Summer is here, hopefully to stay! and one of the most common things I hear patients and clients talking about is:
The topic of getting summer body ready and losing stomach fat so they can be ready for the beach, pool, or other bathing suit activities!
Let me just get one thing straight, you can go to the beach or pool no matter what your body type is, or what it looks like! So if your worrying about being beach body ready just relax and enjoy your time in the nice weather rather than fussing over how you look.
Ok, anyway, so this time of year we hear this conversation A LOT, and another thing we see a lot in my clinic is people putting their back out because of all the ab exercises they’re doing, to get ready for the summer.
Which is why I wanted to talk to you about two things today…
1. Why doing ab exercises can be bad for your back
2. The real way to get a flat stomach safely without hurting your back
I really don't want a bad back to get in the way of you enjoying any vacations you have planned, and life in general!
So, why can ab exercises be bad for your back and cause back pain?
Well, even though a strong core is essential to a pain free back, and doing exercises to build a strong core are also essential… The most common ab exercises you see people going crazy at can actually cause strain on your lower back and don’t target the muscles you need to target, to keep your back protected.
Take sit-ups for example (also known as crunches), while you will definitely get a workout doing these, sit-ups also put a lot of strain on your lower back if the muscles in your lower abdominals are weak (which most of ours are thanks to sitting), and if they’re weak, that will equal putting stress on your back which equals back pain.
But there is an alternative – you can lay on an exercise ball and perform a sit-up instead, this way your back is protected and you’re getting a good stretch in your hip muscles which are kept tight when we sit for long periods of time.
But are all these ab exercises going to help you get a flat stomach? And if you have back pain, what CAN you do to help you get one?
Well, everyone has abdominal muscles – yep even you, and even me. They might not show, or be weak, but everyone has 6-pack abs. They’re just hidden under a layer of fat – which isn’t a ‘bad’ thing! Not having enough fat can be bad for our health.
Which brings me onto my next point – a flat stomach only appears when you have a low enough body fat percentage. The reason why there are thousands of ab workouts on YouTube and in magazines is because people know there’s a lot of money in the ab-industry for people desperate to get a flat stomach!
So if you’re someone who tortures yourself everyday doing all the ab exercises you can squeeze in, I’m giving you permission to stop, because it’s probably not doing what you think it’s doing.
Why? Because you can’t target or spot-reduce stomach fat – or any fat!
Doing certain exercises to strengthen your muscles around your stomach, back and spine will target your abs, but it doesn’t mean they’ll burn fat in that area.
Depending on your age, weight, gender and genetics, your body will lose fat in different places, in different orders.
When you have a plan in place to lose fat, as long as it’s working and you stick to that plan, you will also lose fat on your abs!
So, what does it come down to?
What you eat and how your exercising!
1) Consume fewer calories than you are currently consuming
In order to do that, you need to know how much you currently eat, you need a plan to eat less, and then you need to track how consistent you are with that plan.
You can use a simple app like My Fitness Pal to do that – just be aware not to cut calories too low! Everyone is different.
2) Eat more vegetables
We’re talking leafy greens and similar vegetables. Sorry, pizza is not a vegetable.
The recommended daily intake is 5 plus vegetables a day. I know some people who consume zero. Having a plate full of vegetables will make it look like you’re eating a lot more, for fewer calories, and they’re a great source of fiber, keeping everything moving.
3) Make sure there’s a protein with every meal.
The one constant in your food plan should be protein. This helps conserve the muscle you have and keeps you feeling full!
4) Eat healthy fats!
If you are cutting back calories from junk food, and you’re loading up on vegetables, then you might struggle to eat enough calories every day – which can be detrimental to your health.
Enter fats! You’ve already got protein and vegetables in your meals; healthy fats will round out a good meal, and are not bad for you!
Avocados, olive oil, mixed nuts and real butter are great sources of healthy fats.
And… 5) Start a workout plan
Find a workout plan that offers a variety of exercises to challenge you, burn calories and ultimately fat! Aim to exercise 3-5x/week for 20-30 minutes as a start!
There you have it – Start with one change to focus on to target losing stomach fat safely, without putting your back out by doing hundreds of ab exercises (that you probably don’t enjoy anyway).
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