When you see ads that claim there are “tricks to lose belly fat”, does part of you wonder how losing fat in your mid-section could be different than losing it in any other bodily area? If so, that’s good; your critical thinking skills are engaged. And believe me, once the rational side of you is fully in gear with regard to your body-improvement desires and goals, your prospects for long-term fitness success are greatly improved.
But back to the topic: Why would there be “tricks to lose belly fat” that are different than “tricks” to losing fat in general? And why would there be any “tricks” involved at all? You and I know the basic formula for gaining fat simply involves consuming more calories than we’re expending. We know losing fat is a matter of burning up more calories than we’re consuming. These things considered, don’t the so-called “tricks to lose belly fat” just fall into the realm of eating fewer daily calories or increasing calorie-burning activity, or a combination of the two?
In the big scheme of things, this is what it all boils down to: Calories In/Calories Out. You have belly fat if you’ve been eating more calories than you’ve been using. You’ll shed belly fat when you begin using up more calories than you’re eating. Contrarily, the ‘tricks to lose belly fat’ people will give you ‘earth-shattering’ information like the following tidbit:
“Seemingly healthy foods like a glass of orange juice are loaded with sugar and are making you as fat as would the intake of a daily morning pastry.”
That bit of incredible information is what follows their assertion that it’s “food choices – not calories” that are causing your belly fat.
“Shaaaazam”… and all this time we thought it was ‘coz we “ate too much.” I guess they figure it will never occur to us that it might also be the high calories in the glass of orange juice, caused by the sugar, which could ultimately be making us fat. In other words, the “tricks to lose belly fat” people think we’re a little on the stupid side. That’s a possibility even while acknowledging that “Yes, a morning glass of orange juice does shoot up blood sugar and insulin”… along with “Yes, the insulin spikes do contribute to creating a chain of fat-storing reactions inside the body.” But it’s probably not a coincidence that the insulin-spiking sugary foods (including fruit juice) pack a calorie punch along with their hormone-altering glycemic effects. And it’s likely of little consequence that the distinctions determining which of these two effects is ultimately making us fatter is a bit blurry; of prime importance is knowledge of where our excess calories are coming from so we can reduce them.
But the “tricks to lose belly fat” crowd is betting on something more reliable than that we’re stupid: They figure we’re emotional about belly fat and, thus, receptive to the possibility that there’s a hidden “trick” to losing it. I like that prospect a lot better. I can certainly relate to it. In fact, if you’re seeking ‘tricks to lose belly fat’ because your belly fat is especially problematic for you, then all I can say is “Congratulations”… you’re like I am; you have a genetic predisposition for storing fat in your mid-section. But don’t worry. If a previously food-addicted fat boy like I was can lose it and keep it off long-term, anyone can.
So given that this topic has personal significance to me, I’d like to go over some “tricks to lose belly fat” that are beginning to annoy me.
Why are they “annoying” to me?
They’re annoying because they just keep being repeated without first having some thought given to them. And it would behoove us to think about them given that the more we divert our effort toward things that don’t matter very much, the less we focus on those things that do.
“Tricks to Lose Belly Fat”… that are Nonsensical?
Here are some so-called “tricks to lose belly fat” that I’ve spotted on websites and in free fitness E-books that I think are questionable, to say the least.
“Artificial Sweeteners are Making us Fat”:
Can someone please explain to me how something with ZERO calories makes us fat? Anecdotally, I’ve never noticed fat gains that I’d attribute to my intake of artificial sweeteners that contain absolutely NO CALORIES, and I’ve consumed them at high levels. I happen to also be someone who doesn’t possess the ‘leanness gene’; I’m prone to gaining fat easily. Incidentally, I’ve gotten REALLY fat from consuming THE “NON-artificial” sweetener (i.e. SUGAR) in all its insidious forms.
It seems the “artificial sweeteners make us fat” claim arises from a slew of assumptions extrapolated from a 2005 reporting of a longitudinal study done at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Like many longitudinal studies, it was purely observational research rather than an experimental study. It therefore lacked critical controls to account for important variables. Basically, it boiled down to the analysis of a survey done on 1,177 participants who were observed over a 25-year period from 1979 to 2004. The subjects were questioned on their soda drinking habits during this period (both sugar-sweetened and ‘diet soda’). All the participants were said to have begun the observation at either ‘normal weight’ or overweight. None of the subjects were in the obesity category. The following is cited as a major finding mentioned by one of the researchers.
“On average, for each diet soft drink our participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years, and 41 percent more likely to become obese.”
Now, much to the researcher’s credit, they admit to the study raising more questions than it answered. The first question I’d think would pop into the mind of anyone with a healthy defense against the influences of ‘junk science’ would be the following inquiry:
‘How do we know that those participants with the most propensities to overeat aren’t also the ones most likely to assuage their guilt in doing so with a higher consumption of diet soda as a beverage of choice?’
In short, this observational study has so many loose ends that I don’t know how anyone can cite it as evidence that eliminating artificial sweeteners is one for a list of “tricks to lose belly fat.”
But this doesn’t stop some people from using it to extrapolate and dispense nonsensical advice. I saw one report by a fitness “expert” suggesting we should replace artificial sweeteners with “natural sweeteners” like ‘raw honey.’ Now let’s just do the math:
Calories in 1 tbsp. Raw Honey = 60
Calories in 1 tbsp. High Fructose Corn Syrup = 53
Calories in 1 tbsp. of the artificial sweetener Sucralose = 0
Okay… Raw Honey packs a few more calories than even a tablespoon of high fructose corn syrup. Apparently, I’m just not brilliant enough to figure out how that reduces belly fat more than a sweetener with zero calories. Until I am (if ever), I’ll just consider the ‘cut artificial sweeteners’ advice as one of those ‘tricks to lose belly fat’ that annoys the hell out of me.
Don’t “Drink Your Calories”:
There are some experts out there telling us that this one’s on the list of “tricks to lose belly fat.” The idea behind it is that smoothies and other liquid-derived calories deprive us of what’s referred to as the thermal effect of food. The thermal effect of food is just some cool verbiage to name the process of the body burning energy (calories) in the course of digesting and breaking down solid food items. The idea behind capitalizing on this effect is that the digestion of solid food generates calorie-burning benefits of absolute advantage over the calorie-cutting convenience of liquid meals.
But there are some huge assumptions being made here as well. For example, let’s say you and I were work colleagues who suddenly found ourselves feeling really hungry when our lunch break came around. We’ve both been trying to cut some belly fat but neither of us had time to pack a solid lunch before leaving for work in the morning. We’re now standing in a cafeteria, staring at a menu that has numerous solid food meal choices with calorie amounts of which we could only guess. Alongside these is a ‘Power Smoothie’ containing measured amounts of ingredients that include 20 grams of protein along with some carbs and fat that add up to 500 leveled calories.
Which would be our best choice?
In this case, the smoothie could be our better choice as one of our ‘tricks to lose belly fat.’ That’s because we could satiate ourselves without over-consuming calories when drinking their more measured contents. By contrast, it would be difficult not to miscalculate the calorie content of a ‘non-diet’, random solid meal on a restaurant lunch menu – especially when we’re feeling emaciated. The only way the ‘thermal effect of food’ could override this is if whatever calories in excess of what’s in the smoothie are consumed by eating the solid meal could be more than cancelled out through the thermogenesis created by digesting that solid meal.
Let’s explain this differently: Pretend you showed me two people who were trying to lose belly fat – person A and person B. Person A was consistently putting themselves in a slight daily calorie deficit by eating a couple of healthy solid meals combined with two healthy liquid meals (smoothies). Person B was eating only solid meals (no smoothies) but was finding it more difficult to stay within consistent calorie deficit. I’d bet on person A losing the belly fat… hands down.
In other words, avoiding liquid meals as one in a list of ‘tricks to lose belly fat’ is advice that requires too many qualifications to be solid (stupid pun). It assumes that the calorie-burning effect of eating solid food is always greater than the calorie-control effect of the speed and convenience of also using some liquid meals. That’s why I’ve included it among the list of ‘tricks to lose belly fat’ that annoy me.
‘Weight lifting’ as Overly-Simplified Advice:
Okay… what’s a staunch believer in muscle building doing being annoyed by advice to “lift weights to lose belly fat?” In short, I love muscle building but cringe when I see people simply moving weights and assuming it will result in something.
I’m a bodybuilder. As such, I’ll be the first to advise those seeking ‘tricks to lose belly fat’ to add an appreciable degree of muscle to their frames in order to speed metabolic rate. But my experience has shown me that a mere haphazard attempt at doing this has no more long-term benefit than not doing it at all. In other words, bodybuilding is good – but ineffective weight training is a big waste of time and can be a motivation killer.
One common mistake that creates confusion about weight training is ambiguity between using it for fat-burning workouts and using it to build muscle. Many online articles and free reports tend to blur this distinction. They’ll recommend adding weight training to your routine so as to speed your metabolism by building bigger muscles. But they’ll tell you within the same article to perform ‘high intensity interval training’ so that you’ll “maximize calorie burning” during your weight training workouts.
People new to workouts are often lulled into thinking otherwise because they associate tightness and soreness in their muscles as signs of “growth.” But real growth to the degree that speeds metabolic rate takes time and know-how, especially when you’re doing it without the use of steroids or other drugs.
A big problem lies with the fact that there are a couple types of “experts” in muscle building that are too prevalent:
- Trainers who don’t have an appreciable degree of muscle on their own bodies but have appointed themselves as experts at telling YOU how to gain it.
- Trainers who’ve gained much of their muscle with steroid cycles but have deemed themselves knowledgeable at showing YOU how to gain muscle naturally.
It’s difficult to say what’s causing most of the misinformation about effective natural muscle building. But just from the standpoint of mixed and ambiguous advice within this topic, the eager adoption of it by the ‘tricks to lose belly fat’ crowd is a bit annoying.
"Don’t Eat Too Much Fruit":
Yes, I actually saw this piece of advice recently in a ‘tricks to lose belly fat’ report. I’d imagine many people reading it are wondering why they’ve been told all their lives to “eat more fruits and vegetables”… and now they’ve got some self-appointed online fitness guru advising them to avoid eating too much fruit.
Here’s some simple counter-advice from a guy who’s had both an over-spilling abdominal region AND a set of chiseled abs: Keep the fruit intake up – just don’t eat fruit items without eating 20 to 30 grams of protein first.
Consuming any carbohydrate food by itself is almost a prescription for adding or keeping body fat. Eating protein prior to (or with) your carbohydrate intake will slow down the rise in your blood sugar and help reduce your chances of overeating.
With that bit of ‘macro-advice’ as a foundation, you could take half the confusing ‘micro-BS’ out of a list of ‘tricks to lose belly fat’ and still lose belly fat. You could stop being confused by food merchants telling you that eating grass-fed cow beef instead of eating mass-processed beef is a “trick to lose belly fat.” It might be a long-term healthier choice. It might even be a more flavorful meat choice. But it doesn’t belong on a list of ‘tricks to lose belly fat.’ I assure you, I’ve lost belly fat… repeatedly, with that oh-so-horrifying grain-fed, steroid injected beef from the mainstream grocery store.
Again, we’ll use an energy in/energy out example: Let’s say person A and person B are both trying to lose belly fat. Person A is eating fruit at every meal and is also getting some “terrifying” mass-processed meat in her diet. Person B is cutting back on fruit, replacing it with a lot of ‘fish oil’, and eating only organic foods along with beef from grass-fed cows.
However (here’s the clincher), let’s say person A is making sure to be in at least a 250-calorie deficit each day while person B is up and down on the calorie-intake chart. For example, one day person B is at a 200-calorie deficit and the next he’s at a 250-calorie surplus. On the third day person B is at a 150-calorie deficit and on the fourth day he’s at a 100-calorie surplus. After four days, person B has broken even on ‘calories in/calories’ out while person A is on track to lose about one pound of fat every two weeks.
I’d bet on person A losing the belly fat while person B wonders why the ‘tricks to lose belly fat’ aren’t working.
Bottom line: In the context of ‘tricks to lose belly fat’, there’s some great information out there. But there’s also some time-wasting, extraneous information that’s confusing at best and counterproductive at worst. We have to separate the wheat from the chaff to get effective long-term results.