Articles by Natural Health Author Jaime A. Heidel
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Why Your Ab Workouts Aren't Working Out
by Jaime A. Heidel
(The Best Years in Life) Bikini season is only a few months away, and you won't be able to wear one (again) because of all that abdominal fat. You've tried the teas, the capsules, and even a bulk fiber supplement, but they haven't worked. All the crunches you've been doing haven't done a thing either, and you're seriously considering a starvation diet.
Not so fast.
There's a reason your ab workouts aren't working out. Once you discover them, you'll be well on your way to fit, attractive abs you'll be proud to show off.
Crunches May Cause Serious Back Problems
Crunches may still be popular in certain fitness circles, but they're beginning to fade away as the "belly-busting" exercise of choice.
It's easy to understand why. Doing crunches puts unnecessary strain on your neck and lower back, and, if you add twists, you could easily pull a muscle or slip a disc.
Crunches can also ruin your posture. Doing them too often will train your body to curve inward. Furthermore, crunches work surface muscles only and will not give you the deep definition you're after.
Lose Abdominal Fat With Food
Let's focus away from exercise and turn our thoughts to food for a moment. You could spend all your free time working out, but you'll never be able to offset the damage caused by a junk-food diet.
To lose belly fat the right way, eat more of these foods:
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens are packed with essential nutrients, as well as fiber to help regulate your digestion. Moreover, when you add a big helping of greens to your plate, you'll fill up faster and be less likely to overindulge during a meal.
To perform at its best, your body needs protein. When hunger strikes, avoid the temptation to go to the vending machine for an empty-calorie snack. Instead, eat a handful of nuts. In addition to being rich in protein, nuts contain healthy fat to keep you feeling fuller longer.
According to a study published in the Journal of Obesity, the medium-chain triglycerides contained in coconut oil encourage fat oxidation, reduce body weight, and increase subcutaneous fat loss.
You can add a teaspoon of coconut oil to smoothies, mix a bit in your morning coffee, or take it straight on a spoon. (Avoid taking straight coconut oil on an empty stomach, as it may cause stomach cramps or diarrhea.)
Margarine and other so-called "diet spreads" are not helping you lose weight. In fact, they may be helping you gain it! The artificial chemicals in these products give your taste buds the illusion that you're getting the fat you need. Once your stomach realizes the difference, however, it's only going to start growling again.
Get rid of those chemical concoctions and replace them with grass-fed butter. Butter contains the nutrients and fat you need to stay full and energized throughout the day.
If there's anything called "vegetable oil" or "canola oil" in your pantry, get rid of it. These hydrogenated fats are terrible for your health. Instead, use olive oil, a monounsaturated fat that nourishes, reduces inflammation, and helps dissolve belly fat - and make sure that it is genuine extra-virgin olive oil or else you may be getting scammed.
Berries mixed in plain Greek yogurt is a great snack that will satisfy your sweet tooth and give you a much-needed energy boost. Greek yogurt is rich in protein and berries are loaded with filling fiber.
A homemade protein shake makes a great meal replacement to help you shed those unwanted pounds. Try two tablespoons of almond or peanut butter, organic milk (or a milk substitute), plain yogurt, berries, and a few slices of avocado.
Like coconut oil, butter, and olive oil, avocado provides the fat your body needs to keep your blood sugar balanced. This helps prevent those "crashes" that make you suddenly want to devour any food you can get your hands on.
Eggs are a protein powerhouse that have been proven to shrink your waistline. An eight-week study published in the Journal of Obesity showed that women who ate eggs for breakfast experienced a 34 percent greater reduction in waist circumference than those who ate bagels.
Beans are a nutritious source of protein and fiber, so they can help you tone up and lose weight. Beans in a bag that you can make at home are the best for your health. If you do choose canned, be sure the beans don't contain any unnecessary additives (and that the cans are BPA-free).
If you want to lose that stubborn belly fat, spice up your life with chili peppers!
A study published in Appetite revealed that the capsaicinoids, a group of chemicals found in chili peppers, increased energy output and lipid oxidation while diminishing appetite. Regular consumption also appeared to significantly reduce abdominal fat.
The Best Ab Workouts for You
Instead of crunches, take your core training to the next level with these alternative workouts:
1. Core Contractions
You can do these sneaky little exercises at your desk or while watching TV. Draw your belly button in toward your spine. Hold this contraction for 2 to 5 seconds. Release. Repeat 10 times. Work up to two sets of 10 repetitions with 10 to 15 seconds of rest between each.
2. Pilates 100
If you want to strengthen your abdominal muscles fast, the Pilates 100 is the way to go. Begin by lying flat on your back, arms at your sides, palms down, with your legs straight out. Using your core, lift both your upper body and legs off the mat at the same time. Only your butt and lower back should touch the floor. Keep your arms parallel to each other and straight out in front of you.
Inhale five short breaths while pumping your arms to that rhythm. Exhale five short breaths while keeping your arms pumping in time. Release downward. When you are able to do this 10 times, you will have worked your way to the full 100!
Begin on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders, palms flat on the mat. Contract your core muscles and raise your right leg off the floor and straight out behind you. At the same time, raise your left arm straight out in front of you. Hold this pose for 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Work up to 10 repetitions.
Kick in Some Cardio
Even if you're doing the best ab workouts out there, you won't lose excess abdominal fat unless you also incorporate some cardio. At least 30 minutes of walking, hiking, biking, swimming, or spinning keeps your metabolism going strong, so you can burn more calories and keep the weight off. Aim for a minimum of twice per week.
Remember to Relax
If you're under a lot of stress, it may be part of the reason you're having such a hard time losing belly fat. A series of studies mentioned in Obesity Research revealed an association between uncontrollable stress and abdominal fat distribution.
So, make sure you take the time to relax. Meditate, take a soothing bath, or get absorbed in a good book. A yoga and stretching class is another great way to keep your stress levels low while improving your health at the same time.
If your ab workouts aren't working out, this combination of dietary changes, exercises, and stress relief can help you get the kind of body you've always wanted!
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