When we ask people what their goals are, it's great to see more and more people, particularly women just saying I want to be healthy and happy. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, that happiness is strongly tied to their weight/body shape. And that's totally understandable. It really shouldn't be your entire world, but like many other things in all of our lives, it can be something we want to work on.
At the end of the day, our bodies actually WANT to store fat. It's ingrained in our DNA to store fat for the times when food would not be as plentiful as it is these days. The research is also out there, it is harder for women to lose fat in the belly area than men due to metabolic differences.
Now just because our body wants to store it, and it can be hard to lose, doesn't mean we shouldn't try, and there are a few key actions that can help speed up the process.
1. Cut out as much sugar and processed rubbish as possible, particularly those unhealthy carbs.
Carbs are not the devil. They are very important. After all vegetables are carbohydrates. But eliminating those refined simple carbohydrates will make the world of difference to not only reducing fat, but also just feeling good. What it does is restores your insulin sensitivity, meaning it will start using other sources (protein and fat) to fuel your body.
If heavily restricting carbs, your body can actually enter whats called Ketosis, where your body uses fat for fuel. There are some really big benefits to being in Ketosis, but it isn't for everyone. Research is very promising though.
TIP: It isn't rocket science, eliminate the sugar and process foods, and eat more complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, beans, some grains and a bit of fruit. Try to incorporate as much plant based foods as possible. These are often have a very low calorie content, will fill you up and provide lots of amazing nutrients your body needs.
This is an absolute given, but is so widely neglected it's scary. Sleep is one thing that can improve your life dramatically. Now apparently none of us have enough time for sleep, but we would ask you, where does it sit on your priority list?
There is a strong association between lack of sleep and fat, particularly belly fat. Similar to stress, it causes elevated levels of cortisol, which as stated above, can contribute significantly to how much fat your body stores.
Studies have shown we all, with the exception of a minuscule number of people, need at least 7-8hrs of sleep. YOU ARE NOT DIFFERENT.
TIP: Set evening alarms to ensure you set a routine to wind down and create a strong morning routine. Avoid technology before bed and prioritise your sleep. It most likely will add years to your life, and they will definitely be happier.
3. Doing intervals, particularly sprints (row/bike/run/skip etc).
Because of the intensity, your body actually releases growth hormones which are at the core of the problem. These are the main fat burning compounds and help burn fat stores not only during the exercise period, but also for hours after your workouts.
TIP: Doing 15-20min of HARD sprints will hurt A LOT, but the benefits of this compared to spending an hour running or cycling are huge. We work with work:rest intervals of 1:3-5 for beginners, and as you are able to cope with more, this can be reduced down to 1:1 or even less depending on the goal of the session.
4. Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods and improve Vitamin intake
Eating antioxidant rich fruit and vegetables make your cells more insulin sensitive, but it also lowers your blood sugar response when you do eat those higher carb foods. For instance adding blueberries to oatmeal will help your body digest the carbs in the oatmeal more slowly, therefore not spiking your insulin wildly, all while your body continues to spend its time burning fat, not to mention feeling more full for longer.
Some other very important benefits include less inflammation as well ashealthier skin and eyesight.
This type of foods are generally the most colourful. The more colour the better. The more processed a food is (if you can call them that) the less nutritional benefit it will have. Stick to the leafy greens and dark-coloured vegetables such as blueberries, plums, beets, capsicum, eggplant (we have an amazing recipe for this) and cabbage.
TIP: Your plate should be an array of colour in as many meals as possible. Vegetable aren't just for dinner.
5. Eat quality protein.
Meat and animal products aren't bad as many people like to tell you. Should you eat large quantities of them. Definitely not. In fact there is a lot of research out there telling us the less the better, and that most of our protein should come from plant based foods such as seafood, beans, lentils and eggs.
Essential amino acids are a key indicator in determining high-quality protein. It is defined as containing a “threshold” amount of 10 grams of essential amino acids. It also reduces hunger allowing you to eat less and preserve the lean muscle mass to help you sustain your metabolic rate.
TIP: We recommend between 1.4-1.8g/kg of protein per day depending on your goals. This may vary but its a good place to start.
6. Reduce or eliminate alcohol and other drinks high in sugar (sports drinks, soft drinks, fruit juices)
The research around this is overwhelming. People who drinks this stuff have significantly more belly fat. One of the reasons, apart from the obvious, is that the brain doesn't register the liquids (or other foods which are easy to eat) as well as solid food you have to chew. It’s easier to consume 1L of milk than a liter of Greek yogurt.
Although many still think fruit drinks are healthy, they also contain a high amount of fructose (why eating lots a fruit is also not a great idea) which can only be metabolized by the liver. This can then overload the liver, leaving 'energy' to be stored as fat in the abdominal area.
Alcohol is toxic to the body and is prioritised for processing and excretion compared to protein and fat. Your body will therefore try to store any other nutrients during this time as fat. Alcohol is also proven to impair muscle strength and power, decreasing your training intensity and overall ability to build lean muscle mass.
Alcohol dehydrates the body, increasing the recovery time and risk of injury and directly lowers your metabolic rate, which is the opposite of what we want.
TIP: Reduce or eliminate if you are serious about getting the best results.
7. Incorporate weight training
Many people, particularly women, still have a fear that doing weights will make you big and bulky. If you lift heavy weights just about every day for few years, and eat to gain weight like its your job, you might get there. MIGHT. If you work with a quality coach, you will increase your lean muscle mass, which will keep your resting metabolic rate high and burning more fat. Fat also produces inflammation which degrade muscle, so its important to continue to work on it.
Movement is key, but the main priority should be to perform as many multi-joint functional movements with resistance as possible to activate larger muscle groups. The more often you can perform a full body strength session the better, but training the lower body will give you the most bang for your buck due to the size of the muscles. The bigger the muscle group the more energy required to fuel the exercise and repair of the muscle after training and therefore the more calories burned.
One thing to note, when you start strength training, don't follow the scales. Muscle weighs a lot more than fat, so if you even put on a little bit of muscle, this can equalise fat losses on the scales. Look more to measurements or body fat %.
TIP: Try to lift heavy at least once a week, and incorporate other resistance training a least one other day. This should focus on multi-joint movements (ie squats). You also need to find a good coach to ensure your technique is solid to reduce risk of injury and accelerate your improvements.
8. Don't stress. Breath.
Stress plays a huge role in our lives and is something we help our clients with a lot. Anxiety about anything, in particular your body, or how many calories you've eaten today can increase the level of cortisol which tells the body to store fat around your organs so they can easily source it for fuel in times of stress.
If you eat something you shouldn’t, just own it and be better tomorrow. Exercise has an amazing de-stressing effect with lots more added benefits. It's the most under-prescribed medicine in the world for both physical and mental health. We aren't sure why because it burns calories while lowering stress.
Although we don't want you to obsess over it, if you are serious about getting results and becoming the person you want to be, this requires you to make strong decisions about who you are, how you spend your time and what you put in your mouth. Its about consistency and accountability, showing up each day willing to be better than you were yesterday, and then putting things in place to ensure your success.
TIP: Be accountable, stress less, breath and exercise. The last 2 definitely go hand in hand, but taking time to breath can be hugely beneficial. Breathing is one of the body’s best ways to remove toxins. Nose breathing in particular is connected to the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system which is responsible for slowing the heart rate, calming the body, and helps it relax.