ASK A TRAINER: 'How Can I Get Rid of a Muffin Top?'
"I want to throw out my Spanx. How can I get rid of my muffin top?" -Sandra L., Paramus, NJ
For those of you that haven't heard the expression "muffin top" before let me explain what that is. When a pair of pants causes belly fat to hang over the lower abdominal region, it creates the appearance of something that looks like the top of a blueberry (or corn or bran) muffin. Products such as Spanx, which are "shaping" undergarments designed to pull the tummy in, creating the appearance of a slimmer waistline, provide a short-term fix in covering up abdominal fat. Having never worn Spanx,, I can't imagine they are very comfortable. They look like pantyhose but they're essentially a girdle, right?
I'm glad you asked this question, Sandra. Based on the phrasing of your question, it seems as if you are most frustrated by the aesthetics of your muffin top. Bely fat can be so frustrating in that, as you pointed out, it could significantly limit your options in terms of the clothing you feel comfortable wearing, but it is also the most dangerous kind of fat. Belly fat, or visceral fat, places one at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. From a general health standpoint, Spanx are not much help in terms of fighting disease.
Luckily, losing belly fat is completely possible through diet and exercise. Here are some more specific tips along those lines:
- Since you have a limited number of calories you can take in on a given day, you will want to make sure that you are filling your calorie allotment with quality, muffin-busting foods. Lean proteins, fibrous vegetables, some complex carbohydrates and even some healthy fats. (You do need some good fats but be careful of portion size. Nuts, for example, are a great source of quality fat, but are not a low calorie food.) You really can't go wrong with fibrous vegetables. They are low calorie foods, clean the system out and make you feel full.
- Drink tons of water. Pounding water all day long will keep your body working efficiently and will also help you avoid getting hungry.
- Eat smaller portions more frequently. You should be eating 5-7 times a day. This does not mean 5-7 meals, it just means you should be eating every 3 hours or so. You want to make sure you are fueling your body adequately for your workouts. Which brings me to...
- Since you can't spot reduce fat and can only reduce your overall body fat composition, you are going to make sure you are burning more calories than you are taking in. In overly simplistic terms, you need to consume fewer calories and kick it up a notch or two in the gym to ensure that you are exerting more energy (and in turn burning more calories.)
- You can use your time in the gym most efficiently by doing High Intensity Interval Training: short bursts of intense exercise broken up by brief periods of rest.
- Strength training will help you lose your belly fat as putting on lean muscle will up your metabolism. Also, if you are strength training with correct form your core will be engaged the entire time you are lifting. Keeping your torso elongated and your bellybutton drawn in toward the torso will force your tummy muscles to stabilize while you work which will help you in your pursuit of a nice, flat stomach.
- Traditional sit-ups and crunches focus primarily on your external abdominal muscles. You should do exercises that work the entire core, specifically, exercises in which your torso is elongated like planks. In addition to helping create a lean, flat stomach, these types of exercises will help improve posture day-to-day. Correcting your posture is another way to diminish the appearance of a muffin top.
Hope that helps, Sandra.
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