Abs-olutely Fit—The truth about burning belly fat

April 2014 View more

iStock_000024580770LargeIt seems the older we get, the more we long for those perfect abs commonly featured in magazines. However, the older we get, the harder it seems to achieve. Though many believe that doing endless crunches is the secret to a six-pack, it’s much more than that. Nutrition and cardiovascular work are the ingredients necessary to achieve abs of steel, or at least close to it.

The Myths

Karen Wick, personal trainer at Edward Fitness Center, is often asked what machine is best to tone the belly. “Many people still think that doing countless sit-ups every day will give you six pack abs. The truth is, getting great abs involves good, balanced nutrition, along with cardio exercise to burn the calories and fat off. You can’t neglect strength exercises that are necessary to build the muscle. All three have to be done consistently to achieve strong, lean, abs.”

This is the time of year when every gadget imaginable is advertised to guarantee a toned tummy your friends and family will envy. Unfortunately, there isn’t a gadget in the world, at least not yet, that gives the same results you can get from a good workout and healthy eating.

“It is definitely possible to achieve a six pack,” said Wick. “Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a board-certified family physician specializing in nutrition-based treatments for obesity says ‘You have to eat to live instead of living to eat. By eating clean, your abs will get lean.’ I completely agree with that philosophy.”

The Truth

Darcie Purcell, owner and certified personal trainer of The Space in Naperville, reminds people that there are other factors which dictate the type of abs you can achieve.

“My clients, who are primarily men and women ranging in age from 30 to 60, need to focus on getting rid of belly fat for their health. The sixpack depends on the individual, their dedication, heredity, hormones for women over 40, as well as lifestyle choices,” said Purcell.

What Works

So, what are the best exercises to decrease fat around the abdominal area and develop tone and strength? Wick says intervals are a great start.

“The best exercise for shrinking the tummy is doing cardio intervals like running, bike riding, or stair climbing. The idea is to mix hard effort with recovery. Do this consistently twice a week. Work abs by doing a variety of abdominal exercises, to mix it up. Then go home and eat your vegetables,” said Wick.

Avoid One Size Fits All

Purcell warns to avoid one-size-fits-all suggestions. “Flexion can be difficult if not contraindicated for some clients with neck or back issues. So something like a traditional bicycle or tuck crunch could exacerbate these types of issues.”

It starts with finding what works for each individual.

“When exercising, you want to be sure to work different muscles. So, traditionally three to four basic ab exercises that cover all stomach muscle groups work better than one secret ab exercise,” said Purcell.

Both experts remind us that in order to get a tummy to be proud of, diet and cardio are an absolute must in addition to traditional abdominal work.

So, if you’re seeking those ideal abs, be realistic. Understand that age and heredity play a role in what you can achieve. Also, if you’re knocking yourself out at the gym but going home and downing pizza and beer, you’re likely not going to achieve great abs.

Your best bet is to sit down with a fitness professional and talk about your goals. That way, you have someone that can create a program that can help you achieve the goals you want versus spending hours in a gym with no results.