Getting past the myth of spot reduction
The “holy grail” of many people who are diligently working out at the gym is the appearance of a flat belly with six-pack abs. Maybe better said that would be the disappearance of the layer of fat that is hiding those abs. Six pack abs and a flat belly are more about having a low level of body fat than anything else.
That being said, you may be asking what is considered a low level of body fat? For men anything less than ten percent is low and that is when we start to see those abdominal muscles start to peek through. For the ladies it is similar percentages to see the abs, but anything less than fifteen percent is considered low.
Where that fat is located is another story. Women tend to carry body fat in different places than men, so their abdominal muscles (that coveted six pack) may show up at a higher body fat percentage. You have to remember that body fat percentage is calculated as a total body figure, although by using body fat calipers you can find out different levels of fat at different locations.
However finding that body fat percentage is not going to help you out at all, because the only way to reduce fat on your belly is to reduce the total fat on your body. No matter what anyone will tell you you cannot spot reduce (unless you are talking about going under the knife – aka liposuction.)
So what is the best way to lose fat and see those flat abs is through watching your diet and exercising regularly. It all comes down to calories in and calories out. The most likely result of doing lots of abdominal crunches and inclined sit-ups is to build up those abdominal muscles. Those muscles are just like any other muscle in your body in that they gain size when you work them. So are you interested in gaining bulk in your midsection? If you are, then crunch away. If not, seriously think about what you are eating. Diet is about 70 to 80 percent of body transformation. Exercise makes up the other percentage.
So what exercise should you be doing? The answer that seems to permeate the ab-obsessed world is cardio. Go into any gym and you will see the cardio junkies putting in their time on the treadmills and elliptical training machines. This works to some extent, but if you look at the display on the machine you will notice that even a hour a day, seven days a week at a moderate rate is only going to burn a meal or two’s worth of calories.
Better is to modify your diet to eliminate the empty calorie foods and to get into resistance training. Cardio training can fool your body into a starvation mode and it will switch from burning fat to burning muscle. That is a losing battle.
Resistance training, meaning weight training, adds muscle and also turns your body into a 24/7 fat burning machine. Have you ever seen professional body builders eat? They eat massive amounts of food, consuming thousands of calories a day just to keep up with the burn rate of their muscles.
This brings up the final point. Those body builders concentrate heavily on building muscle.
Without a serious effort you will not bulk up to any great extent. This is especially true of women. Women just do not have the testosterone to bulk up. Their muscles may be just as effective as a man’s, but they are going to be more slim and feminine. Look at natural body builders of both sexes and you will see the competition is about definition and symmetry more than bulk.
That flat belly you crave is within reason. It just takes dedication and the realization that the weight you have now didn’t jump on you overnight, and it won’t drop off overnight either. Slow and steady wins this race to a flat belly and those six pack abs.