One of the most common questions I get is…what is the best way to lose belly fat?
This question is asked more and more frequently as summer approaches.
This is because during summer the days are long, the temperatures high, and water sports and other outdoor activities become popular.
If physically unprepared, some folks get very embarrassed and choose not to get involved which is a shame.
So…many decide to do something about it. The problem is they want a “quick fix” to get back in shape, having left it to late.
The answer that I give to these folks is to plan ahead and start with a proven exercise program alongside a nutritious, balanced diet before its to late.
This doesn’t make many of them feel better because we live in an age where we can get pretty much anything we want instantly and so people expect instant solutions to their problems, weight loss included.
What they want to hear is that there is a magic pill or other “quick fix” that they can use, or they want to be told that they can burn belly fat fast while sitting on the couch using some gimmicky contraption they bought of an “As Seen On TV” infomercial.
But I’m not hear to tell people what they want to hear….I’m hear to tell them what they need to hear and that if they are serious about losing the excess weight from around their belly, they need to put in some work!
What they need is to start eating a nutritious well balanced diet and engaging in a form of exercise that develops muscle.
If you are one of these people, are still reading (haven’t clicked the back button yet on your browser) and are prepared to do whatever it takes to slim down for summer, then stick with me and I’ll explain why this approach is the ONLY approach that will work long term.
Why gimmicky infomercial fitness gear doesn’t work…
Have you seen those infomercials featuring ripped men and women using some new fitness gadget that promises to whip you into the best shape of your life….of course you have, they are on all the time!
I have to admit that on more than one occasion, the sales pitch has been so good that even I have started dialling the number on screen, credit card in hand, before coming to my senses!
But the fact of the matter is that 9 times out of 10, this shiny new bit of kit “featuring advanced technology” or whatever is just crap. They are usually geared towards “spot reduction” which has been proven to be ineffective.
To get a body like one of the men or women using the gear in the infomercial you will need to actually out in some effort!
So what type of exercise is the best for reducing body fat?
I know from experience that you can forget the gimmicky equipment seen on TV. You’ll just be throwing away money…literally!
All you really need is a good strength training program that utilises nothing but your own body weight….Calisthenics.
The benefits of Calisthenics are appreciated by those who have jobs where fitness can be the deciding factor in whether or not you live or die, such as Military, Police, Fire Service etc.
All of these services use Calisthenic exercises to get their men and women into the best shape of their lives, not weight training or cardio only workouts.
With Calisthenics, there are very few items of equipment that you will need to workout and all of the exercises are completely scalable from beginner level to extreme athlete level.
For example, a beginner can start with simple wall push ups, while an experienced athlete could be doing one handed push ups with their feet elevated on a chair.
They also use “functional” movements. This means that the exercises incorporate movements that the body does naturally which reduces the risk of injury.
However, the most important reason to train using Calisthenics is that it is comprised primarily of strength training exercises and strength training builds muscle.
Why is building muscle so important? Wouldn’t cardio exercise be better?
In short, it is a myth that cardio is the best way to shed those unwanted kilos.
It has been proven that going for a 45 minute run will only burn 300 or so calories, and that number includes the 105 calories that you would usually burn while at rest during those 45 minutes.
So really, in a 45 minutes run, you are actually burning only 195 calories!
Muscle on the other hand is the most efficient fat burner we have!
To put things in perspective, to keep 1 pound (453grams) of muscle fuelled it needs between 50 & 100 calories per day, even if you are not active!
Therefore, an extra 5 pounds (2.25KG) of muscle will burn around 15,000 calories in a month which is the equivalent of 2 pounds (907 grams) of fat!
The great news about this is that you don’t have to go on some “crazy” diet either. No calorie counting or any of that drama….as long as you use portion control and eat “clean”.
Another important thing to remember for the ladies….building muscle using your exercises that use your own bodyweight won’t make you look like a steroid taking monster. That is a myth!
A female’s body can not build muscle like that without drugs! When women build muscle using their own bodyweight, they end up with lean, toned muscles….and look amazing, not like the “She Hulk”!
What exercises should you be doing to build muscle and lose belly fat?
The beauty of Calisthenics is that they almost always require the use of multiple muscle groups, including the smaller stabilizing muscles. This helps to build true functional strength and importantly muscle.
Muscles are not stressed in isolation which is a good thing because with the human body, any movement requires the use of multiple muscle groups, not isolated ones.
Training in this way builds muscle as quickly as possible naturally, and the muscles form in proportion. As an example, guys that focus on training their chest and arms without training their back enough end up being hunched (you may have seen this before).
So….the muscles you want to be training are the push muscles, pull muscles, leg muscles, and of course your core muscles.
For your push muscles, exercises like push ups, dips, military press, and dive bombers are just a few examples.
For your pull muscles, exercises like pull ups, horizontal rows, chin ups, and curls are some examples.
For your leg muscles, exercises like lunges (front, back, and side), squats (regular squats, sissy squats, single leg squats), calf raises, and good mornings are all good exercises.
For your core muscles, exercises like leg lifts, iron crosses, hanging leg raises, human flags, V ups, and flutter kicks are all great exercises.
Are there any good exercise programs out there that use Calisthenics?
Yes there are….in fact there are several.
Because you are trying to build muscle (to help burn off belly fat), you want a structured program that has low repetitions but high intensity (hard exercises).
The smartphone app is value for money! Last time I checked it was about $3.49 and includes all of the programs from the book. It includes video and textual explanations on how to do each exercise. The video plays for each exercise you are currently on so it’s almost like you are training alongside Mark!
All the rest periods between exercises are calculated and so all you have to do is show up and take care of your own nutrition (this is where the book comes in).
It is a great program that has sound principles and the books themselves are interesting to read, while providing valuable information.
The downside is that there is no app or DVD series to follow so people that are visual learners may struggle to grasp how to do the exercises correctly and with proper form. Those who like/need to follow a trainer or train with a partner will not have this as there is no “train alongside” the trainer option.
There are DVDs outlining all of the movements however they are for instructional purposes only, not in a workout format. They are also expensive.
As mentioned earlier, I’m not a fan of As Seen On TV crap however there are one or two programs that cut the mustard and will get you in shape.
An example of this would be P90X. I tried it and liked it….mostly. I felt that some of it was a bit of a waste of time but the strength phases were good and consisted primarily of bodyweight exercises.
What should I be eating to help with weight loss?
I am of the opinion that you can eat whatever you want…within reason, and as long as it is healthy and nutritious.
Forget burgers and fries….you will want to eat “clean”.
What I mean by this is that you will want to be eating fresh fruit, vegetables and meats. No processed crap.
For example, a nice pork steak and a large side of salad and other vegetables is quite all right in my opinion, just be mindful of your portions.
You will want to make sure you are getting enough protein as well as it is required for muscle repair and growth.
Personally I supplement with a smoothie immediately after my workout and again in the middle of the afternoon. The rest of my meals are just regular healthy meals (as per the above guidelines).
Here is an example of the smoothie I made myself today after my workout:
– 8oz (230ml) of Coconut Water
– 1 Cup of Frozen Berries (Blueberries, Raspberries etc)
– 1 Scoop of Optimum Nutrition Protein Powder (Banana today)
What can I say…delicious!
Final thoughts on weight loss…
If you want to lose fat, building muscle is the only way to do it properly and efficiently. That’s it!
I hope that you found this post interesting and informative and that you now know what it is going to take for you to get into shape and lose those excess pounds.
I believe that I have clearly answered the question, what is the best way to lose belly fat and also provided you with some great programs with which to get you started.
Take care and feel free to leave a comment (or sign up to my newsletter) below.