November 6, 2011

Stomach bulge: Best way to control the monster

Even the most disciplined and the most hard working people find their Waterloo when fighting the stomach bulge.

From bloating because of water retention to the sheer frustration brought on by the stomach's refusal to fall flat, abdominal weight is a tough battle to win. Today we've picked out our top 5 tips about how to control the stomach bulge - 5 tips and bits of awareness that everyone entering this stomach bulge arena needs to know. So, let's get started!

Are stomach crunches enough for abs?
For six-pack abs one needs to strengthen the abdominal muscles and lose body fat. Unfortunately there is no escaping cardiovascular exercise and weight (or resistance) training to lose weight in a healthy way. That aside, in order to strengthen your abs you will have to follow exercises related to both, the abdomen and the back. There are different types of crunches and other abdominal exercises that focus on the entire abdomen, from the upper to the lower sections. These exercises are ideal to strengthen your abdominal muscles.

However, training your abs without training your back creates an imbalance in the musculature that supports your spine. And these muscles are not just for show! Therefore,the best exercises for your abdominal muscles are the ones that force your entire core to go into overdrive to support your spine as well. Some exercises that do this are squats and lifts.

Some more exercises, other than crunches, squats and lifts, that will help strengthen both the back and abdominal muscles: Sit ups, jack-knife sit ups , leg lifts, static holds and side statics.

So, while crunches, squats and other abdominal exercises will strengthen your core, overall fat loss will make this strengthened core visible.

The truth about beer belly fat
Beer drinkers around the world tend to be a part of the not-so-cute-n-cuddly beer belly band wagon.

What causes the dreaded beer belly?
Mukta Vasishta. A beer belly is caused by excess calorie intake and reduced calorie expenditure because of a sedentary lifestyle.

Sunita Roy Chowdhary. Consumption of excess calories (overeating or over-drinking) and having a sedentary lifestyle is the main cause of this kind of obesity. It can also be due to cushing's syndrome (it is a health condition which stems from long-standing contact of the body's tissues to high levels of the hormone cortisol) and certain drugs can also be the cause.

Can people with a beer belly be considered obese?
Mukta Vasishta. People with beer belly are not healthy. On the contrary the visceral fat (fat that lies deep inside the abdomen surrounding vital organs) deposited leads to secretion of cytokines which cause chronic inflammation and disease. People with beer belly are considered obese only if body mass index (a measure of body fatness) is more than 24.9 kg/m.

Sunita Roy Chowdhary. People with abdominal fat deposition are considered obese if the waist circumference is more than 102 cm (40inches) in men and more than 88 cm (35 inches) in women.

What are the prevention and treatment of beer belly? Is liposuction a safe and only method to get rid of it?

Mukta Vasishta. Prevention and treatment of beer belly involves:

- Losing weight.
- De-stressing by meditation and breathing exercise.
- Drinking plenty of water to flush out salt from the tissues so as to feel lighter and not bloated.
- Eating a proper diet by including anti-inflammatory foods like oats, wheat bran, brown rice, green vegetables, fruits, green tea, nuts, fish etc and avoid inflammatory foods like refined cereals, sweets, fried foods etc.
- Liposuction removes subcutaneous fat and not the visceral fat because it is too close to the internal organs which would make it unsafe.

Sunita Roy Chowdhary. For the prevention and treatment of obesity one needs to have a healthy balanced diet with a regular exercise routine. One should not over eat. Eat a healthy balanced diet of three main meals along with two high fiber snacks in betweens every day. 30 minutes of exercise each day is enough to keep one in shape.

How yoga helps tone your abs?
Been dreaming of the perfect midriff, those sexy obliques, or that six pack? Here are some tips on yoga for core strength, and finally - great abs.

Why is development of core strength required for great abs?
Your core (your complete mid section) is the most instrumental for developing a fit, strong and lean body. This is because it supports the upper body, as well as the lower body and unless you have strong back and ab muscles, you won't be able to lift heavy, or run fast. And you should be able to lift heavy and run fast in order to get the perfect mid section.

Some functional workouts for a strong core are:
Squats - The most basic of all functional exercises and a full body workout, strengthening, the core, glutes, hips, upper thighs and calves.
Dead lifts - An extremely useful exercise whereby you bend down and pick up a weight using your back, arms, hips and hamstring.
Overhead press - Lifting dumbbells over your head not only works out your arms but your torso does a lot of work too, by balancing and supporting your arms that are lifting the weights.

To get rid of belly fat and strengthen your torso a good mix of the above weight training exercises as well as yoga works wonders.

So how does yoga help you get great looking abs?
Yoga postures - Take almost any yoga posture like the sarvangasana (shoulder stand), virbhadrasana (warrior pose), or the dhanurasana (bow pose). How well you are able to emulate these poses almost always depends on how strong your core is. Being flexible, but having a weak core, will allow you to do some basic postures like Uttanasana (bending forward and touching your toes), but will not allow you to make much headway in the slightly more advanced postures.

Yoga stretches - Basic stretches like the cow and cat pose (getting down on all fours and stretching your back in and out) and the mountain pose where you stand on your toes, extend your arms upwards and stretch your whole body out, are very essential in increasing flexibility to your core. Doing this will make you far less susceptible to injuries and will allow you to push your body more during weight training and/ or running.

Breathing - Yoga teaches you techniques of how to breathe in a way that promotes lung capacity, clears blockages and even clenches and unclenches stomach muscles. This, once again, promotes movement and flexibility of core muscles and all round core strength.

Although yoga alone will not help you achieve that six-pack, it is a vital addition to your fitness routine so that you can strengthen your core, which in turn will help you perform better in all your other fat burning endeavours. Strengthening your core in itself is vital if you want to tone your body for a sleeker torso and finally sexy abs.

How to get that V-shaped body
This one is for all the men out there. The fabled V shape is the epitome of manhood, just like the hourglass plagues many women's dreams. Here's how to get that V Shape:

A natural body deserves natural movements - Having identified that the V shape is the natural shape of the male anatomy, it's important to ensure that you workout in a way that is natural for your body to get into shape. Many men try putting on excessive amount of bulk and therefore get stuck with exaggerated frames like very large shoulders or are unable to workout in a way that reduces the belly fat.

In order to workout the whole body and get leanness in the midsection as well as over all, bodyweight workouts, functional training, and high intensity interval training is a must.

Hard gainers - For those who find it hard to gain muscle on their shoulders, which is important to get that V shape here are two must dos -
- Lift really heavy things. The foundation of your routine should be the big compound lifts: Squats, deadlifts, presses (bench and overhead), pull-ups, rows, clean and jerks. These engage multiple muscles while triggering your hormonal response systems.
- Eat lots and lots of healthy vegetables and meat. You are going to have to eat far more than before if you want to gain weight. Since body composition is 80% diet, you are going to have to stuff yourself. You need to provide lots and lots of proteins for those hormones to synthesize.

Flexibility and yoga - Working on flexibility helps towards achieving a lean and strong frame. In order to be lean and strong, you need to gain lean muscle mass and not bulk up on excessive unnatural muscle. Many men make the mistake of trying to convert fat into bulky muscle when they start going to the gym. In the process, this hinders the body shape. You would be far better off working towards a naturally lean body and once you manage to do this, the V shape will come automatically. Yoga helps to gain core strength and to make the limbs supple and lean.

How to tackle water retention
Water retention is everyone's favourite reason for explaining weight gain, or difficulty in achieving weight loss. Nutritionist Sushila Sharangdhar helps us understand what water retention is and how we can tackle it.

What is water retention? Water retention is a condition in which the body retains water. It is a condition that results from water leaking from body tissues to blood. It causes tenderness and swelling, especially in the abdomen. Sometimes it also causes swelling in the feet, legs, arms or abdomen.

Causes of water retention: Water retention occurs due to several factors like the body's reaction to humid weather, hormonal changes during menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause and side effects of oral contraceptive pills among women. Nutritional deficiencies, hypothyroidism, heart or liver disorders could be the reasons behind water retention for both, men and women.

Water retention can be diagnosed with the help of the patient's medical history, a physical examination and other tests like blood test, urine test, liver and kidney function test, chest X-ray or Electro Cardiogram, so that any heart, liver or kidney problems are ruled out.

How to fight water retention with food
- Eating a well balanced diet will help you fight water retention.
- Foods high in calcium such as milk, curd or buttermilk help eliminate excess fluid from the body.
- Include foods rich in potassium and Vitamin B complex: Fruits like bananas, papaya and pear; citrus fruits like orange and pineapple will help too.
- Cranberry, grapefruit, melon (watermelon, muskmelon), and avocado juices help fight water retention.
- Nuts like almonds or walnuts and flax seeds are good for water retention too.
- Other foods that will help fight water retention are lean meats like chicken, egg whites and vegetables that belong to the gourd family like bitter gourd, snake gourd etc.
- Increase your fluid intake: Drinking plenty of water (around 2-3 liters everyday), lime water, barley water or coconut water can also speed- up the process of eliminating unwanted fluids from the body.
- Use of diuretics: Diuretics are medicines that induce the kidney to eliminate excess water and sodium from the body, causing a decrease in the blood volume and thereby reducing the blood pressure. Hence, diuretics should be used under the supervision of a doctor or physician. This, of course, only applies to extreme cases of water retention wherein the patient seeks medical counsel.
- Avoid foods high in sodium or with added salt like processed salad dressings, pickles, chips and salted nuts. Any processed, packed or canned foods contain high amount of sodium and usually lead to water retention.
- Avoid excessive intake of caffeinated drinks and beverages like soft drinks, energy drinks, tea, coffee, and alcohol.

Exercise: Taking up an activity like brisk walk, running, jogging for at least 30 minutes can help combat water retention. Exercise helps dilate the blood vessels, thus increasing the amount of fluid that kidneys excrete.

An old home remedy for water retention, specifically for the legs, is to elevate the affected part while sleeping to improve blood circulation. While this does prevent the condition from aggravating, we still think that eating a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly are your safest bets against water retention. If you still experience water retention despite all the healthy foods, diets and activities in your life, maybe it's time to let a medical professional examine you and rule out any serious ailments.