Do Sit-Ups Burn Belly Fat?
Belly fat, visceral fat, abdominal fat – no matter what you want to call it, the topic of how to get rid of it and finally show up with that flat stomach or even a six-pack on the beach seems to be ever-existent. There are a lot of misconceptions about belly fat. People think that doing situps will help them get rid of it, but this isn’t actually true. Belly fat is dangerous and unhealthy because it is associated with a number of health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes. In this article, we will discuss what belly fat is, why it’s so dangerous, and how you can get rid of it.
Belly Fat aka Stubborn Fat
There is a reason why so many people get frustrated on their journey to a flat belly. A six-pack nearly seems like the holy grail of a fit appearance and generations of athletes train hard to achieve this goal.
Even the most hard-working athletes can not keep that “ripped” look if one piece of the whole puzzle – we will talk about that later – is missing. And putting the puzzle together is one thing – keeping it together is a whole different story again!
Have a look at Arnold Schwarzenegger during his “off-season” – the time when he did not compete.
Even he looked a little mushy, didn´t he?
When we put on weight, our body tends to store fat first in the belly area and when we try to get rid of body fat, we will get slim around the upper body, the face, the arms, the legs, and finally only then our body will start to burn fat from around our waist area.
That explains the name “stubborn fat”.
Generations of people have tried to reduce belly fat by doing abdominal exercises like sit-ups or crunches in all different variations.
Core strengthening exercises are great because we need strong core muscles to counter problems like back pain for example.
But doing countless repetitions of sit-ups to reduce belly fat will not work.
Why belly fat is dangerous
Unlike most other fat depots in our body, belly fat is not a fat layer just below the skin – called subcutaneous fat – it sits lower, wrapping itself around your abdominal organs. This kind of fat is called visceral fat.
Visceral fat is responsible for a number of rather uncomfortable diseases like cardiovascular disease, Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, or high blood pressure to name just a few.
Additionally, visceral fat acts differently, nearly like an organ on its own that produces hormones, secretes, and chemicals that spread throughout your body and cause damage all over the place.
You see, there are several reasons why we want to lose abdominal fat, and having a flat stomach or even a six-pack are even the less important ones!
Losing belly fat is essential for your health!
The Role of Insulin
What Insulin is and how it works
Insulin is an anabolic hormone that is created in our pancreas. The task Insulin has to fulfill in our body is regulating the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
Insulin does so by supporting the absorption of glucose (sugar) from our blood into the liver, fat, and skeletal muscle cells.
Once glucose has been absorbed into these tissues it is either converted into glycogen or fats.
In the case when glucose is converted into glycogen, energy storage for immediate use by our muscles is built.
If the glycogen storages are full, glucose is converted into fat and stored as a possible energy source for later.
Looking at how Insulin works and what it does, you will immediately understand the connection between the excess uptake of sugar and the resulting excess fat.
In combination with the lack of physical activity, things get even worse – sugar is converted into fat and visceral fat builds.
High Insulin Levels vs Low Insulin Levels
As we already learned above, Insulin is an anabolic hormone, meaning that it promotes cell growth. High Insulin levels have a high anabolic effect and thus promote the storage of stomach fat even more.
On the other hand, low Insulin levels have a catabolic effect – a cell-destructive effect – mainly on stored body fat.
This means low Insulin levels help in the fat-burning process.
The Nutrition Problem
Our society has a problem when it comes to nutrition and diet. Actually, we have several problems, but the main problems when it comes to excess fat, being overweight, or even obese are:
1. The foods we eat
For most people processed foods are on their daily list of things to eat. The food industry – just like any other industry – has to maximize its profit margins.
This is done by producing at very low costs and selling at a high price that is still low enough to attract people.
Combine that with the convenience of a quickly prepared meal and most people are happy.
The problem is that this system has settled down into the minds of the people over the past decades and today we have lost the feeling of what the price tag for good quality food should be.
The low costs that the food industry needs to produce come at the price of low-quality food sources that are spiced up with flavor enhancers and mostly sugar.
Remember: sugar is turned into fat in our bodies!
2. How often we eat
Every time you take up food, your body releases insulin to process the glucose in your food.
So after a meal the insulin level in your body is high for a period of about 1-2 hours.
During the time of increased insulin in your body, fat is stored because that is what insulin does – convert glucose into fat for later use.
If you would add exercise sessions into the equation at this point, everything would be fine, as glucose would be converted into glycogen and subsequently burned in your muscles.
But regrettably, that is not how the daily routine for most people looks like…
If you eat only three times a day with enough time between meals, you give your insulin level a chance to return to normal before the next portion of food enters your system.
However, in our society, we tend to have snacks just at any time we want which results in additional meals in between our meals!
What happens is that the insulin level has no chance to come down – it stays high all the time.
What happens during a phase of high insulin? Right, glucose is turned into fat and stored!
A normal eating pattern consisting of breakfast, lunch, and dinner gives your insulin level time to get back to a normal level of about 90 mg/dl.
Back in the day – in the 50s or 60s of the last century – that was the pattern of how people consumed their meals. There was no obesity problem at all.
You can also see that after dinner, there was a long time period of about 9 hours with no food at all.
Today we call this intermittent fasting.
This is the usual meal pattern that takes place in our society today. Every time a meal or a “snack” is consumed, your insulin level goes up.
The problem is that every snack keeps your insulin level elevated and thus elongating the anabolic time period in which fat is stored.
A “snack” can also be a small piece of chocolate or a “small” sandwich.
You see: in this pattern you never get out of raised insulin levels! So you keep storing fat all the time…
Be honest with yourself!
Now go ahead and check your daily meal routine! What does it look like? Honestly!
You also have to take into account the little spoon of sugar that is added to your cup of coffee in the morning and in the afternoon!
You have to add the dressing that you put on your salad! Do you use balsamico for example? Well, sugar is added!
Which kind of bread do you eat (if you eat bread at all…)? Whole grain, homemade bread made with high-quality organic flour?
Or do you rather consume industrial bread? Sugar is added again!
Do you eat a lot of processed foods?
Do you drink flavored water because normal water tastes too boring?
Do you eat fruit yogurt that usually has lots of sugar in it?
So, be honest with yourself! Especially when you are already doing anything you can, but you still don´t see a lot of results.
I assume you came here because you want to reduce body fat or even get rid of that stubborn belly fat around your waist.
The answer might be that you are doing one thing right – maybe you are working out very consistently – but you are counteracting your exercise routine with your nutrition and/or your lifestyle.
This brings me right to the puzzle that I have mentioned already above:
In order for you to succeed in losing belly fat you have to bring three equivalent pieces together.
Check when you eat! What does your calorie intake look like and when does it take place?
Do you eat snacks in between your meals? And by snacks, I also mean the healthy-looking tuna-salad sandwich or the salad with a yogurt dressing on top…
Does your eating routine prevent your insulin level from returning to normal?
Remember, every time you consume food within two hours after the last meal, you will elongate the time of a higher insulin level.
Every little piece of chocolate that you consider not to be “so bad because it’s only small” will prevent your insulin from coming down again.
And during the time insulin is high, fat is stored!
I am sure you will already have heard “calories in should be less than calories out” if you want to lose belly fat, or body weight for that matter.
But it is not that simple!
Checking your daily calorie intake is definitely an important measure to understand where you are in that area.
And based on what you have found out, creating a calorie-deficit diet and sticking to it in order to kick-start weight loss is also important.
Be very cautious with what you eat. Stay away from processed foods and refined carbs.
You don´t have to jump into a low-fat diet or a low-carb diet right away.
First, see if smaller changes to your diet already show results.
Bigger changes in your habits are much harder to implement than several smaller steps.
If you stay determined and gradually move away from unhealthy habits toward healthy nutrition you are much more likely to succeed.
Nutrition – together with lifestyle and working out – is one equally important component for great body composition and fat loss success.
The last part of our puzzle is working out. You have to kick-start your metabolism in order to start burning overall body fat.
Lifting weights should become a regular companion during your fitness routine. The reason is quite simple: More muscles burn more calories – it´s that easy! Muscles do much more than that of course, but for our purpose here – burning belly fat – building muscle mass helps a lot.
High-intensity exercise is a proven method to build muscle mass while it is also great to burn calories.
Once you have gained more muscles, your body’s BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) – which determines how many calories you burn during rest just by breathing, letting your heart beat, digesting food, etc. – will rise.
More muscle needs more calories for maintenance.
Do Sit-Ups Burn Belly Fat?
No! Sit-ups alone will not get you to your goal of burning away your abdominal fat! Sit-ups are a basic abdominal exercise that should be done regularly, but sit-ups can not spot reduce fat around your waist!
They do help though as sit-ups are an important physical activity that finally helps in losing fat on your entire body.
The same applies of course to the question “Do crunches burn belly fat?” – just in case you were still unclear about that!
Many people think that an exercise that is dedicated to one particular muscle group will spot reduce fat in that area.
A spot reduction of fat is just not possible!
Once you start limiting carbohydrates and calories, stick to a healthy nutrition plan, adjust your lifestyle and start to ramp up your exercise intensity, you will also start to see results.
So if you want to lose belly fat, put the three pieces of our puzzle together, and don´t forget to be very honest with yourself!
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Maybe wou want to learn more about how visualization can help you lose weight then check out our article here.