Here is an email from a man you likes to exercise as much as myself, but just cannot drop that last bit of fat off his stomach area:
Stew - what gives? I have been busting my butt for years working out with running, calisthenics, weights nearly 5-6 days a week and still have trouble around my mid-section. I am in great shape and can run 6 miles easy, some weights, do 50 pullups, 300 pushups, and even more abs in a workout. What do I need to do to lose this last 5-10 pounds?
It sounds like you are doing everything right when it comes to burning calories, so you have to take a closer look at what you are eating to keep that kind of body fat around your mid-section. Generally speaking your issue is most likely sugar intake. Whether it is soda, sweets, white breads and pastas, these foods will cause your body to store them as fat through insulin production. Now, you should NOT eliminate carbohydrates from your diet. In fact, your body needs carbs, but LIMIT the carb intake to only fruits and vegetables and try to time that intake to pre-post workout snacks.
Here is what I like to do when I am leaning out. Usually, I try to drop some weight in the peak of my year long training cycle when my running is at its highest and workouts are at their longest. Check out the key to building longevity.
Early AM workout - If doing a weight or calisthenics or fast run or swim workout (anaerobic activity), it is recommended that you eat something before you exercise. Here is a good time to eat fruits, juice, sport drink, or something high on the glycemic index to help with energy later in the workout. If you have ever felt dizzy and nauseated during a workout, usually it is from decreased blood sugar. Some of my favories are bananas, apple, baby carrots, and water - sometimes juice. Chocolate milk has been proven to be quite helpful as well on harder, more intense workout days. Plus the protein in the milk is going to be helpful in post-workout recovery.
However, if you are doing an easier longer distance / easier paced cardio workout - skip eating and just take some water along with you on your pre-breakfast workout. As long as you are staying in the aerobic zone you should be OK with a moderate intensity workout.
Breakfast or Post Workout Meal - After a good pre-breakfast workout, you need to eat well! Foods with protein like eggs, dairy foods, meats, and of course good carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables to help you recover and be ready for the next workout. Also hydrate - at least a quart of water.
Mid morning Snack - Still a good time to mix in some protein and carb snack like yogurt, trail mix that is rich is peanuts, almonds, and other nuts makes a healthy snack. Drink water again.
Lunch - You need a big salad that is rich in green, leafy and colorful vegetables, top off with strawberries for a good taste that will help you limit dressings. Try not to junk it up with high saturated fat / high carb dressings. Add a lean meat like fish, chicken, turkey, or boiled eggs for a good protein in this meal.
After lunch, still do a mid-afternoon snack, but try to stick with more protein rich foods like nuts, eggs, tuna, chicken, or some sort of protein drink / bar. Now - here is where the challenge comes in - try not to eat any or many carbs the rest of the day. Focus on the proteins above. However, at dinner it is fine to have a lean meat with a small salad.
Walking or getting in a second easier workout after dinner is a good way to burn some calories as well, but you have to be careful not to do too much as it will affect your early morning workout this next day. So keep this workout easy, just to get the metabolism higher after eating an evening meal. Often, this one is a quick 10-15 minute walk or bike ride.
Also arrange the workouts so you do anerobic first then aerobic activity second - see Cardio Vs Resistance for more details and why!!!
Check out my food plan for some ideas for meals.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.