Yesterday we shared the “Tight & Toned Workout” and today we have the diet and lifestyle tips to compliment the work in the gym.
Summer is here and who isn’t thinking about the new swimsuits for the season? But who also isn’t thinking they wish they could tighten their tummies and have a flatter midsection before walking down the beach in that new swimsuit?
Excess abdominal fat is not just unattractive; it also increases your risk for many different diseases. Waist circumference is a reliable predictor of visceral fat or abdominal fat. Abdominal obesity is defined as having a waist circumference of >89 cm for women, and this is strongly associated with an increased risk for hypertension, The Metabolic Syndrome, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and premature death.
In the body, dietary carbohydrates, sugars, and starch are converted to glucose, which indirectly instructs the pancreas to release insulin into the blood. Insulin not only transports glucose into the cells, it stores glucose as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Insulin is the primary fat-building enzyme, converting glucose to fat. When the liver and muscles are filled with glycogen, insulin turns excess glucose into body fat. Insulin also inhibits lipolysis, and decreases the body’s ability to break down stored fat. Diets that are high in carbohydrates are a contributing factor toward weight gain.
One of the major health benefits of a low-carbohydrate diet is weight loss. A low-carbohydrate diet will lower the amount of stored glycogen in the muscles and liver. This will cause fuel sources to shift from glucose to fatty acids, thereby increasing the rate of lipolysis and beta oxidation to make ATP for energy during exercise. Lowering your intake of carbohydrates is one way to lose excess abdominal weight without having to consciously restrict calories. A low-carbohydrate diet lowers blood glucose in diabetics and it improves insulin sensitivity which is a precursor for The Metabolic Syndrome. A low-carbohydrate, non-restricted calorie diet is generally defined as less than 10 percent of total caloric intake or no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates daily. Most low-carbohydrate diets replace carbohydrates with healthy sources of fats and proteins.
When choosing which carbohydrates to include in your diet, you should refer to the glycemic index scale. Carbohydrates are given a measure known as their glycemic index (GI), which rates their effects of blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high GI; carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream have a low GI.
Low glycemic index carbohydrates only cause a gradual rise in glucose and limit the spikes in insulin in the body. Low glycemic carbohydrates also help you to feel fuller, and give you more energy. Low glycemic index carbohydrates will have a GI rating of 55 or less and will consist of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, fructose, and products low in carbohydrates. Medium glycemic index carbohydrates will have a GI rating of 56-69 and consist of whole-wheat products, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and sucrose products. High glycemic carbohydrates have a rating of 70 and above and typically consist of baked potatoes, watermelon, white bread, white rice, breakfast cereals, and glucose.
If sticking to eating a low-carbohydrate diet isn’t for you or if you’re looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, then the Mediterranean diet might be more appealing to you. The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating, which includes olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine. Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet exerts a cardio-protective effect, reducing the risk of heart disease. Increasing scientific evidence suggests that the Mediterranean diet may not only reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but also reduce the risk of cancer, cancer mortality, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, as well as preventing obesity.
The staples of the Mediterranean diet include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, seafood, yogurt, small amounts of wine and olive oil. Olive oil contains oleocanthal, which may reduce inflammation and prevent conditions like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases, as well as certain cancers. This diet focuses on portion control, emphasizing small portions of high-quality food.
Healthy fats like olive oil and nuts keep you feeling fuller longer than diets that restrict fat or forbid fat altogether. Instead of limiting total fat intake, the Mediterranean diet makes health-wise choices about what kinds of fats you should consume. It focuses on monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados; polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty types of fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and trout; and fats from plant sources, like flaxseed. This diet also limits your intake of processed and packaged foods, keeping your intake of unhealthy trans-fats extremely low.
A study performed by the University of Navarra in Spain, consisting of more than 10,000 men and women adhering to the Mediterranean Diet, demonstrated a decrease in weight gain and obesity. Another European study, which included close to 500,000 men and women from 10 different European countries also following the Mediterranean Diet, found a decrease in waist circumference and abdominal obesity. The Mediterranean Diet not only proves to decrease your risk of cardiovascular health but it also prevents abdominal obesity.
Eating more fiber could also have a big impact on decreasing abdominal fat. A study performed by The National Institute for Public Health in Bilthoven, Netherlands, showed that people who consumed 10 grams or higher of fiber per day decreased their total bodyweight and abdominal fat. A significant source of dietary fiber is defined as a food that contains a substantial amount of dietary fiber in relation to its calorie content and that contributes at least 2 grams of dietary fiber in a selected serving size.
Fiber helps keep our waistlines slim by producing regular bowel movements and lessening the belly bulge. Fiber also wards off certain diseases. Carcinogens in the intestines bind to it and move through our colons more quickly than they otherwise would, reducing the risk for colon cancer. Fiber’s greatest value, however, is in helping to keep us slim. The recommended daily intake of fiber for adults is 20 to 30 grams per day with an upper limit of 35 grams. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, vegetables, fruits (preferably with the skin), nuts, seeds and legumes.
Cut Back on Sugar
Most junk foods and processed foods consist of refined carbohydrates and sugars, which when eaten quickly raise blood sugar levels, leading to an increase in appetite and a reduction in the body’s ability to burn fat. Processed foods are highly favored by the food industry and the consumer because they are very inexpensive to produce and are specifically designed to taste good. The enormous abundance and availability of these foods is evidence that they are a staple of the American diet, and this is a major contributor to the prevalence of obesity.
Foods that are high in sugar or refined carbohydrates are digested into large amounts of glucose that quickly enter the bloodstream and cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, resulting in an augmented release of insulin. The additional insulin can impair the body’s ability to maintain consistent blood sugar levels, which can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
When sugar is consumed, it can be converted to glycogen and stored in muscle or the liver for future use. Many people consume an alarmingly high amount of carbohydrates that significantly exceed their storage capacity for glycogen. When this happens, the sugar resulting from carbohydrate digestion is converted to body fat. Many of the people who consistently consume the processed foods that contain sugar and refined carbohydrates are significantly overweight. In addition, these foods have been shown to encourage overeating, which further increases potential for weight gain.
Boozing Leads to Belly Fat
Have you seen people who are thin except for their beer bellies sticking out? Well that is the effect of excess alcohol consumption. Alcohol contains “empty” calories, which means it doesn’t contain any nutrients. All of the energy consumed through alcohol will be stored as abdominal fat.
A study performed at the University of Buffalo examined the type of alcohol consumed and its correlation to the accumulation of abdominal fat. Their findings showed that wine drinkers showed the lowest abdominal obesity, while liquor drinkers had the highest central adiposity.
Late Night Eating
To successfully lose weight, the last meal you eat should be at least two hours before you go to bed. The problem with late night snacking is that there isn’t much physical activity done afterward, and this will cause high blood sugar levels and no energy expenditure, causing the excess sugar to quickly be converted to body fat.
Your body begins to shut down a few hours after dinner preparing for sleep, causing your metabolism to become minimized at night. This natural slowing down of your metabolic rate overrides any metabolic or thermogenic boost you would obtain from eating. During sleep, the minimal amount of calories you will burn are those used for cardiovascular and respiratory function and REM sleep. The last meal you eat for the day should consist mainly of lean protein and low glycemic carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables. You should avoid all starchy carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.
Sleep and Abdominal Fat
Short sleep duration is associated with obesity, increased abdominal fat, and type 2 diabetes. Sleep patterns consisting of <5 hours per night are associated with insulin insensitivity, leading to impaired carbohydrate oxidation and increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The growth hormone (GH) is secreted during the first round of deep sleep. Shorter durations of sleep cause lower GH secretion resulting in the fat-gaining process. Stress imposed on the body due to lack of sleep causes enhanced levels of cortisol in the blood. Cortisol interferes with falling asleep or remaining asleep. The cycle of hormone output, insulin release, and hunger continues. Shift work with its interrupted sleep patterns can be directly linked to belly fat deposit.
Cortisol causes fats and sugars to enter the blood circulation to increase energy for handling stressful situations. Shorter sleep patterns cause an increase in appetite the next day and most often fatty foods are eaten. The blood glucose increases and then decreases, resulting in the repeated presence of cortisol, resulting in a vicious cycle and increased abdominal fat.
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