Saturday, January 25, 2014
If you're dedicated to getting toned abs, a larger stomach is probably the very last thing you want. If you're only doing ab exercises, your stomach may actually get larger. Instead, you need to focus on a full-body fitness routine that includes fat-burning cardio and cutting calories from your diet.
To get toned abs, you have to achieve two goals. First, you'll need to burn fat, which is the culprit behind a large, flabby stomach. While ab exercises such as crunches do burn some calories, they won't burn enough fat to help you lose weight on your stomach. Building muscle through ab exercises will only result in a difference if you're also losing fat. Otherwise, building muscle underneath a layer of fat can actually make your stomach look slightly larger.
When you exercise, your heart rapidly pumps blood to your muscles and organs, and this can cause your stomach muscles to temporarily puff up and look larger. Exercise also causes microscopic tears in your muscles. The process of healing these tears is what causes bigger muscles, according to the book "Exercise Physiology." But these tears also cause temporary inflammation. If you're not burning fat, the temporary swelling in your ab muscles can make you look heavier.
You can do thousands of crunches and run 10 miles every day and still not see a change in your waistline. To achieve your fitness goals, you have to strike a balance between removing calories from your diet and burning them through exercise. You have to get rid of 3,500 calories for every pound you want to lose, and if you're overeating, this goal will be impossible. You may gain weight in your stomach, causing your efforts to go to waste.
If you want to tone your abs, focus on working your whole body, because spot reduction is impossible. Get plenty of cardiovascular exercise such as swimming, running or cycling. At 185 pounds, for example, you'll burn 355 calories running 5 mph for 30 minutes. Abdominal exercises can help strengthen your core and make your muscles more visible as you shed fat. Try routines such as the captain's chair, bicycle crunch and exercise ball crunch, which are found to be the most effective ab exercises.
Monday, January 13, 2014
Thermogenic foods may help increase metabolism and calorie burning by enhancing thermogenesis, a process in which the body burns calories to utilize the foods you have just eaten, converting those calories to heat. Your body mainly burns calories consumed through maintaining its regular metabolic functions and through physical activity; however, a small percentage, about 10 percent, of calories are burned through diet-induced thermogenesis.
Consuming foods with spices such as red hot peppers or black pepper increases thermogenesis and can potentially have a significant effect on feelings of satiety and fat oxidation. Capsaicin, the substance that gives hot peppers their pungent flavor, has been reported to increase thermogenesis, and in studies in Japanese men and women who consumed a meal containing capsaicin, the participants experienced an increase in energy expenditure immediately following their spicy meal. Similarly, black pepper contains piperine, a substance that has been shown to influence thermogenesis through stimulating the nervous system.
Green tea contains two substances -- caffeine, and polyphenols called catechins -- that have been shown to boost thermogensis and may enhance each other's effects. Catechins in green tea may increase thermogenesis through inhibiting a particular enzyme, and green tea contains high amounts of a certain catechin called epigallocatechin gallate, which is "probably the most pharmacologically active.
Coconut oil contains mainly medium-chain fatty acids -- fats that, when consumed, have been shown to inhibit fat deposition through increased thermogenesis and fat burning.
Protein Diet-induced thermogenesis can also be affected by the proportion of macronutrients consumed -- carbs, fats, and proteins -- with high-protein diets being the most thermogenic compared to high-carb or high-fat diets. Sources of protein include lean cuts of red meat, poultry, eggs and nuts.
Thermogenic foods are the ones your body uses maximum energy (in calories) to properly digest. Some of the most effective thermogenic, or fat burning, foods are lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, egg whites, fish and lean beef (on occasion). Cayenne pepper, mustard, apple cider vinegar, cabbage, broccoli, celery, chili powder and cinnamon also have thermogenic properties that help rev up your metabolic engine and narrow your waistline.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
When you exercise, your body needs to burn off energy in the form of calories. Calories are burned off from fat and carbohydrate reserves, but how much of each you use depends on your level of intensity and the duration of your workout. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercises burn fat, but they burn it at different rates, so which type of exercise you do depends on your personal fitness goals.
Aerobic and anaerobic are fancy words used to signify which energy-producing system your body is using to fuel you during a workout. During aerobic exercise, oxygen is your main energy source. Anaerobic workouts involve faster, more explosive movements that require immediate energy reserves. Because of this, anaerobic workouts tend to burn more calories from carbohydrates relative to fat, while aerobic workouts do the opposite.
Burning fat during a workout has a nice ring to it, but in reality it doesn't matter where your calories come from. As long as you're burning a higher number of calories than you take in during the day, you'll lose weight. To lose one pound, you need to burn approximately 3,500 calories, which isn't going to happen in your average jaunt on the treadmill. This is why balancing a training regimen with proper diet and nutrition is essential to finding your ideal weight on the scale.
There is a pervading myth in the fitness industry that lower-intensity aerobic exercises keep you in an ideal fat-burning zone, while anaerobic exercises focus your metabolism on carbs. Although it is true that aerobic exercises burn more fat relative to carbs, high-intensity anaerobic exercises burn more total calories from both sources. Additionally, anaerobic workouts put your body into a period of postexercise oxygen consumption, where you continue to burn calories at an accelerated rate for hours after you get home from the gym.
The Bottom Line
One of the intangibles associated with anaerobic workouts is that they trigger the release of a specific group of hormones that promote muscle growth and fat oxidation. While anaerobic workouts seem to be the ideal method of both burning calories and building muscle, they are intense in nature and shouldn't be done on consecutive days. Ideally, you should strike a balance between aerobic and anaerobic to develop a rounded workout routine.