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Do Crunches Burn Belly Fat?

So there I was, 14 years old, in front of my parent’s bedroom mirror, flexing my little itty bitty 11 inch biceps trying to get them to look like Arnold’s biceps. No matter how hard I flexed, they were still small and tiny. I had just finished my workout and ran to the mirror expecting to see a pair of big and powerful biceps….the kind of biceps that parts crowds….Just like Arnolds!

Nothing. Nada.

What the hell?! Why didn’t my arms look like Arnolds and why didn’t I have a six pack of abs? At that moment, I couldn’t understand why. Why didn’t I have big arms? Why didn’t I have a six pack of abs? I mean I trained hard, I did all the right exercises and still, I had the same muscles as I did before I worked out.

What gives?

My mom walked into the room and looked at me flexing my little arms and abs and asked, “What are you doing?” I said I’m not seeing any muscles? She must have sensed my disappointment and gave me my very first lesson on muscular development and body transformation. She said, “Blake, your body will grow and you’ll get big muscles but it takes time and it takes patience – Keep at it son, soon you will start to see change”. I didn’t really understand what she was talking about because I was under the assumption that the more exercises I performed the more muscle I should attain.

When you think about it, our muscles should grow (and fat should burn) as we exercise…right? Sadly, that’s not the case and my first lesson way back when was my first introduction to a life-long learning journey about how our bodies grow and build. So, it brings me back to the question, do crunches burn belly fat?

The short answer is no BUT they do help to build and strengthen the abdominal muscles (over time). I know, you were probably hoping or under the assumption that the more crunches you performed the more belly fat you burned…Right? Just as I learned my lesson about why my arms and abs didn’t grow muscle (way back when I was a skinny 14 year old) after my workout, you too are about to understand the why and how. Does running reduce belly fat?

The first thing you must understand is how fat is actually burned.

Fat Burning 101

Belly fat is no different than any other fat on your body. It’s still fat and the only way to burn fat is by consistently adding more and more oxygen into your system. To do so, you need to perform an exercise that is designed to force your body to breath harder and heavier. The more oxygen your body processes, the more energy it draws from fat. Once your body burns fat to use as energy it expels it via carbon dioxide or when we breathe out. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t sweat fat out. We breathe it out. I know crazy right? But that’s how we burn fat.

Which types of exercises are best to help facilitate this fat burning process? Cardiovascular exercises are best. Any type of exercise that forces you to breathe in and out harder than normal for an extended period of time will burn fat. Here are a few exercises that do this:

-    Fast paced walking for 45 minutes
-    Continuous jogging for 5 minutes plus
-    Continuous cycling for 5 minutes plus
-    Continuous rowing for 5 minutes plus
-    Continuous swimming for 5 minutes plus
-    Treadmill, elliptical trainer, stationary bike, stepper and other fitness machines for 5 continuous minutes
-    Or any other type of continuous for 5 plus minutes such as cardio based movements

Why exercise for 5 plus minutes? It takes at least 1 to 2 minutes of continuous exercise for your body to deplete its stores of glycogen (carbohydrates) at which point, it switches over to your stores of body fat to use as energy. This is the number one reason why crunches don’t burn belly fat.

The crunch exercise doesn’t have enough sustained, oxygen building capacity to burn a lot of body fat

Don’t get me wrong, crunches will help you lose weight and to an extent, get rid of some body fat but in terms of being an efficient belly fat burner, it’s not the most efficient choice. So, what the heck do crunches do?

Crunches strengthen and help to develop your abdominal muscles

Here’s the thing you have to remember about resistance type exercises and the real beauty of how they help to burn belly fat. Although the actual exercise (crunches) may not burn as much fat as let’s say a 10 minute jog, they will however draw in more calories as they become stronger, over time.

As your abs become stronger they will require more and more nutrients to sustain these new strength levels. They will start to soak up more calories! Muscles are the most active tissue in the body and once they start to activate and become stronger they will continuously require more and more nutrients (calories) to sustain. In other words, over time as your abs become stronger and stronger from doing progressive crunches your abs will start to draw in more calories to keep them strong.

What does this mean?

It means your abs will not only become stronger and more developed but they will use up more calories for more weight loss! That means it will burn more belly fat over time. You see where I’m going with this?

Try and think of your muscles as sponges. Small inactive sponges won’t soak up a lot of water but larger and more robust sponges will soak up A LOT of water. No difference with your muscles. The stronger and more active they are, the more calories they will soak up which means more fat loss. However, you must remember the following rule about burning belly fat.

Belly Fat Burning Rule #1: None of this will matter if you are not in a slight calorie deficit

The third part of this equation is your nutrition (and the most important). If you really want to burn as much belly fat as effectively and efficiently as possible you need to create a slight calorie deficit in your daily eating habits. Doing so (calorie deficit) will allow your body to draw on its stores of body fat more readily than if your body was in a calorie surplus.  Remember this:

Calorie deficit means losing body weight (and body fat) and a calorie surplus means gaining body weight (and body fat).

To burn belly fat, you absolutely must be in a calorie deficit. No way around this folks and really, I wish it wasn’t but this is how the human body works. The only way you are going to burn belly fat and lose weight is to put your body in a slight calorie deficit. How do you do this? It’s pretty simple.

Start by going to Google and type in “calculate my basal metabolic rate”. Input your numbers and you will get your basal metabolic rate (which is the amount of calories you need to sustain your current body weight and to function). To create a calorie deficit, subtract 300 from your basal metabolic rate and that number will be enough to allow you to burn fat (lose weight) without starving. It’s a good place to start.

Use that number and get yourself a meal plan for that amount of daily calories. For example, if you’re new daily calorie deficit is 1500, type 1500 daily calorie meal plan into Google. It will return a bunch of meal plans. Choose the one that best suits your needs . You can also go to my Belly Be Gone diet page here to get more information and meal plan on how to get started.

Let’s put this together and find out how to burn a lot of belly fat and build a six pack

Step 1: Get your body into a slight calorie deficit. Use the simple step above and get yourself a meal plan that is in line with your new daily calorie allowance for weight loss. For a sample belly fat burning meal plan, go here.

Step 2: Choose a daily fat burning activity. You can do anything that keeps your body active for a continuous amount of time. This can be a walk; run; swim; cycling; hiking anything that gets your heart rate up and your breathing more forced. Tip**Do it first thing in the morning before breakfast to really burn the fat!

Step 3: Perform resistance type exercises (such as crunches) every second day. This can be a specialized ab routine that includes crunches and do it every second day. Here’s a quick and dirty belly fat burning routine:

•    Ab crunches 2 sets of 20
•    Bicycle crunches 2 sets of 20
•    Cross leg touches 2 sets of 24
•    Scissor kicks 2 sets of 20

Perform this routine every second day and add a few more repetitions every passing week (to ensure your abs gets stronger and stronger).

For more belly fat burning routines, see this page here.

For belly fat exercises see this page here

To find out how to burn belly fat click here

Drink at least half a gallon of water per day! Here's a simple water drinking schedule:

- 2 glasses of water as soon as you wake up in the morning

- 1 glass of water with every meal

- 1 glass of water prior to working out

- 2 glasses of water during workout

- 1 to 2 glasses of water after workout

There you go folks. Crunches will help to burn belly fat but just not in the say you think. Continuous cardiovascular movements such as running, fast paced walking, hiking, swimming, cycling and others are better fat burners (performed every day). However, exercises such as crunches will help to develop your abs which will (over time) draw in more and more calories which will allow you to drop body weight and belly fat!

Take care – Stay safe and stay strong!

Blake Bissaillion
Owner, Belly Be Gone

Over his 30 plus years of experience, Blake Bissaillion has worked with nationally ranked body builders, power lifters and fitness professionals. In this time he has picked up volumes of applied knowledge that he openly shares with his clients. Mr. Bissaillion’s objective is to help as many beginners to weight training and fitness to achieve their weight loss and fitness goals while getting into their best possible shape. Mr. Bissaillion owns and operates Belly Be Gone, a fitness company that offers fitness and nutritional guidance and products.

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