Here is an email from a man who likes to exercise as much as I do, but just cannot drop that last bit of fat off his midsection:
Stew -- what gives? I have been busting my butt for years working out with running, calisthenics, weights nearly 5-6 days a week and still have trouble around my midsection. I am in great shape and can run 6 miles easy, some weights, do 50 pull-ups, 300 push-ups and even more abs in a workout. What do I need to do to lose this last 5-10 pounds?
It sounds like you are doing everything right when it comes to burning calories, so you have to take a closer look at what you are eating to keep that kind of body fat around your midsection.
Generally speaking, your issue is most likely sugar intake. Whether it is soda, sweets, white breads or pasta, these foods will cause your body to store them as fat through insulin production. Now, you should not eliminate carbohydrates from your diet. Your body needs carbs, but limit them to fruits and vegetables and try to time eating them to pre- and post-workout snacks.
Here is what I like to do when I am leaning out. Usually, I try to drop some weight in the peak of my yearlong training cycle when my running is at its highest and workouts are at their longest. Check out the key to building longevity.
Early morning workout: If doing weights or calisthenics or a fast run or swim workout (anaerobic activity), it is recommended that you eat something before you exercise. Here is a good time to eat fruits or drink juices or a sports drink. Something high on the glycemic index should help with energy later in the workout.
If you ever have felt dizzy and nauseated during a workout, it usually is because of decreased blood sugar. Some of my favorites are bananas, apples, baby carrots and water -- sometimes juice. Chocolate milk has been proven to be quite helpful as well on harder, more intense workout days. The protein in milk helps in post-workout recovery.
However, if you are doing an easier longer-distance or cardio workout, skip eating and just take some water along with you on your pre-breakfast workout. As long as you are staying in the aerobic zone, you should be OK with a moderately intense workout.
After a good pre-breakfast workout, you need to eat well. Foods with protein like eggs, dairy foods, meats and, of course, good carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables will help you recover and be ready for the next workout. Also hydrate with at least a quart of water.
Midmorning is still a good time to mix in some protein and carb snack, like yogurt or a trail mix that is rich in peanuts, almonds and other nuts. Drink water again.
For lunch, you need a big salad that is rich in green, leafy and colorful vegetables, topped off with strawberries for a good taste that will help you limit dressings. Try not to junk it up with high-saturated fat or high-carb dressings. Add lean meat like fish, chicken, turkey or boiled eggs for a good protein.
After lunch, still do a midafternoon snack, but try to stick with more protein-rich foods like nuts, eggs, tuna, chicken or some sort of protein drink or bar. Now -- here is where the challenge comes in -- try not to eat any or many carbs the rest of the day. Focus on the proteins above. However, it is fine to have lean meat with a small salad at dinner.
Walking or getting in a second easier workout after dinner is a good way to burn some calories as well. You have to be careful, though, not to do too much, as it will affect your early morning workout the next day. So keep this workout easy, just to get the metabolism higher after eating an evening meal. Often, this one is a quick 10- to 15-minute walk or bike ride.
Also arrange the workouts so you do anaerobic, then aerobic activity second. See Cardio vs. Resistance for more details and why.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to email@example.com.
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