The Thing About Abdominal Exercises….

July 27, 2012

It never ceases to amaze me that people are so gullible and easily fall prey to exploitation.  How else could you explain away all the advertisements that insult your intelligence?  It is not as though there is no vestige of truth in the content; if it did not, the promoters of the ads could be sued and made liable.  It is the total inability of the public to see through the projected picture or the reluctance to question anything that teases and taunts their intellectual taxidermy that is so disconcerting.  It may be that humans, as a race, believe in miracles and fervently hope that one day they will stumble upon something which is an answer to their prayers, which would relieve them from the onerous burden of the hard work involved.

Yes, I am talking about the easy ways offered, as you see in the ads, to lose abdominal fat and overall size.  If all that is required to lose fat is just a few minutes on these machines, nothing could stop you from trying it out.  But there is no such thing as a free trial run and you have to buy the machine for a “not so expensive” price.  You try it out for a few days and realize that it does not work at all.  Yet, you refuse to complain nor take it up with company that sold you this machine.  You do not even bother to find out why this piece of metal contraption that promised wonders did not give  you what it promised.  If and only if you had just as much as tried to find out why it did not work, you would have come to terms with the most profound and pertinent saying of all time; “there is no replacement for hard work”.

That is what I said…there is no replacement for hard work at all.  And guess what! you cannot get rid of the abdominal fat by working out the abdominal muscles either.  The abdominal muscles and the abdominal fat simply happen to be found in the same area but are not connected in anyway.   You may do any number of different exercises for the abdomen and still retain all the lard around the waistline.   Yes, exercise will make your abdominal wall strong, improve your posture and the stronger abdominal muscles being supporting muscles to all other exercises, will play a lead role in making your overall strength go up.  But your belly will never flatten out or come down in girth.

So how do you lose fat from the abdominal area?  First and the foremost thing about fat or fat cells of the body is that they cannot be removed from the abdomen at all.  They will always be there regardless of whether your waist girth measures a whopping 50 inches or you have a six pack.   They can be removed only by surgery.   But a 50 inch waist can narrow down to 30 inches and become an enviable washboard abdomen.  The fat cells simply come down in size which is all that happens in the transition.

Another important thing that is to be understood about fat is that it is a form of energy that the body can use with the right kind of exercise or stimulation.   Not every exercise will help you in the fat loss process.  Sumo wrestlers spend a lot of time doing exercise and build huge muscle size and strength.  So do the WWF wrestlers.  When the sumo wrestlers sport a massive mid section, most of the WWF wrestlers flaunt a flat, tight tummy.   Yes, eating habits do play a big role in deciding whether you have a flat or bulging belly, but so does the kind of exercise that you do.

In most of the gymnasiums, there are hundreds of people who work out very hard to build muscle size and increase body weight, to no avail.  Many seem to be stuck at a certain body weight regardless of how much they eat, prompting them to try out steroids and food supplements. Marathonrunners, football players and the like can eat tons of food without absolutely no change in body weight.  All this points to one important thing that the nature of exercise is a deciding factor in shaping your body.

Exercise demands that the body adjust to the load placed on it and adapt by growing in size or improving in endurance and stamina.   Depending on the type of exercise, the body may remain in highly “excited” state for upto 72 hours, which uses up a lot of energy, some of which come from fat stores.  When this happens on one side, make sure you do not add to the fat content of the body by eating junk food.  Sooner or later,  the fat cells come down in size, creating a shapely physique.  Once you have come down to your required level of fitness and shape, you need not diet ever again.  You can retain the shape with just exercise.  This is where the type of exercise you follow becomes important.

Weight training, gymnastics, long distance running as in marathon or football or any non stop movement that requires a moderate to highly intense exertion, will make sure that your body does not add more to its fat stores.  Intensity of exercise also plays a key role in keeping you in shape.  I have seen people who claim to do one hour of “morning walk” or who play shuttle badminton “doubles” put on weight and fat if they did not watch their eating habits.  Very intense exercise, if it is very brief, does not help you either.

The body produces energy for exercise by a myriad of chemical processes.  First eight seconds of action is done by ATP [Adenosine Tri Phosphate] which the muscle has stored in itself.  This energy is what that gives that explosive burst of speed and strength.  After about 8 seconds, the muscle runs out of ATP and turns to other sources for energy.  Availability of creatine phosphate helps produce more ATP and yes, more energy, for about another 8 seconds.  Glycogen, which is the stored form of glucose is what gets tapped next for action and continued performance of exercise.   Prolonged exercise becomes impossible from this point unless the intensity of exercise is brought down considerably and the body drudges on using stored fat.  This also requires that the body is “aerobically fit” to continue with exercise and the muscles must be able to utilize oxygen to produce more energy.  By this time the body will already have crossed two minutes of non stop movement.

So if your body is to use fat for fuel it must have sufficient oxygen supply to meet the demands of exercise. If exercise is intense and the cardiovascular system is unable to supply cells with oxygen quickly enough, carbohydrate must be used to produce ATP. Put another way, if you run out of carbohydrate stores (as in long duration events), exercise intensity must reduce as the body switches to fat as its primary source of fuel.

Most gym goers sport some amount of fat on their body as they seldom do any non stop movement which lasts around 20 minutes.  Intensity of exercise also plays a key role in getting rid of the fat faster.  If you look at the amount of energy expenditure per hour, it hardly ever crosses 500 calories, which does not require the body to make adjustments to adapt and improve upon its previous best performance.  Low intensity exercises such as walking at a moderate pace, playing doubles at the badminton court, table tennis and a lot of such sport do not demand much from the body.  But if the intensity is more, the body is forced to adapt, improve and grow in strength, size, endurance and maintenance.   Body is made to work more efficiently even on those times of rest period that it uses up a lot of energy.  This accounts for the fact that a marathon runner or foot ball player or any athlete involved in moderately intense exercise long enough, do not have to watch what they eat.

Now comes a key role played by an organ in our body that weighs a little over 1.5 kg.  We all know about it, but take it for granted that nothing can go wrong with it if we do not drink booze too much.  And we know its function gets affected if we suffer from a disease called the Jaundice.  Yes, it is a gift of God that we have ally in our body called the Liver and if it wasn’t for the liver, we wouldn’t be moving around much.   That is what I said; liver supplies energy by using up glycogen stored in it or by using protein or fat.  The energy stored in the muscle does not last very long and the liver rises to the occasion and make sure your blood glucose level are always maintained and your energy requirements are constantly met.  Do you understand what that means?  Fat metabolism happens in the liver and it is the liver that uses up fat and not the muscle.  This means that when you exercise your abdominal muscles, most energy comes from the liver and not from the fat stores seen in front of the abdominal muscles.  The abdominal muscles cannot use the fat located around the belly and but the liver taps the fat stores for energy, if the exercise duration is long and intense enough.  This also means that you do not have to exercise the abdomen at all, to deplete the fat level of the body and to have a six pack.

I hope you understand now, why the three minute ab exercise machine does not work at all.  Same goes for all the other machines that ask you to work the abdominal muscles for two or three minutes to carve out a washboard abdomen.  It is a pity that we are so prone to believing anything and everything that does not have scientific backing.   Most of the gymnasiums and health clubs also promote this theory that abdominal fat can disappear only if hundreds of ab exercises are done every day.   To make matters worse, the internet is full of exercise routines to flatten the tummy in a few days, with no mention of diet or good eating habits at all.   Unless the trainers are taught a bit of exercise physiology and nutritional biochemistry, there is very little hope that such trends and practices will ever get corrected.

To be continued…..


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