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I have had a couple of lower back surgeries in the past but I'm okay to do any activity. During the last 10 years I have gained a little more weight around the mid section but have been actively trying to loose the weight but with little success.

I'm currently doing hot yoga to increase my flexibility but as for weight loss I'm doing cardio with some weight lifting but not seeing the results I would like to see.

I've also changed my diet, times I've been eating and the amount I eat to a healthier diet with smaller amounts about 5 times a day. I heard this would increase my metabolism.

I'm 6'3" about 230 but would like to be around 190, any advice on exercise, diet, etc...?

Currently I hit the gym 2 to 3 times a week and yoga every other week, I would like to do more of both but being a dad of four, time is limited. I have been working out in the morning for about an hour (usually cardio) and one day of the weekend for about 2 hours (Full body, upper/lower)

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You can try lifting your kids in sets of 50, if you do all 4 of them that's a nice workout! –  Ivo Flipse Mar 15 '11 at 17:31
    
What kind of exercise do you do in the gym? Lifting weights isn't the most efficient way to burn calories. –  Ivo Flipse Mar 15 '11 at 17:33
    
When lifting weights I try to target upper/mid/lower three separate exercises in each group. I know that lifting isn't the best way to loose weight but I do know muscle burns more calories. I don't want to get big just ton and defined. –  Phill Pafford Mar 15 '11 at 18:21
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Running cuts visceral fat. sweatscience.com/… -- I would think that high intensity cycling would do the same. –  wdypdx22 Mar 20 '11 at 21:02
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Losing fat is all about the diet. When it comes to losing fat, exercise has relatively a much smaller part to play than dieting. I would almost go so far as to say: get your diet sorted first, then start thinking about exercise. I wish someone had told me this years ago! –  TrojanName Jun 14 '11 at 19:05
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5 Answers

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There is no "best" exercise to lose belly fat. In fact, there is no exercise that will specifically target weight loss in any part of your body. The only way to lose fat in your belly is to lose fat overall.

The number one thing you can do to lose weight is look at your diet. Losing weight is as simple as burning more calories than you consume. The easiest way to reduce your caloric intake is to eat healthier foods. Food you buy at the grocery store and cook yourself are often healthier than what you would get at a fast food joint because they haven't been processed as much. For many people, cutting out most of the sugar in their diet (obviously not sugar from fruit and other healthy sources) is an excellent way to lose the weight. It's good that you split your 3 big meals into 5 smaller ones, but make sure your 5-meal calorie count is really less than your 3-meal plan.

Once you get your diet squared away, then you will really start to see the benefits of your exercising. I would suggest doing a lot of different exercises in the beginning and there are many to try. Figure out what you like to do and works best for you. Is there anybody you could work out with? A partner is always a big plus to exercise.

Remember, it took you 10 years to gain the little extra weight you have right now. A healthy weight loss routine would have you losing a maximum of 2 pounds per week on average. If you want to get down to 190 again, you're looking at around a year or more of a dedicated lifestyle change in order to accomplish that.

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I wonder how many times we will see variations on the "targeted fat reduction" question, maybe this should be in the wiki. I disagree on one point though: sugar is sugar, your liver does not know if it's from fruit or not. Someone who's overweight doesn't need sugar from ANY source unless they're hiking to the farm and climbing a fruit tree to get it. –  J. Winchester Mar 15 '11 at 18:17
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"The hard part isn't losing weight, it's keeping it off." this is such a true quote. Youi might think that a year is a long time just to lose x number of pounds but by changing your lifestyle you will keep the weight off. Example: I went on a low sodium diet and I lost 15 pounds without even trying. Of course I let my diet go and all the weight came back. –  DustinDavis Mar 15 '11 at 19:10
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@Even - I never said "go on a diet". Saying that implies that you will some day "go off" your diet. I say you need a "dedicated lifestyle change". –  Sparafusile Mar 21 '11 at 18:16
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@Evan Plaice - Again, I never said "go on a diet", I would never say that. I did say to look at his diet and that 2 pounds per week on average is a good healthy weight loss amount. Obviously you will lose more at the beginning than at the end, that's why I said average. His current lifestyle habits are what made him overweight. The only way to lose fat is to change that lifestyle for the better. A majority of weight loss occurs outside of the gym. –  Sparafusile Mar 23 '11 at 11:50
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@J.Winchester I wouldn't say sugar == sugar, because there are many variations--both artificial and natural--which have a different impact on the body. Knowing the difference between good and bad sugars is crucial, especially when you are trying to limit your daily sugar intake. –  Moses Dec 16 '11 at 19:02
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You can't target the fat in your belly as everyone has pointed out, however you can do certain exercises that are best for fat burning.

High impact aerobic exercise is better for fat burning than low impact - an example of low impact is swimming. A great high impact activity for fat burning is interval training. There's a 1001 variations on it, just Google "sprint training". Alternatively a sport like 5-aside football, tennis, basketball. You'll need to do those 2-3 times a week though to get any noticeable benefit.

Here's a training routine from Men's Health a few years ago (which also re-iterated the paragraph above)

"Fat burner"
Use a running track.
Sprint 100m as fast as you can, then jog the rest.
Repeat 5 times.

Treadmill version: 20 second sprint, 60 seconds jog.

"Enjoy a metabolism increase of 40%"

Avoiding alcohol is the other obvious way to lose the belly fat. If you drink 2-3 pints of beer three times a week, being alcohol free for a week will lose you 0.25kg.

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..."Enjoy a metabolism increase of 40%" sorry but is this number-philia? Where do they get the number? And what does the statement actually mean in this context? Change of cells by 40%, sorry? Metabolism here. –  user2598 Dec 27 '11 at 11:25
    
@hhh unfortunately Men's Health isn't aimed at skeptics :) You're meant to blindly trust them! The general idea applies though, which is interval training is more effective for fat burning. –  Chris S Dec 27 '11 at 13:06
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Start with cardio and progress to weights

Start by targeting a 'moderate' heart rate to burn the fat you already have. By moderate I mean Aerobic on the chart below.

Heart rate chart

Note: Image taken from [Wikipedia][4] and falls under CC-SA license.

Ignore the 'Weight Control' region for a minute and bear with me. What you're targeting here is the Aerobic Zone. Why, you may ask? While the weight burning zone is good for burning fat while you work out, it isn't really optimal for weight loss because as soon as you stop your body will go back to it's normal resting heart rate.

When you do an Aerobic workout, not only will the workout burn a lot of energy itself but it will continue to burn energy for the rest of the day. Try taking your heart rate a few hours after you finish running, you'll find that it's still chugging along burning energy.

So that takes care of initially burning off the excess energy (fat) but how do you keep it off in the long term without having to go to the gym 3 times a week (for your 30-60 minute cardio run)? Build muscle mass.

I'm not talking about the Type 1 muscles that you build from doing long distance running. I'm talking about the Type 2 fast twitch muscles that use tons of energy just to maintain themselves. These are what you build with exercises like weight lifting, (some) team sports (basketball, soccer, hockey), sprinting, etc...

There are 3 ways to check your heart rate while working out:

  • Count your pulse

This method is a PITA and it's nearly impossible to do while running.

  • Get a heart rate monitor

I highly recommend using one of these if you have the money to burn because not only does it let you see a real time measurement but having constant feedback over a long period of time gives you a sense of how hard you should be pushing yourself while you work out

  • Listen to what your body tells you

This is the best method when you first start out. The problem with the generic chart above is it assumes that you're in good health and average everything when in fact you're not (especially when you're out of shape).

The key terms you need to remember are 'aerobic' and 'anaerobic'. What these two terms mean are 'with oxygen' and 'without oxygen'. When you hit your aerobic range you start breathing harder because your body requires more oxygen to meet the performance needs of your workout. This is about the equivalent to a moderate-fast jog for somebody in good shape. The anaerobic range is when your body loses its ability to break down lactate at a fast enough rate and it starts to accumulate in your blood stream. Lactic acid is a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism and one of the reasons you feel sore the day after a hard workout. This is the stage when you find yourself gasping for air and feel your muscles burning. It's also the state you'll find yourself in when you start doing strenuous workouts.

The reason I say to feel it out when you first start is, your body is most likely in poor working shape. Because it's not used to the strain of exercise, it won't be adapted to the high demand of oxygen. You'll find yourself gasping for oxygen even on easy workouts and everything in the chart gets shifted because your VO2 max is much lower.

It takes some time for your body to adjust to exercise. It has to produce more red blood cells to carry oxygen. Drinking enough water is important for this or you'll get the workout hangover feeling. Your body also needs to cleanse itself of toxins like crap in your lungs and vascular system. It takes time for your body to fully adjust (don't rush the progression).

Listen to what your body tells you. Start out with the aerobic stuff and wait until it starts to feel easy until you introduce the harder workouts. Eventually, when you're ready you can shift over completely.

I usually start with 30-60 minute runs and after a week or two introduce a sprint. The sprint involves a mile to warm up (and to gradually get up to speed) a mile on full speed, and a mile to cool down (and gradually reduce the speed). When I say gradually increase/decrease the speed I'm talking some small increment that you use (like .5mph per 10th of a mile). Even if you're gasping after the mile at full speed force yourself to follow the gradual decreases in speed (unless you physically can't). What this does is push your anaerobic threshold even higher. A higher anaerobic threshold means you'll feel less sore and you'll be able to work out harder without feeling fatigued in the future.

At that point the workout doesn't need to get any longer (the sprints only get more difficult if you choose to push yourself). The sprint takes about 15-20 minutes to accomplish (less if I the warm-up cool-down phases are shortened) and you don't really need to do it that often for maintenance (max 2 times a week).

The benefits are, your body will naturally burn more energy because of the increase in muscle mass and if you quit for a while you still won't get chubby.

My general rule for muscle mass is, it takes 3 times longer to lose it than it took to build it (that's what I find at least). Meaning that if you work out and continue to improve over a 3 month period it'll take 9 months until you fall back into bad shape (a really bad diet can make this worse).

You may replace sprinting with lifting weights if you want but take note that it will take more time/work to maintain. Running builds muscle all throughout your body whereas lifting weights only targets individual regions. My 15-20min routine may take 1hr of lifting weights to effectively match.

As for diet, increase lean protein sources and decrease carbohydrates and fatty meats (like beef). By lean protein I'm referring to eggs, tuna, edamame, beans, chicken (if it's cooked right). Be sure not go on a protein-only diet though, a diverse diet is still important.

Another thing to make sure of is, always do cardio on an empty stomach (don't eat within 3 hours of a workout). If you're exercising in the morning, make sure you get a good meal the night before. You shouldn't need a whole lot of energy if you're not exercising for an extended period and this will force your body to burn the energy it has readily stored (fat). Save the meal for right after the workout, within 45 minutes after a workout is the period when nutrient uptake is at its greatest (and if feels the most satisfying).

As for lifting weights, if you plan to do it for an extended period of time you may need to eat before. Watch out for a feint light headed feeling (if you feel like this don't keep lifting). Light headedness is an indicator of low blood sugar so adjust your routine to eat before.

Update:

I have just realized a glaring mistake in the heart rate chart. The 'Maximum Effort' zone is not your V02 MAX. Your VO2 MAX is the point where your body's oxygen uptake reaches it's maximum so it has to fire up your anaerobic metabolism to compensate. This 'correct' classification of this would be the borderline between your aerobic and anaerobic zones.

@ldx Also had a very interesting link with a lot of good info about studies that determine the differences (results obtained) between aerobic/anaerobic exercises that should help your further optimize your workouts (I'm definitely going to try making some adjustments).

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@Evan I saw a recent study that talked about the increased energy burning after working out at 80% of your VO2max. However I'm not sure whether this burns more fat than working out at a lower intensity. Personally, I'd simply work out longer at as high an intensity you can keep up. Which will probably be higher than the regular fat burning zone, but below your anaerobic threshold –  Ivo Flipse Mar 20 '11 at 21:29
    
@Ivo I'm not really sure either. I've heard different things from different sources. My take with this is, burn off a lot of excess but, more importantly, get your body into shape first with the aerobic exercise. Then, work up to the higher intensity workouts to build muscle mass thereby burning more energy and keeping it off when you aren't working out. The key is increasing your caloric expenditure even when you're not working out. –  Evan Plaice Mar 20 '11 at 21:40
    
@Ivo I also just found an interesting link of how many calories you're burning for different activities. nutribase.com/exercala.htm. I'm a little suspicious as to how they found out how many calories a 300lb person could burn running at 10mph for 30 minutes. :) –  Evan Plaice Mar 20 '11 at 21:43
    
That's a nice table, I guess they used extrapolation in most cases @Evan Though I'd rather see it categorized per heart rate intensity and weight –  Ivo Flipse Mar 20 '11 at 21:52
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@Phil No problem, I really hope it helps. I think most people have so much trouble staying in shape because they get tired of constantly dieting and/or doing light cardio on a regular basis just to maintain their current weight. Most information about stuff like V02 Max and BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)are plain wrong because they calculate values based on you being average everything. In reality it's possible to dramatically change these values to increase your energy consumption so you can get off the bird dieting. –  Evan Plaice Mar 21 '11 at 18:21
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I agree with the previous answers about there being no way to 'target' belly fat. Sounds like you're aware of your diet and are trying to modify it to reduce your weight. The most important change I made (and lost about 20 lbs - went from 220 to 200, back around 210 but healthy weight) was to keep a journal (simple book and pen) of what I ate and what exercises I did. My diet changes were similar to yours: smaller meal size, but more frequent, cleaner eating, removing BAD things like ice cream and soda........and fast food. I also started a heavy weight lifting program and Tabata (the best exercise routine I think for cardio in a short time frame available).

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This is a great point. I always lose anything I write on paper, but fitday.com is a great site to track what you eat and even produces charts extending over long time periods. –  J. Winchester Mar 15 '11 at 20:00
    
It's even easier nowadays to take a cell phone pic of everything - everything! - you eat. You can then easily get a rough feeling of where you stand over time in terms of quality & quantity of food. –  JDelage Mar 24 '11 at 16:13
    
That's actually a great idea - taking a pic of everything you eat for a food diary program........ –  Meade Rubenstein Mar 25 '11 at 12:30
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I agree with Sparafusile that "targeted fat reduction" is not possible. When your body stores fat you have no control over where it happens. The only solution is to convince your body to stop storing so much fat. Because fat storage is regulated by hormonal signals that are influenced by WHAT you eat, I have some different recommendations. Try eating less often. Skipping breakfast is a form of intermittent fasting, and makes your body burn fat throughout the morning. Eliminate processed carbohydrates from your diet and you will probably find that your energy levels are more steady and missing a meal will not bother you. Instead of hours of cardio that can just end up making you eat more the next day, do some high intensity interval exercise, with or without weights. Crossfit.com or P90X are good examples. I have had good success with these methods and the most important factor for me is the short duration of the workouts.

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interesting that you say skipping a meal is ok, I've read different views on this. I thought that by skipping a meal your body stores more fat as it thinks it's not getting enough food, is this correct? –  Phill Pafford Mar 15 '11 at 19:02
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it's all about your metabolism. Fasting is only a temporary solution before your body goes into OMG mode. Fasting long enough can eat away your muscles - not fat. Skipping a meal might be a good idea if your meal is going to be McDonalds. Everyone is different but the rule is to find ways to keep your metabolism working. –  DustinDavis Mar 15 '11 at 19:06
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The time scale of fasting is the important thing. I'm not talking about starvation over many days or weeks, but try 12-18 hours a day. Most likely you are already fasting 8-12 hours at night, so you could just extend it into the morning some days or every day. Your body (via mitochondria) will learn to depend more on stored fat rather than glucose for fuel, reducing craving and the wild blood sugar swings that cycle between "omg excess glucose got to store fat" and "omg crash gotta eat right now". –  J. Winchester Mar 15 '11 at 19:58
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+1 for eliminating processed carbohydrates. –  David Oneill Mar 15 '11 at 23:16
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