Sunday, February 18, 2018
Health

Be a winner in the battle against belly fat

Having a flat belly is a pretty universal desire.

But how do we get there?

Claims are everywhere. If you believe what you see online, there are exercises that give you six-pack abs in 30 days, tart-cherry-based diets that eliminate flab in a jiffy or, my favorite, "belly-fat-fighting pills."

"There are an infinite set of ... claims out there spread by the fitness, diet and supplement industry," says Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C.

"The claims are overinflated or just plain wrong," he says.

So, as much as you don't want to hear it, fighting belly fat is neither fast nor easy. You have to go back to the basics: Make general health and fitness part of your everyday life.

"Exercise, nutrition, sleep and reducing stress are all important factors in reducing belly fat in particular and improving general health," Kahan says.

• • •

Let's consider the types of belly fat.

There is subcutaneous fat, which is the love-handle kind. It's unsightly but not metabolically active. In other words, it sits there without creating too much havoc in our bodies, says Cassia Denton, a personal trainer and group fitness director at Balance Gym in Washington.

But then there is visceral belly fat, the fat that surrounds your organs. This is potentially dangerous.

"These visceral fat cells actually pump out hormones into your body. They're like an endocrine organ," Denton says. "They can directly affect your LDL levels adversely." These fat cells and the hormones they create can also increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes, she says. Finally, they increase inflammation in the body.

How do you know if you have this potentially dangerous type of fat?

One indication is your waist circumference. Anything more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women may raise a red flag to your doctor and warrant investigation.

Also, consider where fat is deposited. Having an apple-shaped body is an indication that there may be a concern regarding visceral fat.

• • •

Now let's see what we can do to beat the bulge.

Kahan recommends the government guidelines of 150 minutes of cardio a week and a couple of resistance training "bouts," as he puts it.

Denton would like to see more emphasis on resistance training because it helps create more lean muscle mass, which helps raise your overall metabolism. Moderate aerobic work, such as running, also has a place. Resistance training can't be done every day because the body needs time to recover, while steady-state aerobic work can be done more often, even daily.

So if you want to work out every day, try alternating cardio and resistance, she says.

Resistance training improves the resting metabolic rate and also appears to improve the health of the muscle cells, Kahan says.

And finally, will it help our belly shape if we do a thousand crunches?

"You can tone, but you can't spot-reduce," Kahan says.

When it comes to nutrition, there are several key points, says Rebecca Mohning, a Washington area registered dietitian and owner of the Expert Nutrition website.

"Hydration and increasing fiber in the diet are important," she says.

Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, beans and vegetables, are also key in creating a healthful diet that reduces belly fat.

Mohning recommends eating slowly and reducing sugar, which causes inflammation and metabolic disorder in the body.

Eating enough protein as we age is also important. As we hit middle age, as much as 30 grams of protein per meal can be helpful, she says.

• • •

Surprisingly, though, Mohning considers neither nutrition nor exercise to be the prime weapons in the fight against a tubby tummy. Instead, she points to sleep and stress.

"I would say No. 1 is sleep, No. 2 is stress, followed by nutrition and then exercise," she says.

While we can't affect our genetics in terms of where we deposit fat, we can affect our levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which has been shown to specifically increase belly fat.

Gabriella Boston is a fitness trainer and freelance writer.

Comments
Be prepared to help save a life: Learn CPR

Be prepared to help save a life: Learn CPR

70 percent of cardiac arrests outside hospitals happen at home. American Heart Association 3 a.m. Jan. 4, 2016. Lisa Peters of St. Petersburg is awakened by her husband, Rick, making strange gasping sounds. She can’t wake him. He feels cold. Only 46...
Published: 02/16/18

Step by step, ramp up your daily activity

Jae Bermanhe Washington Post There are many reasons that people avoid exercise. Time is an obvious one. Our lives are already busy — who has time to work out? Money is another common excuse. Gym memberships and equipment can get pricey.People often w...
Published: 02/16/18
Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Nothing says indulgence like noshing on some seriously giant Alaskan king crab legs. They’re not just tasty, they’re a low-fat source of protein: One leg has about 25 grams of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals (including sodium, incidentall...
Published: 02/15/18
Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

You’ve likely seen persimmon in the grocery store and then shied away from it, not quite sure what to do with it. The most common variety in the United States is the fuyu persimmon, also called Japanese persimmon, and it looks similar to a slightly f...
Published: 02/15/18
News co-anchor Dan Harris delves into meditation, and why being distracted is ‘a victory’

News co-anchor Dan Harris delves into meditation, and why being distracted is ‘a victory’

Emma Seppalahe Washington PostDan Harris is co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline and the weekend editions of Good Morning America. His first book, 10% Happier, was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. He later launched the 10% Happier podcast and an app called...
Published: 02/15/18

Mayo Clinic Q&A: exercise stress tests; breast self-awareness versus self-exams

DON’T SWEAT THE EXERCISE STRESS TESTI have a treadmill stress test scheduled to look for heart disease. I know this involves exercising, and I’m worried that I’m not physically up to it. Is there another way to gather this information?Yes. There’s an...
Published: 02/15/18
Gay doctor takes a drug to prevent HIV. Then he couldn’t get disability insurance

Gay doctor takes a drug to prevent HIV. Then he couldn’t get disability insurance

Three years ago, Dr. Philip J. Cheng, a urology resident at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, nicked himself while preparing an HIV-positive patient for surgery.Following hospital protocol, he took a one-month course of Truvada, a cocktail of t...
Published: 02/15/18
Doctor removes worm from Tampa man’s eye. ‘Luckily we caught it just in time’

Doctor removes worm from Tampa man’s eye. ‘Luckily we caught it just in time’

TAMPA — Nothing seemed wrong or out of place when it was time for Sam Cordero to make an appointment for a routine eye exam.The 57-year-old man from Tampa occasionally saw a few bright or foggy spots in his left eye, but thought it was just "floaters...
Published: 02/14/18
Updated: 02/15/18
A couple calls to ask, ‘Hey, can we donate our kidneys?’ The stranger who got one is in awe

A couple calls to ask, ‘Hey, can we donate our kidneys?’ The stranger who got one is in awe

LARGO — Keshava Persaud entered the room inside Largo Medical Center, his wife at his side. His eyes went right to the couple across the room. They looked so young, he thought. Tears welled as he handed the woman, April Scott, 49, potted white silk f...
Published: 02/14/18
Bayfront Health system gets new leader

Bayfront Health system gets new leader

Bayfront Health has hired a new executive position to oversee the six regional hospitals it operates along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Joseph Mullany has been appointed regional president and chief executive officer of Bayfront Health, and will overse...
Published: 02/13/18