If the holiday months have managed to turn your six pack into a muffin top size problem, then now is the perfect time to get rid of that unsightly overhang.
Unfortunately training hard is not enough. We now know that your hormones affect where your fat is stored, and muffin tops are correlated with the hormone insulin. They are a direct consequence of poor blood sugar management, most often related to a poor diet, and you can't out-train a poor diet. I often refer to the hips as my "lie detector test". On the bright side, insulin is the one hormone that we have complete control over. No one ever ate anything by accident.
The major myth surrounding fat loss is that fat is the enemy. However, this is not true. You need to eat fat to burn fat. When it comes to efficiently managing your blood sugar levels, fat is your friend and sugar is your enemy.
Adhere to these simple guidelines to whittle down your waistline.
1. Be aware of your dietary habits by keeping a food diary. A sneaky biscuit at morning and afternoon tea adds up to a whole packet quicker than you think!
2. Eat the right foods in the right amounts at the right times. You don’t have to eat every 2-3 hours, but don’t allow yourself to get to the point where you’re starving and you end up overeating or making poor nutritional choices.
3. Breakfast sets you up for the day. Go for something high in protein that will fill you up, combined with a ‘smart’ fat that will help stabilize your blood sugar for longer. Steak and/or chicken breast, nuts and greens is a great option. If you can’t manage meat in the morning, eggs and avocado is a great alternative, or a green smoothie with a vegan protein base.
4. Step away from the skinny lattes. Dairy products are notorious for causing a rapid spike in blood sugar. Typically low fat means high sugar, so if you can’t avoid dairy, go for the full fat varieties. Ice cream trumps fat free frozen yoghurt. You're welcome!
5. Swap out starchy, sugary “white” carbohydrates for healthier alternatives such as sweet potato, yams, brown/red/wild rice and/or gluten free organic oats.
6. Make use of the optimal windows of opportunity to ingest carbohydrates i.e. post workout is when the body is most insulin sensitive i.e. able to utilize the carbs as fuel and/or before bed for those who have trouble sleeping as carbs increase serotonin which makes you sleepy. If you are on a low carb diet, try adding Glutamine to your PWO shake as this handy little amino acid will help replenish your muscle glycogen levels for better recovery.
7. Use your condiments wisely. Adding lemon juice to your food lowers the glycemic index instantly, whilst cinnamon increases your ability to metabolise sugar so it becomes the perfect addition to your morning coffee or porridge.
8. Include fiber at mealtimes to slow down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, and fill you up for longer. Dark green leafy vegetables are essential, and chia seeds, flax seeds or hemp seeds make a tasty addition to salads and smoothies.
9. The more you eat sweets, the more you will want them, and it takes 7 days for sugar to leave your system. Try satisfying cravings by sautéing a handful of nuts in butter – this combination satisfies the same neurotransmitter pathways as your favorite treats.
10. Eating too much fruit is a common fat-loss mistake. Fructose is sugar, and the liver has more trouble metabolizing fructose than regular white sugar! Berries and dark colored fruits are your best bets having the lowest glycemic indices, and the highest nutritional properties being loaded with antioxidants.
11. Take a good quality fish oil with meals to help stabilize blood sugar, rebalance essential fatty acids, and increase the ability of the body to metabolize fat. Make sure that you buy pharmaceutical grade only as cheaper generic brands are often contaminated by heavy metals such as Mercury. There are 2 types of Omega 3's in fish oil capsules - EPA and DHA. EPA is geared towards addressing inflammation in the body, whilst DHA is effective when it comes to improving cognitive function. If your aim is fat loss, I suggest picking an option that is higher in EPA.
12. Lift weights. Strength training has a hugely beneficial influence on insulin sensitivity, increasing the receptivity of the muscles to insulin thereby increasing the demand to utilize glucose for fuel instead of storing the excess as fat.