Do Crunches Burn Belly Fat? Do Sit-ups Burn Belly Fat?

Ask a Doctor

I’m trying to get in shape for bikini season, but I have this stubborn spare tire of fat around my middle. I need to burn belly fat fast if I’m going to drop jaws at the beach this year like I’m planning. I’ve been doing a bunch of situps and crunches every day for a week now, and I’m not noticing any results, other than sore abs. I don’t want sore abdominal muscles, though; I want washboard abs! Do crunches and sit-ups really burn belly fat?

Doctor’s Response

Aerobic or endurance exercises and strength or resistance exercises are both effective in burning body fat. While there is no single exercise that burns just belly fat, any exercise can help reduce overall body fat when done regularly in combination with a healthy diet.

Abdominal exercises such as crunches or sit-ups do not specifically burn belly fat, but they can help the belly appear flatter and more toned. Other exercises that can help whittle the waistline and tone up the belly include bicycles, planks, and side planks. Pilates and yoga can work the core muscles – the muscles around your trunk and pelvis – and can also help the belly appear flatter.

For overall weight loss – including burning belly fat – diet is as important, if not more so, than exercise. Eat fewer calories. By decreasing calorie intake by 500 per day, you will lose 1 pound a week. One way to eat fewer calories is to limit your fat intake. No more than 30% of your daily calorie intake should be fat calories.

Low-fat foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes will help you feel full. This helps you lose weight or control your weight.

Avoid sugary foods such as candies, jellies and jams, honey, and syrups. These foods offer little nutritional value and tend to be converted to fat quickly.

Limit alcoholic beverages, which provide empty calories -- calories that have no other nutritional value. Women should have no more than one alcoholic drink and men no more than two alcoholic drinks a day. An alcoholic drink is 4 ounces of wine, 12 ounces (one standard bottle or can) of beer, or ½ ounce of distilled liquor.

Don't stop eating altogether. Fasting may result in rapid weight loss, but most of this weight will be water and possibly even muscle. Your body slows its metabolism, making it very difficult to maintain any weight loss.

Gayle M. Galletta, MD coauthored this article


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