Most people who attend a gym aspire to have a flatter tummy or want the elusive ‘Six-Pack’. However, most people struggle to burn the unwanted fat around their middle and create clearly defined abdominals. This is the second of a five-part series of top tips to help you flatten your abs…forever
Each week, Bodyguards Health & Fitness will be providing you with two more top tips that will help you to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing midrift and develop a functionally strong core. The underling ethos here is ‘balance’ and sustainability. By taking a ‘whole’ approach and learning how to balance your diet, your exercise and your lifestyle you can develop robust health and maintain it - keeping you looking good on the outside and feeling great on the inside.
Last week, we discussed the importance of exercise and diet to health, fat loss and a better-looking body. This time we take a closer look at two important factors within those topics; good posture and a healthy digestive system. Both are vital if you are to flatten your tummy for good.
QUALITY BEFORE QUANTITY
One of the main reasons a lot of people lose the ability to see their abs is a result of poor posture. For most people nowadays, poor spinal alignment is often a result of sitting for prolonged periods every day at work or as a result of a sedentary lifestyle but it can also be a result of a poorly balanced exercise programme (and even emotional imbalance). Over time, sitting for the majority of your day tends to cause forms of postural imbalances known as ‘flat back’ and ‘kyphosis’ postures. Together these structural imbalances, defined by reduced lumbar curvature, a rounded, hunched upper back and forward head posture, not only greatly increase spinal wear & tear (often leading to back pain and sciatica) but also cause the skin and subcutaneous fat around the tummy to become ‘scrunched up’ generally seen as ‘rolls of fat’ around the middle. Another common cause of these specific postural problems is from over-training or over-strengthening the rectus abdominal muscles when in the gym without equally training the antagonist muscles (of the back) which results in the often-seen forward bend/folds of fat and skin described earlier. This is generally the result of doing too many crunches without paying sufficient attention to the muscles of the lower and upper back which tend to extend the spine and pull your spine back into a more upright, tall, slim posture. This is one of the most common mistakes people make in the gym nowadays especially if they spend all day sitting, shortening and tightening the muscles at the front of the body whilst reciprocally stretching and essentially weakening the muscles of the back. If your posture is already rounded then crunches are probably the last thing you should be doing. That’s right – simply improving your postural alignment can vastly improve how aesthetically lean you appear and help to reveal the six pack muscles you’ve been working on so hard in the gym to be able to see. Sometimes less is more ! Stretch the tight muscles and strengthen the weak !
In order to look healthy & fit on the outside, you need to be healthy & fit on the inside. Another common misconception people tend to have with regards to their approach toward health & fitness is to focus purely on calories in and calories out. Indeed, diet and exercise are significantly important factors when it comes to flattening your tummy but all too often the emphasis is placed too much upon quantity and not quality. The holistic approach acknowledges that the human body is a system of systems, all of which inter-relate and communicate with each other and therefore all require attention in order to improve overall health and ultimately aesthetics. Digestive health is often overlooked in terms of its affect upon the musculo-skeletal system and overall well-being, reflecting a very superficial view of what health & fitness actually is to most people. We all know, you are what you eat, but in reality you are what you absorb. A poorly functioning digestive system will mean you will struggle to absorb nutrients and with it comes inflammation. Inflammation is one of the hottest topics in the health & fitness world today. In order to absorb lots of nutrients to replenish and strengthen your muscles (so you can boost your metabolism and burn more fat) you need to have a healthy digestive system and thus keep inflammation to a minimum. If your digestive system is damaged (by poor quality, processed food-like products for example), your gut will become inflamed and bloated meaning bye bye abs and hello belly. Over an extended period of time, damage to the microvilli of the gut wall can lead to what is known as a ‘leaky gut’ which means foods (and more worryingly pathogens such as bacteria or parasites) can pass into your blood stream undigested (not broken down) causing your immune system activity to increase leading to systemic inflammation and potentially more sinister problems such as auto-immune diseases further down the line. Additionally, you’ll have a hard time actually absorbing any form of nutrients and likely become intolerant to the most benign of foods. If this is still not enough to encourage you to pay more attention to the health of your digestive system, consider that an inflamed gut often causes the deeper, most important core muscles to become inhibited, essentially switching them off, making it very difficult to flatten the abdomen and likely resulting in some form of spinal injury.
The most common causes of leaky gut syndrome and inflammation are:
- Processed foods e.g. sugar, non-whole grains, low quality meats, food additives (like sweeteners)
- Grain based alcohol (especially beer)
- Gluten e.g. gliadin (wheat)
- Any form of stress (physical, mental/emotional and/or even spiritual)
- Anti-biotics and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Improve your digestion by removing the common causes of leaky gut and by including pro-biotics, eating pre-biotics (i.e fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kefir) and by including good omega-3 rich fats such as chia or flax seeds, avocados, eggs, fish, butter and coconut etc. Heal your gut and reduce inflammation by eating anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, mushrooms, green tea, cocoa and berries.