You’ve been longing for a trim waistline and an enviable bikini figure for a while..but no matter how many hours you spend slogging away on the treadmill, you are not getting any leaner. You avoid sugar and junk food, you limit takeouts and maybe even count calories. You incorporate plenty of cardio, perhaps even run a couple of miles a day. Despite all your efforts, nothing seems to work. If anything, your clothes are feeling even tighter than before, especially around your waistline.
You are frustrated and discouraged. What is sabotaging your goals?
Does this baffling scenario sound familiar?
You are not alone. Belly fat is the biggest concern for most women who are trying to lose weight, and it is not just for aesthetic reasons. Fat around the midsection, -often referred to as visceral fat- is a deep fatty layer that surrounds your vital organs. It increases the risk of serious conditions, such as diabetes, hormonal imbalance, heart disease, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, fatty liver disease and many others.
There is a vast amount of conflicting dietary and fitness advice out there, which may leave people confused. Losing body fat is essentially a balance of healthy eating and exercise. However, what people don’t realise is that stress is often one of the biggest contributors to increased belly fat, as it increases cortisol (stress hormone) production. Not only can diet influence cortisol production, more importantly, your exercise routine can also significantly impact your cortisol levels.
If achieving a slimmer waistline is one of your biggest hurdles, read on to discover why it might be time to revisit your current workout routine.
Cardio for Weight Loss: Debunking the Myth
Many women are programmed to believe that cardio is the best way to burn body fat. They’ve been told that performing regular steady-state aerobic activity is the best recipe to accomplish a lean, toned physique. Despite many assuming that jogging or running for long hours on end will help you beat the bulge, there are many reasons why steady-state cardio may be hindering your fat-loss goals:
- Stress-hormone cortisol: Excessive cardiovascular training can result in increased levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress. Chronically elevated cortisol levels in the body have been linked to a variety of health conditions and increased abdominal fat (1). High cortisol can also result in increased appetite, muscle breakdown, hormonal imbalances and a slowed-down metabolism. Therefore, cortisol has the potential to significantly hinder your fat-loss progress.
- Reduced calorie-burning potential: With anything, your body quickly adjusts to new stresses, diets, and workout routines. This is the same with cardio and calorie burn. When you perform the same jog every day, your body will get better at efficiently burning fewer calories for the effort you exert. This means that over time, you will need to perform more intense and longer cardio workouts to burn the same number of calories.
Therefore, solely relying on cardio to lose weight is not very effective at combating abdominal fat. Change the way you work out to achieve a leaner and toned figure and slow down the ageing process. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an effective method of burning fat and improving physical performance, in a lot less time.
What are HIIT Workouts?
Incorporating alternating short bursts of exercise and rest periods, HIIT workouts have gained popularity in the fitness world for all the good reasons. As a result, there is a dizzying array of HIIT workouts that you can follow.
HIIT workouts have revolutionised exercise, reaping many benefits:
- Effective fat burn, even 48-72 hours after the workout is over
- Releasing muscle-growth and fat-burning hormones, such as IGF-1
- Less stress on the joints than many hours of steady-state cardio
- Improved cardiovascular health and endurance
- Efficient results in less time than steady-state cardio
Stop glueing yourself to the stationary bike, cross trainer or treadmill. Instead, try to incorporate 2-3 sessions of HIIT workouts per week. Use weights or body weight, to help increase lean muscle mass. It will also help you burn more body fat and give you a more toned look.
An example of HIIT workout would be combining a few movements. These may include lunges, squats, jump squats, push ups, tricep dips by doing 15 reps of each exercise non-stop and only rest at the end for a short 30-45 second period.
Aim for compound movements and minimal rest period to work your entire body and keep your heart rate up. Make sure you change up the exercises, with the weights gradually increasing the intensity. With this, your body never gets to adapt to the training and keeps guessing what’s next.
Reference/s: (1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16353426
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