The simple science of belly fat and the most efficient way to achieve that flat stomach.
If your postnatal goal is to lose belly fat you won’t be alone. A large proportion of postnatal women report feeling unhappy with how their stomach looks.
The quest for a flat stomach is real.
During pregnancy your body is going through the wringer and the appearance of your stomach can change for many reasons - the growing baby inside you for one! Add to this increased fat storage for breastfeeding, stretched skin, postural changes and potential diastasis recti (leading to a domed shape stomach) - it’s no wonder we’re left feeling less than content.
Firstly, whatever you’re experiencing it’s important to be kind to yourself.
You’ve just grown a human being! Your body (and belly) have had a tough nine months and it is totally normal not to have a flat stomach. There's no rush to get your body back, so be gentle with yourself.
How to get a flat stomach?
There’s a huge misconception that a flat stomach is achieved through lots of ab/core exercises. Whilst core workouts may strengthen your abdominal muscles, if you’re looking to lose the body fat on top of your muscle you need a different approach.
To achieve a flat stomach you first need to burn the fat from your belly.
To burn fat you need a consistent calorie deficit (burning more calories than you’re consuming). When your body runs our of fuel from your food, it then starts to burn your stored body fat to fuel your life.
Achieving a calorie deficit requires you to eat less calories than you’re burning and this can be done by eating less, moving more or a combination of the two - moving more and eating less.
Eating less is down to your diet and any activity you do during the day will contribute to moving more - workouts, walking, dancing, cleaning, gardening etc. The more your move the bigger the effect on calorie burn.
Efficiency is key
How many calories you actually burn when you move, depends on what you’re doing. Essentially, the bigger the muscles you use, the more calories you will burn during the activity.
Your abs are very small muscles so won’t burn many calories through ab exercises alone. You'll actually benefit more from training legs which by comparison use much larger muscles and bigger movements.
From a calorie burning perspective you're probably better off going for a walk than you are lying on your back doing crunches.
So, to burn calories most efficiently your training should ideally focus on large compound movements that use multiple muscle groups and big muscles - squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows etc.
That’s not to say strengthening your core isn’t important for health and life, but relying on these to get you a flat stomach is going to take much longer.
The role of genetics.
So, you have your calorie deficit nailed but your belly fat isn’t budging - why not?
Even in a consistent calorie deficit there is still no guarantee you’ll lose fat from your belly.
Unfortunately, where your body chooses to both store and lose fat is determined by your individual genetics. If your body is predisposed to store fat around your stomach, this is likely to be the last place that it goes from.
This doesn’t mean a flat stomach is an impossibility, but you might see the rest of your body get lean before your body focuses on burning your belly fat s it might just require a little more patience and hard work.
Getting a flat stomach is best achieved by following these steps....
Get more active - the more you move your body in day-to-day life, the more calories you’ll burn and the easier it’ll be to create a calorie deficit. Try to hit at least 10,000 steps a day, incorporate cardio into your weekly routine and focus on leading a more active lifestyle.
Prioritise full body workouts over core workouts - the more muscle mass you use during your workouts the bigger the impact this will have on your calorie burn.
Pay attention to your diet - you can only lose body fat in a calorie deficit, unfortunately there’s no way around this. All diets follow this principle they just go about creating a calorie deficit in different ways i.e. restricting food groups, supplementing meals and only eating within a certain time frame. They all help achieve the same goal - a calorie deficit.
And remember……whilst it might look good on the beach, there is much more to life than a flat stomach.