Joseph Gregorio | AfN Nutrition Adviser
Whether you’re trying to shake off the horrific amount of calories you consumed over the weekend, preparing for that long awaited vacation or simply wanting to look and feel a lot more trimmer and leaner, losing stubborn fat around the waist (known as subcutaneous fat) is certainly a challenging one.
Wave goodbye to countless hours spent on crunches in the gym because the following strategies will blast the fat off your waist in no time!
As a rule of thumb, losing weight (and in turn, fat) can largely be attributed to 70% nutrition and 30% exercise (there’s a debate that it’s more for nutrition!) 70% of what you eat including your overall eating habits will contribute to fat loss, where 30% of your physical activities will also play a role in fat loss. Therefore, both are required for optimal results as there is currently no ‘magic’ pill, food or exercise(s) that will help turn your body into a fat burning furnace – for now, anyway.
While the above ratio is subject to dispute, it serves as a useful guideline to begin with since nutritional habits are easier to tailor for fat loss than exercise.
Fat loss strategy #1: Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is the practice of going prolonged periods of time (usually between 16 – 24 hours) without consuming any food in order to give the body enough time to break down calories consumed for fat loss.
IF is not a ‘diet’ per say, nor does it involve starving yourself – rather, it entails eating at certain intervals during the day, known as an ‘eating window’ and not eating at other times, or ’fasting’. While this may sound ridiculous for some, IF has a number of scientifically proven health benefits including improved mental cognition, reduced insulin sensitivity and oxidative stress, but most importantly increased weight and fat loss.
Although there are many variations of the IF protocol including ‘lean gains (16:8) diet’, the ‘alternate day diet’, the ‘5:2 diet’ and the ‘warrior’s diet’, they all work on the basis of restricting calories that will otherwise be stored as fat.
IF is an extremely effective approach to weight loss and on top of the briefly mentioned health benefits, one key antidote is its ability to facilitate the increase of human growth hormone (HGH) while lowering insulin levels. In effect, this process makes fat cells more readily available for burning while increasing the rate at which lean muscle can be built.
If you are serious about losing stubborn fat, building leaner muscles and looking a lot more toned, IF is definitely something you should consider.
Fat loss strategy #2: Portion control
Hand portion method
It is no secret that you are what you eat, or rather how much you eat. Counting calories is something a lot of us have become accustomed to for weight loss. But what if there is simple yet just as effective way to lose weight without all the numbers? Well, there is, and all it involves is just your hands.
Here’s the gist:
✓ 1 palm-sized hand shapes your protein intake
✓ 1 full-length hand dictates your carbohydrate intake
✓ 1 closed fist determines your fibre intake
✓ 1 thumb-size establishes your fat intake
The hand portion method serves as a basic guideline for controlling the portions of your micro and macronutrient calories with minimal fuss.
On average, males who lead an active lifestyle may get the best results from the above protocol by having 6 – 8 servings each day to be within the 2,500 kcal daily limit.
Additionally, active females may typically benefit from 4 – 5 servings of each food group per day to be within the average 2,000 kcal mark. However, for your own weight loss goal, it is necessary to make adjustments through trial and error to meet your individual needs.
Smaller plates and containers
Alternatively, if you do not fancy getting your grubby paws covered in food, consider using smaller plates and compartmentalised containers to pack portioned food on the move.
Smaller plates trick your brain into thinking there is a lot more food on your plate than there really is. In reality, all you have done is limited the amount of food you can put on your plate and prevented the likelihood of over-consuming calories which may be way more than what you actually need.
Containers and boxes with compartments are a great way to restrict your portion intake while getting in the required vitamins, minerals and nutrients to meet your weight loss goals. They are also really convenient to store and pack with you wherever you go, even at work so you never have to worry about tempting cravings creeping up on you.
Fat loss strategy #3: Carb Back Loading
Akin to Intermittent Fasting (IF), Carb Back Loading (CBL) is not considered a diet and simply involves timing when to eat, and timing one macronutrient in particular. You guessed it, carbohydrates.
The idea is simple:
✓ Eat a light breakfast with little to no carbohydrates (or skipping it altogether.)
✓ Continue your carb-fast until after you have completed your day’s workout (which should ideally be around mid-afternoon.)
✓ Begin digesting carbohydrates post-workout and carry on doing so throughout the evening.
There is a method to the madness, however. Proponents of CBL suggest that by following the procedure listed, you will be taking full advantage of your body’s natural insulin volatility throughout the day, where the body is more sensitive to glucose in the morning than it is in the evening (due to arising from a ‘sleep fast’).
In essence, this spells bad news for your fat loss goals as your body is more likely to store glucose into fat if carbohydrates are consumed in the morning before a workout.
However, the reverse is true once you have exercised slightly later in the day. Your body is more like to supply the digested glucose from carbohydrates into the broken down muscles having run through energy reserves during strenuous exercise. This means carbohydrates cannot be stored away for later use, helping to keep you leaner and getting rid of belly fat in the process.
While this approach to eating is certainly up for profuse debate, it is definitely something to explore if you find yourself unnecessarily indulging in cereal bars and croissants before your body has even had the time to fully wake up!
Fat loss strategy #4: H.I.I.T cardio
‘High Intensity Interval Training’, commonly known as H.I.I.T is your one-stop system of cardio that will melt the fat.
H.I.I.T involves short periods of intense anaerobic bursts, such as sprinting followed by periods of low-intensity recovery movements, like a steady walk.
The aim of this form of cardio is to continually ‘shock’ or ‘challenge’ your cardiovascular system to become more efficient in a shorter space of time. This means you will be in and out of the gym doors in no time – but don’t expect to be walking out when you are done if you have executed it properly.
When performing H.I.I.T, you naturally elevate your heart-rate which will help to burn any excess calories. This is because the more you perform H.I.I.T, the more you prime your body to recover much more quickly (for the next burst) and improve your oxygen and metabolic capacity in the process.
In turn, H.I.I.T has a domino-effect on your resting metabolic rate when you are done, meaning fewer fat cells being stored in your body due to being used up through basic chemical processes while remaining sedentary.
The following serves as an ideal programme to begin incorporating H.I.I.T while running on a treadmill, for example:
✓ Set a pace that will challenge you to use 90% effort
✓ Run at that pace for 30 seconds
✓ Reduce the pace after 30 seconds which will allow you to catch your breath
✓ Walk at that pace for 1 minute
✓ Repeat for 10 rounds
Total H.I.I.T time = 15 minutes
Take home message
Both nutrition and exercise must be worked in harmony in order to get the best fat loss results. Getting visible abs does not (and should not for that matter) involve starving yourself or jeopardising your health. It does, however, involve being more fully aware of your eating and exercise habits and intelligently adjusting both to maximum effect.
So what are you waiting for? Begin experimenting with any or all of the 4 strategies listed and get the six-pack you have always wanted.
Besides, all of the tips mentioned can be performed right this very second!