It’s not all about loads of sit ups a day, achieving a flat tummy is easier than you think but are you going about it the hard way? Fitness expert, Natalie Carter shares how you can get fast results to a flat tummy this summer.
image via pinterest
As with anything in life, Key factors can play a part in successfully achieving a flat tummy. Here’s a list of some of the most common I see day to day:
The state of your tummy is reflected by the foods you eat. Eat crap, look crap. Simple! Your body really is a temple and it’s imperative you remember this. What about skinny people who eat crap but have flat stomachs? They most likely have a high percentage of body fat and also visceral fat (the fat surrounding your organs) High visceral fat levels are dangerous in ANY individual, obese or skinny. You need to clean up the processed foods, avoid large amounts of alcohol & sugar and choose to prepare most of your own food. Your Motto: “My stomach is not a rubbish bin!”
Something we are either “blessed” with or lumped with. Your DNA will have significant weighting on whether you naturally have a flat tummy or are prone to a slightly flabbier one. That’s not to say you can’t aim to create leanness in your abdominal area, it will just be a little harder and not come as naturally as it does to those with a lower body fat percentage. Aim to lower your overall body fat percentage to reveal your abs underneath. We all have them!
Types of exercises you choose:
Some exercises (like crunches) are abdominal thickeners whereas lower abdominal activation will work on creating a drawing in effect on the abdominal area (very much like a corset). There are many exercises I do with my clients that ultimately change their posture and therefore their abdominal strength and how their pelvis “sits”. The thought process that you can just exercise a particular area (aka spot reducing) and it will become lean is one of fitness’ biggest myths. Crunches themselves actually don’t burn a lot of calories, increase your exercise knowledge (see below) and get experimenting with new moves.
When the body is in a state of stress, a hormone called cortisol is produced. Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands and the amount released into the bloodstream will depend on the time of day. Cortisol is important for several functions in our body including the maintenance of blood pressure. The hormone stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism and insulin release and maintenance of blood sugar levels. An increased production of cortisol (usually at times where the body is in stress) can lead to weight gain and fat storage especially in the abdominal area. We all know this kind of fat storage is a HUGE pain in the ass not to mention very dangerous and puts us at high risk of heart attacks and strokes. Whilst there as several supplements aimed at lowering cortisol levels and secretion no well-respected studies have found any value in them lowering cortisol and aiding weight loss. The best and easiest way to do so is with exercise. The best kind would be resistance based as this burns a higher amount of calories and also will help lower stress to the body. Stay away from extended periods of cardio (especially steady state i.e. more than 1 hour per day)
In the majority of cases, those who restrain from alcohol whilst following an exercise program have an increased chance of successfully reducing their body fat, especially from the abdominal area. This is because “alcohol lowers testosterone for up to 72 hours and increases estrogen levels. If you want better results from your training, reduce or stop your intake of these substances. To your body, Alcohol is a useless nutrient, that is a poor energy provider and is easily stored as fat – hence the ‘beer belly’. Alcohol also lowers protein synthesis by 42% and reduces recovery, performance and dehydrates you. Did you know that each pint of beer has 250 calories, the same as a chocolate bar?”- Muscle Bulletin
Through several lifestyle and environmental factors (diet, contraceptive devices, canned foods, plastics, personal care products and chemicals) we (both men and women) get exposed to increase amounts of estrogen. This creates an imbalance in our hormones and therefore can lead us to estrogen dominance. If we look at a really common cause: the pill. If you take the pill you can be at a disadvantage when it comes to losing weight and trying to manage body fat in areas such as abs/tummy, thighs, butt and triceps and hips. These are the areas where women store body fat and when on the pill a continuous flow of hormones (estrogen) is entering through the body. The estrogen builds up and you have too much. This is not a good thing and one of the main reasons I stopped taking the pill in place of using other methods of non-hormonal contraception. The use of chemicals and plastics also increases our exposure to estrogen. If you currently suffer from PMS, bloating, fat storage in abs/butt/thighs/triceps/love handles (to name a few symptoms) you may need to consult a natural health doctor (or check if your GP is familiar with holistic methods to reduce estrogen) Read here for more info . I also recommend ridding your cupboards of any harmful products that may be in your shampoo, makeup or skin care. Simple changes can be made to your diet and lifestyle that seem to affect the body quickly and reduce signs of estrogen dominance.
Eliminating soy and all soy products (however some fermented soy occasionally is ok) –
Try non-hormonal contraceptive devices (IUD’s and diaphragm’s)
If you bloat regularly after meals, you may be gluten intolerant.
Go and get tested to eliminate this possibility.
Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and bok choy.
Reduce dairy consumption; opt for rice milk or almond milk instead. Always make sure you consume organic dairy if you do have it.
Cut down your sugar consumption and as a bonus improve your PMS symptoms and skin quality.
Use BPA free storage containers or glass jars to store food. Reduce canned products.
Buy chemical free hair care and skincare products (hard I know but a general reduction will be a good start).
So what exercises will act as a tummy tightener? That bit is super easy. You may not think that the following exercises will help your tummy but put your mind at ease, these are some of my favourites. Tried and tested these babies work from the inside out!
Select your weight (65-70% MAX 1RM) and perform 10 reps for 3-4 sets. Stand tall (I’m holding weight plate, you can try with dumbbells or a barbell). Keep knees slightly bent and bend forward pushing through your heels so you torso end up parallel with the ground. Feel the pull through the hamstrings & keep the back flat. Engage your glutes by giving them a big squeeze and pull yourself up. You will feel your lower working and supporting you on your way up. Repeat and then rest between sets for 45secs up to 1 min.
A great exercise to do after your main workout as this focuses on the outer side (love handles) of your tummy. The plate works well for this exercise but use what you have access to. Pull your abs in and lean back slightly, rotating from side to side using your torso. Perform 20 total reps for 3-4 sets, resting in between.
You may not have signed up for the army but you are about to get a small taste of the experience. This exercise uses your whole body and trust me you will feel this all over the next day- especially in those abs! Start in a plank position on the ground and using your hands and feet crawl for a distance of 25 m. Keep your butt/hips low at all times- we don’t need to see it high up in the air. Rest for 30 -45secs and repeat this 3-4 times. You will feel you heart race with this exercise, which is always a good thing! Increase the amount of sets as you start to get fitter.