6 myths about belly fat

Can you get a flat stomach and beautiful abs in a week? What do we know about belly fat and what is true?

I came across an advertisement on the Internet - A flat stomach for a week. It turns out that there are quite a lot of such and similar promises.

In theory, it sounds great - a flat stomach and beautiful abs in a week or several weeks.

Unfortunately, these promises usually don't come true because they're based on myths about belly fat that, well, just aren't true.

 

1 Belly fat is just like any other type of body fat

In fact, belly fat is much more dangerous. It even has its own name — visceral fat (compared to subcutaneous fat, which is the "visible" fat found in other parts of our body).

Visceral fat is not only responsible for increasing your midsection. They form in the abdominal cavity - between/around your internal organs - and are linked to all kinds of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and premature death.

Visceral fat is also directly associated with higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin resistance.

 

What are the signs of an unhealthy amount of belly fat?

Your waist circumference.

Measure the waist circumference, just above the hip. If it exceeds 89 cm or more for women and 102 cm or more for men, the amount of visceral fat in your body is likely to contribute to the mentioned health risks.

The risk of chronic diseases is considered increased if the waist circumference exceeds 80 cm in women and 94 cm or more in men (does not apply to children and pregnant women).

Read more about visceral fat and why the belly grows HERE.

 

2 Abdominal training is the best way to reduce belly fat

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

It is impossible to reduce the amount of fat in only one part of the body!

If you, of course, actively train and develop your abdominal muscles – as you lose weight, your stomach will eventually become "flatter", and your abs may become more noticeable. But this will happen because as a result of your physical activity, the total amount of fat in your body will decrease – including in the middle part of the body.

Respectively – if you perform abdominal press exercises from morning to evening, the layer of fat on your stomach will decrease just as much as with any other physical activity with the same load/calorie consumption.

Therefore, the time you spend in the gym is better spent on the development of all muscle groups, because:

  • Focusing on abs exercises will not help you reduce the visceral and subcutaneous fat layer on the abdomen faster;
  • The abdominal press is used for almost any exercise, i.e. you train it also during strength training, aerobics, etc.;
  • And even if everything I write here is nonsense - imagine how you would look with a well-trained abdominal press and the rest of the muscles of your body not developed -😊.
 

In principle, the most effective way of reducing the fat layer is physical activities, during which the most fat is "burned" - during activities in the low-intensity heart rate zone.

 

3 Cardio is the best way to reduce belly fat

Cardio training really effectively "burns" fat, but which ones?

Classic cardio exercises, such as walking, running, cycling at a steady pace, are certainly a good way to "burn" fat.

But are they really the best?

It has been proven that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is better at reducing fat in the middle part of the body because they burn more energy over a certain period of time than classical cardio.

In addition, high-intensity interval training appears to be more effective specifically at reducing belly fat. For instance - a study conducted in September 2019, compared the effects of HIIT and low- and moderate-intensity training on total body fat and abdominal fat percentage. As a result, it was found that the HIIT group lost both more belly fat and overall body fat.

Read more about Cardio training types and their effectiveness HERE.

 

Also, the combination of cardio and strength training contributes to a faster reduction in the amount of belly fat, because in addition to "burning" fat, muscle mass also increases.

And the more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body consumes to keep itself at rest.

The same can be said as follows - the greater your muscle mass, the faster your metabolism.

And the faster your metabolism, the more calories are burned during the day and therefore:

  • If your physical activity does not change, more fat is "burned" during a day;
  • If your physical activity does not change - you can eat more without fearing that the amount of fat in your body will increase;
  • Fat is formed less/slower if your physical activity decreases and you eat as much as before.
 

The math goes something like this – an increase in muscle mass by 1 kg can increase the resting metabolic rate by about 20 calories per day.

And if your muscles will work, then the daily calorie gain will be significantly higher.

 

4 There are foods and drinks that "burn" belly fat

You know - there are none.

"Weight-loss effortlessly" is a beautiful fairy tale for the naive who are too lazy to get up from the couch, away from the TV or any other screens, and do something real about their health and appearance.

But, there are some healthy eating guidelines that might help. For instance - Mediterranean diet, which favors fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, reduces belly fat more effectively than a low-fat diet.

It has also been proven that foods high in fiber (such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, etc.) help reduce the amount of visceral fat. For instance, increasing your soluble fiber intake by 10 grams per day can reduce belly fat by nearly 4 percent.

Read more about products that can help you lose weight HERE.

 

On the other hand, there are foods that should be avoided if you want to lose weight. These are basically all Ultra-processed foods, because they tend to be higher in calories and salt, as well as all kinds of shit (synthetic ingredients). The glycemic index of these products is also usually higher.

 

5 Corrective underwear and various waist trainers are an effective way to get rid of belly fat

No matter what celebrities and advertisements in online stores and social media say (promote), wearing different types of waist trainers or tight clothing is not a good idea.

In the advertisements, everything sounds beautiful - immediate slimming or weight loss, decrease in appetite, improvement of posture, etc.

But are these statements real and how healthy are they?

Do you really want to, for example, reduce your appetite by squeezing your stomach tightly?

The problem is not only that these belts, etc., are uncomfortable. Their use can also have serious side effects, such as pressing the organs into an unnatural position or restricting the expansion of the chest during breathing (the body receives less oxygen).

 

Wearing tight underwear, corsets and belts can give you a slimmer look for a while, but when you take it all off, your body returns to its natural shape.

The long-term wearing of all this can also cause health problems, the treatment of which will take time, money, and nerves.

 

6 The only factors that cause belly fat are an unhealthy diet and low physical activity

Diet and exercise are certainly very important, but belly fat can also be contributed to by:

  • Sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to overeating, because if you have a bad rest, the level of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin increases, and the level of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin decreases;
  • Genetics. Your genes influence how much and where your body wants to store fat. However, this does not mean that if your body tends to accumulate more fat in the abdominal area, you will definitely accumulate fat there. By following healthy eating habits and being physically active, you can prevent weight gain;
  • Stress. When you are stressed, the level of cortisol in your body rises and elevated cortisol levels can cause more fat to accumulate in the midsection;
  • As we age, we usually move less and less — as a result, muscle mass decreases and the amount of fat in our body increases. In women, this is also associated with a decrease in estrogen levels.
 

Key takeaways

Fat loss is a non-linear process. Even if you follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly, you will lose more weight during some weeks and less during others. During some weeks, the weight may even increase (usually this happens during menstruation or as a result of water retention).

Body weight is not the best way how to measure your progress. Read more about body recomposition and evaluating your progress HERE.

If you want to lose belly fat - eat a balanced diet, choose healthy foods, and exercise - these are the only things that work.

If you want to get a flat stomach and a nice abs, you only need two things:

  • Get rid of the excess layer of subcutaneous fat - and this can be done not by torturing your abdominal muscles every day, but with the help of proper nutrition and regular cardio training;
  • It is necessary to train the abs, but 2-4 workouts per week are enough (3-4 sets of 15-20 reps). If you increase the number of exercises and/or repetitions, you will not achieve results faster.
 

Sources:

Visceral fat more of a health concern than subcutaneous fat

Resistance Training is Medicine. Effects of Strength Training on Health

The beneficial effects of Mediterranean diet over low-fat diet may be mediated by decreasing hepatic fat content

MRI-determined total volumes of visceral and subcutaneous abdominal and trunk adipose tissue are differentially and sex-dependently associated with patterns of estimated usual nutrient intake in a northern German population

Lifestyle factors and 5-year abdominal fat accumulation in a minority cohort

4 Reasons to Throw Your Waist Trainer in the Trash

Sleep and Overeating

Change in sleep duration and visceral fat accumulation over 6 years in adults

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