Something the two of us have been discussing today is the effect that having a well-trained and strong ‘core’ (specifically the abdominal wall) could have on the function of the digestive organs, and whether this effect could help in controlling portion size of the food we eat…?
Irina has been particularly good at developing a serious core strength over recent months, using many different exercising techniques (which we will be blogging about separately soon). Recently she has been noticing that she feels full from eating less food than previously was the case. I have also noticed that my portion sizes in general are smaller now than they were several years ago, as my fitness levels have increased.
So perhaps there is some link?
From researching online I can’t find a huge amount specifically on this subject.
Some things I’ve found relating to health benefits of abdominal strength training (by no means an exhaustive list!):
- It improves overall stability;
- Promotes good posture
- Can reduce back pain / weakness
- Improves breathing under increased effort
- Improves athletic performance
- Added protection of internal organs
- Improves digestive function
These last two we find of great interest for this discussion… As the body becomes leaner through an exercise and healthy eating program, so it looses fat, both externally (subcutaneous fat) and internally from around our organs (visceral fat). Through introducing abdominal strengthening exercises to such a program, thus strengthening and tightening the wall protecting those organs, you can certainly achieve these two benefits.
Also the actual act of exercising (contracting) those muscles will effectively ‘massage’ the underlying organs, which will stimulate them, promoting greater blood flow to them and removing metabolic waste more frequently (resulting in both a healthier function & physical condition). Also, we can understand that the act of exercising the abdominal muscles could also have a positive physical effect on the digestive & elimination process itself.
We also believe that in strengthening and tightening this crucial part of the body, thus reducing the space in which the abdomens’ organs can move, you limit the space that the stomach has to expand when eating, thus helping you feel fuller, with less volume of stomach content. [Obviously it still expands, but perhaps to a lesser extent than if our abdominal wall were weak and floppy?]
Any extra factors that could help limit overeating should be applied where possible in our opinion! So introducing abdominal strengthening exercises as part of a weight (fat) loss program is essential.
As evidence to support this theory, we have noticed through our own transformation from a more sedentary lifestyle to one incorporating lots of fitness training, that we have a propensity towards eating smaller portions in general. [For example, when we go out for a meal, we now frequently find that the portions we would once have lapped up, are too big for us to consume comfortably.]
In part, this has come through an increased awareness and study of food nutrients and what they do for the body. As a result our portions now tend to be more ‘nutrient dense‘, rather than the typical ‘energy dense‘ unhealthier fat containing options many people eat in their regular dietary intake. [As a result our stomach and digestive system has to work harder, which leaves us feeling fuller quicker and for longer after eating.]
We have made a permanent dietary change, which has helped us reach our fitness and body composition goals. A happy side effect of this is that through that increased awareness of nutritional content, we now eat much healthier foods and in smaller portions, thus fueling our activities and not creating an excess of calories (which would be stored by the body as fat).
So, does strengthening our abdominal muscles really help reduce portion size?
Well we certainly think so, and definitely when combined with an overall healthy lifestyle change and heightened awareness of what nutrients any given food is bringing to the table…
Food for thought? 😉
Paul & Irina.