June is here, and it’s not too late to take action on getting rid of that unwanted body fat.
But first, in your quest to trim down, divorce yourself from “losing weight.” Weight is a measurement of physics, and is often not reflective of the composition of your body. Your body composition is made up of water, fat, and other tissues, including muscle.
Stepping on a scale to determine if you are over-fat does not reflect the amount of fat on your body. A person who is 5′ 5″ and weighs 225 pounds may be obese, but a 5′ 5″ muscle-bound body builder weighing 225 pounds is not. The point is that weight alone is not a indicator of body fat.
The most efficient way to get rid of excess body fat requires a few changes in what you eat, your eating habits and rituals, and the type of movement or exercise you get every day.
Food is the control
Those who can eat a high-calorie, nutrient-poor diet and still maintain a relatively flat mid-section are few and far between. To those who eat high-calorie foods at night and run on a treadmill until exhausted to get rid of belly fat, I say, “You’re wasting your time.” Food is the control to achieving flat abs (or that six-pack) and/or just getting rid of unwanted body fat. Food not only provides energy, it regulates the release of certain hormones responsible for making you fat or lean. Remember, a six-pack is made in the kitchen. This said, consider—and follow—the next few steps to achieve the body composition you are looking for.
Tip #1: Eliminate nutrient-deficient, high-calorie foods.
To start, clear your cabinets and pantries of all processed, high-calorie, nutrient-poor junk food. From Skippy peanut butter to potato chips and high-sugar, refined baked goods … get rid of them. Don’t forget those fattening breads and pastas. If you don’t have them, you can’t eat them. Also, lose the Redbull, Gatorade, and any other high-sugar beverages. My motto is: No bread, dairy, or sugar.
Tip #2: Eat when the sun is out, not when the moon is out.
For most people, the biggest meal of the day is dinner. It usually consists of a high-calorie meal, including a couple of alcoholic drinks and some kind of carb (bread, pasta, or rice). Along with those carbs, we have a small piece of protein (fish, chicken, or steak), topped off with more carbs—a piece of cake or pie, or a dish of ice cream. The resulting rise in blood sugar causes insulin to rush out to deal with the sugar, storing it in the liver and muscles, then stuffing the excess into fat cells. Worse yet, this is happening at night, when we’re winding down and getting ready for bed. While we sleep, insulin stores the unused calories around the waist, burying the abs. Eating lots of calories at night will make you fat – guaranteed.
One more point here: Unlike other animals, we are not meant to eat and then sleep. We are built to eat while active in order to ensure that we burn what we eat. Therefore, we should eat frequently throughout the day while active—while the sun shines—not while sleeping. Burning fat isn’t as complicated as some people think it is. If you’re not storing fat while you sleep, you’re burning it.
Tip #3: Exercise with periods of intensity.
Extended periods of endurance exercise have long been associated with burning fat. Gyms are filled with people running, oscillating, and climbing stairs for hours on end in the hope of melting body fat. Yet, for most people, endurance exercise with moderate intensity comes up short in producing fat loss. Research finds that high-intensity exercise done in short spurts improves fat oxidation (burning) better than endurance training.
High-intensity interval exercising alternates short periods of low-intensity exercise with high-intensity exercise. The best example of this is sprinting. Have you ever seen an over-fat sprinter? That doesn’t mean you should be a sprinter. You just need to find an exercise that you can do at high intensity—whatever your high intensity may be—followed by a short period of low intensity.
Training this way keeps insulin levels low and releases glucagon, a hormone that burns fat. Which do you want to happen?
If you find that your fat-burning efforts aren’t producing the results you want, or you’ve hit a plateau, the following metabolic and hormonal issues may exist that are interfering with your ability to get rid of unwanted body fat:
- High or low cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps regulate blood sugar. For a variety of reasons—prolonged stress, not eating enough food, low levels of vitamin C, and vitamin B5—the adrenals may fluctuate in the output of cortisol. Cortisol dysregulation can increase belly fat, and it can interrupt the function of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. If so, the cortisol issue is causing a sub-clinical hypothyroid problem that will alter metabolism and your ability to burn fat.
- Thyroid weakness. The thyroid hormones T4 and T3 have different functions. T4 is the storage form, and T3 is the active form. There are basically two reasons for weak thyroid: nutrient-deficiency and autoimmune dysfunctions. You may be familiar with the autoimmune cause of thyroid dysfunction, Hashimoto’s disease. In that condition, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, destroying its ability to make thyroid hormones thus resulting in hypothyroidism and low metabolism. For a variety of different reasons, the nutrients iodine, zinc, and selenium become deficient, which can lower T3 levels. Again, low T3 levels create hypometabolism and may hinder your fat-loss efforts.
- Elevated estrogen. When estrogen levels are high, excessive fat in women can be deposited around the hips and thighs; for men, high estrogen can cause a fatty chest. When body fat is high, the fat produces an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone into estrogen.
If you eliminate processed, inflammatory foods; eat most of your food during the day; and get the right type of exercise but make no changes in your body composition, consider hormone profiling to uncover hormone issues that may be slowing down your fat burning. For women who still get a menstrual cycle, testing hormones has to be done on day 19 or 20 of the cycle. Why? Day 19 or 20 is the luteal phase of a woman’s cycle when progesterone should be its highest. Progesterone should be at a specific ratio with estrogen. If progesterone is low, then estrogen is high, now giving you a clue about your estrogen levels. Post menopausal women and men can test hormones any day of the month.
The following hormones should be tested: cortisol (4x/day), estrogen, progesterone, progesterone/estrogen ratio, testosterone, free T3, free T4, TSH and TPO antibodies.
If your goal is flat abs, or you want to get rid of that unwanted muffin top, you may want to reconsider the fad diets, programs, or pills.
Instead, following these simple tips and getting tested for abnormal hormone levels is the best strategy for getting into shape for the warmer months ahead.