Let’s start with the bad news. You can do 1,000 sit ups every day and it won’t give you a six pack. What it will do is give you abs of steel; but whether anyone will actually see those rock-hard abs, well that’s a completely different question.
Whether anyone actually notices those new ab muscles of yours depends on one thing only- how much belly fat you’ve got in front of them. Sumo wrestlers have some of the hardest abs in the world but you’ll never see those abs cause they’re surrounded by fat.
Losing Belly Fat: A Simple 2-step Process
Losing belly fat is a simple two-step process. Step number one: Figure out what you’re doing to put the belly fat on in the first place. Step number two: stop doing that.
What drives the accumulation of belly fat, for most people, is a hormone called insulin, which rises in direct response to your blood sugar. Shoot your blood sugar up with a nice million-calorie “low fat” bran muffin and a mocca latte, and your insulin will shoot up faster than the Challenger with a tail wind. And when insulin is high, fat storage is in overdrive. Not only that, but high levels of insulin prevent your fat-burning switch—a hormone called glucagon—from doing its job. On top of that, insulin locks the doors to the fat cells, making fat loss extremely difficult.
Solution: Eat in a way that doesn’t drive blood sugar (and insulin) skyward.
Five Belly-Flattening Snacks
The following five snacks are favorites of mine not just because they’re tasty and convenient and easy to make, but because the combination of fiber, fat and protein is unlikely to send your blood sugar on a trajectory that feels like the roller coaster at the New York, New York Hotel in Vegas.
- “With a Smear”. This is one of my favorite snacks, period. I take some hearts of celery and fill in the groove with some organic almond butter or peanut butter. This snack really travels well in tuperware, and makes a terrific pre-workout snack. Why? The celery has fiber and nutrients (including calcium and vitamin A) and a ridiculously low 6 calories per medium stalk. The nut butter has protein and fat. The overall calories are low and this really fills you up without slowing you down. Great for “slow-release” energy.
- “The Double A”: An apple with almonds. The apple is the perfect food for a snack especially if coupled with some fat and or protein (i.e. string cheese). It’s sugar load is very moderate, it contains valuable pectin fiber which slows the entrance of that sugar into the bloodstream, and it’s a nutritional powerhouse containing vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. Try combining it with about a dozen almonds, which adds some fat and protein, further slows the entrance of the sugar into the bloodstream for sustained energy, and keeps hunger away.
- “Whey to go”: Whey protein is my favorite kind of protein powder. Not only is it extremely high quality, bioavailable protein, but it supports the immune system by providing the body with the building blocks for glutathione, arguably the body’s most important antioxidant. And studies indicate that whey protein may boost weight-loss efforts. According to one French study, consuming whey before exercise supports fat burning and may help with gaining or maintaining lean body mass. I suggest a whey protein shake made with either water alone or with frozen berries. The berries add fiber, nutrients, some extra carbohydrates, and make for a more delicious drink.
- “Berry Cheesy”: Here’s a little tidbit of info for you that you might enjoy: In my book, “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth” I asked 16 of the best known experts in the country to contribute their personal “top ten” list of favorite healthy foods. Berries- especially blueberries- made the list of more experts than any other food. Berries are loaded with phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber, and are low in sugar. Mix a bowl of berries with a piece of string cheese for the perfect pre-workout snack. The string cheese has 8 grams of protein, some fat to keep hunger at bay, and only about 80 calories. Plus it’s an excellent source of calcium.
- “TG/ Too Good”: The initials of this snack stand for turkey and grapes. It’s a perfectly matched trifecta of protein, carbs and low-calories to take the edge off your hunger. Four small slices of deli packaged turkey contain only 87 calories but give you more than 14 grams of protein, plus some of the cancer-fighting mineral selenium to boot. A cup of grapes adds some carbs to the mix together with all the health-giving phytochemicals grapes are known for. Suggestion: Go for fresh turkey whenever possible as the packaged kind is high in sodium and nitrates, and go for red or purple grapes as they have a higher antioxidant content.
By keeping blood sugar even, and insulin levels in the ideal “zone”, you’ll be turning your body from a fat storage machine into one that eats fat for breakfast.
Bellyfat, watch out!