So you want to flatten your tummy out, and you’re willing to try exercising. If you’ve got a heartbeat and a television, then you probably know about treadmills, stationary bicycles, elliptical runners, ab exercises and the like. In short, you probably have some notion of exercise that is advertised to be directed toward losing stomach fat. Because you already have this notion, it is important for us to address it: the forms of exercise that you have used or that you are thinking about using are probably not the best ways to get a flat stomach. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to examine the differences in fat-loss benefits between low-intensity and high-intensity exercise, and to highlight the best and most efficient exercises for belly fat, most notably sprinting.
Targeted Abdominal Exercises
Gotta get this one out of the way. Targeted ab exercises like crunches, air-biking, side crunches, sit-ups, etc. are excellent exercises – if you want to gain stomach muscle. While these exercises do burn a moderate amount of calories, the rate of calories burned per hour is roughly equivalent to that of a leisurely (low-intensity) bike-ride. Ab exercises can actually make your stomach a little larger, because they build the muscle that hides beneath the fat. Eventually, you will want to build your abdominal muscles, but if you build them before you can see them, then your efforts will directly counteract your goal: a flat stomach. Therefore, this kind of exercise, though recommended in very modest amounts for general health and posture stability, is really not among the best exercises for belly fat.
Low-Intensity (Aerobic) Cardiovascular Exercise
Sure, your heart needs exercise. Whose doesn’t? So how does your heart exercise effect your fat-loss goals? Perhaps the most prevalent myth about cardio and fat-loss is that there exists such a thing as a “fat-burning zone” and that this zone is ideal for trimming down. In point of fact, there is a heart-rate zone in which the body’s primary expenditure comes from fat, just as there is a zone for protein and a zone for sugar. However, there are many reasons to reject the notion that exercising in the fat-burning zone is really not the best method of cutting down your tummy.
In the first place, consider the people who actually exercise within this zone. Are they skinny? This well-circulated myth does not seem to have helped very much those who adhere to it. Rather, it keeps them in the gym for hours everyday, hoping that eventually they’ll see returns from all that time they put into their exercising.
In the second place, there is no physiological merit to burning fat while you exercise. Bear with me. Your body is an adaptive machine. In the face of any adversity, your body will make adjustments to handle that very same kind of adversity should it happen again. Exercise is actually a kind of adversity. In fact, that’s exactly why we exercise. We want to present our body with adverse conditions to which it must adapt. In the case of a person looking to cut down their bodyfat mass ratio, the adverse condition we are presenting the body with is fewer calories consumed than expended. This forces the body to feed on itself, so to speak.
But it’s not enough to simply change your eating habits. If the kind of exercise that you do encourages fat retention and discourages muscle retention, then your body will respond by eliminating muscle and retaining fat. In fact, your body would much rather keep the fat and get rid of the muscle if you force it to feed on itself, because muscle requires constant energy expenditure to retain.
The best way to exercise and see absolutely no results is to do only low-intensity exercise within the fat-burning zone. Why is this? You are not exerting very much effort with your muscles, so your body will strip them down to only what you use. In order to retain muscle mass, it is important to do high-intensity exercise which tells your body that you need to keep those muscles.
In addition to encouraging muscle loss, you are encouraging fat-retention when you exercise within the fat-burning zone. This is because you are relying on fat as a primary source of energy when you exercise. Your body recognizes this and makes sure to keep plenty of fat in storage for the next time you exercise, because it doesn’t want to run out of fuel. For this reason, it is important to exercise within the sugar burning zone, because this kind of exercise will encourage sugar retention (within muscles) and discourage fat retention (within fat-cells). And sugar-burning happens, of course, with anaerobic, or high-intensity exercise.
At this point, you may be wondering, “how will I ever burn fat if I’m always burning sugar when I exercise?” Simple. You burn far more calories by just being alive than you do by exercising. As long as you make sure that you are consuming fewer calories than you are expending (but don’t starve yourself!), your body will make sure that the parts that are used for fuel are appropriate. In other words, you’ll be burning fat throughout the rest of the day. One of the primary reasons that it is important to exercise is not so much to burn calories as it is to tell your body how to burn calories.
High-Intensity (Anaerobic) Cardiovascular Exercise
You see, your body wasn’t designed to run marathons. As impressive as it is, running marathons is actually a relatively recent phenomenon. If you think back on what it took to survive before Man as a race developed the means to live a sedentary lifestyle, there really is no survival-based reason for running very long distances at a steady pace. In fact, most human survival actions involve spurts of high-intensity exercise. Therefore, in order to maximize the human model of fitness, it makes sense to adhere to this evolutionary mold.
So what are the best forms of exercise that fit this mold? Generally speaking, anything that involves sprinting. Now I’m not endorsing doing nothing but sprints until you can’t breathe. Far from it. However, you should keep in mind that sprinting expends about seven times the number of calories as walking, which means you need to do very little of it to start seeing an effect. Additionally, sprinting encourages very a low body-fat ratio, which anyone can see anecdotal evidence for on the Olympics. You can also look at running backs, wide receivers and cornerbacks (in American football) as great examples of sprinters. These guys don’t have a shred of excess fat on them.
Good health requires some form of intensity within your exercise, but it doesn’t need to kill you. Perhaps the easiest way to include high-intensity exercise is to alternate between jogging and sprinting. This gives your body varying exercise conditions, which demands high muscle-retention. Your body will have to adapt to more diverse exercise circumstances, and that almost always means that fat-mass will be sacrificed.
But high-intensity exercise doesn’t have to come only in the form of running. You might instead cycle as hard as you can in between sets of lifting. You might also simply alternate between high-intensity and low-intensity cycling. As long as you are incorporating high-intensity exercise in your workout, you will encourage sugar retention in your muscles and fat loss in your fat-cells, and you also will not have to spend as much time exercising. So dash, my friends, and dash fast!