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Well, there are only 3 things that scare me in this world – speeding fines, Keeping the Toilet seat up, and unwanted FAT around my midsection.
So I need to get this situation under control or I’m going to freak right out. It’s everywhere and it’s making me anxious and paranoid. Just kidding around:)
Let’s address the most common cause for people out there, and it’s the simplest one to start with — they are overweight, period. They eat too much junk, in way too big of portions, and don’t exercise enough.
In 20 years in the game, I can tell you this with absolute certainty — there is no one, universal “right” way for everyone, everywhere. There are no simple answers and cookie-cutting approach only works in the cookie making business.
Because trust me, in the real world beyond research and theory, I’ve seen various “plans” yield outstanding results just look at our Muscle Up challengers click here .
So if you are planning for a 6 pack and some intense training to get the job done, well that changes the ball game entirely. Exercise, specifically strength training, changes your internal physiology for up to 48-72 hours after the session (assuming you are lifting more intensely than Mr Puniverse.
I believe in strength training to boost the basic metabolic rate.
Now, onto more specifics — foods or lifestyle choices that lead to fat accumulation specifically around the midsection:
1. Two of the most abundant compounds in the average, modern Australian diet are two of the worst compounds for body composition enhancement AND overall health — concentrated fructose and trans-fats.Both of these compounds have been researched and proven to be linked to many of our most troublesome diseases, and for this question’s purposes, have been linked directly to insulin resistance and abdominal obesity.
In practical terms, “you gotta cut the crap”. Try to reduce Trans fats (coming mostly from packaged/refined snack foods, anything with hydrogenated oil, margarine, fried foods, etc.). Also cut out concentrated sources of fructose: high fructose corn syrup, sugar (which is technically one molecule of glucose plus one molecule of fructose), fruit juice and dried fruits, and B.S. foods that are marketed as “health” foods and better than sugar but contain just as much, if not more fructose, than table sugar (ie nectar, honey, etc.). Fructose should be consumed in much smaller amounts than in the average Australian diet, and in the way in which Mother Nature intended — via seasonal whole fruit.
If you stick to this first principle alone, that should take care of about 90% of the problem. Almost everything else related to belly fat accumulation can be related to the hormone cortisol. And while a necessary and integral part of normal functioning, problems (including that damn belly fat) can arise with chronic overproduction.
2. Stress. Modern living and corporate/business/financial pressure have us all way more wound up than we should be. I’m not one of these whacked out trainers that’s gonna tell you to quit your job and come contemplate the meaning of life with me in the mountains. You just have to try as much as you can to find ways to reduce stress a little bit — intense strength training is a physical stress, but also can be an emotional release, and has a calming effect on the body upon completion;
3. Stress response to foods. There are many of us that have allergies, or at least are sensitive, to specific food compounds. Some specific ones that come to mind are gluten (the protein in wheat, rye, barley) and lactose (the sugar in milk). If you have a full-blown allergy, you’ll know it — digestive distress. But many of us have a sensitivity that goes undiagnosed, and can lead to lethargy, water retention, and of course cortisol elevation and fat accumulation. If you suspect this, try cutting out things like gluten and lactose for a few weeks and see how your body responds.
4. Besides storing excess calories, one of the physiological purposes for excess body fat is to serve as a storage site for toxins. Take in a lot of toxins through the environment or through foods, and you have an additional reason to store belly fat. How can you reduce toxin exposure? You can buy organic produce (regular produce is often sprayed with pesticides that act as toxins in our body). You can cut back on alcohol, which the body treats as a toxin. You can reduce your consumption of packaged foods — I can’t help but think that all of those chemicals, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners are somewhat perceived as toxins in the body. And finally, eat more detoxifying foods (and not some B.S. detox plan designed to sell you 100 different supplements). I just mean real foods that naturally serve as detoxifiers — ie organic vegetables.
5. Yes being Italian I do love my espresso, but the research is quite clear that caffeine can elevate cortisol levels. Moderate amounts should not have any detrimental effects on body composition (and can actually assist in the fat loss process by increasing lipolysis and acting as a thermogenic aid), but if you are eating like crap, not getting quality energy from real food, and just using caffeine and fake energy to compensate (ie drinking a pot of coffee a day, plus 5 red bulls, and 10 diet drink’s), we’ll you can see where that might lead to problems. And if you are just using coffee as a vessel for sugar and cream, you don’t really like coffee that much (you like sugar and cream).
6. Now I know some of you are thinking, this guy is crazy. I’m not cutting out all of that. I have to live my life. I get it. But my philosophy has always been to present the absolute ideal scenario, just so I don’t underestimate anyone’s ability or desire to “take things 100% all the way”. In reality, its up to you to find your own compromises. What has worked well for most of our challengers is to get them to follow the 85% rule. Follow the ideal path 85% of the time, and 15% of the time do whatever you want. If you do that, you will do just fine. Imagine what cutting out all sugar 85% of the time could do for your body and health?
Here is the thing. Strength training is a unique stress on the body, it creates huge cellular damage and resulting repair demands, along with depleting muscle glycogen stores.
You get no muscle growth, the breaking down of lean muscle tissue as a fuel, and cortisol elevation leading to fat accumulation around the midsection — guys and gals who are consistently training hard, following the low-carb trend, “thinking” they are doing everything right, are pretty lean everywhere else, but have that nice layer of flab hanging over their belt line.
Insulin is a misunderstood hormone these days in the low-carb Era. No hormone your body produces naturally is inherently bad, it just needs to be controlled. Chronic elevation or overproduction can of course lead to fat gain. But in the right amounts and situations (ie following an intense workout where insulin sensitivity is high) it can be a good thing (anabolic, anti-catabolic, leading to increased lean muscle, elevated metabolic rate, which in turn leads to more fat burning at rest).
If this resonates with you, my best advice is (I know it sounds crazy, but reread above) — add some non-fructose, non-gluten containing carbs back into your diet (ie sweet potatoes, rice) to REDUCE belly fat. At the very least, start with a small amount in the post-workout window (0-45 min post training). Keep your protein:carb ratio around 1:1 (if you have 30g of protein go with 30g starchy carbs).for more info click here