In our last post we made some sense of the main driver of a flat abdomen: leanness. But how do we achieve that elusive goal? Well, the story is a little bit more interesting than we tend to hear. So lets start by covering some basics.
We have all heard about the need to achieve a balance between energy ‘in’ (our diet) and energy ‘out’ (what we burn/use on a day to day basis). Well, research is suggesting that this may not be as basic as we first thought. The evidence is pointing to these two factors playing different roles in the weight loss equation. Our nutrition is being suggested as a much more important driver of weight loss, while exercise seems to serve as a protector against weight gain (among many other health benefits of course!).
You may have experienced this in the past: you realise that you have put some weight on and decide that its time to take up some weight loss programs. So you start exercising. Weeks later you are still frustrated by the very minimal changes on the scales… have you been there?
Well, the (somewhat) good news here, is that you are not really to blame for those small changes. Research is now consistently reporting that the weight changes that result from exercise alone are quite small. A large review of studies on the topic showed that in the short term (16 weeks in this case) exercise alone reduced fat by 0.25kg per week. Now, this is nothing to be scoffed at: this indicates that over the 16 weeks people can lose 4kg of fat, which is great. And it is a sustainable amount of weight loss.
Also, the quantity of fat loss is dependent on the amount and intensity of exercise performed. So how much exercise do you need to perform for that quarter of a kilo? About 20-30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week (5-6 days).
And what is achievable at greater loads of exercise? Well, if you exercise 6 days a week at a moderate to high intensity – meaning you are burning about 550cals or 2300kj per session – you can expect to lose 0.4-0.5 kg/week of fat. Great results but tough schedule!
I am a great believer and promoter of regular exercise. My business revolves around it, and the benefits of it are incredible in their scope and depth. And we will publish posts in the future on the many (and often unknown) benefits of exercise. However it is more important for me that you receive the right advice and are equipped to make the right decisions for the specific goals that you may have.
So which way does the balance tip? A summary of the research indicates that exercise will account for approximately 20-40% of fat loss, while your diet will account for anywhere between 60-80%. Definitely worth while spending some time exploring this side of the equation! And the good news is that it will take a lot less effort and time to achieve significant results.
This benefit will be even more important for you if for whatever reason, your capacity to exercise is limited. For example due to injury, serious health conditions, or an extremely tough work schedule.
So what can you expect from dietary changes?
Well, our clients are losing an average of 1kg per week form dietary changes alone. Well, this will take another post to explain it in good detail so that the mechanisms can be well understood, but so that you can get started between now and then, here are some foundational recommendations we make:
- Eat natural foods – every meal should look like you just picked it from a plant, or like you were hunting that morning!
- Eat lots of colour – what is the average colour in your diet? If its brown, then please do make sure you stay tuned to our next blog, as you will be surprised as to what may be going on in your body!
- Eat regularly – 5-6 smaller meals a day are ideal to maintain blood sugar levels well regulated
- Decrease the amount of grain based carbohydrates in your diet – this will obviously depend on what you are currently eating. But by an large, we tend to over-consume grains, a dietary habit that may be at the root cause of many of our western diseases.
I’ll go into a lot more detail about these recommendations in our next blog. But what I’d love you to do is to start thinking about the above information, and start to make small gradual changes based on it. Look at the dietary recommendations above, mix them with some regular exercise (yes, this is still important!), and stay tuned to our next post.
Please tell us if any of this doesn’t make sense, or if you have any further questions. Our aim is to inform you so you can lead a more energetic life. We want to help shape your life performance -forever!
If you have specific questions, don’t hesitate to contact our Exercise Physiologists at www.informhealth.com