that unless you are already fairly trim, crunches may be a waste of time. It is a common misconception that the burn you get in your midsection from doing crunches would help reduce belly fat and create a flat tummy. Many of the most respected fitness organizations in the country, such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), have confirmed that this method of what is called “spot reduction” is a myth: specific fat deposits cannot be targeted with specific exercises. So what does work?
If you desire not only a strong core, but also a firm-looking tummy, you must first reduce the fat on top of the muscle. Sadly, crunches do not use enough energy to accomplish this goal. I believe that exercise alone is not enough to accomplish this goal. In order to reduce the belly fat that is keeping your abdominals hidden, you must take Dr. Oz’s advice and cut out the refined sugar.
By reducing your refined sugar consumption, you allow levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin to drop and levels of your fat-unlocking hormone glucagon to rise. This essential strategy for reducing fat around the abdomen not only reduces your risk for some of our most fatal illnesses, but also ensures that your ab exercises aren’t going to waste underneath a blanket of belly fat.
Once your tummy-toning strategy includes a nutritional component that restricts or eliminates refined sugar, you can move on to the strengthening aspects that will result in better overall tone and firmness. Time for endless crunches, right? Wrong. As I mentioned earlier, crunches don’t really use that much energy. The key is strengthening the legs and butt, because this is where your body has its largest muscles and its biggest powerhouses. For this reason, I always recommend my clients do a lower body exercise in conjunction with an ab exercise. This ensures that your workouts are simultaneously strengthening the core muscles while also diminishing the layer of fat that hides those same muscles.
If you truly want the most accelerated fitness results, there is a third and final piece to this puzzle: cardio. But hold on just a minute, I’m not talking about the same old cardio that would have you chained to a treadmill or elliptical for an hour or more. When you time your cardio precisely, you really only need about 20 minutes a day to get slim more quickly. As confirmed by a recent article in The New York Times, the best time to do cardio is in the morning before eating breakfast. The best part is that it doesn’t even need to be intense cardio; a brisk walk around the neighborhood or even marching in place will do the trick. Exercising in the morning before breakfast primes the body to pull energy from stored body fat as opposed to a meal you’ve recently eaten. My only cautionary recommendation regarding this highly effective method is to not splurge at breakfast to “treat” yourself for your work, as this is the most common way that the benefits of exercise are erased.
Combining these 3 methods, either in the same workout or throughout your week, is the simplest and most time efficient way to ensure that as the weather gets warmer, your waist gets smaller. Before your next round of abdominal exercises, make sure you also have a strategy for strengthening your lower body as well as reducing your body fat.