How many times have you read or been told that doing extra crunches will get rid of unsightly belly fat, or purchasing that Thigh Master will eliminate flabby legs? You have probably heard this too many times to count since a large number of fitness products and exercise programs are based upon the fable of spot reduction. However, body fat loss cannot be achieved through localized area exercises.
Practically everything you eat and drink contains calories which are broken down by a complex biochemical process to create energy. This caloric energy supplies your body with the fuel it needs to perform all of its functions which include exercising, cell and fiber growth, breathing and even thinking. When you consume more calories than your body needs to function then the body stores them as fat deposits for later use. The plain, simple truth is that fat loss can only be achieved by creating a caloric deficit.
What Is Caloric Deficit
The only way to burn off these fat deposits is to create a caloric deficit. Simply put, you must burn more energy than you consume. You must either decrease your calorie intake (diet) or increase your amount of physical activity (exercise). Of course, the best way to get into tip-top shape is to combine a healthy, nutritious diet with a high intensity exercise program.
Doing extra abdominal exercises may burn a few more calories than usual, but doing them alone will not create enough of a deficit to burn your stores of body fat. You will develop more defined ab muscles by performing more ab exercises, but those muscles will still be covered in belly fat stores.
Anabolic Hormones Are Key to Muscle Gain and Fat Loss
Hormones play a direct role in both the formation and breakdown of protein. Anabolic hormones are key in the formation of protein which is used by the body for the growth and repair of muscle tissue. Catabolic hormones breakdown protein so that it can be used in the creation of glucose for energy.
Muscle fiber uses higher amounts of energy than other body tissue and, therefore, is a key factor in weight loss. The more solid muscle mass you have the more energy your body will require and the more fat stores will be drawn off of and eliminated. If you want to gain muscle mass and lose weight then you want to increase your anabolic hormone levels while keeping your catabolic hormone levels low.
Anabolic Hormones: Testosterone and Growth Hormone
The two main anabolic hormones necessary for maximizing muscle growth are testosterone and Growth Hormone (GH). Peak anabolic hormone levels are reached between 30 and 45 minutes into an exercise program and, after that, catabolic hormones begin to increase dramatically. Therefore, it is best to participate in high intensity exercises that last under an hour in order to obtain the most benefit in both muscle gain and fat loss.
Testosterone is the main hormone which the body uses to develop skeletal muscle and which can be naturally increased through exercise. Testosterone levels are highest in the morning so exercise programs completed at this time makes muscle gains easier. However, if you complete your exercise routine in the afternoon, your testosterone levels will remain higher throughout the rest of the day.
Testosterone is dramatically increased by performing high intensity exercises which require heavy resistance of 80-95% of 1RM, or by combining multiple sets of high volume exercises with short 30-60 second rest periods. Predominately working the large muscle groups through deadlifts, squats, pull ups, rows, etc provides higher testosterone increases than do isolated exercises.
Growth Hormone (GH), or somatotropin, originates from the pituitary gland and can also be produced through exercise. GH causes your muscles to adapt more rapidly and efficiently to resistance training allowing for the lifting of heavier weight and better hypertrophy. Growth Hormone is also active in breaking down fat which is then used as energy by the body. Both high intensity cardiovascular exercise and the weightlifting formula of 3 sets of 10-12 reps of heavy resistance are the best ways of reaching maximum GH output.