Ok Rockstar – #realtalk time. I have heard a lot of questions and comments lately about seeing your abs, and how to get fat to LEAVE your trouble areas. I often hear discouragement from people who don’t feel like they see progress, even when they’re trying really hard.
I know it’s enticing to do ab workouts every day, thinking that you’ll see your abs faster, but unfortunately doing workouts that target areas where you’re carrying extra body fat will not magically melt the fat off.
We cannot “spot reduce” fat – and I would caution you from taking any supplements that promise to do so, or use “cleanses” or other quick fixes like body wraps, as they are short-term strategies some of which can harm your hormones and will not give you real, long-lasting results.
You CAN get the fat off – and keep it off. Fat comes off our body systemically (which means all over our bodies), and in an order governed by our DNA.It will come off in the order it came on.
Here are the 4 steps to follow CONSISTENTLY to make it happen for you as fast as possible:
Resource for you: Here is the progress pictures guide, which I was talking about in the video.
Here are the 4 steps to follow CONSISTENTLY to make it happen for you as fast as possible:
Sleep is the most underrated, most important part of losing body fat and gaining muscle. When it comes to toning and sculpting your abs, sleep should be your number one focus.
Research shows that when we don’t get enough quality sleep, we are more likely to gain weight – specifically belly fat (1). One study showed a group of people who had the exact same exercise regimen and diet were split into 2 different groups – 1 group slept well while the other group did not. The well rested group lost weight while the sleep deprived gained weight. Furthermore, those who were sleep deprived had a 55% decrease in fat loss and an increase in the loss of fat free body mass by 60% (2)! This is why the foundation of the four pillars is SLEEP.
People who lack sleep produce more Ghrelin (hunger hormone) (3), are more likely to consume sugary or caffeinated beverages (4), and have a 32% increase of carbohydrate consumption (5) – further perpetuating sleep patterns and creating a vicious cycle.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is essential to human growth and development, fat
burning and muscle repair and is most powerfully produced while you’re sleeping (6). If you’re lacking quality and quantity in your sleep, your body will miss the valuable time it takes to repair and will result in decreased strength and increased fat (7).
If you’re putting in the time to exercise and not getting enough sleep, you’re undermining your efforts. Just like you can’t out train a bad diet, you can’t out train bad sleep.
Every time you eat, you’re creating the foundation and tissue that make up the actual shape and structure of your body – and every time you exercise, you’re simply putting the finishing touches on the beautiful physique you’ve sculpted with what you put in your mouth.
One of the MOST important parts to uncovering your abdominal muscle (and really any area of your body you want to sculpt) is eating a balance of nutrients.
I know we talk a lot about the macronutrients – the carbs, protein and healthy fats you need – but you also need the MICROnutrients from greens and plants for essential body, brain and hormone functions. Vitamins and minerals are essential for cell growth, function and development. For so many reasons, it is essential that you take your eating just as seriously as you take your workouts.
I know we have this tendency to have an outside in approach to health and stick to our exercise plan more religiously than we stick to our eating but you can not exercise your way out of a nutrient deficient body that is not functioning at it’s best.
Do yourself a huge favor and get the education and knowledge you deserve about what nutrients your body needs and how to get them in your system in a variety of ways (read my 5-step food prep and recipes guide for a 3-day plan and recipes to try).
If you’re in the habit of putting this at the bottom of your list, I’d invite you to reassess that practice. Chronic stress has been scientifically proven to cause us to reach for comfort foods, undoing your efforts to have a balanced nutrition intake (8).
Every time you get stressed, fight or flight stress hormones are released. While stress is an important adaptive mechanism that protects us, constantly getting stressed by traffic, family situations and even negative thoughts about ourselves can lead to disruption in our hormone cycles and cause fat storage.
Elevated levels of stress cause the body to produce more cortisol. While cortisol is an important hormone, when it is chronically elevated, over time it affects where and how much fat is stored. And more often than not, that place of storage is in your abdomen (9).
Chronic stress greatly affects our brain which in turn lowers our immune response so we get sick more often, causes us to recover slower from injury, and results in a decreased ability to maintain a state of health and vitality (10).
In order for you to see the results that you want, lose unwanted fat, and have a great impact on you health, it is imperative that you begin to cultivate habits that mitigate stress. Things like meditation, mindfulness and practicing gratitude are all great ways to combat stress in the here and now (here’s a great post for reducing stress with a bonus guided meditation and mindfulness exercise with Emily Fletcher).
a) Do Explosive Cardio Whether that be High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Tabata, explosive cardio is the best way to maximize overall fat loss during your workouts (11). Here are a few ways I add it into my workouts:
- Super-setting power resistance/strength moves with explosive cardio intervals – think jump rope, jump squats, etc.
- Adding finishing circuits to a weight lifting workout
- Doing bodyweight circuits that combine strengthening moves with explosive cardio
b) TRAIN YOUR CORE 360 DEGREES AROUND, not just your front abs. Focus on training your ENTIRE core to see real ab definition
That means workouts like this awesome yoga core sequence, where we targeted the abdominal wall from the inside out, and all the way around.
We were working on the front, side, AND back muscles that stabilize our core and aid us in all the movements we do. Targeting the deep core stabilizing muscles is key to greater balance and alignment of our spine and pelvis.
The body is super smart and designed for balance. If you only focus on building muscle on one portion of your body, like only doing a lot of crunches, leg lifts or sit ups, you will actually only go so far in the amount of muscle you’re able to develop.
This is your body’s natural way of protecting you, as too much muscle on one side will put undue stress on your underlying bones and pull you out of alignment (read Building a Balanced Physique and Protecting Your Joints).
c) Add in Resistance Training
Resistance (or strength) training helps to sculpt lean muscle, which makes you a more efficient fat burner and will change your body composition and shape (12).
Resistance training also elicits the release of HGH, (especially in training sessions that utilize many large muscle groups at once) (13) – so you’ll be a more efficient fat burner and muscle builder. So be sure to balance your HIIT with some strength training to see amazing results – you are not going to get bulky just by adding heavier weights to your workouts.
I personally take a combined approach, doing the best workout for the situation I’m in. If I’m traveling I’ll use my HIIT circuits and at home I’ll cycle between home workouts and weight-training.
These programs were designed to combine resistance training and explosive cardio:
- Home Workout Domination (8 week HOME workout program that can be done with minimal equipment)
- Lioness (8 week GYM or HOME with equipment program)
- 90 Day Challenge (12 week HOME workout program NO equipment- gravity and creative bodyweight moves will provide you with resistance)
So what’s the recipe for a flat and toned stomach? Remove some stress, fuel your body with whole foods, add in quality sleep and top it all off with some full body explosive exercise! And more than anything, love yourself and know YOU are worth it!
PS- looking for a great plan to train your ABS (and booty)? Check out my 30-Day Abs and Booty Challenge!
- St-Onge MP. “The role of sleep duration in the regulation of energy balance: effects on energy intakes and expenditure”. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Jan 2013. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23319909
- Nedeltcheva, Arlet V et al. “Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity.” Annals of Internal Medicine. April 2011. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2951287/
- “Sleep loss limits fat loss, study finds”. uchicago news. October 2010. Web. https://news.uchicago.edu/story/sleep-loss-limits-fat-loss-study-finds
- Tokar Steve. “Study Links Shorter Sleep and Sugar-Sweetened Drink Consumption”. University of California San Francisco. November 2016. Web. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2016/11/404796/study-links-shorter-sleep-and-sugar-sweetened-drink-consumption
- Tae Won Kim, Jong-Hyun Jeong, Seung-Chul Hong. “The Impact of Sleep and Circadian Disturbance on Hormones and Metabolism”. International Journal of Endocrinology. February 2015. Web. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2015/591729/
- Godrey RJ, Madgwick Z, Whyte GP. “The exercise-induced growth hormone response in athletes.” Sports Medicine. 2003. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12797841
- Van Cauter E, Plat L. “Physiology of growth hormone secretion during sleep”. The Journal of Pediatrics. May 1996. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8627466
- Chuang JC, Zigman JM. “Ghrelin’s Roles in Stress, Mood, and Anxiety Regulation”. International Journal of Peptides. 2010 Web. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijpep/2010/460549/
- Epel ES et al. “Stress and body shape; stress- induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat”. Psychosomatic Medicine. September 2000. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11020091
- Morey, Jennifer N et al. “Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function.” Current opinion in psychology. October 2015. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4465119/
- Gillen JB et al. “Three minutes of all-out intermittent exercise per week increases skeletal muscle oxidative capacity and improves cardiometabolic health”. PLoS One. November 2014. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25365337
- Willis LH et al. “Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults”. Journal of Applied Physiology. December 2012. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23019316
- “Varying Weight Training Intensity Increases Growth hormone In Women”. American Physiological Society. December 2006. Web. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061201105951.htm