Sporting a rotund belly these days? Then it's time for a reality check. It turns out that waist circumference size matters –– more than BMI (body mass index) –– when it comes to your mortality rate.
A recent study published in Annals of Internal Medicine showed that men who were considered normal weight but had belly fat had twice the mortality risk of men who were overweight or obese based on BMI, which is calculated solely on weight and height. Meanwhile, normal-weight women with belly fat had a 32% higher mortality risk than obese women without excess pounds around the middle.
What Is Belly Fat?
Abdominal adiposity is the technical term for belly fat. But did you know there are two kinds of belly fat? One is subcutaneous, which is stored right below the skin, and the other is visceral fat, which hangs out around your organs. Excess belly fat, particularly visceral fat, can wreak havoc on the body, potentially leading to increased inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia and more.
So what waist circumference size matters? For men, having a waist circumference of 40 inches or more is considered worrisome, particularly if visceral fat is lurking beneath their waistline. For women, it's 35 inches or more. But remember, you can even be considered "normal weight" and still have visceral fat or obese and not have visceral fat. Only a scan can tell which fat is which, but it's safe to bet if you're waist circumference is hitting these numbers, it's time to do something.
What To Do?
You can do a thousand crunches a day and your pudge won't budge. Spot reduction via exercise is a fitness myth. That fat isn't going anywhere unless you attack it full force with a combination of HIIT, core training exercises, and clean, healthy eating. Here are some tips.
• Eat Clean
There is a saying, "Abs are made in the kitchen," and while that's not 100 percent true, it does emphasize how important a healthy diet is if you want to tighten up that tummy.
Nutrition tips for a leaner midsection include eliminating or drastically reducing anything with white flour as these foods are typically high in calories, low in nutrients, and the increased blood sugar spike causes fat storage. Other foods to nix include highly processed foods like candy, cookies, junk food, sugary cereals and energy bars.
Relax, we're not saying NEVER EVER! Of course, the occasional "treat meal" is OK. But if you're serious about slimming down your torso, you should resist these foods more often than not.
Instead, nosh on fresh veggies and fruits such as broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, bell peppers, apples, oranges, berries, berries, papayas and cucumbers as well as oatmeal because these are all low in calories, loaded with fat-burning nutrients and contain lots of fiber to help keep you full. But don't forget lean proteins and healthy fats! Foods are better for you when paired with lean proteins and healthy fats. Pairing foods allow for a slow, consistent release of fuel and nutrients, keeping your body healthy, energized and in fat-burning mode.
• Train Mean
Add these abdominal exercises into your routine to strengthen your entire core, upper abs, lower abs and obliques:
- Planks: center and both sides. Hold each for 30-60 seconds.
- Leg Lifts: Lie on the ground or hang from a bar for 3 sets of 12 reps.
- V-Ups: both legs or single legs for 3 sets of 12 reps.
Also, be sure you are doing full-body strength training regularly. This will build strength and lean muscle mass all over your body, which turns your body into a fat-burning machine. Building lean muscle has other benefits, like a faster metabolism, a tighter physique, and increased energy.
Lastly, don't underestimate the power of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts. Science is showing that HIIT workouts can actually blast belly fat. According to a meta-analysis of 39 studies involving 617 participants, HIIT-style workouts significantly reduced belly fat (including visceral fat).
HIIT workouts usually involve short bouts of high-intensity exercises with rest periods or low-intensity exercise. For example, sprint for 30 seconds/walk for one minute, or do burpees for one minute/rest for two minutes. HIIT workouts can last 10-30 minutes. Up to you. But you get a lot more bang for your buck in much less time than your average hour-long gym sesh. Google HIIT workouts to find plenty of options, then get to HIIT-ing!
Keep in Mind
We all come in different shapes and sizes, and genetics play a huge role in where your body stores fat. Your best friend might be able to eat whatever he wants yet still maintain a flat midsection year-round, but you might have to contend with some belly fat because of your genetics.
Don't despair. If you follow this regimen, you will see results. Just know that it's going to take effort on your part. Just like a relationship, you can't cheat on your fitness program and expect it to work out. Your body is the product of your choices. Empower your genes to achieve those ab goals by incorporating these clean-eating guidelines and challenging workout tips into your everyday life!
You got this.