Eat at the magic hour: Have a snack that contains protein between 3 PM and 4 PM. It will boost your metabolism and balance your blood sugar.
Beef up on a belly-zapping hormone: Eat as close to zero grams of sugar as possible. This will keep your insulin levels low, and also keep your glucagon levels high. Glucagon, a hormone, helps keep your belly flat
Chew on this: Chewing prevents bloating. Chew food until it is like applesauce in your mouth. Digestion begins in the mouth, and better-digested food means less gas and bloating.
Size matters: Eating portion-controlled meals will reduce your abdominal flab.
Building muscle, losing fat, and improving overall health are dependent on one very important hormone -- insulin. The website Bodybuilding.com offers 6 tips to get your insulin sensitivity high and keep it there. Here are three of them:
Tighten the reins on refined carbs: One of the primary reasons people develop diabetes is their overconsumption of refined carbs and sugars, which causes their pancreas to continually pump out more and more insulin.
Have some healthy fats: Another way to increase your insulin sensitivity is by optimizing the rate at which your body processes carbohydrates by eating plenty of healthy fats.
Stay active all day: Most people hit the gym regularly, but they succumb to long periods of inactivity during the rest of their day. This is asking for trouble.
To read the rest of their tips, click on the link below.
Aesthetics aside, there are many reasons to build your abdominal muscles, including:
- Looking and feeling good: How you look and how you feel about your body can have a big impact on your psyche. When you feel good about your body, that feeling tends to spill over into other areas of your life.
- Stabilizing your spine and reducing pain: When you build your ab muscles, it's like developing an internal corset that holds your gut in. When you tighten your "inner weight belt," you create more stabilization for your spine, vertebrae and discs, which in turn can significantly reduce back pain.
- Gaining greater physical freedom of movement and functionality: Having a strong abdominal wall is very important for optimal body movement, and gets increasingly more important with advancing age. Being able to work, play, and move is a big part of aging gracefully. Having pain or limited range of motion in your core can be very challenging.
Many mistakenly believe that all you have to do to get strong, ripped abs is to do lots and lots of sit-ups. However, while you can build up some abdominal wall strength this way, you will never see defined abs unless you reduce your overall body fat!
Optimal Nutrition for Fat Loss
It is important to understand that 80 percent of your ability to reduce excess body fat is determined by what you eat, with the other 20 percent related to exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits.
The greatest pitfall of the American diet that prevents untold millions from reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is excess fructose consumption. It's the number one source of calories in the US, and this ingredient, primarily in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hides in so many processed foods and beverages, it can be near impossible to avoid unless you alter your shopping and cooking habits. By avoiding processed foods in general, and focusing instead on whole, preferably locally-grown organic foods, you can plow your way through one of the greatest dietary obstacles there is today.
Next, you'll want to pay close attention to your consumption of grains (including organic ones) as they too readily break down into sugar, and promote insulin resistance and retention of body fat.
My nutritional plan has an excellent success rate in terms of weight loss and optimal health, and significantly reducing sugar and grain consumption is a cornerstone of this plan. Following is a quick summary of the basic recommendations. For more information, please review the full plan here:
- Limit your fructose to less than 25 grams per day. Ideally, you'll also want to limit the amount of fructose from fruit to 15 grams per day, as you're likely consuming 'hidden' fructose if you eat even small amounts of processed foods or sweetened beverages
- Limit or eliminate all processed foods
- Eliminate all gluten, and highly allergenic foods from your diet
- Eat organic foods whenever possible, preferably locally-grown
- Eat at least one-third of your food uncooked (raw), or as much as you can manage
- Increase the amount of fresh vegetables in your diet
- Avoid artificial sweeteners of all kinds
- Swap all trans fats (vegetable oils, margarine etc.) for healthful fats like raw grass-fed organic butter or coconut oil
- To re-balance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, take a high-quality omega-3 supplement, such as krill oil, and reduce your consumption of processed omega-6 fats from vegetable oils (trans fats)
- Drink plenty of pure water
- Optimize your vitamin D levels, either through appropriate sun exposure, a safe tanning bed, or a vitamin D3 supplement
Insulin—One of the Most Important Hormones for Successful Weight Loss
Building muscle, losing fat, and improving overall health are dependent on the optimal functioning of one important hormone -- insulin. Insulin resistance leads not only to diabetes and numerous other chronic diseases, but also makes it more difficult to lose fat.
If you're looking for that six-pack physique, you need to lose body fat to expose the abdominal muscles underneath. And while your diet will make or break your success as 80 percent of achieving ideal fat levels is related to the food you eat, exercise is also important because it too will help you normalize your insulin levels; in fact, this is one of the most potent benefits of exercise in general.
A recent article on Bodybuilding.com also discussed various tips for improving your insulin sensitivity, many of which mirror my own advice, such as:
- Limit carbs, except vegetables: One of the primary reasons you develop diabetes is due to overconsumption of non-vegetable carbs and sugars, which causes your pancreas to continually pump out more and more insulin until, eventually, you become insulin resistant.
- Increase healthy fats: As you cut carbohydrates from your diet, you need to add fats. Healthy fats help increase your insulin sensitivity by optimizing the rate at which your body processes carbohydrates. Sources of healthy fats include olive oil, coconut oil, butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk, and organic pastured egg yolks. For more information about how healthy fats can help you lose weight, please see this recent article.
- Eat plenty of fiber: Fiber-rich meals help slow the release of sugars, allowing for a more effective insulin response. What constitutes as good sources of fiber? Primarily vegetables, beans and fruits—not grains—and soluble fiber sources like organic psyllium.
To Shed Excess Pounds, Build Muscle!
Strength training is an integral part of a well-rounded exercise program, and is recommended for all ages, including seniors. And while strength training has numerous health benefits, such as strengthening your bones and improving posture, it can also help you lose weight. In fact, one of the most time-efficient ways to burn more calories is to gain more muscle! For every pound of additional muscle you gain, your body will burn an additional 50-70 calories per day. So, if you gain 10 lbs. of muscle, you will automatically burn 500-700 more calories per day than you did before.
Furthermore, your muscles also participate in the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, protecting you against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, to really maximize your weight loss efforts, make sure you include high-intensity interval exercises like Sprint 8 in your program. Several studies have confirmed that exercising in shorter bursts with rest periods in between burns more fat than exercising continuously for an entire session. This has been shown to hold true even when the session is not done at an extremely high intensity. This should come as welcome news to most people: You can actually lose more weight by reducing the amount of time you spend on exercise! That's right, just 20 minutes, two to three times a week is all you need to set aside for your Sprint 8 exercises.
One of the reasons why Sprint 8 works so well is because it promotes the production of human growth hormone (HGH), which is a synergistic, foundational biochemical underpinning that makes your strength training and everything else work more efficiently, including calorie burning.
High-intensity interval training will also promote muscle building. As explained by fitness expert Ori Hofmekler, intense speed- and push/pull drills trigger a mechanism in your muscles that promotes muscle growth, so these kinds of exercises eventually lead to increased muscle size, even though you're not lifting weights.
Pilates is another great exercise you can do that will dramatically improve your core muscles. I have recently started twice-weekly sessions and have really been enjoying the experience.
How to Perform Sprint 8 Exercises
Here's a summary of what a typical Peak Fitness routine might look like using a recumbent bike (for detailed instructions and a video demonstration, please see this previous article):
- Warm up for three minutes
- Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should feel like you couldn't possibly go on another few seconds
- Recover for 90 seconds
- Repeat the high intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times
Be mindful of your current fitness level and don't overdo it when you first start out. If you are not in great shape and just starting this you may want to start with just two or three repetitions, and work your way up to eight. You may need to start with just walking and when you do your 30 second bursts your legs would be moving as fast as possible without running - and your arms would be pumping hard and fast.
Ultimately you want to exercise vigorously enough so you reach your anaerobic threshold as this is where growth hormone release is triggered. Whatever activity you choose, by the end of your 30 second sprint period you will want to reach these markers:
- It will be relatively hard to breathe and talk because you are in oxygen debt
- You will start to sweat profusely. Typically this occurs in the second or third repetition unless you have a thyroid issue and don't sweat much normally.
- Your body temperature will rise
- Lactic acid increases and you will likely feel a muscle "burn"
Tips on How to Work Your Abdominals
Now, let's move on to more ab-specific exercises. In order to give your abdominals a good workout, make sure to slow down your movements and shorten the range of motion on your exercises. The old-fashioned sit-ups do not isolate your ab muscle very well at all, whereas very slow crunches (limited range of motion) are quite effective.
Also keep in mind that your abdominal muscles need more variety than other muscle groups. You may only be able to use an effective ab exercise for two or three work outs before your body gets used to it. That is not to say you can't use it again later, but you will want to use new ones for a few weeks.
Ideally, you'll want to hit your abdominals from all three sides, each week:
- Upper abs: crunches / sit-ups
- Lower abs: knee-ups and leg raises
- Side obliques: punches, twists and side bridges
Try doing two sets of three different exercises in each abdominal work out. Work your abs two or three times per week at most. Like other muscle groups, if you work them out effectively they will be slightly sore the next day. This is a sign that they need to rest and recover before you exercise them again.
Push-Ups: A Surprisingly Effective Exercise for Your Abs!
I also want to remind you about another exercise that can help you build firm, six-pack abs, namely push-ups! That's right, as long as you're doing them correctly, push-ups will train your abs as well as your upper body. For a full video demonstration of a number of different variations, please see this previous article, but here's a quick summary of the key technique:
- While in plank position, pull in your bellybutton. Your bellybutton is attached to your transverse abdominis, that inner sheath that holds your gut inside and gives your spine and vertebrae a nice, weight belt-tightening type of support. So by pulling it in, you begin to contract that deep inner transverse abdominis muscle.
If you want to work your six-pack rectus abdominis muscle, drive your chin down toward your toes while you're focused on squeezing your bellybutton in.
- Next, do a Kegel squeeze. More women than men might be familiar with this term. A Kegel squeeze is performed by drawing your lower pelvic muscles up and holding them up high and tight. For men who aren't familiar with that term, it's similar to trying to stop urinating in the middle of the flow. This squeeze will allow you to feel and focus on your abdominal muscles.
These techniques help build the deep inner core muscles that lay the groundwork for that six-pack look. Keep in mind however, that in order to really get "six-pack" abs, men need to get their body fat down to about six percent, and women around nine percent.
For more videos on unique, effective abdominal exercises, please see my fitness video library.