Ripped fitness models glistening with body oil make a compelling argument for abdominal workouts and equipment. However, while they build core strength and increase muscle tone, ab exercises such as crunches have minimal impact on weight loss. A better weight-loss strategy combines intense cardiovascular exercise with total-body strength training and a reduced-calorie diet.
Weight loss occurs when you expend more energy than you consume. Performing five minutes of crunches without stopping burns only about 25 calories. A pound of fat equals roughly 3,500 calories, so it would take nearly 12 hours of crunches to lose 1 pound. Instead, look to intense cardiovascular exercise, such as running, which burns twice as many calories and specifically targets abdominal fat. Researchers from Duke University Medical Center observed 175 overweight men and women over a period of eight months. They published their findings in the October 2005 issue of the вЂњJournal of Applied Physiology.вЂќ Those who jogged about 20 miles per week lost an impressive 14 pounds of abdominal fat compared to those who logged only 11 miles, who lost no abdominal fat, and those who remained sedentary, who actually increased their central adiposity.
Crunches and other resistance exercises increase lean body mass, which increases basal metabolic rate for greater calorie burn even while you sleep. But crunches work only one muscle group, contributing a negligible increase in overall muscle mass. Moreover, exercises performed while lying down burn fewer calories than those performed while standing. To increase your lean body mass, add abdominal exercises to a well-rounded training program that works all of your major muscle groups. For the greatest weight loss, skip the machines at your gym in favor of standing, total-body exercises, such as squats with biceps curls and overhead presses.
While abdominal exercises increase core muscle tone and definition, the visible effect is minimal if your stomach remains hidden under a thick layer of belly fat. Take the television fitness model, for example, and imagine covering him in a bulky sweatshirt. His abs would disappear under the mantle of fabric. To lose that thick layer of belly fat, make a few strategic changes to your diet. First, decrease overall calories by about 500 per day to lose about 1 pound per week. Also, avoid high-fructose corn syrup, which increases dangerous visceral fat and decreases insulin sensitivity. Finally, swap the white bread for some whole wheat. The вЂњAmerican Journal of Clinical NutritionвЂќ published findings in 2008 that support replacing refined grains, such as bagels, cereal, tortillas, pasta, pastry and white bread, with whole grains to target abdominal fat specifically.
Best Ab Exercises
Abdominal exercises that require total-body stabilization, such as planks, burn more calories and recruit more muscles than standard crunches. Get off the floor to burn even more calories. The captain's chair exercise involves supporting your entire body weight with your arms and back and lifting your knees to your chest to work your abs. Avoid any ab gadgets sold on early-morning television, which are even less effective than the standard crunch.