Grab a dumbbell to help lose fat.

Grab a dumbbell to help lose fat.

If you want to discover how to lose belly fat, you’re reading the right post. Why is it so important to lose your belly fat? A study by Tobias Pischon, MD, MPH was published in the November 12, 2008 edition of the The New England Journal of Medicine . The European study is the most comprehensive investigation on the subject yet, and details the dangers of belly fat. Although it’s has been known for quite some time that the layer of fat surrounding your abdominal organs wasn’t healthy, the dangers appear to far more serious than was originally thought. The study linked belly fat to an untimely death, and the link is stronger than was first thought.

The layer of fat surrounding your organs that is known as either belly fat, intra-abdominal fat, or visceral fat. Unlike the fat that sights benignly under your skin (known as subcutaneous fat) , making you look bad, this type of fat is packed around your internal organs like ice around beer in a cooler. It does make you look fat, too, but it is the long term health risks that make this fat so important to lose. In addition to the physical health risks, a new study also links belly fat to clinical depression.

A study of 409 women at the Rush University Medical Center, showed that their levels of belly fat strongly correlated with increased incidences of clinical depression. The amount of belly fat on the women was measured with a CT scan, to ensure that it wasn’t mistaken for subcutaneous fat. Interestingly, women with large waist lines that were caused by subcutaneous fat showed no higher incidences of depression.

So, if you have that unattractive, and now it looks like highly dangerous, layer of fat around your midsection, how can you lose it before it loses you? Fortunately, there has been research done in that area too. Much of the studies show promising results from techniques that can dramatically shorten the time it takes to lose fat, and have unearthed things that can hamper your progress unnecessarily.

There really is no shortcut for the basic formula to lose fat, burn more calories than you take in. However, the way you take in those calories, what they’re made of, and when you take them in can make a huge difference. In addition there are ways to make sure you burn more calories every day. Sure you can ride a bike or walk on a treadmill for hours. That works, and it does burn calories, but as I’ve posted before, it isn’t the most effective way to increase your body’s energy usage on a per unit of time basis.

That gets to the core of the fat loss problem for many people. They are extremely busy, and don’t have time to go to extreme lengths to lose bely fat, however much it is warranted. So, here is a simple plan to lose belly fat. It is backed up by the latest studies and research, not to mention some good, old, common sense. Follow it and you should lose your belly fat, not to mention any other unwanted adiposity you have hanging around.

If you ware going to exercise, you have to fly in the face of convention if maximum fat loss in the minimum time spent exercising is your goal (and really, shouldn’t it be?). Sure, you could pull the kids out of soccer, skip a few meetings at work, or stop spending time with your family and friends, but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense does it? So, the most important thing you can do is to get yourself either a gym membership or a set of dumbbells. I’ll detail the best way to use them to lose fat in a minute.

If you want a gym membership, Costco has 2 years of full membership at 24hr Fitness for only $299. That is only about 12 bucks a month. It’s hard to imagine a better deal on a club membership. If you don’t want to go the health club route you should pick up a set of dumbbells. You can get a good deal on a used set, or you can get them at the aforementioned warehouse store or any exercise supply or sporting goods store. I like adjustable dumbbells for the reasons I laid out  a few months ago in my post on adjustable dumbbells.

Squats with resistance bands are great if you have no weights or space to put them. Pleus, bands are sure easier to travel with!

Squats with resistance bands are great if you have no weights or space to put them. Plus, bands are sure easier to travel with!

Recent studies seem to indicate that for long term metabolic rise and the most effective fat burning, high intensity, medium repetitions are the way to go. In the past, prevailing logic dictated that you’d use low reps for muscle building and high reps to get lean and burn fat. Unfortunately for those of us that followed that logic for 10 or 20 years, it wasn’t entirely accurate. While it wasn’t a waste, it also wasn’t giving us the best results for the time we spent in the gym.

Now it seems that sets of 6 – 8 repetitions at very high intensity are the way to go. I detailed some of the studies that bear this out in my posts on getting in shape fast and how to burn fat with weights. Spend about 5 – 10 minutes on the bike or treadmill to get your heart pumping and your muscles and connective tissues warmed up first. Then I typically do a set or two of my core exercises at 12 – 15 fairly easy reps to get my upper body a bit more warmed up and help prevent injuries.

If you’re using dumbbells, you’ll only need these 3 exercises; bench press, power cleans, and squats. These are the biggies that target your major muscle groups and get your metabolic fires burning. If you do it right, they’ll be burning fat. You can do these with dumbbells or a bar, but I’m partial to dumbbells because they make you use so many other muscles to keep everything in line, so it’s more like real work. They also take up less space in the condo.

Pick a weight you can barely do for 1 set at 7 reps. Then do 4 sets of 7 reps. Yes, I said 4 sets of 7, resting about 1 minute between them. On the concentric phase (lifting) you want to explode out. On the eccentric phase (lowering) you want to go slower, about 1-1/2 to twice as long as the concentric phase. You’ll need a spotter to get the last rep ( or 2??) on most of your sets, but that extra intensity is where you really get the benefit. Don’t wiggle or fish around, or lift crookedly, you’re trying to lose fat, not get hurt. Injury prevention is vital to any sort of progress, not to mention a pain free life. If you don’t have a spotter, do as many as you can with the original weight, then go to a lighter set of dumbbells for a few more reps.

Do this weight workout 2 days a week. If you’re young and get plenty of sleep you can probably do it 10 times a month instead of 8. Your body needs a recovery time to rebuild after lifting, because lifting weights basically forces your body to adapt to stress by attempting to overcome it.

If you are one of those people that has extra time, you can by all means throw in some cardio. It does burn fat and it’s great for heart health. Again, the rule of the day is high intensity, relatively short duration, but with a twist. That twist is interval training. I posted a few weeks ago about running to lose weight. In that post I detailed the high intensity cardio training interval strategy that was found to work very well in clinical studies. Train for 4 minutes at 85% intensity, followed by a 2 minute rest interval. Repeat this for 4 cycles. That’s 24 minutes of training that will do more to burn fat than longer, continuous runs at lower intensity. The most effective time to do cardio, if you are going to be doing some, is before breakfast. That has been shown to more effectively mobilize fat for energy, instead of relying on muscle glycogen to power your workout.

Now, resistance training is great for losing belly fat, getting stronger and generally feeling better, and some cardio sure doesn’t hurt either, but the fact is that your diet is of critical importance for losing fat and for overall health. You need to get enough quality nutrition, which some people neglect when they make the common mistake of cutting back a little too much on their diet. If you eat too little, or too little quality food, you’ll torpedo your fat loss progress. Check out this post on how to determine how many calories you need.

Once you determine your daily calorie requirements, divide it into at least 5, but preferably 6 different meals. You can still eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, but throw in a few healthy snacks along the way. By breaking up your daily food intake, your body will be better able to absorb nutrients. It will also be less likely to store food as fat. If you eat a traditional large meal, your body will store what it doesn’t need for immediate use or to replace depleted muscle glycogen. Glycogen is a polysaccharide used by the body when it needs energy Right Now. Your muscles need to replenish it after a brutal workout. That’s why it is important to eat some carbs directly after your workout. It will help your body rebuild its muscle glycogen stores and get ready for the next big storm.

A study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recently revealed that it is the number of calories you eat more than anything else diet related that will determine weather or not you lose fat. However, that doesn’t mean that you should just eat a fist full of sugar for every meal. Sure you would be eating a fairly low calorie diet, but you’d be missing out on the nutrients you’d need to grow lean muscle and maintain your overall health.

You are more likely to store fat depending upon what you eat because of different food’s effect on your hormones and metabolism. For example, eating simple sugars causes your blood sugar to spike, causing your body to release the powerful hormone insulin. In oversimplified terms, insulin can command your body to more easily store extra calories as fat.

That is why so called low glycemic carbs is a key to fat loss. The glycemic index is a measure of how fast a carbohydrate causes your blood sugar to rise. Low glycemic index carbs release more slowly into your bloodstream, which helps keep insulin levels from spiking along with the sugar levels. If you have some high glycemic index carbs, do so immediately after your workout. If your activity level is and has been low, rapid blood sugar rises will cause the extra sugars to be stored as fat because your sugar dumps into your body faster than your body is using it up.

An easy way to help yourself is to eliminate all white flour, refined sugar, high fructose corn sweetener, and white rice form your diet. For many people that has them eating not much of anything, but there are great tasting alternatives for most of these things that are nutrient rich, too. Substitute brown rice for white. After a while you’ll want brown rice because of the taste. Eat whole grain pasta instead of traditional stuff. Switch to whole grain breads from white or even wheat bread.

If you’re really adventurous, you can try flour-less bread. That’s right, you can actually buy bread that’s made with no flour. I love it, but some people think it takes a bit of getting used to. Dave’s Killer bread, made in Portland, OR is my favorite, but it’s a bit spendy. They make quite a few varieties of bread with flour too. Dave himself has a very interesting life story which proves that even if you really screw up, you can usually fix your life again if you take the initiative. You can check out his website at Daves Killer Bread.

Keep on the lookout for hidden sugars, because they’re in nearly everything that you buy from the store. Take a second to read the nutrition label on the foods you buy. You’ll be shocked at what is in some of them. Some foods have 4 or 5 kinds of sugar. Keep in mind that foods are listed in the order of how much is in there. The first ingredient on the list is the most prevalent in the food. If you see 3 or four types of sugar near the top of the list, that means the food is almost entirely sugar. Put it down, now.

When you’re preparing your food, you should weigh it. Yes, it is a pain in the rear, but it is all too easy to eat far more than you think you are by simply taking too large a portion on accident. Those little accidents really add up over time. I did a post on portion control for fat loss back in the winter. If you eat out (and if you do, you should be really cognizant of portion size, many restaurants serve enormous portions). Something else that has been proven by actual scientific research to help people lose weight and fat is keeping a food diary. That will help you really get a handle on how much you’re eating at each meal.

So, here is your easy to follow plan for belly fat loss success –

Workout with weights 2 days a week using a high intensity, medium / low rep routine. This will only take you less than ½ hour per routine, so you’ll spend less than an hour a week exercising. You can always do more, of course. If you want to do cardio too, you certainly can.

Eat healthy foods, broken up into 5 or 6 meals per day. Don’t eat too few calories or too many. Determine how many you actually need using the formula for daily calorie requirements.

Stay away from high fructose corn sweetener, white rice, and refined sugar. Keep to high glycemic index carbohydrates in most cases. Definitely don’t eat any carb-laden meals within a few hours of bedtime, it will go straight to your belly.

Use portion control with your food and write everything down. It is a clinically proven path to fat loss success.

That simple plan will get rid of your belly fat, with any luck, once and for all. Look through other posts for more detail and other insights on what to eat and when, exercise routines and supplement information.

Hope you keep losing your belly fat!