Diet is the most important variable when trying to lose belly fat. Exercise takes a close second.
The best way to talk about exercise is by debunking some common myths.
Myth 1 – Doing lots of cardio at a low to moderate intensity will burn body fat.
While it is true that you will burn calories while doing cardio and utilize a large percentage of free fatty acids in comparison to carbohydrate during low intensity work, total number of calories expended is what counts for fat loss. Basically, you can walk a mile in 15 mins and burn 100 calories or run a mile in 8 minutes and burn the same 100 calories. Which is more efficient?
Myth 2 – The more volume of exercise that I do, the more fat that I will lose.
Frequent bouts of high intensity exercise of short to moderate duration will provide the most optimal hormonal balance in your body. Constant variation is key to keeping your metabolism revved up, but remember to never let your body get used to routine. Excessive volume raises cortisol levels, and cortisol is the hormone responsible for storage of abdominal fat. When choosing an exercise, choose quality over quantity.
Myth 3 – I will get bulky or look fatter if I weight train. I should try to get lean first by doing cardio then add weights to tone up.
This could not be further from the truth, if you want to lose fat, weight training is essential. The simple science is that weight training builds muscle. Muscle is active tissue and burns lots of calories–even at rest–thereby increasing your metabolism. Also, muscle is far denser than fat, 5 pounds of muscle takes up only about a third of the space that 5 pounds of fat takes up. You will not “bulk up” unless your caloric intake substantially exceeds your output.
Myth 4- If I do 10,000 crunches a day I will have a washboard stomach.
Sorry to disappoint you but the shape of your abdominal musculature is pre-determined by genetics. The only way too see these muscles is by having a low body fat percentage. If your percentage of body fat is high there is no amount of work that will show your abdominals.
Isolation exercises such as crunches provide little bang for the buck. Your exercise program should be composed primarily of functional movements where large amounts of your body mass are used. For instance, a squat demands far more energy (think calories) than a crunch. All functional movements require us to use our core to stabilize. A simple guide is this - the larger the distance moved, the more work you performed. More work= greater caloric expenditure.
It all boils down to the following: To lose belly fat you must incorporate weight training into your fitness routine. The bulk of your training should be high intensity of relative short duration. Routine is the enemy as it allows the body to become efficient, thus it utilizes less energy to accomplish the same task. Next time you think of doing crunches get down and do some squats and push-ups instead.