Blast belly fat and whittle your middle while still living the good lifeBy: Emily G. W. Chau
Tossing back little booze doesn’t doom you to a beer belly, says Harvard School of Public Health researchers. In fact, you might experience the opposite. Although wine, beer, and cocktails have long been synonymous with “empty calories,” a recent study found that women who drank one to two servings of alcohol a day, regardless of type, gained less weight and were less likely to become overweight compared to their teetotaling counterparts.
You’re not going to lose weight drinking, but this attenuating effect may be explained by a combination of factors. Women tend to cut back on other parts of their diet when they drink, and there’s evidence that their bodies break down alcohol inefficiently, which can burn a few more calories, says Lu Wang, MD, PhD, lead researcher and instructor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
This isn’t a green light for adopting liquid diet, however. Moderation is key, and the weight loss effects of light drinking probably don’t extend to men, as guys usually eat just as much, if not more, when they drink.
Science confirms what you’ve long suspected: Those hundreds of sit-ups before bed aren’t getting you any closer to a toned stomach. Not only do crunches put your lower back at risk for injury, but they work only a tiny portion of your core. For a smarter, more effective abs routine, try the Swiss-ball rollout and the Swiss-ball pike. A new Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy study compared ten different abs exercises and found that your core works harder performing these two moves than any other. Still, abs-centric workouts only get you so far. They primarily strengthen and tone your muscles, not decrease your waist size, so before you can reveal your six-pack, you’ll have to remove the layer of fat jiggling on your stomach. While it’s tempting to just amp up your cardio and watch your number of calories burned climb, take the time to hit up the weight room, too. After all, research suggests that resistance training may be more effective at torching fat than aerobic exercise. Melt your gut with our belly-busting routines for men and women.
The tortoise got it all wrong—slow and steady doesn’t always win the race. A 2009 study found that people who did 30 minutes of intense cardio, five days a week, lost more visceral fat than those who exercised for 50 minutes a session at a moderate pace, even though they burned the same number of total calories at the gym. “It’s kind of like, if you get in an automobile, and you drive faster, you burn more fuel in a shorter period of time,” explains lead researcher Robert H. Coker, PhD, associate professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Your body may burn more energy after an intense workout, since stressed muscles need more fuel to repair and replenish.
You don’t have to kill yourself on the stationary bike to get the benefits of high-intensity workouts, either. The study participants in the high-intensity group were still able to talk and hold brief conversations while exercising.
It’s called beauty sleep for good reason. Canadian researchers looked at the relationship between sleep and weight gain over 6 years and found that people who slept 5 to 6 hours a night gained about 4.5 pounds more than those who rested for 7 to 8 hours. Light snoozers were also 27 percent more likely to develop obesity than regular sleepers.
Rest regulates your hunger hormones gherlin and leptin, and lack of shut-eye simultaneously stimulates your appetite while suppressing feelings of satiety. Stop giving sleep the short shrift and try turning off your electronics and turning down your thermostat. Optimal temperatures for sleep hover around 60°F to 68°F.
Dairy occasionally gets a bad rap for being fatty, but eating yogurt, milk, and, yes, even cheese, may help you lose that stubborn spare tire. An International Journal of Obesity study found that that people who were on a reduced-calorie diet and ate about 3 cups of yogurt a day for 12 weeks lost more weight than those who cut calories and took calcium pills. What’s more, the extra chub was cinched primarily from their stomachs: Yogurt eaters lost about an inch and a half from their waists, while the calcium pill poppers lost less than a quarter of an inch.
“Fat cells make their own cortisol, which begets more belly fat,” explains Michael B. Zemel, professor of nutrition and medicine and director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “There are components in milk and yogurt, such as calcium, that interrupt that cycle, reducing the drive to store more fat in the belly.” Dairy products are also sources of conjugated linoleic acid, another belly fat-busting compound.
Studies show that you don't have go all-Atkins in order to lose your gut. On the contrary, noshing on the right carbs can actually help you lose weight. A 2009 Journal of Nutrition study found that those who stocked up on whole grains (dark bread, brown rice, popcorn, bulgur wheat, couscous) and cereal fiber tended to have less overall body fat and belly fat than those who ate less of the stuff.
Adding more whole grains to your diet may encourage you to cut back on other foods. Whole grains are loaded with fiber, which adds bulk to your meals without adding calories, and are harder to digest. Translation: You'll feel fuller, longer eating whole grains instead of the refined kind.
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