Summer holidays are fast approaching and one of the most common things we hear clients talking about at out clinics is this:
Getting “summer body ready” and losing stomach fat so they can go to the beach.
I want to get one thing straight first, you can go to the beach no matter what your body type is, or what it looks like!
If you’re worrying about being “beach body ready” then I’d urge you to relax and enjoy the time you have away.
So we hear this conversation a lot around this time of year, and another thing we hear a lot is people putting their back out because of all the ab exercises they’re doing.
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 your holidays, and life in general!
Why can ab exercises be bad for your back and cause back pain?
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 doing can actually cause strain on your lower back and don’t target the muscles you need to target to keep your back protected.
Sit-ups are a great example (also known as crunches)…
While you’ll definitely get a workout doing these, they put a lot of strain on your lower back if your lower abdominal muscles are weak.
(Which most of ours are thanks to sitting), and if they’re weak, that means putting stress on your back which causes back pain.
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?
Everyone has abdominal muscles.
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 to my next point – a flat stomach only appears when you have a low enough body fat percentage.
The reason there are thousands of ab workouts on YouTube and magazines is because people know there’s a lot of money in the ab industry for people desperate to get a flat stomach!
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.
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 to lose fat, as long as it’s working and you stick to that plan, you’ll also lose fat on your abs!
So, what does it come down to?
What you eat and how you manage stress!
1) Consume fewer calories than you’re currently consuming
To do that, you need to know how much you currently eat, you need a plan to eat healthily and you need to track how consistent you are with that plan.
You can use an 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 vegetables a day and I know people who consume zero.
Having a plate full of vegetables will make it look like you’re eating more, for fewer calories, and they’re a great source of fiber, keeping everything moving.
3) Make sure there’s 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’re cutting back calories from junk food, and loading up on vegetables, then you might struggle to get enough calories each day…
Which can be detrimental to your health.
You’ve already got protein and vegetables in your meals; healthy fats will round out a good meal and aren’t bad for you!
Avocados, olive oil, mixed nuts and real butter are great sources of healthy fats.
There you have it!
The 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).