A flat stomach doesn’t have to be a dream, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication but you can achieve it, and while exercises helps it has a lot to do with the food you eat as well.
Sometimes weight can accumulate around the middle of your body, with your legs and arms being perfectly normal but your stomach just won't budge.
Even though you might be able to disguise it in some instances, excess weight on your stomach can be extremely damaging to your health. It can often lead to heart disesase, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some types of cancer, particularly breast cancer.
It's not often as simple as a diet and exercise though, as excess fat on the stomach can be extremely stubborn.
With the help of Dr Marilyn Glenville, we share the best ways to tackle stubborn fat around the middle of your body and reveal a flat stomach in 10 simple steps.
The stress hormone cortisol is the main reason we gather fat around the middle section. Millions of years ago, our bodies were designed to react quickly to danger, and we released adrenaline and cortisol, which provides energy to the body for 5-10 minutes, allowing us to act quickly in dangerous situations.
However, today we're more likely to live under chronic stress, so thinks like late trains, spiralling debt and infuriating colleagues, are making our bodies react in the same way, producing cortisol, but we're not using it for anything.
The extra energy our body is creating, from stress, is in the form of fat and glucose, and unless we're using it in a physical way, it is re-deposited as fat.
Food cravings you can’t control
After a stressful event, your cortisol levels will typically be peaking, which leads to an increase in your appetite. So those who are consistently feeling stressed are more likely to feel hungry all of the time. It's our bodies way of telling us to stock up on foods that we could use after a stressful situation, which can lead to you craving carbohydrates.
But why does fat mainly stick around our middle? It's quite simple really, fat will sit close to the liver so it can convert quickly to energy if it's needed.
It’s important that you recognise that what you put in your mouth has a direct effect on the size and shape of your stomach, also how you exercise can aid in helping to achieve a flat, toned stomach too.
Here’s how you can get rid of stubborn belly fat
Eating as little sugar as possible is the key to a flatter stomach, so it’s time to bin the processed foods and reach for home-cooked meals and healthy snacks. Eating less sugar will keep insulin levels low and also keeps levels of glucagon high – which helps to use up fat as energy. The closer to zero grams of sugar you consume, the lower your insulin and the higher your glucagon, it’s that simple.
Cut down on salt
Water is attracted to sodium, so when you eat higher amounts of sodium, in the form of salty foods, you’ll retain more fluid which contributes to that sluggish feeling and extra water weight.
It’s advisable to decrease your sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day and increase your water consumption. You can monitor your salt intake by reading food labels and avoiding adding it when cooking – instead flavour foods with herbs and spices.
Take up circuit training
It’s easy to think that doing hundreds of sit-ups and crunches each day is the key to a flat stomach, but it’s not in fact true. The reason you don’t have a flat, toned stomach has more to do with excess body fat, as opposed to lack of muscle, so it’s advisable to take up circuit training which targets your whole body as opposed to one area. Exercises that impact different muscle groups at the same time are vital here; you want to strengthen your entire body and burn calories at the same time.
Circuit training builds lean muscle and improves aerobic fitness at the same time, which makes it the most effective fat-burning exercise you can do. Circuits should consist of a combination of strength training and cardio exercises performed directly after one another. If you’re looking for some advice, head to Jillian Michaels, she has videos online as well as DVDs and she will work your entire body. It’ll hurt, but when you start to see the stomach muscles appear, it’ll all be worth it.
Avoid crash diets
Counting calories and crash diets are only likely to lead to a rise in your stress levels, which will only result in more fat storage. Instead, take a healthy approach to everyday living, and make small steps to change your lifestyle instead.
While fasting might be weight loss solution for some, keeping your blood sugar levels stable is definitely key to a flat stomach. You should try to go no longer than three hours without eating, and remember to keep healthy snacks on hand so you're not likely to reach for chocolate when you get an energy slump.
Eating regularly can help control sugar cravings, which can also assist in mood swings that are often contributed to a bloody sugar level that is constantly changing.
Always eat breakfast
You won't have eaten for at least eight hours whilst you've been sleeping, so it's important that you nourish your body with something healthy and filling. Otherwise your body could go into famine mode, which leads to it trying to keep hold of your fat stores in case it needs them later.
Keep track of your blood sugar
Keeping your blood sugar steady is key to a flat stomach, so you'll want to avoid foods that make it rise quickly. If it rises quickly, it's only going to drop again, which results in your body releasing adrenaline and cortisol. Swap to whole grain alternatives that release energy slowly.
Eat plenty of protein
Protein keeps you fuller for longer, because it slows the rate that the stomach processes food. Not only that, but if you eat protein with carbohydrates, it helps to keep your blood sugar steady.
Fat is essential for a healthy, well-rounded diet. You want to consume the good fats found in nuts, oily fish and seeds. Not only do they keep you fuller for longer, but they can also boost your metabolism too. Avoid saturated fats however, these are the bad type that you want to cut from your diet.
Be aware of what you drink
Having a flat stomach doesn't only rely on the foods we eat, you must also be aware of the drinks you're consuming too. Avoid fizzy drinks like the plague and cut out caffeine and alcohol too.