Doing crunches is one of the best ways to target your core muscles and strengthen them. Your rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, external oblique, and internal oblique make up your abdominal muscles or abs. These are the muscles that benefit greatly when you do crunches.
However, do crunches really help in getting rid of stubborn belly fat? Experts usually recommend other types of exercises for losing belly fat more quickly. Find out why you need to do more than just crunches in order to lose your belly fat.
Stubborn Belly Fat
When you’ve got a beer belly, you’re dealing with not just subcutaneous fat but also visceral fat. The former refers to the type of fat that’s found just under the skin. That’s the one that bulges in layers when you sit down.
The latter, visceral fat, is hidden from plain view and is actually more dangerous for your health. This type of fat surrounds the organs in your abdominal cavity, including your intestines, pancreas, and liver.
Between the two, visceral fat is the one that’s considered active and unhealthier, particularly because it can affect your hormonal levels. In fact, when you have excessive visceral fat, your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and other diseases are very high.
The good news is that because it is metabolically active, visceral fat is actually easier to burn and convert to energy. Unfortunately, that means it’s much more difficult to get rid of your subcutaneous belly fat.
Crunches and Belly Fat
Fat, in simple terms, is basically stored energy. Your body doesn’t really do anything to your fat unless you need to burn a little bit of it as fuel to power you up in whatever physical activity you’re doing. Usually, though, your body uses carbs for fuel, and it doesn’t switch to fat-burning unless you’re engaged in prolonged physical activities, like working out.
So, you can think of your belly fat as a power bank for your body. Or several power banks. You won’t need to plug into your power bank if your battery is still fully charged. Similarly, your body won’t dip into your store of belly fat if there are other energy sources available, like sugar or carbs.
But when you’re using multiple apps on your phone and draining your battery, then your power bank may come in handy. That’s how it goes with your belly fat. When you’re working out like crazy for an extended period of time, you’re bound to run low on sugar-powered energy. That’s when your body will switch to fat-burning.
That means you need to burn a lot of calories before your body will even start tapping your stored fat for energy. Unfortunately, crunches don’t really burn all that many calories. Even if you run out of breath doing 20 crunches in just a minute, you would still have burned only about 3 calories.
In short, crunches won’t really drain your energy, so doing it won’t induce your body to tap into your reserved power source which is your belly fat. And that’s the main reason why a lot of fitness experts don’t really recommend crunches as the number one exercise for losing belly fat.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you won’t benefit a thing if you do love doing your crunches. For one, it’s great for building endurance in your abdominal area. Plus, you also improve your balance and posture when you strengthen your abdominal muscles.
How Do You Lose Belly Fat?
Crunches may not be the best way to burn belly fat, but there are many other things you can do to achieve a trimmer waistline. Here are a few.
- Cut down on calories
The key to losing weight is to basically burn more than what you’re eating. You can either do that by following a strict diet and reducing the calories you consume, or you can increase the number of calories you burn by being more physically active. The more you cut down on calories, the faster your body will start burning fat.
- Exercise for longer
When you sprint, your body uses sugar and carbs for fuel. That’s because carbs are readily available for conversion to energy. However, we usually have a very limited supply of carbs in our body, so when you’re exercising for a long time, you’ll run low on sugar and that’s when your body will switch to using fat as your main fuel.
Studies indicate that the switch to fat-burning usually happens after 20-30 minutes of continuous physical activity. This means that you should exercise for more than 30 minutes at a time if you’re looking to trim your waistline.
- Develop your strength
Some of the benefits of strength training include muscle loss prevention and muscle mass development. Strength training can also help you burn fat faster. You can increase your energy expenditure and fat oxidation when you do multiple sets of resistance training.
- Avoid alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages
It’s called beer belly for a reason. If you really want to have a flatter stomach, you need to avoid beer. Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sugary soda, are also a no-no because they will just make you store more fat in your belly.
- Increase your protein intake
If you’ve been wondering why serious bodybuilders eat a lot of protein, that’s because proteins are absolutely necessary for building muscles. But they’re great for fat-burning, too.
Proteins actually require more energy to metabolize, which means you’ll burn more calories digesting a 100-gram serving of lean protein than you would with digesting the same amount of carbs.
- Don’t forget your cardio workout
You can’t skip aerobic exercises if you really want to get rid of your belly fat. To put it simply, you can burn more calories when you do your cardio workout. Try walking as much as you can and don’t forget to use the stairs. It would be even better if you can go for a run at least thrice a week.