As I thumbed through my new copy of a book entitled Abs in Four Weeks, engrossed in a regimen prescribing 12 different ab exercises a day for 30 days, I couldn’t help but wonder: “Will these ab workouts actually help me lose this excess belly fat?”


Well, no, stomach crunches and ab workouts themselves won’t help you lose body fat.


But many, many years since buying said ab workout book, throwing it in the bin 4 weeks later, and becoming a fitness trainer, hindsight is a beautiful thing.


Here’s what ab exercises are good for, and what you really need to do to lose belly fat.


What exactly IS belly fat and why do we get it?


I did a bit of research and discover what belly fat actually is. I mean I know it’s fat, right, but why do we get it?


Why does it feel like first place that we tend to gain weight?


And why do women seem to have more of it than dudes?


Well the first thing to know is that we all have some of it and we’re supposed to! A little bit of belly fat helps to protect our organs (especially our reproductive organs for us girls).


Here the thing about belly fat though, backed by research from this helpful Harvard article.


It’s made up of two types. There’s an outer layer called subcutaneous fat and it lies just beneath the skin feels squooshy and cuddly to touch.


Another kind of belly fat, called visceral fat, wraps around our organs like our liver and intestines.


Us girls, especially as we get older, get a higher proportion of fat to body weight.  The way we store fat begins favouring visceral fat around our midsection.


This is why as we get older our waistline tends to thicken.


Now it’s this visceral fat that we need to worry about about.  Without getting too science-y on you, visceral fat links to a very large number of diseases: heart disease, and high blood pressure, and insulin resistance, oh my!


How much of this visceral fat you get is largely dependent on things like genetics, hormones, age and whether you’ve had children.


But there are ways that we can reduce visceral fat and subcutaneous fat, which is not only going to give you the flat stomach you’re looking for, it’s also going to reduce your risk of chronic disease.


Abs are built in the kitchen


I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that abs are built in the kitchen and to a large degree it’s true.


No amount of tummy crunches or planks are going to outdo a crappy diet.


A diet high in salt, excess calories, processed foods, or foods that don’t agree with you, are going to either cause weight gain, water retention, or bloating.


As I talked about last week in my blog post on exercise vs nutrition, it’s a lot easier to eat more calories than you burn than it is to burn more calories than you eat.


What I mean by that is, it if you train for 40 minutes a day, 3 days a week, you’ll burn somewhere in the vicinity of 200 to 400 calories, depending on how hard you work, your current weight, and a lot of other factors.


That’s 120 minutes of exercise in a week to burn off one maybe two meals.


It’s a lot easier to to eat a healthy balanced diet in conjunction with an active lifestyle than to try burn more calories than you consume.


In fact, it would be unrealistic except under extreme circumstances. Like, if you’re the Flash, for example.


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Exercise -vs- Nutrition: Which Is More Important?

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Is It Belly Fat or Bloat?


Have you ever had, like, a perfectly flat stomach one day and then it looks like you’re 5 months pregnant the next?


It’s not likely that you gained a bunch of belly fat overnight.


It’s more likely that you just get bloated sometimes.


Good news: this is completely NORMAL!


Bloat happens.  It happens to everyone.


I tend to bloat if I overeat, drink a tonne of water, eat a lot of salt, and I definitely blow up like a balloon around my period.


One time I got an a bus while I was on my period and some kind soul stood up to give me their seat, thinking I was pregnant.


No amount of ab exercises will fix bloating. In fact, depending on the cause, it’s best to just let it run its course.


If you’re concerned about regular bloating, chat with your doctor to rule out a medical cause. You may have a food intolerance or underlying condition, so it’s important to rule it out.


So, do ab workouts work AT ALL?


Yes, definitely!


There’s another saying that goes “abs are built in the gym but revealed in the kitchen.”


So, remember the other day we were talking about muscle mass and how, to get that “toned” look, we have to do a combination of decreasing body fat and increasing muscle mass so that the muscle shows through our skin?


Abs work exactly the same way.


So those ab exercises are definitely going to build muscle mass, but without losing body fat, you won’t see those abs coming through.


Now here is the place where most people trip: you cannot spot reduce fat from a particular area.


This includes abs.


There is just no one exercise that is going to cause you to lose fat from from a specific spot.


It’s better to eat a balanced diet, and get physically active with plenty of cardio.  With time, you’ll lose fat over your whole body, including your abs.


Where you’ll lose fat first depends entirely on your individual biological blueprint.


Me personally, I lose fat from my arms, collarbone, and tits before I lose fat anywhere else, followed shortly by my ass. #goddamit


Speaking from my own personal experience, the place you tend to store weight first also tends to be the place you lose it last. Thanks a bunch, God.


Now, this isn’t to say that there’s no place for ab exercises. Far from it.


Whilst you can achieve a flatter stomach by losing body fat in general and good nutrition, if you want definition in your abs, crunches, bicycles, planks et cetera are necessary.


Appearance aside for the moment, I highly recommend increasing core strength by working the deep core muscles.


What we think of as abs i.e. the six-pack on fitness models and Avengers, is actually the most superficial layer of muscle, or the muscle closest to the skin, called your rectus abdominis.


I exercise my transverse abdominis and internal obliques most.  These are the deepest ab muscles.  They run all around your midsection, protecting and stabilizing your spine and supporting your posture.


When these are strong, you’ll stand up tall and protect the natural curve of your spine.  It makes you look slimmer and even makes your tummy look flatter.


But more importantly, a strong core makes your workouts more effective and safe, keeps your spine stable throughout the day, and can even help prevent back pain.


Some of the best exercises for working the deep core muscles include:




So in answer to the question, will ab workouts help me lose belly fat, the answer is not specifically.


Ab exercises are not the silver bullet for getting the tummy you want.


You cannot spot reduce particular areas of the body.


Stay active with a mixture of regular cardio and resistance training, including core focused exercises, which burns fat from all areas of the body and builds lean muscle mass.  Eventually, those good ole’ abs will start poking through.


Combine an active lifestyle with a healthy, balanced diet and a whole lot of patience and you’ve got yourself a recipe for burning that stubborn belly fat.


ab workouts lose belly fat


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